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Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Social Entrepreneurship

This category includes articles about social entrepreneurs, typically about businesses with a for-profit model with a social mission embedded into the fabric of the business.

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After Seeing His Mother Living on the Streets, He Took Action Against Homelessness

Bob Dalton, the CEO and founder of Sackcloth & Ashes, started the business after seeing his own mother experience homelessness. Suddenly, he appreciated how easily good people fall into homelessness through no fault of their own.

Sackcloth & Ashes is a social enterprise that sells beautiful blankets. For each blanket sold, it donates a blanket to the local homeless shelter of the purchaser.

Interview with Bob Dalton, the Founder & CEO of Sackcloth & Ashes.

The following is the pre-interview with Bob Dalton. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

For-profit/Nonprofit: For-profit

Revenue model: Retail sales

Scale: Team of 10 right now and will double in size by YE 2019. We have grown 100% YoY since the launch of the company in 2014.

What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?

Quality product that gives back for corporate gift giving and donating blankets to the homeless.

More about Sackcloth & Ashes:

Twitter: @sackclothxashes

Facebook: facebook.com/sackclothxashes

Instagram: @sackclothxashes

Website: www.sackclothandashes.com

For every blanket you purchase, we give a blanket to your local homeless shelter. On June 1st, 2018 we launched our first major campaign where our goal is to donate ONE MILLION blankets by 2024.

Bob Dalton. Photo Credit: Photo by Kayla Sampson

Bob Dalton’s bio:

Twitter: @bobxdalton

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/bobxdalton/

Instagram: @bobxdalton

Bob Dalton was inspired to help the homeless population when his mother, a hardworking single mother, found herself living on the streets in 2013.

Because of his mother’s story, Bob realized that not all choose to become homeless, but that some people need a second chance. He began to call homeless shelters in his area to ask what they needed. They all said blankets. That’s when he founded Sackcloth & Ashes.

For every blanket you purchase, Sackcloth & Ashes gives a blanket to your local homeless shelter.

In 2018, he launched Sackcloth & Ashes’ first major campaign: Blanket The United States. The goal of the campaign is to donate ONE MILLION blankets to homeless shelters by 2024.


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This Octogenarian Still Innovates To End Extreme Poverty

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Dr. Paul Polak, 85, is working with the zeal and enthusiasm of a freshly-minted college graduate, but he combines his passion with decades of experience to create outcomes at scale.

Polak’s first success was in delivering treadle pumps to farmers in India. Tens of millions of people have used the devices in the 30+ years since he organized a distribution channel around walk-up outdoor movies—think drive-in movies without cars.

At a time when most poor Indians did not have televisions at home, an opportunity to watch a film in the evening was quite a novelty. The plot of the film revolved around a father seeking to come up with the dowry for his daughter to marry. It only became possible after he purchased a treadle pump to irrigate his tiny farm.

Following the film, the treadle pumps sold like popcorn at a movie theater.

A typical treadle pump in use. CREDIT: PAUL POLAK

The experience taught Polak that successful innovation requires not just a better mousetrap but also a better distribution system.

Today, Polak is working on three new innovations.

Windhorse International/Spring Health India delivers affordable, safe drinking water every day to 150,000 customers in 262 villages in Orissa, India. That is Polak’s idea of pilot scale. He’s hoping to grow that by almost three orders of magnitude. His goal is always to reach 100 million people in extreme poverty.

Affordable Village Solar/SunWater India, is developing solar, rural electricity in Bihar, India. The project shows promise for increasing both food production and income. At this point, he is looking for a grant to get the project ready for commercialization.

Paul Polak CREDIT: PAUL POLAK

Transform Energy, his third venture, is the focus of the conversation Polak and I recorded and that you can watch in the video player at the top of this article. The concept of this venture is to help India farmers grow mesquite trees to fuel coal-fired power plants. Burning wood instead of coal does not increase carbon any more than solar does if trees are replaced.

The model that Polak is currently testing at a micro scale is to convert the mesquite to something closer to charcoal through torrefaction, by heating the mesquite chips in a kiln (the test kiln is a 55-gallon drum). By controlling the amount of oxygen in the kiln, combustion is prevented, and the wood is converted to a fuel that sufficiently resembles coal to be burned in its place.

The mesquite trees, when raised for this purpose, should sequester more carbon than is emitted when the wood is converted and then burned. The trees don’t die when harvested. After being harvested, the still living trunk will sprout again and keep some carbon in the root system even as it continues to collect more carbon as the new sprout grows, removing from the air the carbon produced when the pellets are burned.

The process was developed by volunteers from Ball Aerospace in Boulder. If it works, it could provide a new source of income for families living in extreme poverty in India even as it provides a renewable alternative to coal—on which India remains dependent.

Stephan Reckie, founding managing member for Angelus Funding, says the model works to mitigate climate change “uniquely and amazingly well.” He adds, “It also addresses rural poverty by providing jobs and entrepreneurial power to the workers that are running the distributed torrefaction plants.”

Reckie is such a fan that he joined the Transform Energy board.

Polak identifies a series of milestones for scaling Transform Energy:

  • Creating a twelve-barrel kiln that works
  • Testing the kiln and the growing process at three sites in Gujarat, India
  • Proving commercial viability
  • Attracting capital necessary to scale the business

Polak, who authored one of the definitive books on social entrepreneurship, The Business Solution to Poverty, with Mal Warwick, has a process for learning from people experiencing extreme poverty in the field.

He starts with an eight-hour interview with a family in their home. “I’ll ask them what they had for breakfast what they feed their dog, how far the kids go to school.” His goal is to establish a genuine rapport.

He drinks tea with them. “I have to take a pee somehow and find a way of doing that.” This allows him both to drink more tea and to get a clearer view of their lifestyle.

After completing the long interview with one family, he’ll interview six or seven others for an hour or two. It takes about five days. “I’ve never gone through that process without stumbling upon at least one transformative idea.”

After decades of developing social ventures, writing books and innovating, Polak remains as eager to hit on the next big idea for ending poverty as he ever has been.

A Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”

The best time for an 85-year-old social entrepreneur to start a new business that may take decades to reach the targeted 100 million people was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.

Learn my insider secrets for getting media attention for your social enterprise or nonprofit. Click here.


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New Film Challenges Social Entrepreneurs To Reinvent Humanity

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Michael Shaun Conaway, director, and Kate Maloney, executive producer, screened their film WeRiseUp in Park City today, challenging everyone to become a social entrepreneur to reinvent humanity. The film centers around a metaphor of caterpillars becoming butterflies as a model for humanity.

Caterpillars, you know, are consumption engines. They seem to exist solely to consume resources. In fact, if caterpillars didn’t become butterflies they ultimately couldn’t exist. They would wipe out all the resources. The model wouldn’t be sustainable.

Humanity, the film argues, is presently in a caterpillar phase, using more resources than is sustainable. The film challenges everyone to be a part of a global metamorphosis into the butterfly phase of humanity, making civilization truly sustainable.

Caterpillars would not be a part of a successful ecosystem if they did not become butterflies. CREDIT: DEPOSITPHOTOS

The film features interviews with leaders across a wide spectrum from Silicon Valley leaders like Peter Diamandis and Tom Chi to the 14th Dalai Lama. The film also includes interviews with a number of accomplished social entrepreneurs, including John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods; Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes and Gunnar Lovelace, founder of Thrive Market.

Tony Robbins and Jack Canfield, both New York Times bestselling authors, also shared their ideas in the film. Other though leaders and social entrepreneurs participated as well.

Their messages all build around the idea that we both can and must shift the way we live and work to be more conscious of others and the environment.

Daniel Schmachtenberger, founder of The Emergence Project, argued in the film that the world mostly operates following a rivalry gamesmanship model where everyone competes for finite resources and there are winners and losers. He argues, instead, for employing socio-economic models that are built to create benefits for everyone.

As with all such projects, the film has been in the works for several years. I wrote about the project nearly three years ago. Then, Maloney expected to release the film late in 2016. Much of that piece focused on the challenges of producing a documentary film. In hindsight, that seems apropos.

Butterflies make caterpillars sustainable. CREDIT: DEPOSITPHOTOS

In a one-on-one interview, Maloney explained that the challenges that presented themselves in 2016 turned into opportunities. Her mother took ill and ultimately passed away, creating a pause in production. Later, she connected with the United Nations and World Economic Forum and was able to incorporate more people and ideas from those communities, enhancing the film.

When I first connected with Maloney in 2016, the film was called RiseUp. Today, Maloney explained that the addition of the word “we” to the title was intended to suggest a collective movement.

Hurdles remain, however. Conaway highlighted two challenges to the film in 2016: funding and distribution. Production has been funded but the film still needs a distribution partner. Today, Maloney said she is in discussions with potential distribution partners and is focused on doing what is best for the film.

She expressed gratitude for those who helped fund the film so that she can focus on impact rather than revenue at this stage.

One might say that the long production phase of a film in some ways is like the caterpillar phase, constantly consuming resources. Now the metamorphosis is complete, and the film like a butterfly is ready to launch a challenge the world to rise up.

Learn my insider secrets for getting media attention for your social enterprise or nonprofit. Click here.


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Open Road Alliance Funds Solutions To Roadblocks In Social Projects


Open Road Alliance is perhaps unique in the philanthropic and impact investing world. The organization is a private philanthropic initiative that funds solutions to roadblocks in social projects.

Maya Winkelstein, executive director, and Caroline Bressan, director of social investments, explain that Open Road Alliance funds solutions to problems that pop up in otherwise fully-funded projects.

Given that almost every project involves unforeseen problems, learning more about Open Road Alliance seems like an important investment for nonprofit leaders and social entrepreneurs.

Interview with Maya Winkelstein, the Executive Director of Open Road Alliance.

The following is the pre-interview with Maya Winkelstein. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

We’ll be discussing gap financing for nonprofits and social enterprises.

Social organizations are the working poor of the business world. Their limited access to short-term working capital dilutes their potential impact, hindering their growth and long-term sustainability; with no safety net, one external shock can mean failure. Our loan fund, Open Road Ventures, is Open Road’s effort to start creating that safety net so that social enterprises have access to the resources they need to meet business and impact targets. with Maya Winkelstein.

How are you personally affected by Social organizations are the working poor of the business world. Their limited access to short-term working capital dilutes their potential impact, hindering their growth and long-term sustainability; with no safety net, one external shock can mean failure. Our loan fund, Open Road Ventures, is Open Road’s effort to start creating that safety net so that social enterprises have access to the resources they need to meet business and impact targets.

Words like “short-term working capital,” “below-market,” and “cash flow” may not feel consequential to the average person – but to a social entrepreneur, they can mean everything. Social entrepreneurs, just like profit-driven businesses, need access to financial tools to make their businesses work. However, unlike their counterparts, impact-driven businesses often lack access to traditional financing mechanisms. So why does this matter to you or me?

This issue matters because the problems that social entrepreneurs are working on are our problems. Whether its climate change, healthcare, education, or entrenched conflict, these entrepreneurs and their companies exist because we’ve decided that there are societal problems that need fixing and these organizations are doing the hard work to try and fix them. To make that decision and then fail to give them the adequate tools to implement their solutions affects us all. Every time one of these organizations is pushed off track – not because their intervention is flawed or their model is unsuccessful but because they don’t have access to a financial product that every other business does – we all lose in the long run.

What is your take on gap financing for nonprofits and social enterprises?

At Open Road, we believe that money is only a tool, never a solution. Capital has never solved a single social problem – and yet it is an indispensable tool to implementing solutions whether it’s an educational program for incarcerated youth or a clean energy company bringing solar power to rural farmers. But, it’s also not a one-size-fits-all tool.

At Open Road, we believe that the role of investors – especially impact investors – is to provide the financial tools that entrepreneurs need, and a critical tool that is in too short supply is short-term, bridge financing. So, that’s what we do.

Learn more:  openroadalliance.org/learn-more/

More about Open Road Alliance:

Twitter: @OpenRoadTweets

Website: openroadalliance.org

Open Road Alliance is a private philanthropic initiative that serves the social sector by keeping impact on track in an unpredictable world.

Open Road was founded in 2012 by psychologist and philanthropist Dr. Laurie Michaels to address the need for contingency funds and the absence of risk management practices in philanthropy. We provide both short- and long-term solutions to unexpected challenges that arise during project implementation, so that impact and finite resources can be maximized across the social sector.

To meet immediate needs, we offer fast, flexible funding to nonprofits and social enterprises facing discrete, unexpected roadblocks during project implementation. We fund via two portfolios, Charitable Grants and Loans. Open Road Loans are below market-rate and disbursed via our loan fund, Open Road Ventures.

Open Road sees every grant and loan it makes as an investment for social impact. Our funding model is based on speed and financial leverage.

In addition to our investment portfolio, Open Road promotes the long-term, sector-wide adoption of better risk management practices. In collaboration with peers, we conduct research, develop tools, and generate data on approaches to financial and non-financial risk management. By disseminating learnings and advocating for the adoption of best practices, Open Road is working to make risk management as commonplace in philanthropy as monitoring and evaluation; ultimately, preserving finite resources and social impact in our sector.

Maya Winkelstein

Maya Winkelstein’s bio:

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/mayawinks/

Maya Winkelstein is Executive Director of Open Road Alliance where she is responsible for the organization’s overall investment strategy and management of both Open Road Alliance and Open Road Ventures.

Winkelstein has worked with Open Road since the organization’s inception in 2012. Prior to her role as Executive Director, she worked as an Associate Director with the consulting firm williamsworks. Former clients also include Eastern Congo Initiative, Nike Foundation, PATH, Tostan, and TOMS Shoes. Prior to williamsworks, Winkelstein served in multiple roles in the non-profit and government sectors focusing on program development, fundraising strategy, and corporate partnerships.

Winkelstein writes and speaks frequently about Open Road’s work and its growing research expertise in ‘Risk Management in Philanthropy.’ She is a regular speaker at forums such as Council on Foundations, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, Clinton Global Initiative, and The Philanthropy Workshop. Her work has also appeared in Stanford Social Innovation Review, Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Foundation Review and many other publications. In 2017, Maya was featured in Chronicle of Philanthropy’s ‘On the Rise’ series and Huffington Post’s ‘Women in Business.’ She is also a Board Member of Global Press Institute and a member of the Leadership Advisory Council for GrantAdvisors.org.

Winkelstein holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan; MSc from the London School of Economics; and Certificate in Corporate Finance from Georgetown University. She lives in Kansas with her husband and two young sons.

Interview with Caroline Bressan, the Director of Social Investments of Open Road Alliance.

Caroline Bressan

Caroline Bressan’s bio:

Twitter: @CaroBressan

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/caroline-bressan-54023439/

Caroline Bressan is the Director of Social Investments of Open Road Alliance, which she joined in 2015.

Prior to Open Road, Caroline was an Investment Principal at D. Capital, the investment advisory wing of Dalberg. There she focused on D. Capital’s impact investment advisory offerings, building a pipeline of investment opportunities in Sub Saharan Africa, specifically in energy and agriculture. Caroline also worked on the design and structuring of innovative financing mechanisms, including impact bonds and social impact insurance.

Previously, Caroline was an Investment Officer at Calvert Foundation where she managed its $20 million portfolio mainly focused on Latin America. At Calvert Foundation, she originated and managed a pipeline of lending and investment deals focused on the sustainable trade, social enterprise, and financial inclusion sectors. In addition, Caroline designed and launched a revolving line of credit product, the first of its kind for Calvert Foundation and helped launch the international component of the Women Investing in Women Initiative (WIN-WIN). She also sat on the investment committee of the Haitian Emergency Liquidity Fund, created to provide funding to microfinance institutions in the aftermath of the 2009 earthquake. Caroline has previously worked in Bolivia with Pro Mujer designing a business education program for clients.

Caroline received her MBA from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and holds a Bachelor in Business Administration from the University of Michigan. She speaks English and Spanish.


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Young Rotarian Leverages Technology And Rotary Clubs To Clean Ocean


Ludovic Grosjean, the founder and principal consultant at OceanX Group has launched a nonprofit effort leveraging his relationship with Rotary International and its clubs to use technology to identify and remove pollution from the ocean.

He was recognized by Rotary at its annual event at the United Nations for his innovative work.

Interview with Ludovic Grosjean, the Principal Consultant – Chartered Engineer of Company name: OceanX Group / Project name: The OceanCleanX.

The following is the pre-interview with Ludovic Grosjean. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

For-profit/Nonprofit: Company: Profits invested in Research  – Project: Nonprofit used in order to remove pollution

Revenue model: Company (OceanX Group): Selling Engineering Consulting Services (provides Systems Integration, Engineering design, R&D, Environmental monitoring, software solutions)

Clients: NGOs, City Councils, EPA, Environmental Agencies, OEM, Parks, Harbour Authorities, Transport Companies

Non-Profit Project (The OceanCleanX): Receiving Donations, Grants, Volunteering, Equipment access (provides Cleaning services, Information, Communication, Ocean Publications, Supports Ocean Media and Advocacy groups)

Clients: International Ocean Community, General Public, Media, Ocean Innovators, innovative companies, Non-Profits, NGOs

Scale: OceanX Group (Company): External Consultants, Company sales revenue ~ 100,000 AUD (small business) / The OceanCleanX (Project): Volunteers only

What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?

Problem: Pollution entering our Oceans

Solution: Track pollution and stop it at its sources

Rotary Recognition at UN  

More about Company name: OceanX Group / Project name: The OceanCleanX:

Twitter: @OceanXgroup @OceanCleanX

Facebook: facebook.com/OceanXgroup/

facebook.com/OceanCleanX/

Linkedin: linkedin.com/company/OceanXgroup/

linkedin.com/company/OceanCleanX/

Website: OceanXGroup.com.au

OceanCleanX.com

OceanX Group’s mission is to collaborate with the community in order to protect the future of our Oceans. Our team designs innovative solutions to monitor the environment. We are accelerating the shift towards Ocean protection and sustainable use of Ocean resources. We work closely with the world’s leading technological companies and experts. Our projects and expertise include Unmanned Systems, systems integration, instrumentation and sensors and Machine Learning with extensive R&D capabilities. We aim to develop the most advanced cutting-edge technological solutions to monitor and remove water pollution from our waterways.

The OceanCleanX is the ultimate Social and Technological approach to stop Ocean pollution at its sources. We are promoting automated pollution monitoring solutions and innovations that use artificial intelligence and drones to remove plastics and other pollution from rivers and waterways, while also detecting their source. The project is widely supported by Rotary International to promote volunteering for river cleanup events.

Ludovic Grosjean. Photo Credit: Rotary International – at RotaryUNday (Photograph by Alyce Henson)

Ludovic Grosjean’s bio:

Twitter: @LudovicGrosjean

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/LudovicGrosjean/

Instagram: @LudovicGrosjean

Chartered Engineer with 12 years of Ocean experience, Ludovic is Principal Consultant at OceanX Group, an Engineering Consultancy specializing in Environmental Pollution Monitoring. Ludovic holds a formal qualification in Mechatronics Engineering and Environmental Monitoring.

As a supporter of Rotary Values and former President of Melbourne City Rotaract Club (MCRC), Ludovic has been providing an innovative approach to clean water through his environmental project “The OceanCleanX”. As a leader and community educator, he strives for projects to reduce water pollution on a global scale and make a long-term difference for humanity. His career focus is to build collaboration between organizations in order to advance Engineering and preserve the Environment with the ultimate goal of Saving our Oceans.

In 2018, Ludovic Grosjean was selected by Barry Rassin, President of Rotary International, to showcase his work and be awarded at the United Nations in Kenya and was named as “1 of 6 Rotary’s People of Action: Young Innovators”.


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Her Competitive Streak Serves Her Well On The Racetrack And In Social Enterprise


Kristin Nimsigner, CEO of Social Solutions, may be typical of hard-charging Silicon Valley CEO’s, driving an actual racecar to work every day, but she’s less typical of young mothers racing at the track. Her competitive spirit has helped Social Solutions to attract a $59 million investment from Microsoft founder Steve Ballmer’s investment fund.

Social Solutions provides software to nonprofits to help them measure and increase their impact.

Interview with Kristin Nimsger, the CEO of Social Solutions.

The following is the pre-interview with Kristin Nimsger, CEO Social Solutions. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

For-profit/Nonprofit: For-profit

Revenue model: Our mission-driven clients pay subscription fees for access to our software as a service (SaaS) platforms.

Scale: We currently have 280 employees, serve 18,000 organizations, and 27.2 million participants.

What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?

Non-profits are a critical societal resource, providing services and programs that meet the needs of our most vulnerable populations and their crucial need insecurities. But non-profits around the world struggle with operating efficiencies and to demonstrate the clear impact and outcomes of their programmatic work due to lack of data availability, constrained resources, and a lack of technical expertise or core competencies. For over 15 years, our mission has been to empower these non-profits with resources and tools that help them measure their work, demonstrate their impact, and accelerate the progress they bring to the world. Social Solutions’ case management software and services help nonprofits of all sizes track data, manage cases, and measure and ultimately to drive better outcomes.

In August 2018, the Ballmer Foundation announced a five-year, $59 million commitment to Social Solutions in order to improve educational outcomes across the country.

Through the investment, Social Solutions is able not only improve its technology and design but also cut licensing costs for nonprofits through a matching grant program.

By pairing information from schools and community organizations and getting a “360-degree view” of the student, Social Solutions’ Apricot 360 software helps nonprofits and school districts proactively identify student risk factors and take action.

In November 2018, Social Solutions awarded the first two nonprofit organizations with matching grants using funding from the Ballmer group – Prospera and SA Youth, San Antonio based nonprofits.  

With Apricot 360, Prospera is now able to:

  • Harness data for more comprehensive reporting – a critical factor in securing funding
  • Proactively identify risks and take action
  • Tackle the intersection of housing and health care, using data to monitor and manage the 80 percent of factors affecting health that occur outside of the clinical setting
  • Focus on getting education support to at-risk children more quickly by proactively tying eviction notices and warnings to families who might have to move suddenly

With Apricot 360, SA Youth is now able to:

  • Facilitate the gathering and synthesis of data between SA Youth and school districts to better monitor outcomes around attendance, grades and other services provided
  • More efficiently track not only where students in the YouthBuild program are coming from, but the services provided and ultimately, where they end up
  • Create an overall more holistic view of the students that the organization serves
  • Additional matching grants will be announced on a national scale in the coming weeks and months.

Ballmer Announcement

The Star Project

More about Social Solutions :

Twitter: @SocialSolutions

Facebook: facebook.com/SocialSolutionsInc

Instagram: @socialsolutionsglobal

Website: www.socialsolutions.com

Social Solutions Global, the provider of Efforts to Outcomes (ETO®) and Apricot® Software, specializes in case management and outcomes software for the nonprofit and human services sector including education, homelessness, survivors services, workforce solutions, and education outcome support programs. Across the globe, our software is the leader in equipping thousands of organizations with the tools needed to transform the lives of children, adults, and families by making data useful to staff at all levels, from case managers to executive leadership.

Kristin Nimsger. Photo Credit: Social Solutions

Kristin Nimsger bio:

Twitter: @knimsger

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/kristin-nimsger-42629914/

Kristin is the Chief Executive Officer at Social Solutions. She brings an extensive background in the philanthropic technology space and a proven track record as a software executive to the Social Solutions team. Known for driving transformation and growth in software organizations of many sizes; her experience spans small private companies, fortune 500 holding companies, and private equity models.

Prior to joining Social Solutions, Kristin served as CEO of MicroEdge, LLC., a leading provider of financial management, grants management and employee engagement software solutions, which was part of the Vista Equity Partners portfolio of companies. During her tenure, she led an evolution in the way foundations invest to deliver results and outcomes for their constituents and partners, and ultimately led the sale of MicroEdge to publicly traded Blackbaud, Inc (BLKB) in 2014.

Prior to MicroEdge, Kristin oversaw a suite of productivity software products and services for legal professionals at Thomson Reuters, and prior to that served in many key leadership roles for E-Discovery, data recovery and computer forensics technology provider Kroll Ontrack, ultimately serving as President of the company for 4 years. Kroll Ontrack is a B2B provider of technology-enabled services, software, and SaaS solutions for the legal industry with 1500 employees in 23 countries. Kroll Ontrack was sold to Providence Equity Partners in 2010.

Kristin is passionate about sharing her expertise through service and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Kristin earned a J. D. cum laude from William Mitchell College of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota and a B.A. in English/Communications from the University of Minnesota, Duluth and a certificate in Management and Leadership from MIT – Sloan School of Management.


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Big Impact Sometimes Requires ‘Unreasonable’ Goals

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Unreasonable Impact, a collaboration between Unreasonable Group and Barclays, has its sites set on advancing social entrepreneurship at massive—even unreasonable—scale.

Unreasonable Group founder and CEO, Daniel Epstein, 32, says the world needs to create 212 million new jobs over the next four years to bring idle, mostly young people into the work force and to absorb lost employment from automation and other economic shifts.

At the same time, he notes that the world faces a variety of other societal and environmental challenges.

Be sure to watch the full interview with Epstein in the video player at the top of this article.

Daniel Epstein, Unreasonable Group CREDIT: UNREASONABLE GROUP

Epstein says he’s always believed that entrepreneurs could solve whatever problem we throw at them. The premise of the collaboration, therefore, is that by supporting and driving investment in startups that address social problems, the program can quickly create thousands of jobs to address at least in part the huge gap in employment while addressing social and environmental problems.

Simply put, Unreasonable Impact is a global accelerator for social entrepreneurs.

“Unreasonable Impact runs a series of programs in the UK, US and Asia Pacific that support the scale of growth-stage impact-driven ventures by providing entrepreneurs with the resources, mentorship, and global network they need to rapidly create jobs and address key global issues,” Epstein says.

He reports that its ventures have raised $1.3 billion in funding, have generated $1.1 billion in revenue and have already created 7,000 new jobs.

Some of the enterprises that have raised funds with the Unreasonable Impact effort include Plant Prefab, Lanza Tech and BreezeoMeter.

Epstein is no doomsayer. Ever the optimist, he says, “The future is bright. Forward-thinking businesses are creating new roles and, in some cases, new industries that will sustain the working population for decades to come with jobs we don’t even know exist yet.”

As an example, he points to Vancouver-based Inventys, which he says has the technology required to sequester 2 gigatons of carbon each year. He notes that the world needs to sequester about 7 gigatons so this single solution can play a significant role.

“Barclays and the Unreasonable Group share a belief that today’s high-growth entrepreneurs represent the job creators of tomorrow,” says Deborah Goldfarb, Global Head of Citizenship at Barclays International. “In co-founding Unreasonable Impact, we aim to support a community of inspiring entrepreneurs who are harnessing new technologies that have the potential to employ thousands of people around the world, while also delivering scalable environmental impact – from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to ensuring millions of people now have access to reliable, clean and affordable electricity.”

She notes that thousands of Barclays people are sharing their networks and talents to support the Unreasonable Impact companies. By contrast, Unreasonable Group has just 21 full-time employees plus seven part-time employees and contractors.

For Barclays, Unreasonable Impact is just a part of the broader effort to address global problems. “In 2018, we also launched a dedicated Social Impact Banking Group inside our Investment Bank. This group is advising growth stage positive-impact companies on their businesses while building relationships with sustainability-focused investors across asset classes in order to better understand their needs and connect them with potential investments,” Goldfarb says.

Optimistic and passionate about entrepreneurship, Epstein acknowledges his views on the role of governments around the world has evolved. “Five years ago, I would have been naive and said that the private sector can do it.”

Now, he says, public policy has the potential to help bring the Unreasonable Impact technologies to market more quickly—or to stifle them. He notes, too, that some of the companies have received investment from governments while others sell to governments. Finally, he points out that some of the companies do business in some countries and avoid others because of tax policies and other incentives structures. All this, he says, underscores the important role of government in scaling entrepreneurs’ solutions.

The Unreasonable Impact collaboration is nothing if not ambitious. It will be exciting to see what comes of the partnership over the next few years as companies quickly scale and global problems are addressed.

In the shadow of #metoo, learn how to quickly make your business safe and inclusive for everyone–click here.


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Deep Kindness — When Smiling At Strangers Isn’t Enough

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Behind the divisions in America—and the world—over politics that seem broader and sharper than at any point in my five decades, there is a flourishing counter movement for kindness. In fact, some social entrepreneurs have built businesses around kindness. Professors are teaching it. Kindness is a thing.

Still, as much as I admire people and the movement behind kindness, I sometimes worry that when we hear the word kindness many people think mostly about being nice and polite. While I’m all for good manners, the real problems in our world are not due to a lack of civility.

The mosquitoes that carry the malaria virus don’t care a gnat’s rear end about manners, smiles or whether you thanked your mother for making breakfast this morning.

Climate change will continue to get worse no matter how polite we are to one another at climate conferences.

The devastating symptoms of poverty—illiteracy, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, and hunger—have nothing to do with the sort of surface level kindness that first comes to mind when I hear the word.

Climate change is not impacted by manners. CREDIT: DEPOSITPHOTOS

All the world’s problems can be addressed, however, by what I will call deep kindness, the sort that requires effort and sometimes pain and sacrifice.

It is the sort of kindness displayed by one of my clients, who didn’t ask that I share this story but whose permission I obtained to do so. Shaun Michel saw a homeless man in a wheelchair and offered him a new pair of shoes he’d just purchased. They didn’t fit. Michel went back to the shoe store and bought another pair in the correct size. Upon returning, he found the man had gone. Not to be deterred, he guessed, correctly it turns out, where the man might have gone on a bus and delivered the shoes.

Nonprofits have been doing this hard work for generations. Some have argued that they have little effect, after all, there are still hundreds of millions of people living and dying in poverty. Such observations are silly to anyone armed with a modicum of data.

When I was born just 54 years ago, about 60% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Today, less than 10% does. Life expectancy in the Gambia in 1965 was just 33 years and today is 61 years, typical of the improvements across much of the developing world. Nonprofits may not deserve all the credit, but any suggestion that their work is ineffective simply because there are still poor and sick people in the world comes from ignorance.

Today, nonprofits have been joined in their efforts by social entrepreneurs and corporations doing much more strategic good through their corporate social responsibility programs.

Nearly four million people die each year from health complications associated with cooking at home over open fires. The use of wood for such cooking also contributes to deforestation and climate change as a result. Social entrepreneurs—often in partnership with nonprofits—are building and selling a slew of efficient cookstoves that reduce or eliminate smoke indoors and use much less fuel.

Social entrepreneurs are selling solar lanterns that not only reduce dependence on kerosene they charge cell phones. They sell clean drinking water that saves lives and increases productivity by reducing the time required to get water. They create what families in extreme poverty need more than anything else: jobs.

Corporate social responsibility programs are having more impact as well. MAC cosmetics has distributed about $500 million to fight AIDS. Microsoft gives about a billion dollars of software to nonprofits every year, technology that is used to fight problems from human trafficking to climate change.

For my part, after reading so much about kindness, I am slowly picking up better habits. They make my life better—and I suspect they improve things for people around me in small ways. Still, I admire most those who operate at the level of deep kindness, going beyond niceties to real impact.

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ShariaPortfolio Provides Halal-Compliant Investing Platform


ShariaPortfolio, Inc., operates a halal compliant investment platform that provides a socially responsible investment screen, excluding a variety of “sin” stocks, including alcohol, tobacco and gaming. The investment criteria also exclude highly levered stocks, resulting in some measurable downside protection.

Interview with Aliredha Walji, the Vice President, USA of ShariaPortfolio, Inc.

The following is the pre-interview with Aliredha Walji. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

For-profit/Nonprofit: For-profit

Revenue model: ShariaPortfolio has always been a fiduciary, fee-only service firm. With no conflicts of interest, our only revenue comes from the management fee we charge our clients. The exact fee is dependent on the total assets being managed and type of service chosen by the client. Our Express service fee ranges from 0.4 to 0.75% annually while our Access service fee ranges from 0.5 to 1.5% annually.

Scale: We have a total of 13 people on our team currently managing $65M in AUM. We are projected to reach $150M in AUM and roughly 1.3M revenue by FY 2020 any by FY 2022 we hope to achieve $500M in AUM and around 5M in revenue.

What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?

The Muslim population in the U.S. is projected to grow from 3.45 million in 2017 to 8.1 million by 2050, and despite the growth, Muslims lack access to investment solutions tailored to their religious beliefs. ShariaPortfolio is experienced and well positioned to help this underserved population, offering comprehensive wealth management solutions, robo-advisor service, 401(k) plans for businesses and co-managed accounts for non-Sharia-compliant advisors.

From an investment management standpoint, our historical returns typically thrive in up markets – in 2017 our aggressive strategy outperformed the S&P by 5%.  Perhaps more importantly, we also offer greater downside protection than conventional firms since we do not engage in speculative trading and avoid highly leveraged industries. During the financial crisis of 2008, for example, our most aggressive portfolios were only down around 24%, while the broader markets had dropped almost 37%.

More about ShariaPortfolio, Inc. :

Twitter: @ShariaPortfolio

Facebook: facebook.com/shariaportfolio

Instagram: @shariaportfolio

Website: shariaportfolio.com

ShariaPortfolio, Inc. is a full-service, boutique asset manager specializing in 
Sharia-compliant investing with international expansion plans in 2019. We believe in carefully maintaining social responsibility and emphasizing ethics in our investment choices. We completely avoid industries related to alcohol, tobacco, pornography and gambling. In accordance with Islamic principles, we also shun pork and interest-based finance and avoid businesses whose operations are highly leveraged. We have been in business since 2003 and currently serve clients in over 25 states. We offer a wider range of solutions than other Sharia-compliant investment advisors, and provide customized services not available at most large brokerage shops.

Aliredha Walji

Aliredha Walji’s bio:

Twitter: @AliredhaWalji

Linkedin: linkedin.com/company/shariaportfolio/

Aliredha Walji manages the US operations at ShariaPortfolio, Inc. Based out of the company’s main office in Lake Mary, FL, Aliredha has traveled across the United States presenting on the topic of Halal Investing at a variety of venues, including mosques, personal residences and large conventions. During his tenure at ShariaPortfolio, Aliredha has helped to double the company’s total assets under management, as well as grow the advisor team. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota, a Masters of Business Administration from Crown College, a faith-based institution, and is currently working on a Certified Financial Planning course through the NYU School of Professional Studies.


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This Teenage Ambassador for Wonderbag Is Addressing Three Global Problems at Once

Chiara Savage Schwatz, a teenage changemaker, is working to raise money to help families in South Africa obtain Wonderbag slow cookers. These ingenious products require no energy! Families use them by bringing a pot of food up to a high temperature over a fire or stove and then by inserting the pot into the superinsulated bag to finish cooking, reducing the total energy required to cook the food.

This single tool helps reduce fuel consumption and indoor smoke. By reducing fuel, usually charcoal or wood, she is helping to reduce deforestation and to slow climate change. By reducing indoor smoke, she is improving the health of everyone inside the home, especially the women in children who tend to spend the most time there.

By using donations to make the devices free or affordable to low-income families, she is helping to address global poverty. When low-income families can spend less on fuel, more money is available for clean water, food and education.

So, the Wonderbag is one intervention that addresses three key problems: poverty, global health and climate change. Chiara is one powerful teenager!

Interview with Chiara Savage Schwartz, the Wonderbag Ambassador of Wonderbag/Wonderbag.org.

The following is the pre-interview with Chiara Savage Schwartz. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

For-profit/Nonprofit: 501(c)3 Nonprofit

Revenue model: I have raised almost all of my funds by doing bake sales, selling all homemade treats at various grocery stores and sports events where I live. When I do bake sales, I generally make three batches of chocolate chip cookies, three batches of brownies and two batches of rice crispy treats per bakesale. My supplies have generally cost about 10% of my profits. By doing bake sales in my local community I have raised awareness about my cause and gotten friends and family involved to start fundraising efforts with me. My past few bake sales have been done with friends at my own high school and others, and I am hoping to expand to more friends and schools to collaborate with other kids who want to make positive change in the world.

Scale: Over the past two years I have sold over 7000 treats and raised over $11,000 by running bake sales and one online fundraiser. Since the beginning, the fundraising has been almost all individual, but it is now beginning to expand and people take interest in the cause, and this is awesome!

What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?

I work to address issues of inequality in the world. In particular, I am motivated to help girls get their educations. By raising funds to bring Wonderbags to families, especially families that cook over open fires, I am hopefully freeing up time spent gathering wood and cooking, so that girls can go to school, and so women can do money-generating work. This is not an issue with one simple solution, and it will take time, effort, and worldwide attention to work towards equal educational opportunities for everyone.

More about Wonderbag/Wonderbag.org:

Twitter: @WonderbagSA

Facebook: facebook.com/TheWonderbag/

Instagram: @thewonderbag

Website: www.wonderbag.org

Wonderbag works to economically empower women and girls around the world by addressing the critical daily challenges of time poverty, self-worth, and cleaner, healthier cooking. A Wonderbag is a non-electric slow cooker that reduces the amount of energy needed to cook by 30-80% and can save women 1,465 hours each year spent cooking and gathering fuel to cook. It is an eco-friendly and resourceful tool that is being activated in communities worldwide to help free up their time to obtain educations and seek better job opportunities.

Chiara Savage Swartz in South Africa. Photo Credit: Mark Strassman

Chiara Savage Schwartz’s bio:

Chiara Savage Schwartz has been fundraising to bring Wonderbags to communities in need since she was 11 years old and, with her family, was visiting two school programs in South Africa, the Kliptown Youth Program(KYP) and eSibonisweni Primary School. After consulting with program teachers and successfully testing 5 Wonderbags at KYP,  Chiara raised the funds to bring 280 Wonderbags to the Kliptown Youth Program community in 2016 by doing bake sales in her local Marin County community. Returning to South Africa in 2018 after two more years of fundraising, Chiara brought 500 Wonderbags to the eSibonisweni Primary School families and hosted a Wonderfeast for 1200 people, where there was a full demonstration on the benefits of Wonderbag use and a community celebration. Chiara is motivated to help women and girls around the world, and work to make the world a more equitable place. Chiara is currently a high school freshman at Marin Academy, and an avid runner, soccer player, and skier. She adores baking and also loves art, in particular pen and ink drawing and ceramics.


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