In Sanskrit the work “sangam” refers to a confluence, or place of meeting, such as the point where two rivers merge.  As Innov8Social often finds itself at a sangam of social innovation, law, and policy one very interesting topic is how social innovators can pursue studying the law.

Another Path to Practicing Law

There is law school—an excellent option for some. But there are a few drawbacks to law school depending on what a person is seeking. If it is the law degree—law school is the only way. However, if it is the experience of practicing law with dedicated legal professionals, the ability to continue working in a legal setting full-time while pursuing the study of law, and the opportunity to deeply engage with your community throughout your study—-there may be another path.

This topic came to my attention in meeting a remarkable social innovator who is not only an active leader at a non-profit dedicated to educating and retooling communities to thrive in the new economy but, fascinatingly, is training to be a lawyer in California—without the step of going to law school.

Meet Christina

Christina OatfieldMeet Christina Oatfield, who is participating in the Law Office Study Program of the State Bar of California.

Christina has been driven by creating change, as evidenced by her impact-oriented track record. As an undergraduate at Berkley, she became active in student organizations dedicated to sustainability.
She held leadership roles in the Berkeley Student Cooperative, the Green Initiative, the Sustainability Team, Associated Students of University of California (ASUC), and co-founded the Berkeley Student Food Collective—a nonprofit organization dedicated to tenets of democratic participation, sustainability, health and ethical foods and education.
Along the way Christina connected with the Sustainable Economies Law Center and its co-founder Janelle Orsi. Great advice for lawyer-aspirees is to volunteer or work in a legal setting and get a feel for the practice. Christina did just that when she volunteered at SELC to see if law was a good fit for her skills and interest.
Christina likely didn’t bargain on stumbling on a unique path that would let her work closely with a law firm and advising attorneys, continue her work at SELC, study law, and pursue a path to becoming a lawyer—all without the expense, resources, and full-time commitment required for a three-year stint at law school.

While studying law through the apprentice program, Christina has continued active involvement at SELC, most recently taking on a Policy Director role. She was instrumental in the grassroots campaign to enact the California Homemade Food Act (AB 1616) which allows small food businesses that produce certain foods deemed “low-risk” to operate out of a private home with limited regulatory oversight.Innov8Social caught up with Christina to hear more about the apprenticeship program available through the State Bar of California.

Read the Interview


Interview with Christina Oatfield, Policy Director at SELC and Pursuing Independent Study to Become a Lawyer in California

Q1 | Innov8Social:  How did you first learn about the Apprenticeship Program? What made you decide to apply?

A1 | Christina Oatfield, Policy Director at Sustainable Economies Law Center & Pursuing Independent Study to Become a Lawyer in California:  I heard about it while I was at a retreat with attorneys who work with the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC). I had been volunteering for SELC for several months hoping it would help me decide whether I wanted to make the big commitment of going to law school or not. Janelle Orsi, a co-founder of SELC, mentioned that she knew an attorney who got her license in California without going to law school, but Janelle didn’t know much about the process.I was immediately intrigued because speaking with the various attorneys at this retreat had confirmed by suspicions that I had been developing during my internship with SELC; that practicing law to support cooperatives, mission-driven businesses, nonprofits and community groups working to create more socially just and sustainable economies was what I wanted to do, but that law schools are overpriced and generally not set up to prepare students for that kind of work.Janelle and I immediately found the information about the California Bar’s Law Office Study Program online and I began to read about all the rules and contact other attorneys who were familiar with the program to help me decide whether it was right for me. The more I learned about it the more strongly I felt that it was the right path for me. So then I approached Jenny Kassan, SELC’s other co-founder, who practices law through her firm Katovich & Kassan Law Group in Oakland, and asked her if she and her firm would host me as an apprentice so that I could fulfill the requirements of the Law Office Study program. She and her partner John Katovich quickly agreed to it!

Q2 | Innov8Social:  What are the benefits you have experienced from pursuing a path to becoming an attorney through apprenticeship?

A2 | Christina: There are so many benefits!

-spending much of my time observing practicing attorneys doing exactly the kind of work that I want to do when I become an attorney
-in-depth learning about legal topics that are often not covered in law school courses (such as cooperatives, crowdfunding for small businesses and new types of legal entities)
-studying and taking exams at my own pace
-not paying for law school
-looking forward to finishing law school with lots of practical experience

Q3 | Innov8Social:  What challenges—expected and unexpected—have you had?

A3 | Christina: Most of the challenges I’ve faced have been expected. It can be a challenge to hold myself accountable to myself when I’m not immersed in a competitive school environment. Also, while my apprenticeship supervisor and the other attorneys at her firm are some of the nation’s experts in securities law for small businesses and unique legal structures for social enterprise, they are not experts in most of the many legal topics that are part of the bar exam, so there’s a lot that I need to study on my own, with just a little support from other attorneys who have taken the bar.

Q4 | Innov8Social:  Do you have any advice for someone considering applying to an apprenticeship program?

A4 | Christina: Yes, and in fact, I’m thinking of creating a whole website with resources after I’m a little bit further along in the process myself. Also, note: there’s not really an “application” process but more so it’s a “registration” process because anyone who meets the pre legal education requirements and submits all the information required can start the Law Office Study Program.

First, I would suggest to potential participants that you carefully consider whether you prefer learning in a traditional classroom environment or whether you learn better by doing. I would also recommend some self reflection on whether you are the type of person to take a lot of initiative. Attorneys who supervisor apprentices are generally full time attorneys and while they commit to spending 5 hours or more per week directly supervising you, that still leaves a lot of your learning process fairly unstructured. Students who are very self motivated are, I think, generally a better fit for the Law Office Student Program.

Second, think about what area of law you want to practice in after you become an attorney. After 5 or more years most attorneys have developed areas of expertise in certain legal matters and may have forgotten much of the material that is on the bar exam if it is not related to their area of practice (the supervising attorney must have been practicing for 5 or more years in order to supervise a student in the Law Office Study Program). Therefore, you’ll want to have a good idea of what areas of law you might want to practice in because the areas of expertise of the attorney you study under will probably become your areas of expertise and determine what your marketable skill set will be once you become an attorney. You can change who your supervising attorney is as often as every 6 months so within the 4 year program you could potentially study under as many as eight different attorneys, but that may not actually be feasible or necessarily something you would actually want to do for many reasons.

Third, if your goal in becoming an attorney is to make a high salary working for a large firm or to become a high level political appointee then the Law Office Study Program is probably not for you because it doesn’t come with the same prestige that a high ranking law school brings to you. If your goal is to learn about particular non-traditional legal topics, to learn by doing and to save money then it’s more likely that this is a good choice for you. I think the Law Office Study program is especially great for students interested in public interest legal work to consider because it’s tough to go into public interest work if you have one or two hundred thousand dollars in debt from law school since public interest lawyers tend to earn less than those working in the private sector.

Meet Nathan

Behind the big idea of social enterprise Goodjoe—a community-based T-shirt company with a passion for doing good—Nathan Pham, GoodJoeis co-founder Nathan Pham.

Nathan’s path to social entrepreneurship started  in tech and marketing. He graduated from UC Davis in 2003 with a degree in computer science before going on to work as a sales engineer at a few different hi-tech firms.
For him, the idea for a social enterprise sparked when he came across a Life is Good store in Chicago in 2007. He began researching the tshirt industry and crowdsourcing and reconnected with college friend Jourdan Yeh.

Meet GoodJoe, a Social Enterprise for Crowdsourcing Design

Together they worked on the concept of creating a platform to sell t-shirts with social impact messaging by crowdsourcing design from professional and amateur designers. In their business model, they built-in avenues to support non-profits looking to use Goodjoe by providing the service free of charge and promoting the non-profit ‘stores’ on the website and through design contests.The concept gained momentum and Goodjoe officially launched at the end of 2008.
Goodjoe now carries thousands of products featuring the work of numerous designers, has hosted over 60 themed design contests, and has raised over $100,000 for artists and non-profits.

Read the Interview

Interview with Natham Pham, Co-Founder of

Innov8Social had a chance to catch up with Nathan to learn more about GoodJoe and his path to social entrepreneurship.

Q1 | Innov8Social:  What inspired you to start Goodjoe? Did you feel like something was missing in the online shopping experience—or did you have an innovative take on it?

A1 | Nathan Pham, Founder of GoodJoe:  It all started when I was on a business trip to the East Coast in 2007. I was caught in a snow storm and got stuck at the Chicago O’Hare airport for the night. When I was there bored and curious, I wandered around and saw a Life is Good store. I was instantly attracted by their smiley face logo. Then I went on to learn more about them. Then became inspired and obsessed and wanted to start a similar business.

After tons of research, in addition to me not knowing how to design, I applied my understanding of the crowdsourcing concept to launch goodjoe, in Dec’08, as a community-based company. By hosting contests, goodjoe utilizes the talent of the graphic designers community to help nonprofits spread their message and engage with their users.One key differentiation of goodjoe and a couple crowdsourcing t-shirt sites out there is that we zoom in and focus on working with nonprofits and using their causes as design themes. We believe that there is a huge need in helping nonprofits expose their cause, solicit and engage supporters, and to us t-shirt design competition is the solution.

As far as online shopping experience, in addition to offering cool and unique graphic t-shirts and products, we thrive to be transparent with the way we do business and how goodjoe operates. That way each person that interacts with goodjoe can see their impact either through a purchase, a vote for a design, or simply sharing a nonprofit that they’ve learned about on goodjoe to their peers.
Q2 | Innov8Social:   What is the mission of Goodjoe? What are your greatest hopes for it in the next 5 years?
A2 | Nathan:  The Goodjoe Mission: We strive to empower and creatively inspire individuals to contribute to our local and global communities.
To elaborate…our hope is that the goodjoe t-shirts and products become a conversation starter in local communities. Every design is intended to create conversation about its origin, the artist that created it and what is the inpsiration behind it. When this happens, the message of the nonprofit and the cause travel far and wide offline, to wherever their supporters might be.Our goal in the next 5 years is to be the online marketplace of choice for socially and environmentally aware customers. For every product purchased, they will be able to connect with the designers and the nonprofit, which are supposedly aligned with their interest and values.
Q3 | Innov8Social:  How did your team decide to monetize your social venture?
A3 | Nathan:  From day 1, when we brainstormed the idea and concept, we made sure the business model can generate revenue, and not depending on things such as ads. Our philoshophy has always been to create cool products that end customers would want to buy and support us, the artists and the causes. That way, we don’t have to do things that require us to charge the nonprofits for using our platform. The end goal is that when a customer buys something, everyone benefits.
Q4 | Innov8Social:   What were some of the unexpected challenges you faced in launching and growing GJ? What did you learn?
A4 | Nathan:  Oh man, where do I begin? ;O) Before and in the early days of launching, the biggest challenge was to understand the ins and outs of the t-shirs production and the industry. Prior to launching goodjoe, we never had any experience with the industry. So we had to everything from scratch. Up until now, the constant challenge is the catch-22 that all the internet social startups must solve. For us, the catch-22 problem is attracting quality graphic designers so that the nonprofits can be interested in signing up and working with us. And with the designers, we need to show that they will receive exposure and monetary benefits from nonprofits promoting the contests and designs, which indirectly promoting them.

Up to date, we have been learning a lot from working with nonprofits. We’ve learned that the needs and wants of each nonprofit are very dynamic. So it has been difficult to pinpoint a formula that capture the consistent needs so that we can do the next build to service more nonprofits. We are almost there though. Also, we’ve found out that nonprofits are quite behind with adapting new technology and new ways of doing things. Most of them are barely catching on with the whole social media. And so when we explain the goodjoe model, most of them do get overwhelmed. Base on these experiences, we have been able to figure out how to better articulate our model so that nonprofits can see the benefits.

Q5 | Innov8Social:   What are 3 tips you have for social entrepreneurs starting out in the online space?

A6 | Nathan:   (1) Find a sector that you are very passionate about making a difference in; (2) Do extensive research to validate that there is a business opportunity there; (3) Find a couple people that share the same values and passion to take on the challenge. And don’t give up until you’ve tried every angle you can possibly think of.

You can read more interviews with social entrepreneurs on Innov8Social as part of our ongoing efforts to profile individuals active in the field. You can also nominate a social entrepreneur.

Take Action: Submit a Design for Democracy Today

One of the ways Goodjoe engages with t-shirt designers across the country is through hosting various contests calling for design. Designers can submit a shirt design idea to a weekly or daily contest or to one of the themed contests.In honor of inauguration day, Goodjoe and GlobalGiving are launching design contest today.

The call is to “create a design that evokes the power and importance of programs around the world that ensure that all people can participate. Design for democracy.”

You have from today until February 8th to submit a design and vote on designs you love.

A Logo to Fit

A post about Goodjoe would be remiss without mention of its own logo design. It is a creative doodle that incorporates the letters G and J for Goodjoe in a fun, quirky ensemble evoking sense of wisdom and gentle happiness—not unlike the calm, kind, and passionate presence Nathan himself evokes.
It is unique, clever, and is a great fit for the goodjoe concept.

Meet Kalen

Kalen GallagherKalen Gallagher is a social entrepreneur’s social entrepreneur. He doesn’t just resemble what it means to pursue social impact with an entrepreneurial mindset, he pretty much embodies it.Talk to him for a few minutes and you’ll notice that he possesses many of the characteristics of fellow millennials. Easy-going, confident, and ready to take on (and lead) change, Kalen has served his community as far back as he can remember. As a student at Westmont High School in San Jose he was active in community service organizations.
Kalen attended UC Davis as an undergraduate and served in student government in the roles of Senator, Vice President, and student body President. He stayed on at his alma mater for law school, graduating from UC Davis Law in 2009. Where passing the California Bar exam often signifies an official entry into the profession, for Kalen it was a turning point at which he decided to steer away from practicing law to focus on education. He took on the role of social studies teacher at a KIPP Heartwood Academy, a public charter school serving East San Jose.Kalen’s path to creating impact and pursuing entrepreneurship led him to join an education technology startup called ClassDojo in 2011. ClassDojo is a tool that helps teachers improve behavior in their classrooms and captures and generates data on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators. The Next Web named it one of the top education apps of 2012.

For Kalen, the roles of educator, innovator, and leader push him to seek different avenues to create impact. In May 2012 he announced his candidacy for Campbell Union High School District Board of Trustees. An elected position, he would be running against an incumbent and vying for a four-year term. In a close race fueled by grass roots campaigning, social media pushes, and plenty of precinct walks—Kalen won a seat on the Board on election day in November 2012.

I have had a chance to get to know Kalen, through one of his passions–New Leaders Council. Kalen and Reeta Sharma,  co-founded and co-direct the Silicon Valley chapter of this progressive fellowship program to build skills in leadership and social entrepreneurship…which I participated in as a Fellow in 2012 and continue to be involved in as an member of the Advisory Board.

Innov8Social caught up with Kalen to find out about his commitment to social entrepreneurship, and his path in the field.

Read the Interview

Interview with Kalen Gallagher, Social Entrepreneur and Elected Leader

Q1 | Innov8Social:   How do you define “social entrepreneurship”

A1 | Kalen Gallagher, Social Entrepreneur and Campbell Union High School District Board Trustee:  To me “social entrepreneurship” means using the principles of entrepreneurship to create sustainable, long-term solutions to our society’s biggest problems. While traditional entrepreneurs are primarily focused on earning money, social entrepreneurs seek societal change.

Q2 | Innov8Social:   What inspired you to run for office?

A2 | Kalen: I decided to run for the school board of my old high school district because it has been plagued by numerous issues for years with little discussion at the board level on how we can turn things around. Since well before I walked through the gates in 9th grade our dropout rate has been incredibly high, we’ve had low test scores, the number of our students going to and through college has been small, we’ve had the lowest paid teachers in the Bay Area, and even today we have a disturbing lack of technology available to teachers and students. While the districts around us are thriving, we’ve been held back, which is negatively impacting thousands of our community members every year. I think there’s a lot that bringing my teaching experience, the “startup mentality,” and higher expectations to the board can accomplish.

Q3 | Innov8Social:   What have you learned about the intersection of start-up entrepreneurship and education technology through ClassDojo?

A3 | Kalen: We’re in the middle of a dramatic shift in public education, powered in large part by young teachers. Any teacher 30 or younger (about 30% of all teachers) grew up in a post-AOL world, which means the internet has been ingrained in their daily lives since childhood. These teachers, along with older tech-savvy teachers, are helping change the expectations, and delivery, of public education.

This has been coupled with a revolutionary change in purchasing power. Traditionally if education companies wanted to reach teachers, they had to sell to districts, which was a slow, frustrating process. Today the internet and spread of cheap internet connected devices allow education companies to go straight to teachers and skip the middle man. Teachers are also much more in tune with the tools they want and need than a school board or administrator could ever be. Now, hundreds of teachers can be using a tool within a district without the school board having even heard about it. This new distribution strategy is allowing the shift we’re experiencing today.

Q4 | Innov8Social:   When did you decide to actively turn away from the practice of law to the practice of social entrepreneurship?

A4 | Kalen: It might seem ridiculous, but I actually knew I would never practice law when I applied to law school. To me law school represented something very attractive: a 3 year, socially-acceptable vacation that would give me amble time to explore my passions and learn the legal structure of California.

I spent the summer after my 1L year in deep-reflection, trying to figure out how I could make the biggest impact possible on the issues I’m passionate about. After all the soul-searching, research, and informational interviews, it was clear to me that if I should devote my life to improving public education. The lack of a quality of public education for all is at the core of most issues that plague the United States today. Four days after taking (and somehow passing) the California Bar, I was in my new classroom at KIPP Heartwood in East San Jose.

Q5 | Innov8Social:   Do you have any tips for those who want to create a career that creates social impact and profit?

A5 | Kalen: Genuinely care about the issue you’re trying to solve. Listen to your users. Focus. If you don’t do all three, you will go nowhere.

Violence Against Women in India

Of his 23 year-old aspiring physiotherapist daughter, Jyoti Singh Pandey’s father told press last week, “I am proud of her. Revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks. They will find strength from my daughter.”Jyoti and a male friend were attacked on a bus in South Delhi, India in December 2012. She passed away two weeks later from severe injuries resulting from the gang rape and impact from a metal rod she endured. Six individuals have been charged for murder, rape, abduction, and other offenses.The crime has incited millions worldwide, and has put a spotlight on the crime and punishment for crimes against women in India and elsewhere.

New Delhi protest NewDelhiprotest2 Protests After Death of Gang Rape Victim, New Delhi, India - 02 Jan 2013

Knowledge, a Path to Constructive Change

Knowledge can form a path to constructive change, and awareness and communication get us there faster.

With renewed focus on the pervasive issues of crimes against women in India and other countries, there is an urgency to understand the legal and legislative structure in India.

Meet Preeti Goel Bishop, Attorney in California

Preeti KhannaTo facilitate knowledge-gathering on this issue, Innov8Social interviewed Preeti Khanna, a practicing attorney in California with several years of law practice in India. She provided valuable insight about crimes against women in India and the potential for new legislation and implementation to impact change.

Preeti graduated from the University of Delhi with a B.A. in Psychology, with Honors, before pursuing a law degree from the same university. In her career as an attorney, she has actively litigated cases in the Delhi High Court and Indian Supreme Court with a focus on criminal, employment, and administrative law cases.

She recently completed her Masters in Law (LL.M) at the University of California, Berkeley in Business and International Law and is now working as a research fellow at Berkeley Law School.

Read the Interview

Q & A About Crimes Against Women in India with Attorney Preeti Goel Bishop

Q1 | Innov8Social: How are crimes against women prosecuted in Delhi/India currently? Is there leniency if a perpetrator marries a survivor of a sex crime?

A1 | Preeti Goel Bishop, Attorney: India is a common law jurisdiction, with a partly federal and partly union structure. Furthermore, juries were abolished in India in 1961 or so, and trials are conducted under the adversarial system.

Sex crimes are defined under the Indian Penal Code for instance in:

  • Section 376 (Punishment for rape)
  • Section 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty);

and other statutes such as:

In addition, there are some state specific laws as well. Furthermore, even though not yet codified under statute, sexual harassment of women at workplace is criminalized under a scheme set up by the Supreme Court (Please refer the 1997 constitution bench Supreme Court decision in Vishakha case).

Prosecution of sex crimes proceeds much the same manner as prosecution for any other crime.

Prosecution is governed by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CRPC) and begins with an aggrieved person filing a first investigation report (FIR) with police, which is the primary investigating authority. Police conducts an investigation – records statement of victim, visits and collects evidence or inspects the scene of crime, evidence/statements of other identified persons are collected, medical and forensic examination takes place etc. After completing investigation, the police submits a chargesheet and its report, and trial commences in the court. A Court /judge/ magistrate may also take suo-moto cognizance of an offense and direct the police to carry out an investigation and submit a report to the court. All detailed procedures are specified in CRPC. Prosecution and defense evidence is led and trial is held.

As for leniency – this depends on facts.

The willingness of the girl is the important factor here. The court will attempt to separate sham transactions and lift the veil. Offer to marry a victim of crime cannot be allowed to become a way to bail consequences. If the interests of parties are found genuine, and not resulting from any oppression or coercion or not found sham, it may be a mitigating circumstance – and treated as a sort of a compromise or settlement. The benefit to the victim is the key factor. After all, one of the objects of punishment is to redress the grievances of the victim.

Q2 | Innov8Social:  What are the steps required to enact new legislation changing the law in India? How long does it usually take?

A2 | Preeti: Again, India has a Westminster parliamentary scheme of government, with a bicameral legislature. Law is enacted by legislature. If legislature is not in session, and there is any sort of urgency, the executive is not without power.
On the advice of the cabinet, executive (president) can pass an ordinance – which lasts for upto 6 months, and can be extended by the executive. It may also be voted into law. As for time, an ordinance can be passed in a day, and some bills never become law.
So it is difficult to determine a normative time, but time is not the constraint, political will is. Moreover, personally in my opinion, India has mature, good laws. The greater problem lies in their implementation.

Q3 | Innov8Social: From your practice of law and policy on related issues, what are the key changes you think would create the most impact in safety for women in Delhi (and India)?

A3 | Preeti: This is a big one. A multi-pronged approach is going to be effective. So in no order of importance:

  1. There needs to be greater social awareness of women’s rights and safety, and sensitivity to the plight of victims of crime – not just sexual crime, but other equally rampant crimes such as domestic violence etc.
  2. Victims of crime need greater support and need more protection. Often women victims and their families are threatened by the accused.
  3. Awareness should also be directed at changes in attitudes. For the most part, crimes against women simply go unreported, as victims are not comfortable coming forward and reporting.
  4. More effective policing is needed. More quantity of, better trained and more sensitized personnel, a quicker investigation by the police, reduction in corruption
  5. The judiciary is overburdened. A trial in a rape case for instance, should take no more than 6 months, and an appeal no longer than 6 months either. Reality is that it takes 5 to 10 years for each, which makes justice even if delivered,somewhat illusory. Trials have to be expedited. Technology is greatly under-utilized in process redesign. Everyone focuses on having more judges, but in my opinion, we can leverage our existing judges a LOT more, we can focus on the process efficiencies and focus on getting better co-operation from lawyers and the bar in expediting processes.
  6. Greater community involvement, and most importantly the social values and the approach to the place of women in society is the most important factor.

Meet Ryan

Ryan MartensWith the start of a new year comes new opportunities to connect, engage, and explore. One such opportunity was an interview on Rally for Impact, a fascinating arm  of the for-profit social enterprise Rally Software. Innov8Social spoke with Rally Software’s Founder and CTO Ryan Martens about his vision for empowering engineers to turn their attention to many of the world’s most pressing problems.
In addition to his work at the helm of Rally for Impact, Ryan also served as Mentor in Residence for the Unreasonable Institute in 2011 and continues to serve as a Mentor.

Rally Software and Rally for Impact

Rally Software has adopted a 1/1/1 model similar to Salesforce, where 1% of the company’s founding equity is put toward the Entrepreneurs Foundation, 1% of employee’s time is used for volunteer projects, and 1% of equity financing to endow the efforts of citizen engineers.
Scroll to end of the post for an informative introduction video to learn about what the organization does, its goals, and an account of a citizen engineer. When asking Ryan about Rally’s decision to become a B Corporation he said that he certified as as a B Corporation because he sees it as a promising hybrid model between a non-profit and for-profit entity.

Read the Interview

Interview on Rally for Impact with Ryan Martens, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Rally Software

Q1 | Innov8Social: How did you first get involved with Rally for Impact?  How long has it been around?

A1 | Ryan Martens, Rally for Impact: The idea has been percolating for 10 years. We officially launched it in October 2012.

Q2 | Innov8Social: What problem/pain point is Rally for Impact addressing?

A2 | Ryan: I feel strongly that business is the only force on the planet large enough and pervasive enough to change our broken global systems. With Rally for Impact, we are stepping up to say that business must lead the way in solving social problems. We can embed our social enterprises within the wrapper of business and be successful at both by bringing the learnings from one into the other.

My vision is to bring citizen engineers and social entrepreneurs together to help scale their efforts, as well as to inspire businesses to create sustainable and equitable solutions that span the globe.

Together, citizen engineers and social entrepreneurs can be the giant lever to fix the global systems that create clean water, clean air, rich soil, biodiversity and happiness as a natural by-product of everyday work.

I do not believe you can make one singular giant leap to become a social impact enterprise, but rather, incremental progress. You need the support of the business to value the work and thus create an environment where citizen engineers are empowered to explore not just feasible and effective solutions, but highly desirable and sustainable solutions. We need to build the right things that help us make the world better with every use..

Q3 | Innov8SocialThe site emphasizes the presence of citizen engineers—how did you first think of this broad category? Who are the most typical ‘citizen engineers’ you have come across?

A3 | Ryan: I did not coin the term Citizen Engineer; Dave Douglas and Greg Papadopoulos actually did in their book: Citizen Engineer. There really is no “typical story” – the profile is someone who identifies a social problem and then works to solve it. Much of comes from finding an unfortunate opportunity that they are compelled to wrestle with and attempt to solve. We have great examples on the Rally For Impact site that include business, technical and grassroots organizing stories:

Q4 | Innov8Social: What is the primary purpose of Rally for Impact?

A4 | Ryan: Our mission to mobilize citizen engineers to solve the world’s toughest problems is based in part on my interactions with Dave Douglas, co-author of the book Citizen Engineer. Dave and Greg define citizen engineers as “the connection point between science and society—between pure knowledge and how it is used. Citizen engineers are techno-responsible, environmentally responsible, economically responsible, socially responsible participants in the engineering community.”

To mobilize citizen engineers to do this, we need to leverage:

  • design thinking to produce highly desirable solutions that scale quickly
  • agile thinking to bring the power of small teams to large problems
  • lean startup to simultaneously solve for feasibility and effectiveness
  • open source licenses to disseminate learnings and solutions freely across the planet
  • sociology and biology to design sustainable solutions that work with nature
Between Dave’s book, the Stanford, Eric Ries, Steve Blank and what we know about scaling Agile, we now have a recipe for mobilizing citizen engineers. Our job at Rally For Impact is to work collaboratively with our employees, business and social partners and most importantly, our customers, to leverage these methods to educate, enable and mobilize these citizen engineers across the planet. We have the science and technology, now we just need citizen engineers to apply them in uniquely local and global ways.

We believe business can be the force that helps us create sustainable systems for billions of humans to live on this planet in a just, equitable and restorative fashion. It is why we are here as a company.


Rally for Impact is seeking to build its base of social innovation-minded engineers. If you are interested you can take this pictorial citizen engineer survey.


With crowdfunding sites gaining popularity as a way to fund ideas, you may find yourself wondering what happens after money is raised. Back in December 2011 we did a Q&A with the founder and CEO of social enterprise Yellow Leaf Hammocks, Joe Demin. At that time Yellow Leaf Hammocks was about three weeks into a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 to build and manufacture a stand for the company’s sustainable hammocks.

Yellow Leaf Hammock logo

A Crowdfunding Story, Continued…

Having already raised the lion’s share of the ask, Joe and his team still had $3000 left to raise within 9 days. And, as explained in the Kickstarter rules, the entire amount would have to be raised for Yellow Leaf to have access to any of the raised funds.

The group’s hard work paid off. Yellow Leaf Hammocks was able to inspire a total of $11,400 worth of donations to fund their project on Kickstarter, and they did so with 90 backers and 4 days left on the clock. We caught up with Joe to find out about how they were able to garner the remaining the funds and to learn about what happens after money is successfully raised.

Yellow Leaf Hammocks Q&A Follow-Up with Joe Demin

Joe DeminQ | Innov8Social:  Joe, thanks for joining us again. And many congrats on the successful campaign! How was it raising the final $3K? Did you try any different techniques than earlier in the campaign to inspire support?

A | Joe Demin, Yellow Leaf Hammocks: Thanks so much! The homestretch was a little nerve-wracking at times, to be honest.

We had heard from a lot of people that donations tend to slow down in the middle of a campaign, then build momentum again during the final days—but we didn’t want to take that risk & come down to the wire!

Our outreach was pretty consistent over the course of the campaign, which was reflected in the fairly consistent pace of pledges. We continued to share daily facebook & twitter updates and e-mailed our supporters once or twice a week. We really liked using the Campaign Update function on Kickstarter to keep our donors & supporters fully in the loop.

Toward the end of the campaign, we were worried about overwhelming people with ongoing messages, so we tried to reach out on a more personalized basis. It’s human nature for some people to procrastinate—we ended up with people pledging at the very last minute! One huge pledge came in with less than two minutes left in the campaign!

Through the whole campaign, it was awesome to watch Kickstarter’s statistics and see how people found us—almost 1/3 of our donations came through the social networks (for example, people who saw the campaign in a friend’s facebook status). It was amazing to see that our fans were inspiring a whole new group of people to become involved!

Q | Innov8Social: So, what happened immediately after the funds were raised? And how did you & your team feel when you found out you had achieved to goal?

A | Joe : We were ecstatic when we hit $10,000! It was really gratifying and humbling to feel the support and excitement of this amazing community of backers. We posted the news through all our social networks and tried to just express our excitement and gratitude as we soaked in the news!At that point, we had 4 days left in the campaign, but a lot of people didn’t realize they could still pledge after the goal was reached. We did one last push to make sure people knew they could still get a hammock in time for Christmas & be a part of the campaign. That spurred another round of backers, so we ended up exceeding our goal by nearly 15%!Once the campaign officially closed, we immediately shipped out the first batch of Kickstarter rewards (the ones that were meant as holiday gifts), then took a nice relaxing break to celebrate over the holidays!Q | Innov8Social: You guys had set up some great rewards for donors. How has the process of following up with the rewards been?

A | Joe : It is definitely time-consuming! I think we underestimated the time it would take. It was a challenge to organize the process and there was a mad dash to get those initial rewards out in time for Christmas. We are continuing to work on fulfillment for a couple of the backer levels and we’re especially excited about getting these first stands manufactured and shipped out for spring!
That being said, putting these packages in the mail is one of my favorite things to do! We are so grateful to our backers and it’s nice to be able to express that gratitude in a meaningful way. I’ve personally hand- written a Thank You note to each person and we’ve sent them each a Polaroid from the Mlabri village.
We also worked with a designer to put together a ‘Rewards Suite’ of beautiful, unique gift cards and stationery, because we wanted it to be a really special experience when people opened up their rewards package.It meant a lot to us that people saw our vision and supported us and we wanted them to know we were truly thankful.
Q | Innov8Social:  Does Kickstarter do any follow-up after funds are raised? Do you have to complete any additional forms?

A | Joe : No. Before you start the project, you do all the necessary paperwork & get them your financial info. When the project closes, they transfer you the funds (minus their fee). They also send you an email with some broad tips to engage your backers as you move forward.When the deadline hits, your project page is immediately ‘retired’ from active duty- a notice goes up with the end date and final funding amount. People can still watch your video and you can continue to post updates as the project progresses, which is great.Q | Innov8Social: Finally, do you have any tips for social entrepreneurs on what to do (and what not to do)  after raising funds on a crowd sourcing platform?A | Joe : Things don’t slow down when the campaign closes. Once you are lucky enough to reach your goal, you have to immediately switch gears and begin delivering on your side of the pledge.

Plan ahead for rewards fulfillment and make sure that you continue to give your backers the best experience possible. A pledge on Kickstarter is more than a purchase on your website and people are really vested in your success. They’re genuinely excited to hear about how the project is going and it is awesome to continue to interact with them afterwards.

It is amazing to have this whole new community of people who share our vision. We’ve received really touching emails from people who love their rewards packages and we’re looking forward to staying in touch with everyone who was a part of this project. Update your supporters!
It can feel overwhelming to realize that you need to a) keep up with your day-to-day work b) manage your rewards fulfillment and c) actually build the project you funded! Just hold onto the excitement you felt when you launched your project and remember that now you have an awesome group of people cheering you on!
Many thanks once again to Joe and the Yellow Leaf Hammocks team. We can’t wait to see the new hammock stand prototypes!

A Closer Look at a Kickstarter Crowdfunding Campaign for Social Enterprise

We have looked at crowdfunding through investment by following federal legislation that would make it easier for start-ups and small businesses to raise capital from non-accredited investors.

But what about crowdfunding through donation? How does it work, and what is it like to actually choose a crowdfunding platform and launch a crowdfunding campaign?

Meet Yellow Leaf Hammocks

We turned to a social enterprise that is learning about crowdfunding for donation first-hand. Yellow Leaf Hammocks is an innovative company that produces unique hammocks handwoven by artisan weavers using proprietary designs made of over 150,000 interwoven loops and spanning up to 4.5 miles of yarn. The weavers are members of an indigenous tribe in north Thailand who have been able to create economic and empowerment opportunities through their artistry.

Yellow Leaf Hammocks launched a Kickstarter campaign in mid-November 2011 to raise $10,000 to build and initiate manufacturing of a new Swiss-designed hammock stand prototype. They are 9 days and about $3K away from from their goal. You can see the video explaining the product and campaign below.

Then, see below for a Q&A with Yellow Leaf Hammocks founder Joe Demin on his company’s decision to launch a crowdfunding for donation campaign, their initial steps, and what they have learned through the process.

Yellow Leaf Hammocks Kickstarter Campaign

What to Know Before Launching a Crowdfunding Campaign: Q&A with Yellow Leaf Hammocks Founder Joe Demin

Q | Innov8Social: Thanks Joe for taking a few minutes with us and congratulations on the success of the Kickstarter campaign so far. As an initial question, how did you first decide that launching a crowdfunding campaign might be a good fit for your social enterprise?

A | Joe Demin, Yellow Leaf Hammocks: For a long time, we’d been kicking around the idea of a furniture product that supported our hammocks. The Sitting Hammock is relatively compact, so it is a great option for urban hammockers and people who want to be able to hammock indoors- except that there has not been a good stand out on the market.

We knew that designing and manufacturing a hammock stand would be a huge project to take on!

For a young boot-strapped company like ours, we have to carefully consider budget in everything we do. From the beginning, we have wanted to build this company independently to make sure that we can remain focused on our vision and not lose sight of our social mission.

Crowdfunding encompasses lot of the traditional steps to product development- its market research, product design, an investor pitch, a marketing campaign and pre-sales all in one exciting campaign- so it seemed like the perfect alternative to raising money from investors and taking on a huge risk!

By going directly to the public, we are assuring ourselves that there is going to be an audience for this cool new product we’ve designed and we feel more confident about jumping into manufacturing and pushing this out for the spring.

Q | Innov8Social:  How did you assess various crowdfunding platforms? And what were the deciding factors that ultimately led you to Kickstarter?

A | Joe : There is definitely a crowdfunding boom going on right now- you’re right, there are a lot of options and even niche platforms that target specific types of projects, like non-profits, music, etc.

For us, Kickstarter appealed most because it is the largest funding platform. We’ve learned that you can’t really count anyone out when it comes to hammocks- hammock fanatics come from all age ranges, industries and regions.

We appreciated the fact that they have a thorough vetting process, so there is not a lot of clutter to cut through- the projects on the site are inspiring and crazy and daring, but the people behind them know what they’re talking about.

I think some people can be intimidated by the “all or nothing” model on Kickstarter (if you don’t raise 100% of your goal, you don’t receive any funds). For us, this was absolutely the way to go. We wouldn’t want to have half the money to build out the prototype because it would be tough to deliver on the promises made to backers! Plus, it gives you a ton of motivation to set your goal carefully and then work like crazy to reach it!

Q | Innov8Social:  How was the process of setting up the campaign? What was the most challenging aspect? The most surprising?

A | Joe : The first thing we had to do was design the stand!! We worked with an amazing engineer, Bryce Gibson, to go through several rounds of designs and come up with the sleek, versatile design that is at the center of the campaign. It was a little bit like hammock-stand “Survivor,” with a group of friends and advisers weighing in and voting on each round of the designs.

The hardest part for us was creating the video- we had so much that we wanted to share, between our mission and our current products, before we even got to the stand itself!! We ended up with a really long video by Kickstarter standards- but we have gotten a ton of compliments on it and I think it’s been a huge help in terms of energizing people with the story and getting them excited about “Do Good. Relax.”

A big surprise was realizing that a lot of media want to cover something that’s already succeeding- so you are really on your own in terms of creating that initial momentum before media start to pick it up and spread the news! We also realized that there’s really no guarantee that Kickstarter itself is going to take an interest in your campaign. They can be really instrumental in sharing and highlighting specific projects within their vast community, but they haven’t shown much interest in our campaign. You never know what the considerations are behind the scenes for other people!

Q | Innov8Social: What are 3 things you would suggest to social entrepreneurs thinking about starting a crowdfunding for donation campaign online?

A | Joe :  A generous timeline and some groundwork are essential. I would already love to go back and give myself twice the time to prepare! I read a lot of articles (like this one!) about other people’s experiences and spent some time observing campaigns I admired. Sometimes it seems like all you hear about are the runaway successes that raise $100,000, but a lot of campaigns don’t work, so that was important to me. I wanted to understand why campaigns fail as well as why they succeed.

Creating rewards that excite and engage your backers is another key to success. The point of crowdfunding is that you aren’t simply asking for donations. You are creating an experience for people- they get to be a part of your mission and take home a tangible reminder of their support. At this time of year, we knew we were going to see a lot of holiday shopping traffic. Because a part of our mission is to spark creativity, we decided we wanted to offer our backers a chance to design their own hammock. But each of our rewards was designed to help recreate that feeling of “Do Good. Relax.” and engage people for the long-term. The most exciting reward, of course, is that you can be one of the first to receive a customized Sitting Hammock Stand!

Once you’ve outlined your project goal and the rewards you’re going to offer, it’s critical to have a solid launch. You need to have some built-in momentum before you click that “launch” button. We should have been more aggressive about our PR strategy in advance of the campaign, but we did a good job reaching out to our internal network and community. They backed us early and we hit $1000 within three hours of launching. I think there is a statistic that if you reach 20% of your goal within the first 4 days, your chance of a successful project is 90%- that’s how important your launch is.

Q | Innov8Social:  Finally, what are your hopes for this campaign. What do you hope to get, and to give?

A | Joe : We’ve got a little more than a week left and we are on track to hit our $10,000 goal! For me, that is the number one hope right now.

In the long term, I am excited to have introduced ourselves to so many new people this month. I know it’s a little insane to expect people to go crazy for hammocks in the middle of winter, but we really think that this stand can revolutionize the way people relax year-round.

I really can’t wait to start sending out the rewards! I think people are going to love what they receive in the mail. We’ve got cool things heading their way that will help them feel connected to our mission and our weavers and will help them relax at a really hectic time of year!

The feedback we’ve gotten and the growth of our community has just been amazing already. I’m glad we could share our experience and I hope I can help future social entrepreneurs succeed in their crowd- funding efforts!

Innov8Social:  A big thank you to Joe and Yellow Leaf Hammocks team for sharing their experience and insights. We look forward to following up after the campaign concludes on Sunday, December 18th 2011. You can help them reach their fundraising goals by donating here.

 Did you know global water issues can affect education, health, deforestation, and can especially impact women and girls?Do you think you can create a business plan for unique, sustainable, and scaleable social innovations that address these kinds of issues?


If so, there’s a way to take your idea to the next level. In the video below, Brian Matthay, Program Director of Imagine H20 explains the organization’s creative approach to inspiring social innovation for global water issues.

Imagine H20 is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring and empowering people to solve water problems. It is based in San Francisco, California and hosts an annual competition for global water solutions. The prize baskets run upwards of $100K, with this year’s grand prize totaling over $200K.

Not just a one-time prize

Perhaps the best aspect is that the competition doesn’t end with a strong finish. Winners of Imagine H20 join a specialized accelerator program to further develop their ideas, seek guidance from experts and specialists, and put them in the running for cash resources, in-kind services, and global exposure.

Facts to inspire action

Imagine H20 highlights statistics that are startling and serve as a call to social innovation action. Here are a few eye-catching ones:
  • Water related diseases are the leading cause of child death, killing 4,500 children per day (UNICEF)
  • 1.1 billion people live without clean water today (World Water Forum)
  • 20% of clean water is lost due to leaks (EPA)
  • Water scarcity affects every continent and affects 4 out of every 10 people (World Health Organization)
  • Demand in the U.S. has tripled in the past 30 years while the population has grown only 50% (Goldman Sachs)
  • Up to $1 trillion is needed to rebuild America’s aging water infrastructure (Goldman Sachs)

How to Win $200K for Your Social Innovation Business Plan

Though the 2011 entries were due by November 15, 2011—here are steps to know about the 2011 process to help put you on track to compete in next year’s competition.
  • Be an individual or team comprised of members older than 18 years (who are not previous winners or finalists)
  • Focus on the year’s specific theme (i.e. the 2011 theme was wastewater) and consult the ImagineH20 competition guidelines to find out what kinds of solutions are being sought.
  • Teams must form a for-profit business entity before receiving any prizes.
  • Teams must submit entries in 1 of 2 tracks: A) Pre-Revenue Track or B) Early Revenue Track
  • Teams must submit an executive summary of a business plan for a social innovation venture (using a designated template) addressing the year’s specific water crisis theme. Along with resumes of each team member, and the designated entry fee.
  • 2011 applications were accepted from September 1st 2011 to November 15th 2011.
  • The top finalists from each track will be invited to participate in Round 2.
  • In 2011, 2 grand prizes and 4 runner-up prizes are slated to be announced at the ImagineH20 Showcase
The Global Water Crisis Symposium, hosted by the Social Change Film Festival and Institute, featured a number of knowledgeable, action-oriented speakers.

Meet Marianna

Marianna GrossmanAmong them was Marianna Grossman, Executive Director of Sustainable Silicon ValleyMarianna Grossman hails from a career in corporate leadership on issues around sustainability and climate change. Prior to her role at Sustainable Silicon Valley, she was a Partner for Sustainability and Innovation at Minerva Consulting and founded the Palo Alto Unified School District Sustainable Schools Committee. Marianna holds an MBA from Yale and is a member of Environmental Entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley Social Venture fund.I had a chance to catch up with her during one of the breaks to learn more about her organization.

Learn About: Sustainable Silicon Valley [VIDEO]

A Few Facts about Sustainable Silicon Valley

  • Sustainable Silicon Valley is a consortium of businesses,governmental agencies, research agencies, and other non-profit organizations working to build a sustainable region and world.
  • 2/3 of partners are businesses, including large corporations and start-ups.
  • SSV’s regional goal is to reduce CO2 emissions in Silicon Valley to 20% below 1990 levels, by 2010.
  • SSV formed in 2000 as a project of California EPA, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and Silicon Valley Environmental Partnership.
  • SSV became an independent organization in 2004.

6 Ways to Connect with Sustainable Silicon Valley

  1. Visit
  2. Use to facilitate working groups on issues such as water, sustainability.
  3. View Sustainable Silicon Valley Webinars
  4. Attend Sustainable Silicon Valley’s Annual WEST (Water, Energy, Smart Technology) Summit on Friday, January 2012 as an attendee. Register here.
  5. Volunteer at the WEST Summit.
  6. Follow @SustainableSV and “like” Facebook/SustainableSiliconValley

Meet Attorney Donald Simon

Attorney Donald Simon explains a few terms related to California’s benefit corporation legislation (AB 361) in the interview below. Simon is a Partner at Wendel Rosen Black & Dean LLP and co-author of AB 361–legislation that would create a new for-profit corporate form in the state for companies wishing to earn a profit while also creating a positive impact on the environment and community.

Watch the Interview

(quick tip, turn the sound all the way up.)

Terms to Know

You can see Innov8Social’s previous interview with Donald Simon–to learn the general features of AB 361 and why social entrepreneurs may choose it as a business structure.  In this interview, he addresses constituency statutes and how they relate to the benefit corporation legislation.
He also explains what the third-party standard is, and the role it will play in assessing a company’s impact on the community and environment. Finally, Simon lays out the supermajority shareholder requirement of AB 361.Simon also offers a few tips and suggestions to social entrepreneurs who are considering incorporating or reincorporating as a benefit corporation.

Shift in Business As UsualWhether you think of the move towards a greener economy as quick turn to consider more than a singular bottom line, or you view it as part of the gradual evolution of the way business is done–you will have noted a shift in business as usual.Former President Bill Clinton recently discussed the changing economy, and interconnected role of private and public sectors in an interview about jobs and the green economy.

And notably, California is not first on the scene of the benefit corporation party. In fact the first state to pass benefit corporation legislation was Maryland, followed by Vermont, Virginia, New Jersey, and Hawaii. Similar bills are proceeding through the legislative process in New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Colorado, and of course, California.

The Update on AB 361

Despite the interview’s consideration of terms that will come into effect ‘once’ the bill is passed, in reality, there is no guarantee that AB 361 will become new law. It is currently awaiting Governor Jerry Brown’s review. You can read a full update on AB 361 here, and also learn how to support these efforts to enact legislation supporting social entrepreneurship.Related Posts: