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.
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.
There is real power that comes from doing something yourself. Think of those moments when you graduated from college, finished a 10k race setting a personal record, or completed a home improvement project successfully. You probably felt like Rocky Balboa sprinting to the top of the steps.
Liberals are often criticized by their conservative counterparts for supporting government programs that create dependence among the people they serve. Those same conservatives, however, are often guilty of supporting nonprofit organizations that do the same thing. At the same time, an increasing number of people from across the political spectrum see the importance of helping people develop self-reliance.
That self-reliance, however, is often an illusion.
No one is perfectly self-reliant. Most of us—when we’re honest—can barely make the case for it because we’ve had so much help from parents, friends, teachers, colleagues, employers, investors, fans, followers and, yes, government. As the Reverend Peter Raible penned, “We warm ourselves by fires we did not light. We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.”
Could George W. Bush ever have become President if his father hadn’t? Could Mark Zuckerberg have grown Facebook without investors willing to fund operating deficits for years before the first dollar of advertising revenue? Could Warren Buffet have become so wealthy without the existence of well-regulated and reasonably transparent financial markets, allowing him both to earn returns on and provide access to capital? It seems that even the most revered among us is, at least in part, dependent on others.
Sam and Diane, not their real names, are my neighbors and dear friends. Both have intellectual deficits, Sam from birth and Diane as a result of a brain injury early in life. They live together in a condo in the same building where I live. Sam works two part-time jobs and serves regularly as a community volunteer. They act and feel genuinely self-reliant in the same sense that most all of us do. Their earned income, however, doesn’t come close to covering their living expenses. They are heavily subsidized by their parents. When they reached their mid-thirties and started to thicken around the middle, their parents provided a personal trainer. With his help, they hit the gym for an hour every day and are quite healthy. They have to do the exercise to get the benefit, but their parents saw the wisdom of providing a coach to hold them accountable.
Recently, I visited with Katelyn Dalton, a STEM staffing specialist for Teen Force, a San Jose, Calif., nonprofit that helps at-risk youth finish high school and get into college. Katelyn is a recovering addict who was homeless for two years. During much of that time she lived in a scavenged tent and had no reliable source of food or income. For her, the breakthrough was getting a job. Having a job gave her back a self-image that allowed her to think she was worthy of living, that she could overcome her addiction and become a productive part of society. She was hired by a social enterprise that employs the unemployable and provides training. It started by helping her learn the basics of employment, like how to show up to work every day and take responsibility for foreseeable transit problems. Today, she is a productive member of society who feels fully self-reliant. She is as independent today as anyone.
Jeffrey Sachs, the famed professor who advises developing countries and works to eradicate extreme poverty, has been a champion of and a lightning rod for the idea that poor countries and individuals simply need a leg up to the first rung of an economic ladder that leads to prosperity. There can be little doubt that a person, community or country comprised of people that lack food, water and shelter needs a leg up. What Sachs seems to be missing is that they also need the sense of self-reliance as much as they need help with food, water and shelter. Pulitzer-prize winning author and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has observed that the best form of aid is a j-o-b. That fact, however, ignores the problem that folks like Katelyn may not be employable in their present situation.
Much of our development and aid discussion both at the international and community level today revolves around the premise that self-reliance is a factual condition. In fact, it is an illusion that gives us all self-confidence and the courage to get up each day to fight our battles to the best of our ability. Virtually everyone has or will face challenges to which we simply were or are not equal. Someone has or will step in to help us over such obstacles.
One key to establishing the critical illusion is to give aid that builds dignity. There are times when aid, conditioned on work or participation in a drug treatment program or staying in school, can enhance self-respect. On the other hand, if too much work is required for too little aid, the result can be dehumanizing and tantamount to a form of slave labor.
For instance, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints routinely provides food and other support to people in need, often explicitly in exchange for “volunteering.” When the expected number of volunteer hours matches up well with the value of the goods and the talents of the recipient, the program works to preserve self-respect. When, however, the volunteer hours required for help exceed its perceived value, the exchange robs participants of their dignity. This is complicated by the fact that two similarly situated participants may react differently to the same program, one feeling indignant while the other feels dignified. To be effective, a program must be flexible enough to build self-worth in the participants. If the program doesn’t build confidence, it isn’t working.
Whether we are talking about helping individuals, families, communities or countries, building a sense of self-reliance is more important than their actually becoming so. We need to stop thinking of our aid in terms of whether it actually fosters independence or dependence and focus on whether it creates the sense of capability. The power of people to rise above their challenging circumstances is more closely tied to their feeling self-reliant than it is to actually being self-reliant. Everyone needs to feel like Rocky once in a while.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
According to an NREL report, about half the cost of a residential solar installation is non-hardware soft costs. Reducing those costs is the mission of Sighten, a software tool set for solar installers.
Co-Founder and CEO, Conlan O’Leary explains, “To date, most solar companies and financing providers have had to use horizontal software like Microsoft Excel or had to build software of their own. Those approaches were ultimately too unwieldy, inefficient and not scalable.”
“As the solar market has become more competitive and profit margins have been squeezed, the industry has recognized that significant efficiency gains are needed. Recent years have seen a growing focus on reducing soft costs, but only marginal progress has been made,” he adds.
O’Leary says Sighten is on a mission to reduce the soft costs. The company’s software platform provides a “comprehensive solution,” he says, to manage the solar project lifecycle from CRM to design, proposals and asset management.
The impact of the software could potentially reduce consumer costs, O’Leary says. “Solar installers and developers now have access to advanced tools across sales and project management that will drive greater sales effectiveness and significant gains in operational efficiency, taking cents per watt out of virtually every step in the solar lifecycle.”
He boasts, “Lots of solar software startups have been working on specific nodes in the solar workflow like design, but Sighten is an application that a company could truly run their business on.”
O’Leary notes that the software also has finance and accounting modules, enhancing the reporting capabilities for the asset managers and investors. “This is a dramatic improvement for investors who are used to getting monthly Excel reports. In fact, some investors have called our platform a ‘Bloomberg Terminal’ for the solar asset class,” he continues.
“I care deeply about the environment, and I think climate change is the seminal issue of our time, so I have aligned myself with interesting, challenging work and innovative companies that are addressing these issues. I think Sighten is the culmination of that focus. I know that as we’re successful and as our customers are successful, we’re making a big dent in carbon emissions and positively impacting society,” O’Leary concludes.
On Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, O’Leary will join me here for a live discussion about the software and the impact it is having on carbon emissions and the residential solar industry. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Sighten:
Sighten has built the most advanced software toolset for solar. Built with care by a team of solar industry veterans, the Sighten platform helps solar companies and investors optimize their businesses, driving growth and efficiency through technology. Customers include leading investors, lenders, financing companies, installers, and originators. For more information, please visit www.sighten.io.
Conlan O’Leary is CEO and co-founder of Sighten, a leading solar software provider. Prior to Sighten, Conlan helped manage the structuring and pricing desk at Clean Power Finance, a leading residential solar financing platform. He has prior experience in technology and cleantech investment banking as well as environmental commodities trading. He has also helped manage a salmon cannery in Alaska and lived in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Each year, Capgemini, in partnership with RBC Wealth Management, conducts a formal survey of high net-worth individuals (HNWIs) and shares the data publicly. One of the striking features of the report in recent years, is the increasing interest among wealthy individuals regarding social impact.
David Wilson, head of the strategic analysis group for Capgemini’s financial services strategic business unit gave me three highlights for consideration. If you are a wealth manager, pay attention!
On Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 9:00 AM Eastern, Wilson will join me for a live discussion about these insights and their implications for wealth managers. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Capgemini:
With people in over 40 countries, Capgemini is one of the world’s foremost providers of consulting, technology and outsourcing services. The Group reported 2014 global revenues of EUR 10.573 billion. Together with its clients, Capgemini creates and delivers business, technology and digital solutions that fit their needs, enabling them to achieve innovation and competitiveness. A deeply multicultural organization, Capgemini has developed its own way of working, the Collaborative Business Experience™, and draws on Rightshore®, its worldwide delivery model.
David Wilson is Head of the Strategic Analysis Group, for Capgemini’s Financial Services Strategic Business Unit. David has professional services and financial services experience spanning the areas of strategic research and analysis, management consulting, and marketing.
David focuses on wealth management and in addition to client engagements, has co-authored leading reports such as the Capgemini RBC Wealth Management World Wealth Report, Asia-Pacific Wealth Report, U.S. Wealth Report, and the Capgemini RBS World Payments Report.
Previously, David was a strategy consultant for Capgemini Consulting’s Strategy and Transformation practice where he worked on projects across a variety of sectors.
Prior to joining Capgemini in 2007, David worked for the U.S. wealth management divisions of UBS Wealth Management and Merrill Lynch Global Private Client Group.
David was born in England and graduated with degrees in economics and French from universities in the USA and France. In addition, he played professional basketball in Toulouse, France.
David is currently based in Asia.
Janet Salazar, CEO and Co-Founder of Impact Leadership 21, says “women are marginalized” not only by men who actively oppress women, but in effect, by the men who fail to show up in their defense. She identifies the problem as including the “lack of engagement from men in leadership and influential positions to accelerate gender diversity and women’s equal representation at the top level across sectors.”
Janet was introduced to me by Vince Molinari, the CEO of Gate Global Impact, our sponsor.
“Men are part of the solution. Men are critical in accelerating women’s leadership and achieving gender equality at the top leadership,” she added.
Janet is working to engage more men in the discussion. “I created ‘Conversations with Men,’ a forum to engage men in leadership and influential position on issues of women’s leadership, breaking down barriers of collaboration in the workplace, board room, decision making table,” she says.
She is optimistic about a future with greater gender diversity. “When men and women in leadership roles in societies understand each other and work collaboratively, the economic impact of harnessing women’s contribution at all levels is going to benefit millions of people and open unlimited channels of opportunities for more inclusive, sustainable and thriving economies and societies,” she concludes.
On Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Janet will join me here for a live discussion about her efforts to improve gender diversity. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Impact Leadership 21:
IMPACT Leadership 21 is a global platform providing leadership solutions that drive change. As a global social enterprise, we are committed to inclusive and sustainable leadership at the top level.
Janet C. Salazar is a social innovator, human potential activist, global thinker and a humanist. She is the CEO and Co-Founder of IMPACT Leadership 21™, a global leadership platform that provides solutions that drive change. Janet also serves as the Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Permanent Observer to ECOSOC at Foundation for the Support of the United Nations (FSUN). Janet is the creator of the innovative dialogue series, Conversations With Men™, the pioneering and groundbreaking executive forum with the mission of engaging men in leadership roles to accelerate women’s leadership at the top, and achieving gender equality. She created Conversations With Men™ One on One: Navigating Gender Dialogue in a Woman’s World, an intensive executive coaching platform where she advises male leaders on how to effectively handle gender-related challenges in the business environment, and thrive in today’s increasingly diverse workplace.
This is a guest post from Aaron Lester, Demand Generation Manager at Fluxx
The Christensen Fund was started in 2004 to help promote biological and cultural diversity to sustain and enrich a world faced with great change and uncertainty. Through place-based work, impact investing and funding, the Christensen Fund supports international efforts to recover global diversity and locally-recognized community custodians of heritage.
The Fund works primarily through grantmaking by awarding $15 million a year to people and institutions who believe in a biodiverse world. By early 2013, the Christensen Fund realized it needed a more flexible and forward thinking grants management solution for their large grant program. The foundation knew there was a smarter, more efficient way to award its grants. It was time for a change.
“A lot of the products we were looking at, including Cyber Grants, felt old and rigid. They seemed to be trying to shoehorn new technology into an old outdated structure,” says Brian Burgin, a grants manager at the Fund who specializes in processes and systems at the foundation. Christiansen was searching for a “more dynamic” grants management software solution.
BY GRANTMAKERS FOR GRANTMAKERS
The San Francisco-based foundation focused its efforts in regions chosen for their potential to withstand and recover from the global erosion of diversity. Most of the foundation’s program officers are located in these regions, including the African Rift Valley, Northwestern Mexico, Melanesia, and Central Asia. These far-flung grantmakers needed a system that understood grantmaking from the ground up. Burgin discovered Fluxx, and was attracted to the platform because it “was designed by grantmakers for grantmakers.”
BETTER VISIBILITY, MORE STREAMLINED PROCESSES
The Christensen Fund went live with Fluxx in August 2014. Since then, Fluxx’s configurable dashboards and intuitive interface has allowed the foundation to cut down on extraneous – and, at times, cumbersome – processes to streamline their workflows. “Communications with grantees prior to Fluxx was done largely through email,” Burgin says. “Proposals, reports, and the like would come in and have to be manually added to the record.”
Christensen also realized new visibility into their work. “Fluxx makes it far easier for our staff to track where records are in any given process and to readily see which records are ready for their action without extraneous communication.” Previously, its staff needed to email back and forth about the status of a request, grant, or report.
“Now we can see what’s on our plate at any given time,” Burgin says. “Our processes can become complex. The intuitive dashboards are extremely helpful in helping us see where we are in the grants process at all times.”
A PLATFORM TO GROW WITH US
A year after implementation, Christensen is still finding great way that Fluxx’s full suite of features benefit the Fund. The software has the ability to grow with the foundation as its processes evolve. “It’s going to be the driver of helping us do things a lot more efficiently in the future,” Burgin says. For example, Bugin is particularly interested in exploring more reporting capabilities. “The way we are preparing reports for the IRS and for our Board right now is quite tedious. Specifically, I want to create something that creates exactly what we need for 990 IRS reports.”
Burgin continues: “Our Directors are also keen on being able to view at a glance the status of where we are in grantmaking at any point in the year to ensure that we are on track to meet our goals. December was really hectic because we had to push a lot out before the end of the year, and they want to be able to see that coming and try to prevent it.” Additionally Burgin looking forward to using Fluxx’s new Microsoft Word Plug-in and the DocuSign integration. The foundation also wants to set up a process and workflow to handle grant amendments, which now causes undue amounts of manual work for Christensen.
With ambitious goals for the future, Christensen is secure in the knowledge that they have the tools in place to go where they want to go. It’s great peace of mind for any grantmaker who does not relish the chance to live through multiple technology implementations as a matter of course.
About Aaron Lester:
Aaron is the writer and demand generation manager at Fluxx.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Over the past several years as impact investing has captured the attention of the world’s wealthy, people started by asking “what is impact investing?” Today, the question more people are asking is “how do I do impact investing?”
The Global Impact Investing Network, co-founded by Amit Bouri who serves today as the CEO, sits near the center of this discussion. The GIIN (pronounced like jean or gene) is building a database of impact measures in hopes of creating a resources that will help standardize impact measures.
Investors of all sorts are relatively good at measuring return on investment. Many investors, myself included, check their portfolio values daily. Some monitor them throughout the day–even if they aren’t trading. Others fall back to reviewing quarterly and annual statements, but however financial returns are measured, such measures are easy to gather.
The GIIN is helping to make impact measurement just as easy. Impact investors will achieve target impacts unless they have good data with which to measure the impacts.
And let’s be clear, much of what we initially think of as impact is just activity. An investment that increases the number of books in children’s hands isn’t really an impact so much as an intermediate outcome. The impact is the changes, positive we hope, that are yielded in the lives of the children. Are they doing better in school, reading at or above grade level, graduating from high school, matriculating into college, etc.
The GIIN is working to help us measure impact in all its forms.
Bouri is bullish on the future. “Impact investing has the potential to channel significant amounts of private capital to solutions to the worlds most intransigent challenges. Last year was a banner year for impact investing and set the stage for 2016 to be a year of tremendous growth and progress.”
On Thursday, January 28, 2016 at 1:00 PM Eastern, Bouri will join me here for a live discussion about the GIIN and its work to make impact investors more effective. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about The GIIN:
The Global Impact Investing Network is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the scale and effectiveness of impact investing. Impact investments are investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.
Amit Bouri is the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of the GIIN. His work in impact investing began when he was a strategy consultant with the Monitor Institute. At Monitor he was part of the team that produced the Investing for Social & Environmental Impact report, and he left Monitor to co-found the GIIN in 2009.
Amit’s other projects at the Monitor Institute included strategic planning and organizational development work for nonprofit organizations and foundations. Amit previously worked in the private sector as a strategy consultant with Bain & Company. He left Bain to work in global health at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. He also worked in the corporate philanthropy units of Gap GPS +0.00% Inc. and Johnson & Johnson JNJ +0.98%. Amit holds an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, an MPA from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and a BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Swarthmore College. Amit serves on the Board of Directors for Investors’ Circle and SJF Institute.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Katelyn Dalton was a homeless addict. She considered herself to be “unemployable.”
She says she was hurt and frustrated when she was rejected by prospective employers who rejected her application even when they said they were hiring. She boasts, “ I overcame it with self-perseverance and the support of social enterprises giving me the support and tools necessary to be successful.”
The social enterprises she mentions were supported by REDF, a nonprofit that supports social enterprises that employ the “unemployable.” Founded in 1997 by KKR’s George Roberts, the organization is led today by Carla Javits.
Dalton explains what it felt like to re-enter the workforce. “When I finally learned that I had the ability to be successful, I was worth it and I had value, I was able to put my 100 percent into my life and therefore become a star in the workplace.”
Javits exults, “Katelyn’s experience reflects exactly what REDF aspires to do for tens of thousands of people – demonstrating the power that a job can have in transforming the life of an individual and making it possible for them to contribute in a positive way to their family, while also improving their community.”
REDF works to replicate Dalton’s experience. Economic mobility, the process of moving up the socioeconomic ladder, is much more difficult in the U.S. than most of us appreciate. A surprising 43 percent of children born into poverty will remain poor over their entire lifetimes, according to REDF.
Dalton has now joined the effort to help people who are where she was. Today, she is a STEM Staffing Specialist with Teen Force, a nonprofit that works with foster youth and others from 14 to 24 who are at risk. She says, “My success lead me to help others succeed. I continue to do so every chance I get.”
REDF focuses on helping those at greatest disadvantage, like those who are released from prison. Without a job, the odds of returning to prison rise. This population also experiences high rates of homelessness. The organization works using a cross-sector approaching, engaging business, philanthropy and government to address these problems.
On Thursday, January 28, 2016 at 6:00 PM Eastern, Javits and Dalton will join me for a live discussion about the REDF programs and its successes. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about REDF:
REDF creates jobs and employment opportunities for people facing the greatest barriers to work–like young people who are disconnected from school or work, people who’ve been homeless or incarcerated, and those with mental health disabilities. Founded in 1997 by George R. Roberts (KKR), REDF provides funding and business expertise to mission-driven organizations in California to launch and grow social enterprises, which are businesses with a “double bottom line” that make money in order to employ people with multiple barriers to employment. REDF has helped over 10,000 people in California get jobs and find hope. Now REDF is taking best practices learned from 18 years of experience to grow their impact nationally.
REDF’s President and CEO, Carla Javits, provides the leadership and vision that drives its mission to provide equity-like investments and business assistance to social enterprises, mission-driven businesses focused on hiring and assisting people facing barriers to work. Inspired by the leadership of REDF’s founder, George R. Roberts, Carla focuses on achieving measurable results by leveraging the business community’s knowledge, networks, and resources, and the mission of the nonprofit to create jobs and tackle the challenges of homelessness, incarceration, mental health, and addiction.
In overseeing strategy, relationship building, and fundraising, Carla works directly with the leadership team as well as the Board of Directors and Advisory Council that are instrumental to REDF’s success. In leading an expansion from the Bay Area to new horizons in Southern California, Carla has laid the foundation for REDF to impact the lives of many more people nationwide. Under Carla’s leadership, REDF was awarded a federal Social Innovation Fund grant by the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the Los Angeles Business Times Nonprofit Social Enterprise of the Year award in 2013. San Francisco Magazine recognized Carla in their list of innovative Bay Area Philanthropists.
Before coming to REDF, Carla was the national President and CEO of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, where she was responsible for providing grants, loans, and technical assistance to service-enriched housing initiatives that ended homelessness for tens of thousands. She was Program Analyst with the California Office of the Legislative Analyst and Director of Policy and Planning for the San Francisco Department of Social Services.
Carla holds a BA and Master’s in Public Policy from UC Berkeley. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Social Enterprise Alliance and the Melville Charitable Trust and as an Advisor to the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship at Duke University. She is a member of the Advisory Committee of The Philanthropic Initiative as well as the Insight Center for Community Economic Development National Advisory Board. Away from work, Carla likes spending time with her partner, her grown children, and her dog. She enjoys music, movies, theatre, cooking, and spending time outdoors.
More about TeenForce:
TeenForce is a non-profit, social enterprise that ensures teens (ages 14-24) gain work experience. We provide work readiness training, skills development and job placement services. Our staffing agency model makes it convenient and cost-effective for employers to hire teens and generates revenue to support our activities. Teens in our program gain confidence and skills while improving adult/teen relationships. Teens become healthy, caring and responsible young adults who have important roles in the community. We help teens increase important developmental assets and help schools in developing “career ready” youth, while addressing the problem of teen employment.
We plan to create a business model that will be replicated throughout the country to help a variety of diverse communities facing these challenges.
We have a special emphasis on foster youth. We recently made a commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative America to provide our services in the STEM program we offer to 100% of the foster youth in Santa Clara County.
Katelyn is a STEM Staffing Specialist with TeenForce who brings knowledge of retail, non-profit, and case management. Her prior experience with Goodwill of Silicon Valley brings a strong foundation of helping individuals break difficult barriers to employment. She is personally familiar with social services and the foster care system and has a deep passion for helping people. Katelyn is certified in Arts and Sciences of Coaching and utilizes positive reinforcement to help individuals realize their full potential. She recently switched roles and is now assisting with the STEM program with Teenforce. This program is designed for high school foster youth. Youth gain STEM training, job readiness skills and job placement in a paid summer internship in Santa Clara County.
Tracy Saville, founder of My Swirl by Queentia, is a social entrepreneur who has completely bought in to the idea that the best way to see the future is to create it. She offers three keys to living in the future:
On Thursday, January 21, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Tracy will join me for a live discussion about her three predictions for living in the future she envisions. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about My Swirl by Queentia:
My Swirl by Queentia, LLC, a disruptive, global and emotionally intelligent technology platform that converges Community, Collaboration, and Productivity for the first time; designed the way women want their digital and online experiences to be, built to unlock the global women-based economy. Building 3 product editions – a Personal, Business, and Group Edition – My Swirl is set to roll out their products in beta and GS editions between Q3 2016 and Q1 2018 post closing their Series A round of financing in early 2016. With a three-fold business model including re-occurring subscription, product and service, and transaction revenue My Swirl has a highly experienced, women-founded and co-founding team of 6, using a human centric design ethos that respects the one woman, and the cultural, gender, and geographic uniqueness of all people’s real time desires and expectations about their online experiences and what they want out of their lives – personally and professionally. For the first time, her social, business, and productivity will be inside one “mother of all app” artificially intelligent ecosystem that asks us all to meet her where she lives and works, that offers experiences of collaboration, community, and productivity with her and for her connections – male and female – that respect who they are.
Tracy Saville is the ‘imagineer’ at the heart of My Swirl and sets the vision and strategic goals for the company. She directs the My Swirl management team with great energy and passion, committed to operating under an enlightened management model with a triple-bottom line (people, planet, profit) approach. Her fellow co-founders possess a strong social impact vision for improving lives and economic outcomes for their customers, employees, partners, and the communities they serve and collaborate with.
She leads a team dedicated to building a new, mindful corporate culture that is in the service of helping people to achieve their goals and aspirations, that helps people live lives of wellness, and helps them fulfill their human purpose, while delivering more relevant and efficient productivity, powering others to do the same in their own companies, families, and communities.
Prior to My Swirl, Tracy served as a key member of the management team for CleanWorld, a leader in anaerobic digestion technology and remains an advising CFO, shareholder of a building products company she owns with her husband. As a lifelong entrepreneur and policy leader, she also served in key influence roles for women, energy, and children during the administrations of California Governors Pete Wilson and Gray Davis. She subsequently founded and developed companies in leadership development, entertainment, publishing, renewable energy technology, and mobile software. In 2015, she was the recipient of the National Association of Women Business Owners “Outstanding Women’s Leader” award for her pioneering entrepreneurship of MySwirl.
Tracy holds a BA in Management, an MFA, a Negotiations Certificate for Senior Executives from the joint certificate program administered by Harvard Law School, MIT, and Tufts University, and was a participant of West Point Military Academy’s Global Leadership summit in 2011. She has advised for Angel Hack, Social Venture Partners, Women’s Start-up Weekend, and is a member of the board for TEDx Sacramento. She also advises for California State University Continuing Education programs and teaches as a passion. Mentoring other women will always be a lifelong pursuit.
Her goal is to make My Swirl the most powerful and relevant woman’s brand in the world.
Pierre Hines recently won a $20,000 grant from the Atlantic Council in recognition of his remarkable nonprofit startup, Caribbean Returning Nationals Foundation, which he joined to support economic development in Caribbean countries. The organization was founded by Arlene Graham.
“‘Brain drain,’ the process by which a country loses skilled labor through emigration to developed countries, is a significant challenge for Caribbean countries. Many countries have lost more than 70 percent of their educated workforce,” Pierre explains.
For Pierre, this is a personal cause. “I am one of 1.2 million children in the United States with at least one Caribbean-born parent. My Jamaican father and his entire family immigrated to the United States in the 1970’s, and that decision is one the reasons I’ve had world-class educational and professional opportunities.”
“However,” he continues, “I understand that the migration of skilled labor creates challenges for local governments because they lose tax revenue that emigrants would have generated and human capital that emigrants would have contributed.”
Those who return to the Caribbean with quality education from the US or other more developed countries also face challenges. He notes, “It is problematic to have persons with MBAs working as bank tellers. And, for example, I have met a promising person with a master’s degree in engineering who took a job as a locksmith upon returning to the Caribbean.”
With 3.5 million immigrants from the Caribbean living in the U.S., Pierre hopes to tap into that Caribbean diaspora to foster economic development in the region. They are working on two specific initiatives now.
First, he says, “CRN recognizes that Caribbean countries must diversify their economies—particularly because of their heavy reliance on tourism—and recognizes that creating entrepreneur opportunities is a tried-and-true method of bridging the gap between the developing and developed countries. Through the ‘Challenge Cup-Caribbean‘ and related activities, CRN is expanding opportunities for startups to seek international investments and business relationships. CRN’s entrepreneur initiative also allows those with expertise in the diaspora to participate in skills-based volunteering by mentoring startups in their area of expertise—turning the ‘brain drain’ into a ‘brain gain.'”
“Another way that CRN is working to solve the problem is through youth empowerment initiatives. CRN formed the ‘Students for Students Initiative,’ which connects students and young professionals through social media into a support network that facilitates their professional development and enhances cultural awareness,” Pierre continued. “One of CRN’s immediate goals is to establish a physical Caribbean Coworking Campus for entrepreneurs and young people to work, connect, and learn.”
Pierre has a big dreams for CRN, “Our vision for the Caribbean Returning Nationals Foundation is for it to become a trusted gateway for the Caribbean Diaspora to connect with and contribute to their home region. We also want it to serve as a gateway for those living in the Caribbean to obtain educational and professional opportunities in the global marketplace. Ultimately our goal is for a tech entrepreneur in Kingston, a product manufacturer in Port of Spain, and a service provider in St. Lucia, to have the same educational and professional opportunities as their counterparts in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.”
On Thursday, January 21, 2016 at noon Eastern, Pierre will join me for a live discussion about CRN. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Caribbean Returning Nationals Foundation:
The Caribbean Returning Nationals Foundation is a grassroots non-profit that supports economic development in the Caribbean to reverse the effects of the “brain drain.” It connects financial and intellectual capital from the Caribbean Diaspora back into the region.
Pierre Hines was born in the United States and is of Jamaican heritage. He is a Board Member of the Caribbean Returning Nationals Foundation, a non-profit that connects financial and intellectual capital from the Caribbean Diaspora back into the region. Pierre is also a corporate attorney based in the Washington, D.C. office of global law firm Jones Day. Prior to joining the legal and non-profit sectors, Pierre served as a Captain in the intelligence branch of the U.S. Army, where he served in a tactical unit and on an IT program. He is also a Fellow with the Atlantic Council, through its Millennium Leadership initiative for veterans under age 35. Pierre received his B.S. from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
There are more and more people doing impact investing in Africa, seeking both to be of help to the people there and to take advantage of the rapidly growing economies there. Matt Davis of RENEW LLC is one of this breed of impact investors.
Davis says, “There is both a development challenge and a market challenge in Africa that we are addressing.”
“The development challenge is that the financial systems in many countries in Africa are fragmented, and little to no capital is available to finance the growth of small and mid-size businesses (SMEs),” he explains. “At the top of the economic pyramid, bank and institutional financiers tend to back large multinationals. At the bottom, microfinance institutions lend only small amounts at high rates to micro-enterprises. But there is nothing to finance small and growing businesses. Thus, we have what is called the ‘missing middle’ in these economies, and SMEs are inhibited from growing into large companies, creating jobs, generating tax revenue, and stabilizing the economy along the way.”
Moving to the second challenge, Davis says, “The market challenge is related to supply and demand. The supply of private equity is growing across Africa, as international investors move in seeking higher risk adjusted returns. Yet these investors are not able to find enough companies able absorb the minimum investments they are willing or able to make. Addressing both challenges requires a new financial actor and intermediary to stimulate financing and growth for SMEs.”
Davis led the creation of the Impact Angel Network (IAN) to invest in Africa, with an initial focus on Ethiopia. “The IAN addresses the problem of the ‘missing middle’ by being a source of financing for SMEs. The IAN invests in professionally vetted and managed companies in Africa that are led by strong management teams looking to scale. RENEW manages the IAN’s portfolio in-country and addresses a trust and skill gap that has kept many U.S. investors from being active on the continent of Africa.”
RENEW is operating at a relatively small scale, filling the gap in the missing middle. This space is thinly populated in part because the administrative and logistical costs of running a small fund making six-figure investments overwhelms returns. Grants from development agencies make the economics work for RENEW.
Davis says, “And the development community (organizations like USAID), makes these investments economically feasible by lowering the transaction and management costs that would normally be borne by the investors. This model, or public private partnership between the IAN, RENEW, and the development community, is working, and the IAN is now one of the most active and largest investors in Ethiopia on a transaction basis.”
Davis sees their role in Africa as a catalyst to help struggling countries there gain greater independence from multi-lateral and other aid organizations. “RENEW intends to scale our model and implement it in other countries across the continent. Over time we would like to see offices in 20 countries, and professional teams in each country managing hundreds of companies that are creating thousands of jobs. As the companies that the IAN invests in grow, they will provide jobs and taxable revenue to the government, which can then finance the programs that are currently being covered by international aid organizations,” Davis concludes.
On Thursday, January 14, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Davis will join me here for a live discussion about their work in Africa. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about RENEW LLC:
RENEW LLC founded and manages the Impact Angel Network (IAN); the largest U.S. angel network for Africa. The IAN’s mission is to invest in high quality, high potential companies in Africa, support their growth, and achieve attractive financial returns and sustainable social impact from their investments. RENEW is a U.S. investment adviser that manages the IAN’s portfolio from its office in Africa. RENEW’s team of lawyers, financial analysts, and business consultants find and vet promising businesses in Africa, present them to the IAN, and grow them into world-class companies. The IAN and RENEW believe that many growing businesses, together, can create the engine that lifts entire nations out of poverty.
Matthew Davis is founder and partner at RENEW LLC. Mr. Davis has extensive experience working with U.S. and African government leaders, and structuring and facilitating international private equity investments. Mr. Davis is a founding member of RENEW’s Impact Angel Network. Prior to founding RENEW, Mr. Davis worked as a principal consultant at the Touchstone Consulting Group, a strategy and management consulting firm. As a consultant he advised executives and government leaders on strategies for environmental sustainability, international development, health policy, information technology, and finance. Mr. Davis has an undergraduate degree in physics and a master’s of science in physics and business from the University of Utah, and is a CFA charterholder.