Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Video Interviews with Social Entrepreneurs at Santa Clara University Magis 2014 - Celebrating Social Entrepreneurship

As detailed in the Photo Essay of Santa Clara University's Magis 2014 Showcase for Social Entrepreneurship, the event brought together hundreds of social entrepreneurs, thought leaders, practitioners, and academic thinkers for an evening of exploration, reflection, and recognition.

One of the most impactful features of the event was the networking time before the speeches and evening meal. Flanking the auditorium were tables headed by social entrepreneurs, many of whom were GSBI graduates and current participants. 

Here are video interviews with two of the participants. You will learn a little more about the kinds of social enterprises GSBI has incubated, what the program has meant to them, and about the why, what, and how that guides their work in the impact space.


Artisan Connect at SCU Magis 2014


Interview with Vrnda Dalal, Supply Chain and Artisan Partnership Manager at Artisan Connect., Artisan Connect is an online marketplace for quality home goods made by artisans in developing countries. It was founded by GSBI mentor Amanda North.






Global Women's Water Initiative at SCU Magis 2014


Gemma Bulos, Director of Global Women's Water Initiative , a nonprofit and GSBI alumnus, explains the organization's work in training and building a movement of local women water experts to address water issues, that affect them the most. GWWI focuses on Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and has trained over 200 women to build over 30 rainwater harvesting systems, that provide over 300K liters of clean water to their communities. 




Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Photo Essay: Santa Clara University Hosts Magis 2014 - Celebrating Global Social Entrepreneurship

SCU Magis  2014On a beautiful Sunday evening in mid May 2014, hundreds of social entrepreneurs, mentors, funders, leaders, professors, and faculty members gathered for a gala to honor two individuals in the social enterprise space as well as to further the global dialogue about mission-driven ventures.

The inaugural dinner named Magis---the Latin term for "more" (i.e. as in more strategic, or better) highlighted the work of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS) and its long-running Global Social Benefit Institute which has over 200 alumni social enterprises that have positively impacted nearly 100 million lives since the program launched over a decade ago. It also recognized and honored the work of Graham Macmillan, former Sr. Director of VisionSpring ( social enterprise dedicated to ensuring the distribution of affordable eyewear) and Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation (one of the institutions that support GSBI).

Santa Clara University is no newcomer to social enterprise. As learned through an Innov8Social audio interview the Center of Science, Technology, and Society Director Thane Kreiner----the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) has a rich history in the space, and Thane's own experience as a serial entrepreneur in the health sciences arena informs and inspires his work at CSTS. The department also hosts an annual GSBI Accelerator Showcase, which features pitches from current participants. (Coverage of the 2013 GSBI Showcase here.)

Though the Magis showcase & dinner evening was seated in elegance and dressed to the nines, one of its most glimmering accessories was the humility of its participants. From Master of Ceremonies Thane, to featured speakers, and award recipients, to the esteemed guests, there was an honesty and authenticity in engaging in value-driven work, understanding the reason behind the work, and the long and often challenging road in launching ventures that seek to improve lives in addition to employing an entrepreneurial mindset. In this space, just as with any niche, there can be a tendency to gild individual contributions or the sector itself, or brush past known challenges and failures. But the tone of Magis, perhaps due to its firm roots in the Jesuit tradition or because the presence of so many active social entrepreneurs in the evening's program, was one of engaging in dialogue, of furthering conversations, and of finding ways to help each other better understand and support the space.

Photo Essay: Santa Clara University Hosts MAGIS -- Celebrating Global Social Entrepreneurship


Sunday, May 18, 2014


SCU Magis 2014
A pre-event slideshow featured various GSBI and social enterprise projects and initiatives.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Photo Essay: Social Enterprise Law Symposium 2014 at University of California Berkeley, School of Law

The first Berkeley "Social Enterprise Law Symposium" took place in the first week of April 2014. The Boalt Social Enterprise Group (a student organization of UC Berkeley School of Law) and the Impact Law Forum hosted the insightful event to take a closer look at financing & exits for social enterprises. The event comprised of two panel discussions and surveyed the finance and legal structures for social enterprises from startup stages to scale-- focusing more on scalable social enterprises backed by foundation or grant funding.

Scroll down below for links to watch videos of the sessions.

From the perspective of covering social enterprise law in various posts on Innov8Social about the introduction and passage of benefit corporation legislation in California and beyond; hybrid corporate forms including L3C, CA flexible purpose corporation, and others; the merit of tandem structures (i.e. for-profit + nonprofit combinations); potential of crowdfunding for equity; and impact financing possibilities and constraints----the panel talks validated some overall trends that have been emerging and brought to light interesting nuances by active legal practitioners in the space, social entrepreneurs, funders, returns-focused venture capital, and policy experts.

Below is a photo essay from the talk, along with a few notes about notable quotes and points raised. You can also read literature handed out at the Symposium on the Impact Law Forum website.

Attorney Gene Takagi also posted about about the session in his blog post, "Financing Social Enterprises: From Start-up Through Exit".

Social Enterprise Law Symposium

The panel talks afforded legal practitioners continuing legal education credit and brought together a diverse group of individuals engaged or curious about the social enterprise space.


Interview with Jason Li, Teen Social Entrepreneur and Successful Participant of "Shark Tank" [AUDIO]

As an avid viewer of NBC's "Shark Tank" ---- my interest was piqued during a recent episode when one young entrepreneur mentioned his passion for building a social enterprise after reading David Bornstein's book, How to Change the World. The book was one of the inspirations for Innov8Social and my interest in this space.

By way of context, Shark Tank gives entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their startups and seek funding from  celebrity millionaire and billionaire investors including Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Kevin O'Leary, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, and Daymond John.

Jason Li presenting at Shark Tank, 2014
(adapted from screenshot of Shark Tank)

iReTron at Shark Tank
(adapted from screenshot of Shark Tank)
Jason's company, iReTron, buys back used electronics for a cash value, and then re-furbishes and re-sells or recycles the products.  (See below for a video where Jason and the iReTron team explain the concept).

Jason was successful in raising his ask of $100K through an investment by Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban, for a 20% equity stake in his company plus 20% of any company he starts in the next five years.

Meet Jason


Jason Li
(adapted from screenshot of Shark Tank)
Jason's family immigrated to the US from China when he was 6. He observed their work ethic and discipline as they started a small business in northern California.  And as he shared on his show, one of his early passions was judo, which he has been learning since he was five years old. He had been actively competing in the sport until he broke his back in high school.

It was at that time that he began reading about social enterprise and social entrepreneurship, which helped spark his idea to launch a company that pursued profit as well as impact. 

Jason has been featured as a TEDxTeen speaker, was named "Next Teen Tycoon" for his work with iReTron, and has presented at events such as the Green Festival, all prior to his successful pitch at Shark Tank.



Listen to the Interview




More about Jason and iRetron







Saturday, March 29, 2014

Reframing What It Means to Be a Social Entrepreneur

As a follow-up to Innov8Social's recent interview with Kate Michi Ettinger, I wanted to share a reflection on part of the conversation we had after the recording.


Reframing What It Means to Be a Social Entrepreneur


I have known Kate for over a year now, through our participation in Impact Law Forum and other social entrepreneurship events and conferences. It was a sincere pleasure to have the opportunity to learn more about her the breadth and depth of her work.

We chatted after her interview and she shared a sentiment that reframed my perspective on social entrepreneurship. As you may know, the recent months have brought on exciting projects such as the social innovation book project co-author Shivani Khanna and I are working on, and my role in curriculum and business development at entrepreneurship education startup (Thinktomi). These responsibilities, in addition to feeding the blog (admittedly, less frequently), can sometimes feel overwhelming.

In talking to Kate---who juggles multiple roles, each incredibly demanding and each with its own layers of complexity, she said one line that particularly resonated with me--- "this is what it means to be a social entrepreneur."

As self-identified social innovators we have to balance the sometimes-chaotic, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, 24/7 ish demand by taking care of our health, seeking balance, and finding solace in what can feel like a perfect storm. In our efforts to do this, we set the stage to finding new ways to engage in the tasks, and work required to make social enterprise ideas into reality.

It was the perfect sentiment at the right moment--and helped reframe my own view from seeing these as challenges to 'handle' as invitations to redefine balance and innovate.

In reflecting on her observation this past week I feel that in the brevity of life, it is a sincere and humble honor to be able to dedicate my time and efforts to projects I believe in---even if the balancing act requires a little additional creativity and focus :)


notebook and pen

Interview with Kate Michi Ettinger, Social Entrepreneur in Health and Bioethics and Specialist in Integrity by Design [AUDIO]

Social entrepreneurs often find themselves in the spaces in-between what already exists. Case in point is Kate Michi Ettinger, a bioethicist by training, a researcher & design strategist by profession, and a serial social entrepreneur by practice. She is weaving her expertise and passion in an area called integrity by design (you can see her TEDxBarcelonaChange talk below).

Her current project is called OpenQRS, which creates open source community development tools focused on assuring the quality, reliability, and safety of health care devices. Her work spans the space in-between need for low-cost medical devices and government regulations for those devices. 

In her interview, she shares more about how she is working to not only build tools to enable affordable medical devices and appropriate standards but also to educate and collaborate with government and regulatory bodies to make her vision possible. 

Meet Kate


Kate Michi Ettinger
Kate holds a BA from Johns Hopkins, holds a J.D. and has been pursued certifications in mediation, bioethics, facilitation, and client counseling. She has taught at UCSF and has spoken at the University of Bangkok, the World Congress on Medical Law in Croatia, and International Conference on Clinical Ethics Consultation, Amsterdam.

Kate co-founded startup Planet-Well in 2000 and held a product development role at ePatients. Kate went on to found the Mural Institute, where she engages with foundations and other clients on topics of interaction design, healthcare ethics, and digital strategy.


Listen to the Interview






Watch Kate's TED Talk





Monday, March 24, 2014

Do the Most Important Thing - Paul Graham, VC and Founder of Y Combinator

"Do the most important thing." - Paul Graham

Simple, elegant, and something that has likely been said over millennia---this has been the phrase that has echoed over and again in my mind since I saw Paul Graham speak at the 2014 Launch Festival in San Francisco.
Paul Graham at #Launch 2014
Paul Graham, at Launch Festival 2014


In his afternoon keynote on the first full-day of the conference (Monday, February 24, 2014), Paul shared what he has learned at the helm of Y Combinator (YC)---arguably the accelerator that catalyzed the launch of hundreds of other accelerator and incubator programs designed to spur innovation and provide an alternative pathway for thinkers and founders to become companies.  He reflected on the past decade, the kinds of founders YC has selected in the past, his changing role in the organization, and his announcement that he will be stepping back from day-to-day operations at YC.

He said that when he meets with founders he often prods them to identify their most important next task----and to focus on doing exactly that thing.

It is apt advice for the entrepreneur and especially so for a mission-minded social entrepreneur serving multiple stakeholders.

All too often founders can get distracted, sidetracked and perhaps overwhelmed, causing them to spread ourselves thin and focus on multiple targets simultaneously. But, in practicing Paul's advice, much of the surrounding noise dissipates and is replaced with focused attention and follow-through.

I hadn't heard Paul speak before, and was struck by his easygoing, open style. After hearing him, I imagine this as a typical, garden-variety talk between Paul and a founder:


Paul: "Hey [Founder], so what's the most important thing right now?"

Founder: "X"

Paul: "Yeah, go do that."







Friday, March 21, 2014

Photo Essay: "Achieving Social Impact" Conference at Mills College #CSRB14

On a sunny Friday in mid-March 2014, social innovation-minded leaders, thinkers, and students gathered at the beautifully designed (and LEED Gold certified) Lokey Graduate School of Business at Mills College for the 6th Annual Center for Socially Responsible Business (CSRB) Conference. The theme for this year was "Achieving Social Impact: To Scale or Not to Scale?"

Speakers addressed the critical issue of "scale" for a social impact venture---how is it defined? How can it be effectuated? How does it apply to various organizational forms? How does the conversation about "scale" change based on sector?

These questions and more were addressed through keynote speeches, panel discussions, and hosted lunch table talks. Overall the day was enriching---complete with insightful speakers, engaged attendees, and a wonderful opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals in the impact space.

It was great to be able to share our book ideas and progress with fellow attendees, make connections, and hear valuable feedback on our research and focus areas. Below are a few snapshots from the day.

CSBR at Mills College 2014
Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business, Mills College

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