Friday, June 17, 2011

Is There a Social Innovation LL.M?

While in social innovation exploration mode, last month I reported back from an interesting conference on sustainable enterprise, in which we learned a few key buzzwords in the field.  One was the "Green MBA"---with special focus on triple bottom line accounting.

Which makes me wonder, is there a parallel "social innovation" LL.M course of study?

An LL.M is a postgraduate law degree (a Masters in Law) that is typically a one-year, full-time program. It is often pursued to specialize in an area of law. For example there are LL.M programs in taxation, environmental law, international law, and intellectual property.

With legislative innovations such as the benefit corporation and B corporation gaining traction, it seems that it would be useful and helpful to have attorneys who specialize in this emerging field.  Four pioneering states have already passed benefit corporation legislation. In California, the benefit corporation bill (AB 361) passed a vote in the state assembly 58 to 17, and New York's benefit corporation legislation (A4692-A/Silver) is heading to the governor's desk...

With the connection between social innovation and law becoming a little more foreseeable than Mrs. Helen Palsgraf and harm caused by an ill-fated newspaper-wrapped package, it is food for thought to consider what tools and methods law students and attorneys have to study this subject further.

It would be great to hear feedback on any programs you know of, you can also find Innov8Social on Facebook and connect on this topic there.

Monday, June 13, 2011

B Corporation and Benefit Corporation: 3 Key Differences

If you are exploring signs of responsible business, you will likely come across the terms "B corporation" and "benefit corporation"...and while they may sound like synonymous buzzwords in social innovation, they are actually distinct concepts.

Here are 3 key differences to help keep them straight:

1. B Corporation is a voluntary certification.  B corporation certification recognizes companies that are purpose-driven and which create benefit for the community, the environment, and employees--as well as for shareholders. B corporation status is conferred on companies that apply with a passing score on the B Rating System and that agree to take steps to legally expand the fiduciary duty beneficiaries beyond shareholders.  The certification is granted by an advisory committee from B Lab--a non-profit organization dedication to B Corporation certification.

2. Benefit Corporation is a legal corporate structure.  You've likely heard of corporate structures such as a C corp or an S corp, similarly, benefit corporation is a new class of corporation that serves society and the environment, as well as shareholders. As of June 2011, four states have passed benefit corporation legislation (Maryland, Vermont, New Jersey, Virgina).

3. Becoming a Certified B Corporation is one way to meet statutory requirements for Benefit Corporation status. This is true for states that have passed benefit corporation legislation.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Behind U2's ONE Campaign, "I Am One"

I had the serendipitous good fortune of being able to attend the U2 concert in Oakland yesterday after a good friend had an extra ticket. As only of the greatest bands can do, U2 made a lasting impression on upwards of 60,000 fans.

I Am One
ONE campaign wrist band from Oakland U2 show, June 2011
Bono and U2 offer a unique view of how social innovation can work. We have heard of celebrities championing causes, but attend a U2 concert and you may find the theme of social awareness is weaved in to nearly every aspect of performance.

The entire concert experience becomes a call to reflect, motivation to act, and a reason to believe.

In fact, even before the concert began, while enthusiastic ticket-holding fans were waiting in line, volunteers for the advocacy group ONE---co-founded by Bono---were on the scene. With iPads blazing.

With a few quick strokes and multitasking ease, they explained the "I Am One" campaign, added names to their petition, and handed out simple but dramatic wristbands. Bono even recognized the volunteers, the cause, and a few of ONE's achievements during the concert.

So, what is the ONE campaign? Here are a few facts to put it in perspective:

  • ONE is an advocate. The ONE campaign is a grassroots advocacy movement fighting extreme poverty, preventable disease, and pressuring political leaders on policy ranging from supporting democracy to providing education for children.
  • ONE is a global citizen, with a special interest in Africa. With efforts spanning the world, ONE been key in securing over $100 billion in debt relief for nations struggling with extreme poverty, which has enabled countries in Africa to fund education to put 42 million more children in school. The ONE Campaign also recently supported $450 million in debt relief for Haiti after the earthquake.
  • ONE has rockstar lineage. What is now the ONE campaign is actually an amalgam of an anti-poverty advocacy group founded by Bono in 2002 and a separate grassroots anti-poverty movement launched in 2004. The two groups joined forces under the umbrella of ONE in 2008. The Board of Directors includes Bono, Bobby Shriver (of the Shriver family),  Howard and Susie Buffett (son & daughter of master investor Warren), as well as rockstars from academia, government, the non-proft sector, and business. 
  • ONE is not asking for your donation. As an organization primarily focused on advocacy, ONE is not a fundraising effort. They work with world leaders to change and develop policy and practice. (note: apparently you can buy some ONE swag. ONE is also allied with (RED) the business venture designed to raise money to combat AIDS in Africa)
  • ONE wants to make its collective voice louder. ONE wants your signature, as your endorsement for its work. It wants to rachet up its member base so it can leverage its worldwide base of support in negotiating change with law makers and political leaders. 
  • ONE is living proof. A big part of being a problem solver is being an active listener. The ONE campaign has a site dedicated telling the stories of issues it is addressing around the world. Real lives, and ONE living proof
Interested in ONE? You can find more information and sign up on the ONE campaign website

Monday, June 6, 2011

Adeo Ressi Talks About the Founder Institute

I have attended two workshops hosted by the Founder Institute--a kind of accelerated startup MBA program for promising entrepreneurs--both hosted by the Institute's Founder Adeo Ressi. From the talks I walked away feeling the passion, energy, and vision that Ressi and his team have for new entrepreneurs and budding startups.

I had a chance to catch up with Adeo after his talk on Startup Legal Q&A for Silicon Valley. Watch the quick video below to hear him outline the concept of the Founder Institute, his vision for its reach, and what inspired him to launch this initiative.

In the realm of social innovation I can't help but think that innovation comes first---without innovation or entrepreneurial spirit there may be little with which to balance social or environmental values.

You can find out much more about the Founder Institute, the CEO mentors, the schedule of course offerings, and the application process on the Founder Institute website.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Who Said Corporations Have to Maximize Shareholder Wealth?

Ask any law school graduate, and they will probably tell you that Michigan Supreme Court in Dodge v. Ford Motor Co. 170 N.W. 668 (Mich.1919) did.

Dodge v. Ford: A Swashbuckling Tale for Maximizing Shareholder Profit

Ford OverdriveThe historic case Dodge v. Ford tells a page-turning tale of astonishing innovation, mind-blowing wealth, deep rumination, distrust, and defection. There are larger-than-life personalities all-around, unafraid to use (legal) sword and shield to pursue and protect their interests.

Less clear, however, is who is the hero and who is the villain. That can only be judged by the lens through which you see the story.

Ford Motor Co. Circa 1919: The Unstoppable Model T
In his enlightening law review article, "Everything Old is New Again: Lessons from Dodge v. Ford Motor Company" (December 2007) University of Chicago Law School Professor M. Todd Henderson sets the scene of the automobile industry in the early 1900's.

After two unsuccessful ventures, Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company began expanding in a big way in the early 1900's. With efficient mass production of cars, a growing market, and increased demand---the Ford Motor Co. was virtually unstoppable. The advent of assembly-line manufacturing led production of Ford's original “Model T” to increase from less than 2000 cars per year in 1905 to over 2 million per year by 1923---growing over 700% in the span of 2 years.

An OMG Reaction to ROI

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