Over the past 2+ years of founding, blogging, and editing Innov8Social I have learned a few expected and (even more) unexpected things about blogging. A blog can be your brand. It can be your calling card—the way you communicate ideas and experiences to others. And, interestingly, it can be the catalyst of things—such as collaborations, interactions, and great conversations.

It was through Innov8Social that I met Nisha Kumar Kulkarni. She reached out via social media to learn more about the blog and my interest in the social innovation sector. This could well have led to a great coffee meetup—but considering our coastal divide (Nisha is now based in NYC)—has led to multiple fascinating conversations instead.

A Perspective on Social Innovation in India

See, Nisha has a unique global lens on social innovation. She is of South Asian origin but raised in the US—however she and her husband relocated to Mumbai in 2010 for three years. It was there that she really grounded herself in her conceptualization of the social innovation space.

Nisha’s return to New York City had her excited about expanding her involvement on the US-side. However, she soon noticed that though social innovation in India and in the US may rooted in the same tenets of creating impact + value; they have taken surprisingly distinct forms. She details more about her path into social enterprise, her immersion into the field in India, and the differences she has observed on her return to the US in her audio interview below.

Meet Nisha Kulkarni

Nisha Kumar KulkarniBefore Nisha found a path in social innovation, she started off in the Economics and Finance realm— holding a BA in Economics in addition to a Minor in English from NYU before taking on roles at Lehman Brothers.  After two years on Wall Street, she pursued her interest in development economics with an MA in International Economics and Finance from Brandeis University.

The move to Mumbai accompanied her growing interest in social enterprise space and she has since taken on roles and projects at Intellecap, Catchafire, Dowser-–and most recently launched her own communications and content strategy consulting practice at nishakkulkarni.com.

Listen to Nisha’s Interview

In March 2013 Innov8Social interviewed Julie Lein who co-founded Tumml, a (then) brand new urban accelerator program that was accepting applications for its first cohort of social entrepreneurs focus on urban solutions.

A turn of a page, and tick of the year later, Tumml has not only graduated its first cohort but is welcoming its 2nd cohort of social entrepreneurs! This group, like the first, includes five startups focused on designing solution to urban issues, and have the vision and capacity to scale.

Before the new cohort was selected, but after the first cohort finished the accelerator program—Innov8Social had a chance to connect with Julie to hear updates on the program, the social enterprises that participated, more about the nuances of urban innovation, questions about accessibility of urban solutions to the populations they serve, and what Julie and her fellow Co-Founder Clara Brenner, and the extended Tumml team look for in a social enterprise candidate. It was also a great chance to re-visit Tumml’s legal structure as a nonprofit in light of an equity stake in the social enterprises that participate. You can listen to her full interview below.

Who are the Tumml Social Enterprises?

(Note: descriptions below are from Tumml.org/Portfolio)

2014 Winter Cohort

  • Neighbor.ly is a toolkit to help people, brands, and foundations invest in the places and projects they care about
  • The Farmery is an urban vertical farming and retailing system designed to produce and sell local food in the city
  • SavySwap is a secure experience to get what you want simply by trading
  • Feeding Forward is a mobile platform that connects those with excess food to those in need
  • Sovi is a collaborative social pinboard for local and community events
www.tumml.org

2013 Summer Cohort

  • WorkHands – A blue collar online identity service that makes it easier to find work in the trades.
  • HandUp – direct giving for homeless people and others in need in individual neighborhoods.
  • Corral – A service that makes your urban commute easier and faster
  • Earth Starter – All-in-one garden systems that help city dwellers grow food and flowers in small spaces
  • KidAdmit – An easy, efficient way to apply to multiple preschools online and manage the preschool admission process

What Do Tumml Social Enterprises Receive & Give?

Tumml social enterprises receive:

  • $20,000 in seed funding
  • free office/meeting space
  • customized education curriculum
  • four months of hands-on support and mentorship
  • opportunity to pitch to VC’s, angel investors, government entities, potential partners and customers
Tumml social enterprises give:
  • Approximately 5% equity stake in their for-profit entity

Tumml will begin taking applications for its next cohort in March 2014.

Listen to the Interview

Attorney Zoe Hunton, shares something in common with many of her social entrepreneur clients. Not only is she their attorney, but she is a fellow entrepreneur as well. It wasn’t always that way, after completing her undergraduate studies at Brown, attending law school at University of California, Davis, and clearing the California bar exam, Zoe took the fairly-traveled path of accepting a role at a law firm.However, after a persistent sense that her job didn’t mirror her core values, she took a detour.

Meet Zoe Hunton

Zoe left the firm and started her own solo practice, Hunton Law,  specifically focused on social enterprise and nonprofit law.

photo adapted from Full Circle Fund image here: goo.gl/UQ86a2

photo adapted from Full Circle Fund image
here: goo.gl/UQ86a2

It was a bold decision for a newly-minted attorney to devote her practice to a still-emerging space. In doing so, she has had to adopt the mindset of an impact-minded entrepreneur—in addition to understanding their legal needs.

With a renewed sense of purpose and alignment with her personal values, she is not only making her decision work—but is also contributing to creating an ecosystem within the social enterprise law space through her efforts outside of her practice.

In 2012, Zoe and Natalia Thurston (audio interview here) launched the Impact Law Forum (ILF) in the SF Bay area.

Innov8Social has covered interesting ILF events in the past including a brainstorming session at StartX led by the founders of LawGives, and a talk on human-centered design in law by the General Counsel of IDEO.org.

Listen to Zoe’s Interview

Innov8social had a chance to catch up with Zoe to ask her about her experience being a solo practice attorney and the (nonlinear) path that led her to the space. The interview explores trends that Zoe has noticed with the various company formation options social enterprises have in California and her advice for legal professionals and law students looking for a spot at the social enterprise table.

What does change look like? As much as we would like to think of it as an artfully directed four-minute video montage, complete with action shots of initial struggle, hard work and ultimate success—all scored to an inspired soundtrack—in reality, change can be adamant, demanding, and at times, unyielding. It can inch along, threaten failure at every turn, and require monumental perseverance.That is why was such an honor to meet and interview Nileema Mishra, an innovative leader who works through the odds, to achieve social impact, and continues to find new ways to serve, sustain, and succeed at the projects to which she has dedicated her life and career.

Meet Nileema Mishra, Founder of BNGVN, Womens’ Initiatives, and Microfinancing Efforts in Maharashtra, India

Nileema Mishra, Leading Change in Womens’ Empowerment and Microfinance in Rural India

Nileema Mishra, social innovator and  recipient of Magsaysay Award (2011) and Padma Shri Award (2013

Nileema Mishra was the 2011 recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize of Asia. She is the recipient of the 2013 Padma Shri Award, one of the India’s highest civilian awards recognizing distinguished contribution in various spheres, including social service.

Nileema’s accolades and recent recognition only tell a part of her story. After she decided to dedicate her life to serving the poor in her village and surrounding villages at only thirteen years old, she went on to spend over a decade engaging in her work before receiving such esteemed national and international recognition.

Her journey with her organization, BNGVN—dedicated to empower “everyone willing to work for earning his/her living must get an opportunity to do so”—has spanned:

13 years.
200 villages.
25,000 families+

Her reputation for initiating change made her a go-to resource for leading microfinance initiatives in her region of Maharashtra. And, when farmers in nearby villages began committing suicide when they struggled to re-pay steep bank loans in the face of continued famine—Nileema answered the calls for help by farmers in her village by raising funds to be able to loan funds directly to the farmers. Then, similar to BNGVN’s microlending initiatives, she instituted microfinancing for farmers.

Learn more about Nileema’s work, her next immediate goals, and how she has elected to structure her organization in her interview below.

When asked about what advice she has for emerging social entrepreneurs, Nileema emphasizes engaging in work that would benefit not only an initial cohort, but that would create benefit for the last person.

“If our work is only for us,” Nileema reflects, “the soul will not be there.”

Listen to the Interview

Earlier this year Innov8Social interviewed Nicholas Fusso, Program Director of D-Prize. D-Prize is an innovative competition dedicated to scaling distribution (i.e. the “D” in D Prize) of solutions to global poverty.Now that multiple cohorts have passed through the social innovation competition, Nicholas back in an audio interview to overview past winners, the types of social entrepreneurs that have been selected as D-Prize recipients, and what is ahead for the program.The call for Fall applications concluded at the end of November. Applicants from that round who advance past the first round will have until the end of December to submit their social venture plan, and if they are selected to advance, will be required to complete additional items by January 24, 2014. Winners can receive up to $20,000 to implement their proposed solution.

There will be another call for applications in Spring 2014. You can find out information about past winners and competition details at www.D-prize.com. Good luck to all of the D-Prize participants!

 

It is always fascinating to follow the ideation story of a social enterprise.

The Ideation Behind a Social Enterprise

Sometimes, the catalyzer is a clever innovation (i.e. “what if there was something that could do both…), or connecting to an untapped market (i.e. “If millions of people are already using mobile money, what if we…”). Still other times it is identifying a noted gap in what is available (i.e. “I can’t believe that they don’t have access to clean water…”)
In speaking to Zack Rosenberg, Founder/CEO of DoGoodBuy.Us it was clear that his social enterprise story started with a realization of what was missing–i.e. a robust online e-commerce platform to buy socially good products and support charities with each purchase. You can hear Zack recall the details of  the story behind DoGoodBuy.Us, more about the legal structure and business model behind his website, as well as his tips for social entrepreneurs in his audio interview below.

Meet Zack Rosenberg

Zack is not a first-time entrepreneur. He has founded websites such as Gimme20, which became a social & sharing network for Zach Rosenberghealth and fitness enthusiasts and SixDegreesofZR, which connected jobseekers and available jobs within Zack’s network. While the sites do not appear to be active, there are a number of references to them online.  His work also spans roles at WebMD, Buzzfeed, and SmartBrief and he regularly writes and speaks about startup entrepreneurship.

Zack may be an encore entrepreneur, but his latest venture has taken him to new realms including social enterprise and ecommerce. He noted that as he dives deeper into ways to empower his platform to do good and do well, he has started becoming more aware of the broader social innovation community. When he attended his first Social Venture Network conference in New York earlier this year he was pleasantly surprised to engage with the strong community of social entrepreneurs who participated.

DoGoodBuy.Us

The tagline for DoGoodBuy.Us is “the marketplace for social good/s”. The site lets users search products using various parameters including, by the cause that the product supporters, by type of gift you are looking to give (i.e. for teachers, clients, babysitters) as well as by price point and type of item. Up to 50% of proceeds are donated to support poverty-eradication, access to food, healthcare, and environmental sustainability measures.

In his interview, Zack talks about his decision to form DoGoodBuyUs as a for-profit and the reasons for doing so. He also explores what is ahead, introducing the concept of crowdcommerce—which allow groups to support specific initiatives.

Listen to the Interview

Thane Kreiner, Executive Director of SCU Center for Science, Tech, Society

Thane Kreiner founded, led, and developed multiple life sciences startups before joining Santa Clara University as Executive Director of the department that houses its prestigious GSBI program for social entrepreneurs.

A neuroscientist by training, Stanford Business School graduate, and an experienced serial entrepreneur himself, Thane brings a pragmatic optimism to his role at the helm of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at SCU.  Listen below to is interview to learn more about GSBI, what kinds of social entrepreneurs should apply, past successes, and his advice for those thinking about launching a social innovation venture.

What is GSBI?

Piloted in 2003, Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) applies Silicon Valley acumen to help scale proven early-stage impact innovation for-profit and nonprofit ventures. It does this through offering 2 curriculum programs: the GSBI Accelerator is a nine-month program that combines online modules with mentor meetings and culminates in a in-residence bootcamp at SCU’s campus in California’s Silicon Valley.  Social entrepreneurs can also engage through the GSBI Online program—which provides more general startup training through an exclusively online medium.

Both GSBI programs focus on startups that have progressed past early ideation (i.e. blueprint) and validation stages of their startup and are in the ‘prepare to scale’ stage of startup development, as articulated in From Blueprint to Scale.

Alumni of the program include Kiva, WE CARE Solar, Husk Power Systems, World of Good and over 200 other social innovation ventures with entrepreneurs spanning over 50 countries.

Applications for GSBI are open now and due this Thursday, October 31st 2013.

Meet Thane Kreiner

I had a chance to catch up with Thane about GSBI and his own experience and views on the importance of resources for social entrepreneurship. He is articulate and passionate about social innovation, and incredibly well-versed on the Silicon Valley startup experience.

Thane’s education spans a B.S. in Chemistry from University of Texas, Austin to a PhD in Neurosciences from Stanford School of Medicine, to an MBA from Stanford GSB. His professional portfolio includes a number startups that he has founded, led, and guided through development, such as:
Second Genome, Presage Biosciences, iZumi Bio, Inc. (now iPierian).

Listen to the Interview

Natalia Thurston heads Social Venture Law in San Francisco, and also co-founded Impact Law Forum along with attorney Zoe Hunton.  During the August meet-up of Impact Law Forum, she presented a workshop on trends in the crowdfunding—with a lens on how it can impact social entrepreneurs. She covered a number of topics including rewards-based crowdfunding (i.e. platforms such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter), peer-to-peer lending, direct public offerings, new SEC rules on crowdfunding, and the unanswered questions that remain the in the field.I had the chance to catch up with Natalia to learn more about her own path into business, law, and social enterprise, and to overview some of the key topics covered in her talk.

Meet Natalia

Natalia Thurston’s path into law actually began in business school. She completed her MBA Natalia Thurstonfrom San Francisco State University where she was especially focused on mission-driven companies and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

After a few years of being in industry she sought to further her interest in the intersection of business, impact, and policy by pursuing a law degree at Berkeley.  She was drawn to Berkeley law in part because of its strong public interest program. While there, she was exposed to a number of thinkers and concepts central to social enterprise law.

Natalia launched Social Venture Law in 2011. Over the past few years she has helped startups, social enterprises, and nonprofits on issues from formation, regulatory compliance, as well as crowdfunding, and debt and equity financing.

 

Listen to the Interview

 

See the Slides

A social innovator can take form in a number of avatars, including social entrepreneur, innovative nonprofit leader, corporate social responsibility lead, or associate with an impact role in a large company. A sometimes-overlooked path in social enterprise, however, is that of sustainability consultant.

Meet David Jaber

[photo adapted from Gigantic Idea Studio]

[photo adapted from Gigantic Idea Studio]

David Jaber, is such a consultant. Over the past fifteen years, he has carved out a successful path in energy efficiency site assessments, performance metrics tracking, supply-chain analysis, greenhouse gas inventories, and pollution prevention. In his interview below, David shares his experience in consulting with social enterprises and social entrepreneurs as well as the growth of the field and opportunities for those interested in this impact career pathway.David was a former Project Manager at Natural Logic before founding InNative. He serves on the board of the Permaculture Credit Union and is a former chair of TribalP2, a national pollution prevention workgroup. He graduated from Rice University with BS chemical engineering and from Berkeley with an M.S. in Environmental Engineering. He is LEED (EB)O+M accredited.

I had the pleasure of meeting David on a few different occasions during the passage of the AB 361, California’s benefit corporation legislation in late 2011. After a particular event titled “How to Become a Benefit Corporation” hosted by law firm Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean LLP and Green Chamber of Commerce in December 2011, we struck up an interesting conversation about the growing interest in third party standards.

To put into context, after the then-newly passed benefit corporation legislation required that a benefit corporation be assessed as creating “material positive impact” by a neutral “third party standard.” So, naturally, many social enterprises considering the new structure had questions about their options on various third party standards. David and I collaborated on a post for Triple Pundit addressing the growing interest, titled “Third Party Standards for Benefit Corporations.”

 

Listen to the Interview

[Since the time of this interview, Doug Park has taken on a new role. He is now Director of Education at SASB – Sustainability Accounting Standards Board]

Sometimes you can learn as much about people by what they ask as by what they say. I learned that early when meeting Doug Park. Read his bio– showcasing his success as a student, attorney, professor, and leader—and you might be surprised by his thoughtful curiosity and desire to continue exploring when you meet him.In addition to sharing his own experience, he asks nuanced questions, poses hypotheticals, and probes into issues of relevance to the social enterprise.I had the pleasure of meeting Doug Park a few months ago at an event showcasing the potential of social entrepreneurship, and recently sat down with him for an interview about his journey to the social enterprise space and the his tips for entrepreneurs.

Meet Doug Park

Doug ParkDoug specializes in problem-solving related to corporate governance, securities law, and responsible investment. He is an attorney partner and Chief Sustainability Officer at Rimon PC–a law firm dedicated to innovation and community that is a certified B corporation as well as a benefit corporation.
Most recently, Doug has ventured into the social enterprise space as as a co-founder of ThinkTomi. ThinkTomi is an education platform combining the innovation of online education with the benefits of live/group learning. It is aimed at sharing the learnings of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship across the country and globally. Doug serves as General Counsel and the primary education architect and professor.
He studied at Harvard (BA), University of Michigan (J.D), and Stanford GSB (Ph.D. in Strategy and Organizations) and has taught courses at Stanford continuing education  on entrepreneurship.  Doug is President of the Harvard Club of Silicon Valley and is active in the community.
Beyond his stellar academic credentials, Doug has been a long-time blogger. He sat down recently to share his journey, wisdom he has gained along the way, and his thoughts about what is in store ahead for social enterprise.

 

Listen to the Interview

Continue Reading

In case you want to learn more about Doug and his work, you can take a look at the articles below:

The photo used above has been adapted from LinkedIn.