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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


This category includes stories about philanthropy, typically covering the generosity of individuals, families, groups of individuals and foundations (nonprofits primarily in the business of funding other nonprofits.

Social Entrepreneur’s 5 Insights On Corporate Volunteering–You Will Love Number 5

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Angela Parker, co-founder and President of Realized Worth, has built a profitable, $1 million revenue consulting practice helping companies like Apple, TD Bank, and even the UN with volunteering programs. She will share five guidelines for corporate volunteering below.

The firm designs custom volunteer programs for its clients and then works with them to implement them successfully.

Parker earned an MBA, but that may be where her typical corporate consulting background ends. She worked in a variety of social services efforts, including disaster relief, managing volunteers for nonprofits and helping at-risk kids, she says. While not the typical path for corporate work, it was perfect for the firm she launched with her business partner Chris Jarvis. Both she and Jarvis have written respected pieces on corporate volunteering and giving.

Parker approaches volunteering programs more as a corporate training function to develop leaders than as a corporate social responsibility program to meet those standards.

She builds the volunteer experiences based on “Transformative Learning Theory,” which, she says, “translates to an affect that empowered those employees to make decisions based on empathy and compassion.”

The theory was initially advanced in the seventies by Jack Mizirow and has been advanced since. The concepts are used to help adults learn and grow. Experiences such as volunteering are a key part of Parker’s implementation of these concepts.

Coming from her corporate experience, Parker provides the following five tips for volunteering as a “means to become a better version of you.”

  1. Don’t volunteer because you should – volunteer because you need to.
    There is a concept the Celtics refer to as “thin space.” This is a place – maybe a sweeping vista or a striking sunset, the moment you fall in love or the moment your child is born – where there seems to be a tear in the fabric of space and time. In that space, we become clear on what really matters and why we exists. Thin spaces are few and far between but they typically take place outside our comfort zones. Volunteering can be that space. Not all the time and not for every person, but without question, the greatest value of giving time for free to another person or cause is the affect it has on the giver. When we encounter thin space we can never go back. We are transformed. Volunteering is a safe, non-threatening space where we can open up to becoming better versions of ourselves.
  2. Posture yourself as ready to receive from the person you are serving. They are not objects to fix; they are your reminder of what it means to be human.
    The poor are not a problem to be solved. The marginalized are not an object through whom we might address our privileged guilt. When we posture ourselves as expectant to receive the gifts “the other” has to offer, we demonstrate respect for their equal value. And when we do, in fact, receive from them, we remember our own humanity. We remember that we are all inherently valuable and worthy of equal rights and respect. It is this humble posture that leads to greater impact through the practice of transformative volunteering.
  3. Make yourself vulnerable – meaning, open yourself up to attack.
    True humility requires vulnerability. It requires the assumption that others may know something or have something to offer that we need. The definition of vulnerability is “to open oneself up to attack.” When you volunteer, make the decision to be as open as you can. Maybe all that means for you is you’ll step back from the constant “doing” of volunteering and have a conversation with the beneficiaries of your work. Maybe all that means for you is you’ll stop and take a look around and consider “What am I experiencing right now? Is this what I expected?” Challenge the experience of volunteering to affect you in a way it never has before.
  4. For a real development opportunity, aim to connect with a people group or issue that makes you uncomfortable.
    If you’re ready, go beyond the volunteering that makes sense to you and look for a little bit of trauma. Trauma is a “deeply distressing or disturbing experience.” Obviously, you don’t want to put yourself in a position that is dangerous or beyond what you can handle, but if you’ve always volunteered at the food bank, try volunteering directly with men and women who live on the street. If you’ve always volunteered in the US, try volunteering overseas (although be cautious about “voluntourism”). The point is, do something that makes you a little it afraid. Challenge your prejudices. Make sense of something that has no place in your experience of life so far.
  5. Go easy.
    Having said all that, volunteering can be a strange thing. Sometimes the feeling that you “should” volunteer induces guilt because you just can’t make the time at this stage of life. Sometimes the requests at work to be part of corporate volunteering initiatives feel like too much on top of personal and professional responsibilities. And sometimes you’re just trying to make it at all and “giving” to someone else feels absurd. That’s okay. Go easy on yourself. We’re all just trying to become a little bit better than the generations before us – and maybe, for once, leave an earth behind filled with greater compassion, more empathy, and less violence. We are not each responsible to change the world; we are only responsible to do that one tiny thing within our reach. Just do that one tiny thing – whatever that means for you. The rest will follow.

On Thursday, August 11, 2016 at 11:00 AM Eastern, Parker will join me here for a live discussion about her five insights into volunteering. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.


When Boundless Optimism Meets Medtech Anything Seems Possible

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Howard Leonhardt is the co-inventor of the TALENT stent acquired by Medtronic and used to treat over 200,000 patients. With boundless optimism, 20 patents issued and more pending, he has launched Leonhardt Ventures to form and incubate dozens of companies intended to collectively extend human life expectancy by 30 years. [While I have no business relationship with Leonhardt at present, he has invited me to join his advisory board.]

Most of the technologies in the portfolio are at the intersection of electrical stimulation and stem cells. Jeremy Koff, an entrepreneur with a deep background in medical devices himself has signed on as an advisor to Leonhardt’s California Stock Exchange, an early stage effort at creating a stock market for socially conscious companies.

Koff calls Leonhardt’s work “pioneering.” The two became acquainted over the music scene Koff helped to create, but bonded over medical devices when Koff learned that Leonhardt was inspired for the former’s uncle Alfred Mann, a giant in the medical device industry.

Koff notes that Leonhardt is “combining two approaches that haven’t been combined before.” He adds, “Using electrical stimulation with stem cells is quite a novel approach.”

When I asked what Leonhard would ultimately need to do to be successful, Koff harked back to his uncle, explaining that Mann needed twenty years and $100 million to develop Second Sight, which won approval for the first artificial retina in 2013. In other words, Leonhardt needs time and money to bring his advanced technologies to market.

Leonhardt’s business model is to build small companies until they are commercially viable and then to sell them to strategic buyers. He’s hoping to reprise his success with the TALENT Stent over and over again, each time retaining a small piece of future revenues.

Leonhardt says the business is profitable with an 88 percent gross margin. It isn’t clear how much of that is realized in cash, however, as much seems to be tied to increasing the valuations of portfolio companies. He claims to have grown the value of his companies from $3 million in 2013 to $224 million this year.

Asked what makes him a social entrepreneur, he responded, “Both what we do and how we do it. We potentially are on a path to save more lives than any other firm before. We have a goal to extend life by 30 years for all people and to reduce aging by 30 years, making 80 the new 50.”

Additionally, he says, “We treat our employees, communities, suppliers, customers and investors with respect and genuine care.”

With his enterprises, Leonhardt is hoping to solve or at least address three independent problems.

First, he’s working to help people live longer, healthier lives. He notes, “Drugs and current devices are often toxic. Our products regenerate organs and whole bodies with natural stem cells driven by bioelectric energy signals.”

He sees problems with the current stock market, failing to “support the good investment potential of firms that have a sense of purpose in their work and that treat their communities well.”

Leonhardt describes the core technology underlying his medtech ventures. “We have invented the first programmable bioelectric regeneration stimulator and stem cell micro pump. Our stimulator causes cells and tissues to release 10 key regeneration promoting proteins including SDF-1 a stem cell homing signal.”

The applications of the technology are as wide ranging as his optimism, including heart, pancreas and kidney regeneration, along with eye and ear regeneration. He’s also working on brain regeneration technologies to treat stroke, concussion, Parkinson’s and Alzheimers, among other brain injuries and illnesses. There are also cosmetic applications in the portfolio.

While Leonhardt has set aggressive time goals for moving the technologies toward commercialization, he agrees with Koff’s assessment that he needs capital. That is top on his list of challenges he faces. He adds “managing team members spread across the globe,” “getting our message heard,” and “convincing people to believe in totally new, innovative concepts” as top challenges for the medtech side of the business. For his socially conscious stock market, he worries about the “daunting financial SEC regulations.”

Leonhardt admits that the combination of the ”10 regeneration proteins” stimulated by the regeneration stimulator and the ”15 component regeneration compositions to be delivered by our micro infusion pump are untested in combination.” He sees this as a next step for the development of the technologies.

Leonhardt created a portfolio of socially responsible companies to serve as a model for the California Stock Exchange. Results were not what he’d hoped. “The Cal-X 30 Social Good Impact fund is performing slightly under the Dow 30 due to a heavy weight on biotech. We need to correct this.”

With his optimism in full bloom, Leonhard says the success of his work can lead to extending the life of “most humans by 30 years and will reverse aging 30 years. We will save 5 billion lives.”

Of his efforts with the stock market, he says, it “may lead the way in making ‘doing well by doing good’ the norm rather than the exception.”

On Thursday, August 11, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Leonhard will join me here for a live discussion about his work to extend and improve life even as he works to create a market for companies with a conscience. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

1.1 Million Refugees Arrive In Germany; This Entrepreneur Goes To Work

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Anne Kjaer Riechert, a young, Danish entrepreneur living in Germany saw the flood of refugees arriving in 2015 and did something about it. [Unrelated to this story, I have written about polio eradication for the Rotarian magazine.]

Riechert, a past Rotary Peace Fellow, moved to Berlin in 2012 to set up the Berlin Peace Innovation Lab in collaboration with Stanford University. When she observed what ultimately became 1.1 million asylum seekers, mostly from Syria, she saw an opportunity. ”Currently, there are 43,000 open jobs in IT in Germany,” she says.

John Hewko, general secretary of Rotary International, who spent much of his career in Europe, commenting on the refugee situation there, says, “If we don’t act now to build the conditions for sustainable peace, then the likelihood of events that undermine it, such as profound social instability, a lack of integration of migrant populations into their new host countries, and failures of national governance will only increase.”

So, she created a coding school called ReDI School of Digital Integration to train refugees to fill some of those jobs. Partnering with German companies, including Daimler AG, she is providing training in coding languages “like Ruby on Rails, CSS, HTML, Python” along with “skills like entrepreneurship and business intelligence,” she says.

Michael Vormittag, Retail Digitalization at Daimler AG, says, “I am convinced of the great work ReDI is doing. That’s why we work together. I think that a cooperation like ours is highly beneficial for both sides.”

“On one hand we provide the refugees with industry-insights and work-experience which will support their future professional career. On the other hand they are highly motivated and offer new perspectives with their diverse background and fresh ideas. I believe that this diversity drives innovation and with the integrated working-approach real integration can be achieved,” he says.

The nonprofit school raises money any way it can, through partnerships with companies, who, like Daimler, may provide help in several ways, including providing mentors and trainers and sponsorships for the school. Reichert says they have also used crowdfunding. “In the future we hope to also add funding from foundations and public funding,” she adds.

Anne Riechert, photo by Loulou d’Aki

Anne Riechert, photo by Loulou d’Aki

The operations are just six months old. The school has two co-founders, five part-time employees and 40+ volunteers. The school has enrolled 42 students in the first cohort, 35 of whom graduated. Another 60 were enrolled in 10 summer school courses and another series will begin in October.

Reichert says she hopes to expand to two or three more cities in Germany in 2017.

The students, she says, are mostly from Syria and many are in their early twenties, having completed a year or two of college before being forced from their homes.

Completing the trip from Syria to Germany proves they are “resourceful in body, mind and soul,” she says of the struggle. Once they arrive, they often wait 12 to 16 months to get permanent papers allowing them to work. She sees an opportunity to use that time for productive training so that they not only learn some skills but connect with people as well.

The education is transferable. “IT is also a skill you can use anywhere on the globe,” she says. Hence, she equips the participating refugees for success, even if they aren’t ultimately allowed to stay.

The courses, typically taught three times per week for a total of eight hours, use a project approach intended to benefit more than just the students themselves. “The classes are all project based learning, meaning that the students are working to build their own projects as part of the class. One group is, for instance, building a web-based app called ‘Bureaucrazy’ to help newcomers in Germany better navigate the bureaucratic paperwork. Another group built a website and started a catering service where illiterate Syrian women cook for company events.”

She adds, “All our classes happen Face-to-Face, because we believe getting a job in Germany is ’50% what you know’ and ’50% who you know.’”

Anne Riechert on stage at TEDx, courtesy of ReDI School of Digital Integration

Anne Riechert on stage at TEDx, courtesy of ReDI School of Digital Integration

The scale of the problem with millions of refugees in Europe is daunting. “We would like to expand into other parts of Germany and Europe to be able to provide many more asylum seekers the opportunity to take part in our classes. In order to expand, we need to find the right local partners–refugee homes, companies and volunteers–and to secure enough funding for us to be able to coordinate all the volunteers and partners,” she says.

It is clear the realities she faces weigh on her. “Applying for funding takes a lot of time, and since we are a small team that has to coordinate 100+ students and volunteers and secure a high quality delivery of content, it is hard to find the time to sit down and write grant proposals. As a relatively new organization, we are also still young and untested in comparison to other players helping refugees.”

“But I hope our agile processes, innovative approach, speed and quality of delivery will attract the right kind of partners,” with characteristic entrepreneurial optimism.

Riechert has a four-point vision of the future:

  1. On a individual level I hope to help as many asylum seekers as possible get well settled in to their new host countries and ensure that they get a good job and through that can become financially independent.
  2. On a national level I hope that our students can be role models to inspire other asylum seekers to pursue education and good careers.
  3. On a global level I hope that our students can help build technical solutions that will help all the refugees that are stuck in UNCHR camps or live as illegal refugees.
  4. On a political level I hope that we can change the way people look upon refugees – from somebody to be afraid of – into someone to welcome with open arms, interest and compassion.

Hewko says, “Anne’s efforts to integrate refugees into the European tech economy is an example of how Rotary Peace Fellows and Rotary members are striving to create sustainable peace throughout the world.”

On Thursday, August 11, 2016 at noon Eastern, Riechert will join me here for a live discussion about her work in Germany to educated and welcome refugees into the European economy. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Work, Play, Give

This is a guest post from Rebecca Morgan, CSP, CMC

For many of us, our heart is tugged when we hear of impoverished people’s plight. We send money to organizations helping these folks and it relieves our concern somewhat.

Yet some of us decide to do more. We’re drawn to go to the country to visit the organizations and their constituents to see how we can help.

Such is the case with the non-profit on whose board I serve, Together We Can Change the World ( Begun in 2010 by two professional speakers, Scott Friedman and Jana Stanfield, TWCCTW focuses on seven Southeast Asian countries. Scott and Jana invited other globally based colleagues to join their visits.

Twice a year we visit some of our projects in Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. We work with groups focused on assisting women and children in improving their education and health.

In Siem Reap, Cambodia, we focus on the Future for Khmer Children (FKC) ( This privately operated school provides approximately 235 impoverished children from the surrounding local villages with education to augment what which they receive in the local government schools. FKC focuses on language skills, math, computer technology, music, and employable job skills including sewing.

TWCCTW funded the newly constructed Art Berg Technology Center and recently built a second state-of-the-art technology classroom and is funding an advanced computer instructor. Autodesk sponsored one of their US-based instructors to train the instructor and advanced students so they can start a social business by selling their services to local businesses.

Additionally, we fund wells in the villages where the FKC students live. If the families don’t have a well, they have to buy and transport water for bathing, cooking and drinking. For $400, we can fund a well that serves 1-4 families. This enables them not only to have clean water steps from their home, but they can grow a garden and have chickens to augment their meals. Some sell extra eggs and vegetables to supplement their income. With each well, we provide a water filter and an Iron Fish which the villager uses when boiling water to combat anemia, thus giving them more energy and better quality life.

TWCCTW is different in that we don’t only visit and support projects. We also bring our unique skills and talents to the area. Since the majority of our travelers are professional speakers, trainers, consultants and authors, we produce a public seminar in the major cities we visit. We all speak for no compensation. The proceeds go to the projects we serve in that country. We also provide speeches and seminars for sponsor hotels – they get a word-class presenter for their staff and/or customers, we get our lodging covered in that city. The hotel staff can also accompany us on our project visits and stay involved in between our visits.

In addition to our travelers paying their own airfare and expenses, they are required to raise $1500 in donations which goes to the groups we serve.

Why do we do it? Why take two weeks from busy schedules, plus raise funds and pay one’s own expenses?

Because we want to give back at a higher level –- contributing our professional gifts. While most of us are involved in charity work in our own countries, the experiences we have with the groups we serve are like no other. We see how the people live. We see how the kids are educated. We see their struggles that aren’t a concern at home. We appreciate their appreciation for our contributions. We play with the kids. We laugh. We sing. We dance.

In fact, I’ve had to relearn childhood activities I hadn’t thought about in decades. On my first trip, Scott led a group of kids in a rousing rendition of Hokey Pokey. On our next stop, we were at a large school and each of our volunteers was assigned a different classroom to play with the kids. Upon entering the classroom of 50 First Graders, I realized I had no idea how to lead the Hokey Pokey. I thought I would always be a follower so didn’t pay that close attention to what Scott did. Luckily, even though the kids didn’t speak any English, they figured out what I was trying to do and we had a great time.

I have many, many touching stories of the kids, their parents, the teachers and school leaders. The business people who come to our public workshops have shared wise insights. The hotel staff go out of their way to give us experiences we cherish – including going to a Cambodian wedding, a private dinner with the hotel management on the beach, an in-room foot massage at check in, and cookies customized with each of our book covers.

But sometimes the most memorable experiences are hearing the stories of the women and children at the group homes or schools. There are the three little girls, age 6-9, rescued after their fathers sold them as house girls. They now live in a loving group home where the 70 teenaged girls have taught them enough they can go to school.

Or the battered women’s shelter where abused pregnant women and new mothers escape being beaten by their partners. They can live there with their children for up to two years and receive free childcare while they go to school to learn to be economically independent.

Or the HIV center which cares for those infected, gives them jobs, and in-patient medical care for those too sick to work.

We’ve been fortunate to connect groups that can benefit from each other. We introduced an anti-trafficking group in Laos to a caring organization in Northern Thailand so now women and children who escape trafficking have a safe house until their passports and papers are reinstated, enabling them to then go home.

I call these trips my Work, Play, Give adventures. The lesson is you can contribute to others’ live with a simple click of a donate button or by giving two weeks of your best self. You’ll probably discover, as I have, that you get back more than you give.

About Rebecca Morgan:

Rebecca Morgan, CSP, CMC, specializes in creating innovative solutions for workplace effectiveness challenges. She’s appeared on 60 Minutes, Oprah, the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and USA Today. Rebecca is the bestselling author of 26 books. For information on her services, books, and resources:

Place-based Education, Entrepreneurship and Investing for an “Impact Economy”

This is a guest post from Laurie Lane-Zucker, the Founder and CEO of the Impact Entrepreneur.

A little over twenty years ago, Dr. John Elder and I coined the term “place-based education” to give a name to the pedagogical model we were developing at The Orion Society with funding from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

In my introduction to the Orion book, Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities (Sobel, 2004), I frame place-based education in these terms:

“In an increasingly globalized world, there are often pressures for communities and regions to subordinate themselves to the dominant economic models and to devalue their local cultural identity, traditions and history in preference to a flashily marketed homogeneity. Furthermore, at a time when industrial pollution, biodiversity/habitat loss, and aquifer depletion are becoming widespread and acute, such pressures often exacerbate the problems by encouraging unsustainable patterns of consumption and land use, and by weakening familial and community relationships that are deeply tied to the local environment. A process of disintegration occurs as basic connections to the land fray and communities become less resilient and less able to deal with the dislocations that globalization and ecological deterioration bring about. A community’s health — human and more-than-human — suffers.

“Author, farmer and conservationist Wendell Berry describes disconnections that are now familiar to many of us.

We are involved now in a profound failure of imagination. Most of us cannot imagine the wheat beyond the bread, or the farmer beyond the wheat, or the farm beyond the farmer, or the history beyond the farm. Most people cannot imagine the forest and the forest economy that produced their houses and furniture and paper; or the landscapes, the streams and the weather that fill their pitchers and bathtubs and swimming pools with water. Most people appear to assume that when they have paid their money for these things they have entirely met their obligations.

“The path to a sustainable existence must start with a fundamental reimagining of the ethical, economic, political and spiritual foundations upon which society is based, and that this process needs to occur within the context of a deep local knowledge of place. The solutions to many of our ecological problems lie in an approach that celebrates, empowers and nurtures the cultural, artistic, historical and spiritual resources of each local community and region, and champions their ability to bring those resources to bear on the healing of nature and community.

“Schools and other educational institutions can and should play a central role in this process, but for the most part they do not. Indeed, they have often contributed to the problem by educating young people to be, in David Orr’s words, ‘mobile, rootless and autistic toward their places.’ A significant transformation of education might begin with the effort to learn how events and processes close to home relate to regional, national, and global forces and events, leading to a new understanding of ecological stewardship and community. This, I believe, supports the propagation of an enlightened localism — a local/global dialectic that is sensitive to broader ecological and social relationships at the same time as it strengthens and deepens peoples sense of community and land.

“Place-based education might be characterized as the pedagogy of community, the reintegration of the individual into her homeground and the restoration of the essential links between a person and her place. Place-based education challenges the meaning of education by asking seemingly simple questions: Where am I? What is the nature of this place? What sustains this community? It often employs a process of re-storying, whereby students are asked to respond creatively to stories of their homeground so that, in time, they are able to position themselves, imaginatively and actually, within the continuum of nature and culture in that place. The become part of the community, rather than a passive observer of it.”

A couple years after I wrote these words about place-based education, I became immersed in the newly launched B Corporation and impact investing worlds, as the founder of one of the first, “founding” B Corps and the recipient of some of the first (and, in the case of Mission Markets, the first) impact investments under that new blended value, triple bottom line rubric.

A few years after that, I coined the term “impact entrepreneur” and established a LinkedIn group and, more recently, a consulting company by that name. The virtual global network, now with 12,000 members in 200 countries, has been anything but “place-based”. At least until now. Over the last six months, I and three other (thankfully quite brilliant)team members have been working on plans for a new Impact Entrepreneur Center and replicable model for “place-based economic development.” While inspired by the growing impact entrepreneurship and impact investing movement, it also shares many of the same motivations and principals of place-based education. Here is how we describe this new model in our just-completed Business Plan:

“As the impact (entrepreneurship and investing) movement has risen and begun to coalesce, the ground has become fertile for the next great shift forward. This shift will require the fusion of conscious consumerism, impact investing, social entrepreneurship, new legal frameworks and financial tools, expanded entrepreneurship education, cross-sector collaboration, and the incubation and acceleration of impact enterprises, region by region. Place-based economic development of this kind will both trigger and integrate the creation of positive economic, social and environmental value coincident with the launch, acceleration and development of impact enterprises. The Impact Entrepreneur Center will be one of the world’s first large-scale attempts at this integration, and will help define what an “impact economy” could be and how it might function.”

We believe that in a world of growing social inequities and severe ecological distress, the development of regional, place- based impact economies fueled by triple bottom line contextual thinking and social and environmental innovation will provide the most sensible and practical path toward creating a resilient and prosperous future for local communities as well as global humanity.

Our place-based, impact economymodel, which will be designed to be replicable in other regions around the United States and the world, will be incubated in our home region of Berkshire County, Massachusetts. The IEC, according to our business strategy, “plans to lay the groundwork for the concept of an impact economy in the Berkshires by gathering data and cultivating the thought leadership on this concept; designing, developing and delivering curricula for middle school students to adults (think Place-based Education 2.0) that will enhance the understanding of impact economies and provide technology and tools to grow impact enterprises in Berkshire County (and beyond); and recruiting, retaining and scaling regional enterprises that intend to grow using the triple bottom line approach to business development.”

Place-based education, entrepreneurship and investing is the next wave of the impact movement. The Impact Entrepreneur Center is committed to making that wave tidal and universal.

Laurie Lane-Zucker

Laurie Lane-Zucker

About Laurie Lane-Zucker:

Twitter: @laurieLZ

Laurie Lane-Zucker is Founder and CEO of the Impact Entrepreneur, a global network of entrepreneurs, investors, scholars and students of social and environmental innovation; a consulting company (LLC) that works “between the seams” of the network; and the newly launched nonprofit Impact Entrepreneur Center for Social and Environmental Innovation.

The Untold Facts Of Volunteering For Street Children In India

This is a guest post from Dronacharya Dave.

Before we begin unfolding the facts about volunteering for street children in India, let’s talk a little about volunteering abroad as a whole (for those who aren’t aware of it). In the last over a decade or so, the popularity of volunteering abroad during a gap year has shot up immensely. College and high school students, especially, are inclined towards such volunteers, to get international hands on experience and exposing to a different culture. And there are several volunteer organizations who help and provide placements to interested volunteers under the desired project.

The majority of these volunteer trips are offered in underdeveloped and developing countries. India, on the other hand, is one of the most popular volunteering destination abroad.

After speaking to several past volunteers to India and volunteer organizations providing placements in India, it was clear that it is the street children volunteer program in India that is most popular.

And, below are some of the major, common, factors that corroborate this claim;

It Shows You A Different Shade of Yourself

For many volunteers, this was more than just a plain simple volunteer trip. It was an eye opener for them. Doing volunteer work with children is no less than a challenge, and those who doubted their capabilities, soon realized how much they had it in them. Discovering the strength in keeping patient, helping others in need, adjusting with situations and resources; all this was a new shade of themselves.

It Makes You Retrospect Your Own Life Issues

The street children volunteer program is dedicated for the welfare and development of underprivileged kids. These children come from poor family backgrounds who, either, are orphans or have been left alone on streets to beg, as their parents couldn’t afford their upbringing. The mental and physical struggle that these children may have gone through, before getting to these shelter homes, is way beyond the problems we thought were the biggest of our lives. I mean, not having sleepers to wear in scorching heat is certainly a greater issue than not getting extra mayo with your cheese burger.

It Redefines The Word “Happiness” For You

And yet, these children seems to be the happiest lot amongst all. Despite the pains, the loses, the struggle they had to face, these kids manage to find joy in life. While doing volunteer work in India, volunteers get to spend a significant amount of time with the children at the placement. It gives them the opportunity to not just interact with the kids on a personal level, but also get to understand their story and learn a lot from them; especially, how to be happy even when life is not being fair to you.

It Changes Your Perception Towards The World

There is no denial to the fact that traveling is one of the most effective ways to learn something new and get rejuvenated. However, there are several different kinds of traveling, each giving a different perspective of this world. There is adventure travel that shows the daring side of the world, there is leisure travel that shows the luxuries of the world, there is holiday travel that shows you different culture and traditions in the world, and so on. Volunteer travel, on the other hand, is one way of traveling abroad that shows you all the elements of other travel types under one umbrella. Add local living to that, and it change the entire scenario altogether. The way you use to look at the world changes a lot. Something that may not be explained in words but can only be experienced.

It Introduces You To The Real India

Saving the best for the last you would say; indeed! The incredible country of India has been on the top of the bucket list of a number of travelers from across the globe. Those who’ve had the opportunity to visit this land of culture and traditions, couldn’t get enough of it in one visit. And, those who still have it in their ‘to-do’ list, can’t wait to actually see the things they’ve only been listening thus far. Volunteering for street children in India lets you, not only witness but, live a typical Indian lifestyle. Visiting the narrow lanes of old city areas, living in a local host family accommodation, learning to cook typical Indian food using typical Indian spices, etc. India is a lot more than just the Taj Mahal. Do it, to believe it.

Keeping apprehensions about something without experiencing or even taking a chance to try experience it, is nothing but falling prey to someone else’s perceptions; i count myself in that as well. So, it is only when you volunteer for street children in India yourself that you’ll understand the importance of it.


About Dronacharya Dave:

Dronacharya holds a bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering and has industry experience of more than fours years. Started with IT firm, he is now an ardent traveler and volunteer, and likes to share his travel experiences with the world. He writes for several travel and news, and volunteering websites. You can find latest updates, facts, and everything related to volunteering abroad in his articles.

Entrepreneur Mends Communities To Reduce Violence

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Colleen Copple, a social entrepreneur from what was once a gang-threatened neighborhood in Salt Lake City, is threading the needle between people that fear the police and the cops who protect them. She has created a business mending communities to reduce violence of all kinds.

Copple is the C0-Founder of Strategic Applications International or SAI as well as of Servant Forge, a nonprofit that provides similar services in Africa. SAI tackles “society’s greatest challenges through comprehensive systems change that mobilizes communities” to address problems like crime, violence, substance abuse, human trafficking, poverty, racism, gender-based violence, and other related issues.

In about 1990, Copple was living in the Glendale neighborhood of Salt Lake City when a sudden rash of gang violence erupted, related to closure of one of the city’s four high schools. Drive-by shootings increased from 1 to 200 from one year to the next.

Copple, still in her twenties, was serving on the local school board and felt responsible to do something about the crime in her neighborhood. She organized the community, worked with the police and helped to restore peace to her neighborhood.

With her husband, James Copple, she launched SAI in 2004, after serving with the National Crime Prevention Council to replicate her Salt Lake success across the country.

Today, SAI generates $1 million annually and generates a gross profit of $250,000, she says. The firm generates its revenue with two models, first, providing services to clients who pay to develop greater capacity to deal with crime, violence and other social issues. Separately, the firm tackles other problems independently using grant funding from the Department of Justice or Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration.

Copple sees herself as a social entrepreneur. “We definitely see ourselves as a social enterprise, but this is where we tend to cross over with our non-profit arm as well. Servant Forge (501 (c) (3) is the umbrella for a lot of our pro-bono and humanitarian work, especially in Africa.”

“We are mission driven,” she continues. “We tend to price ourselves below market because many of our clients are starting from a position of need, they are trying to solve a social issue and we are seeking to build their funding base and capacity to reach their full potential. We teach communities and clients how to organize, mobilize, map, and tackle tough problems. How to be servant leaders with vision, skills and capacity to make a measurable difference in the world. We measure our success by how much we or our clients impact an issue, a community, or a problem.”

Recently, SAI served as the logistical and technical assistance provider for President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which issued its report in May of 2015. Its findings and recommendations are more relevant than ever given the recent events including mass shootings of both civilians and law enforcement officers.

Laurie Robinson, Co-Chair of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, praised SAI’s work. She noted that, “The Task Force–in the aftermath of the events in Ferguson, Missouri–was operating on a very short timeline to develop recommendations for the White House.” There was a lot of work to do with a task force of 11 people who didn’t know one another. “But SAI easily rose to that challenge, handling the logistics with skill, grace, efficiency and good humor.”

Colleen Copple, courtesy of Strategic Applications International

Colleen Copple, courtesy of Strategic Applications International

Copple sees the problems of gun violence both from the perspective of the community and from the vantage point of law enforcement. She highlights mental illness as one of the big factors driving the sort of mass shootings and violence against police officers seen recently; she attributed both of the recent police mass shootings to mental health issues.

She noted that virtually everyone agrees that more should be done to help the mentally ill, but Congress has funded any new programs. Even then, she notes, it is extremely difficult to screen for mental health issues that should prevent someone from owning a gun.

She said that blacks are about three times more likely to be killed by the police than whites, but attributed this to “implicit bias, not overt bias.”

Copple is proud that the President’s Report she helped guide, was issued with “100 percent consensus” among a broad group of participants. The participants included law enforcement, community leaders and academics and they solicited input from a wide range of sources, she says.

The key theme of the report is the idea of community policing. She says, it is important to create “a guardian mentality versus a warrior mentality” among law enforcement. She wants police officers to “see themselves in a higher role.”

In Salt Lake City, Detective Dennis McGowan of the Public Relations Unit, agrees. “We can’t do our jobs without the community. We are part of the community.” He went on to explain that the Police Department has formed committees that give direct access to the Police Chief to community members, including activists who don’t agree with police tactics.

The challenge there is that there are 750,000 law enforcement officers in the country in 18,000 agencies. A lot of training and retraining will be required.

SAI is working to address global issues. Copple recognizes that SAI’s small scale limits their ability to drive change, but by working with the Justice Department, the US Conference of Mayors and with Black Lives Matter, they are able to extend their natural reach dramatically.

Copple says that community policing tactics can reduce crime by up to 80 percent. “Dialog, communication and relationships, especially with he most vulnerable, least likely to feel they have good relationships with law enforcement,” are key to her vision for the future.

Copple has come a long way from her days in working to resolve crime in her own neighborhood 25 years ago to have impact on crime and policing not only across the country but internationally as well.

On Thursday, July 21, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Copple will join me here for a live discussion from where she is working in Nairobi, Kenya to talk about her journey as a social entrepreneur and her work to reduce violence.

Is Impact Investing A Solution To Global Problems?

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

“Some of the world’s most intractable social and environmental problems are in need of new solutions. From climate change to resource scarcity to exploding global population growth, the traditional levers of change, including philanthropy and government aid, are insufficient to address the critical issues of our time,” says Fran Seegull.

Seegull, Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director for ImpactAssets, says impact investing may be the key to solving global problems. Impact investing is the practice of investing funds for both a financial return and social impact.

ImpactAssets is a nonprofit financial services firm that earns fees from managing donor advised funds and other investment products. It also receives grant support, largely to help with its advocacy work for the field of impact investing. The nonprofit has $292 million under management and has 17 employees. It was originally founded under the wings of the Calvert Foundation.

Seegull, who earned an MBA at Harvard, describes herself as an entrepreneur. “We see ourselves as impact entrepreneurs at ImpactAssets. ImpactAssets is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the flow of capital to impact investing through innovative product development and field building. I consider myself to be an impact entrepreneur. I have devoted my entire career to creating impact from philanthropy to venture capital to impact investing.”

As a social entrepreneur, Seegull observes that those most affected by climate change, population growth and resource scarcity are the world’s poor. She points out that the world population of 7.3 billion is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050. Three billion now live on less than $2.50 per day and 80 percent of the world’s population live on less than $10 per day. Furthermore, she notes, 805 million people don’t have enough food to eat and three-quarters of a billion lack access to clean drinking water.

She says that impact investing may be the solution. “By harnessing the power of capital markets and focusing on maximizing stakeholder value (not just shareholder value), impact investing addresses the systemic challenges of poverty, income inequality and climate change.”

“Our goal is to ‘scale-up’ and ‘democratize’ impact investing,” she says.

Working toward that goal, ImpactAssets offers impact investments with lower minimums. For instance, Seegull says, “The Giving Fund – an innovative donor advised fund – features an impact investment platform of public and private debt and equity.”

Even more novel are the “Impact Investment Notes” that provide ordinary investors the opportunity to invest in microfinance and global sustainable agriculture through ImpactAssets.

Ron Cordes, co-founder of ImpactAssets, says the nonprofit is “leading the democratization of impact investing” with the Impact Investment Notes.

In the effort to foster growth in the field of impact investing, ImpactAssets publishes issue briefs, authored by Jed Emerson and other impact investing leaders, on a range of impact topics from portfolio construction to trends among women and millennials.

In addition, ImpactAssets offers an imprimatur to fund managers in the space. “The IA50 is the industry’s first open-source database of impact investing fund managers. It is the equivalent of the ‘Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval’ for impact investors,” Seegull says.

Interest in and activity around the impact investing space has increased since the White House convening on impact investing in 2014. Challenges to growth remain, however.

Fran Seegull, courtesy of Impact Assets

Fran Seegull, courtesy of Impact Assets

Seegull sees two particular challenges that ImpactAssets is working to overcome. The first is engagement with financial intermediaries. While most are now comfortable with ESG concepts, environmental, social and governance considerations, far fewer are ready to engage in “deep impact” investing, she says. “The next step: Facilitate deep impact investing – smaller private debt and equity funds – on mainstream platforms without compromising due diligence.”

More broadly, she sees a need to establish a new business model for deep impact investing. “Creating impact deal platforms and groups that syndicate investment in individual deals and funds could make deep impact more efficient and accessible.”

Jennifer Kenning, Managing Director of Align: Your Impact Partner, a financial advisory firm that works with ImpactAssets, suggest that “ they need to have enough assets under management to be able to hire the right talent and retain them with a strong emphasis on investment markets.” She adds, that “they need to take the platform and evolve it to 2.0 and enhance it for the significant growth in the space across all asset classes.”

Seth Goldman, founder of Honest Tea, which sold to Coca-Cola in 2008, is a client of ImpactAssets. He notes, “I’d love to see more investors join the fold. I can’t imagine why mission-driven entrepreneurs wouldn’t want to see more ripples flow from any impact they’ve been able to make.”

One of the limitations to expanding impact investing, Seegull notes, is “the perceived tradeoffs between financial and impact returns.” She also notes the difficulty of getting the water to the end of the row, that is the challenge with getting impact investment products all the way to individual investors via intermediaries.

Kenning sums up the ImpactAssets progress, saying, “I think the work has been significant to the forward movement of the impact space in that they have provided education resources to train clients and advisors, they have aggregated almost $300 million in assets for good, provided a platform that allows investors to get gain access to investment vehicles at lower minimums and an easy access point to deploy their capital within those investments. Lastly, they have democratized access by creating the impact notes that they launched earlier this year which allows investors to invest at a significantly lower level of $25,000.”

Goldman adds, “It’s a wonderful way for us to be able to donate and invest in organizations we believe in. I have always believed that powerful change can come from for-profits and non-profits, so it’s ideal to have a vehicle that lets us invest in a way that is neutral in terms of tax consequences. If we see someone building an organization we believe in, we can deploy money from ImpactAssets.”

“It’s been especially fun to see our investments in mission-driven enterprises, such as Happy Baby organic baby food help support two visionary entrepreneurs, and then when that company sold to Danone , see the proceeds go right back into our Impact Assets fund,” Goldman concluded.

Seegull says, “Our success broadens and accelerates investment capital to deep-impact investments that make measurable social and environmental impact as well as financial returns.”

She concludes with a challenge to herself and others in the space to continue working, “We’ve seen success through our product innovation and education in bringing greater flows of capital to impact investing but more needs to be done.”

On Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Seegull will join me here for a live discussion about impact investing and ImpactAssets work to expand the space. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Man Blinded by Disease Devotes 45 Years to Its Cure

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Gordon Gund was blinded by retinitis pigmentosa in 1970 at the age of 31. He has spent the 45 years since working to defeat that disease, to prevent related blindness and even to restore sight to the blind. Over $700 million later, he now hopes that “within a generation we will be able to eradicate blindness caused by retinal disease!”

In 2013, I first connected with Gordon for a Forbes piece that included a live interview we conducted then.

It is hard to imagine how one copes with the complete loss of one’s vision. Gordon partnered with his wife. He says, “After coming to terms with how our lives would be altered by the disease, my wife and I committed ourselves to a comprehensive research effort that would make something positive for others out of our own difficult experiences.”

“When I was diagnosed with RP almost 50 years ago very little was known about the retina.  There was very little research and no evidence-based treatments for retinal disease,” he adds.

Gordon continues, “We recognized that first building a critical mass of sound scientific knowledge about the retina and retinal diseases was essential to finding treatments and cures. That year we teamed with a number of other families affected by retinal disease to create the Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation, now called the Foundation Fighting Blindness.  Our collective dream was to drive the research that would find treatments and cures for all retinal degenerative diseases.”

Gordon has been tremendously successful as a capitalist since losing his sight. He is the CEO of Gund Investment Corporation and has at different times owned, among other things, large stakes in professional sports teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers and the San Jose Sharks.

“I had to learn to live with blindness while working on having a productive and meaningful life in many ways and on many levels,” he says.

Adapting to life without sight created all of the challenges you’d imagine and some you can’t. He chose to meet the challenges head on, learning from them and finding ways to compensate. He says:

After losing my eyesight 46 years ago, I had to learn to accept its finality, come to grips with the real limitations of blindness and creatively and persistently find ways to work around them. In order to do the things I wanted to do and be the person I wanted to be, I have had to overcome these limitations every day. I had to develop and trust my memory and my judgment of people, to learn to ask for and accept help when there is no alternative. I had to learn to better accept failure, to persist through it and to take more calculated risks.  I had to become much better at constructive imagining, to become much better organized and be a much better listener.  A commitment to the belief that with hard work almost anything is possible has been at the core.

His wife and family deserve some of the credit. “Since [losing my vision] I have continued to be happily married to my wife for more than 50 years.  Together, we have raised two wonderful sons who now have terrific families of their own.”

His effort to cure and prevent blindness, however, has been the driving force in his life, he says. “Starting and building the Foundation Fighting Blindness over the past 45 years has helped me focus the frustration of my loss in a positive way. Working with others to drive the increasingly successful FFB research effort to find treatments and cures for blindness means that one day people diagnosed with these diseases will not have to face certain blindness like I did.”

Despite his leadership role in the fight to restore blindness, he shares credit with those who’ve worked with him. “Any success I have had is due first and foremost to the people with whom I live and work.  I have been fortunate to be surrounded with people whose capabilities, support, mutual respect and trusted judgment have been fundamental to my building and leading the Foundation Fighting Blindness and many for-profit endeavors including professional sports businesses, as well as in the pursuit of my personal passions of fly fishing, skiing, and sculpting.”

Gordon is now stepping down from his role as Chair of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, which he founded so long ago. He notes, “We’ve come a long way since the time when I originally lost my vision 45 years ago. The many donors to the Foundation Fighting Blindness and their ongoing commitment to fund the best retinal research in the world is inspiring. Thanks to their efforts, the promise of saving and restoring vision is becoming a reality.”

“I’m confident that David Brint, my successor, will continue to lead the Foundation Fighting Blindness in driving momentum in retinal disease research. I am proud of all the progress that we’ve made, but, I also recognize that there is much more work to be done,” he concludes.

On Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, Gordon will join me here for a live interview to discuss his remarkable life, career and impact on 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.

Gordon Gund, courtesy of the Foundation Fighting Blindness

Gordon Gund, courtesy of the Foundation Fighting Blindness

More about the Foundation Fighting Blindness:

Twitter: @fightblindness

The Foundation Fighting Blindness is an international non-profit organization driving the research that will lead to preventions, treatments and cures for retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, Usher syndrome and the entire spectrum of retinal diseases that affect 10 million Americans and millions more worldwide. Since 1971, the Foundation has raised over $700 million as the leading non-governmental funder of inherited retinal disease research. Breakthrough Foundation-funded studies using gene therapies have restored significant vision in children and young adults who were previously blind, paving the way for additional clinical trials to treat a variety of retinal diseases. In addition to its fundraising and grant making efforts, the Foundation has 43 chapters that provide support, information and resources to affected individuals and their families in communities across the country.

Gordon’s Bio:

Gordon Gund was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1939.  The Gunds were a prominent Cleveland family and are multigenerational philanthropists.  Gund is a graduate of the Groton School and Harvard University, where he played ice hockey.  After college, Gund served in the U.S. Navy.

Gund is the CEO of the Gund Investment Corporation, a corporate finance and venture capital company headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey. Gund has held ownership stakes in numerous professional sports teams including the Minnesota North Stars, the San Jose Sharks and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Gund lost his sight due to retinitis pigmentosa in 1970 and a year later he co-founded the Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation – now the Foundation Fighting Blindness.  In June of this year, Gund stepped down as the Foundation’s Chairman after serving in that role for 45 years.  He remains active in the Foundations governance as a member of the Board of Directors.

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Devin is a journalist, author and speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at!


Entrepreneur Reimagines Feminine Hygiene, Launches Social Venture

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Serial entrepreneur Molly Hayward has a fresh take on feminine hygiene, reimagining everything from the absorbent materials to the packaging. With a deep commitment to social justice, she has paired her new products with a program to get girls in the developing world back to school by providing appropriate monthly products for them, too.

Hayward’s new venture, Cora, was launched early this year and with just four employees isn’t yet profitable. Hayward declined to provide margin specifics, but notes that unit sales of the product are profitable.

Entrepreneur Dave Heath, founder of social venture and sock maker Bombas, is an advisor to Cora. He say, “Cora is a off to a very promising start as a business, with a dedicated core customer base and strong month over month growth since its launch earlier this year.”

Hayward’s commitment to actually helping young women in the developing world–starting with India–is already being seen, Heath says. “Even at its early stage, the company has already started purchasing and distributing pads to economically underprivileged girls and women there.”

Molly Hayward, courtesy of Cora

Molly Hayward, courtesy of Cora

Hayward, who previously founded sustainable fashion label Rebecca Street, explains her passion and what makes her a social entrepreneur. “Cora is driven by a desire to ensure all women have access to safe and healthy menstrual products. I was inspired to create Cora after meeting girls in Africa and India who would stay home from school during their periods because they couldn’t afford menstrual products. That’s why for every box of Cora tampons sold in the U.S., we give a girl in India access to sanitary pads and reproductive health education.”

Cora partnered with Aakar Innovation, a social enterprise that produces “plant-based, sustainable and biodegradable” pad that are manufactured in small manufacturing units in rural villages, she explains. In this way, Cora is not only helping to provide girls with life-altering products, the company is also fostering local employment.

Hayward doesn’t mince words when she explains the inspiration for her business. “Two years ago, I learned that we women in the U.S. have been putting synthetics and pesticide-laden ‘natural’ cotton tampons in our vaginas, and I was meeting girls in Africa and India who were missing school because they had no menstrual products at all. As a female entrepreneur, I decided to create a brand that solved the issues of safety, user-experience, and access to period management products, for all women everywhere.”

To be clear, there are two solutions. For the U.S. market and the developed world, Cora sells one product and for the developing world another.

Hayward describes what sets the Cora product apart for the developed world. “What makes us truly different is that unlike other tampon and “period box” brands, Cora doesn’t require women to sacrifice health, product performance, or user experience. With Cora, you have an organic tampon that actually works in a design-led experience that’s fully aligned with your lifestyle and values.”

Heath explains that Hayward is an activist as well. In what could be described as both a political maneuver and a marketing one, Cora agreed to pay the sales tax on its tampons sold in California where it is based. “This demonstrates their willingness to go beyond the core business and act as an advocate for better, more equitable policies in our society,” he says.

Launching a new business is inherently challenging. Hayward notes that she faces one unique challenge in particular; there is a lack of awareness of the need for organic feminine hygiene products. “There is [great] awareness of the benefits of organic food, but less awareness of the benefits of using (or risks of not using) organic cotton when it comes to tampons and other feminine products.” She is out to fix that problem, becoming a source of information.

Given that every woman on the planet menstruates monthly for “up to 40 years,” Cora faces a big market opportunity. Hayward is trying deal with the limitations of a startup in such a context. “The scale of the problem with the way women manage their periods is tremendous, and our challenge is to decide where we can and should play in order to quickly and efficiently win over women who are ready for a healthier, safer, more sustainable and socially conscious brand when it comes to managing their periods.”

The key to Cora’s success may be in finding the right strategy to help the most women within the limitations of her new venture.

Hayward believes Cora can be successful and change the world. “Our success will change everything–from the way women manage their periods to the way they feel about their periods and their female bodies.”

“Our work will be done when every woman can use products that are good for her body and the planet, and when no girl or woman is disempowered by her female biology,” she concludes.

Heath adds that Cora’s social impact doesn’t stop with organic products and its work in the developing world. The company also uses a social venture that employs “individuals rebuilding from incarceration, addictions, and/or homelessness.” The employees get training on top of employment to better enable them to succeed.

Of Cora, Heath notes, “As a for-profit company, you don’t have to do that. But the fact that they do shows that they’re not just using the moniker of ‘socially responsible’ as a marketing tactic. They make their socially-minded values central to their business operations.”

On Thursday, July 7, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, Hayward will join me here for a live discussion about Cora, its prospects for success and impact. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

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