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 The mission of the "Your Mark on the World Center" is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.
Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Social Entrepreneurship

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

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Filmmaker Says, ‘It’s Not the Cow’s Fault’ and ‘Millennials Are Our Only Hope’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

In a wide-ranging conversation with author and filmmaker Josh Tickell, 43, he shared two key observations. First, he said that cows get a bad rap for their contribution to global warming. Second, he says millennials are key to solving climate change.

Tickell, a self-described environmentalist, is the author Kiss the Ground and The Revolution Generation. Films by the same titles are also pending release. Tickell’s first film, Fuel, still available on Netflix, won him a Sundance Film Festival award.

As a social entrepreneur, co-founder of Big Picture Ranch, his production company, he says his four-person team operates the business on a break-even basis. You can watch my full interview with Tickell in the video player at the top of this article.

In Kiss the Ground, Tickell looks at soil’s potential to sequester carbon. He notes that each acre of agricultural land has the potential to store up to 10 tons of carbon. Extending that across 10 billion acres of farmland, there is tremendous potential to store carbon there.

Two surprising keys to carbon sequestration in the soil include tilling—actually, not tilling—and running cows over the land.

Josh Tickell CREDIT: BIG PICTURE RANCH

Tilling is a great way, Tickell says, to release stored carbon into the atmosphere and damage the soil. Modern farming tools and techniques allow for no-till farming methods, where a slice is cut in the ground, seeds are inserted and the open wound in the land is immediately sealed in a fully mechanized way. This isn’t 19th-century farming.

He notes in his book that it isn’t enough to be an organic farmer. Organic farmers who are tilling their land are failing to sequester carbon and build healthy soils just like traditional farmers.

Much has been said in recent years about the methane production of cows and their impact on global warming. Tickell says the problem is in the concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs, where about 78% of beef cattle are raised. These factory farm operations do produce tremendous amounts of carbon.

That said, when cows graze in a pasture as a mob, moving from place to place, most of their emissions are stored in the soil–they are constantly converting grass into compost. Not only do they help, but Tickell says, “that’s the only way to really create the soil regeneration that’s necessary.”

“Not only is it not the cow’s fault but for better or worse we can’t really build the kind of soil carbon we need without them,” he says.

In The Revolution Generation, Tickell takes a look at millennials and their politics.

“Most people don’t realize this, but the millennial generation has the largest voting bloc in U.S. history,” he says.

With respect to solving climate change, Tickell says, “Not only are they the only potential solution. They’re our only potential hope.”

He notes that millennials are over 50% independent and that they don’t feel like there is anywhere for them to vote. “The Revolution Generation looks at how can we create new systems that are going to empower young people to make a difference,” Tickell says.

Generation X and the Baby Boomers and become “ideologically infatuated,” he says. “So, if our party believes XYZ we believe XYZ even if that is scientifically not true. So, we have become a party before science society and that’s what happens to empires before they fall.”

There is something different about millennials, however. “Regardless of whether they’re Republican Democrat or Independent the majority, vast majority, 70 to 80 percent believe that climate change is human-made.” Simply understanding the nature of the problem is critical to solving it, Tickell argues.


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How To Get Media Attention For Your Social Venture

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

A bit of good press can play a role in attracting capital, new hires and customers. Entrepreneurs often sense that this is the case but have no idea how to get media to pay attention.

Paraphrasing Jerry Seinfeld, it is important to understand that there is no success police. No one is monitoring the activities of all the social entrepreneurs in the world to identify the brilliant new ideas and share them. Your success is up to you. Don’t wait to be discovered. It will be a long wait.

Next, you’ll want to find someone who writes about the sort of thing you do. Search the news on Google for stories about direct competitors or about the social problem you hope to address. This takes time. You want to be sure you understand the journalist’s beat before you prepare a pitch.

One of the mistakes I often see is that people pitch a tangent to a story I’ve written that has nothing to do with my narrow focus on social entrepreneurship and impact investing. For instance, last week I wrote about a blockchain startup that is working actively in the developing world to provide identification for people who lack it, addressing a social problem head-on. In the week since, I’ve received several pitches for blockchain and crypto stories that have no social impact angle. It is a good idea to read enough of a journalist’s work to understand the focus of their attention. Sadly, for most journalists, the social angle is the tangent.

A thorough web search could yield dozens of journalists from CNN reporters to local newspapers and bloggers. There is no good reason to leave anyone off your list. One blogger’s post may lead to something bigger.

Finding contact information for journalists is generally easy. Many news sites will link the author’s byline to a profile that includes either a contact form or an email address. Television sites most consistently do not; a search of such sites will generally get you to a tip line email address. Professional public relations firms are helpful in this regard.

Once you have your list, there is something of an art to submitting a story—some guidelines that are helpful.

First, be sure to send your story to a person and use that person’s name in the email. When people submit a pitch addressed just “Hi,” Hi there,” or “Hi First Name,” (I really do get pitches addressed “Hi First Name”) the recipients know immediately that they are reading a form letter that may have gone to hundreds of people. Most journalists are not excited to share a story that every other outlet will carry and so they’ll ignore such an email.

Getting the attention of media can be helpful. CREDIT: DEPOSITPHOTOS

Next, you’ll get much more attention if you build a rapport with the journalist by mentioning the articles you’ve read and liked. You can get further still by subscribing to or following the journalists in some way. It is easy enough to find them on twitter and follow them there. Tell them you do. Now, you’ve become a fan and a follower, and your pitch is now more likely to be read.

You’ll then want to explain why your story is relevant to their beat and why it is interesting now. Help them see a hook that would make people want to read the story. For me, I find stories that relate to eliminating extreme poverty and improving social justice, improving global health and mitigating climate change are the most interesting. Every journalist is likely to have favorite themes. While you may not know what they are, past stories can provide clues.

It is generally a good idea to include a press release–a draft of an article the journalist can edit and submit. I never use press releases in place of original content on Forbes but I often print them verbatim at MySocialGoodNews.com and GoodCrowd.info. Every outlet and every journalist has a different view about using press releases. One thing is for sure: if you don’t provide one, they can’t use it. Best practice is to send your release in the body of the email and indicate who is available for interviews and if there are photos or video available.

Most journalists don’t respond directly to story ideas and pitches they won’t use. The reason is simple. Responding personally to each one is impossible. While I get hundreds of pitches every week, celebrity journalists must get thousands. That would include popular bloggers, YouTube celebrities and the like. That means you’ll get the same response if your pitch was completely off base or right on target but crowded out by other stories pitched at the same time. So, don’t take rejection personally. You should also feel free to follow up once, to ensure that the journalist has really had a chance to see your idea.

This strategy won’t work with every journalist every time, but it will work with some of them some of the time. If your story merits attention, reaching out this way is likely to bring it.


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#MeToo Survivor Shares Her Story Of Resilience And Hope


Leta Greene has built a happy, productive life as a mother and a professional speaker and makeup artist. She is proud of this. She is particularly proud that no one in her professional circle–many of whom she counts as friends–knew that she is a survivor of sexual abuse as a child.

As the #metoo movement gained steam over the past few years, Leta realized that it was time to share her story. She posted her experience on Facebook, went to bed and awoke to an overwhelming show of support–and an invitation from a publisher to write a book.

Her book, Love Me Too, doesn’t wallow in self-pity nor does it reveal the most intimate details of her abuse. Much of the book is a guide for other survivors, whom she hopes to help achieve the sort of profound happiness she enjoys.

She also shares some parenting tips that can help protect children from abuse, at surprisingly young ages–without scaring them.

You don’t want to miss one second of my discussion with Leta. Watch in the player at the top of this article.

Interview with Leta Greene, the Hotness of Glamour Connection.

The following is the pre-interview with Leta Greene. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

Expert Tips:

Tip 1:  I will be sharing how we can change the conversation to empower those still in abusive situations and those that are coming out.

Tip 2: We need to get VERY comfortable in talking about the causes of sexual abuse. As we talk to our children at age appropriate stages we can help protect them from potential abusers. It is not about stranger danger! 80% to 90% of those molested are done so by those that know them.

Tip 3: Module I teach of recognizing the need for a balance of love, trust and accountability to exist in relationships.

Let’s Makeup: hotnesscosmetics.com

More about Glamour Connection:

Twitter: @LetaHotness

Facebook: facebook.com/LetaHotness/

Website: LetaGreene.com

I started as a makeup artist in 1999. This gave me an up-close opportunity to see the difficulties girls and women face because I am right there in their personal space women share their challenges. In return, I shared with them what I had done to overcome issues of confidence and self-perception. My advice helped them. We had a few “adventures” in our lives that lead to more asking how we were so resilient. That lead to speaking and my first book How to Embrace Your Inner Hotness. My latest book Love, Me Too again a response to a need that those victimized need to know life can be amazing even after great darkness.

Leta Greene. Photo Credit: Emily London

Leta Greene’s bio:

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/hotness/

Instagram: instagram.com/leta_greene/

International speaker including 2 Tedx speeches and author of two books, Leta Greene doesn’t want to intimidate any of you, but she is known as “HOTNESS.” At 12, she won the Boy Scout arm wrestling competition. None of those boys ever asked her out. Leta majored in Sign Language and graduated with honors. Ironic, she is REALLY good at not talking!

Leta inspires each of us to embrace what makes us individually hot and amazing. As an image consultant and makeup artist since 1999, Leta has helped clients to not only look their best but to feel their best. Leta has also built a multi-million dollar business in the beauty industry and is a sought-after trainer for women entrepreneurs. Her message is one of honoring yourself through being authentic to who you are. It is through humor, stories, and a new way of seeing the everyday that makes Leta’s audiences of all ages want to hold on for more! Her programs range from Maturation programs for 5th-grade girls, Confidence workshop for tween and teen girls, Joy-full workshops for women, Seminars for parents on how to talk to your kids about sex, and as an energetic Keynote speaker for conference and seminars on resiliency, personal responsibility and of course the Hotness Factor.

Leta is the mother of Nathaniel, Ailsa and Katelynn, who are the most adorable children. Just follow her on Facebook and you will see that they are amazing. She says her kids and hubby bring it home for her; anytime she thinks she is too cool, it’s time to cook dinner. They help her keep it real – but she’s still hot!


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New Search Engine Generates Clean Water Along With Search Results

Andrea Demichelis has created a new search engine at ElliotForWater.com where revenue is used in part to provide clean water to people who need it. The search engine uses Bing search results.

As with all search engines, the first few search results are paid advertisements. When a user clicks on these links, a portion of the revenue is directed to fund water projects.

The first projects are in a small village in the small West African country of Guinea-Bissau. Check it out and consider bookmark the search engine.

Interview with Andrea Demichelis, the Founder & CEO of Elliot For Water.

The following is the pre-interview with Andrea Demichelis. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

For-profit/Nonprofit: Elliot For Water is a social enterprise.

Revenue model: Under the technical point of view, Elliot For Water is a reliable and updated search engine: its results, in fact, are completely provided by Bing.

As any other search engine, profit is realized through the “click” of the users on the sponsored links. These links, also known as Pay Per Click (PPC), are positioned at the top of the result page and the search engine applies a fee every time the link is clicked. In the case of Elliot For Water, the fees coming from the clicks become a donation. To sum up, every click is transformed in a drop of water.

Scale: So far we have: Reached 400,000 users; provided a village in Guinea-Bissau with two seasons of seeds to allow for agriculture; installed bases to initiate drilling and provide safe water to 200 people in a Guinea-Bissau village with our charity partner, Well Found

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

800 million people, 1 out of 9, still live without access to safe drinking water, according to WHO. Elliot for Water aims to change this. By using 60% of our profits from web searches, we will be financing clean water projects in developing countries.

Andrea’s Blog:  elliotsway.com

More about Elliot For Water:

Twitter: @elliotforwater

Facebook: facebook.com/elliotforwater/

Website: elliotforwater.com

Elliot For Water is just like Google, the difference is, it creates water every time you use it. 60% of the profit realized through the searches of the users, in fact, goes to finance clean water projects in developing countries.

Andrea Demichelis

Andrea Demichelis’s bio:

Twitter: @andrea_e4w

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/andrea-demichelis-14179352/

Instagram: @andrea_e4w

Andrea Demichelis was born in 1993 in Italy. After his linguistic studies at the Istituto Don Bosco Alassio, he moved to Paris to specialize in Finance, Entrepreneurship and Sustainable development at the Paris Eslsca Business School, where he graduated for BBA and MBA as Salutatorian. As his first after-graduate work experience he decided to created Elliot For Water, which represent his ideology of enthusiasm and hard work put at the service of a greater good.


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Why Social Entrepreneurs and Impact Investors Should Vote

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Everyone should vote.

Today, I’m going to make the case for why social entrepreneurs and impact investors should. None of these reasons are intended to excuse anyone from engaging in this civic activity that is equal parts privilege and duty.

Fundamentally, government at all levels from the local school board to the White House (and, yes, I understand that as I write this immediately preceding the mid-term elections the president is not on the ballot) impacts the work we care about, devote our lives to and invest in.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals provide a list of 17 issues that draw the attention of social entrepreneurs and impact investors. These issues are all impacted by governments as much as by the efforts of entrepreneurs and investors. As you consider each vote you cast, weigh how it will impact these 17 areas:

  • Goal 1: No poverty
  • Goal 2: Zero hunger
  • Goal 3: Good health and well-being
  • Goal 4: Quality education
  • Goal 5: Gender equity
  • Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation
  • Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy
  • Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
  • Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • Goal 10: Reduced inequalities
  • Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities
  • Goal 12: Responsible production and consumption
  • Goal 13: Climate action
  • Goal 14: Life below water
  • Goal 15: Life on land
  • Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions
  • Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals

UN Sustainable Development Goals CREDIT: UN

It is tempting to assume that none of these goals relates to the United States, that these are developing world goals not relevant to wealthy America. Many in Flint, Michigan would argue that Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation is perfectly relevant.

Women tweeting the hashtag #metoo are arguing that Goal 5: Gender equity is a primary voting issue in America. Similarly, those in the #blacklivesmatter movement are reminding us that Goal 10: Reduced inequalities is as much a future discussion as a past one in America.

President Trump himself has made clear that discussions about America’s responsibility to address Goal 13: Climate action are topical. Similarly, environmental regulation is undergoing a change with the current leadership in the White House and EPA, suggesting that goals 14 and 15 Life below water and Life on land are also timely.

Social entrepreneurs and impact investors are leading efforts at deploying more renewable energy, from rooftop solar to utility-scale wind farms. A future of cheap and clean energy seems almost assured, but to ignore the government’s hand in the transition is laughable. Goal 7 is as urgent in the developed world as it is in the developing world.

It would be disingenuous to argue that these goals align perfectly with any political party. Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth highlights the tension implicit in the SDGs. What most struggling people want more than anything is a job–or a better job. There is a genuine risk that some well-intended efforts to ensure the dignity and safety of work can have the effect of reducing jobs at the margin. Still, work conditions and wages for some even in the United States are not acceptable. The government has a role in ensuring a healthy balance.

Anyone who claims to care about any of the SDGs, but especially those who are working to solve these problems as entrepreneurs and investors, should take the time to thoughtfully consider the impact of every vote cast on each one of the 17 goals.


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Is Impact Investing Attempting To Solve Problems Using The Tools That Created Them?

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Jed Emerson, 59, widely recognized in the impact investing community, recently published a new book, The Purpose of Capital: Elements of Impact, Financial Flows and Natural Being, that calls into question some of the fundamental precepts of the movement, the very underpinnings of capitalism.

Impact investors seek to solve social problems from poverty to climate change by making investments that will not only mitigate the ills but will provide a financial return.

Early in his book, Emerson observes, “There is a central challenge in this effort to ‘do well and do good’ in that at its core is a commitment to making use of the very financial tools that have failed to create a just, equitable and sustainable world in the pursuit of creating a more just, equitable and sustainable world.”

He’s suggesting we may be treating burn victims with fire because we depend on the light it provides. He may also be questioning our sanity by suggesting we’re hoping to solve a problem by continuing to do much the same thing that created it.

Jed Emerson CREDIT: RALPH REUTIMANN

He goes on to reject the notion that markets are amoral, objective and rational. Commenting on the book, he says, people who argue for the rational behavior of markets will quickly admit that they are moved principally by fear and greed. “Those to me are fundamentally social dynamics and issues.”

Emerson is no communist. His firm, Blended Value Group, works with ultra-high net work families to manage their money, often with an impact focus. He has twice been selected by the NonProfit Times as one of the 50 most influential people in the sector.

“Those who know Jed and have read his large body of work know that he is the creator of the term ‘blended value’ that helped define the intermingled goals of impact investing,” says Catherine Clark, faculty director, CASE and CASE i3 Initiative on Impact Investing at Duke University. “In this book, Jed adds new ingredients to the purpose blend, a thoughtful and reflective journey into how western political and spiritual thought has intersected with the purposes of capital at an individual and societal level.”

The book differs from Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas, which addresses some of the same themes. While Giridharadas offers a stirring critique of impact investing, social entrepreneurship and most other efforts to change the world, Emerson’s Purpose of Capital is more introspective. It is almost as if Emerson is talking through the issues for his own benefit as much as ours.

That is one of the lessons of the book that Emerson seems to have learned as much as shared. “I think the most important lesson is the need for us each to come into this process from a place of humility,” he said.

He’s chosen to apply that lesson to the promotion of the book, committing not to give any keynote speeches, choosing instead to only have discussions (like the one he had with me that you can watch in the player at the top of this article.) The book is available for free download here.

Seeking for insights to help people “get to this next place together,” Emerson plans to engage in exchanging ideas “because I have a part of that answer, but I only have a part of that answer. And I think that we’re going to really find the answer by stepping back and be more deliberative and dialogue with each other, which I think is how we come to be in better dialogue with self.


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Ina Pinkney Shares Her Incredible Polio Story


A generation ago, most people in the U.S. knew a polio survivor. Today, there are so few left, there are very few so many people can’t name an acquaintance, let alone family member, who has been afflicted.

Ina Pinkney was infected in 1944, during World War II, more than a decade before the Salk Vaccine became available, stemming the annual summer epidemics that paralyzed communities almost like it paralyzed children.

Because parents didn’t know how the virus spread or why it did only in summer months, parents avoided many summer activities from ice cream to swimming pools.

Ina shared her touching story with me on World Polio Day, an annual event hosted by Rotary and the other members of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. You can watch it in the video player at the top of this article.

Interview with Ina Pinkney.

The following is the pre-interview with INA PINKNEY. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

Ina Pinkney, chef/owner of the The Dessert Kitchen Ltd. and a polio survivor, speaks at Rotary’s sixth annual World Polio Day event, streamed live from the College of Physicians in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, 24 October 2018. Photo Credit: Rotary International

Ina Pinkney’s bio:

Twitter: @breakfastqueen1

Instagram: @thebreakfastqueen1

Website: www.breakfastqueen.com

INA was the Chef/Owner of INA’S, an American Food restaurant and a pioneer in the West Loop Market District, that closed at the end of 2013.  

She is a frequent and welcomed guest on radio, local news and cable TV,  has done interviews on shows in the U.S., Canada and Germany and appeared in a national Quaker Oats commercial as herself – the Breakfast Queen.

Articles about her have appeared in local, national and international newspapers and magazines, as well as trade and in-flight magazines.  Her recipes have been syndicated globally and featured in many cookbooks.

Ina has been a guest lecturer on Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University,  DePaul University and the University of Illinois, and has been the keynote speaker at food conferences and culinary school graduations.

She also speaks about breakfast trends for food companies.

In 2014, Ina was awarded the Golden Whisk Award from the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Organization for excellence in the kitchen, lead a coalition of Chicago Restaurateurs and Chefs to support Chicago’s smoking ban and co-founded the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition for restaurants in Chicago with Dan Rosenthal for which they received Chicago Magazine’s 2011 Green Award.  

She was named 2008 SBA Woman in Business Champion.

In 2013 she published INA’S KITCHEN: Memories and Recipes from the Breakfast Queen so that her recipes would live in everyone’s home.

Besides writing a monthly column for the Chicago Tribune called BREAKFAST WITH INA, a documentary about the closing of INA’S screened in 48 film festivals around the country.

Despite the awards and acclaim she has garnered in her career, the most significant title she holds is Polio Survivor.  Ina now speaks to Rotary groups about the late effects of polio in her effort to help Rotary and the Gates Foundation achieve their goal of the worldwide eradication of polio.


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Hult Prize Winners Awarded $1M To Transform The Lives Of 10M People

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Four students at University College London who launched aptly named Rice Inc. have been awarded the $1 million Hult Prize to meet the official challenge to “build a scalable, sustainable social enterprise that harnesses the power of energy to transform the lives of 10 million people by 2025.”

Their plan is to make fast, effective and affordable rice drying available to smallholder farmers who, lacking the technology, typically lose about 20% of their harvest in the drying process. Today, those farmers simply spread their rice on the ground in the sun, where is it vulnerable to weather, birds and other pests that may eat or contaminate the rice.

“We solve inefficiencies in the rice supply chain caused by an existing power imbalance between smallholder farmers and millers,” says Kisum Chan, the team’s chief marketing officer. “We solve this by providing farmers with access to drying and storage facilities which can potentially unlock the true value of their harvest.”

Kisum Chan CREDIT: RICE INC.

Originally, the foursome, Lincoln Lee, CEO, Julia Vannaxay, COO, Vannie Koay, CFO and Chan, planned to sell the farmers innovative, affordable solar dryers. When they got out in the field in Myanmar, however, the farmers were not enthusiastic. Be sure to watch my interview with Lee, Chan and Koay in the video player at the top of this article.

The solar dryers were faster than leaving the rice in the sun and the rice was protected from the weather and pests, but the solar dryers were slow compared to the farmers’ preferred solution: biomass-fueled dryers.

The team did their homework and realized that by burning the biomass waste from the production of rice—including the rice husks—the solution would have only a small carbon impact—the energy necessary to blow the fans. By accelerating the drying, however, more rice could be dried more quickly. The benefit of avoided food waste could offset the carbon used in drying.

At a cost of about $6,000, the dryers are not affordable for smallholder farmers, Koay explains. The team determined to buy the machines and then provide use of the machines as a service to farmers on an affordable basis.

Their solution increases the number of rice farmers can sell as well as the price at which they can sell it because it is more consistently dried and there is less loss due to pests. The team hopes to double the income of smallholder farmers.

Vannie Koay CREDIT: RICE INC.

Increasing food supply is also important. “Half the world depends on rice and actually what happens is that we–according to current projections—we probably will run out of food or we won’t have enough to feed our population and the half the world that eats the rice will probably be the first ones affected.” Says Lee. “But actually, we do grow enough rice. Are we just wasting a lot of it.”

Lincoln Lee CREDIT: RICE INC.

Athina Kafetsiou, executive coach and CEO at The Executive Lounge, served as a judge at the campus round of the competition. She offered to mentor the team as they moved forward to the next rounds. Ultimately, she was invited to join the board, which she did.

“The commercial stamina and health of their business model has not just one, but a number of built-in components for addressing critical social challenges: solving global food insecurity, enabling generations to skip the poverty loop, and creating more equitable ecosystems of supply and demand without adversely impacting the world’s finite resources,” Kafetsiou says.

Koay explains that 100,000 students around the world participated in the Hult Prize competition. The competition winnows the field at the university level and then in regional competitions that eventually yield finalists, all of whom receive training and coaching to help them reach their objectives.

The $1 million prize is provided as an investment in the enterprise, rather than a grant, helping to assure some accountability for building the enterprise—and potentially improving the food supply for 10 million people by 2025.


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Surviving Japan’s 9.0 Earthquake Changed This Trader’s Life For Good

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

“I was living in Tokyo at the time and working for a Wall Street bank when the earthquake hit; I was on the trading floor literally when this huge earthquake hit,” says Wendy Hapgood, 40, now chief operating officer for the Wild Tomorrow Fund.

She goes on to explain that it wasn’t the earthquake that rattled her so much or even the ensuing tsunami. Rather, it was the nuclear crisis that developed in the following days.

“A lot of people commented at the time of the disaster, ‘Well, you know, it wasn’t that bad; nobody died [from the radiation].” And I really thought—because I was there on the ground and I experienced it personally—that they were missing a crucial part of the environmental destruction and the poisoning of our Earth,” she explains.

“I used to joke with friends that I felt like the only banker on Wall Street who wanted to quit to join Greenpeace,” she says. Watch the full interview with Hapgood in the video player at the top of this article.

Several years would pass before she left Wall Street to form the Wild Tomorrow Fund with her co-founder and Executive Director John Steward.

Wendy Hapgood CREDIT: WILD TOMORROW FUND

For his part, he credits a conservation volunteer trip to South Africa in 2013 with inspiring him to step away from his career as an advertising creative executive. “I first witnessed the immense struggles wild animals and the people responsible for their safety were facing.”

Steward is proud of the impact their organization is having. “I am most proud of educating people on the issues facing our natural world. I have seen many people take positive action to protect wildlife who I believe would not have done so without my influence.”

When Hapgood left Wall Street in 2015, she not only co-founded the Wild Tomorrow Fund but also started a master’s program in sustainability management at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. She studied the intersection of poverty and rhino poaching.

Poaching is a hot-button issue for her. She notes that rhinos are critically endangered entirely because of poaching, with fewer than 20,000 white rhinos and 5,000 black rhinos left in the wild.

Things aren’t much better for elephants. From 2007 to 2014 when the last census was taken, 30% of elephants in Africa were gone due to poaching. Seeing “144 thousand elephants killed in the last seven years, sort of on our watch, this is not a crisis from the past it’s a crisis of today.”

The Wild Tomorrow Fund started working by literally putting boots on the ground. While the organization considered sexier investments like drones, when they learned that rangers in South Africa were not only poorly paid but so poorly equipped they didn’t even have boots, they raised money to buy them boots.

Today, the organization has a four-pronged approach to conservation:

  1. Wildlife protection: the fund provides support to 16 different wildlife reserves, funding uniforms, equipment and training. Part of the funds helps to support dehorning rhinos to protect them from poachers.
  2. Conservation research: The fund conducts research to contribute to the conservation of threatened species and their ecosystems. Not only are they looking out for elephants, but also hyenas and the scarcely known suni antelope, an endangered species about the size of a chihuahua living in rare and threatened sand forests.
  3. Habitat conservation: The fund purchases land that is or can be restored to serve as habitat for endangered species. Hapgood notes, “Habitat loss is perhaps the biggest threat to the future of our planet’s wildlife.”
  4. Community development: Noting the connection between poverty and poaching, the Fund sees a need to connect conservation to community benefit.

“I would like us to have even greater impact on the ground in Africa,” Steward says of his vision for the fund’s future. “The activities we choose to support will stay fluid in order to match the region’s conservation challenges. For the foreseeable future, we will continue to help protect wildlife by supporting the region’s underfunded wildlife reserves and we will continue to purchase and protect large areas of wild land that are under threat from agriculture and human development.”


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