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Storify Recap of Social Good Tech Week 2015 in San Francisco [VIDEO, PHOTOS]

It was year two of participating in Social Good Tech Week in San Francisco. This time, it was an honor to serve as a judge to the immensely driven, mission-oriented social entrepreneurs who pitched on the Main Stage on Friday afternoon.Social Good Tech Week SF 2015

Social Entrepreneur Pitches

The startups and nonprofits that pitched were:

  • Noora Health (Judges’ Selection) – training patients & families with high-impact health skills to improve outcomes and save lives
  • SWAT App (Peoples’ Choice) – aims to end police violence everywhere (Safety With Accountability, Transparency)
  • tinyGive – enables people to donate to causes with just a tweet
  • Long Distance Voter – the absentee ballot experts
  • Say This Not That – new tool for compassionate communication
  • FeelGood – mobilizes resources and the public to address the pressing challenges of our time
  • Youthful Savingsempowers the next generation with financial education and entrepreneurship training
  • ActOn mobile apphelps users engage with causes, organizations and responsible brands by taking simple actions on mobile app
  • HandUpdirect giving for the homeless and others at risk
  • Charity Miles – earn money for charity when you walk, run, or bike
The entire experience of the workshops, sessions, and presentations was incredible and…immersive. There was a chance to connect and get to know a number of attendees, thanks to ample networking time and ahead-of-schedule timing.
Below are various forms of media, including YouTube, Flickr photos, and tweets, to get a look and feel for the Main Stage (Friday) and a workshop on Growth Hacking (Saturday).
Looking forward to following the progress of the startups who pitched!

#SGTech Multi-Media Recaps

 

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Storify Recap of VLAB January 2015: Transforming Entrepreneurship – Women Under 30 [PHOTOS]

VLAB January 2015: Transforming Entrepreneurship - Women Under 30It’s incredible to think that this blog post on a fascinating VLAB event on crowdfunding in June 2012 was the first connection point with VLAB. Fast forward two-and-half years and it’s been continually enriching to become immersed in disruptive technology, learn about emerging trends, and—especially for our work in exploring social innovation—better understand those points of nexus that connect the vast potential of entrepreneurship with impact.Tonight’s VLAB event featuring five accomplished entrepreneurs and skilled moderator was no exception. The theme of this evening was “Transforming Entrepreneurship: Women Under 30” and featured the Founders, Co-Founders, or CEO’s of tech startups TRUSTe, Entefy, Revel, BitWall, Enplug, and Locket.Here is a social media recap of the event that features posts about the panel, advice shared by the panelists, soundbytes, and reflections from attendees and organizers. Enjoy :)

 

 

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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.

SCU Magis 2014
Final touches before attendees are seated.

 

SCU Magis 2014
One of the social enterprises featured at the tables was WE CARE Solar— a portable solar-powered off-grid electric system to power electricity in hospitals that do not have steady electricity. Co-founder Dr. Laura Stachel spoke about her experience in starting this organization on a panel at Kiva in 2013.

 

SCU Magis 2014
Mexico-based social enterprise Prospera, a 2014 GSBI participant, empowers female-led micro businesses with consulting and training and connects them to conscious citizens and consumers looking to create a more equal and engaged society. See the beautiful video they created to explain their work.

 

SCU Magis 2014
Solar Ear, a Brazil-based social enterprise, tackles the daunting World Health Organization statistic that over 6000 million people worldwide have some form of hearing impairment. It develops high quality and affordable solar-powered hearing aids, produced by deaf people to hearing impaired ones in deprived areas.
SCU Magis 2014
GSBI mentor Amanda North has turned social entrepreneur, with Artisan Connect— an online marketplace for quality home goods made by artisans in developing countries. Read about how witnessing the 2013 Boston Marathon explosion shifted Amanda’s focus from her corporate work to starting this social venture.

 

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. (see their impact infographic)
SCU Magis 2014
Sankara Eye Care Institutions, a 2014 GSBI participant, aims to eradicate preventable and curable blindness in India by providing free high quality eye care to millions of rural poor. Over the span of 35 years, Sankara’s network has grown to 11 eye hospitals, 120+ doctors, 600 paramedical professionals, and over 250 support staff–that have collectively impacted an estimated 40 million people.
SCU Magis 2014
Launched in 2010 and a GSBI alum of 2013,  Ilumexico is a social enterprise comprised of a for-profit and nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting development in rural areas through solar-powered electricity systems, with a focus on last-mile distribution.

 

SCU Magis 2014
The Magis showcase evening program started with statistics outlining some of the world’s most pressing issues.

 

SCU Magis 2014
Statistics and initiatives from organizations such as the World Wide Hearing, based in Jordan, were featured in the slideshow. WWH, a current GSBI participant, provides provides access to affordable, high quality hearing aids to children and youth with hearing loss in developing countries.

 

SCU Magis 2014
Thane Kreiner, Executive Director of Santa Clara University Center of Science, Technology, and Society served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening.
SCU Magis 2014
A brief video outlining innovation and social impact was shared.

 

SCU Magis 2014
Jim Koch, the founding Director of CSTS introduced the first Magis award.
SCU Magis 2014
Thane and Jim presented the award to Graham Macmillan.
SCU Magis 2014
2006 GSBI participant and former VisionSpring Sr. Director Graham McMillan accepted the inaugural Magis Award for his work in field and his continuing work within the social enterprise sector, now in a funding role. To date, 2 million people have access to affordable eyewear as a result of VisionSpring’s work. He related the near-death experience he faced in the wake of 9/11 and how it changed his view on everything and inspired his work in social impact.  “We are aspirationalists” said Graham of his fellow social entrepreneurs.  You can see a NextBillion video interview with Graham here.

 

SCU Magis 2014
Kirk Hanson, Executive Director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics  introduced second Magis Award recipient, Sally Osberg.

 

SCU Magis 2014
Sally Osberg,  President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, spoke about her experience and pragmatism in supporting the social enterprise space and the honor and “shame” associated with the term “social enterprise”. You can watch a Skoll video featuring Sally here.

 

The dialogue continues! Catching up with social enterprise attorney Barbara Krause after the event.

 

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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.

Panel 1: Early Stage Financing and Mission Preservation

Social Enterprise Law Symposium

Panel 1 included (from the left): Rick Moss (Founder and Managing Director of Better Ventures); Ayesha Wagle (President of KOMAZA, a social enterprise); Will Fitzpatrick (General Counsel and Secretary of the Board of Omidyar Network); and Susan Mac Cormac (Partner at Morrison & Foerester’s Clean Technology Group & PRivate Equity and Venture Investment Practice, and Co-Chair of the Working Group for the Flexible Purpose Corporation). The panel discussion was moderated by Berkeley law student, Jen Barnette (extreme right)

 

Social Enterprise Law Symposium
To put the social enterprise sector into context, Susan Mac Cormac (center) noted that social enterprises represent less than 1% of the total capital market. She also framed the stage of development and reporting of the infrastructure for social enterprises, in her reflection that “if hybrid structures are in the the ‘1st grade’ of development, impact measurement is in ‘kindergarten.'”
In addressing his perspective on hybrid legal structures, Will Fitzpatrick (left in photo) of Omidyar referenced a quote by famous Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreesen, likening hybrid structures to a “houseboat” because, in Andreesen’s view, “they are neither a good house, nor a good boat.” He also emphasized the weight Omidyar Network places on the scalability of the social enterprises and nonprofits it funds and supports.
Moderator Jen Barnette (right) covered questions surround legal structure options as well as ways social enterprises can avoid “mission drift” and the impact of legal structures and channels of funding.
Social Enterprise Law Symposium
Ayesha Wagle (right) discussed the emerging view of social enterprises as a new asset class in investing. She also reflected on social enterprises pursuing funding, noting the importance of choosing funding types wisely, based on risk tolerance and ability to bear debt or give equity.
Rick Moss (left) brought up an interesting point that his venture fund prefers social enterprises to come in for funding with no legal form rather than an overly-complex of “bad” legal structure.


Social Enterprise Law Symposium
Social Enterprise Law Symposium

 

Panel 2: Exits

 

Social Enterprise Law Symposium

Panel 2 included (from the left) Mark Perutz (partner at DBL Investors & Board member of Revolution Foods); Kendall Baker (CFO at Revolution Foods); Jan Piotrowski (Head of Venture Coverage at Credit Suisse); and Eric Talley (Berkeley Law professor and co-director of Berkeley Center for Law, Business, and the Economy). The panel was moderated by Berkeley JD/MBA candidate, Libby Hadzima.

Social Enterprise Law Symposium
Jan Piotrowski (left) noted that while we haven’t seen big exits in the social enterprise space yet, the time is coming.
Professor Eric Tully (center) expanded on the case of Ben & Jerry’s as a “zeitgeist” of social enterprise M&A and expanded on the implications of the legal case Revlon and “teeth” that new legal structure provide in preserving a social enterprise’s mission in exists.
Moderator Libby Hadzima (right) posed questions framing typical exits for social enterprises, what venture capital firms seek when engaging with social enterprises, and ways social enterprises can pursue mission even in exit scenarios.

 

Social Enterprise Law Symposium

Mark Perutz (left) emphasized that DBL Investors seeks big returns so as to be making “absolutely no sacrifice on financial return” when investing in social enterprises.


Kendall Baker (right) shared Revolution Foods’ mission to become the first mission-based company to go public and expounded on the “halo effect” of health/wellness companies trading higher than companies not dedicated to those goals in similarly situated companies in their class. (i.e. Annie’s brand).

 

Social Enterprise Law Symposium

 

Reception

After the panel discussions, speakers and attendees gathered on the patio—continuing conversations and sharing insights from diverse perspectives and experiences in the social enterprise space.

Social Enterprise Law Symposium

 

Social Enterprise Law Symposium

 

Social enterprise Law Symposium 2014

Watch the Videos

PANEL 1: EARLY-STAGE FINANCING & MISSION PRESERVATION
PANEL 2: EXIT

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
CSBR at Mills College 2014
Deborah Merrill-Sands, Dean of the Graduate School Business at Mills
welcomes attendees and convenes the conference.
CSBR at Mills College 2014
Kat Taylor, Co-Founder and CEO of One Pacific Bank delivers
a compelling keynote about the story of One Pacific Coast Bank,
and how it is has viewed and pursued scale. She concludes in song :)
CSBR at Mills College 2014
Moderator Cecily Joseph, VP of Corporate Responsibility at Symantec facilitates
a discussion exploring “To Scale or Not to Scale?” exploring the why and when of the
concept of scale with panelists representing a variety of CSR initiatives at for-profit
companies and startups.
CSBR at Mills College 2014
One point that Kathy Mulvany, Senior Director of Corporate Affairs at Cisco
underscored was that partnership is critical for scale.

 

CSBR at Mills College 2014
Jessica Steel, President of UrbanSitter and former Pandora executive,
shared the compelling story of how Pandora amassed 200M users
and how her new startup is choosing how to scale, and how not to.

 

CSBR at Mills College 2014
The conference was expertly organized by the campus Net Impact Chapter, together with the CSRB. It was held at the architecturally breathtaking Business School building, which is LEED Gold certified. Complete with a living roof.
CSRB conference at Mills College
Moderator Steve Wright, VP of Poverty Tools and Insights at the Grameen Foundation
facilitated a panel discussion on “Scaling Strategies” and outlined
three types of scale: expansion, replication, and collaboration
CSBR at Mills College 2014
Lalitha Vaidyanathan, Managing Director of FSG shared valuable insight through a case
study that underscored the importance of the scale of the solution matching the scale of the problem.

 

CSBR at Mills College 2014
Paul Herman, CEO and Founder of HIP Investor (Human Impact + Profit) reframed the
discussion of scale based on companies, institutions, movements that have mobilized
1B people and underscored the importance of valuing talent as an asset rather than a cost.
CSRB conference at Mills College
In a breakout session on scale as applied to public education reform, Angela Le (left) Manager of Growth and Special Projects at KIPP Bay Area and Brian Stanley, Executive Director of Oakland Schools Foundation discussed technical and adaptive problems in scaling and how charter schools have found ways to scale.

 

CSBR at Mills College 2014
Nikki Silvestri, Executive Director of Green For All delivered the afternoon keynote
and shared a powerful narrative of her family and path into social impact.
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7 #Edtech Takeways from VLAB Event on Common Core Standards

On the third Tuesday of September, as on many 3rd Tuesdays of most months, MIT-Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB) hosted a panel on an emerging, disruptive technology. On the docket for the month of September—and fittingly nicely with back-to-school overtures at your favorite retail outlets—was titled “Education Technology Tsunami: Common Core Disrupts K-12”.The event focused on education technology opportunities and innovation (edtech) geared toward students in grades K-12 amid widespread adoption of Common Core standards.Now, in the off chance that the preceding sentence contained multiple words with which you are not used to seeing in the same sentence—you’ve come to the right place. This post is just the trampoline to provide both a soft landing and willing launch you deeper into this expansive field.

VLAB Edtech panelThe event took place on the Stanford Graduate School of Business School, in the expansive Cemex Auditorium. It brought together over 400 educators, entrepreneurs, developers, investors, students, and those simply interested in learning about the topic—and, as you might suspect there was a broad spectrum of familiarity with the topic.

This talk was a perfect opportunity to seek depth by gaining introduction to key concepts, topics, questions, and challenges in the edtech space.

Instead of providing a summary—this post outlines a few recommendations, factoids, and topics imparted.

 

The Panel

 

1. Buzzword: Common Core Standards

As explained in the introduction, and in the brochure, “The Common Core Standards, adopted by 45 US states imposes learning and testing which adapts to a student’s ability in real time.”

You can read the full Common Core curriculum requirements here:

 

2. Issues with Adoption of Common Core Standards

Moderator Tina Barseghian outlined a few issues with the adoption of Common Core that have been raised:

  • Some schools don’t have the necessary technology to implement it.
  • Some teachers don’t want to be held accountable for its implementation.
  • Some question its adoption saying that teachers weren’t part of designing it.
  • Conservatives say its a liberal conspiracy.
  • Some call its adoption a “Trojan horse” introduced in order to let corporations profit

She also articulately noted that the merits of Common Core as a concept were not necessarily the focus of the panel discussion. But hearing them helped add depth and color to the conversation.

 

3. How will Common Core Impact Edtech?

One statistic presented estimated that $60B will be spent on edtech by 2015. This slide provided a helpful, visual overview of current players in the edtech space:

 

4. Book suggestion: One World Schoolhouse

This book by Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, was mentioned a few times throughout the evening. It was brought up in the context of Benjamin Bloom (see below for more on Bloom’s Taxonomy) and the effectiveness of “mastery learning”. Washington Times did a review of Khan’s book last year, here.

 

5. Buzzword: Formative Assessment

The panelists easily agreed that trendy buzzword “formative assessment” has multiple definitions. One definition presented seemed to appease and empower, was that formative assessment is “actionable assessment happening in real time.”

The New York City Department of Education dedicates a page of their website to formative assessment strategies, and this is a topic that a number of edtech startups (including panel startups MasteryConnect and Illuminate Education) are focusing on.

6. What do Large Education Companies like Pearson look for in edtech startups?

Panelists Scott Drossos (Sr. VP at Pearson) and Karen Lien (from Imagine K12) were on-hand to provide a perspective on acquisition and funding potential for edtech startups.  It was mentioned that Pearson actively seeks to partner and invest in promising enterprises that address needs in the education space. In evaluating edtech startups, large education companies like Pearson evaluate factors such as:
  • Is the business sound?
  • Is the leader stable, driven?
  • Has the startup addressed monetization?

 

7. Buzzword: Bloom’s Taxonomy

For those unfamiliar with the study of education and teaching theory, the work of Benjamin Bloom was referenced. He led groundbreaking work in the field of education and mastery learning over the expanse of five decades up until his death in 1999.  One topic that was raised during the panel discussion was “Bloom’s Taxonomy”. Here are brief descriptions and depictions of this concept:

Wikipedia: Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of learning objectives within education.

NWLink.com: Bloom’s Taxonomy was created in 1956 under the leadership of educational psychologist Dr Benjamin Bloom in order to promote higher forms of thinking in education, such as analyzing and evaluating, rather than just remembering facts (rote learning).

image credit: PSA-NW

[full disclosure: I serve on the Executive Team of VLAB as the Outreach Chair. Fuller disclosure, I became involved as a VLAB volunteer after covering an event for Innov8Social!]

Recap: Harvard Club of Silicon Valley’s “Meet Your Maker” Event

On September 12, 2013 Harvard Club of Silicon Valley organized an event focused on the rise of the “Maker” movement. The intimate gathering, titled “Meet Your ‘Maker’: The New Movement for Urban, Micro, & Craft Production” took place at the industrial chic Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco.Essentially, expansion of manufacturing technologies coupled with rise of conscious consumerism is creating new markets for the democratization of the “making of” things.Tempting notions of a “de-industrial” revolution, or “new industrial revolution” as Chris Anderson explains in his book Makers, the movement suggests alternatives to centralized locales for manufacturing. Instead, the movement highlights pathways of success for entrepreneurs focusing on using high tech and high touch to create strong brands, loyal fans, and innovative products.

Maker Event by Harvard Club SV

The Panel

The panel included:

The Maker Movement, Why Now?

Panelists noted a few factors that contribute to the growth of the maker movement, including:
  • Lower barriers to entry. New tools such as 3D printing and access to industrial manufacturing tools empower experimentation, which in turn drives innovation.
  • New toys. Facilities such as TechShop and the rise of micro-manufacturing creates new possibilities in decentralizing manufacturing.
  • Making v. manufacturing mindset. Distinguishing makers by their personal stories, artisan craftsmanship, and the rise of events such as SFMade (see also SJMade, Palo Alto Made, etc.) is creating a viable market for makers in an ecosystem generally directed by manufacturers.
This is a fascinating field—both in the enterprise sense as well as in terms of law and policy that is emerging to facilitate the maker movement. Stay tuned as we explore various aspects of the maker movement.
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Recap: Santa Clara University GSBI Accelerator Showcase + New Applications Open

When enough people, especially those not otherwise connected with each other, recommend something, it can do wonders to capture your imagination and fascination. That happened with Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Incubator program.

Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI)

Though I learned about GSBI while researching social innovation startup accelerator and incubator programs, over the past few months I have heard it mentioned in various conversations with social innovators and entrepreneurs in the space.

Then, at the Womens’ Social Entrepreneurs’ Panel hosted by GABA at the Kiva offices in SF, a few panelists were also graduates of the program—and were doing absolutely fascinating work. My interest was building, and every subsequent mention of GSBI was akin to a “Klout” moment on my personal interest pique-o-meter.

Attending a GSBI Accelerator Showcase

GSBI accelerator showcase

More recently, SCU hosted a GSBI Accelerator Showcase on campus. The pitch event featured over a dozen social entrepreneurs, hailing from around the globe, who presented pitches and status updates on their endeavors directly to impact investors and the broader philanthropic community.

These driven problem-solvers were educators, artisans, farmers, and engineers—but took on the role of social innovators in the face of deep-rooted issues in their communities.

VentureBeat covered the event noting that “of the 202 enterprises that have completed GSBI programs since its inception in 2003, 90 percent are still in business and can boast of having positively impacted nearly 100 million lives around the globe and raising $89 million in funding.”

Thane Kreiner, Executive Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society, at Santa Clara University, which is home of the Global Social Benefit Incubator also published a recap of the event on NextBillion.

The pitches were direct asks for funds to help social enterprises cross the proverbial chasm in scaling to the next level.  Here is a sample of a few of the asks:

  • Clinicas de Azucar requested $3.3M to scale low-cost diabetes solutions to reach 200 clinics in Mexico.
  • Avani requested $500K to scale sustainable textile production by women to 101 villages in northern India
  • Nishant Bioenergy requested $600K to scale production and distribution of energy-efficient, sustainable, cookstoves.
  • Literacy Bridge requested $500K to scale their accessible (non-literacy dependent) audio solution for teaching agricultural practices to rural farmers in Africa
  • Drishtee requested $3M to scale their solution to extend last-mile distribution of products to remote regions in India.
  • Iluméxico requested $250K to scale solar grid electricity solutions to open 30 branches in 10 states in Mexico.
  • Husk Power requested $5M to scale mini powerplants and provide electricity as a service from 5K to over 25K households in India and East Africa.

(Note: videos of the pitch event can be seen here and will be posted on YouTube here.)

The Courage to Try

The pitches represented more than a singular idea. In social innovation, as in entrepreneurship, ideas often come “into vogue”concurrently—i.e. if you are thinking of a new innovation or improvement, there’s a good chance someone is thinking along the same lines too.

This simple realization humanizes the social entrepreneur’s experience and also takes it out of the abstract. These entrepreneurs who venture into the dimly lit space of creating value and impact aren’t necessarily the first, they are the the ones courageous enough to grab the torch and stumble into the darkness to test out their potential solution.

In the coming weeks I look forward to interviewing a few of the leaders of GSBI to learn more about the program, the selection process, how the institute has evolved, and what the organizers have learned from hosting an annual accelerator/incubator program for social innovation.

 

Apply to GSBI by October 31

Applications for the 2014 class of GSBI are available now and you can apply until October 31, 2013.

Application for GSBI are here.

 

GSBI accelerator showcase
GSBI accelerator showcase
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Recap: Dare to Be You and Dare to Give Back #NetIPConf2013

NetIP North America (Network of Indian Professionals) strives to “serve as the unequivocal voice for the South Asian Diaspora by developing and engaging a cohesive network of professionals to benefit the community.”

dare to give back #netipconf2013
“Dare to Give Back” Panel at #netipconf2013 : (from right) Seena Jacob, Bookwallah;
Golda Philip, Hospital for Hope; Neetal Parekh, Innov8Social
[adapted from photos by Kavita T.]

Dare to Be You

One of the manifestations of its mission is the conference held annually at a different compelling metro in North America. The 2013 NetIP conference convened in the heart of downtown San Francisco on Labor Day weekend. The canvassing theme “Dare to Be You,” created a framework broad enough to accommodate a range of topics and bold enough to highlight breakaway paths South Asians are increasingly pursuing.  There were speakers from the CIA, entertainment, entrepreneurship, and even a relationship expert on hand to share what they’ve learned while also showing the potential of unconventional pathways in the process.

NetIP Descends on San Fransisco

Being in the backyard of tech and social innovation, the event also included features cognizant of the SF/Bay Area milieu.
For example, the event hosted its first ever “Fast Pitch” session in which entrepreneurs pitched early-stage startup ideas, and answered tough questions from a panel of experts in hopes of gaining valuable feedback and possible scoring a win on an enticing prize suite of products and services.
Another distinctive feature—which fellow event/conference enthusiasts can appreciate—was the unique pocket-sized program. Measuring just a few inches by a few more inches, the pamphlet could fit in the palm of your hand, in an oversized pocket, and definitely in any size bag or purse.  It was a “fit and light”version of its traditional full-size counterparts—half the calories with the same great taste.

Dare to Give Back

I was honored to join a panel titled “Dare to Give Back” which was designed with the focus of sharing stories of social innovation from those who have launched projects in the field. The panel:
The time slot of Saturday morning at 10:30 AM to noon did a couple of things. It likely dissuaded the faint of heart—whose interest in this topic hasn’t peaked or who didn’t realize there were sessions that started before 1pm on a Saturday. And, it brought together those who were inexplicably compelled by this topic. That latter group made the session an exceptional exercise in sharing, learning, being vulnerable, supporting each other, and generally getting fired up.
In our introductions we learned so much about each other. Not only was Golda working with an amazing team with audacious goals of creating rippling impact in healthcare for hundreds of thousands of villagers, she is also the youngest sister of two college friends who are phenomenal leaders in their own rights. Connecting with her brought back fond memories of undergrad leadership, and her quiet eloquence served to inspire those thinking about giving back in health care capacities in South Asia and beyond.
Seena disarmed the panel, audience, and attending media early in the session. Her vibrancy and honesty about the ups and downs of being a social innovator and nonprofit leader were genuine and uncoated. Bookwallah has maintained its vision of sharing storytelling and books with children in South Asia, but she quickly pointed out how the methods of effecting the vision have pivoted to adapt to actual and unforeseen needs and challenges the project faced. Her story and passion moved members of the audience to find out how they could help. A participant in one of sessions later in the day, wrote her a check on the spot to contribute to her work.
dare to give back #netipconf2013I shared what I have learned in launching a blog on social innovation, understanding the need, setting (and re-calibrating) expectations, and–most importantly–the actionable learnings about legal structure and business models for social innovation and social enterprise.

Power of Sharing

The session went from great to exceptional when we shifted the spotlight from the panel to the audience. With over a dozen audience members and nearly an hour left on the clock we invited attendees to introduce themselves and their ideas for stating a social enterprise, nonprofit, or what drew them to the session.
The responses were remarkable. Not only did we learn that attendees hailed from Washington D.C., New York, the Bay area, and the Midwest—we heard about work they have been doing, resources they have to offer, and the ideas that are just seedlings looking for ways to develop. As each person “pitched” their giving back aspirations, remarkably, everyone in the room conspired on ways to help. Golda, who herself is based in DC, was keen to follow up with the east coasters for a local DC follow-up gathering. Seena offered her organization as a volunteer opportunity for those looking to connect more deeply with projects around literacy.
There were attendees practicing law in one field but trying to find out how to help victims in more impactful ways outside of work hours. Health care professionals voiced interest in volunteering in South Asia in the developing world in new ways. One attendee shared a personal story of attending the session in honor of a dear friend dedicated to service, who passed away suddenly some years back—and how she actively sought ways to honor her friend’s memory.As people felt more comfortable and encouraged, they opened up and said aloud ideas that may have just seemed to be fleeting but whose repetition was cause for notice.

Singing the Body Electric

I remember picking up a Ray Bradbury book called I Sing the Body Electric! at a garage sale as a middle-schooler. I had been so taken by Fahrenheit 451 that any book by the author caught my eye. I can’t honestly remember any of its the short stories—-but the title has stayed with me.

1969 ... 'I Sing the Body Electric' - Ray BradburyWhen you engage in something you are passionate about—be it sports, fashion, art, tech, or service—there is a certain electricity that is generated when you recognize that common passion in others. Even though we had each descended to this session from different parts of the country, with varying levels of experience and interest, and different end goals—our common passion for service and working on ideas bigger than ourselves created an unmistakable melody of positive current.

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Sean Hewens, General Counsel of IDEO.org Speaks on Human-Centered Design + Law

The April 2013 gathering of Impact Law Forum was held at IDEO.org‘s scenic office in San Francisco.

Leading the session was Sean Hewens, IDEO.org’s Knowledge Manager + In-House Counsel

Sean Hewens, IDEO.org: law + human-centered design

Sean started by asking a simple question to the audience…

Sean Hewens, IDEO.org: law + human-centered design

Participants were asked to write 3 words they thought of when they heard the word “lawyer” on Post-its. The initial batch of responses was small…

Sean Hewens, IDEO.org: law + human-centered design

 

…but definitely expanded as the evening continued.

 

Sean Hewens, IDEO.org: law + human-centered design

The exercise was a great example of an emerging field, human centered design (HCD).  It was especially meaningful to hear Sean’s perspective on the field since IDEO and IDEO.org have been at the forefront of developing human-centered design approaches and applying them to pressing world issues.

What is human-centered design (HCD)?

Sean explained the field by contrasting it with the traditional approach to design, which involves  planning/drawings to show look and functionality of a product. Instead, human-centered design is a problem-solving approach to innovation. Sean explained that it begins with a deep empathy with a customer’s needs, hopes, wants, etc. and helps create innovation rooted in people, and the broader context that shape the way they live.

What is IDEO?

IDEO has gained ground as a leading design firm and international innovation consultancy. Founded in 1991, IDEO has worked on such iconic designs as Apple’s first mouse, Nike sunglasses, as well as with with top global brands on organizational development. IDEO arguably became a household name in 1999 when 60 Minutes and then NBC Nightly News aired a segment about the unique process-based approach to design. You can take a trip down memory lane…

What is IDEO.org?

IDEO has been involved in social-sector projects for over a decade. As Sean explained, in December 2011 IDEO.org was launched as a non-profit focused on design solutions with a focus on poverty alleviation. He reiterated that IDEO.org selects projects based on their anticipated impact on society, the environment, and/or people affected.
As explained on the “About” page of IDEO.org

What are Sean’s tips for designing for law?

Sean shared a number of surprisingly specific tips on how attorneys can begin to adopt a design approach to law.

1. Never use Times New Roman
2. Use one space between sentences, not two
3. Learn the creative suite, to make documents appealing, compelling, “pretty”
4. Use Keynote instead of Power Point
5. Be visual, i.e. use Post-Its and other ways to visually map solutions
6. Remember, you are smart + you are creative!

 

How did Sean go from a traditional path of law into law + design?

After completing an undergraduate degree at Columbia, Sean started his career in the Civilian Complaint Division at the NYPD. He worked primarily on drug law cases, which motivated him to pursue law school so he could reform drug laws. After law school, he detoured in to corporate law. He kept a journal during his four years as a corporate law and noticed a trend—he did not regularly interact with people, he was not happy.Sean Hewens, IDEO.org: law + human-centered designHe took a major leap by enrolling in a design program, which began to influence his approach to design. He was inspired afterwards to launch a non-profit called Smallbean to put used personal electronics in the hands of Tanzanians and travelled to Africa to create a technical hub. The project was incredibly eye-opening, but left him in a difficult financial situation. He classified the project as a “failure”, noting that failure is actually a win in the HCD world. The HCD approach is to fail fast, fail early, and iterate.

So, he did.  He and co-founder Ross Lohr launched Project Repat. The premise is that 90%+ of donated t-shirts and clothing is shipped to Africa. Project Repat would enter the local markets in Africa to reclaim t-shirts and re-sell in America, with 100% of proceeds given to the local African economies. Since its founding, Project Repat has shifted focus, you can read more in the update here.

Those experiences excited Sean to take his design + law approach to new frontiers, leading him to IDEO.org

Sean’s parting thoughts?

Get out there. Understand and observe. Work with other disciplines. Consider the system you are working in (or with). Make solutions visual. Prototype early and often.Don’t just be a lawyer…find opportunities to design.

Dive in!

+Acumen and IDEO.org are teaming up to offer a 5-week course called “Human Centered Design for Social Innovation.” Teams of 2-5 can sign up here by July 3rd. Hear Sean talk about the course below

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