photo credit New York Times

3 Things the Social Impact Sector Can Learn from the Olympic Games

“If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.” – Michael Phelps, US competitive swimmer, most decorated Olympian of all-time

Michael Phelps at Summer Olympics 2016.

photo credit New York Times


Whether you have have been glued to your screen of choice watching every Olympic event possible or have caught highlights from posts on Facebook, there is little doubt that spirit of the 2700-year-old games have once again challenged our view of the possible, propelled us to deepen our focus, and maybe even inspired us to play our favorite sports again.

So, what can the social impact sector learn from the Olympic Games?  Here are 3 takeaways that have been on my mind.


3 Things the Social Impact Sector Can Learn from the Olympic Games


1. It takes time to build a tradition.


In looking at nearly 30 centuries since the Ancient Olympics which took place in 776 BC  or considering the 120 years since the launch of modern Olympic Games…it’s clear that it has taken a hot minute to build the global, pervasive tradition that is the Olympic Games.


We all might wish the social impact sector was growing more quickly, that resources to grow and scale social enterprises were more readily available now; however, we might do well to ask ourselves how we want this space to look in 100 years. These critical moments, somewhere past inception but before full maturation, are when we can inform, influence, and shape the sector and how people across time (and perhaps space) may engage with it ahead.


With the long game in mind, we afford ourselves the opportunity to think more broadly and hopefully more boldly about what we are creating and how we can impact this growing sector that we hope, in turn, will go on to positively impact many others.


2. To make it stick and mean something, you have to invite people to the table.


It was only during its resurrection in Athens in 1896, and with delegates competing from 34 countries, that the Olympic Games became truly global. Fast forward to the Rio De Janeiro Games in 2016, and we witness participants from 206 countries and a first-time team of 43 refugees in competition.


The Olympics did not achieve its je ne sais quoi from limiting participation and involvement, but rather, by opening up the opportunity to everyone while also raising the bar for who could qualify and how. As a result, it has become a global symbol of excellence, rather than exclusion.


Applying this sense of community and possibility, we have to remind ourselves that the greatest innovations in impact will likely not come from behind closed doors, but rather at open tables. From my experience of covering social impact through Innov8social for over five years, I have seen (or later heard about : ) many private, closed door events. Or others featuring prohibitive entry fees. Technology is enabling innovations such as livestreaming and virtual participation, but it still feels like as a sector we can do more to include, invite, and raise the bar for how individuals and entities participate.

3. Planned, live events let people plan, get excited for, and train to innovate to the next level.


With all of the concerns we have seen in recent years as to whether Olympic host cities will “pull through” and be prepared by Opening Day, it is tempting to wonder if there might be technology-enabled solutions that would allow for remote competition and likely save hundreds of millions of dollars for host countries. However, time and again we are shown that the magic happens in the midst of live, in-person interaction.


In May 2016, Innov8social hosted our first live event, “Impactathon”. After years of creating content and syndicating over digital channels, through blog posts, podcast episodes, online course, book, and other online content, the inaugural in-person event did wonders to show the power of having committed, mission-aligned individuals in the same room ideating together.


Extending this more broadly to the social impact sector, there already are growing ways and events to bring together individuals for a live, planned event. Whether through fellowship such as Starting Bloc, Echoing Green, Global Social Benefit Institute, Opportunity Collaboration, Hive Global Leaders, or others; or through events or through pitch competitions; these exist and are growing by the day. However, there is not an “Olympic” standard type of event as of yet–one that is marked by its openness and rigor and which somehow recognizes or furthers the profile and legacies of its participants.


To reach our olympic potential in social impact, the opportunity is ripe for action and innovation, and more reasons than ever to #goanddo.


Andrew Calvo
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Live from Impactathon 2016 at TechShop in San Francisco!

In this episode we meet the participants from Impactathon 2016, where participants share candid experiences and perspectives from thought leaders and participants in the social impact space; hear about their successes and challenges and how they continually pivot to pursue both profit and social impact.

The participants also got a special guided tour of TechShop in San Francisco. This is a powerful resource to build physical things using state of the art equipment and technology. They also learnt about classes and new packages that TechShop offers.

Listen to the Podcast Episode 

Meet Andrew Calvo 

Andrew Calvo, is the Director of Sales, SF Bay Area at TechShop.  At the ImpactAndrew Calvoathon,  Andrew introduced the Tech Shop to the crowd with demos of metal shop, wood shop and laser cutters.

Andrew explained, that hundreds of companies launch from TechShop. Square who developed their first prototype for the Square Reader, a device that turns smartphones and tablets into credit-card readers, came out of Tech Shop.

Andrew also explained that, a lot of Social Impact projects have kicked out of Tech Shop. Bio-light camping stove is a great way to cook food, it reduces the particulates coming out of the flame is one among them. Similarly Resource Sanitation helped to develop, better sanitation products for the developing world. Dodo case is another example, which got benefited out of Tech Shop. He also explained that learning about prototyping tools and technologies, would spark a lot of ideas and can eventually lead to innovative and impactful projects.

Another company, Embrace, is making sleeping bag-like incubators to keep children warm, hundreds of thousands of babies die because they can’t make it to an incubator quickly enough. TechShop also offers free public tours of every machine and shop area.

Show Notes

Here are a few articles related to this episode.

More about Impactathon

  • Website:
  • Value Proposition: “Live and online events to bring together thinkers and doers inspired to create and further social impact. Join us to explore the space, learn about nuances, and expand your network.
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Live from Ability in Tech Summit in Berkeley, California

Ability in Tech Summit

In this episode we meet the participants, speakers, and organizers at “Ability in Tech Summit” . The summit addresses barriers and biases for people with different physical and mental abilities in tech – through workshops, panel discussions, a technology showcase, a career fair and a safe space to learn and meaningfully connect.

The first Tech Inclusion Conference in September 2015 began as a simple idea by co-founders Melinda Briana Epler and Wayne Sutton to bring together the tech community to discuss solutions to the industry’s diversity and inclusion challenges. The idea quickly gained momentum with overwhelming support from impassioned speakers, supportive sponsors and engaged partners.

Listen to the Podcast Episode 

Meet San

"Ability in Tech Summit"

“Ability in Tech Summit”

This is day 23 of our 30 Day Podcast Project!  Today, you will meet San, from the “The Lions Center for the Blind”. The Lions Center for the Blind uses the latest in technology to provide individualized, one-on-one training to develop the skills necessary to succeed.

San feels more work needs to be done to educate those who are not aware of the laws protecting those of disabilities. They feel more resistance based on the skepticism and lack of understand of person’s ability rather than the actual disability.

San hopes to see what’s in the store, for the progress of those who are disabled. His organization provides rehabilitation services for people who are blind or low vision to build independent and productive lives. There is a professional team of experienced instructors provide individualized, one-on-one training for our clients to develop the skills necessary to succeed. To know more please visit

Meet Lorna

Lorna Seitz is from Legis Institute, they are in process of developing an online platform to facilitate collaborative policy and legislation development.Lorna is attending the session so that she take care of the concerns for the disabled.

Legis tailors interventions to build on an institution’s existing strengths and address its unique challenges. They begin the needs assessment process by using unique institution-mapping and assessment system to identify repetitive patterns of behavior that undermine institutional fairness, effectiveness, and efficacy.  Clients and partners have used their resources to improve

  • legislative drafting processes in Government ministries and in parliaments,
  • public hearings and the use of public input to law and regulations,
  • monitoring and evaluation of legislation as it is implemented,
  • law reform processes
  • court functioning

To know more please visit

Meet Darlene

Darlene is working with Alameda County Social Services Agency. The agency promotes the economic and social well-being of individuals, families, neighborhoods and communities. The Alameda County Social Services Agency is comprised of 2,200 men and women working collectively and in partnership with community-based organizations to serve the needs of the community. 

  • The Agency assists approximately 11.3 percent of Alameda County’s residents.
  • Benefits programs contribute over $278 million to the local economy through cash assistance and CalFresh.
  • Every month more than 52,000 people receive CalWORKs (assistance for families with children), CalFresh and General Assistance.
  • Every month health insurance is made available to more than 78,000 people through the Medi-Cal program.
  • Every month more than 11,000 frail, elderly and disabled individuals receive in home care, adult protection and support managing their affairs, and throughtout the year 16,000 seniors will receive services through the Area Agency on Aging. 3,700 children are in foster care.

More About Ability in Tech

  • Website:
  • Value Proposition: “As technology continues to affect every sector of business and innovation, there’s a growing concern for the lack inclusion across the tech ecosystem. While we work to correct this through a growing focus on diversity and inclusion, we often leave out populations of capable people in tech like those with visible and invisible disabilities.

What Every Social Entrepreneur Should Know About Fiscal Sponsorship, with Attorney Zoe Hunton

In this episode attorney Zoe Hunton, shares her experience on fiscal sponsorship, a unique tool that can increase access to funding, validity, and resources for social enterprises.

It’s fantastic to reconnect with Zoe for this episode. She was first joined as guest on the Impact Podcast in 2014 where she discussed her own story and path into social impact law and the decision to launch her own practice, Hunton Law, dedicated to the space. You can listen to her first interview here.


Listen to the Podcast Episode 

Meet Zoe Hunton

zoe-hunton” This was recorded back on day 21 of a 30 Day Impact Podcast Project! “.   Today, you will meet Zoe Hunton, Founder of Hunton Law  —they help to select appropriate legal entity to maximize both purpose and profit, based on the venture’s business model, sources of capital, goals of the founders, and other key startup considerations.

Zoe graduated from Brown University with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology with Honors. She received a law degree from UC Davis with a Certificate in Public Service. Zoe is licensed to practice law in California.

Zoe also serves on the Board of Directors of Community Initiatives in San Francisco, which provides comprehensive sponsorship services to community benefit projects.

Fiscal Sponsorship

It is a formal arrangement in which a 501(c)(3) public charity sponsors a project that may lack exempt status. This alternative to starting your own nonprofit allows you to seek grants and solicit tax-deductible donations under your sponsor’s exempt status.

 Show Notes

Here are a few useful links to take away:


Meet Minerva, A New Innovative College Experience Focusing on Global Immersion and Impact

In this episode we meet the students of Minerva University, a startup university program with no lectures and no final exams. Minerva believes in preparing students to lead, innovate, and solve complex challenges, that will help students to positively impact the future. Minerva is an alliance with the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI), and it offers four-year undergraduate degrees in five accredited majors: Arts & Humanities, Computational Sciences, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Business.

At Minerva, all courses take place online, and the students live in a different country each year.Minerva’s freshman class is made up of students from 36 countries. They live together in rented housing and take classes through their computers.

Listen to the Podcast Episode 

” This was recorded back on day 20 of a 30 Day Impact Podcast Project! “.

About Minerva University


 The school, officially called Minerva Schools at KGI, is a non-profit undergraduate program. It was formed as a joint project between the Minerva Project and Keck Graduate Institute (KGI). The startup, created in 2012, doesn’t aim to be another elite private school, though; its model is vastly different from what four years of school in the prestigious Ivy League resembles.


Ben Nelson, Founder and CEO of Minerva Project. Minerva Project

The Minerva Project is a for-profit company which owns the technology and intellectual property associated with the Minerva Schools. One of the biggest draws to Minerva is its annual tuition and charges, which is much lower than other selective schools. For the 2016-2017 school year, Harvard lists its total tuition, room and board, and additional fees at $66,900.

Minerva University admitted its first class of 29 students and recently landed $70 million in funding, enough to offer the founding class of students full scholarships through graduation.

Ben Nelson, Founder and former Snapfish president believes schools like Minerva will start to create competition in the higher-education arena. Nelson says, “Students are realizing that institutions can’t just sit on their brands that they’ve built over decades or centuries and deliver the same ineffective experience”.


Show Notes

Here are a few articles worth reading about Minerva.

More About Amp Your Good

  • Website:
  • Value Proposition: “Minerva offers a unique undergraduate education. The intensive four-year experience is deliberately designed to enhance your intellectual growth and prepare you for success in today’s rapidly changing global context.
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Live from Sustainatopia! With Tom of Tom’s of Maine, Sustainatopia’s John Rosser, and ConsciousStep

In this episode we meet three different personalities, thanks to 2016-Sustainatopia. Sustainotopia is one of the leading events in the world for social, financial and environmental sustainability & impact. All three people whom we meet today, share a common goal – Social Responsibility!

We met Tom of Tom’s Maine, Sustainatopia’s John Rosser, and Prashant Mehta of ConsciousStep.

Listen to the Sustainatopia Podcast

Meet Tom


Tom Chappel of Tom’s

We met Tom of Tom’s of Maine—a leading natural products company focused on oral and personal care products. The company has a long-standing commitment to supporting people, communities and the living planet. For over 42 years, Tom’s has sponsored hundreds of nonprofit efforts by giving 10% of its profits back to organizations that support human and environmental goodness.

Tom’s of Maine was founded by Tom and Kate Chappell in 1970 with US$5,000. The Mission of Tom: to create products that were more healthful to use, and to produce those products in synergy with their community and environment.

Meet John Rosser

We met John Rosser, founder of Sustainatopia— one of the leading events in the world for social, financial and environmental sustainability & impact.


John Rosser of Sustainatopia

As curator of Sustainatopia- a global conference which attracts many thousands of global thought leaders and participants from around the world- as well as publisher of magazine, John remains closely connected to the entire global eco-system of social, financial and environmental sustainability.

The first company he founded, the worlds largest international MBA job fair, was sold to the Washington Post in 1996. Rosser has his Master in International Business Studies degree from the University of South Carolina, and is fluent in German, with moderate fluency in Spanish and French.

Meet Concious Step


Conscious Socks

Conscious step was founded by three friends that weren’t happy with the problems faced by the world today. They were deeply concerned with the gravity of these problems and the potential implications on all of us.

Conscious Step make socks that fight for causes that matter. Each pair is uniquely designed, ethically manufactured and partnered with a first class non-profit to fund quantified impact for the world’s biggest challenges. For example, the pink and blue argyle pattern provides six therapeutic food packs to malnourished children in Sub Saharan Africa, in partnership with our non-profit partner Action Against Hunger

Show Notes

Here are a few interesting articles about people and their companies we met in this episode.

Graham Brewster

Meet Graham Brewster, Managing Director of World Housing, Social Impact Housing

In this episode we meet Graham Brewster, Managing Director of World Housingan impact enterprise that provides homes to families living in slums in the developing world, fostering communities where families can thrive with safety, security, and access to the resources that change lives.

Prior to this social enterprise, Graham was the development Manager at GNW trust a real estate firm which helped to convert a land parcel into a vibrant community of companies, artists and entrepreneurs. Prior to that, Graham was working as a Micro finance intern with Nobel prize winner Muhammed Yunus. They actively helped in micro lending to those stuck in poverty.

Listen to the Podcast Episode 

Meet Graham Brewster

” This was recorded back on day 26 of a 30 Day Podcast Project! ”  Today, you will meet Graham Brewster, Managing Graham BrewsterDirector at World Housing — where they believe homes are the key turning point where the momentum of community begins to have effects that radiate beyond individuals and into entire families, villages, and countries.

World Housing homes allow people to live safe, stable lives. Children who grow up in safe, stable homes have greater freedom to pursue education, and raise the standard of living for themselves, their families, and future generations to come.

Prior to this social enterprise, Graham graduated from University of British Columbia in Commerce, Real Estate. He had traveled to the middle east and worked as intern with Grameen bank. There he has worked with Nobel Prize winner Muhammed Yunus, in micro lending to those stuck in poverty, there by improving the dignity of the people.

Show Notes

Here are a few articles related to this episode.

More About World Housing

  • Website:
  • Value Proposition: “World Housing believes that homes are the key turning point where the momentum of community begins to have effects that radiate beyond individuals and into entire families, villages, and countries.
51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship : Q&A

What are drawbacks of incorporating as a hybrid legal structure?

Abridged excerpt from book “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship“.

Hybrid Legal Structure – Drawbacks

Though it is fascinating to have these new legal structures, they might not be the best fit for every company. An attorney’s job is to help startups find a structure that will be the best fit for their goals, objectives, and growth strategies.

The big thing with the new legal structures is that they haven’t been tested in court. That means there is no case law. To be honest, we don’t know how courts will react or uphold the impact objectives. You always need people to raise their hands and be the first, but some companies may not want to be in such an undefined area of law. Additionally, since each state has passed its own version of these legal structures, each state has different requirements. One side note that bears mention is that while there is no definitive case law on this subject yet, Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, Leo Strine, has written articles on the topic, including one titled “Making It Easier for Directors To ‘Do The Right Thing’?” in which he supports the idea that benefit corporation statutes have the potential to shift accountability and put actual power behind the idea that corporations should act responsibly.  

Another consideration is that some attorneys feel it isn’t necessary to opt for a new legal structure because there is enough protection within the system (i.e., Business Judgment Rule,  constituency statutes) and with the shift in consciousness of corporations towards CSR, there is a natural evolution of the corporation.  However, this “wait and see” mentality may not be a good fit for every company as it leaves a few important considerations undefined.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the transparency and accountability requirements of the new social enterprise legal structures may not be in line with the company’s policy for releasing information. Depending on the state of incorporation, incorporating as a benefit corporation may mean making information publicly available that a Board of Directors is not comfortable with.


image of "51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship"

This is an abridged excerpt from the book, “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship” by Neetal Parekh. You can learn more and buy the entire book—which is told as a story of three aspiring social entrepreneurs and which dives into key aspects of social entrepreneurship including defining the space, legal structures, securing funding, and measuring impact at

51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship : Q&A

Are there special legal structures for social enterprise?

Abridged excerpt from book “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship“.

Special Legal Structures for Social Enterprise

Companies based in the U.S. can choose between new legal structures or existing legal structures or combinations. They can also rely on established legal principles when deciding on how to move forward with forming their entities.

Off the bat, let’s go through a few terms. A hybrid structure is the term cool kids are using these days to describe these new legal structures that combine elements of for-profit and nonprofit legal structures. An example of this is the benefit corporation—it’s a single structure but formalizes aspects of nonprofit (i.e., commitment to impact) as well for-profit (i.e., generating revenue) organizations. Each of the structures does this a little differently, and in the U.S., each state recognizes its own version of these structures.  

The term tandem is a good one to describe the use of multiple legal structures to achieve the intended goals, such as impact and profit. So a social enterprise could be structured as a C corporation and have a non-profit organization associated as well. Think of it like a tandem bicycle: multiple riders (or in our case, legal structures) working together for the same goals.

The term hybrid, is used to describe a single legal structure combining elements of nonprofit and for-profit entities, and tandem to describe the situation when multiple legal structures are used to achieve a social enterprise’s goals. Some of the existing legal structure options for mission-driven companies include cooperatives, limited liability companies (LLCs), C corporations, and nonprofit organizations.

A few of the new legal structures for social enterprise include benefit corporations, social purpose corporations, and low-profit limited liability companies. Each structure, of course, has different advantages and drawbacks.


image of "51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship"

This is an abridged excerpt from the book, “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship” by Neetal Parekh. You can learn more and buy the entire book—which is told as a story of three aspiring social entrepreneurs and which dives into key aspects of social entrepreneurship including defining the space, legal structures, securing funding, and measuring impact at

51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship : Q&A

I am a student—where can I go to learn about and apply for social innovation fellowship programs?

Abridged excerpt from book “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship“.

Social Innovation Fellowship Programs

There are literally dozens of social innovation fellowship programs, and new ones emerging regularly. Some are paid, while others are unpaid or for college credit. There are programs to meet individuals at whichever stage of life they find themselves in, whether they’re in school, in an established profession, transitioning between careers, or seeking to re-enter the workforce.

Here are few social innovation fellowship programs to research further:

You can also find a dynamic list of social innovation fellowship programs at and here:

Social Innovation Fellowship Programs

Social Innovation Fellowship Programs


image of "51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship"

This is an abridged excerpt from the book, “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship” by Neetal Parekh. You can learn more and buy the entire book—which is told as a story of three aspiring social entrepreneurs and which dives into key aspects of social entrepreneurship including defining the space, legal structures, securing funding, and measuring impact at