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Social Entrepreneurship

This category includes articles about social entrepreneurs, typically about businesses with a for-profit model with a social mission embedded into the fabric of the business.

Enabling Active Citizenship – One School At A Time

This is a guest post from Partners for Possibility, a social enterprise that works with under-resourced schools in South Africa.

Of the approximately 25 000 schools in South Africa, 20 000 are grossly under-resourced and in need of assistance.

Many of these schools look like Nyavana Primary School (pictured) in the Xihoko Village in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. Here, child-headed households, crippling poverty and high levels of adult illiteracy are common.

Children at schools like Nyavana are at risk of graduating from those deprived schools with an inferior education that does not prepare them for meaningful work and the ability to further their education. This is happening despite the South African government and the private sector spending inordinate amounts of money every year on education.

Educational reforms are not working and research has shown the lack of effective leadership in schools to be the main reason for this.

Against this background, and recognizing the wealth of leadership skills present in South Africa’s business sector, Partners for Possibility (PfP) was born. This innovative programme partners business leaders with the principals of struggling schools with the aim of capacitating the principals to turn their schools around.

The two leaders connect in an authentic way as they, together, strive to put the school at the center of its community. And, as the executives get their hands dirty in a world far removed from their comfort zones, they develop the skills and compassion required to manage in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.

And so it was that Juliet Shilubane, Principal of Nyavana Primary, was partnered with Jan-Louis Pretorius, Director of agricultural company Groep 91. Jan-Louis became Juliet’s thinking partner and initially, it felt strange for Juliet to “have a white partner”. But as their relationship grew to deep mutual trust, Juliet felt empowered and learned to apply strategic planning, conflict management principles and many other skills in her school.

Reflecting on her initial expectation of receiving funding, she stresses that what she’s gained is much more valuable: “nobody will take those skills away from me”.Jan-Louis has also been transformed: “It has put my own privilege and responsibility into perspective and given me a purpose.”

Partners for Possibility is not a charity exercise but a service to the school and its community. The corporations that allow their executives to be involved are making a social investment of a special kind. It’s about shared value and about serving your stakeholders according to the tenets of good corporate citizenship and conscious capitalism.

It is also about impact: Over the last six years, close to 600 school communities have been touched, like Nyavana, by the re-ignited passion of their school principal. Participating schools report improved academic outcomes, greater cohesion among staff and management and greater community involvement, to name but a few.

The possible application of the principle in other areas is exciting. If it works in education, why shouldn’t it be effective in healthcare and local government, for example, too?

The programme crosses the traditional boundaries of race and culture in a nation-building exercise that tackles a major obstacle to growth and prosperity in the country. Above all, it provides an opportunity for active citizenship, for people to stand up and do something instead of staying on the stands and criticizing.

And as, one by one, those 20 000 schools become more functional and those children go into the world with a better chance of success, the rebuilding of the nation becomes possible.

For more information on Partners for Possibility, please visit pfp4sa.org.

Feel Rich Founders To Hip Hop Community: Health Is The New Wealth

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Feel Rich, started with the question, “What if we create a brand that makes health sexy?”

Feel Rich, a “culturally relevant” health and wellness brand for the multicultural, urban community, is a led by Shawn Ullman and Quincy D. Jones, III, son of the multi-Grammy-award-winning artist. Ullman has worked for Jones for years, helping to produce documentary films. Jones has left his father’s shadow but not his legacy and has produced several gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums.

Watch my interview with Ullman and Jones in the video at the top of this article.

Quincy D. Jones, III

Their latest collaboration, Feel Rich, was Ullman’s idea and he is the CEO. The name was partially inspired by Ullman’s parents, Phyllis and Richard Ullman.

Ullman says, “We leverage our relationships with hip-hop artists, celebrities, and athletes to promote health as the new wealth. From our branded content, live events, products, and social media community; we are re-defining what it means to be rich.”

Shawn Ullman

Both entrepreneurs had observed the importance of health and wellness in their own lives and in the lives of many of the big name hip hop artists, including Fat Joe, Paul Wall and Styles P.

Jones says Eminem realized he was making more money after getting into better health.

The mission is important to Jones for several reasons. Of his father, he says, “He raised me to always have an underlying mission with all my work. So in my doc and music, I always insert a message that empowers the viewer, even if it’s subliminal there is always a message. With my Tupac doc, I covered how well read he was and put his reading list in the DVD cover and tons of kids went out to buy those books as they wanted to be like Tupac. So you put the medicine inside the dessert and they don’t realize it’s medicine.”

“I have a social mission behind everything I do, it’s lifestyle,” he adds.

Ullman highlights the problem he sees with health information in general. “There is a ton of health and wellness information available but it is not authentic or relatable to the multicultural community.”

Jones echoes that. “We want to bring information to them in a cool way via social and traditional media that is compelling and connective. It does not currently exist.”

That drives the Feel Rich strategy, Ullman says, to make the information feel more relevant to their urban audience. “We remix health information into engaging, empowering, and authentic content and events that connect with the community and help individuals live richer lives.”

Feel Rich also partners with brands that want to connect with their audience to deliver a health-positive message. “We also work with brands and agencies to help them craft campaigns that will resonate with the community and help them take positive actions,” Ullman says.

The message is resonating with their audience. JessicaRios-Almanza, the Designer and Brand Strategist for Crystal Wall Fitness, is a big fan of the Feel Rich brand and wears it proudly. She says, “I represent the brand because it represents me.”

She explains, “From the well-designed logo to the rhythmic heart beat of the tribe, my wellness is my richness, one choice at a time. My loyalty is to the message.”

Feel Rich fan Maliek Trimmer with his son

Maliek Trimmer, another fan, describes himself as “just a normal guy trying to live a healthy life one day at a time.” He says he first heard about Feel Rich at an event with Slim Thug. After doing some online research, he decided he could really get behind it.

He said, “I felt it was a brand that I could relate to. I also see how they are getting music artists and TV actors on board with incorporating health into their everyday lives. The logo stood out and caught my eye so much to the point that I got it tattooed on my arm.”

Maliek Trimmer’s Feel Rich tattoo

Trimmer says the brand and the tattoo help remind him to live healthier.

Rios agrees. She says, “I feel like I am on a huge ‘stay well squad’…and well, I am. I feel committed to a sense of social responsibility because I know that I inspire people just as much as my lifestyle is inspiring. I think that’s how the movement works. You feel it and thereby become it and pass it on–sort of like music.”

Feel Rich seems to be living up to its goal to make health sexy.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

This Entrepreneur Works To Infuse Travel With Purpose And Impact



Kathryn Pisco’s world changed when with her husband she circumnavigated the globe, volunteering along the way.

She realized, “Life was too short to fit back into what I was doing before.” So, rather than go back to work in a regular job, she launched a social enterprise called Unearth the World to help volunteers travel and have real impact.

She notes that there are three big problems in the voluntourism industry that she hoped to fix.

  1. Cost and transparency: First, she notes that some volunteer trips are unaffordable for many people. Most organizations arranging volunteer trips are not transparent about where the fees go and who is getting the money. At Unearth the World, Kathryn says they charge a small fee for their work in arranging the trip and are completely transparent about the where the money goes.
  2. Preparation: Second, she says that many volunteers arrive in the field without adequate preparation, not knowing what to expect, sometimes leading to poor outcomes. Unearth the World works to match volunteers’ skills to the needs of an on-the-ground organization abroad and then to prepare the volunteers for the rigors of the work they are expected to complete.
  3. Traveler-focus: Much of the volunteerism world is built around the traveler rather than the service and the impact. The result is that projects are often of the make-work variety so the traveler feels good about having done something when in fact the impact was marginal. Unearth the World works to get find real projects that need volunteers to that they have meaningful impact.

Kathryn visited with me first almost three years ago. You can see that interview and read that write-up here. My latest visit with Kathryn can be seen at the top of this article.

Her world changed when she traveled the world making a difference. Now you can experience what she did with her help.

Kathryn Pisco, courtesy of Unearth the World

Kathryn Pisco, courtesy of Unearth the World

More about Unearth the World:

Twitter: @unearththeworld

Unearth the World is a social enterprise that plans personalized and meaningful international exchange opportunities for professionals, students, groups, and families. Our unique model improves the volunteer travel industry by promoting cross-cultural learning, fostering reciprocal partnerships and elevating social consciousness through these responsible volunteer exchange programs. Unearth the World pair travelers with our vetted international nonprofit partners to solve real issues in global communities. Our focus on pre and post-trip training, financial transparency and social impact sets us apart. Since 2015, more than 200 global citizens have donated over 3,500 hours of their time. Unearth the World alums have started their own nonprofits, continued to volunteer in their own communities and become more civically engaged to multiply their tremendous impact!

Kathryn’s bio:

Kathryn Pisco is a social entrepreneur with a passion for travel and giving back. She grew up in Columbus, Ohio and attended Cornell University where she received a Bachelor’s of Science in Communications and Business. After years of working in sales for large corporations, she took a career break with her husband in 2013 and traveled the world doing a mix of personal travel and volunteer work. While she took part in some phenomenal volunteer projects, she also discovered some of the negative aspects about the international volunteering industry: lack of financial transparency, and absence of meaningful volunteer training, and a shortage of community driven projects. So, she returned from the trip inspired to create her own social venture –Unearth the World- that strives to improve the volunteer travel industry by promoting cross-cultural learning, fostering reciprocal partnerships and elevating social consciousness through responsible volunteer exchange programs. She lives in Chicago with her husband and twin daughters.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

If Your Business Looked at Solar 2 Years Ago and Passed, Now May Be the Time

Clean Energy Advisors, one of our sponsors, has invested in Solar Site Design.

If your business evaluated solar power as a way to reduce costs more than a year ago and rejected it, it is time to look again, says Jason Loyet, CEO of Solar Site Design.

Solar Site Design has a national network of independent contractors who work as solar originators. The company also has a network of client contractors who pay for the opportunity to bid on the projects the originators find. This competitive marketplace is helping to accelerate projects and reduce the cost of solar installations.

Scott Hill, President of Clean Energy Advisors, explains the motivation for their investment. “We invested in Solar Site Design because we believe in Jason and in his business model. Commercial and Industrial companies need a place they can go to quickly understand if installing a solar array can be a smart business decision. He is also creating a platform where companies providing solar products and services compete for each project. These factors are bringing down costs and allowing Solar to complete against other forms of energy, which is something we’re very passionate about.”

The result of the acceleration in solar and the falling costs, Jason says, is installed costs of solar power that are years ahead of recent expectations at under $2.00 per watt. That means that in most parts of the country, a business can install solar and save enough to on utility bills to justify the expense.

While the industry has long relied on innovative financing to make projects pencil, with the current 30 percent tax credit, companies can now afford to buy the solar panels outright with traditional financing sources. Banks, Jason says, are now experienced in financing solar projects.

Typically, projects today are built “behind the meter” in that the plan is not to sell power back to the utility, but only to produce enough power at peak production to meet the business’s own need for that power at that time. The solar power becomes the primary power source and the utility is the secondary power source.

In most states, commercial businesses can’t sell power back to utilities at the same rate they buy power. By eliminating any low-priced sale of solar generated power to the utility and using 100 percent of the power produced to reduce high priced power purchased from the utility, the financial returns are improved.

Jason notes, too, that the next step the market is preparing for is the addition of storage so that companies can go ahead and produce extra power at peak production times and use it later, rather than relying on the utility. In such a scenario, the utility becomes a backup provider of power rather than a secondary power source. This near-future scenario is intriguing to environmentalists and CFOs alike.

Looking longer term, Jason sees a bright future for solar. The cost of extracting fossil fuels is unlikely to go down, meaning that the cost of generating power from fossil fuels will likely rise. He predicts an average rate of inflation of 3 percent for fossil fuel energy. Given that solar is already cheaper than fossil fuel generated power today, the spread is likely to grow dramatically in relatively few years.

The bottom line is that the economics of solar power make better sense than ever before today. The 30 percent Federal tax credit creates an incentive for companies to look at solar projects in 2017. Fossil fuel inflation combined with declining costs in solar will quickly reshape our global energy mix.

Jason Loyet, courtesy of Solar Site Design

Jason Loyet, courtesy of Solar Site Design

More about Solar Site Design:

Twitter: @solarsitedesign

Since winning the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst Award in 2015, Solar Site Design has focused on solving the next chapter of driving down customer acquisition costs for Commercial and Industrial solar energy projects. After a year of software development, we are proud to announce the newest enhancement to our platform: Solar Site Design Commercial Marketplace. For three years, Solar Site Design has become a leading recruiter and trainer of Nationwide Commercial Originators. Our Originators have deep relationships in their local market and are able to open doors wide open on highly qualified C&I projects. In addition, our Originators are trained on collecting extensive data at the site through our innovative platform available on Android and IOS. SSD aggregates the project data entered by service professionals (referral agent), connects the projects to networks of contracted fulfillment partners, thereby reducing customer acquisition costs by up to 50%

Jason’s bio:

Twitter: @jasonloyet

Jason Loyet is an accomplished solar industry entrepreneur, having founded and built three solar companies since 2005. His first company solved bottlenecks in importing solar equipment and streamlined mainline distribution to solar installers. In 2009, he founded and built a $3 million company that provided wholesale solar supply, sales and marketing services to electrical and roofing contractors throughout the United States. In 2013, Mr. Loyet leveraged the powerful capabilities of mobile phones to build an easy way for traditional contractors to add a revenue source to their bottom line by playing an active role in the solar industry. Hence, Solar Site Design was born. Solar Site Design is a collaborative, cloud-based platform that connects highly-qualified solar project referrals to leading solar companies to drive down customer acquisition costs. Our proprietary business process is designed to reduce the solar industry’s customer acquisition costs by up to 50%. Solar Site Design was chosen as a winner of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst Program in May of 2015. Prior to entering the solar industry, Mr. Loyet founded, developed and sold two software companies; a video-streaming service and a photo-sharing platform. Jason is a member of the Social Venture Network.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here! Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

69 Ways to Change the World

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

The other day, a colleague asked me, “Would you rather buy a 400-page book that guaranteed you’d lose 30 pounds in 30 days or a one-page checklist with the same guarantee?”

That got me thinking, what if I could get the best advice that my network of social entrepreneurs and impact investors could offer in short, tweetable chunks? Wouldn’t they have to strip away all of the stuff that doesn’t matter to provide game-changing advice?

Over the past five years, I’ve had over 800 people on my show to talk about changing the world. Sixty-nine of them responded to my request for their best advice for social entrepreneurs in 100 characters or less. These gems, from people who either have been where you are going as a social entrepreneur or are investing in social entrepreneurs like you, may represent the checklist for success and impact that you’ve been looking for.

Aaron Hurst, CEO of Imperative and author of the Purpose Economy:

Don't just seek to serve a need but to fundamentally shift an issue or market. Click To Tweet

Adlai Wertman, USC Professor, Founding Director of Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab:

Don't believe the people who tell you that you need private sector experience first! Click To Tweet

Amit Bouri

Amit Bouri, CEO of the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN):

Build relationships and approach performance thru a lens of impact, risk & return. #impinv… Click To Tweet

Andreas Karelas, Executive Director of RE-volv:

Have fun with it. Do it for the fun of it and don't worry about the rest. Click To Tweet

Andrei Cherny, CEO of Aspiration:

Make bold plans. Make them reality by focusing on tiny details. Bet on trust, decency and goodness. Click To Tweet

Anne Friedman, managing director of Somos, a Hult Prize finalist:

Product < Your ability to communicate its value. Nail the elevator pitch FIRST. Click To Tweet

Arlene Samen, president of One Heart World:

Social entrepreneurs are able to navigate troubled waters without hesitation. Click To Tweet

Ashish Gadnis, co-founder and CEO of BanQu, Inc.:

End extreme poverty by enabling an economic identity for all humanity. Click To Tweet

Ben Block, founder of GozAround, Inc.:

Don't undercut your vision. Watering down your dream drains its power to attract support. Click To Tweet

Billy Starr

Billy Starr, founder of the Pan Mass Challenge:

Credibility through repetition; closer by the mile; commit, you'll figure it out. Click To Tweet

Bobby Turner, CEO of Turner Impact Capital:

Recognize that daunting social challenges create generational investment opportunities. Click To Tweet

Cecile Blilious, managing director and co-founder of Impact First Investments:

Global challenges can be addressed with technology. Think creatively about tech solutions. Click To Tweet

Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose.org:

The two most important attributes for a social entrepreneur to possess: hustle and humility. Click To Tweet

Dan Buettner, founder of Blue Zones, LLC:

The secret to most success: relentless pressure, gently applied. Click To Tweet

Daniel Jean-Louis, CEO of Bridge Capital:

Foster a trusting relationship between the stakeholders involved in wealth and impact creation. Click To Tweet

Daryl Hatton, CEO of Fundrazr:

Most important words for social CEOs: How can I help? Builds team, connections, community &… Click To Tweet

David D’Angelo, Founder of Jack of All Fares:

Persist not for bottom lines, but because lives depend on it. Then live in a state of urgency. Click To Tweet

David Wilson

David Wilson of Capgemini:

While passion for social impact is key, a sustainable plan is the only path to long-run viability. Click To Tweet

Elizabeth Dearborn Hughes, CEO of Akilah Institute:

It's never too early to create HR policies. Maybe not the most fun but will save headaches later on! Click To Tweet

Jack Rolfe, CEO of the School of Life Foundation:

It is critical to develop solid tools for measuring your impact! Click To Tweet

Jacob Lief, CEO of the Ubuntu Education Fund:

Be ambitious. Be willing to risk failure. But also be honest and think critically about your… Click To Tweet

James Citron, CEO of Pledgeling:

Create like an architect, disrupt like a hacker, execute like a for-profit and lead with heart and… Click To Tweet

Janice Lintz, CEO of Hearing Access and Innovations:

The naysayers will tell you what you can't accomplish and happily take credit for the success. Click To Tweet

Jenny Kassan, of Jenny Kassan Consulting:

Know that it is possible to raise funding from investors on your own terms. Click To Tweet

Joel Solomon

Joel Solomon, co-founder and chair of Renewal Funds:

My life purpose drove my investing, an instinctual process of love for the future. Click To Tweet

Juan Diego Prudot, chief information officer at IMPCT:

Play the floor is lava: jump over obstacles and try not to fall, but if you do, the game just… Click To Tweet

Kara Goldin, CEO of Hint:

Life has so many different chapters. One bad chapter does not mean it’s the end of the book. Click To Tweet

Karim Abouelnaga, CEO of Practice Makes Perfect:

Don't chase people who don't believe in your mission to support your work. It's a bad use of… Click To Tweet

Katherine Fife, founder of Philanthropy Matters:

To be successful, social entrepreneurs must be authentic and express an abundance of gratitude. Click To Tweet

Kathleen Minogue, founder of Crowdfund Better:

Don't be afraid of appearing to stand still; listening, observing & reflecting are actions. Click To Tweet

Kip Kint, success coach at Kint Enterprises:

The secret to success in life lies in making, honoring, and keeping commitments… to yourself. Click To Tweet

Kirsten Henry Fox, courtesy of Uplift Gift

Kirsten Henry Fox, founder and CEO of Uplift Gift:

When facing seemingly impossible leaps, suspend disbelief and let curiosity guide you to the bridge. Click To Tweet

Lance Allred, CEO of Courage and Grit:

The best time hack is learning how to say, No. Click To Tweet

Laura Callanan, founding partner of Upstart Co-Lab:

Remember why you are doing what you are doing and pick your metrics before someone picks them for… Click To Tweet

Laura Lemle, founder and chairperson of the NVLD Project:

When you come up with an idea or you want to give back, do it. Don’t let fear or obstacles stop… Click To Tweet

Laurent Lamothe, former Prime Minister of Haiti:

Honesty and kindness are the keys to success. Click To Tweet

Laurie Lane-Zucker, founder and CEO of Impact Entrepreneur Center:

Your work is most impactful if it transforms both the world and you. Click To Tweet

Lauryn Agnew, CEO of Seal Cove Financial:

Social enterprises should target, measure and disclose their impact, output and outcomes. Click To Tweet

Leslie Calman, CEO of Engineering World Health:

Social change requires thoughtful action. Less tweeting: more doing! Click To Tweet

Lindsay Hadley of Hadley Impact Consulting:

If others doubt, question or criticize you, trust time to tell the true story of your character. Click To Tweet

Lindsey Kneuven, chief impact officer of Cotopaxi:

Design for systems change and maintain focus to prevent the dilution of quality and impact. Click To Tweet

Lindsey Tropf

Lindsey Tropf, CEO of Immersed Games:

No margin, no mission. The business must be sustainable in order to accomplish everything you want! Click To Tweet

Lisa Curtis, CEO of Kuli Kuli:

Start with the story but dive quickly into the data. Click To Tweet

Lisa Tomasi, President of You Give Goods:

Dream big but build your business on small, measurable goals that are focused on your mission. Click To Tweet

Liz Baker, Executive Director of GreaterGood:

Everything starts with impact. Try new things. Stop doing what doesn't work. Do more of what… Click To Tweet

Marc Raco of MouthMedia Network:

Curate content that motivates robust sharing. Important to you doesn't mean important to them. Click To Tweet

Mark Horoszowski, CEO of Moving Worlds:

Keep your mission front and center; never stop testing the best way to achieve it. Click To Tweet

Matthew Davis, founder of RENEW, LLC:

You're an entrepreneur building a profitable business that does something social. Remember profit. Click To Tweet

Matthew Weatherley-White, managing director and co-founder of the Caprock Group:

Mission won't guarantee success. Be relentless on operations and finances and mission can flourish. Click To Tweet

Mellanie True Hills

Mellanie True Hills, CEO and founder of StopAfib.org and American Foundation for Women’s Health:

The more important your vision, the more doors will open for you. Our vision: No more afib strokes. Click To Tweet

Melody Brenna, CEO of Reef Life Nanoscience:

Brains + Biz not synonymous with success, add advanced science + UPlifting Human Condition = ZEN… Click To Tweet

Michael D. Lowe, A Parent Media Co., Inc. (Kidoodle.tv):

Continually search for novel ways to monetize through unlikely sources, collaboration and… Click To Tweet

Morgan Simon, managing director of Pi Investments:

Fight like hell for the things that you really care about. Then forget the rest. Click To Tweet

Nancy Hughes, president and Founder of Stove Team International:

If you are passionate about the mission, it's not work. You enjoy every challenge and every day. Click To Tweet

Nancy Pfund, founder and managing partner of DBL Partners:

Don’t be afraid of the incumbent. If you hold to your mission, society will be on your side. Click To Tweet

Nell Derick Debevoise, founder and CEO of Inspiring Capital:

Make sure there's not an existing org to house your vision. Building costs a lot of time and money! Click To Tweet

Paul Elio, founder and CEO of Elio Motors:

Live your passion, love the process, treat people well, do what you say and never, ever, give up. Click To Tweet

Per Saxegaard, founder of Business for Peace Foundation:

Purpose of business is to improve society (if you’re not here to improve society, why are you… Click To Tweet

Robert Selliah, founder and CEO of American Medchem Nonprofit Corporation:

Firm attitude of inclusiveness is essential to serve the most vulnerable members of our society. Click To Tweet

Ross Baird

Ross Baird, CEO of Village Capital:

Always ask yourself: what is the actual problem I am solving (and for whom)? Click To Tweet

Sam X. Renick of SammyRabbit.com:

Have a deep personal purpose filled mission to quiet grave doubts, difficulties and… Click To Tweet

Samira Harnish, executive director of Women of the World:

Lead by listening. Gain trust by being authentic. Work hard, never taking no for an answer. Click To Tweet

Scot Chisholm, co-founder and CEO of Classy:

Always think like an underdog, or lose to someone who is. Click To Tweet

Scott Hill, president of Clean Energy Advisors (disclosure: Scott Hill is a client):

Love God, love your neighbor, identify a problem, take action, make a difference...in that order. Click To Tweet

Steve Grizzell, managing director, Innoventures Capital:

Build a great team. Rarely is anything big done by one person because big problems are complex. Click To Tweet

Thane Kreiner, executive director of the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship:

Focus on how your core competencies generate impact; partner to yield a complete solution. Click To Tweet

Todd Sylvester, founder of Todd Sylvester Inspires:

The most delightful surprise in life is to suddenly recognize there is nothing wrong with you. Click To Tweet

Wendy Lipton-Dibner

Wendy Lipton-Dibner, president and CEO of Professional Impact, Inc.:

Your business success rests not on revenue but on the measurable impact you make in people's lives. Click To Tweet

Zach Hagopian, co-founder of Accelevents:

Put yourself in the users' shoes to find the common ground between user needs and business goals. Click To Tweet

Which challenge most inspires you? Tweet it, then do it!

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

How This Social Entrepreneur Learned From Her International Development Experience

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Sarina Prabasi, born in Nepal, and her husband, Elias Gurmu, born in Ethiopia, launched Buunni Coffee, selling fair-trade Ethiopian coffee in New York City. The enterprise, their social entrepreneurship and indeed their relationship, grew out of Prabasi's… Click To Tweet

Today, she serves as the CEO of WaterAid America, a position she assumed in 2014. With an annual budget of $7.1 million, the NGO is a leader in the “WASH” or water, sanitation and hygiene community. She’s spent a total of 20 years working in the field.

Watch my interview with Prabasi at the top of this article.

Prabasi reports that the organization was originally focused on clean water and has helped 24.9 million gain access to clean water. Another 24 million people have gained access to toilets and sanitation.

She says that the water issues in Flint, Michigan have helped Americans empathize with people around the world who lack access to clean water. “People who maybe previously weren’t able to connect to it in a personal way are able to connect to it because of the very unfortunate things that have happened here.”

Over the past several decades, WaterAid reports that about 2.6 billion people worldwide have gained access to clean water, representing dramatic progress toward solving the problem globally. Today, 663 million people still lack access to clean water.

WaterAid has a goal, consistent with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal number six, to see that everyone on the planet has access to clean water and sanitation by 2030. This seems achievable given the progress of the past several decades. The greatest challenge appears to be getting everyone access to sanitation.

The UN reports that as of 2015, 2.4 billion people lacked access to “an improved sanitation facility.” That’s a bureaucratic way of saying 2.4 billion people don’t have toilets.

Prabasi highlights the challenges that come from a lack of access to a toilet. She notes that regardless of the amount or quality of food, kids in communities without access to sanitation are so frequently sick with diarrhea that they are malnourished. “Nearly 900 children under the age of five die each day from diarrheal diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation.”

The problems resulting from a lack of sanitation disproportionately impact women and girls. Women are sometimes victims of sexual violence when they make late-night excursions to find a private place to defecate.

In addition, she says, “women and girls spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water for their families from water sources that are often remote and unsafe to drink.”

There are also health problems that result simply from “holding it,” she says.

The problem extends to public health facilities in the developing world, where Prabasi says she too often finds there is no running water and no toilet. One can only imagine the lack of hygiene in a clinic without these basic facilities.

Prabasi says progress is being made. “WaterAid and its local partners have helped two million people gain clean water, three million people gain toilets, and more than eight million people gain access to hygiene education” over the past year.

She says, she’s proud of the organization’s innovation. WaterAid helps “specifically by promoting vocational training, entrepreneurship, sanitation marketing and supply chain development.” Prabasi adds, “A great example of this can be found in the job skills training program that we’ve piloted with at-risk teens, and with former gang members in Nicaragua.”

Prabasi’s work with NGOs has clearly influenced her approach to entrepreneurship. When she launched Buunni Coffee in 2012, it was the city’s first Ethiopian coffee shop. “It was important to me to do something that would help New Yorkers go beyond the usual famine- and poverty-stricken images of Ethiopia by bringing a new perspective and a slice of the country’s rich coffee culture to NYC.”

“Formerly a shoe repair shop, I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve created a vibrant community space at Café Buunni that supports local writers and artists, hosts community events and ‘walks the talk’ of socially responsible business,” she concludes.

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

She Sold Her Home; What Would You Do For Your Nonprofit?

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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Jean Krisle sold her home, bought a 40-foot RV and hit the road for a year. What would you be… Click To Tweet

Krisle launched 10,000 Beds in 2014. The “beds” are addiction treatment beds, typically for 30 days, in treatment centers across the country. Her goal is to get 10,000 people in treatment by 2020.

In 2016, 10,000 Beds awarded more than $1 million of scholarship beds to people seeking treatment, she reports. And she expects to more than double that amount in 2017, having already received more applications in the first quarter of this year than she did in all of last year.

Watch the interview with Krisle at the top of this article.

She became focused on addition after seeing her own son become addicted and make a successful recovery. She says she is proud of Colin who took a fourth job trying to support his wife and four children when he ultimately became an alcoholic and addicted to cocaine.

She credits a “failed” family intervention with preventing Colin from committing suicide on his road to recovery. Today, Colin is in recovery. He’s gainfully employed and she says, “He’s never been happier.” Attending funerals for his friends who continue to struggle with addiction serves as a reminder for him to stay clean and sober.

Jean Krisle

Krisle explains the entrepreneurial genesis for the nonprofit. She says, “10,000 Beds is the result of my awareness of empty beds in nearly all treatment centers at some time each year, along with the keen awareness of so many seeking help but without resources. It was an equation that needed solving. 10,000 Beds was the answer.”

Working at this point with an all-volunteer model and donated beds, the organization hasn’t needed substantial resources. Krisle says, they are still largely dependent on individual donations and corporate sponsorships.

Abhilash Patel, co-founder of Recovery Brands and Rehabs.com, serves on the board of 10,000 Beds. He says of Krisle, “I was struck by her authenticity, passion the simple common sense of her vision for 10,000 beds. It makes absolute sense that treatment programs with unused capacity should be able to donate at least one bed per year to a deserving recipient.”

Travis Whittaker, Director of Client Outreach at Cold Creek Behavioral Health, a treatment facility that has participates in the 10,000 Beds initiative, says, “We decided to participate in 10,000 Beds, Inc because it is a great program which allows addicts who are seeking treatment, but don’t have insurance or other means to receive treatment on a scholarship basis.”

He adds, “I believe 10,000 Beds, Inc. will be successful because the addicts who are seeking treatment under this program desperately want recovery, are invested in the process of applying for a scholarship, and when receiving it realize it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to better their life.”

10,000 Beds RV

Krisle says the trip is intended to accomplish three goals:

  1. Raise more money, mostly via crowdfunding
  2. Bring attention to the issue
  3. Develop better relationships with treatment centers, including both those that have not yet committed to participate and those that have

Patel notes that the road trip is a fitting promotion for the young organization. “The RV represents exactly what 10,000 beds is all about: down-to-earth, practical reliability on the road across the entire country.”

Whittaker agrees. He says, “I believe Jean’s year long RV trip for 10,000 Beds, Inc will impact her work positively. She will be able to reach and spread awareness of her program to more treatment centers throughout the United States, thus allowing more addicts to receive help under the program.”

Patel is optimistic about the future of the organization, noting that, “The organization is very close to an inflection point – just a few more key supporters and the program will take off. Every ounce of support matters!”

Krisle seems willing to do whatever is required to make this work, to help address the country’s epidemic of addiction. This begs the question, what am I willing to do to make my social venture a success. What are you willing to do?

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

Full Time Ball Players And Part Time Social Entrepreneurs

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Young men thrown into the national spotlight for their athletic prowess in the NBA are also taking time to give back.

Sherrie Deans, the Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association Foundation visited with me to share insights about the efforts of extraordinary athletes to make a difference, especially in the communities of their roots.

Deans points to the “current Isaiah Thomas” of the Boston Celtics, clarifying that she’s not talking about the Detroit Pistons legend of the same name, as one who has given back. Of the 5’ 9” Thomas, she says, “He is a tiny guy. He is not supposed to be in the league, by all accounts.”

Thomas renovated the gym of the Boys and Girls Club in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington. The theme of gym, “Pick me last again,” was inspired by Thomas’s unlikely rise to prominence in the league. The gym provides a safe place for kids to come play sports and participate in a range of other programs that help kids thrive in school and life.

Deans also shared that Dikembe Mutombo has a woman’s clinic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, that is doing “transformational work.” Mutombo, who’s Twitter feed describes him now as the CEO of the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, was born in Kinshasha, the capital. For this article, he described his motivation for doing the work he does there. “Because I am the Son of Congo, I want to improve the living conditions of the people.”

Retired Congolese-American basketball player Dikembe Mutombo poses with schoolchildren after

Deans says, “No one that knows Dikembe thinks that he is anything less than a giant of a figure. His impact off the court has been unbelievably amazing.”

Mutombo acknowledges that his work is making a difference. “I am very proud of my work. I was the first to build a premier hospital [in the DRC] in more than 45 years.”

Deans notes that Mutombo’s work there has inspired younger players from Africa to look for ways they can give back to their communities as well.

Deans says, “The NBPA Foundation highlights and accelerates the real and collaborative work that National Basketball players do worldwide to build their communities and create meaningful change.”

#EverydayDads

The NBPA Foundation is running a program called “#EverydayDad.” She explains, “One of the key initiatives of the NBPA Foundation is the recent launch of #Everyday Dad series to celebrate fathers and fatherhood and to provide inspiration for fans to celebrate their own relationships with their dads and their kids.”

Deans says, this is about “telling a different story.” She says the goal was to help fans see them not only as celebrity athletes but also as fathers. She acknowledges that it is also about changing narratives about men, particularly men of color. She says, “There is a prevailing narrative that there is a disconnection between these men and their families.” The message is intended to “inform a new narrative, not just for our players but for to provide a new way for people find themselves or see themselves.”

These NBA players may be full-time athletes, but they are also part-time social entrepreneurs finding ways to serve their communities.

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

Impact Measurement: Finding Your Way Through The Maze

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

This is the second in a series of articles about impact measurement for social entrepreneurs.

Social entrepreneurs who are serious about having impact or about attracting capital from sophisticated impact investors face an intimidating array of measurement tools, standards and abbreviations. To help social entrepreneurs find their way through this maze I connected with practitioners and experts.

Laura Callanan, founding partner at Upstart Co-Lab, makes the case for using existing standards rather than inventing your own. “I am a fan of building off what already existing in the field — especially B Lab, GIIRS and IRIS. In the work we are doing at Upstart Co-Lab — connecting impact investors to the creative economy — these existing tools work really well. And using familiar tools makes it easier for us to launch a creativity lens for impact investing.”

Laura Callanan

B Lab is the non-profit that certifies Benefit Corporations. GIIRS is the “Global Impact Investing Rating System” and the acronym is pronounced “gears.” GIIRS ratings are used by impact investors to evaluate social impact; the measurements can be applied at both the company and the fund level. B Analytics, the B Lab entity that does measurement and certifies Benefit Corporations, uses GIIRS standards.

Note that I and others often use the terms Benefit Corporation and B Corp interchangeably, B Corp refers most properly to the certification by B Lab where a Benefit Corporation is a legal entity formed under the rules of a state that allows that form of incorporation.

IRIS is a free product of the Global Impact Investor Network, the GIIN (pronounced like the spirit). IRIS provides standards for measurement that are broadly used within the impact investing community.

Laurie Lane-Zucker

Laurie Lane-Zucker, the CEO and founder of the Impact Entrepreneur Center for Social and Environmental Innovation, adds that using the SDGs, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals also makes sense. He adds, “I am a big fan of the new taxonomy framework that Fourth Sector Networks is in the process of developing for the “for-benefit” or “Fourth” sector.”

Impact investment fund manager, Joel Solomon is Chair of the Renewal Funds; he encourages portfolio companies to seek B Corp certification.

Matthew Weatherley-White

Matthew Weatherley-White, a recognizes expert on impact measurement and co-founder and managing director for the Caprock Group, which manages money for impact investors, agrees. He encourages social entrepreneurs not only to measure their impact with B Lab standards but also to become a certified B Corp (or Benefit Corporation), for three reasons:

  • as a statement of commitment
  • as a stamp of transparency and credibility
  • as a way of supporting the emerging community of social enterprises

“They should then establish a tight group of IRIS-compliant metrics that are quantifiable and material, that will be gathered during the day-to-day operations of the business, and that will provide evidence around the mission of the enterprise,” he continues. He also encourages entrepreneurs to report using the taxonomy provided by his firm’s “iPAR” system.

Lisa Curtis

Social entrepreneurs Lisa Curtis, founder and CEO of Kuli Kuli, says, “One of the first things Kuli Kuli did as a company was to get our B Corp certification. It was tremendously helpful in pushing us to further define how we wanted to operate as a business. We’re now a full-fledged Benefit Corporation and we regularly report on those metrics.”

Daniel Jean-Louis, CEO of Bridge Capital, an impact investing firm focused on investments in his native Haiti, notes that while the GIIRS standards are “pretty good,” entrepreneurs “should establish some of their own standards in addition to those rules.” He points out that sometimes it is hard to fit your impact into an existing model.

Nell Derick Debevoise, founder and CEO of Inspiring Capital, says that which standard you use may depend on your stage of development or your industry. “B Lab is good for very early stage companies because it’s focused on setting up the operations of your company and is relatively simple and user friendly. It’s also more of a consumer-facing certification. GIIRS and IRIS are more investor-facing, so startups looking to raise institutional capital should think about mapping their impact to those standards sooner than later.”

Cecile Blilious

Cecile Blilious, an impact investor based in Tel Aviv, is the founder and managing director for Impact First Investments. She also encourages people to use the B Lab standards. She also notes that using a Social Return on Investment or SROI method is important. She uses Sinzer to help her firm with that. The SROI is a means of measuring value created that doesn’t have an easy financial metric, such as environmental and social benefits.

Matthew Davis, an impact investor focused on Ethiopia, is the CEO of Renew. He says his firm uses the IRIS standards.

Similarly, Gary White, the CEO and co-founder—with Matt Damon—of the non-profit Water.org uses the “IRIS framework to ensure that we are delivering social returns as well as financial returns to investors” for its WaterEquity program that allows investors to fund water projects with an economic return.

Lisa Hagerman, director of programs at impact investment fund DBL Partners, says the firm also uses IRIS metrics, but notes that what is appropriate for each social enterprise will vary depending on the asset class and sector.

Amit Bouri

Amit Bouri, CEO of the Global Impact Investing Network, says more entrepreneurs are using the IRIS standards. “While IRIS was developed to be used by investors for the purpose of measuring the social and environmental performance of their investees, we are increasingly seeing enterprises adopting IRIS for their own impact measurement and management practice.”

He notes that using IRIS measures could make social ventures more attractive to impact investors because it could accelerate the impact due diligence phase of an investment.

More importantly, perhaps, Bouri says that impact measurement can actually improve business performance. “Impact measurement is a defining characteristic of impact investing and has been shown to have significant benefits to organizations that utilize it to inform business decisions.”

Cathy Clark, author and professor, is the director of CASE i3 at Duke. She cautions, “Not every social entrepreneur needs to use a standard or produce an impact report. It’s a choice, dictated by the stakeholders of your enterprise and what level of evidence they are demanding.”

She explains, “We define 5 levels of evidence and 3 paths for impact reporting in our CASE Smart Impact Capital online tools. Using standards is just one of the paths.”

Cathy Clark

She sees a range of demands from investors; using standards helps with comparisons. “The advantage of using standards is giving people some level of comparability at the organizational level, and there are stakeholders who care a great deal about this, including some private investors and some federal and state agencies. All of the other paths allow you to customize more, but you lose some comparability with other ventures. Some stakeholders, like some agencies in the US government, have often decided that they will only invest significantly where higher levels of impact evidence can be shared.

Bobby Turner, CEO of Turner Impact Capital, which invests primarily in affordable housing and charter schools, is also cautious about using standards. “We focus less on impact standards and more on actual impact and the correlation between positive (and possibly negative) [social impact] and financial returns. Similar to LEED certification, while the intent of the standards is well meaning, they are often irrelevant to a particular investment.”

It isn’t necessarily which standards you choose but how you use them, says Stephanie Gripne, founder and director of Impact Finance Center & CO Impact Days and Initiative. “Probably any of [the standards work for now for the larger part of the market. There are many out there. Once these standards are selected by a social entrepreneur, I would ask why these indicators and how exactly they will capture and use the data.”

Breaking from the pack, Topher Wilkins, CEO of Opportunity Collaboration and founder of Conveners.org, says Poverty Spotlight is worth considering as a standard because of its focus on feedback from beneficiaries and on their economic well-being.

Morgan Simon

Some worry that impact standards themselves may not go deep enough. Morgan Simon, managing director at Pi Investments, says, “Impact standards are great for addressing short-term outcomes. It’s important to also keep track of what the long-term, systemic impact of an intervention can be–this may require a greater attention to the structural elements of a business. Who owns it? Does it add more value than it extracts from communities?

She adds, “Impact measurement is absolutely useful—what gets measured, gets managed. Impact measurement is often used to count the occurrence of something, e.g., 1,000 jobs created or 200 homes built. Measuring structural change may require a different set of questions.”

Peter Fusaro, Chairman of Global Change Associates, adds the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board or SASB to the list of standards. The SASB is primarily used for socially responsible investing metrics and is working to become to public companies what the FASB accounting rules are for financial metrics. He adds, “I don’t see one as the dominant standard as of yet.”

Lauryn Agnew

Lauryn Agnew, president, Seal Cove Financial and founder, Bay Area Impact Investing Initiative, shares the view that the standard you should use depends on your situation—and on what you are measuring.

“ESG factors can measure the outcomes of CSR. B-labs often are about balancing corporate behavior and shareholder expectations and governance. Measuring GHG reduction from an investment in solar is an example of measurement but the value of that impact in not fully understood. Certain standards like SASB are helping to define what is the ‘material’ impact so that we do not have to track ‘every’ impact, which can be diluting or detracting to the big picture goals.”

This primer on impact measurement should help you understand the key issues in measurement so you can find your way out of the impact measurement maze.

#impmeas

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

CEA Targets $800M of Solar Investment With New Partners

Clean Energy Advisors is a sponsor of the Your Mark on the World Center.


Clean Energy Advisors announced a major new financing that will take the firm from having invested about $140 million in solar energy projects to about $800 million. CEA President Scott Hill also notes that building on this success, the firm will establish a foundation to fund more charitable initiatives. (Watch or listen to my discussion with Scott using the players above.)Scott explains that the unnamed financing partners, two “multinational families,” have committed about $350 million. Combined with additional debt financing, the firm anticipates reaching $800 million in financed projects, “completing the pipeline of projects in North Carolina.” He anticipates that deploying the capital will take 18 to 24 months.

Scott explains that the unnamed financing partners, two “multinational families,” have committed about $350 million. Combined with additional debt financing, the firm anticipates reaching $800 million in financed projects, “completing the pipeline of projects in North Carolina.” He anticipates that deploying the capital will take 18 to 24 months.

He notes that the cost of installation for small utility scale projects is about $1.50 or $1.60 per watt, yielding a cost of about $1.5 million per megawatt. The new financing should allow CEA to install another 400 MW in North Carolina. He also notes that the scale they are achieving should allow the firm to look beyond their traditional structure where Duke Energy is the primary “off-taker” or buyer of the energy from the projects financed.

The new scale also creates an opportunity for CEO to increase its philanthropic efforts. Scott says the firm has started the process of creating a foundation that will fund charitable work. Last year, the firm backed nonprofits Reverb and Headcount to build support for environmental causes at 25 concerts across the country. Scott says they’ll be doing that again. “People who attend concerts have a natural affinity for nonprofits.”

Scott also hopes that the firm can use the foundation to fund solar projects in the developing world like putting solar panels on schools that don’t have access to the grid. He says the firm will donate its time to manage projects that the foundation funds and hopes donors will help them make a big impact.

The acceleration of the solar industry is creating a bright future for the world, both in the developing world and here in the developed world.

Scott Hill, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

Scott Hill, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

More about Clean Energy Advisors:

Twitter: @cleanenergyadv

Clean Energy Advisors (CEA) creates ownership opportunities for investors in utility scale solar energy projects that generate tax-advantaged predictable income, preserve capital, and have positive social and environmental impact.

Scott’s bio:

Twitter: @williamandhill

Scott Hill has over twenty years of entrepreneurial experience including a significant perspective on business start-ups and building successful small businesses. Mr. Hill has been with CEA since April 2014.

His duties include overseeing the firms family office, endowment, foundation, and UHNW client strategies. He has served as a panelist at US based family office conferences and enjoys speaking on impact investing, renewable energy opportunities, and the future of Solar PV worldwide.

Scott is a 1991 graduate of Columbia University and four year member of the football program. He lives near Nashville, TN with his wife and children. He’s also actively involved in his community and church.

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

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