This category is used to choose the posts that will be added to the headline rotation at the top of the home page.
This category is used to choose the posts that will be added to the headline rotation at the top of the home page.
Ben Block, founder and CEO of GozAround, has pivoted his social enterprise startup toward serving businesses large and small that want to track and report their corporate social responsibility or CSR impact. The goal is to help companies increase, following the old management 101 adage that you get what you measure.
Ben notes that most businesses have some form of CSR to track. “From the small business on the corner to multinationals, a majority of businesses maintain some community or social contribution but struggle to efficiently maximize, measure and share their impact. That is what the GozAround for Business platform hopes to remedy.”
“GozAround has developed a cost-effective platform to allow businesses to find, manage, measure and share employee volunteer initiatives,” Ben continues. “Whether they have existing partnerships or are looking for community needs, GozAround allows employers to engage their staff in volunteerism, measure their impact, and share the positive outcomes as they occur.”
The platform, he says, gives businesses a tool for bragging on social media about the good their employees do. He says, “[The platform] allows them to find communities needs, organize staff participation, gather metrics on employee volunteer efforts (independent and company organized) and share those on existing social networks.”
GozAround is a for profit business with a social purpose. “Our current revenue model is a SaaS platform for corporate CSR. Businesses with employee volunteer programs pay a monthly/annual fee to use the GozAround platform,” Ben says.
“Our social purpose and revenue generation are inextricably linked,” he notes.
Ben’s vision is to see the app serve to build and serve communities. “By providing an efficient means of connecting those in need with willing ‘doers,’ all while both measuring and recognizing those contributions, GozAround will encourage closer, more engaged and responsive communities uniting businesses, individuals and non-profits in a community of those who care,” he concludes.
On Thursday, March 17, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Ben will join me here for a live discussion about the platform and the ways in which companies are using it to track and report their 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 GozAround:
GozAround is a social network and software platform for doing good. We allow people, businesses and non-profits to find, measure and share their social impact activities. We connect those in need with those who can do, gather critical data on the impact of those making a difference, and share their contributions with the world.
Ben Block is an entrepreneur at heart, lawyer by training, and d0-gooder by nature. Ben founded GozAround based on his own experience with the amount of effort it takes to simply find a suitable opportunity to volunteer. One that fits your skills, interests and schedule. Out of that need for a better way, Ben applied his business experience and legal training to bootstrap GozAround into existence.
Ben has over 10 years of entrepreneurial experience gained in a number of industries including web design and marketing. Following the sale of his multimedia design business in 2009 Ben practiced as a lawyer in Edmonton, Alberta, while still fostering his passion for business and community. Ben was once praised as an award winning “behind the scenes” contributor to community service, and has since participated as volunteer with local and international organizations. His day-to-day passion for helping others served him well in his legal practice, and is something Ben hopes to encourage on a bigger scale through the GozAround community.
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at the “POWER of COLLABORATION Global Summit at the United Nations.” I was invited to participate in the event’s signature panel, a discussion about gender diversity called, “Conversations with Men.”
The panel discussion was introduced by Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, Former UN Under-Secretary General and High Representative of the UN. The panel was led by H. E. Ambassador Elizabeth Flores-Flake, Permanent Mission of Honduras to the United Nations. H.E. Ambassador Edita Hrda, Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, co-hosted the event and also a dinner for VIP guests and speakers the night before at the Czech consulate in New York.
So, let’s be clear. I was feeling intimidated and a bit out of place.
The pressure was only increased by the presence of Vince Molinari, of Gate Global Impact, one of this site’s sponsors, who is a true champion of women’s rights and who served as one of the two emcees for the day.
As a man being asked to comment on gender diversity to an audience comprising mostly women, I felt even more intimidated. And that was one of my key points. Even when men feel strongly about increasing gender diversity we often feel reluctant to talk about it and advocate for it. No matter how empathetic we may wish to be, we men can never know what it is like to walk down a street alone as a woman, whether in New York or New Delhi. We are aware that a woman’s experience is different and that sense makes some of us feel disqualified from commenting on these issues.
When asked about structural changes that are needed to improve gender diversity, I shared an experience from my trip to New Delhi in 2014. While there, I read an article about the increase in reported rapes that followed the attention that a notorious gang rape had brought to the issue a year or two earlier. The article noted–and I’m working from memory here–that reported rapes had nearly doubled but that rape convictions had not increased measurably. The article concluded that women had been encouraged or allowed to bring false claims of rape forward. The article gave no consideration to the possibility that the system was biased in favor of the accused men. These sorts of structural problems exist to greater or lesser degrees in all cultures I’ve experienced as I’ve traveled around the world–including our own here in the U.S.
Near the end of the panel, Leslie Grossman, Leadership Consultant, Coach and Facilitator, and Vistage Chair, the other emcee for the event, asked the men on the panel to make a specific commitment to do something within their sphere of influence to change the gender dynamic. I accepted the challenge and committed to ensure that at least 50 percent of the guests on my show in 2016 would be women.
As I made that pledge, I felt safe because I always believed that I had a roughly balanced number of men and women on the show and had long planned to make such a formal pledge. The timing was perfect, except that it wasn’t.
So far in 2016, I have had 53 people on the show, 38 men and 15 women. So much for balance. My mistaken impression, however, is typical, I believe, of outcomes when we don’t measure the things we think we care about. Between now and the end of the year, I need to bring that ratio into balance.
For the balance of the year, I anticipate doing another 140 episodes. A few will have two people, so we’ll have about another 149 guests. Of those, 86 will need to be women.
Be sure to check back at the end of the year to see how I’ve done.
On Thursday, March 10, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, AdaPia will join me here for a live discussion about her tips for effective mindful marketing. 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 Patch of Land:
Patch of Land is a leader in crowdfunding real estate through its P2RE (peer-to-peer) online marketplace. We match investors & lenders seeking alternative fixed income opportunities to borrowers seeking alternative sources of financing for their real estate investment needs. We’ve infused technology into an old-as-time tradition of real estate financing and we’re proud that our business model builds wealth, while growing communities.
AdaPia d’Errico is an entrepreneur, investor, and strategic business advisor. She worked in banking and finance in her early career, transitioning into entrepreneurial ventures in brand development and strategic marketing across the new media, consumer products and entertainment industries. Over the past three years, she has done a deep dive into the high-growth alternative finance space as Chief Marketing Officer at Patch of Land, where she is responsible for driving brand awareness, marketing and communications strategy, and partnerships and business development. She has positioned the company as a recognized leader in real estate crowdfunding, P2RE®, and marketplace lending. AdaPia is a frequent contributor and presenter on these topics, as well as on topics ranging from leadership and marketing, to real estate, economics and crowdfinance.
AdaPia’s business philosophy is rooted in providing the highest possible value to clients and partners, and developing longstanding, mutually beneficial relationships. She has co-founded two businesses with women partners, coached entrepreneurs, start-ups, and taught business students. She is passionate about encouraging women in to succeed not only in business – but also in all aspects of creating a successful life. AdaPia has lived and worked in 5 countries, and obtained her Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of British Columbia.
As baby boomers age, they will need increasing amounts of health care. They are likely to want much of that care to be in home. Most in home care is not covered by Medicare, however. This leaves families looking to contract directly with caregivers.
LeanOnWe is a new online platform that places individual caregivers in homes on a anything from an hourly basis to live-in arrangements.
Founder Ron Gold explains the problem, “Our home care system in the US is broken. Everyone knows the demographics of people living longer and choosing to age at home. Unfortunately the agency system is expensive and restrictive when someone is paying out of pocket. Most people would prefer to hire a caregiver privately but there is no good way to screen these caregivers. It is usually a word of recommendation but little else. No transparency on experience, references, background check, etc.”
Ron says he has the solution. “I’m bridging the gap between the agency and word of mouth models. We are matchmakers. At LeanOnWe.com we have a network of caregivers for families to hire privately. We have met each caregiver and verified their experience and references. Then we give them an FBI fingerprint, help them put together a bio and shoot a video.”
“A family still has the advantage of paying less for a caregiver, is able to choose who comes into their home, is able to control the care without a middleman and therefore the caregiver keeps the money and earns 50% more than through an agency,” Ron adds. “But we will also provide the vetting and backup that people go to an agency for.”
“There is so much change going on today in health care. One of the big demands from consumers is the ability to take greater control of ones own home health and wellness. We view home care in that same vein,” Ron concludes.
On Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, Ron will join me for a live discussion about the new platform. 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 LeanOnWe:
LeanOnWe is a selective network of carefully vetted caregivers for families who want to avoid costly agencies, choose someone who’s a good fit, and direct the care they need. Currently serving the tri-state New York area, LeanOnWe has the highest standards for background and verification checks that include personally meeting all caregivers, fingerprinting, and creating a professional video and profile so families can review personality, experience, training, and interests. Not only do family-employed caregivers earn higher take-home pay with greater job satisfaction, but families who choose LeanOnWe have access to back-up caregivers and guidance from a Customer Advisory Team with first-hand experience.
Ron started LeanOnWe after a 25-year career in international equity markets working for both Lehman Brothers and Barclays. At Barclays, Ron, a Managing Director, was one of the most successful equity sales producers while simultaneously managing Barclays’ highly regarded Asian sales teams. Ron’s career at Barclays was cut short by a near-fatal accident in November of 2011. As the survivor of a head-on crash that left him paralyzed with a crushed spine, Ron is someone who needs daily care himself. It was this tragedy that led him to design a far more effective way for families to find, employ, and manage experienced and highly recommended caregivers. LeanOnWe is his way of making an important difference in the lives of people who needcare at home. Ron graduated form the University of Pennsylvania with dual Bachelor’s degrees from the Wharton School and the College of Arts and Sciences, and holds a Master’s in Business Administration from Columbia University. He serves on the boards of several civic and non-profit organizations.
Venture capitalist Steve Grizzell, founder of InnoVentures Capital, recently returned from a trip to Cairo where he advised the government on the formation of a stronger ecosystem for entrepreneurs. We profiled Steve and his thoughts before the trip and have asked him back to report on the trip.
Steve made three key observations:
On Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Steve will join me here for a live discussion about his trip and the insights he’s drawn from it. 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 InnoVentures Capital:
InnoVentures Capital provides loans of up to $250,000 to entrepreneurs in Utah. The lending criteria we use don’t rely on collateral unlike conventional loans. We understand that information technology and service companies don’t have collateral but are critical businesses for developing a modern economy based on innovation and entrepreneurship. InnoVentures is a part of risk capital ecosystem that is necessary for growing businesses that need expansion capital.
Steve’s career is a unique blend of risk capital expertise and international economic development. It began in Indonesia when I realized how empowering it was to the poor to start their own business. In eastern Java, a women’s cooperative helped women launch their own businesses. The unexpected result of this effort were the women seeking out birth control. This was contrary to the conventional wisdom that rural Islamic women would not use birth control. The evidence seemed to point out that once these women had opportunity they made different choices without any incentives from government, NGOs or international aid organizations. I recognized a similar opportunity when I moved to Utah. Young people would become entrepreneurs if they one of their peers become a successful entrepreneur. The question that I asked myself was, “What were the critical components to foster the growth of entrepreneurship” I have explored this question and the efforts to answer it all over the United States and internationally.
Photography can communicate feeling, emotion and even information that an infinite number of words cannot. Photographer Sarah Takako Skinner and her partner Marc Raco have created the Hope Is Project to give people who are struggling an opportunity to photograph hope.
The work that people create when they use photography to communicate hope in the face of despair can be both inspiring and informative.
Sarah tries to put words to the struggles people face today. “This is the time and place. Individuals require hope to live. The world needs hope to move forward. In this day of racism, violence, economic woes, intolerance, hunger, environmental chaos, and more, hope is an elusive notion for many. The very old, the outcasts, the terminally ill, the wounded war veterans. But how can we find hope when we need it most?”
Marc explains the program, “Through an innovative photographic concept, people with compelling stories of adversity, along with hope leaders, search for hope and photograph it. Their own ‘self portraits’ are complimented by exquisite portraits by the artist Takako. This journey commonly produces increased hopefulness and self worth along with an expanded view of the world, coupled with artful and inspiring images that show hope through their eyes. Can the simple act of searching for hope result in the very hope one seeks?”
The project is growing beyond individuals to institutions, allowing more people to participate in and benefit from the program, Sarah says. “Igniting a large conversation about hope can motivate people to explore hope in their own lives, and to initiate actions which can improve their own lives and immediate world, which can reverberate infinitely. The project’s work with individuals is expanding to human service and governmental agencies, which reflects the therapeutic and important power of hope in medicine, pain management, mental health and rehabilitation currently being increasingly researched and implemented.”
Sarah’s vision is to ultimately take the program nationwide. “The Hope Is Project is also developing an initiative to share stories of hope nationwide, culminating in uniting America, and sending a message to the world, in an historic and massive display of images of hope,” she concludes.
On Thursday, February 18, 2016 at 6:00 PM Eastern, Sarah and Marc will join me for a live discussion about this unique effort to photograph hope and thereby catalyze more. 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 Hope Is Project:
Photographer Takako created the HOPE IS PROJECT as a way to understand the nature of Hope and inspire others to find it. Together we can inspire a global conversation about hope, collaborate to create real impact, healing and growth, and participate in meaningful change. With the collaboration of a team of influencers, the project seeks to place cameras in the hands of many people, challenging them to share their stories and capture images embodying hope. This will capture the continuation of Takako’s journey, and can become one of the largest and most influential art exhibits in history — true partnership between art and purpose. It is a project of transformation and impact focused on the understanding, discovery, and harnessing of the power of hope through the vehicle of an inspiring photographic process. The mission is to engage the power of photography along with a process of exploration, story-telling, and self-reflection to widely inspire hope, effect lasting and meaningful change, and contribute to growth and development in fields of social work, medicine, mental health, tolerance, rehabilitation and recovery. As we explore the nature and power of hope with scientists, mental health experts, leading spiritual figures, leaders, agencies and more, the body of images will offer displays of hope, collaborations with those who see hope as an essential resource, and the opportunity to document the journey to educate encourage our audience to explore the nature of Hope with us.
Sarah Takako Skinner’s focus is to use the camera lens to find the light that shines through the darkness. The technical nature of her work comes from her BFA in Photography from the University of Washington. There she learned the importance of being critical of one’s own work and to ‘never fall in love with the photograph’.
But the soul of her work comes through her survival from a rare birth defect and later her travels and adventures She can tell stories about Fiji, New Zealand, London, Peru, Madrid and Australia and many more. She can talk you through her work in Paris, backstage during fashion shows, the ins and outs of LA photographing celebrities, or her current city of New York.
And her stories are great. They’re funny, intimate, haunting, sexy tales of excitement, and more often than not, triumph through midadventures. But when the talk is over, to get the clearest perspective of who Takako is and what she means, you simply have to look at her photos. Raw, high-contrast, sharply imagined and beautiful both technically and creatively, it’s Takako’s still images that create the most motion in your mind.
You can see her influences in her approach to her art. Diane Arbus, Francesca Woodman, Guy Bourdin, Robert Frank, Cindy Sherman, Annie Lebowitz, Richard Avedon. These are the risk-takers, the rule-breakers, and the edgy personalities that drive what Takako is accomplishing in her own way.
Takako’s eye for both depth and editing has been noticed – she’s been published nationally and internationally in magazines and recently showed her work at Art Basel, Miami. She’ll smile as she flips you through the pages of photos she took of Steven Tyler at his home in LA; and can tell you with passion how she got sent to jail for her Art when she asked a woman to walk naked down Hollywood Boulevard while photographing her.
Takako also has another side to her work, which has led her to even larger goals. Her current project, the “Hope Is” Project, is about having other people, who have lived oppressed and or adverse lives, search for their hope and photograph it. The mission is to engage the power of photography along with a process of exploration, storytelling, and self-reflection to inspire hope, effect lasting and meaningful change, and contribute to growth and development in fields of social work, medicine, mental health, tolerance, rehabilitation and recovery. The project is receiving national attention for her goal of producing photographs that don’t just show her own perspective, but the perspectives of others who may not have a voice. So even though she has barely scratched the surface of her own potential artistically, Takako is using her own forged path in photography to help others find their voices as well.
New York City-based creative entrepreneur Marc Raco is a film/television producer, podcast host, actor, composer and writer, who brings more than thirty years of storytelling and media production experience along with a substantial sales and marketing background.
In addition to his role as Executive Producer for the innovative and bold transmedia project “The Hope Is Project”, Marc has been on the production side of feature and short films, commercials, parodies, infomercials, radio programs and pilot presentations—as director, producer, writer, executive producer, editor, visual effects editor, and/or musical director, winning 8 Telly Awards, amongst numerous other accolades, is the host/producer of the weekly podcast “Monkey Radio with Marc”, co-host and producer of the influential fashion and technology weekly podcast “Fashion Is Your Business”, Chief Creative Officer of Open Source Fashion, and works with menswear brand Ralph and Remington as Content and Story Producer.
As an actor, he has appeared in more than twenty five film projects, network television, commercials, parodies, television pilot presentations, more than fifty staged productions, professional improvisational comedy, and even stand-up comedy. A Rochester, NY native, Marc’s been recognized for acting as Overall World Champion (Men 25+)/multi gold-medalist in the 2005 World Championships of Performing Arts.
Marc has also written, produced, and recorded 70+ musical pieces involving 40+ musicians/singers, including film & stage production soundtracks, a full length CD, and tracks designed/used for Nortel Network’s teleconferencing system. He’s an exhibited portrait photographer, with work on permanent display in the Centennial Exhibit of Rochester Institute of Technology. He has skills in German and Sign languages, and was proclaimed by the Governor of Kentucky as a Kentucky Colonel in 2012.
Inspiring Capital is all about changing business as usual. By consulting and developing leaders who aspire to integrate profits and purpose, they hope to drive impact.
Nell Derick Debevoise, Founder and CEO, says, “Less than 30% of the American workforce is engaged in their work. This lack of purpose results in frustration, mental health challenges, and is even linked to physical symptoms, including Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Furthermore, people aren’t most efficient when they’re not engaged, so people aren’t reaching their full potential.”
She notes, too, that “companies are losing money to the cost of disengagement (turnover, inefficiency) and sacrificing the potential productivity and innovation of inspired employees. The ultimate cost of this is to society at large, which needs organizations functioning at their best and most responsible to generate prosperity and well-being.”
Inspiring capital addresses this lack of engagement by helping companies develop a greater sense of purpose, starting with an emphasis on purpose-driven leadership. Nell explains the initiative:
We gather groups of like-minded professionals who recognize the potential of identifying and working toward their unique purpose in the world. Our experiential learning programs provide these groups with:
1) coaching exercises to identify their personal values, strengths, and priorities,
2) knowledge and information about how business principles and models can be used to address social and environmental problems, and
3) connections to peers as well as experts engaged in social change work at a variety of organizations, who may become mentors, employers, clients, or colleagues.
Inspiring Capital provides real world experience. “In addition to this workshop-style experience, IC participants have the chance to do a project for one of our client organizations. This project is an opportunity to get hands-on experience, work within the social sector, and develop the track record and connections they need to secure a permanent position that generates positive impact for the world,” Nell adds.
Nell sees a variety of long-term benefits resulting from her work. She notes that their alumni will help to build a more sustainable economy, “As Inspiring Capital engages thousands, eventually millions, of professionals looking to apply their skills to a pursuit with positive impact, we will contribute to a regenerative economy that creates prosperity and well-being for all.”
She also sees civil society benefiting from Inspiring Capital’s work, “For nonprofits, IC professionals will facilitate more efficient operations by diversifying their revenue beyond government or grant funding, and thereby serving more of the beneficiaries who need them more effectively.”
“IC professionals working in the corporate world will understand the true long-term risks of their activities to the environment and society, and be able to mitigate those risks, or even transform their activities to be additive rather than harmful. Further, they’ll understand how to partner effectively with social sector organizations in their community, contributing unique corporate resources (not just money) to enhance the work of those organizations,” she continues.
Nell sees their alumni as the future leaders of a growing social enterprise ecosystem. “IC professionals will be the senior operations, strategy, and finance professionals that social enterprises require to overcome their dual challenges of generating adequate revenue to be a viable business, AND catalyzing the social change that is their purpose,” she concludes.
Inspiring Capital is currently running a unique Pitch for People competition for social enterprises, yielding free consulting services for prizes.
On Thursday, February 18, 2016 at noon Eastern, Nell will join me for a live discussion about Inspiring Capital and its work to change the world. 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 Inspiring Capital:
Inspiring Capital’s experiential learning programs develop leaders for the New Economy. By providing a structured and thoughtful pathway to inspiration and a resulting project related to social change, IC helps professionals identify opportunities with meaning. These programs are currently targeted at women re-entering the workforce, and our summer program engages MBA and undergraduate students. Social venture, nonprofit, foundation, corporate strategy, and other purpose-driven organizations benefit from IC’s consulting and talent placement services as clients.
Nell is the founder and CEO of Inspiring Capital, which accelerates the integration of profits and purpose by aligning talented business professionals and high-potential, purpose-driven organizations. She is passionate about translating insights from business and entrepreneurship to drive social change. Nell works according to her belief in the power of networks and interdisciplinary approaches. She speaks about this work alongside in diverse settings including the 2015 Global CFA Institute, Harvard, Columbia, and Yale social enterprise, High Water Women, and iRelaunch conferences. Nell is an adjunct professor of impact investing at New York University. She helped John Mullins, Associate Professor at London Business School, research The Customer Funded Business (Wiley, 2014).
Before establishing Inspiring Capital, Nell was the founding director of Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, a US not-for-profit that has facilitated social and economic development for over 9,000 women and children in the Middle East since 2008. She has studied psychology, education, and entrepreneurship at Harvard, Columbia and London Business Schools, and Cambridge University, as well as informal ‘classrooms’ in 49 countries. Nell speaks English, French, and Italian, as well as some Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, and Japanese. She is grateful for the opportunity to live and work in New York to contribute to the shifting approach to business and social change in this city, and beyond.
Laurie Lane-Zucker is building an ecosystem for social entrepreneurs in the Berkshires region of Massachusetts. Laurie hopes the model can be replicated across the country and ultimately around the world.
He explains the need for creating a healthy environment for impact-driven entrepreneurs. “The conventional business paradigm lacks global sustainability context and mission-driven entrepreneurs seeking to innovate solutions in general do not have a supportive ecosystem within which to grow their social and environmental impact businesses.”
The ecosystem begins with a new way of looking at things. “I am working with others to build an ecosystem, indeed an entirely new paradigm, for business founded upon ‘the rigorous application of blended value’ — my definition, and that of my Impact Entrepreneur Network, for the term ‘impact.’ I am currently advancing a new regional impact ecosystem model, which integrates aspects of the Impact Hub with the enterprise/empowerment zone — the ‘Public Benefit Enterprise Zone.'”
Laurie has a clear vision for the future of his effort. “The prototype Public Benefit Enterprise Zone that I am working to build in the Berkshires of Massachusetts will be replicable in other regions around the country and world. When enough mature PBEZs are active, then a process can be undertaken of knitting together PBEZs to create macro-regional, national and global impact economies that have authentic sustainability context, effectively serving the needs of the planet and its peoples.”
On Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Laurie will join me here for a live discussion about the PBEZ. 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 Impact Entrepreneur:
An outgrowth of the global Impact Entrepreneur Network, founded in 2011. Impact Entrepreneur, LLC is a business and industry development company motivated by global sustainability context and triple bottom line principles. Impact Entrepreneur, LLC consults “between the seams” of the Network, working with entrepreneurs, investors and scholars of social and environmental impact around the world. I am also a lecturer/mentor at universities (i.e. MIT, Brown, NYU) and a speaker at impact-related conferences (Sustainatopia, Social Venture Partners, etc.). Impact Entrepreneur is currently pioneering “public benefit enterprise zones” and has proposed an Impact Entrepreneur Center for Social and Environmental Innovation, to be based in the Berkshires.
Laurie Lane-Zucker has spent over 25 years as a nonprofit executive, social enterprise founder and CEO, publisher, editor and writer focused on social and environmental impact. He is currently the founder of the Impact Entrepreneur Network on LinkedIN, which has 9700 members in over 150 countries, and Impact Entrepreneur, LLC. He is the former Executive Director for the national environmental organization and magazine, Orion. He is the Founder and President of the Triad Institute, a think-tank and publisher focused on environmental citizenship, as well as the Founder and CEO of Hotfrog, a digital media company that was a founding B Corporation and the first company to transact a shares offering on a designated impact investment exchange (Mission Markets). He is also the former Executive Director of Seven Pillars, a nonprofit organization that cultivates individual and collective wisdom to respond to the social and environmental needs of our time.
Lane-Zucker is currently pioneering a new regional model for the incubation and acceleration of social and environmental impact businesses and an “impact economy,” the Public Benefit Enterprise Zone (PBEZ), and has proposed a new Impact Entrepreneur Center for Social and Environmental Innovation that will be the epicenter for the first prototype PBEZ in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.
Lane-Zucker did his undergraduate studies at Middlebury College and the University of Edinburgh, and graduate work at Columbia University and the Bread Loaf School of English. He has published, edited and written the forewords for a number of books, including bestselling and award-winning volumes by Wendell Berry, Terry Tempest Williams, David James Duncan and other leading environmental writers.
You never know when the poor child in Africa you help to educate might grow up to be the next Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates or Mother Teresa. Vivian Onano is living that story.
Raised in rural Kenya, she joined Africa 2.0 and has become a major player in international circles at a young age. Last year, she was invited to address the United Nations General Assembly. She is an activist working for the rights of women and girls around the world.
Understating things a bit, she says, “I grew up with so little and many people have contributed to my journey, granted me opportunities that have ended up transforming my life in major ways. As a result, I have decided that my purpose in life is to give hope and enable others to have similar opportunities.”
She sees the plight of others as her primary cause. “I have seen women all over the world continue to fall victim to: gender violence, lack of access to education, inequality and discrimination at work, female genital mutilation, and lack of economic empowerment–among many others.”
To better understand her story, I asked about the challenges she’s faced. “Having been born in a community that did not value girls education was a major challenge. This, coupled with coming from a family that had so little, it was almost a given that I was going to be married off like many other girls that I saw.”
“Luckily, that did not happen. My mother strived to make sure I had access to quality education that has enabled me to grow into a global citizen. It was really tough for a girl from an impoverished family to make it, for a girl from the village without an education and I am so thankful that I am no longer a statistic,” she added.
As a result of her good fortune, Vivian feels an obligation to help others. “Having been given that opportunity, I strive every day to pay it forward and enable many other girls to have access to this basic human right of education .”
“I have taken it upon myself to be an agent of change,” she says. “I have been doing this through lending my voice and time to these causes that I am passionate of. Also, now I have the opportunity to interact with top leaders and government officials, thus lobbying them to give these issues major attention. Every change starts with a simple action.
As I tried to understand her remarkable story, I asked to what she credits her success.
I attribute my success to my strong educational foundation, hard work, determination, family support, access to the right network and steadfast faith. Education has enabled me to develop a voice of my own and be a role model for many young girls from my village and even globally. I am a resilient person who constantly dreams big and because of my dreams, I have an action plan and direction in my life. To be honest, sometimes I do feel like my dreams are just too grandiose but I am also of the firm belief that with hard work everything is possible. Since birth, I have been of strong faith and so is my entire family, and that keeps us going even during tough times.
Vivian is optimistic, despite the horrors she works to address every day. “I believe soon all these issues will be a myth,” she concluded.
Vivian will join me for a live discussion about her work in Africa and around the world. Due to technical difficulties, we’ve had to postpone the live interview. When we reschedule we’ll update this page and alert you via social media. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
[At the time of the interview, I will insert a video player here. Bookmark this page and come back then to watch the interview live. Replays will be available here thereafter. If you have a question you’d like asked tweet me (@devindthorpe).]
More about Africa 2.0 Foundation:
Africa 2.0 is a Pan-African civil society organized that has footprints across the African continent and into the diaspora. The organization has been in existence in just over 5 years and so far we have managed to create a reputation as the leading institution in bringing together young and promising Africans. We are also known as the D-Think-tank, a Think-Tank that does things. We are very action oriented around advocacy such as Re-branding Africa by Africans and empowering young people through access to entrepreneurship training and mentorship.
Vivian Onano is a women and girls’ advocate and youth leader who was born and raised in rural Kenya. Her arduous upbringing has forged her strong commitment to education, to women, and to leadership. Vivian has a deep interest in re-defining Africa’s growth and development. A Moremi fellow, she is recognized as one the top 25 emerging women leaders with the courage to lead change on the African continent.
Vivian recently graduated Carthage College and currently is the Community and Partnerships Manager at Africa 2.0 Foundation. She is a Youth Advisor to the UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group, Women Deliver Young Leader and a Global Youth Advocate for the Mara Mentor Program.
Vivian has held various leadership positions, including serving as a Congressional District Leader for ONE Campaign in Wisconsin, a campus advocate for the United Nations Association-USA, and a Half the Sky Movement community ambassador. She is also the Education Spokesperson for Moremi Africa, a Global Youth Ambassador for A World At School, and a 2014 Change Maker Fellow with the Nantucket Project.
Vivian has a diverse background working with a variety of organizations, including the MasterCard Foundation, where she served as an external reviewer for their scholarship program in Sub-Saharan Africa. As a blogger for Huffington Post, she uses her oral and written communication skills in service of her passion –– providing holistic and innovative approaches to solving community problems. Vivian actively advocates for women and girls’ issues and youth entrepreneurship in Africa.
Vivian is a respected speaker who often speaks on global education, finding one’s passion and purpose, gender equality, youth entrepreneurship/empowerment, and international development. She has presented at the United Nations General Assembly, Nexus Global Youth Summit, and the Clinton Global Initiative, among others. She also served as a United Nations Youth Representative and was profiled as one of the 70 outstanding leaders of United Nations Association -USA. Intel featured Vivian as a Girl Rising hero. Vivian has a vision and dream to help create an inclusive world for everyone. She can be reached via Twitter (@vivianonano).
There is real power that comes from doing something yourself. Think of those moments when you graduated from college, finished a 10k race setting a personal record, or completed a home improvement project successfully. You probably felt like Rocky Balboa sprinting to the top of the steps.
Liberals are often criticized by their conservative counterparts for supporting government programs that create dependence among the people they serve. Those same conservatives, however, are often guilty of supporting nonprofit organizations that do the same thing. At the same time, an increasing number of people from across the political spectrum see the importance of helping people develop self-reliance.
That self-reliance, however, is often an illusion.
No one is perfectly self-reliant. Most of us—when we’re honest—can barely make the case for it because we’ve had so much help from parents, friends, teachers, colleagues, employers, investors, fans, followers and, yes, government. As the Reverend Peter Raible penned, “We warm ourselves by fires we did not light. We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.”
Could George W. Bush ever have become President if his father hadn’t? Could Mark Zuckerberg have grown Facebook without investors willing to fund operating deficits for years before the first dollar of advertising revenue? Could Warren Buffet have become so wealthy without the existence of well-regulated and reasonably transparent financial markets, allowing him both to earn returns on and provide access to capital? It seems that even the most revered among us is, at least in part, dependent on others.
Sam and Diane, not their real names, are my neighbors and dear friends. Both have intellectual deficits, Sam from birth and Diane as a result of a brain injury early in life. They live together in a condo in the same building where I live. Sam works two part-time jobs and serves regularly as a community volunteer. They act and feel genuinely self-reliant in the same sense that most all of us do. Their earned income, however, doesn’t come close to covering their living expenses. They are heavily subsidized by their parents. When they reached their mid-thirties and started to thicken around the middle, their parents provided a personal trainer. With his help, they hit the gym for an hour every day and are quite healthy. They have to do the exercise to get the benefit, but their parents saw the wisdom of providing a coach to hold them accountable.
Recently, I visited with Katelyn Dalton, a STEM staffing specialist for Teen Force, a San Jose, Calif., nonprofit that helps at-risk youth finish high school and get into college. Katelyn is a recovering addict who was homeless for two years. During much of that time she lived in a scavenged tent and had no reliable source of food or income. For her, the breakthrough was getting a job. Having a job gave her back a self-image that allowed her to think she was worthy of living, that she could overcome her addiction and become a productive part of society. She was hired by a social enterprise that employs the unemployable and provides training. It started by helping her learn the basics of employment, like how to show up to work every day and take responsibility for foreseeable transit problems. Today, she is a productive member of society who feels fully self-reliant. She is as independent today as anyone.
Jeffrey Sachs, the famed professor who advises developing countries and works to eradicate extreme poverty, has been a champion of and a lightning rod for the idea that poor countries and individuals simply need a leg up to the first rung of an economic ladder that leads to prosperity. There can be little doubt that a person, community or country comprised of people that lack food, water and shelter needs a leg up. What Sachs seems to be missing is that they also need the sense of self-reliance as much as they need help with food, water and shelter. Pulitzer-prize winning author and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has observed that the best form of aid is a j-o-b. That fact, however, ignores the problem that folks like Katelyn may not be employable in their present situation.
Much of our development and aid discussion both at the international and community level today revolves around the premise that self-reliance is a factual condition. In fact, it is an illusion that gives us all self-confidence and the courage to get up each day to fight our battles to the best of our ability. Virtually everyone has or will face challenges to which we simply were or are not equal. Someone has or will step in to help us over such obstacles.
One key to establishing the critical illusion is to give aid that builds dignity. There are times when aid, conditioned on work or participation in a drug treatment program or staying in school, can enhance self-respect. On the other hand, if too much work is required for too little aid, the result can be dehumanizing and tantamount to a form of slave labor.
For instance, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints routinely provides food and other support to people in need, often explicitly in exchange for “volunteering.” When the expected number of volunteer hours matches up well with the value of the goods and the talents of the recipient, the program works to preserve self-respect. When, however, the volunteer hours required for help exceed its perceived value, the exchange robs participants of their dignity. This is complicated by the fact that two similarly situated participants may react differently to the same program, one feeling indignant while the other feels dignified. To be effective, a program must be flexible enough to build self-worth in the participants. If the program doesn’t build confidence, it isn’t working.
Whether we are talking about helping individuals, families, communities or countries, building a sense of self-reliance is more important than their actually becoming so. We need to stop thinking of our aid in terms of whether it actually fosters independence or dependence and focus on whether it creates the sense of capability. The power of people to rise above their challenging circumstances is more closely tied to their feeling self-reliant than it is to actually being self-reliant. Everyone needs to feel like Rocky once in a while.