What I learned from teaching social enterprise to 25 global Gen Z students

I just finished co-teaching Gen Z students in a 3 week immersive, intensive, experiential course on social enterprise on as part of the Summerfuel Social Enterprise program at Stanford University. My students were 14-18 years olds hailing from all of over the US and countries including China, Brazil, Spain, Japan, France, and Russia. The one thing they had in common was an interest or curiosity in social entrepreneurship.

The experience of teaching for the better part of 5 hours each day taught me a few interesting things. About working with Generation Z students. About teaching. And, about how social enterprise is received and can be shared. I wanted to share a few of the most actionable takeaways here.

Gen Z students, who are they?

An article in Huffington Post notes, “Generation Z, as they have been coined, consists of those born in 1995 or later. This generation makes up 25.9% of the United States population, the largest percentage, and contribute $44 billion to the American economy. By 2020, they will account for one-third of the U.S. population.”

To say that this generation is our future is no understatement.

I was most curious about how they might identify problems and issues that they find compelling. Many American Gen Z-ers have had formative years under a different political administration, were youngsters during the “Great Recession” when it happened, and have grown up with technology and social media in a markedly different way than generations before them.

Additionally, many students in my class grew up familiar with social impact brands such as TOMS and Warby Parker. I was surprised to note that most had not heard of the Grameen Bank, Kiva, or microfinance. And, many mentioned that they do research companies before making purchases and in the past have chosen (or not chosen) to buy something based on the company’s core values, impact, or past actions. I was also humbled to note that none of these bright, globetrotting teenage problemsolvers had ever heard of my website Innov8social, podcast, or book (though they did each leave with a Kindle version:). Ah, so is the harsh reality of truth.

Our “accomplishments” aren’t received in the way we think they might be

Perhaps it is a consequence of living in a world lit by social media—with its abundance of celebrities, influencers, experts, gurus, and chief-of-somethings. Or, the fact that we have all become creators in one sense or another; but I found that my Gen Z students were not easily impressed.

Definitely not by my background—author, speaker, social entrepreneur, licensed attorney. These things didn’t “show up” for them in a relatable way. Additionally, we had an amazing host of speakers—many of whom are dear friends and colleagues in the social enterprise sector. And, after each speaker, I debriefed with students and noticed a broader trend.

“Accomplishments” to these accomplished, motivated, and pre-career students were a bit empty on their own. It was our stories that connected the dots for them and made what we have done with our time come to life. It was sharing our essential “why” that helped things make more sense.

When I shared with them how my mother’s fight with cancer has instilled a sense of urgency in my work, how moving over a dozen times growing up has affected the way I relate to the world, and my own deep questions about the future of social entrepreneurship in the current climate, I saw them open up in a different way. They shared a few of their own stories and connected the dots about “why” this topic or space matters at all. And more importantly, why it matters to them personally.

When our speakers shared their journeys and the perceived vulnerabilities that have become their strengths and the core of their social enterprises, the students were able to receive and process that differently and in the context of their own journeys.

It was a gentle reminder to me, that in a world with so much digital noise, our authenticity remains our key currency.

Teachers are master innovators

It’s after lunch and the only thing standing between twenty-five teenagers and a sunny California summer afternoon in Palo Alto is your one-and-half hour class. Good luck, right?

Exactly.

Our daily afternoon classes were among the most challenging to plan for considering there was often a significant amount of content, but also that attention spans seemed to decrease exponentially as the minutes ticked by.

I learned to innovate in a few creative ways. If I saw eyes glazing over or the twitching of fingers under the desk (yes, students, I could definitely tell when you were surreptitiously using your phones ;-) I would make up activities on the spot to put them back in the driver’s seat. Questions with partners or practice pitches or “getting out of the building” to gather user feedback. These activities did more than command attention, they gave them a chance to be in the familiar role of creator once more.

My ‘innovations’ sometimes fell flat too. Thinking that content might be more appealing using short videos, I embedded somewhat frequent 1-5 minute videos in my slide deck and utilized a few TED talks already part of the curriculum. Though we discussed each video after, student feedback at the end of the course was that there were too many videos. More interaction please, they suggested.

All of these experiences make me deeply appreciate all of the teachers, instructors, and professors who taught and continue to teach us. Like how our elementary school teachers likely consider what they teach based on the relation of the class session to recess or lunch. Or how summer camp counselors trade stories with each other to come up with the most fun and engaging team building activities. Or how every single undergraduate and law school professor knows that when our laptops are open, and in-between taking notes, we were reading the news or checking our email—and they adjust their lectures to engage us and hold our attention in different ways.

Entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs are recognized and rewarded for innovations that serve as unique solutions to persistent problems. Teachers innovate and problemsolve on a daily—if not hourly—basis, in part, because their user feedback isn’t a survey, poll, or questionnaire away—it is their class of students right in front of them, IRL, and in real time.

Good and 10% better, go ahead and ask

When I attended a public speaking workshop called “Own the Room”, one of the presenting groups ended their mini pitch with two questions that have reshaped how I ask for feedback. They asked “What did we do well?” followed by “what can we do to be 10% better?” Boom.

The elegance and effectiveness of these questions together struck me then, and the questions became a core part of the course as well.

Separating good and constructive feedback is helpful not only for the audience—the givers of feedback— but also the receiver of the feedback. Additionally, asking what didn’t go well or what didn’t you like is not always the most constructive mode for the presenter or facilitator. Likewise, asking “what can I do better” can be so open-ended as to inspire no response at all. The giver of feedback may not know whether to start from ‘if you change every single thing about this presentation’ or ‘what’s low hanging fruit that can make this better’.

However, asking in a way that is relatable and quantifiable, i.e. improving just 10%, proved actionable for both sides. More students ‘popcorned’ responses to that question and they also seemed to feel more comfortable doing so after being able to compliment, applaud, and celebrate the strong points of the speaker, video, or session.

Go ahead and try it. One thing I noticed is that with Gen Z students growing up in a gamified world where they are rewarded for having an opinion by way of upvotes, downvotes, and vote-outs—they do have opinions on nearly everything. And our changing digital landscape has trained them to decide what they think quickly and to articulate the same with helpful clarity.

Just as we are being trained to engage in more human-centered design involving copious user feedback, so too are our future feedback givers being trained to give really good feedback.

Used in the right way, this can be the start of a great feedback loop.

We are our networks

Overall the experience of teaching a subject that is closely related to my personal and professional profile was incredible. It was also a reminder that we not only have networks, but we are a reflection of our networks.

Co-instructor Alessandra Clará, who taught parallel content to her own class of twenty-five students, and I—though meeting for the first time—found many significant overlaps. From social impact events that we unknowingly both attended to our broader beliefs about the role of “infrapreneurs,” i.e. those of us working to build the broader infrastructure for successful social entrepreneurship, we easily found common ground and enjoyed challenging each other based on our individual experiences and communities.

Similarly, the program was organized through the experienced and organized Summerfuel program team. Each Summerfuel team member exuded qualities of openness, ability to create an inclusive environment, and connecting with students in meaningful and fun ways. As someone who moved frequently up until high school, hadn’t I appreciated these “ambassadorial” qualities when I saw them in friends, leaders, and mentors?

We had the chance to reach out to our networks to finalize guest speakers. And, our networks responded. We were fortunate to have human centered designers, educators, social entrepreneurs, content producers, and venture capitalists including: Tiffany Yu, Shalini Sardana, Heather Arora, Brendan Barbato, Ryan Oliver, Regina Sanchez-Gonzalez, Ramil Ibrahim, Jordan Edelheit, Nitin Pachisia, and Alison Berman. They individually and collectively made the topic and space more real to students and asked insightful (and sometimes challenging) questions to help spur deeper thought and engagement.

Our networks are not exclusive of us. Indeed, we are part of them. And, our individual work often reflects some of the core challenges and strengths of the broader space.

What Next?

The morning after final pitches had been made and the judges’ top picks recognized, we were back in class. We started with the question “What Next”. After the highs, lows, and deep work that went into each team’s social enterprise, what could be next for them? I shared a few platforms, fellowship programs, and opportunities that could be relevant to their social enterprise ideas. These included D-Prize, Catapult, The DO School, +Acumen courses, and more.

The program has also been a good catalyst for reflecting on what is next for my work with Innov8social and Innovate Impact Media. There is a great deal that has been learned at the intersection of high school students and social enterprise. I look forward to exploring this nexus further through customized Impactathon® offerings. If you are a teacher or educator who wants to bring an immersive social enterprise experience to your school and students, I would love to connect.

One student wrote in the evaluation survey: “I have discovered so many things about myself that I didn’t know in terms of creativity and teamwork and I feel like this will really help me in future projects and challenges that I will face throughout life. I have been able to listen to amazing people and social entrepreneurs talk and now I [feel] more comfortable and confident when I hear the words “social enterprise”.

When teaching, we can never really know what lasting impact we have. Though, we sometimes can see a glimmer in the distance.

If Not Now, When? If Not You, Who? A Call for Social Entrepreneurship

We are in a profound moment of polarity.

We see it in the news, where the polar ends of political, religious, cultural, gender-conscious, racially-aware spectra voice their opinions with fury, feist, and without apology.

For those of us who see ourselves as problemsolvers driven by impact, we may feel overwhelmed and even momentarily paralyzed by the din of feuding opinions, the viscidity in reaching common ground and commonly-held beliefs. Where delivering and distributing social impact has often been associated within the purview of government and agencies, a new reality leaves these channels for impact less available and less accessible for those purposes.

However, those championing inclusion, innovation, and gamechanging innovation still have an important lever to pull. Business. Specifically, impact-driven business.

Social entrepreneurship has never been more important than it is right now.

Divisiveness around the role of government to support citizens, by default, seems to favor business, scaling, and job creation as measures of success.

Fortunately, changemakers have also increasingly been tinkering with business as a medium for change over the past decade or longer. This exploration has resulted in the passage of new legal structures including benefit corporations and social purpose corporations in over 32 states and jurisdictions that solidify the legal precedence of for-impact + for-profit companies. It has also led to creative and adaptive business models that seek to prioritize impact and account for impact. And, the foray into business practices is paving new ways of measuring and reporting impact; so that our accounting of social impact is not abstract and anecdotal, but a measurable means of evaluating success. This field of championing social impact and business is maturing as new kinds of capital-raising–including impact investing, community notes, and crowdfunding–are letting investors choose where their money grows and rests.

We realize that far from immobile, we are finding new muscles and new ways to move, connect, fly. Far from overwhelmed, we are building the scaffolding for a future that hasn’t been fully envisioned and architected.

Can social entrepreneurship be a common language?

It bares question whether, in this moment of polarity, we can turn to business as a common language.

Fortunately, social entrepreneurs not only speak the language but have become experienced in bridging gaps of knowledge and resources toward cultivating communities of conscious consumers, investors, and achieving new milestones in success.

We are seeing that beyond language, social entrepreneurship is a mindset. One that individuals across aisles, across industries, and across business and enterprise can adopt to create change and inclusion in their own ecosystems.

To be an effective way to express and empower impact, we need broader and deeper engagement in social entrepreneurship.

I have spent the better part of six years, since founding Innov8social, on the path of exploring, sharing, and building ways to make social entrepreneurship more actionable accessible. Spanning blog posts, podcast episodes, a book, live events, and now, consulting–I feel my personal life’s work entwined with this work of inviting, educating, and helping launch social entrepreneurs.

Here are steps I have found helpful in feeling more comfortable to create and grow as social entrepreneurs:

  1. Learn what social entrepreneurship is
  2. Define the impact you seek to make
  3. Understand the legal options for formation and fundraising
  4. Explore (and invent) business models
  5. Measure social impact, and the effects of the absence of social impact
  6. Tell a compelling story and share it personally and professionally
  7. Lead with empathy, clarity, and with impact-aligned team members
  8. Raise capital that fits your goals and your impact
  9. Always remember that we are problem-solvers first. Be ready to problemsolve thoughtfully and often
  10. Build your networks big and small–that serve to challenge you, empower you, and give you a forum of inviting others into the space and empowering their success

Social entrepreneurship will not reach its potential to create impact and shift the norms of business as a spectator sport. As millennials, Gen Z, and “Zoomers” look to start businesses and engage in meaningful work–I have little doubt that we will discover new ways of delivering impact through the medium of business.

 

Neetal Parekh is the founder of Innov8social, author 51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship, host of The Impact Podcast, and convener of Impactathon. She consults with social entrepreneurs, companies, and institutions to help them reach their impact potential. On Twitter and social media: @innov8social

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IMPACTATHON at UCLA Anderson : An Encore and A First

Last May, Innov8social hosted its first live event—IMPACTATHON—at the creative and collaborative Tech Shop in San Francisco. Today, I am thrilled to announce we are partnering with UCLA to host the first university Impactathon at UCLA Anderson on Friday April 21st 2017 as part of their Social Impact Week!

 

impactathon at ucla anderson

 

Register for IMPACTATHON at UCLA Anderson, Friday 4/21

Impactathon brings together the best of seminars and TED-style talks along with hands-on ideation and collaboration for a powerful experience focused on helping participants take social impact ideas and ventures to the next level.

At Impactathon at UCLA Anderson, participants will also learn how to effectively craft and share social enterprise stories from the famed Red Bull Amaphiko Storytelling Lab.

 impactathon at ucla anderson, interactive workshop for social entrepreneurs

 

Join this event to:

  • Engage and hear from other founders, aspiring founders, social intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs, thinkers and doers in the social impact space.
  • Listen to honest, candid experiences and perspectives from thought leaders and trailblazers; hear about their successes and challenges and how they continually pivot to puruse both profit and social impact.
  • Get a special guided tour of the UCLA Anderson Accelerator and learn about how to build your brand through a high-energy storytelling workshop by Red Bull Amaphiko.
  • Work in small groups to build an idea and ‘mini pitch’. Beyond the idea, you will have a chance to build relationships with motivated, talented individuals aligned with a shared goal of creating social impact that can create community beyond Impactathon.
  • Enjoy a fun networking lunch with peers.

 impactathon at ucla anderson, interactive workshop for social entrepreneurs

Agenda

9:15 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. – Registration and breakfast

10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. – Introductions and Keynote Talks

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Storyteller Lab by Red Bull Amaphiko

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. – Networking Lunch

1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Impactathon Workshop

4:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. – Pitches

4:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Judges debrief and awards

Meet the Speakers

Kaitlin Mogentale, Founder/CEO, Everytable & Groceryships*

Kaitlin Mogentale was a college senior when she watched a friend juice a carrot. She was appalled to see that as much as 75% of the vegetable was wasted, leaving behind vibrant heaps of carrot pulp. Calling up juiceries across Los Angeles, she found that most were sending their pulp to the landfill (as much as 3.5 pounds are wasted per pound of juice produced!). After that fateful moment, Kaitlin’s traditional career trajectory was turned upside down as she began to build Pulp Pantry, a social enterprise turning neglected resources such as juice pulp into value-added products.

Somya Munjal, Youthful SavingsSomya Munjal, Founder/CEO, Youthful Savings

Somya has one clear mission in life – economic empowerment. By working hard, understanding the economy and business, she believes all can be empowered and live a better life. She is a social entrepreneur with a passion for helping people through financial planning, education and impact-driven entrepreneurship. She is the founder of Youthful Savings, CPA for the People, LLP, Audacious Endeavors, LLC and the author of the forthcoming book Audacious Endeavors: How to Light Your Inner Fire and Change the World Through Socially Conscious Business.

 

Andrew Mcdowell, With Love Market and CafeAndrew McDowell, Founder/CEO, With Love Market & Cafe

Andrew McDowell is the Founder and CEO of With Love Market & Cafe. With Love (www.WithLoveLA.com) is a community-centered business venture, seeking to address injustices and inequalities disproportionately affecting the minority community of South Los Angeles. As a for-profit business with a non-profit community development arm, With Love is working to create a sustainable, replicable model for healthy food access, employment and community empowerment in urban poor/under-resourced  communities. Andrew is a graduate of Occidental College, resident of South LA, and member of Church of the Redeemer, in South LA.

 

 

 

impactathon at ucla anderson, interactive workshop for social entrepreneurs

More About Social Impact Week at UCLA Anderson

Social Impact Week at UCLA Anderson, which kicks off this Friday, features events, talks, and workshops focused on social impact, impact investing, and designing for social impact.

Join us! You can register for Impactathon at UCLA Anderson here. General admission is $15, the event is free to UCLA students, and scholarships are available.

Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to #goanddo!

 

impactathon at ucla anderson, interactive workshop for social entrepreneurs

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“Stay Weird” and Other Lessons from #SXSW

I went to SXSW this year. It pretty much rocked my world.

It was my first time to South by Southwest, the 10-day festival that has been bringing together a combination of music, film, startup, social impact, tech, and interactive media sessions since 1987. I was there to speak about social entrepreneurship, mentor, attend, connect, and meet unique, passion-drive people from around the globe and around Austin. Though there for just the first few days, SXSW — or “South by,” as it’s referred to by seasoned festival-goers and Austinites — proved to be an immersive experience not only embodying the culture of an incredible city but also cross-pollinating the quirky-creative-progressive vibe of Austin.

Here are a few lessons from SXSW I learned from my 2017 experience.

Lessons from SXSW

 

Stay Weird

If you go to Austin you will likely run into “Keep Austin Weird” stickers, logos, hashtags, etc. It’s a slogan, an anthem, and a call to action. (an interesting aside, it seems that the original creators of “keepaustinweird.com” lost out on the trademark to the slogan…an interesting tale explained more here). The original intent behind the phrase was to “counter Austin’s descent into rampant commercialism and over-development” but over time it has evolved to become a badge of individuality, creativity, and community.

The lesson here is to not only identify the “other,” “counter,” “unique” aspects of our work or brand, but to find ways to lean into and celebrate it. For social entrepreneurs, building a business that prioritizes impact and a bottom line, can sometimes put us out of sync with traditional business and non-profit communities. But, it is that precise distinction that should be valued, championed, and developed.

Ultimately, what is weird about us and our work, is what makes us unique — and findable amid the noise of media. If we can find a niche of users, clients, investors to support our vision and work, we don’t need to ‘fit in’ but can be more easily seen and recognized by standing out.

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Experience over Handshakes

SXSW is an alternative universe where experiences are just around the corner, at an interactive lounge down the hall, or at the next happy hour. Some of the most meaningful conversations happened with folks I met after they reached out via the SXSW app or vice versa, at a session, or while shuttling to and from venues via local car-share app “Fasten”.

Where many events like this are built around the customary exchange of business details, at SXSW there is a premium on having a meaningful experience together. The length of the event — 10 days — admittedly facilitates organic and planned experiences.

In 2 days, I met with an impact investor, connected with CEO of a DC-based nonprofit social enterprise; engaged a new friend and documentarian to informally cover my talk; reconnected with friends from college, a recent fellowship, past podcast episodes; had one of the most ‘real’ conversations with a fellow female social enterprise founder about what it takes to actually scale and grow an impact-driven business…and even sighted a few celebrities to boot. I connected with teachers who purchased my book in hopes it could help their entrepreneurial high school students further their work and had some incredible discussions with mission-aligned leaders in New York and Washington D.C. about hosting Impactathon sessions in those cities.

These experiences, a small snapshot of what is possible in a multi-day event, provided fodder for reflection, inspiration, and clarity. With each of these connections, we had a moment in a place where people think bigger and make the impossible yesterday’s news.

It made me re-think how I evaluate investing in experience over product. The things we have may come and go, but the experiences leave impressions, raise questions, build relationships, and can inspire and guide our work far longer.

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It’s Always the People

One of the memories that stays close from my time at Apple was the credo each retail specialist carried with them which declared that, for Apple, “our soul is our people.” This simple phrase definitively conferred importance and value to individuals, relationships not distinct from the company brand, but central to it. I often echo this sentiment when considering my work and team.

As social enterprises grapple with how to attract and retain excellent talent, they can also look to that simple sentiment when considering how to cultivate a culture of respect and resilience.

Fast forward to SXSW which takes place in a city that has been consistently recognized as “friendly”. Among the designations Austin has amassed are: top five friendliest city, one of the most dog-friendly cities, LGBT-friendly city, and bicycle-friendly city too. The friendliness I encountered with people from Austin was consistent with the rankings, and I think it spilled over to the interactions between conference and festival goers too. It is the culture behind that kind of warmth and welcoming that has helped put SXSW on the map as a ‘go-to’ event for innovators, collaborators, thinkers, and doers.

It has also made me think about how a more open attitude can facilitate our next level of growth. How connection, collaboration, and respect can help relationships transcend given roles to become part of a lasting connection, that we re-visit, contribute to, and grow from over time.

I look forward to continue growing from the lessons from SXSW, and of course, to staying weird :)

Austin, #howdy 🤠 . . #sxsw2017 #sxsw #austin #socent #impact #downtown #goanddo

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My Mission at SXSW 2017

Life is interesting. Since the time I applied to speak at SXSW early last summer, a number of things have shifted in monumental ways. The global climate has been inching from collaborative to isolationist in crucial ways. The US administration has transitioned, leading to sweeping changes in policy and focus.

SXSW in a time of change

So when I received news that a version of my talk on social entrepreneurship, based on my experience with the book, website, podcast, and programming was accepted as a solo talk at SXSW 2017 I was thrilled, and also contemplative.

What perspective could I offer in this unique time of transition and uncertainty? How could I adapt the social entrepreneurship knowledge I have been cultivating for the past half-decade into something actionable, accessible, and relevant in today’s local, domestic, and global landscape—which has shifted so much in a short six months.

These thoughts have been marinating. They have also led to uncovering a belief that this is perhaps the most important and pivotal moment for social entrepreneurship. This space, now well into its young adulthood, is primed to prove itself; beyond theory and design, as a force for impact, business, job creation, collaboration, and mission-aligned change.

I hope to address some of the shifts, challenges, openings, and unique opportunities I see for social entrepreneurship in today’s landscape in my talk this Friday at SXSW. I will be there just a few days and my mission is to share, learn from, and connect with individuals or organizations with a ‘problemsolver mindset’ that are aligned with a similar mission and vision. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Impactathon 2016

 

Join me at SXSW

Help spread the word

If this makes sense with your work and network, please feel free to share this session over social media.

Join @neetalparekh of @Innov8social at #SXSW for a talk on “#Socent for #Founders: 5 Things” on 3/10 at 11am. http://schedule.sxsw.com/2017/events/PP60587

Neetal Parekh is the founder of Innov8social, author 51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship, and host of The Impact Podcast by Innov8social. On Twitter and social media: @innov8social

2016 Net Impact Conference
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Live from the Net Impact Conference 2016 in Philadelphia

In this episode of the Impact Podcast, Innov8social founder shares her experience at the 2016 Net Impact conference in Philadelphia. Net Impact is deeply rooted in its business school beginnings and it supports individuals to create impact. Net Impact catalyses this through their annual conference, which moves across cities every year.In this podcast you will get to hear 8 little clips from exhibitors, speakers, attendees, that covers two days of this conference.

Listen to the Episode

 

Net Impact 2016 Conference in Philadelphia : Making History

Net Impact is a global community of students and professionals who aspire to be effective drivers of social and environmental change. Their programs are delivered from headquarters, as well as globally through student and professional chapters.

The Net Impact Conference is a premier gathering of students and professionals who are committed to making a lasting social and environmental impact now and throughout their careers; this year the 24th Net Impact Conference happens in Philadelphia, a city where history is made.

Meet Dara Kosberg of The Dinner Party and George Srour of Building Tomorrow

Neetal moderated a session called “Confessions of a Social Entrepreneur”. Neetal met Dara one of the speakers, who focussed on the topic of vulnerability in taking big leaps. Vulnerability is an important factor in a social enterprise whether it is for an individual or an enterprise. Dara is driving a social enterprise called the “The Dinner Party”,  which is a community of 20’s or 30’s who had experienced significant losses in their social enterprises. They all meet for dinner and share their experiences, on what went wrong and how it continues to impact them both positively and negatively. Neetal also met George from “Building Tomorrow”. He spoke about the importance of passion in social enterprise. Building Tomorrow helps communities in underdeveloped areas by building schools for them.

Meet Camille Simm, London Lee, and Jivika Rajani

Neetal spoke with some of the volunteers at the conference and they shared their experiences at the conference. Camille is from McGill university and learnt a lot of tips on how to figure out passion to do something impactful. Neetal also meet with London Lee from UC Berkeley, and she learnt about the challenges and hardships faced by entrepreneurs. She could use all those learnings in her future. Neetal then meets Jivika, who is from India and she goes to the Claremont College. She learnt from various speakers, that the number of awards you win is inversely proportional to the money you make.

Meet Chahat Sharma, Net Impact Conference Director at Penn State University

Neetal met with Chahat Sharma during lunch, and spoke about her experience in social impact space. She is from Penn State, and is involved in the Net Impact chapter. Chahat Sharma felt that going to a business school is all about making money, but all that changed after she listened to Michael Hastings, at one of the conferences. It really changed her perspective about social enterprise, she understood how recruiters are looking for people with a heart for social impact. She is also interested in Women Empowerment, and she feels both of these go hand in hand. She is director of the conference at Penn state. You can learn more about conference by visiting pennstatenetimpact.com.

Meet Maren Keeley, Co-Founder of Conscious Company Magazine

Neetal met with Maren Keeley at the exhibitor’s booth, the co-founder of Conscious Company Magazine. They focus on purpose driven sustainable business. They have managed to create four issues of the magazine in 2015 and six in 2016. But in 2017, they are transforming themselves into a full fledged media company. Maren has undergraduate experience in philosophy and sculpture, and was a chef for 15 years. Megan and Maren has worked hard on the business model, and they are excited to make a contribution in this space. She is very that happy that people are ready to sacrifice things, for job with purpose.

Meet Kevin Bryan, Director of Recruitment at UnCommon Schools

Neetal met with Kevin, who is the Director of Recruitment at the UnCommon Schools. Kevin has a life long passion of increasing opportunities for good education. He sees his work as critical, at the UnCommon Schools in finding teachers who catalyzes lasting change. UnCommon Schools offer both instructional and operations fellowships for candidates looking to explore a variety of leadership opportunities. Both fellowships are paid, full-time positions within Uncommon Schools and include school startup preparation, school visits, and ongoing mentorship. You can learn more at http://www.uncommonschools.org/careers/fellowships

Meet Julia Delafield and Hannah Benson from University for Peace

Neetal meets Julia at the conference, Julia is the Director for Education at the University for Peace. The university was created in 1980 by the United Nations, to focus on making a more peaceful world at a global level. They have master level and doctorate level programs that focuses on peace from different lenses. The united nations have a part, in the university board of directors and they are a part of a long term commitment. You can connect with them at http://www.upeace.org/

Meet Abe Taleb, CEO of ReWork and David M. Chee, Aspiring Social Impact Educator

Neetal meets with Abe at the reception, who is the CEO and co-founder of ReWork. ReWork helps to place talent in the social enterprise sector. They work with social enterprises and non-profits and help them hire top talent. David is an aspiring social impact educator looking for a placement ins the social sector. These type of conferences help people to connect with each other, and David was in fact able to get an offer from a startup at the conference.

Meet Ariella Gastel, VP of Marketing of Greyston Bakery

Neetal met with Ariella Gastel during a concluding session at the conference. Ariella has been working with food industry for more than 25 years. Greyston is very impressed with the fact that Greyston is certified B-corp and they are able to do business with like minded folks. They have a kinship with other B-corps and get inspired by their work, like Ben and Jerry’s. Greyston do supply Ben & Jerry with their brownies. They also had an employee swap and learnt a lot from each other. They also partner with Whole Foods and Delta Airlines.

Wunder Capital

Meet Bryan Birsic, CEO of Wunder Capital, an Investment Platform for Solar Energy Projects

,In this episode of the Impact Podcast, Innov8social founder talks to Bryan Birsic, CEO of Wunder Capital an investment platform for solar energy projects. Wunder Capital develops and manages solar investment funds by leveraging its national partnership network, tested processes, proprietary underwriting framework, and best-in-class online investment portal.

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Meet Bryan Birsic

Bryan started his career with Bain & Company, a business consulting firm in New York. At Bain, Bryan and his partner Blythe, created the project Green Team. The team examined every facet of the office–from usage of paper cups to energy consumption. Then they came up with a plan, to function more sustainably. Bryan then moved on to join Village Ventures. A venture capital firm focusing on the consumer media/retail and financial services sectors. Village Ventures has built a platform, which it offers to seed early stage firms, provide for collaboration, co-investment and administrative cost sharing.

Bryan worked there for four years, and got bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. Bryan wanted to do something which would have a significant impact, so he founded Wunder Capital. It is the third company that Bryan created, he wanted to make use of software revolution like, the amazon web services. At Wunder, they wanted to make it as efficient and cost effective as possible by using technology, to help small businesses to go solar.  Wunder Capital uses crowdfunding to bring in as much capital, as possible into this space.

Wunder Capital

Wunder has evolved the way funding is being sourced and tied to projects. In 2004, it was more like a marketplace where any credit investor or institution can come under the platform. Bryan and team noticed that some of the investors were looking for more data on materials and approach, before investing. Investing in solar is not as intuitive as a real estate and startups. But the investors liked the fact, that it is an impact investment, and they were presented returns portfolio as well.

As things started to evolve, investors were asking for good portfolios to invest. They don’t want to be tied to a specific project. So Bryan and team identified set of portfolios or projects that matches the criterias of the investors. They started to raise funds against the portfolios or bunch of projects, rather than a specific project. Any credit investor/institution can come to wundercapital.com, and they sell notes out of the funds. Wunder capital immediately uses that money and lends it to business. As the businesses pay back, Wunder capital pays back the investors. This model has evolved to be more successful, for Wunder Capital.

Challenges

Bryan’s perpetual frustration comes from the fact, that he is unable to unlock this space to as many investors as possible. They operate under the regulation D portion of the 2012 jobs act, which means only accredited investors can participate in the fund. You can qualify as investor, only if your  income is above 200,000 as an individual or 300,000 as a family. You can also qualify using your assets, if they are worth over a million, excluding your primary residence. So these restrictions are kind of a pain to accept a lot of willing investors. But Bryan and team are working hard to ease out these SEC restrictions.

Show Notes

Website : https://www.wundercapital.com/

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/WunderCapital/

Twitter : https://twitter.com/WunderCapital

Blog : Read This if You are Not a Zillionaire: Impact Investing For the Rest of Us

Intellecap

Meet Shruti Goel of Sankalp Forum, an Initiative of Intellecap, with Summits in India, Africa, and Southeast Asia

In this episode of the Impact Podcast Innov8social founder talks to Shruti Goel, the Regional Manager of Sankalp Forum, an Intellecap initiative. Shruti is responsible for expanding Sankalp Forum in India & South Asia and ensure value creation for social enterprises and the ecosystem at large.

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Meet Shruti Goel

Shruti has a bachelor degree in Social Work from Delhi university working with social agencies like the UN. She did her Masters degree in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), from Mumbai working on urban development issues. Shruti is working on social impact space for quite some time, and now she is working mainly on public & rural health issues. Shruti has more than 8 years’ experience in managing Business Development and partnerships for large social sector organisations.

In India, the working relation between private and public sector has been very interesting for Shruti and her team. When Shruti started her journey in social impact space, it was seen as more of philanthropy and social good, but that has slowly changed itself into an interesting entrepreneurial space with maximized social impact. Shruti is now looking at a whole new world, with capital needs, networking needs, technology needs, contextualizing across geographies.

She was amazed by entrepreneurial spirit, which was present even at the street level shops in Gujarat. The same kind of spirit existed with the rural doctors who managed their workload and patient health, this where Shruti found that social enterprise initiative will help to maximize social impact. So the Sankalp Intellecap Initiative was born, it aims to influence the global inclusive development discourse through its work with entrepreneurs, impact investors and inclusive businesses in developing markets.

Social Entrepreneurship Programs

Shruti feels that though, Social Entrepreneurship courses are growing in India, they are not in the same rate as in the US. There are a lot of business schools in India, who provide a two years course in Social Entrepreneurship. Shruti also noticed that, there are a lot of certification programs available both on-campus and online. In Sankalp recently, they had a wonderful session, about these programs and how well these institutions equipped to provide courses on Social Entrepreneurship.

Intellecap

Intellecap essentially started as an advisory firm, to address Capital deficit. The founder of Avishkar Venture funds, Vineet Roy found problems due to capital deficit, while working with rural entrepreneurs. So he started Avishkar funds, which helped with the funding. But soon they realised that it is the support and knowledge, which is missing rather than funding. He wanted to have ecosystem which could propel social entrepreneurship, and that is how Intellecap was born. Intellecap advisory services, acts as a knowledge and advisory system for the entire ecosystem.

Intellecap has a product for each stage of social entrepreneurship. They have a product called “startup wave” which handles the inception of the program, it is a virtual incubation program. If it is a growth stage enterprise, they have I3N network, which is a network of investors. They also have consulting group which provides consulting services. There is also Intellecash which helps small retailers set up shops in cities.   They also have micro finance company in east India. With all these, initiatives they wanted to have a platform to connect and enrich the knowledge, resulting in formation of Sankalp.

Sankalp is a platform for the investors and entrepreneurs to connect, it started with some 200 odd people. But in the next 8 years of its creation, it gathered a lot of interest among donors, banks, investors who wanted explore the space. Sankalp also ventured into Africa and Indonesia. The Sankalp 2015 summit saw more than 1500 people attending the event, and in the last two years there are more players in the ecosystem pushing them to be competitive.  The event and the platform is getting curated day by day, and there are more specific events for an array of audience. Shruti also feels the numbers may not be only KPI, but they essentially reflect how they are performing.

Measuring Impact

At Sankalp they do focus on measuring the impact that each entrepreneur is able to achieve, as there is an increase investor focus on impact measurement. They have a tool called Prism which helps to measure the impact. It helps to contextualize impact based the area, region and the extent of the impact. This information helps the investor to better focus on their investments. It is an online tool, which is developed specifically for equity investing.

Show Notes

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/SankalpForum

Twitter : https://twitter.com/SankalpForum

Website : http://www.sankalpforum.com/

 

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Live from Tech Inclusion 2016 in San Francisco, Championing Inclusive Innovation

In this episode of the Impact Podcast,  Innov8social founder talks to us, live from the 2016 Tech Inclusion event. Neetal talks to a wide variety of attendees as well as organizers on various topics. The event had a great session about, about race and the unconscious bias that comes along with it.

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Sound bytes from Nancy and Barbara

Neetal meets Dr.Barbara Adams, who is an organizational psychologist, she specializes in the aspect of human behavioral change due to disruptive technologies. Barbara feels that it is a great privilege, to be a part of Tech Inclusion, and to meet the amazing people at the conference. Neetal then meets Nancy Garcia, community and diversity program manager for Elemental Technologies. She was invited to the event by TechTown from Portland Development Commission.

Barbara felt that the event is a change catalyst, which helps people to come together and find people who can bond over similarities. She found people at the event, who are compassionate and helpful to one another. Nancy came to conference to built a community of people, who are interested in learning and making a change. You can reach Nancy by twitter @msnancygarcia and also at elemental.com. Barbara can be reached at drbarbadams.com and, she always loves to hear from the audience.

Meet Elena from Startup Showcase

Meet Elena, who manages the startup showcase. She takes care of the  startup pitch inclusion for the conference. She has the task of setting up the evaluation panel, which filters the 10 finalists from hundreds of applications. The selected finalists, will get to present their startup pitch on both days of the conference. Once the conference is done, the winners will be announced. There is a set of criteria of put forth by Elena’s team, one of them is to have a product which promotes diversity  and inclusion. The startup should also have a demo to showcase, in addition to the fact it should have received less than 2 million in funding. To learn more about the finalists, and the startup ideas they pitched, please visit sf16.techinclusion.co.

Meet Mitchell Glauser

Meet Mitchell Glauser, who is a software engineer by profession. She is also the founder of Techtonica, a non profit which provides free tech training and placement, for low income women in San francisco. She started her career in software, through one such boot camp called hackbright. Ever since, she has been helping a lot of women in tech industry. She noticed recently, the coding bootcamps have tripled their rates. She wondered how struggling people can afford to join these camps ? So she researched and found that, providing tech skills can make people thrive. She did so with the help of companies, who were looking for diverse professionals. The companies sponsored boot camps to help people in need. In turn the companies, also got benefitted by having new people with diverse skillsets. She has completed a whole bunch of workshops and fundraisers.

Meet Hader Cohen

Hader Cohen is the founder of “pivot to bloom“,  she believes that a healthy business culture, is the heart of a successful product. She partners with tech companies, help them sort out gender issues using a holistic approach. Hader’s team organizes weekly communications about gender, culture, and also conduct monthly workshops. They bring in the theory and apply them practically using fun activities to solidify the learnings.

As part of the workshops, they also communicate with Managers, and sort out the gaps between leadership and workforce. A lot of companies find it hard, to accept that they have gender and culture issues, but it is deeply rooted in them. You can connect with Hader through her website “pivot to bloom” and by e-mail at hadar@pivottobloom.com. She loves to volunteer at Tech inclusion and is always amazed to meet wonderful people at the conference. She feels that experiences should shape your career, rather than a rigid thought process.

Meet Arvind

Arvind is a database engineer working for salesforce. At Salesforce, employees get an opportunity to volunteer for 7 full days a year. They also get to choose to volunteer locally  or to travel abroad. Many of them do go to, places like Vietnam or Nicaragua for volunteering to experience a different world. The volunteering work at Salesforce, helps their employees feel that, they are a part of family which creates an impact.

Neetal noticed that conference captured, the cutting edge of space, by bringing in speakers and thought leaders. The conference was huge win, as all participants walked away with their network and thought process widened.The conference gave hope amidst all the negative things happening around the world.

Meet Molly Hayward, Co-Founder of Cora, Women’s Health Social Enterprise Transforming The Experience of Having a Period

In this episode of the Impact Podcast Innov8social founder talks to Molly Hayward, the co-founder of Cora. Molly is trying to radically change the way women’s health products are sold, with a philanthropic twist. Cora is  committed to giving women, access to safe and effective menstrual products, as well as valuable and trustworthy information. In this episode you will get to hear from Molly, on how she took the challenge upon herself, to solve the problem.

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Meet Molly Hayward

Molly’s interest in social impact space, started as early as a ten year old, when she started collecting funds for a non-profit. The organisation supported girl child’s education in the middle east. Molly also raised a petition to stop baby chicks from being sent away, as meat for a zoo lion. She felt she was an activist at such an early stage, and that thread continued through her teens.

Molly started to pick up interest in social justice, humanitarian aid, international relations, and women’s economics during her college. She took her first job in a startup, which is an e-commerce platform for socially sustainable products. She was impressed with the idea, that a powerful for-profit enterprise was able to create an impact, by supporting sustainable products.

Cora Concept

After that stint, Molly had an opportunity to travel to Kenya with a non-profit to focus on girls education and maternal health. Molly had an opportunity, to talk to the girls and found that during the period week, the girls were not attending the school fearing leak in their dresses. They were not having access to affordable menstrual hygiene pads and products. So they would fall behind and eventually dropout from school. The women in her world never worried about access to these products or they never fall back on things due to a period. That is when, Molly got the spark for Cora, from some of the existing social enterprises like Tom’s. So that really started,  the Cora concept.

Cora’s Development

Molly started to research about how to create tampons using Google. But she was not able to get a full preview of what goes into the product from any leading manufacturer. Molly, understood the fact that cotton widely used in the creation of tampons, were heavily polluted with pesticides. So she decided that, the she will only be offering organic tampons. It took a lot of research for them to come up with a product, and Moreen the co-founder of Cora really helped in the research. Moreen helped to connect with the manufacturer for the tampons. Even though organic cotton is costly it was worth the shot, given the amount of social awareness and health consciousness.

Cora’s team has also created a subscription model, that blends well with the style of today’s working women who hate to rush to stores at the last minute. They have also designed an ingenious and elegant carrying clutch which is made of vegan leather, so there is no more hiding. They have even thought well, about the reusable storage box for the tampons which looks sleek and elegant.

Cora’s Partnership

With every month’s supply of sustainable pads that Cora sold, Cora gives the same to a girl in a developing country so she can do anything during her period. Cora partners with Aakar innovations from India, to distribute sanitary pads to underprivileged girls in the community. Molly has chosen to partner with Aakar, after a careful consideration from a lot of suppliers.  Aakar’s vision and social cause, falls strongly in line with Cora. Aakar’s vision is to create awareness and access to affordable, high quality, environmental friendly menstrual hygiene products. They help to empower women and girls, to make informed choices and enable them to take charge of their own socio-economic development.

Molly strongly feels the need to have high quality product and branding, to run a successful business in the U.S and also to bring about an impact. Molly recently polled her customers recently, to rank the value proposition of Cora. The customers have ranked, the organic factor as number one, the social cause came in a close second , third was the experience and packaging and fourth was the convenience and delivery. She feels very happy, that she was able to offer this help to girls, and help them go to school.

Molly felt the major challenge that she faced, while addressing the social cause in countries like India and Africa, is the cultural and social taboo. Another challenge they face is to help women understand, the difference between synthetic and cotton tampon. The next level would be helping them understand the difference between cotton tampon and organic cotton tampon. There were a lot of assumptions and misconceptions, but she is overcoming the same using social channels. As Cora tries positions themselves as frontrunners, Molly wants to women to be fully aware of the choices, they make about the menstrual products.

Show Notes

Website : https://cora.life/

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/corawomen/

Twitter : #fearlessperiod