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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

Monthly Archives: November 2015

HSNi CEO’s Seeing Children’s Plight First Hand ‘Emboldened’ Effort

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

HSNi’s efforts to support needy children around the world through its partnership with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF provide lessons for social entrepreneurs seeking to have impact at scale.

HSNi CEO Mindy Grossman provides some background for its partnership, saying, “HSNi Cares was established in 2010 with a mission to empower women and support children and families in need locally, nationally and globally. All children, regardless of their income, ethnicity or geography have the right to be protected and be given the opportunity to reach their full potential which is why our global HSNi Cares partner is the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. UNICEF does whatever it takes to save and protect the world’s most vulnerable children. Through our partnership we raise both critical funds and awareness.”

For Grossman, the cause is personal. She says, “I joined the national board for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF in 2012 and over the past three years have had the opportunity to see UNICEF’s work firsthand both in Senegal in 2012 and Guatemala in 2015. Exposure to the challenges children face around the world has emboldened me to do more to support the organization and have even greater impact. “

She now serves as the Vice Chair of the National board of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. “Through HSNi Cares, we have recently concluded our third annual awareness and fundraising campaign for the U.S. Fund,” she adds. “I’m so proud to be able to use my platform as CEO to make such a meaningful impact.”

She notes that in 2015, all eight HSNi brands supported the campaign, bringing the total raised since 2013 to over $2 million.

She goes on to say, “Recently we held our 3rd annual HSN Cares Primetime Special for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and joined forces with Star Wars to bring customers fun, relevant product while raising awareness for the organization. Their generosity during this campaign will help provide medicine, nutrition, clean water, education and more to children around the world. In addition to financial contributions, we leveraged our platform to purposefully shine a spotlight on a global crisis. Generating both understanding and awareness is a critical element in creating meaningful long term impact.”

Grossman will receive the “Spirit of Compassion Award” at UNICEF’s Snowflake Ball on December 1, 2015.

Social entrepreneurs will note the importance of personal passion and commitment to a cause as a key take away from the HSNi social impact efforts.

On Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 5:00 Eastern, Grossman will join me for a live discussion about the partnership with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and its 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 HSNi:

Twitter: @HSN

HSN, Inc. (Nasdaq:HSNI) is a $4 billion interactive multichannel retailer with strong direct-to-consumer expertise among its two operating segments, HSN and Cornerstone. HSNi offers innovative, differentiated retail experiences on TV, online, via mobile devices, in catalogs, and in brick and mortar stores. HSN, a leading interactive multichannel retailer which offers a curated assortment of exclusive products combined with top brand names, now reaches 95 million homes (24 hours a day, seven days a week, live 364 days a year). offers a differentiated digital experience by leveraging content, community and commerce. In addition to its existing media platforms, HSN is the industry leader in transactional innovation, including services such as HSN Shop by Remote®, the only service of its kind in the U.S., the HSN Shopping App for mobile handheld devices and HSN on Demand®. Cornerstone comprises leading home and apparel lifestyle brands including Ballard Designs®, Chasing Fireflies®, Frontgate®, Garnet Hill®, Grandin Road®, Improvements® and TravelSmith®. Cornerstone distributes approximately 325 million catalogs annually, operates seven separate digital sales sites and operates 11 retail and outlet stores.

Mindy Grossman, courtesy of HSNi

Mindy Grossman, courtesy of HSNi

Grossman’s bio:

Twitter: @mindygrossman

Mindy Grossman is the CEO of HSNi a $4 billion direct-to-consumer retail portfolio that includes live content retailer HSN and the Cornerstone portfolio of home and family lifestyle brands. Mindy joined IAC, HSNi’s former parent company, in 2006 as CEO of IAC Retail. In 2008 she took the company public. During her tenure she has positioned HSNi as a leader in boundaryless retail, offering customers a seamless shopping experience across – television, catalogue, online and mobile. Today nearly half of the company’s revenue is generated through digital commerce. With nearly four decades of experience at some of the world’s most iconic brands including; Tommy Hilfiger, Polo Ralph Lauren RL +2.38% Company and Nike NKE +0.00%, Mindy is known as a transformational leader. She has been named one of Fortune magazine’s “Top Persons in Business,” Forbes’ “Top 100 Most Powerful Women,” and Fast Company’s “Top 100 Most Creative People in Business.” Mindy serves on the boards of the National Retail Federation, Bloomin’ Brands and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

Overstock’s Byrne Offers Advice To Social Entrepreneurs

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Overstock’s founder and CEO, Patrick Byrne, is himself an accomplished social entrepreneur. Overstock’s lesser known affiliate Worldstock was an early entrant in the social enterprise space.

Worldstock sources artisinal products from around the world, largely from underprivileged women, and makes them available to people in the U.S. and elsewhere in the developed world at prices that provides fair earnings to the artisans. All Worldstock orders ship “carbon neutral” to the customer.

Byrne offers three key observations to help social entrepreneurs.

  1. Entrepreneurship is key: “The key to elevating the standard of living in developing countries is not through foreign aid, but through encouraging entrepreneurship. Part of that calls for engaging in fair trade with the actual producers in these nations. Overstock’s fair trade division, called Worldstock, began doing this before fair trade was even a popular concept.”
  2. Free enterprise must be defended: “Our nation’s future growth depends on fair and robust capital markets, without which, free enterprise is condemned to stagnate and wither. To that end, we must strive for an economic meritocracy, where the best ideas are rewarded and regulators act to protect all market participants, not just the biggest players.”
  3. School choice is key: “Our nation’s future growth also depends on access to intellectual capital, which in turn requires a strong education system. When schools are failing their students, it’s our moral obligation to give those students options, including the ability to attend better performing schools. School choice is of paramount importance.”

On Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 6:00 PM Eastern, Byrne will join me for a live discussion about his insights for social entrepreneurs and change agents. 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 Overstock:

Twitter: @overstock

We are an online retailer. Founded in 1999, gone public in 2002. First year revenues of just under $2-million, today revenues approach $2-billion. Over 1,500 employees. We were initially created as a liquidation channel for the first waves of failed dotcoms. Today we’ve evolved into a first run retailer selling everything from toasters to patio furniture.

Patrick Byrne, courtesy of Overstock

Patrick Byrne, courtesy of Overstock

Byrne’s bio:

Twitter: @OverstockCEO

Patrick M. Byrne, CEO, launched in 1999 with revenues of $1.8 million. In 2014 had revenues of $1.5 billion and net income of $8.8 million. Forbes magazine named the No. 9 Best Company to Work for in the Country for 2010, and Byrne the CEO with the highest employee approval rating (92%). Byrne received the 2011 Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

In 2001, Byrne began Worldstock Fair Trade, an division selling handcrafted products from artisans in developing nations. The department distinguishes itself by returning 60-70% of the sale price to artisans (over $100 million has been paid to Worldstock’s artisan suppliers). In addition, Worldstock net profits have been donated to fund philanthropic projects in several countries. Worldstock and Byrne have funded the building of 26 self-sustaining schools internationally that currently educate thousands of students.

A “classical liberal,” Byrne believes that our nation’s success depends on a sound educational system and healthy capital markets. Since Milton Friedman’s passing in 2006, Byrne has served as chairman of The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, an organization leading the national debate for school vouchers.

Towards the goal of clean capital markets, in 2004 Byrne (as a citizen-journalist) began a vigorous campaign against abusive Wall Street practices, focusing on regulatory capture, hedge fund “expert network” (insider trading) schemes, settlement system failures, systemic risk, and the possibility of economic warfare against the US by organized crime and foreign governments. His stance quickly caught the attention of Wall Street analysts and reporters, becoming a point of high controversy and ridicule until the economic crash of 2008, occasioned by the very things Byrne had warned of. Byrne’s website has received much recognition, such as Weblogs Award “Best Business Blog” (2008), Business Pundit’s “Best Business Investigative Journalism” (2009), and Xmark’s “Top Site on Corruption in the USA” (2010).

Before founding and serving as chairman, CEO, and president, Byrne held the same three positions at Centricut, LLC, a manufacturer of consumables for industrial plasma torches, and held the same three positions at Fechheimer Brothers, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company, manufacturing police, firefighter and military uniforms.

Byrne received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and Asian studies from Dartmouth College, a master’s in philosophy from Cambridge University as a Marshall Scholar, and a doctorate in philosophy from Stanford University. He has taught at the university level and is a frequent guest lecturer discussing internet commerce, capital markets, Wall Street practices, education, leadership and ethics.

In 2014, Byrne’s political philosophy, mathematical training and concern over corruption on Wall Street combined to move him to create Medici,’s financial technology subsidiary building platforms for digital asset exchange on the same technology that powers bitcoin. In 2015, Byrne became the first person in history to purchase a digital bond, using Medici’s private debt equity trading platform.

Entrepreneur Builds Business Bridges To Africa

Rahel Getachew, founder and Managing Director of Afrolehar, is working to change perceptions of Africa by building business bridges between the U.S. and Africa.

Rahel explains the problem, “The African continent has been seen as the dark and hopeless continent. There is a lack of linkages between US investment and African SMEs, a growing youthful continent that needs jobs to keep peace and security in the region and are missing platforms designed to solve these problems.”

She is working to address the lack of platforms focused on these problems. She says, “I started this business to strategically transform the image of Africa and contribute in strengthening North America- Africa relations. We provide integrated communications solutions through our advisory or in-house services, business development to penetrate and retain consumer markets in North America and Africa–based on client need–and manage creative productions for government, private sector and non-profit organizations.”

A vision of Africa where the economy is driven by value added there more than the commodities grown or extracted. “Ultimately, our success would be defined by the way Africa will be perceived by investors, businesses and consumers markets and African products and works will have greater market value than it currently has. As the world has always turned to the African continent for resources (commodities), we aim to have the world purchase quality added-value African products,” she concludes.

On Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at noon Eastern, Rahel will join me for a live discussion about her efforts. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

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

More about Afrolehar:

Twitter: @afrolehar

Established in Washington DC, Afrolehar LLC is a cross-cultural branding firm offering integrated communications solutions, business strategies and creative productions services to Government, private sector and non-profit organizations in addition to building Afrolehar LLC brands like, an eCommerce platform with an integrated logistics component designed for SMEs producing added-value products in Africa to connect to consumer markets in North America;, a membership-based platform focusing on Green Business linkages between the African continent and North America. As a brand hub and branding solutions advisors, Afrolehar LLC is created to strengthen North America- Africa economic and cultural relations.

Rahel Getachew, courtesy of Afrolehar

Rahel Getachew, courtesy of Afrolehar

Rahel’s bio:

Rahel Getachew, entrepreneur at heart, founder and managing director of Afrolehar LLC, a cross-cultural branding boutique company, has extensive experience in international affairs, integrated marketing and communications, creative productions, program and project management and business development. A cross-cultural problem solver, to actualize her vision of owning her business, Rahel established Afrolehar LLC after extensive international and domestic experience. Rahel’s goal is to enter the African marketplace of ideas and products into the psyche of consumers and various stakeholders; and in the process, the aim is to change the image of Africa and to increase North America’s investment in African countries. Rahel understands that AID and grants is not the way to elevate Africa, instead Africa has to leverage the abundance of natural resources, human capacity and technology into a sustainable economy. Rahel’s professional experiences in Africa and North America have taught her that the way a people or a country is viewed depends on those who create the campaigns on their behalf. Rahel earned her bachelor of Arts with a major in Political science and minor in business studies, and is certified in ICT; she is an active member of the AGOA civil society and private sector networks, African Women Entrepreneurship Program and Top ladies of distinction.

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

Rahel was referred to by our sponsor, Gate Global Impact.

Devin D. Thorpe

How To Launch A Nonprofit Quickly and Easily

Brent Andrewsen, an attorney with Your Mark on the World-sponsor Kirton McConkie, explains the simple steps required to form a nonprofit charity.

There are two basic steps required. First, you need to create a legal entity and second, you must obtain tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for the entity.

Most “nonprofits” are either a charitable trust or a nonprofit corporation. Brent recommends a nonprofit corporation for organizations looking to operate a traditional nonprofit. The formation requires articles of incorporation, bylaws, a board of directors (at least 3 in number), naming of officers, etc. The articles must be registered with the state, and the state also requires the names and addresses of board members and officers. These steps are almost completely within your control and while they sometimes take months, they can be done as quickly as you are willing to do them.

Once the entity exists, you are in a position to prepare and submit an application to the IRS on Form 1023. The IRS estimates that you can learn what you need to learn to complete the form yourself and complete the form in approximately 20 hours. Most applicants get at least some help from attorneys like Brent who have submitted hundreds of applications. Brent says he’s never had an application rejected. Once you submit the application, the IRS will take three to four months to review it. Sometimes, the IRS will respond with additional questions. Sometimes they will respond with an immediate approval.

Brent notes that the application is important. “Get help from an expert.” If the IRS ever has a question about whether your organization should be subject to tax, the IRS will conduct an audit. If the auditors find that you are doing what was approved in your application, the audit usually will be quick and painless. This also provides protection should the IRS change its opinion about the nonprofit’s activities. The IRS cannot penalize your organization for conducting activities disclosed in the application. In order to ensure efficient audits and protection from penalties, Brent encourages applicants to be “specifically broad” in their applications so that the auditors will quickly recognize that your activities align with your approved application.

One secret that Brent suggests for those who are financially constrained with respect to the legal costs of setting up a nonprofit, is to ask your nonprofit lawyer for templates and some coaching up front and then to prepare the documents yourself. As a final step, ask your attorney to review your work. In this way, your attorney can help you create a successful application at reduced cost.

On Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 1:00 Eastern, Brent will join me for a live discussion about the process of setting up a nonprofit. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

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

More about Kirton McConkie:

Kirton McConkie is Utah’s largest law firm. It provides excellent service in helping clients solve problems, achieve results and realize opportunities. We serve individuals and businesses, from large multinational organizations to small start ups. As the largest law firm in Utah, we represent a depth of collective knowledge and skills, clients desire. We also know, for the most part, clients tend to hire individual lawyers they have heard about, who have been referred to them or who they already know. We know it is true because it happens for us all the time. Many of our new clients come from referrals. To us, this is the highest form of recognition for the work and service we provide as lawyers and as a law firm.

Brent Andrewsen, Kirton McConkie

Brent Andrewsen, Kirton McConkie

Brent’s bio:

Mr. Andrewsen is a member of Kirton McConkie’s Corporate, and Tax and Estate Planning sections. His practice includes estate planning, probate and trust administration, gift taxation, tax-exempt organizations, charitable trusts and planned giving. Mr. Andrewsen also has advised clients with respect to business matters and has assisted in forming various business entities and transactions. He is a frequent speaker on issues regarding tax-exempt organizations, planned giving, estate planning, and related topics. In addition to his professional work, he has sat on the boards of various charitable organizations over the years. Mr. Andrewsen has an AV PreeminentTM peer rating from Martindale-Hubbell and is recognized as one of Utah’s Legal Elite for estate planning, a Mountain States Super Lawyer for estate planning and non-profits and a Best Lawyer for trusts/estates and nonprofit/charities. He was also honored by Utah Business magazine as a 40 Under 40 Rising Star.

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

Devin D. Thorpe

’10 Things For’ Campaign Tells Us How To Help Today

Have you ever wanted to do something to make the world a better place but didn’t know what? The new “10 Things For” campaign is trying to ensure you always know what to do.

Emily Paxman, founder of the campaign, says, “There is a tremendous amount of goodwill in the world, as evidenced by the large number of people who draw awareness to the issues they’re passionate about by posting articles on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. While raising awareness can be valuable in the long-term, it often does nothing to alleviate immediate suffering in the here and now.”

Coby Vail, director of campaign research, adds, “In the Information Age, everyone is becoming more aware of the problems that plague the planet on a daily basis. With so much to do, it can be hard to hone in on one problem and find a meaningful way to contribute, whether that be money, time, or talents.”

Emily notes, “We are working to find and share creative ways that individuals can make a difference. Not everyone has the time to go build a house in Mexico, or the money to sponsor a child. By providing a healthy mix of small, easy ways to help with more traditional forms of charity, we want to help put people who want to make a difference to work.”

“The 10 Things Campaign makes it easier for people to get involved by selecting a cause every three weeks, providing education and 10 meaningful activities you can do to make a difference. We interview activists working on each cause in order to get the most effective activities for our followers to participate in and make a dent in the problem at hand,” Coby adds.

Emily is convinced that enough small acts will change the world. She says, “If all of our followers pick something from our list of ten things to do each month, they will be making someone else’s life better, even though that difference may be small. Ultimately, if enough people feel empowered to help, those small things add up, and the world begins to change.”

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” Coby concludes.

On Thursday, November 19, 2015 at noon Eastern, Emily and Coby will join me for a live discussion about the 10 Things For campaign. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

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

More about the 10 Things Campaign:

Twitter: @10things4

Our mission is to empower individual activism by sharing ways to make a difference, providing education on issues, and enabling ordinary people to share their work to inspire others. To accomplish this, each month The 10 Things Campaign selects a social or humanitarian issue to focus on. Examples include illiteracy, homelessness, hunger etc. During the course of the month, we will share ten ways individuals can help those affected. These ten things vary in nature, allowing individuals with different time and material constraints to participate in the way that best fits their circumstances.

Emily Paxman, courtesy of the 10 Things For campaign

Emily Paxman, courtesy of the 10 Things For campaign

Emily’s bio:

Twitter: @EmilyPaxman

Emily Paxman is an activist, science-fiction enthusiast, and lifelong learner. She graduated from Brigham Young University with degrees in Middle East Studies an Arabic. Throughout her career, Emily has had the opportunity to live among and work with refugees, develop curriculum for youth science programs, and help communities develop programs to encourage volunteerism. Emily currently resides in Utah with her husband Skyler and their two dogs, Safari and Cairo.

Coby Vail, courtesy of the 10 Things For campaign

Coby Vail, courtesy of the 10 Things For campaign

Coby’s bio:

Twitter: @goberope

Coby Vail grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. Beginning in high school, he became interested in the world outside of Utah, history and learning about different cultures, traditions, and values. Two years in Austria taught him that, contrary to his experience in High School German, he could learn another language. Also in Austria, he interacted with refugees from all over the world, but particularly from the Middle East. As a result, he studied Middle East Studies/Arabic and International Development, a major that led to experiences in Amman, Jordan and Istanbul, Turkey. Both of these experiences brought him into contact with refugees and the broader world. Nowadays, he works at the Refugee Service Office in Salt Lake City. His experiences abroad and at home have imbued in him the desire to help provide opportunities to those who have little or none and educate others on what they can do to make a difference in the world.

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

Devin D. Thorpe

This Young Social Entrepreneur Hopes To Save 1M Babies

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Jane Chen’s Embrace Innovations, a laureate of the 2012 Tech Awards and winner of the 2015 Laureate Impact Award, is working to save 1 million babies over the next five years.

Chen explains why so many babies are at risk, “Each year, 15,000,000 babies are born preterm; more than 1,000,000 of those babies will die. This is largely due to poor healthcare available in developing countries. Many of these deaths are preventable. Unfortunately, a prevalent number of hospitals simply cannot afford the high cost of current incubators and are in dire need of a low cost alternative. In addition, many of these births occur in rural areas, where electricity may not even be an option so a sustainable solution is needed.”

Enter Embrace Innovations.

“We have created a low cost, sustainable infant warmer that keeps preterm babies at an optimal body temperature. It works without constant need of electricity, making it ideal for rural areas in developing countries and has already saved over 150,000 babies. In order to help save more babies and reach our 1,000,000 baby goal, we have created a unique US commercial line of baby products called Little Lotus that will help save a vulnerable baby with the Embrace infant warmer for every Little Lotus baby product sold. Little Lotus baby products are well-designed and technologically innovative, so this allows people to help their babies rest at a comfortable temperature and also help make a collective difference in developing countries,” Chen says.

Chen is already making great progress toward her vision of a world where preterm babies don’t die for a lack of basic care. She says, “We envision saving millions of preterm babies worldwide with the Embrace infant warmer and through the 1:1 model with Little Lotus. We are also working on launching more innovative products to bring to the market to help reduce infant and maternal mortality.”

On Thursday, November 19, 2015 at 1:00 Eastern, Chen will join me for a live discussion about her work to save 1 million babies per year. 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 Embrace Innovations:

Twitter: @EmbraceInnov @littlelotusbaby

Embrace Innovations is a social enterprise startup that aims to create innovative products to improve the health and well-being of infants all over the world. Our first product, the Embrace infant warmer, was created to help the 15 million premature and low birth-weight babies born every year. The Embrace infant warmer costs about 1% of a traditional incubator and works without constant electricity, making it suitable for developing countries. To date, the Embrace infant warmer has helped over 150,000 babies.

Embrace Innovations recently created a consumer line of baby products called Little Lotus, which uses NASA inspired technology to keep babies at a perfect temperature. The line includes baby swaddles, sleeping bags and blankets that utilizes similar technology to the Embrace infant warmer, which help keep babies at an ideal body temperature. The product has a 1:1 model: for every Little Lotus baby product sold, a vulnerable baby will be helped in the developing country by the Embrace infant warmer. The goal is to help save the lives of 1,000,000 preterm infants around the world with the Embrace infant warmer, with the help of Little Lotus. It’s a way for parents to care for their babies, and it’s a way for families with the resources to help make an enormous difference in the lives of those less fortunate.

Jane Chen, courtesy of Embrace Innovations.

Jane Chen, courtesy of Embrace Innovations.

Chen’s bio:

Twitter: @janemariechen

Jane Marie Chen is the co-founder and CEO of Embrace Innovations, which is estimated to have helped over 150,000 babies to date. Prior to Embrace, Chen worked with nonprofit organizations on healthcare issues in developing countries. She spent several years as the Program Director of a startup HIV/AIDS nonprofit in China (Chi Heng Foundation) and worked for the Clinton Foundation’s HIV/AIDS Initiative in Tanzania. She also worked at Monitor Group as a management consultant, advising Fortune 500 companies. Chen has been a TED Speaker, and was selected as one of Forbes’ Impact 30 in 2011. In 2011, Chen was also recognized as the Inspirational Young Alumni of the Year by Pomona College, and was the keynote speaker at Stanford’s Women in Management event. She is featured in Stanford’s “Tradition of Innovation,” and speaks at various international conferences, including the Skoll World Forum and World Economic Forum. In 2012, Chen was named as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and was featured in Dove’s “Real Role Models” campaign for women and girls. Chen is a TED Senior Fellow, Echoing Green Fellow, and Rainer Arnhold Fellow. In 2013, Chen and the other co-founders of Embrace were awarded the prestigious Economist Innovation Award, under the category of Social and Economic Innovation. In the same year, Chen and her co-founder were also recognized as Schwab Social Entrepreneurs of the Year by the World Economic Forum.

Branson’s Virgin Unite Launches ‘100% Human At Work’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Virgin Unite describes itself as the “entrepreneurial foundation” of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. It is a registered nonprofit and the part of Virgin focused on social impact. Branson, not typically labeled a social entrepreneur, sure seems to be one.

Recently, I’ve connected with Virgin Unite President Jean Oelwang to learn more about the organization and about its work.

A quick perusal of the website will tell you that Branson is concerned about a wide range of social issues from the oceans, to youth unemployment and homelessness, and from AIDS and TB to rural transportation for health workers (motorbikes).

Oelwang is championing a new initiative that addresses broad, global issues, called 100% Human at Work” led by The B Team, a global nonprofit incubated by Virgin Unite.

“We live in a world in which change is happening faster than ever: environmental pressures, population growth, massive advancements in technology, and significant shifts in the demographic of the workforce to name just a few,” Oelwang says.

“This has inevitably sparked changes in the ways in which we work and people’s aspirations and desires for their work are also shifting. This is an amazing opportunity for companies to be at the forefront of change and to start to build purpose-driven organizations that prioritize people and planet alongside profit,” she adds.

Oelwang explains, “The B Team’s vision of the future is a world in which the purpose of business is to become a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit. Its mission is to help develop a ‘Plan B’ that puts people and planet alongside profit. Plan A – where companies have been driven by the profit motive alone – is no longer acceptable.”

“One area that the B Team is focusing on is the way in which businesses treat their employees. The B Team has developed an initiative called ’100% Human at Work’ which was driven by the belief that it is time for businesses to stop looking at people as resources and to start seeing them as human beings,” Oelwang continues.

She says, “We have also collaborated to identify the five elements that define a 100% Human company: Respect, Equality, Growth, Belonging, Purpose.”

“Through partnerships and collaborations we also want to inspire business for the next generation, so that together we can make our workplaces 100% Human. We want to turn work upside down to become a place where people can contribute to society, the planet, their company and to their own personal growth,” Oelwang concludes.

On Thursday, November 19, 2015 at Oelwang will join me for a live discussion about building a “100% Human” company. 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 Virgin Unite:

Twitter: @virginunite

Virgin Unite, the entrepreneurial foundation of the Virgin Group. We unite people and entrepreneurial ideas to create opportunities for a better world. We believe disruption is at the heart of entrepreneurial thinking – to defy the status quo and turn challenges into opportunities.

How do we do it?

  1. We shine a spotlight on unacceptable issues and great entrepreneurial approaches. Using the strength of the Branson family and the brand’s convening power, we leverage our 53m customers, 20m social media followers, and 65,000 Virgin staff, to raise awareness of and take action around important issues.
  2. We create disruptive collaborations. We bring together the best people and organisations from all sectors to change business for good, protect the planet (and beyond!) and create better global governance.
  3. We empower entrepreneurs to change business for good. We help them get the skills, support and funding access they need to succeed, while showing how to put people and planet alongside profit at the heart of their business.

In all that we do, we are uniting a powerful global community of entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and inspirational leaders, who share our belief that entrepreneurial ideas, together with the right people, can create change around the world. Why not take a closer look at what we’ve done over the last 10 years!

Our overheads are covered by Richard Branson and the Virgin Group, meaning that 100% of all donations received go directly to the frontline.


Oelwang’s bio:

Twitter: @jeanoelwang

Jean Oelwang is President and a Trustee of Virgin Unite, the entrepreneurial foundation of the Virgin Group.. In 2003, Jean left her post as joint CEO of Virgin Mobile Australia to begin working with Richard Branson and the Virgin staff from around the world to create Virgin Unite. Over the last 12 years, Jean has worked with partners to create new approaches to social and environmental issues, such as the Branson Centres of Entrepreneurship and a global platform to support budding entrepreneurs. She has helped incubate a number of global leadership initiatives such as The Elders, the Carbon War Room, The B Team and Ocean Unite. In addition, Jean has been instrumental in working with Virgin’s businesses and others worldwide to put driving positive change at their core.

In her previous life, Jean lived and worked on six continents helping to lead successful mobile phone start-ups in South Africa, Columbia, Bulgaria, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and the US.

Jean has long explored the overlap of the business and social sectors and has been involved in both, having worked for the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife in Australia, and in numerous volunteer roles, including a stint as a VISTA volunteer where she worked with – and learned from – homeless teens in Chicago.

She sits on the Advisory Council for The Elders and the Boards of the Carbon War Room, Ocean Unite, Ocean Elders and Just Capital. She is also a Senior Partner in the B Team.

Three Questions To Help Organizations Find The Right Nonprofit Partner

This is a guest post from Simon Taylor, senior vice president and general manager of Comtrade

Giving back to those less fortunate is an important mandate for for-profit organizations. In 2014, corporations donated nearly $18 billion to nonprofit organizations in the U.S., an infusion of money that helped support important initiatives. Not only do corporate donations and volunteerism result in a more vibrant nonprofit sector, but companies with well-aligned charitable partnerships often see a stronger workplace culture characterized by engaged employees and stakeholders.

Choosing a nonprofit partner that is a good fit for an organization can be challenging, especially with more than 1.5 million choices in the U.S. alone. Comtrade, a global software engineering company based in Central Europe and specializing in monitoring, backup and software integration, approached the idea of a nonprofit partnership in a deliberate and methodical fashion. Although Comtrade has partnered with many charities in Europe, the organization wanted to find an American organization that aligned with Comtrade’s values, ideals and goals when it decided to make a bolder move into the U.S. market.

(L - R) Simon Taylor, senior vice president and general manager, Comtrade System Software & Tools, Mark Culliton, CEO, College Bound Dorchester, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Sean Curran, board chairman, College Bound Dorchester

(L – R) Simon Taylor, senior vice president and general manager, Comtrade System Software & Tools, Mark Culliton, CEO, College Bound Dorchester, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Sean Curran, board chairman, College Bound Dorchester

The nonprofit College Bound Dorchester – a scrappy, innovative organization that counteracts gang violence to improve some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Boston – seemed like the right fit, but the management team at Comtrade wanted to be sure. Before partnering, management asked three key questions:

  1. Would the partnership benefit both parties?
    In addition to its U.S. focus, Comtrade wanted a partner that would give its employees a mission to get excited about and rally behind. The workforce is the best advocate, and it was hugely important to the management team that the staff could see the link between the two organizations, get involved and see the impact the company was making. Many companies write checks, but fail to educate the team about the philanthropic mission, making it difficult to generate enthusiasm and garner internal goodwill. Comtrade’s partnership with College Bound sends a message to its employees, and therefore builds a stronger company.
  2. How does the charitable partner’s mission and goals align with our own?
    College Bound’s mission is to engage gang members and encourage them to attend community college, and in so doing, move active gang influencers off the streets and into positive roles. Ultimately, by breaking apart gangs and reducing their effectiveness, the neighborhood improves. During the vetting process, Mark Culliton, CEO of College Bound, visited the Comtrade offices in Croatia to educate the company stakeholders about his organization. He spoke about adapting to change and dealing with challenges in extreme environments, a message that resonated with the leadership team. Similarly, Comtrade solves some of the most challenging situations in enterprise IT, and it does so by proactively addressing major potential problems within a complex IT environment.
  3. Can we make a real difference with this organization?
    Many companies select big name, recognizable charities because it builds instant credibility, but they miss out on the opportunity to work with a smaller organization where they can make a definitive impact as the partner scales. College Bound regularly provides its partner with impact metrics on a hyper-local level that are an accurate representation of Comtrade’s investment at work. Seeing exactly where corporate dollars are going and how they are making a difference empowers both organizations and employees alike.

About Simon Taylor:

Simon Taylor is senior vice president and general manager of System Software & Tools at Comtrade, where he is responsible for the overall vision, strategy and execution of products, the product development services business and the technology roadmap.

Bookish Nonprofit Founder Guides Team To Save Young Heart Patients In Haiti

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

This is the fifth and final post in a series from Haiti.

Owen Robinson made that connection with Haiti that so many I met here have when he was working for the Clinton Foundation in 2010. He got intimately engaged in coordinating earthquake relief on the ground, working closely with Partners in Health and other agencies. When it came time to return to his desk in the U.S., he realized he couldn’t do it.

Partners in Health created a position for him and he stayed in Haiti in a new capacity. One day while working at Partners in Health, he came encountered a girl, Samantha Cadet, who desperately needed heart surgery. She had a 5.5 centimeter hole in her heart called an atrial septal defect that impaired her general health, prevented her from growing at a healthy rate and threatened her life.

Samantha Cadet, patient one for Haiti Cardiac Alliance. Photo courtesy of Haiti Cardiac Alliance.

Samantha Cadet, patient one for Haiti Cardiac Alliance. Photo courtesy of Haiti Cardiac Alliance.

Moved by this, Robinson got on the internet, did a quick web search for the head of the Syracuse Children’s Hospital in his home town, found his email and sent him a note with a picture of the girl and photos of her medical charts. He caught David Smith on a train reading his email; he quickly agreed to have the procedure performed at his hospital at no charge.

Though Smith was later terminated in a scandal, Robinson will always remember him for his immediate, life-changing response. Robinson notes that not only did that response save Cadet, it gave him the false impression that finding someone in the states to perform these critical surgeries would be easy. Over the next year or so, he found about a dozen kids needing heart surgery and found opportunities for them to be treated, though none so easily as the first.

As the list of candidates grew outside the Partners in Health geography on the central plateau of Haiti, they and Robinson realized that this effort needed its own organization. So, he began the work of fundraising to create an organization that would organize his growing database tracking every child in Haiti with a heart problem and the Haiti Cardiac Alliance was born.

On Friday, I caught up with Robinson at St. Damien’s hospital in Port-au-Prince where he had organized a week of screenings and surgeries. It took hours of watching for me to appreciate that this quiet, bookish, white man from the United States with his laptop, cell phone and a local aid was really running the show. In the best tradition of Harvard, Robinson was reticent to admit that he had two degrees from the Ivy League school. He doesn’t need to boast or shout; he’s simply got the goods.

At least a dozen people were there to support, many with exuberant personalities and enthusiasm for the work. It was the magic in the laptop, however, that was the key. Robinson knew every child and had pre-screened them with local doctors so they could come in for a final screening with Dr. Peter Morelli, who is an Associate Professor at Columbia University.

Dr. Peter Morelli. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Dr. Peter Morelli. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Morelli took a short break for lunch and I had a chance to visit with him about his experiences in Haiti. This was his second visit doing echocardiograms to screen patients for surgery; his first trip was in 2008. He explained that the differences between 2008 and 2015 were not dramatic, but as he ticked them off, most of the improvement could be attributed to Robinson’s work.

He noted that this time, all of the patients had been better screened before his arrival. As before, he would see nearly 100 patients. This time, however, he felt confident that all who needed surgery would get it. On his prior visit, he saw 99 patients, about half of whom needed surgery. Although efforts were made, many had not received surgery when the quake hit 18 months later and they lost track of many of the patients as a result.

Morelli came to Haiti with an organization called Gift of Life International or GOLI, which grew out of an effort by Rotary Clubs around the world partnering to provide heart surgeries of the sort that Haiti Cardiac Alliance coordinates.

Rob Raylman, CEO of GOLI . Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Rob Raylman, CEO of GOLI . Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Rob Raylman, the CEO of GOLI travels about 300 days per year, accompanying the teams of volunteer doctors, nurses, surgeons, biomeds and Rotarians who volunteer to support them, was at St. Damien’s on Friday and he spent a few minutes with me describing their work and their history.

GOLI was born in 1975 when a Rotarian in Uganda reached out to a Rotarian in New York asking for emergency help in obtaining surgery for a little girl who had been mauled by a hyena. Robert Donno, the New York Rotarian, went to work. By the time he found help, the girl had already been helped by a Rotary Club in Australia, but the Ugandan said he had a little girl who needed heart surgery. Donno arranged it and the club began an annual tradition of bringing kids from Uganda to the U.S. for surgery, typically three or four per year.

The organization continues bringing children to the states for complicated surgeries, but also sends teams like the one I met, to developing countries around the world to perform surgeries there. With an annual budget of about $4.5 million, GOLI is helping about 1,000 children per year.

There have been two major inflection points along the way, explains Rotary volunteer George Solomon. In the early 1980s, GOLI identified two children in South Korea needing surgery. President and Nancy Reagan brought them to the U.S. on Air Force One. The media attention dramatically accelerated the growth of the organization.

The second inflection point was hiring Raylman, Solomon says. GOLI arranged 10,000 heart surgeries between 1975 and 2009. In the six years since, it has done another 9,000 he boasts. Solomon himself has made 32 trips as a Rotary volunteer helping with hundreds of cases in Haiti over the years, having just finished his tenure on the GOLI Board.

Rotary volunteer, George Solomon with Owen Robinson, founder of Haiti Cardiac Alliance. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Rotary volunteer, George Solomon with Owen Robinson, founder of Haiti Cardiac Alliance. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

The GOLI volunteer team includes a surgeon from France, Francoi Lacour-Gayet, who will perform two surgeries per day for six straight days at St. Damien’s. The team also includes nurses from Boston Children’s Hospital and from Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Dr. Morelli is also a part of the team. Solomon and Florence Marc-Charles, a Haitian American, both come as Rotary volunteers.

Marc-Charles related a painful story that helped illustrate her role as a volunteer. Though she is an RN, she doesn’t provide nursing support. She provides whatever help is necessary to support the children and their mothers. (Morelli screened nearly 20 children; none came with their fathers.) On one recent mission, the mother got some tragic news. Her child’s heart disease was too advanced and could not be repaired surgically; her child would soon pass away. The woman “lost it.” She left her child, ran screaming from the room and threatened to kill herself. Marc-Charles scrambled to calm her, to have someone care for the child and then to make arrangements for family to care for the mother until she could come to terms with the diagnosis. Marc-Charles followed up later and confirmed the mother had not harmed herself or her child.

Robinson’s Haiti Cardiac Alliance is tracking that child and every child it can find with heart disease, whether or not they are candidates for surgery or not. Some will never need surgery. Robinson will also track those who have had surgery, following up to ensure that they get all of the follow up care they need to prosper.

One of the special challenges for Robinson is the Coumadin program. Patients who receive mechanical heart valves require daily doses of the blood thinner. The dose, however, varies from time to time based on blood tests. All the patients on the program, there are a dozen now, must check their blood daily and report it to a nurse who guides them on tweaking their Coumadin dosing. Before the Haiti Cardiac Alliance was formed, doctors considered it unethical to give patients the mechanical heart valves, despite the fact that they are good for life but the pig valves used as an alternative may need to be replaced after ten years. The thinking was that poor patients in Haiti couldn’t be counted on to manage their Coumadin. Robinson has made it possible.

Robinson concedes, however, that he’s just getting the “tip of the iceberg,” explaining that he estimates that there are about 10 times as many kids who have heart disease as he’s tracking. He thinks he has about 95 percent of those who have been diagnosed by anyone in the country’s fragile healthcare system, but recognizes that most poor Haitians never encounter any healthcare. He remains focused on ensuring that no child diagnosed with heart disease is ever turned away. Whenever he hears of a case, he follows up with the provider who turned the child away to make clear that Haiti Cardiac Alliance is there to support them.

The Rotary Club de Port-au-Prince was also there to support the GOLI team. Several club members turned out, include Brigitte Hudicourt, an ophthalmologist. She explained that Akron Children’s hospital is another key partner, providing teams to do follow up care after the GOLI team leaves.

Solomon, a member of the Rotary Club of Freeport-Merrick, proudly gave me a tour of the temporary cardiac ICU set up to care for the kids following their surgeries. The Rotary Foundation funded the purchase of much of the required equipment for the hospital. He also pointed noted that GOLI gave his Rotary Club a reason to be in Haiti, but it isn’t the only work they do. In partnership the Port-au-Prince Club, they have done water projects, solar projects and school projects in some of the neediest places in the country. Because they work with the local club, they are genuinely building local capacity.

Everyone involved agreed that one of the key goals is to increase local capacity. There is not a single pediatric cardiologist in the country and no cardiac surgeons. Training a surgeon is a ten year process and no one sees that happening any time soon. Alexandra Noisette is a local pediatrician who has agreed to train to become a pediatric cardiologist. She sat with Dr. Morelli as he did his screenings. He noted that she seems fully capable of the rigors required, but added that she’ll need to spend several years in residency in the U.S. in order to acquire the necessary skills. Ultimately, having that capacity in Haiti will be a game changer.

Dr. Jacqueline Gautier, photo by Devin Thorpe.

Dr. Jacqueline Gautier, photo by Devin Thorpe.

St. Damien’s CEO, Jacqueline Gautier, said of her work with GOLI and Rotary, “It’s a wonderful partnership.” She went on to describe the U.S. training program that Rotary funded by the Rotary Foundation through its Vocational Training Teams (VTT) program. Designed to build capacity in Haiti, the VTT will train the pediatric intensive care team at St. Damiens, providing them with six weeks at Akron Children’s Hospital. The training will include pediatricians, biomed techs, pharmacists and nurses. As a bonus, two Haitian children were flown to Akron for treatment, enabling the Haitians to participate in the care, getting valuable hands-on training that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise as the Haitian team is not licensed to practice in the U.S.

One point of hope for building capacity is Thierry Jussome, a local medical school student who volunteers to support the effort driving and providing other help as needed. He’s even had the opportunity to assist in some surgeries. Jussome himself was a GOLI patient. He had an atrial septal defect himself and GOLI fixed it 11 years ago. He’s completed three years of medical school at Quisqueya University Medical School in Port-au-Prince.

Looking forward, Robinson notes that he hopes to facilitate 150 heart surgeries in 2016, up from 36 during the first year of operations and 72 during the second. Out of the nearly 100 surgeries performed so far, they’ve lost only three patients he says. Tragic as that is, he says it is in line with the mortality rate in the U.S., he says.

Robinson also noted that the partnership with Rotary seems apropos. In High School, he had the opportunity to participate in a Rotary Exchange student program that allowed him to spend a year in Argentina, where he learned his second of four languages, including Spanish, Portuguese and Haitian Creole.

As I reflect on my day with the team, I think perhaps Dr. Morelli put his finger on heart of the matter when he said, commenting on the work of caring for the Haitian children, “God asked us to help others of all kinds. Everyone is our brothers and sisters.”

To Optimize Impact, Follow Mother Teresa and ‘Start with the Person Nearest You’

Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you. ~Mother Teresa

As I sit on the plane reflecting on my trip to Haiti, one key lesson comes to mind. Yesterday, I visited St. Damien’s hospital in Port-au-Prince and met the founder of Haiti Cardiac Alliance, Owen Robinson, a truly incredible individual and also met Rob Raylman, the CEO of Gift of Life International.

The interesting thing about both organizations was the the parallel in their founding stories. Each began by helping one person, presented to someone for help. In the case of Owen, he was working in Haiti and was presented with a girl who needed a heart surgery. It would have been reasonable for him to say that it wasn’t his job to arrange for kids to travel to the U.S. for heart surgery, principally because it wasn’t his job. But he did. Having done it once, he did it again and before he knew it, he was doing it a lot. And Haiti Cardiac Alliance was born.

Samantha Cadet, Haiti Cardiac Alliance patient number one. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Samantha Cadet, Haiti Cardiac Alliance patient number one. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Gift of Life was born of a similar situation. Back in 1975, a Rotarian in Uganda reached out to Robby Donno, a Rotarian in New York asking for help treating a child who had been mauled by a hyena. When Robby called back, the girl was already on her way to Australia for treatment, but the Ugandan said he had another child, this one needing a heart surgery. Robby and his Rotary Club agreed to help that one and did. Then they helped several more. Before long, Gift of Life was formed. Today, they report having helped almost 20,000 kids from the developing world get life-saving surgeries.

The stories are so similar you probably got bored reading the second one thinking you’d heard the story before.

On Monday, I met the guys at Carbon Roots and wrote about their work, which finally began to take shape when they actually did what their customers asked for. While obviously not the same story, actually doing what is requested does seem like a close parallel to helping the one nearest you. They stopped pursuing their big plan (use charcoal as fertilizer) and started doing what locals had been asking them to do for a long time (make eco-friendly charcoal for cooking).

On Tuesday, I met with a young man, Jude Tranquille, who had launched an entrepreneurship camp for his peers in Haiti. He was helping some of those nearest to him.

On Wednesday, I met the folks at HELP. Their founding story is almost identical to Haiti Cardiac Care and Gift of Life. Conor Bohan, the founder of HELP, was teaching at a Catholic school in Haiti and was asked by one of the girls about to graduate for $30 to go to secretarial school. When he probed, he learned she really wanted to go to medical school but couldn’t afford it. He arranged for the money for her to go to Medical School and HELP was born.

On Thursday, I met the folks at EGI. Their founder, Steve Keppel, was trying to find a way to help the students at the same Catholic school mentioned  above and launched an training program for young entrepreneurs. Again, he started with the people right in front of him.

The lesson I learned in Haiti is that Mother Teresa was right. Starting with the nearest person doesn’t limit your potential for impact, it simply proves your model. Once you prove the model, rinse and repeat endlessly and there will be no end to your impact.

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