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.
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.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Recently, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion on impact investing going mainstream at the Los Angeles Sustainatopia conference. The panelists were all new to me; their insights really got me thinking. I’ve followed up with them in an effort to organize their collective thoughts.
Jonathan Storper, a partner at Hanson Bridgett who founded the firm’s sustainable law practice, effectively highlights the changing perception of impact investing, “Traditionally, impact investing was thought of as low profit or even nonprofit work. Increasingly, there has been the realization that there does not need to be any tradeoff between profit and purpose if the business has the right idea and is run in a disciplined manner.”
Paul Herman, inventor of the “HIP = Human Impact + Profit” ratings system and author of The HIP Investor: Make Bigger Profits by Building a Better World, agree, “ Investing to build a better world can be financially attractive. Sustainable products are growing revenue at higher-than-average growth rates.”
Garvin Jabush, cofounder and chief investment officer of Green Alpha Advisors, notes that the latest generation is helping to drive this shift, “There’s a general idea that I think people, particularly millennials, are now getting: the economy of the 19th and 20th centuries got us a long way, but from here, looking forward, it’s clear that this legacy economy is fraught with systemic risks, not the least of which are the worst effects of climate change and global resource scarcity.”
Seth Streeter, cofounder and CEO of Mission Wealth, explains the shift to impact investing, “ I believe the rapid rise of impact investing is a reflection of today’s society having an appetite to do ‘good’ per one’s own values.”
Storper points out that recent transactions are proving the validity of investing in social enterprises. He highlights the recent ETSY initial public offering, the sale of Method to Ecover and Plum’s sale to Campbell Soup.
One of the consistent themes developed as we discussed the latest thinking in impact investing is that divesting fossil fuels, for instance, is a prudent financial decision, regardless of your views on the environment or climate change.
“By choosing fund managers who select holdings for their funds (whether branded socially responsible or not), investors can benefit with potentially higher returns, lower risk, or both. Going fossil-free in your portfolio can accomplish this – including for university endowments and pensions — as oil, gas and coal have all dramatically lagged the general market over nearly 3 years,” Herman said.
Jabush notes that some have argued that advisors have a fiduciary responsibility to keep fossil fuels in client portfolios for the sake of diversification. “Nowhere in any fiduciary standard does a phrase like ‘must hold securities of fossil fuels’ come into play.”
“Obviously a part of being a prudent fiduciary is also about managing risk. Fossil fuels have significant embedded risk –beyond denuding our planet of scarce resources. Companies in the sector are debt laden and beholden to government subsidies and to supra national and national oligopolies to set prices and manage supply,” Jabush continued.
“The traditional assumption that divesting from fossil fuels will involve less than competitive returns has now been completely discredited,” he concluded.
Herman points out that risk reduction doesn’t relate only to fossil fuel divestitures, “Wind energy requires no fuel, and avoids volatility of oil and gas prices. Engaging employees encourages high retention, low turnover and thus higher productivity. And being innovative rather than extractive avoids legal lawsuits and penalties. All of these contribute to positive cash flow, profit and shareholder value at lower risk.”
Jabush agrees, “Now that there are 7.3 billion of us, our economic activities, for the first time in human history, are having existentially threatening effects. So, to prevent our own self-caused biggest threats coming home to roost, it’s time, or even past time, to change the way the economy works. So, folks are understanding that a way to do that is to change where capital is deployed. As long as we remain invested in the fossil-fuels based legacy economy, we’re going to get increasingly strong storms, acidic, rising seas, diminishing biodiversity, and all manner of risks from an increasingly warm planet. Impact can provide an alternative to investing in that future.”
The regulatory environment is shifting to allow for and even encourage social enterprise, Storper notes. “30 states and the district of Columbia have enacted for profit benefit corporation statutes allowing companies to combine profit plus purpose into the DNA of the corporate structure in a more meaningful and enforceable manner. Benefit corporations require purpose, accountability and transparency in addition to creating shareholder value.”
Furthermore, as the impact community becomes more sophisticated, impact measurement tools are beginning to allow social enterprises and investors to gauge their impact objectively. Storper said, “The “b corp” rating system helps measure what matters. In addition, groups like SASB (the sustainable accounting standards board) are developing industry by industry methods to take into account nonfinancial metrics.”
In addition to impact measurement, Streeter believes that we need to take a more holistic approach to defining wealth:
I have identified eight categories for wealth outside the financial definition. They include: physical health, emotional well-being, career satisfaction, thriving relationships, ample fun, social or environmental impact, spiritual connection and intellectual stimulation. Everyone has their own weighting scale as to which of these categories matters the most, because in the end, abundance is in the eye of the beholder. But by the traditional definition of wealth, a man who can’t climb two flights of stairs without being winded and who goes home emotionally distant from his wife and kids, yet has a huge balance sheet, would be considered wealthy.
Streeter also encourages other wealth advisors to focus on impact in their practices for practical and professional reasons beyond sustainability. “With mainstream investment management becoming more commoditized by the growth of higher tech, lower cost ‘robo-advisor’ platforms, conscious planning and investing is a differentiator in the marketplace, especially for the huge Millennial demographic who gravitate to more purpose-led initiatives.”
“Advisors will find more purpose and meaning in their own career and thus enjoy a ‘reboot’ to loving what they do on a daily basis even more than they did before,” he concludes.
The panel discussion was surprisingly upbeat, reflecting the optimism of the panelists that impact investing presents a key part of the solution to major world problems, including climate change. Jabush’s comments are representative of the mood of the panel:
In the next few years, trillions of dollars will be invested in efficient, innovation-driven tech, in solutions to the systemic risks with the power to disrupt the global economy, and in other mitigations and adaptations to the worst outcomes of climate change. This ‘great transition’ towards a global economy that can thrive side-by-side with its ecological underpinnings is now clearly underway. I believe that investing in solutions to our most dangerous risks is the clearest path to a sustainable economy, and also to competitive returns.”
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Jack Nadel has been doing business since the end of World War II. Most people his age, quite frankly, are dead and the rest are retired.
Nadel is passionate about sharing his collected wisdom with veterans and others who are working to start businesses. He has written a book, The Evolution of an Entrepreneur, that features 50 of his best business tips.
Nadel has made the book available to veterans at no charge.
He shared a few of his tips with me.
- Find a Need and Fill It: The first deal I made was based on one of the first tips I share in my book: Find a Need and Fill it. In 1946, the Chinese were looking to purchase navy blue woolen material, which did not exist. However, there was post War army olive drab material available, so I bought olive drab at war surplus, dyed it navy blue and sold it to the Chinese.
- Never Fear to Negotiate, Never Negotiate Out of Fear: Never fear to negotiate and never negotiate out of fear, an important tip for all entrepreneurs. We sold our company, Jack Nadel International, to a New York Conglomerate in 1968. In 1972, we bought it back on a leveraged buy out. The New York company wanted the property for more stock, while our negotiations had included the property for cash. I explained to them that I did not come to re-negotiate and if I did not get cash for the property, there was no deal. They were astounded that I took that hard of a position that I would walk away from the deal. It was good that I did, because I would have sold it for $90,000 in 1968 and in 2014, after collecting rent for all those years, I sold the property for $4.2 million dollars.
- Think Global, Start Local: It is very valuable to prove your concept by actually succeeding at it on a smaller scale, first. If you can test a concept by actually executing it on a local level, you will have proven your point. Financing will be much easier and you will have learned what really works. A perfect example was my years in the writing instrument business. We progressed the company from being a small distributor in Los Angeles, California, to being a worldwide successful manufacturer and distributor. So it pays to think global, and start local.
On Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 4:00 Eastern, Nadel will join me for a live discussion about his remarkable, never-ending career and his new book. 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 Jack Nadel:
Jack Nadel’s mission is to help educate and train entrepreneurs and pass on what he has learned with succeeding generations. Through the creation of written and video learning materials via JNJ Publishing LLC, Nadel pursues his mission by sharing insights from his seven successful decades in business to provide the knowledge people need to start a business with or without a formal education. His materials feature The Nadel Method, a simple five-step process that was developed for entrepreneurs out of proven principles to create new businesses, while dramatically reducing the risk of failure. He is rooted in the belief that by evolving more entrepreneurs and helping them prosper, we will also help to sustain our middle class and the economy.
Jack Nadel has been an international entrepreneur for nearly seven decades—and has made a healthy profit every single one of those years. He founded, acquired, and operated more than a dozen companies worldwide that produced hundreds of new products, thousands of jobs, and millions of dollars in profits, including Jack Nadel International, a global leader in the specialty advertising and marketing industry. Each one of his business transactions has been an adventure he’s loved.
From this broad and solid foundation of experience, Nadel authored a number of popular books including his latest book, The Evolution of an Entrepreneur, winner of five Global Ebook Awards including three Gold Awards for Best in Business, Leadership and Careers/Employment. All were written with the purpose of assisting entrepreneurs with attaining greater business success.
In addition to his commercial enterprises and writing career, Nadel has lectured at several colleges and universities, developed his own targeted thinking methodology for entrepreneurs called The Nadel Method, and for several years hosted his own television show, Out of the Box with Jack Nadel. Though insisting that he has retired, at age 91 Nadel—a decorated WWII veteran—continues to share his expertise and wisdom mentoring future business leaders and entrepreneurs, including through regular article contributions to The Huffington Post.
Jack Nadel is a happy man who leads a robust life, savoring every moment. He lives with his wife Julie in Santa Barbara, CA, and also enjoys actively supporting their ongoing philanthropic efforts through The Nadel Foundation and local community involvement.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Ty Walrod is the visionary behind Bright Funds, a platform designed to allow employers and other leaders to organize giving groups to giving funds.
The fund manager, often an employer, chooses nonprofits to include in a “fund” and then encourages employees and/or other followers to donate to the fund to have focused, strategic impact.
Walrod explains, “We built Bright Funds with a focus on the three key principles: make giving easy — easier than sending a tweet; make giving effective — by helping people give strategically to the best nonprofits in the world; and make giving engaging — by connecting donors to the causes they care about and showing them the impact of their donations.”
“Employees expect more from their employers today than ever before. In partnering with leading companies, Bright Funds has a tremendous opportunity to do good – we align companies with the passions and cares of their employees and empower both to make a positive impact in the world,” Walrod concludes.
On Thursday, June 25, 2015 at noon Eastern, Walrod will join me for a live discussion about Bright Funds and how you can use them to increase your 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 Bright Funds:
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.
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.
I met Craig Zelizer in the airport in Mexico City where we were both en route to Opportunity Collaboration and was immediately drawn to his good nature. He did his doctoral research on arts and peacebuilding and has made that his career focus at Peace and Collaborative Development Network.
Craig recently shared his favorite quote with me, “A journalist asked Mirsad Puritva, director of the 1992 International Festival of Film and Theater in Sarajevo how can they have a film fest in the middle of the war? He replied, ‘how can they have a war in the middle of the film festival?'”
Craig summarizes his passion for peace, “Violent conflict is one of the greatest challenges preventing the achievment of the MDGs and more stable, peaceful societies”
Craig also notes, “Higher education in the US is in a period of crisis, given the increasing costs of pursuing graduate education and the mismatch between what many academic programs are providing students and what employers seek in candidates.”
Showing his pragmatic side, Craig adds, “In order to better engage businesses in peacebuilding, it is necessary not only to make the moral case, but to show how peace is good for business in concrete terms.”
On Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 2:00 Eastern, Craig will join me for a live discussion about is efforts to advance peace and the study of peacebuilding. 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 Peace and Collaborative Development Network:
PCDN is the go to hub for the global changemaking community connecting over 35,000 individuals/organizations engaged in social change, peacebuilding, social entrepreneurship, development and related fields. We provide a one-stop shop to inspire, connect, inform and provide the tools and resources to scale social change. The network has over 250,000 hits per month and 75,000 + unique visitors and has helped thousands of individuals and organizations worldwide network, obtain funding, jobs, and be inspired.
Craig is the Founder and CEO of PCDN. In addition, he is the Associate Director for the Conflict Resolution program at Georgetown University. Craig has dedicated his life to being an entrepreneur and to creating a more peaceful world.
Since its founding in 2007, Craig has grown PCDN to over 35,000 members representing more than 180 countries. At the same time, Craig has also assisted in a 300% growth of students and faculty in Georgetown’s conflict resolution program. Before creating PCDN, Craig also helped to found two NG0s – the Alliance for Conflict Transformation and the TEAM foundation in Hungary.
Craig serves on a number of boards and advisory boards including the Alliance for Peacebuilding, the Inzone Project, Tech Change, Move this World, Amani Institute, and several others. He spent two years in Hungary as Fulbright Scholar and was a Boren Fellow in Bosnia. He has led trainings, workshops and consultancies in over 20 countries organizations including USIP, USAID, CRS, Rotary International and others.
Craig is a recognized leader in the social sector field. He has received several awards including George Mason’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution’s alumni of the year award and an alumni career achievement award from Central European University.
He has published widely on peacebuilding, entrepreneurship, and innovation in higher education. His most recent edited book is Integrated Peacebuilding (2013, Westview Press).
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
“UNFPA Kenya is working hard with all partners to support the Government of Kenya and the First Lady of Kenya’s clarion call, ‘no woman should die giving life,’” explains UNFPA Representative to Kenya, Siddharth (Sid) Chatterjee.
Chatterjee explains the charge he received when he took on his new role just over a year ago, “The Executive Director of UNFPA Undersecretary General Dr Babatunde Osotimehin’s marching orders to me when taking up my role as UNFPA Kenya was, ‘support the Government to bring to an end the unacceptably high maternal deaths, end FGM and child marraige. Change the game.’”
The context, Chatterjee notes, is sobering. “Sexual and gender based violence [SGBV] continues to be a challenge in Kenya. According to Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) in 2014, 41% of women have experienced violence. This is unacceptable. The Government of Kenya has made efforts to prevent and respond to violence by adopting policies and enacting legislation such as the sexual offences Act (2007), the FGM Act (2011) and the National Policy on Prevention and Response to GBV. A comprehensive response to SGBV needs to be multi-sectoral. These will include community education/dialogue, media campaign, advocacy forums with policy makers/legislators as well as psychosocial support, clinical, legal and security services.”
In the face of such a daunting challenge, Chatterjee strikes a distinctly optimistic tone, “Our world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24, and Dr Babatunde Osotimehin the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says, “Never before have there been so many young people. Never again is there likely to be such potential for economic and social progress.’”
“Kenya has one of the most youthful populations in the world with about 60 percent of the population aged below 24 years. A demographic dividend and through the countering violent extremism summit Kenya is going to host, she can change the narrative, by putting the spotlight on youth,” Chatterjee adds.
Chatterjee notes that achieving the country’s goals for women will require government leadership and collaboration among all development partners to create an integrated, long-term program that actively involves young people. “Let’s put youth at the center of the narrative. Kenya can serve as a model for transmuting its youth into a demographic dividend which other nations can emulate,” he says.
On Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 11:00 Eastern, Chatterjee will join me for a live discussion about the UNFPA efforts to end FGM, child marriage and sexual and gender-based violence in Kenya. 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 the UNFPA:
UNFPA is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. The Executive Director of UNFPA globally is Dr Babatunde Osotimehin. UNFPA works in more than 150 countries and territories that are home to the vast majority of the world’s people.
In Kenya UNFPA is working with the Government of Kenya to:
- Reduce the unacceptably high maternal deaths.
- End harmful traditional practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.
- Advance the demographic dividend Kenya is blessed with by helping young people fulfill their potential and specifically invest in adolescent girls. Kenya has around 13.7 million young people out of a population size of nearly 43 million.
Siddharth Chatterjee (Sid) has been the UNFPA Representative to Kenya with effect from 10 April 2014.
Before joining UNFPA, he was the Chief Diplomat and Head of Strategic Partnerships and Resource Mobilization at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) based in Geneva since June 2011.
Before joining IFRC, he was Regional Director for the Middle East, Europe and Central Asian Republics at the United Nations Office for Project Services. He also served as Chief of Staff to the Special Representative of the Secretary General for the UN Mission in Iraq. He has served in leadership positions in UNICEF Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan(Darfur), Indonesia and with the UN Peace Keeping Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iraqi Kurdistan.
Before joining the UN in January 1997, he was a career officer in the Special Forces of the Indian Army.
He has written extensively on a range of humanitarian and social issues in a variety of journals such as CNN, Al Jazeera, Forbes, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Reuters, the
Global Observatory, the Inter Press Service as well as some mainstream Indian journals. He is considered a strong advocate by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to end the scourge of polio was a key note speaker on child soldiers at a TED x event in Spain.
He has a Master in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, USA and a Bachelor of Sciences from the National Defense Academy in India.
Sid is married and they have a son.
In the context of one of the country’s most conservative states, Alan Naumann runs a multi-platform publishing company called Green News Utah.
Alan explains, “Utah needs an independent news source for environmental issues. There is a lack of information in some of the most important issues facing Utahns.”
“For instance, there is no severance tax on coal in the state of Utah. All the neighboring states have a 3.3 to 7 percent severance tax on fossil fuels. Utah, has the lowest tax on oil and gas extraction. In a state with the lowest [financial] commitment to education in the country, fossil fuels are an obvious source of revenue,” Alan adds.
Alan’s passion for the environment is exemplified by his argument, “Little is being done to reduce air pollution, in fact the opposite is true. Millions of dollars are being spent to prevent the listing of sage grouse as an endangered species, green building codes are being undermined and the speed limit was raised recently. Permits are being granted to local refineries to grow and subsidized by the state of Utah to convert to Tier III fuels. A bill to spend $20 million to convert the oldest, dirtiest diesel school buses was not funded even though the legislation passed.”
“The facts are not being agreed upon and keep changing. The sources of air pollution were set officially at 25% created by the biggest polluters (stationary sources), several years ago. Now its only 11%, a figure clean air activists dispute,” Alan concludes.
On Thursday, June 18, 2015 at noon Eastern, Alan will join me for a live discussion about his work and his passion for the environment. 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 Green News Utah:
Multi media outlet focused on environmental issues in Utah. We cover activists, regulators, politicians and businesses with divergent perspectives on sustainability and energy issues that matter to Utahns. We cover renewable energy more than any other news source in Utah. Our focus currently is on air quality, consistently one of the most important issues to the state. We have a Facebook group of the same name, GreenNewsUtah.com.
Alan Naumann is an Energy Consultant with American Solar Power in Utah. Naumann changed his profession to renewable energy in 2009 with a solar course at Salt Lake Community College. Naumann is the Founder and Producer of the annual Solar Day Salt Lake event held in the fall. Naumann has a background in construction since a childhood apprenticeship with his grandfather in the granite business. Naumann owned granite businesses in California and Utah, with a bank building façade being his biggest job. Naumann has been a free lance journalist and radio talk show host. His last story that aired nationally for Free Speech Radio News (fsrn.org) was in 2005 on nuclear waste in Utah. Naumann is a member of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable as a representative of the Deeksha Oneness Bleesing community of 1,200 blessing givers in Utah.
This is a guest post from Laurel Mintz, CEO of Elevate My Brand
Often I hear people say that they wish they could do more, they wish they can make a meaningful contribution to society. They might say something “Maybe I should quit and work for a nonprofit.” Another popular one is “I just want a job where I can make a difference.” If you find yourself agreeing then I have a little secret for you, a little secret that can change your whole perspective and help you make a difference. You might have not heard this before, or maybe you heard it a bunch of times but it didn’t stick. Either way, here is the secret: Your very existence is meaningful and a huge contribution to society. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or invent an anti-pollution machine to help save the world. It’s the choices you make in everyday that are an inspiration to your personal network.
When I started my business, I didn’t have a goal of beating statistics (only 30% of private companies are women-owned). I wasn’t looking to be a role model or to help nonprofits with their goals. After graduating college, my father became ill and I stepped in to run the family business for two years. We had 40 employees across a handful of furniture stores. I didn’t have time to think about what I was doing, there were families depending on me, including my own. It was the quickest crash course in business management ever. I am happy to say my father made a full recovery after two years and I was able to go back to pursuing my dreams.
What I discovered is that my dreams changed and I decided to start my own business. I started networking and utilized my relationships with local retail shops to begin business and marketing consulting. A good portion of my clients are nonprofits with missions that I respect and admire. I didn’t specifically outreached to them but I have always been authentic to myself and expressive about my interests. I researched organizations I wanted to work with and started outreaching. I began working with organizations such as Girls in Tech Women Empowered because I was passionate about their causes. Things grew organically and in 2014 I received the Los Angeles Business Journal Women Making a Difference Award.
We all have unlimited potential in our lives, but often we get distracted by trying to fit ourselves into a certain mold. You don’t need to quit your job to make a difference, if you start acting on your passions, you’ll find that they will come to you. Sometimes we don’t realize how important it is to convey the type of energy and values that we want to attract in life. The world is your mirror and the energy you put out into the world is what you get back. Start by believing in yourself and you’ll be surprised to discover how infectious that energy is. You don’t become a role model by wanting to be one, you become one by doing what you’re truly passionate about.
About Laurel Mintz:
Laurel Mintz is CEO of Elevate My Brand, a digital marketing and live events firm. Visit www.elevatemybrand.com to learn more.
More and more, not only in social entrepreneurship circles, but more often there, we hear talk of collaboration. I’ve always had a sense that this is true as a matter of principle, but being here in Mexico working as a volunteer with Rotary this week, I’ve gained a much deeper appreciation for the value of genuine collaboration.
Rotary District 5420, which includes all of the clubs in Utah, has descended upon the small town of Puerto Peñasco, Mexico to complete about 50 discrete service projects. One of the biggest projects, or sets of projects, was the construction of homes that will be provided to needy families here.
Rotary didn’t just decide on a whim to pop down to Mexico and build some homes. Rather, a relationship has been in the works between Utah Rotary and a nonprofit based in Utah called Families Helping Families, which began building homes here nearly a decade ago.
The collaboration began when high-school-age young people who are members of Interact, a Rotary-sponsored service organization for youth, began providing funding and manual labor for the construction of homes. As that relationship solidified, it became the primary source of volunteer labor for Families Helping Families.
When Utah Rotary began thinking about bringing its membership down to Puerto Peñasco, the leadership quickly realized that they needed partners on the ground in Mexico. There was no active Rotary Club in Puerto Peñasco, so Utah Rotarians came down several times to recruit members here to form a new club and to provide the needed support for the projects.
Today, we saw the impact of the collaborations. While the Families Helping Families homes that were built this week, won’t be finished for months, other teams worked on homes that were started months ago to get them ready to present to their new residents. We toured the cute little homes today as the families were invited in for the first time. The Rotarians had decorated and furnished the homes and even put in some landscaping.
Elsewhere, we saw that the local Rotary Club, which discovered a previously unknown Rotary Elementary School in need of some Rotary love, got all that it needed, including 65 Apple iMac computers, fresh paint, dozens of broken window panes replaced and new air conditioners in each classroom.
Utah Rotary could not have pulled off these projects without the help of the local Rotary Club, an axiom so plainly true that Utah Rotary was effectively forced to create the local club in order to complete its mission. It also relied upon the expertise and experience of Families Helping Families.
Collaboration isn’t just a buzzword or a good management principle. It is the key to successful impact.
This week, Gail and I are in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico with Rotarians from around Utah doing service. There are several projects underway, including the construction of three homes, in partnership with a small nonprofit called Families Helping Families. Others are working on improvements to a school that is supported by Rotary. A group, led by my club, is working on the expansion of a small piñata factory that only employees special needs people.
It is exciting for me to see the tremendous impact that 700 people can have in just a few days. Homes are rising out of the sand almost by magic. Working on the construction of the piñata factory today, we laughed as the painting crew began painting the exterior within seconds of us putting up the exterior walls to be painted–no exaggeration.
It was also great to learn a bit about the little social enterprise that makes the piñatas and employs the developmentally challenged and otherwise disabled people. By giving their employees an opportunity to be productive and constructive adults they are redefining the lives they might have. By creating a social venture that is funded largely by the sale of their piñatas, they have created a financially sustainable organization that not only serve their employees indefinitely into the future, the organization can continue to grow.
Gail was among the volunteers who worked with the expert piñata crafters to create piles of piñatas that can be sold to the Rotarians–including the ones who made them–as souvenirs as they head back to Utah. The profit from the sales of piñatas this week could fund the organization for two years!
The first big take away from this week, for me, is the recognition that it takes serious organization to pull off something this big. Not just any organization can pull together 700 people to travel 1,000 miles at their own expense to volunteer to help people they’ve never met, may never meet and will likely never see again. Think about the value of belonging to such an organization. Think about the value of the opportunity to lead a club or a district full of clubs like that. You don’t have to start from scratch when the world is already rife with service organizations and faith-based organizations that you can leverage to accomplish your good goals!
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
The report suggests that volunteerism is a critical piece in moving forward to address global problems like the Millennium Development Goals and the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
The report’s author, Amanda Mukwashi, the Chief of the Volunteer Knowledge and Innovation Section at United Nations Volunteers, says, “The Sustainable Development Goals will only succeed in tackling poverty and inequality if they take on board the needs of all citizens. Volunteers can be catalysts for a much fairer and more equal world – if they’re invited to the table.”
The report itself notes, “Volunteerism is a force for harnessing the power of peoples’ voice and participation to influence governance, and enhanced voice and participation are associated with more responsive and accountable governments.”
Mukwashi adds, “Volunteers are playing a vital role in making governments more accountable and responsive to their citizens – and helping women and marginalized groups have a say in decisions that affect their lives.”
“Too many governments are failing to acknowledge – and leverage – the immense potential of volunteers to help them chart a more successful development path,” Mukwashi adds.
On Friday, June 5, 2015 at 3:00 Eastern, Mukwashi will join me for a live discussion about the report. 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 United Nations Volunteers:
The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is the UN organization that contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide.
Volunteerism is a powerful means of engaging people in tackling development challenges, and it can transform the pace and nature of development. Volunteerism benefits both society at large and the individual volunteer by strengthening trust, solidarity and reciprocity among citizens, and by purposefully creating opportunities for participation.
UNV contributes to peace and development by advocating for recognition of volunteers, working with partners to integrate volunteerism into development programming, and mobilizing an increasing number and diversity of volunteers, including experienced UN Volunteers, throughout the world. UNV embraces volunteerism as universal and inclusive, and recognizes volunteerism in its diversity as well as the values that sustain it: free will, commitment, engagement and solidarity.
Based in Bonn, Germany, UNV is active in around 130 countries every year. UNV, with Field Units in 86 countries, is represented worldwide through the offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and reports to the UNDP Executive Board.
Amanda Mukwashi joined the United Nations Volunteer (UNV) programme in December of 2012 where she currently works as Chief, of the Volunteer Knowledge and Innovation Section (VKIS). She holds a first degree in law from the University of Zambia and a postgraduate master’s degree in International Economic Law from the University of Warwick, UK. Ms. Mukwashi has pursued a career in International Development, working towards the eradication of poverty and combating inequalities and injustices, in both the public and voluntary sector. As Women in Business Coordinator, she worked for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), leading the work on women’s rights and trade in the region. She was instrumental in setting up the department in COMESA that now works to further economic empowerment for women in trade in Eastern and Southern Africa region and the Federation of Women in Business in Eastern and Southern Africa which is now based in Malawi. Having gained significant experience on the policy level and on the need to develop women’s capacity in decision making, Ms. Mukwashi joined a UNFPA supported programme in Zambia on Gender, Population and Development. Moving to the United Kingdom in 1998, she continued her work on women’s rights addressing issues of relative poverty and the marginalization of women from ethnic minorities in the UK. This was important in building her understanding of inequalities and exclusion within communities and countries that are developed. In 2002, she joined Skillshare International, an international NGO working in Africa and South Asia on issues relating to social, economic and political justice. In her role as a member of the senior leadership team, Ms. Mukwashi championed the organization’s social change agenda leading on re-positioning the organization to engage with social transformation beyond individual and organizational capacity development. There she advocated for gender issues, which led to the adoption of gender as a key thematic area for all the work of the organization. In 2011, Ms. Mukwashi joined VSO as Director of Policy where she took on the responsibilities for (i) monitoring and evaluation; (ii) research and global advocacy; and (iii) programme effectiveness and innovation as well as partnerships for development. She has been an active member of the Akina Mama wa Afrika Board, a pan-African women’s rights organization that was set up by young African women in the diaspora, to be led by African women and for African women to advocate for and improve women’s capacities for leadership and decision. Ms. Mukwashi has in the past also contributed her time as a board member of Bond (British Overseas NGOs in Development Network) and several other boards that further the cause of gender justice. Lastly, it is worth mentioning that outside of her work life, Amanda has also contributed to training and building the capacity of young African women in leadership.