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The mission of the Your Mark on the World Center is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.

Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

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.

Proof That Good Deeds Can Lead: “Good News Network” Turns 18

This is a guest post from Geri Weis-Corbley, Founder and Editor in Chief of Good News Network.

Who says no news is good news?

There’s plenty of good news in the world—and yes, it “sells.”

I knew that long before other news media outlets had a clue, and created a positive news website, before even the first blog was invented in 1997.

It all started with a single nagging thought I kept hearing in my head while working in TV news in Washington, DC in 1982, two months out of college.

“Where is all the good news?”

Journalism colleagues at companies like CNN kept telling me, “Good news doesn’t sell,” but I refused to believe it. I often cited successful media personalities or properties that made a name for themselves with an optimistic slant: Oprah’s Angel Network, Charles Kuralt, Readers Digest and Parade magazine.

Maybe because of their goading, I eventually made it my #1 goal to PROVE that good news sells.

Geri Weis-Corbley

Geri Weis-Corbley

You see, the idea gnawed at me for years, like sand in an oyster, after I left the media business to raise a family. I remember the moment when our 5-year-old son was sitting in the kitchen while a gruesome Bosnia War expose started running on NPR radio. It was like a light switch flipped on for me.

It was early 1997 and the Internet was blossoming. I thought, ‘I can make a good news program on the Web,’ so I taught myself to code with html and launched a simple yellow website on August 31. Good News Network was born.

During the sad days of 9/11, the scary Wall Street Crash of ’08, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our traffic skyrocketed. People were looking for hope, for good in the world, and I was at home in Virginia delivering it to them.

This week, Good News Network celebrates its 18th anniversary– and the pioneering site for “good news” media aggregation has definitely come of age. In 2015, with hundreds of original stories being filed each month and the means to hire a staff for the first time, we have hit our stride.

Traffic has grown organically, with friends telling friends, and we are now serving more than 2.4 million pages of good news every month.

Although our website is completely free, our loyal and appreciative fans have been contributing financially as Members – some even giving voluntary pledges up to $500, when they get nothing more than a few small gifts in return. This is the Public Broadcasting model at work, which shows, above all else, the brand loyalty of an engaged readership that values our Daily Dose of News to Enthuse.

It is the proof that good news sells.

I feel so much satisfaction when I read the emails describing how my newsfeed has changed people’s lives, eased depression, and provided hope to the near-hopeless.

With more than 16,000 good news stories cataloged so far, we are branching out to podcasting and radio soon, with video on the horizon.

We are always looking for success stories and sweet tales of humanity—so go on, tell us something good!

About Geri Weis-Corbley:

Geri is the founder and Editor in Chief of Good News Network, the # 1 ranked site on Google for Good News. 

Impact Investor Credits ‘Faith In God’ For Success

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Joe Sanberg is an investor in a few of the social I’ve profiled recently (Aspiration and Bright Funds) and so I wanted to learn more about him.

Sanberg told me about the start to his career, “I grew up in a middle class family and by the time I was leaving for college at Harvard, the house I had grown up in was being foreclosed. I’m sobered by the staggering amount of luck and chance that came together in my life. I never could have imagined it.”

This experience guided his philosophy on life and business. “I don’t think we should leave to luck and chance the kinds of opportunities in life that people get to enjoy. I’m determined to build companies and champion public policies that systematically create more opportunity for people because I can’t bear thinking that I didn’t do everything I could to ensure that the kid today who is like I was does not have to rely on luck and chance to have a full life.”

The challenges of his early life helped frame Sanberg’s thinking as well. “Like so many others in my generation, I was raised by my mother. The absence of an active father when I was a kid affected me like it has affected many others. You have to become more self-reliant at a younger age as you figure out how to be a responsible adult. Fortunately, my maternal grandfather was a very active presence in my life and was a great male role model.”

When I asked Sanberg the secret of his success, he responded, “I think success comes from being authentic so my answer involves revealing what constitutes my core as a person. My faith in God is the biggest factor in how I live my life and who I am. Tikkun Olam is a Hebrew phrase that means to heal the world. I think we all have a responsibility to find our part in healing the world. Like all of us, I’ve often fallen short of my responsibility but my aspiration is to do my best to live up to Tikkun Olam.”

On Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 2:00 Eastern, Sanberg will join me for a live discussion about his work investing in social ventures. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

JoeSanberg-1940x1940

Sandberg’s bio:

Twitter: @josephnsanberg

Joe Sanberg is a public and private-sector entrepreneur. He is Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of Advisors of Aspiration — a digital financial services company for everyday Americans. He is also an active venture investor in a variety of fast growing companies that combine profit and purpose, such as Bright Funds and Blue Apron. Joe is a leader with several public sector initiatives, including the Jefferson Awards Foundation (Chair of its Board of Governors), the UC Riverside School of Public Policy (member of its Board of Advisors) and Co-Founder, Economic Innovation Group. Joe s also leading a public affairs campaign around the new California Earned Income Tax Credit to expand economic opportunity among working Californians.

Carnival’s Fathom Sailing Toward Cuba ‘To Make A Social Impact’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Carnival newest cruise line is sailing in a new direction; Fathom’s destination is social impact. Initially sailing with one vessel, the Adonia, Fathom passengers will visit the Dominican Republic and Cuba to work alongside locals as volunteers on water and other projects.

The brains behind Fathom, its President, Tara Russell, explained, “We didn’t want Fathom to be a ‘voluntourism’ company. We wanted Fathom to be so much more than that. So we found a way to leverage the resources of the world’s largest travel and leisure company (Carnival Corporation) to create a new kind of cruise that combines the love of travel with the desire to make a difference. Truly nothing like this exists today.”

“We created Fathom to give people an easy, safe and convenient way to make a social impact that is both meaningful to society and personally rewarding, ” she adds.

Russell describes the projects passengers will undertake, “In the Dominican Republic, for example, more than two million Dominicans do not have access to piped water. Fathom travelers will work with a local organization there to build water filters using clay and other natural resources to make healthy drinking water available to Dominican families.”

“Fathom will send thousands of travelers a year – more than 700 travelers on every trip – to Caribbean communities in need to work with our local partners and directly alongside local citizens on ongoing social impact programs in each community. This sustained and large-scale impact is what makes Fathom truly unique. Travelers will have the opportunity to make transformative societal contributions that will extend far beyond their individual involvement. It will be incredibly rewarding,” she concluded.

Fathom’s seven-day cruises to the Dominican Republic will start at $974 and those to Cuba will start at $1,800.

On Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 1:00 Eastern, Russell will join me for a live discussion about Fathom’s impact. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Fathom:

Twitter: @fathomtravel

Fathom is a new kind of cruise that combines your love of travel with your desire to make a difference. Part of the Carnival Corporation (NYSE/LSE: CCL; NYSE: CUK) family, Fathom is the pioneer of impact travel, a new category of travel that will offer consumers authentic, meaningful travel experiences to enrich the life of the traveler and work alongside locals as they tackle community needs. Fathom is unique in that it leverages Carnival Corporation’s expertise and scale for a one-of-a-kind business model to create long-term collaboration with its partner countries, allowing for sustained social impact and lasting development. Fathom will serve the sizable and growing market of potential social impact travel consumers – approximately one million North Americans – in addition to global travelers already pursuing service-oriented travel experiences worldwide.

Russell’s bio:

Twitter: @taravrussell

Tara Russell is the president of fathom, a social impact company that offers a new category of travel, and global impact lead of Carnival Corporation & plc, the world’s largest travel and leisure company. Russell generated the idea for fathom in 2013, and led research, design and development of the brand, business model and experience from January 2014 to launch in June 2015. She now leads the fathom team as it offers a unique experience to purpose-driven travelers who desire authentic, meaningful social impact opportunities. fathom provides the opportunity to immerse in another culture and community, and systematically work alongside that community to make relevant contributions that endure. fathom is the newest addition to Carnival Corporation, which is also the world’s largest cruise company with nine global cruise lines providing extraordinary vacations at exceptional value for nearly 11 million people around the world every year. Russell has responsibility for fathom and the corporation’s global impact programs and reports to Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation.

Prior to Carnival Corporation, Russell was Founder and CEO of Create Common Good (CCG, www.createcommongood.org), a non-profit social enterprise that provides training and employment to refugees and a wide variety of other populations with barriers to employment. Russell created CCG in 2008 in order to use food to change lives by empowering for self-sufficiency through a creative food-production social enterprise production model. CCG has delivered more than 100,000 job training hours, with an average employment success outcome of more than 90 percent, and returned more than $18 million back into the community via graduate earned wages. The organization’s noteworthy work to promote healthy eating habits through snack and grab & go production recently earned grants from Newman’s Own Foundation and the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health. Russell is currently Chairman of the Board for CCG.

In 2007, Russell was part of the founding team of Jitasa, a for-profit social venture that provides affordable financial services to the non-profit industry and has become a profitable, global enterprise serving hundreds of global social sector enterprises, including Boy Scouts of America and many other large, scalable impact entities. Jitasa is a certified B-Corporation with offices in the US, Thailand and Bosnia.

Prior to this, Russell spent four years in Thailand, where she offered pro bono small business development training to nongovernmental organizations. Russell also co-founded NightLight, an international organization that addresses the complex issues surrounding trafficking and prostitution by offering alternative employment, vocational opportunities, life-skills training and physical, emotional and spiritual development to women seeking freedom from human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Russell started her career with a number of Fortune 500 companies, including roles in product development with Nike; technical sales and marketing at Intel; and engineering and manufacturing with General Motors. While at Intel, she was selected for the Emerging Leaders program and had the opportunity to work with the executive team. During her four years with GM, she was chosen to represent Saturn Corporation in the Shanghai GM New Vehicle Build & Launch Project in 1999 in China. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering with Highest Honors from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

JDRF Is All About The Cure

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

This one is personal. I apologize now, but understand that I simply can’t be entirely objective about type 1 diabetes or T1D. My wife has had diabetes for over fifty years and my son has had it for nearly two decades.

Improved treatments have largely spared my son the sorts of debilitating consequences my wife has experienced, but hasn’t spared him from multiple daily injections, finger pricks, and the cumbersome tethers of insulin pumps and glucose monitors.

Derek Rapp, the CEO of JDRF, says that the organization dedicated to finding a cure for T1D is making progress.

Like me, he says, “JDRF was created—and is still led—by people with a personal connection to type 1 diabetes.”

Rapp adds, “It’s an exciting time for type 1 diabetes research, JDRF is on the verge of life changing breakthroughs that will fundamentally improve the way people live with type 1 diabetes. This progress isn’t by accident and, in fact, it directly reflects the vision, focus and investments of JDRF over the last decade.”

“Our work has led to new treatments for diabetic eye disease, the creation of first-generation artificial pancreas systems, and the first human clinical trial of encapsulated cell-replacement therapies that have the potential to replace insulin treatment,” he continues.

“Every dollar we direct toward our mission comes from our supporters and donors, who enable us to make real progress and propel us toward our goal of a world without type 1 diabetes,” he concludes.

On Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 11:00 Eastern, Rapp will join me for a live discussion about the JDRF’s progress toward finding a cure for T1D. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about JDRF:

Twitter: @JDRF

JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Our mission is to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications. To accomplish this, JDRF has invested nearly $2 billion in research funding since our inception. We are an organization built on a grassroots model of people connecting in their local communities, collaborating regionally for efficiency and broader fundraising impact, and uniting on a national stage to pool resources, passion, and energy. We collaborate with academic institutions, policymakers, and corporate and industry partners to develop and deliver a pipeline of innovative therapies to people living with T1D. Our staff and volunteers in more than 100 locations throughout the United States and our six international affiliates are dedicated to advocacy, community engagement and our vision of a world without T1D.

Rapp’s bio:

Twitter: @JDRFceo

Derek Rapp is President and Chief Executive Officer of JDRF. Prior to his appointment in 2014, Derek served as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors for JDRF International and was formally JDRF Research Chair. He has been involved in the research funding and oversight activities of JDRF since 2005.

From early 2001 until February 2011, Derek was Chief Executive Officer of Divergence, Inc., a science-based company finding solutions in the prevention and control of pest infections. He led the successful sale of the company in February 2011. As CEO of Divergence, Derek’s main responsibilities included developing and implementing the company’s strategy, ensuring suitable financing of the company, implementing relationships with licensees and collaborators, and overseeing operations.

Derek has also been an active volunteer with numerous leadership roles in different organizations, including JDRF International.

Derek holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University with concentrations in Economics and German and a Master in Business Administration from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Derek is married to Emily Rapp, and they have three children (Helen – 23, Turner – 21, who was diagnosed with T1D in 2004, and William – 18).

Impacting 1 Billion By 2020 Is No Pipe Dream For These Social Entrepreneurs

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Santa Clara University is a relatively small Jesuit college located in Silicon Valley. A few years ago, when they set out to touch 1 billion lives through their social entrepreneurship programs by 2020 that might have seemed, shall we say, “optimistic” for a school with just 8,000 students. The 75 million people they’ve helped so far certainly aren’t laughing.

On Friday, August 22, 2015, I was invited to campus to see the Global Social Benefit Institute more commonly called the GSBI at the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship first hand. I first met Thane Kreiner virtually last year when he was a guest on my show. Pat Haines is the Senior Director of Marketing for the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and Pamela Roussos is the Senior Director of the GSBI. They work with Kreiner, who leads the entire Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Their passion for social entrepreneurship is genuinely inspiring.

The GSBI program strikes me as one of the best examples of a mission-driven program I’ve encountered. The program generates no revenue for the University. The entrepreneurs it supports get tremendous value from the program but have no connection to the school; they aren’t students, alumni or even Catholic. The school has put mission ahead of any self-interest.

The entrepreneurs in the program are impressive. While all meet the Silicon Valley definition of a startup, these are not startups in the sense of two guys and a business plan. All are already achieving scale, typically measured in tens of thousands of customers. The program is intended to help them scale even more rapidly, allowing them to touch more lives in more meaningful ways.

There are 15 companies in the current cohort. I met ten of them during my visit. Let me tell you just a bit about each of them in the order they presented their companies to me:

The Columbia Leadership Trust:

This nonprofit social venture operates in South Africa, working to help students get into and graduate from college. Focusing on leadership skills rather than academic skills, the students not only help themselves they help their friends and have a meaningful impact on the school. Led by Rob Taylor, the enterprise has already run the program over 191 times, yielding 2,675 graduates in seven different provinces.

Empower Generation:

Anya Chernoff is working to empower women with small business opportunities selling solar power products in Nepal. Like Solar Sister, a GSBI graduate selling solar power products in Africa, Empower Generation sells solar lanterns through its growing network of entrepreneur retailers and sales agents around the country. Every time

a family replaces a kerosene lantern with a solar one, the family’s air quality and health improves and the risk of a potentially lethal burn is eliminated and a deadly weapon is disarmed.

Essmart Global:

Prashanth Venkataramana has developed a network of 1,100 retail shops with hopes to quickly grow to more than 8,000 on its way to 400,000 around India. Essmart doesn’t own or operate the shops, instead, each pre-existing shop is provided with a catalog of 65 eco-friendly and socially responsible products that can quickly be delivered to the shop or customer by an Essmart delivery person. The shops increase their revenues and profits with no capital outlay and their customers begin acquiring goods like solar lanterns.

African Clean Energy:

Judith Joan Walker is impressive in a room full of amazing people; born in the Netherlands, has lived all around the world and speaks English with a perfect American accent. She helps lead her family business making clean burning cooks stoves for Africa. The stoves are equipped with solar power generators that can power LED lights and a cell phone. More remarkably, the high-tech stoves will burn a variety of fuels with absolutely no smoke—the fuel is completely vaporized. After I bashed holes in walls in Nepal in March to install stoves there, I was fascinated by this almost magical improvement.

Banka Bioloo:

Sanjay Banka first connected with me two years ago. He is working to solve one of the world’s greatest problems: the practice of open defecation. In India alone, he explained, there are about 600 million people who lack access to a toilet. Banka Bioloo has created an affordable, hi-tech toilet that provides on-site human waste treatment. While the hardiest of our readers can imagine living without a toilet, I suspect few can comprehend living in a community where no one has one. Banka is working to ensure that no one has to live in that world.

Practice Makes Perfect:

While none of the entrepreneurs in the group appear to have been born before I was, they are mostly in their 30s and 40s. Not Karim Adouelnaga. He launched his business as a sophomore at Cornell and still isn’t old enough to rent a car. His program, the only one of the cohort focused on the U.S. market, works with at-risk kids in New York City schools. He remembers being one of those students and the good fortune he had to have had some special help along the way. He’s created a summer enrichment program that helps kids gain academic ground over the summer rather than lose most of what they learned during the school year.

AquaSafi Purification System:

Pavin Pankajan has developed a low-cost, fully automated water purification and dispensing system for India. One unit can purify 1,000 liters of water per hour. Up to now, Pankajan has been selling the systems to NGOs in India, but has used the GSBI experience to develop a new model where he’ll partner with local communities to operate the water treatment systems. To date, AquaSafi is operating 130 “water stores” and plans to grow to 1,100 by 2018.

ICT for Development Kenya:

Jonathan Mativo has created an information and communications technology training program in Kenya. By leveraging a single CPU across 20 computer terminals, he can equip a computer lab for $3,000 and use it to train over 100 students on basic computer skills. By helping high school students and recent graduates in Kenya who may never have touched a computer to learn basic skills like how to use orinary office software, he helps them to become employable. So far, Mativo has trained over 20,000 students.

Naandi Community Water Services:

Naandi founder and CEO Anoop Ratnaker Rao has developed a strong network of backers in the India government and among NGOs working there as well as among its 500,000 customers for clean water. Naandi sells clean water for about 1 U.S. penny per gallon. At this rate, however, the business isn’t fully self-sustaining. Rao is working to further enhance the Naandi brand to enable it to charge 20 to 30 percent more, allowing the company to be fully self-sufficient and to grow infinitely to meet the need for clean water in India.

Carbon Roots International:

Eric Sorenson co-founded Carbon Roots International to manufacture charcoal from agricultural waste in Haiti, which is already 97 percent deforested. The company’s green charcoal is now the largest manufacturer and most popular brand of charcoal in Haiti. Sorenson explains that they still have only a small market share in a highly fragmented market. His goal is to supply 25 percent of Haiti’s charcoal by 2020.

The enterprises who weren’t able to share their stories with me include Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (Mama), Naya Jeevan, PACE MD, Rangsutra Crafts India and The Youth Banner.

After my visit, it was clear to me that while I can’t guess whether they will reach their goal to impact a billion lives by 2020, it isn’t a pipe dream. These folks are for real.

Your Mark on the World Center Launches Fund to Solve Global Problems

The Your Mark on the World Center is partnering with Bright Funds to create the Your Mark on the World Fund. The fund supports the work of 16 nonprofits that are working to solve some of the Earth’s biggest problems.

Bright Funds CEO Ty Walrod said, “Bright Funds was built to address the needs of a new generation of donors who want to harness the power of strategic giving. The Your Mark on the World Fund is an extraordinary example of empowering donors to create impact in a variety of causes areas, ranging from environmental issues, human rights, disease research and prevention.”

“New technology and a more enriched global perspective are responsible for changing the way we view donating to causes. A generation ago, giving was somewhat reactive. Society did not have the tools or the access to causes or charities we have today, and it made giving feel very transactional,” Ty added.

“At Bright Funds, we enable donors to go beyond transactional giving by empowering them create funds and then track the impact of their donations,” Ty concluded.

On Wednesday, August 26, 2015, Ty will join me for a live discussion about the new Your Mark on the World Fund hosted by Bright Funds and the work of the nonprofits it supports. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

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

More about Bright Funds:

Twitter: @BrightFunds

San Francisco-based Bright Funds helps leading companies and their employees change the world through impactful social good programs, and in doing so, make their businesses more successful. Bright Funds enables employee donors to choose their cause and give to individual non-profits or exclusively available “Funds” comprised of multiple nonprofits. In one platform, Bright Funds brings together the power of research, the reliability of a trusted financial service, and the convenience of centralized contributions and company reporting. Employees, recruits, customers, and investors and worthy causes appreciate companies that use Bright Funds for employee-empowered giving.

More about the Your Mark on the World Fund:

This fund is inspired by the Your Mark on the World Center, which is championing the work of people and organizations who are actually leading the charge to solve the world’s biggest problems. Ranging from environmental issues to human rights, poverty and disease prevention, this group of nonprofits has been identified by the Center for their work in scaling global solutions to match global problems. The Center is working to see many of these problems solved before 2045.

Ty Walrod

Ty Walrod

Ty’s bio:

Twitter: @tywalrod

Ty is the co-founder and CEO of Bright Funds, the company that enables employee-empowered workplace giving. Prior to Bright Funds, Ty co-founded and built OutServe into a national organization supporting LGBT equality in the US military. He previously worked for Deloitte, with the partnership’s venture capital, private equity and technology clients, followed by his work as the lead business analyst for Coverity.

Ty is also the co-founder and a board member of Startup and Tech Mixer, a bay area professional networking organization, and a board member of Sustainable Silicon Valley, an organization dedicated to a healthy environment, a vibrant economy, and a socially equitable Silicon Valley community. He is an avid runner and mountaineer.

Remember to “join the cavalry” by subscribing to our content here.

Devin D. Thorpe

Social Entrepreneur Straddles Two Cultures, Ultimately Succeeds In Both

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Ajaita Shah, founder of Frontier Markets, a retail distributor of solar powered products in rural India, was born in the United States to Indian immigrants; a part of who she is has always remained connected to her roots. Last year, she was recognized by Forbes as one of the 30 Under 30. Recently, she was recently recognized by Acumen as a world-class social entrepreneur, having been invited to join the SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship.

Shah explained the challenges she faced trying to live in two communities at once. A member of the Jain Marawi religious community in New York City, Shah felt the extreme juxtaposition of her life. She lived in a close-knit religious community and at the same time in the larger, increasingly secular world.

“I realized I was meant to be an entrepreneur from college: my senior year of college (2005) was all about working on creating projects which brought me back to India regularly,” Shah said.

She goes on to explain the realities she faced when she started working on her business in earnest in 2009, “Initially, I did not understand what being a social entrepreneur was going to entail – I was merely focused on writing a business plan and then testing a pilot, and determining whether I was correct in my assumptions. I was lucky to have early mentors ready to help in the process and help me understand that in order to make FM work, I will need to invest my own money into the idea– and eventually Frontier Markets becomes my baby, my story, my future.”

The 2009 launch proved, however, to be a false start. In 2010 and 2011, she completely reinvented the business, moving from Andhra Pradesh to Rajasthan, a state with more sunlight and poverty–perfect for her solar power business.

About the same time, Shah’s cultural duality became a central part of her life. Agreeing to a traditional arranged marriage with a member of her Jain community, she began the next chapter of her life as a married woman.

Things improved and she made progress beginning in 2011. “Spending everyday in the field; trying to crack this model,” she says of 2011. “By 2012, I feel like I have achieved something. I grow the company, get more investors, [and] suddenly FM is on the radar of many social impact investors–what we’re doing works. Our philosophy of building last mile retail for solar is working. We start growing, and suddenly, I am no longer an entrepreneur, but a CEO.”

But the cultural duality of her life proved in some ways to be unsustainable. She explained, “2013-2014 was the toughest year for me as social entrepreneur, as a woman leader; managing a company in India is hard. Rules and regulations I do not understand; whom to hire, whom to trust? There are a lot of cultural barriers–though I am Indian, I can speak, read and write in Hindi–I am still very aware of not being a local. I make many mistakes, hire the wrong people, try things and fail – but with a supporting investor group, amazing advisors, and strong partners, I come on top.”

But success with Frontier Markets was balanced by the end of her marriage. She said her mother-in-law come “soap opera enemy” laid down the law. “At the end of the day, the message was clear: if I wanted to be married to him and his family, I would have to give up my dreams and stay at home with them; work as a hobby, not as a career. Speak when spoken to. Live the way you are expected to live, not desire.”

Last year, she notes, was a year of achievements, including the Forbes recognition and more recently the Acumen-SAP fellowship.

“Today, I am free. Today, I am empowered. Today, I have control. Frontier Markets is doing well; we have 225 retail points, have sold 50,000 solar solutions in Rajasthan, [and] I am leading a team of 40 people. FM and I have gotten a lot of recognition for our work. I have a loving and supportive family both in India and the US. I have set up a foundation in the US that allows me to share my experiences from the field, continue to bridge gaps in the energy access space, and also now think even bigger – global,” she concluded.

Frontier Markets received an investment from Acumen and Shah was named an entrepreneur in the SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship.

On Thursday, August 20, 2015 at 11:00 Eastern, Shah will join me from India for a live discussion about her work of bringing solar power to the masses in rural India. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Frontier Markets:

Frontier Markets is a sales, marketing and after-sales service distribution company in Rajasthan. Founded in 2011, Frontier Markets works with local channel partners and field staff to educate, relate, and reach households providing them access to high quality and affordable clean energy solutions. We create solar retail points in the last mile and support them with service centers and after-sales. We work with manufacturers to get the right products to our rural customers. We create women entrepreneurs which is the solar saheli campaign; as well as working with local rural villagers to build presence of solar in Rajasthan. To date, we have sold over 90,000 solar solutions and have created 800 retail points and 500 solar sahelis. Frontier Markets has expanded access to clean energy products including solar and clean cook stoves to its partners on the ground in Rajasthan, primarily, Centre for Microfinance and their NGO partners. We have worked on creating a program to empower women through energy access called Solar Saheli.

More about the SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship in collaboration with Acumen:

Twitter: @Frontiermkts

Acumen and SAP, global business software leader, have collaborated to create the SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship to accelerate the growth of social enterprises serving the poor in East Africa and India. Leveraging Acumen’s 14 years of investing in early-stage social enterprises and SAP’s global business and innovation expertise, this unique collaboration will bring together emerging and established CEOs committed to building sustainable, socially driven businesses, creating a more inclusive global economy, and expanding opportunities for the poor to lead lives of dignity and possibility.

Shah’s bio:

Twitter: @Ajaita_Shah

Ajaita is the Founder/CEO of Frontier Markets and the President of Frontier Innovations Foundation. Frontier Markets is a rural marketing, sales, and service distribution company providing access to affordable and quality solar solutions to low-income households in India. She has been working in India for 10 years in microfinance and clean energy distribution. She is a 2006 Clinton Service Corp Fellow, 2012 Echoing Green Fellow, 2013 Cordes Fellow, has been awarded the most influential award in Microfinance for people under 30, and Business Week’s 30 under 30 award, and most recently, Forbes Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year. Recently, she has been recognized as the #3 of top 40 women entrepreneurs of India in 2014, and Nasscom Foundation identified her as Women 2.0 of 2015. She actively speaks at conferences for the US Green Business Council, Universities, global forums. She has been an active educator, collaborator, and catalyst in helping scale clean energy access globally. Ajaita serves on the board of Frontier Innovations Foundation, a non-profit focused on last-mile distribution support for clean energy companies. As well as NASE, the National Association for Social Enterprises in India, a network for social enterprises. She is also an advisor to various social enterprises in India focusing on product development for the poor. She is an active member of the UN Practitioner’s Network, Asian Development Bank’s Energy For All Partnership. Ajaita Shah holds her B.A. in International Relations from Tufts University.

Impact Investor Leads Charge For ‘Clean Money’ To Create Change

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Joel Solomon of Renewal Funds is not only a leading impact investor but also a leading voice for the impact investing movement. Based in Vancouver, British Colombia, his impact fund approaches $100 million.

Solomon says, “All of us, particularly those involved in the world of investment and finance, have something to offer. Together we have the resources to achieve what may be the greatest ethical and economic shift in human history.”

“The call right now is a big one: we need to reinvent capitalism,” he says with no hint of doubt.

Solomon notes that traditional capitalism needs to be changed, “We need to enable and encourage private enterprise to build the new businesses, technologies and industries that will replace our current methods— many of which are unsustainable at best and wantonly destructive at worst.”

Observing that government can’t or won’t solve big social problems, Solomon calls on financiers to lead the way. “It’s hard to overemphasize the critical role that those who move in the world of finance and investment can play right now. Those who provide capital and incentives for innovation have a crucial part to play in addressing climate justice, species extinction and man-made environmental disasters.”

“Severely diminished government regulation in most jurisdictions means that the shift towards what I’ve come to call ‘clean money’—impact investing, socially responsible investing (SRI), and mission-based activation of investment portfolios— represents the single most potent force for restoring the planet and delivering social equity to billions of people,” he adds.

Given demographic trends, Solomon sees younger investors as a catalyst for change. “Millennial and ‘Gen Y’ investors are demanding that their portfolios—whether self-generated or inherited— be dedicated to mission-based or ethical, sustainable and socially just investments. The Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, already outnumber Boomers at about 85 million in North America.”

“This is a pivotal time for the rise of clean money— a conscious and pragmatic movement that is still near the fringes but moving very rapidly towards the center,” he concludes.

On Thursday, August 13, 2015 at 4:00 Eastern, Solomon will join me for a live discussion about clean money and impact investing. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Renewal Funds:

Renewal Funds is Canada’s largest social venture capital firm, with $98 million assets under management. We invest in organic food, green products, and environmental and social innovations. Our investors are individuals, families, foundations, and wealth managers, seeking to align their values with marking money.

Joel Solomon

Joel Solomon

Solomon’s bio:

Twitter: @joelsolomon

Joel Solomon is Chair of Renewal Funds, Canada’s largest mission venture capital firm. With Renewal Partners co-founder Carol Newell, Joel spent eighteen years using integrated capital for social change as an activist family office. He is a Senior Advisor with RSF Social Finance, founding member of Social Venture Network, Business for Social Responsibility, the Tides Canada Foundation, and is Board Chair of Hollyhock. Joel was a founding member of the Vision Vancouver Municipal political party, now running for its third term majority with close friend, SVN member and Tides Canada founding board member Mayor Gregor Robertson. With a Lifetime Achievement Award from SVN, Joel was inducted with Carol Newell into the SVN Hall of Fame in 2012. His 2015 commentary on fossil fuel divestment appeared in The Globe And Mail, Canada’s largest national newspaper.

Solomon is a member of the Social Venture Network.

Proven Leader, Harvard Professor Explains How To Learn Leadership

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Robert Steven Kaplan , the former Vice Chair of Goldman Sachs, Harvard professor, venture philanthropist, author and regular guest on my show here on Forbes, will see his new book, What Your Really Need to Lead, published on September 15.

In anticipation of a return to the show, Kaplan shared some thoughts with me about his new book.

Kaplan said, “Leadership is one of the most important aspects of our society, yet there is enormous disagreement and confusion about what leadership means, and whether it can really be learned. I argue that leadership qualities are not something you either have or you don’t. Leadership is about what you do, rather than who you are, and it starts with an ownership mind-set.”

Kaplan says, learning to lead involves three key elements:

  1. Thinking like an owner
  2. A willingness to act on your beliefs
  3. A relentless focus on adding value to others

“Leadership is accessible to each of us, but it requires a process of hard work, willingness to ask questions, and openness to learning,” he adds.

“In the book I really try to demystify leadership and outline a specific regimen that will empower the reader to build his or her leadership skills. You need to ask yourself probing questions, and then take follow-up steps that will help you develop your skills, create new habits, and move toward reaching your unique leadership potential,” he concludes.

On Thursday, August 13, 2015 at 2:00 Eastern, Kaplan will join me for a live discussion about leadership. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about What You Really Need to Lead:

Kaplan is the author of the new book What You Really Need to Lead. In the book, he writes that leaders in business, politics, and life are not naturally gifted: leadership is something that must be learned. The most powerful question anyone can ask in their daily lives is “what would an owner do right now?” If we look at the challenges and opportunities that confront us through this ownership lens, then we become leaders, and act in a way that benefits many people beyond just ourselves. Being a leader isn’t what you are—it’s what you do.

Robert Steven Kaplan

Robert Steven Kaplan

Kaplan’s bio:

Twitter: @RobSKaplan

Robert Steven Kaplan is Senior Associate Dean and the Martin Marshall Professor of Management Practice in Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He is also cochairman of the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, a global venture philanthropy firm, as well as chairman and a founding partner of Indaba Capital Management. Before joining Harvard in 2005, Kaplan was vice chairman of the Goldman Sachs Group. He divides his time between Boston and New York City.

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