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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.

Ben Hecht: ‘Inequality Of Income Presents A Threat To Our Society, Our Economy And Our Democracy’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Ben Hecht, CEO of Living Cities, is an impact investor whose passion makes him more of a crusader than a financier. (Disclosure: a former client has an application for a loan pending with Living Cities.)

Consider his statement to me, “Unless we ferociously change course, the majority of our citizens in 2040 will be less educated, less prosperous, and less free than our current majority, due to decades of dysfunctional systems, disinvestment, mass incarceration, and disenfranchisement of people and communities of color.”

Advocating a wholistic, collective approach to addressing urban problems, Hecht says, “A new type of urban practice aimed at dramatically improving the economic well-being of low-income people faster will require all players – individuals, business, philanthropy, government, nonprofits, and academia – to focus on their part of the solution and build permanent capacity that can insure we get increasingly better results over time.”

Hecht is calling for an radical acceleration to problem solving, “For too long we have been satisfied with incremental change for society’s most pressing issues, but it is time to look at the denominator and face how much progress still has to be made for these problems to be eradicated.”

“There is increasingly a growing awareness that inequality of income, wealth and access to opportunity, accentuated along racial lines, is one of the key social issues of our time.If left unresolved it presents a serious threat to our society, our economy and our democracy,” Hecht notes.

Living Cities is striving to play a central role in accelerating change. Hecht said, “Living Cities is on a course to do more than just imagining what’s possible. We want to work with a coalition of the willing to make the possibilities reality. In May, we took the conversation offline, convening over 100 folks in our networks—from our member institutions, to grantees, to our staff, to our social media followers, to a diversity of other thought leaders, dreamers and doers in such diverse fields as civic tech, impact investing, philanthropy, business, the financial sector, social entrepreneurship, government, and philanthropy—to participate in an active process of co-design.”

Two key opportunities were identified at the summit.

“One challenge we discussed at the summit was the need to create urgency without catastrophes, such as the bankruptcy in Detroit or Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, to achieve systemic instead of episodic change,” Hecht said.

“Another was that public sector leadership, resources, and talent can and must be fostered, unlocked, and optimized in order to achieve dramatically better results for low income people. Along similar lines, it was clear that there is a need for an investment in talent across the social sector generally,” Hecht concluded.

On Friday, June 5, 2015 at noon Eastern, Hecht will join me for a live discussion about the programs that Living Cities is undertaking to make a difference in America’s inner cities. 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 Living Cities:

Living Cities harnesses the collective power of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions to develop and scale new approaches for creating opportunities for low-income people and improving the cities where they live. Its investments, research, networks, and convenings catalyze fresh thinking and combine support for innovative, local approaches with real-time sharing of learning to accelerate adoption in more places.

Hecht’s bio:

Mr. Hecht was appointed President & CEO of Living Cities in July, 2007. Since that time, the organization has adopted a broad, integrative agenda that harnesses the collective knowledge of its 22 member foundations and financial institutions to benefit low income people and the cities where they live. Living Cities deploys a unique blend of more than $140 million in grants, loans and influence to re-engineer obsolete public systems and connect low-income people and underinvested places to opportunity.

Prior to joining Living Cities, Mr. Hecht co-founded One Economy Corporation, a non-profit organization focused on connecting low-income people to the economic mainstream through innovative, online content and increased broadband access. Immediately before One Economy, Mr. Hecht was Senior Vice President at the Enterprise Foundation.

Mr. Hecht received his JD from Georgetown University Law Center and his CPA from the State of Maryland. For 10 years, he taught at Georgetown University Law Center and built the premier housing and community development clinical program in the country. Ben is currently Chairman of EveryoneOn, a national initiative founded by the Federal Communications Commission to connect low-income Americans to digital opportunity. He also sits on the National Advisory Board for StriveTogether and Duke University’s Center for Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) Advisory Council.

Social Entrepreneur: ‘I Learned To Manage Stress Instead Of Stress Managing Me’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Social Entrepreneur Doron Libshtein, a former Microsoft MSFT -1.2% executive, speaks a language that sounds downright foreign in a business context, but his current crowdfunding campaign has raised over $100,000, suggesting he’s tapping into something real.

Libshtein recently wrote, “My mission is to bring a new consciousness to the world, transforming the world into vitality; to inspire each of you to walk your true path. I’m excited to write about a dream that has come true. Stress and pressure are part of life for all of us, and were part of my life until I discovered the world of meditation. The daily practice helped me relax, breathe properly, take breaks during the day and connect inner parts of me that I was not aware of. In short, I learned to manage stress instead of stress managing me.”

Libshtein created the Mentor’s Channel, a community of 2.6 million people he says, who seek the best mentors for meditation. He notes, “I’m full of gratitude for that opportunity. But there are billions of people who do not meditate. They continue to experience high stress in their life, which creates toxins being released to their internal and external environments.”

In order to address the needs of the billions of stressed out people like me who don’t meditate, Libshtein has created a solution. He explains, “I want to help the world be transformed, reduce stress, increase life’s energy, vitality and inspiration. I believe we have found a solution. It combines a digital bracelet that measures stress levels and helps us recognise when it begins and what affects it, plus an app that provides a customised solution to reduce the stress. The app gives us a playlist of music, breathing and guided imagery that work in sync with the feedback from our body. Together they produce a winning solution.”

Screenshots from the WellBe app.

This isn’t all superstition, Libshtein notes, “Mindfulness and meditation have been proven as highly effective ways to release stress and have many positive effects on sleep, productivity as well as lasting good feeling. A recent study from Harvard University suggests that meditation is influencing the grey matter in the brain and thus allowing better aging of the brain and the body.”

On Friday, May 29, 2015 at noon Eastern, Libshtein will join me for  a live discussion about his new device and the attention it is getting on Indiegogo. 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 Wellbe:

The WellBe is a digital bracelet designed to support and promote balanced well being for people in hectic and busy environments. The WellBe is using a heart rate monitor and a mobile app to detect and determine your stress level based on time, location and people you meet and then it offers variety of meditation and other wellbeing exercises to release stress and help you calm down immediately.

Mentors Channel is a resource for online meditation. We have created a movement with a vision to bring personal growth to the masses through technology. Our web app allows delivery of content to improve your well-being anywhere, anytime and on any device. We provide daily meditations, including tips on how to meditate, mindfulness techniques, healing mantras, meditation music and every other type of meditation you may wish to learn or practice.

Libshtein’s bio:

Doron Libshtein is a world-leading self-development mentor, author, chairman and strategic entrepreneur in the area of personal growth and Internet.

He is the Chairman and Founder of WellBe ( Insalveo.Inc ) and Mentors Channel, an interactive Website that empowers people to live fuller, richer lives doing what they love—by working interactively with the world’s best mentors worldwide.

As the founder and chairman of WellBe and Mentorschannel, and works with Deepak Chopra, Byron Katie and Robin Sharma via the Interactive Best Sellers Program to help people practice the wisdom from these visionaries’ books in their lives. He also recently became the Chairman of Restart™ – a new venture facilitating solutions to the over-40′s job crisis in Israel. and TheHallcenter in Santa Monica.

Doron’s world leadership extends to entrepreneurial and advanced mobile wireless telecommunications and online technologies. He was a board member of many companies such as Maayan Ventures, a publicly traded (TASE: MAYN) chain of technology incubators, with offices in Tel-Aviv, Shanghai, Omer, Sde Boker and Dimona.

Doron was for six years Chairman of the Board at the IPO Company in Tel Aviv, which owns FLIX and BLOGTV. Before that, he was for 14 years a senior manager at Microsoft, serving as Senior Director EMEA EPG Solution & Marketing and Director EMEA BPSG. Additionally, he served for two years as CEO of MSN Israel.

“Back in 2004 my vision was to bring personal growth to the masses. I felt that 14 years in senior positions at Microsoft prepared me to bring the technology and infrastructure that allows people to improve their wellbeing anywhere, anytime and on any device. I have the privilege to work with the best mentors in the world and I am full of gratitude for that. I also have the privilege of working with an amazing team that works days and nights improving the lives of millions.”I am an Author, Mentor, Chairman and Strategic entrepreneur in the area of personal growth and internet.

I see my vision as bringing as many people as possible closer to growth. my efforts and vision embrace people, wherever they are, offering each one of them various solutions and tools using high-end technology to provide simple and easy to use solutions at affordable prices.

I believe that the way to realize this vision is by establishing cooperation between people all over the world with mentors, coaches and coaching schools around the globe using common unifying objectives. This is an outstanding opportunity for synergic cooperation that will help increase and fulfil the hidden potential of coaching.

My recent mission via WellBe is to reduce the stress in the world with helping people know when and why they are stressed and how they can reduce thier stress.

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These Women Wow Shark Tank, Get Cash, Light Up The World

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork, founders of LuminAID, were offered deals from all five of the investors on ABC’s Shark Tank earlier this year; they successfully closed a deal with Mark Cuban.

Perhaps what made them both different and successful on the show, was a focus on social entrepreneurship, a double bottom-line that balances making a profit with having an impact for good. Their solar lights are not only terrific for camping, but perfect for long-term use in areas without power and great for use when power can’t be relied upon for evening studies. One of their largest customers is ShelterBox, featured here a few weeks ago.

Visit their site to buy and/or give a LuminAID.

Sreshta explains, “LuminAID’s core technology–solar lights that pack flat for ease of distribution– was created to address both the need in an emergency and to make it easier for aid workers to distribute supplies on the ground.”

She adds, “We have learned a lot from working with our NGO customers and partners like Shelterbox. They put out our lights into some of the toughest areas and situations in the world, so we like hearing from them about what worked, what worked less well, and how we can continue to support their efforts.”

On Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 1:00 Eastern, Sreshta and Stork will join me for a live discussion about their experience on Shark Tank, as well as their success and their impact since. 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 Luminaid:

LuminAID develops innovative, solar-powered products for humanitarian relief aid and outdoor recreation. The company’s first product, the LuminAID light, is a solar-powered, inflatable lamp that packs flat and inflates to create a lightweight, waterproof lantern suitable for outdoor recreation and emergency situations. The LuminAID light has been sold to individuals in more than 30 different countries, and outreach projects with NGO partners have put more than 10,000 donated lights on-the-ground in more than 50 countries countries including Haiti, Nepal and the Philippines. LuminAID has supplied its lights to Shelterbox, Doctors Without Borders, and several organizations in the United Nations for distribution on the ground after disasters and in refugee camps. Earlier this year, LuminAID was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, received offers from all 5 of the Sharks, and made a deal with the billionaire investor Mark Cuban.

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Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork

Sreshta’s bio:

Andrea Sreshta is a second-year student in Chicago Booth’s Full-Time MBA Program and co-founder of LuminAID. The company was awarded the 100k Early Stage Prize in 2013 through the Clean Energy Trust in Chicago and the U.S. Department of Energy and was named the winner of Booth’s John Edwardson Social New Venture Challenge in 2012, and awarded a Toyota Mother’s of Invention Grant at the 2014 Women in the World Summit. Andrea previously worked in and studied design and architecture. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a Master’s in Architecture from Columbia University prior to attending Booth.

Stark’s bio:

Anna Stork is co-founder of LuminAID Lab. She was a 2012 Kauffman Global Scholar at the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship. As a Kauffman Fellow, she was an Operations Intern for the retail start-up Warby Parker. Anna has also worked in product development at the Department of Defense with a focus on developing new technologies for military in remote locations. She completed her Masters in Architecture at Columbia University and earned her B.A. in Engineering and Studio Art from Dartmouth College.

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Nonprofit Entrepreneur Recognized For Impact On Poverty

At its recent fall conference, the Social Venture Network recognized four entrepreneurs with its Innovation Awards. Among the winners was Alfa Demmellash, CEO of Rising Tide Capital.

Alfa shared some of her thinking with us.

Explaining what it means to be a social entrepreneur, she said, “Being a social entrepreneur means leveraging business principles and sensibilities to create solutions that combat social issues.”

“I am passionate about the possibilities that occur when individuals see the world around them differently, and believe they can actually make a difference,” she added.

“A lot of people have great vision and ideas but are held back by fear of failure and other people’s opinions. You have to inoculate yourself against those internal and external voices. You have to arrive at a place where you think you have a limited time to make your mark on this planet,” she continued.

Hinting at her nonprofit’s unlikely focus on entrepreneurship, she concluded, “Business is at the heart of what can positively impact other prevalent crises that we are trying to address. Surprisingly very minimal effort and investment go into the creation of localized businesses within communities that have been traditionally marginalized. It is clear that this is one of the only ways to address the underlying issue of economic poverty.”

On Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 6:00 Eastern, Alfa will join us here for a live discussion about her work and her recent recognition. Tune in here then to watch the interview live.

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

More about Rising Tide Capital:

Headquartered in Jersey City, Rising Tide Capital, Inc. is a 501©(3) non-profit organization founded with the mission to empower entrepreneurs to create and grow small businesses which transform lives and communities. The organization’s vision is to build a replicable model for high-quality entrepreneurial development services that can be adopted locally in other low-income communities. Learn more at www.RisingTideCapital.org

 

Alfa’s bio:

Alfa Demmellash co-founded Rising Tide Capital in May 2004. As Chief Executive Officer, she oversees strategic growth, programmatic innovation and stakeholder engagement at Rising Tide Capital. She graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in Government. Alfa is the recipient of Honorary Doctorates from St. Peter’s University and New Jersey City University and has won numerous awards for her work as a leading social entrepreneur.

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Jesuit Colleges Jump Into Social Entrepreneurship

Dr. Thane Kreiner of Santa Clara University, Center for Science, Technology, and Society leads the program to establish social entrepreneurship programs at Jesuit colleges across the country.

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According to a publicist, Santa Clara U’s Global Social Benefit Incubator, which taps into Silicon Valley expertise to help social entrepreneurs in third world countries, has spawned 202 enterprises, impacted nearly 100 million people. Forty percent of the social enterprises they have worked with are scaling and financially stable and 90 percent are still in business. They have helped Social Enterprises raised $89 million. Now, the GSBI® Network, a growing group of Jesuit universities and other mission-aligned institutions with a common focus on leveraging social enterprise for social benefit, is multiplying the incubator’s impact by sharing curriculum, methods, best practices and other resources for launching and operating social enterprise incubators and accelerators.

On March 31, 2014 at 5:00 Eastern, Dr. Kreiner will join me for a live discussion about the growing social entrepreneurship program.

Tune in here then to listen while you work.

Dr. Kreiner’s bio:

Howard and Alida Charney University Professor of Science and Technology for Social Benefit
Thane Kreiner, PhD, is Executive Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University. Thane was previously Founder, President, and CEO of PhyloTech, Inc. (now Second Genome), which conducts comprehensive microbial community analysis for human health applications. He was Founder, President, and CEO of Presage Biosciences, Inc., a Seattle-based company dedicated to bringing better cancer drugs to market. Thane was the start-up President and CEO for iZumi Bio, Inc. (now iPierian), a regenerative medicine venture based on the break-through iPSc (induced pluripotent stem cell) technology. Prior to his efforts as a “parallel entrepreneur”, Thane spent 14 years in various senior leadership roles at Affymetrix, Inc., which pioneered the DNA chip industry. Thane currently serves on the Board of Directors for the BioBricks Foundation and as a Board member for Didimi, Inc.. Thane earned his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business; his Ph.D. in Neurosciences from Stanford University School of Medicine; and his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Texas, Austin.

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