I had the pleasure of meeting and introducing Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora from Back to the Roots when they spoke at Sustainable Home & Organic Gardening stage at the 2011 Green Festival in San Francisco.  And while we worked through a few AV issues before they presented, I looked around to see the audience filling quickly. By the time we started the session I saw every seat filled with tens of people standing or sitting in the aisles to catch the action.I hadn’t heard about their adventures in mushroom farming which I soon came to see put me in a super-minority. As they talked the audience sat in close attention, clapping, laughing, and oohing with delight at their story, their journey, and their amazing and innovative product.Still Wondering, What is Social Innovation?It’s been 6 months since Innov8Social launched and my favorite question to answer (which also happens to be the most frequently asked one) still is so, what is social innovation again?

You can read a post about it here, but you see it in action below. Nikhil and Alejandro’s journey is the shiny example of how social innovation can reuse waste, how gardening and food production can be local, and how social cause can find an entrepreneurial outlet. It is not the story of every social enterprise or social innovator, but it showcases the untapped potential of connecting cause with business.

And as Nikhil and Alejandro emphasize below, you have to have the courage to ask the the unasked questions first….

The Courage to Ask: Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora speak at TEDxYSE 

Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora are the founders of Back to the Roots. This is their presentation at TEDxYSE:Unleashing Young Social Entrepreneurs on November 13th, 2010

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 SustainableSV.org
  2. Use EcoCloud-SV.com 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:

You’ve read articles, blogs, and social media updates. You’ve watched interviews with policy makers, legal advisors, and social entrepreneurs. But maybe you want more.

You want a little funk, rhythm, and rhyme to explore the B corporation concept further.
Well, FMYI (for my innovation) has come up with an amusing solution. The company that specialized in creating internal collaboration platforms for companies, has a thing or two to share about what being a B corporation means to them.Enjoy :)
This blog promises to explore social innovation. And at SOCAP 2011, there was a unique opportunity to do so by talking with individuals coming from diverse sectors of the field.

If you have been following recent posts and interviews on Innov8Social, you will have seen a few of these perspectives represented.  The interviews (or perhaps more aptly, interview-ettes) are 1-2 minute introductions that provide simple insight into the missions, goals, and structure of the various organizations represented. Enough to give a you a feel, with info on where to go to find out more.
Waiting for the punchline
And, just as no human is an island–social innovation does work in a vacuum. More often than not, you need the dialogue, the critical ‘buy-in’ from different sectors, to make an idea take off or continue.
So, in case you missed the individual posts, here they are compiled in one place. Four unique individuals representing four fascinating ventures. You can click the link associated with each video to read the full article where you will learn more about the organization and find related resources.
4 Perspectives at SOCAP 11, in Video

Impact Investing at SOCAP11: An Interview with Absolute Impact Partners

One World Youth Project’s Executive Director at SOCAP11

Namaste Solar’s Co-Founder Talks About Being a B Corp at SOCAP11

DayOne Response Waterbags Deliver Clean Water After a Crisis, SOCAP11

More on SOCAP11 from Innov8Social

You can follow our coverage of this year’s conference by clicking on the SOCAP11 tag on Innov8Social. You can also catch up on tweets from SOCAP11 (Sept 7-9 2011) @innov8social on Twitter and can search #SOCAP11 on Twitter for related tweets.

An Increasing Need for Clean Water, Demands Solutions

Sometimes a need can be so necessary and apparent, that a innovation is a welcome sight, rather than a big surprise. Access to clean water after a disaster is one such need that has affected global superpowers as well as countries deep in their development stages. Whether the need for clean water comes after natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes or from man-made scenarios such as war, explosion, or delayed government response—it is essential, and often unmet.

Meet DayOne Response

DayOne Response is a social venture aiming to answer the call for clean water. DayOne Response’s V.P. of Business Development, Amy Cagle, was on hand at the SOCAP11 Innovation Showcase on the second day of SOCAP11.Below she shows us the DayOne Waterbag that can sanitize any water and make it potable by utilizing the technology of PUR purifier packets (that purify using chlorination-flocculation technology) along with a specially-designed waterbag for easy water collection, filtration, and delivery.

Watch the Interview

How can a waterbag do that? 

DayOne Response demonstrates in this short training video taken in Haiti. Water filtered using DayOne Waterbags and PUR packets meet the World Health Organization guidelines for drinking water.

The DayOne Waterbags may be a scaleable solution, since they take up little space when empty, can turn almost any water into clean drinking water, and can be distributed quickly after a disaster, which can free up resources, and can give affected individuals quicker access to safe water.

B Corporations In Different Forms

SOCAP11 (Social Capital Markets 2011) brought together a confluence of people, ideas, and dialogues from around the social innovation sphere. It was especially interesting to hear about various corporate forms that social ventures had decided on.I had a chance to talk with Blake Jones towards the end of Day 2 of SOCAP11. We had both attended the same breakout session on benefit corporations earlier in the day.

His company, a b corporation, is also a cooperative.

Meet Blake

Blake co-founded, Namaste Solar, a B corporation based in Colorado. (Reminder: B corporation is a voluntary certification, benefit corporation is a new corporate form for social innovation that has passed/is being introduced in various states. You can read more about the differences between B corporation and benefit corporation)

Here is a quick interview with Blake explaining what Namaste Solar does and why and how they decided to pursue the B corporation certification.

Watch the Interview


More About Namaste Solar

Namaste Solar is an employee-owned cooperative that installs solar systems in homes and businesses.

Namaste Solar is proud to be a B corporation and exists to benefit all of its stakeholders, including community and environment.

They may be looking for impact investors in the future.

Follow SOCAP11 Coverage

You can read posts about this year’s conference by clicking on the SOCAP11 tag on Innov8Social. Following up on tweets from from SOCAP11 is also possible by following @innov8social on Twitter and searching #SOCAP11 for all related tweets.

SOCAP11 (Social Capital Markets Conference 2011) featured a number of social businesses and non-profits. Representing the

photo: LinkedIn

photo: LinkedIn

non-profit organization, One World Youth Project (OWYP), was the organization’s Executive Director, Jess Rimington.We had a chance to catch up with Jess, who was in town from the OWYP’s headquarters in Washington D.C.Below is a quick interview, where she explains what OWYP is, its current locations, and how and why the organization decided to incorporate as a non-profit.

One World Youth Project (OWYP) is an initiative to raise global awareness by offering a 3-semester leadership program for university students who prepare and lead global competence curriculum to secondary school students.

It is structured as a non-profit. Executive Director Jess Rimington calls it a “social profit” because the organization could have been incorporated as a for-profit entity since universities pay for the training course.

It has recently expanded to multiple locations worldwide.

Additional SOCAP11 Coverage

You can read posts about this year’s conference by checking out the SOCAP11 tag on Innov8Social. You can also catch up on tweets from SOCAP11 @innov8social on Twitter and can search #SOCAP11 on Twitter for related tweets.

Impact Investing Lens on Social Entrepreneurship

SOCAP11 (Social Capital Markets Conference 2011) may have ended last Friday, but its concepts and topics are coming to life as they are retweeted, blogged about, and discussed in articles, message boards, and through various social and professional networks.

One topic that I was eager to learn about through attending SOCAP11 was impact investing. As a concept it is a source of intrigue and fascination, but in practice I wanted to chat with investors dedicated to impact investing to learn about this niche, its need, and what criteria impact investors base their investments upon. And, I was equally curious about how impact investing works abroad.

Meet Absolute Impact Partners, Impact Investment Firm

So it was serendipitous to run into the Director of a new impact investing firm based in Singapore, called Absolute Impact Partners. In the video below, Lynna Chandra explains the concept behind their entry into the impact investment field, what they hope to achieve, and she outlines the criteria they use before making an impact investment or assisting a local social entrepreneur with mentorship resources.

Watch the Interview

Key Points

Absolute Impact Partners was started alleviate poverty through a multi-level approach, with a focus on addressing the lack of access to global markets faced by many local social entrepreneurs.

Lynna spoke about connecting local manufacturers to international markets, through creating distribution streams for products so that entrepreneurs have multiple distributors for their products.

She mentioned that her firm looks to identify businesses or projects seeking impact investment are socially aware, environmentally conscious, generate profit, and create change in the community.

Follow SOCAP11 Coverage

You can read posts about this year’s conference by clicking on the SOCAP11 tag on Innov8Social. You can also catch tweets from SOCAP11 @innov8social on Twitter and can search #SOCAP11 on Twitter for related tweets.

Though Innov8Social is entirely dedicated to exploring social innovation, after reading a few posts you still may find yourself asking, “so, what exactly is social innovation again?”
“Social” Typecasting
And you wouldn’t be alone—in the social media-wired world you say the word “social” and many people immediately begin thinking the trifecta: Facebook, Twitter, and everything else (Google+, LinkedIn, etc.)
While online networking capabilities can play a major role in enabling social innovation—the “social” in social innovation is more related to public good or public benefit.
Stanford Professor Rob Reich Explains Social Innovation
If you have about a half hour, the clip below can answer many of your questions, provide a framework to understand social innovation, and introduce you to roses and thorns of the field.
The address is by Director of Program on Ethics in Society at Stanford University, Rob Reich made to 2011 Stanford graduates at Stanford Class Day Lecture on June 11, 2011.
Watch below and read further below for an overview of some of the topics raised.

Key Points from Professor Reich’s Talk:

  • The new social economy seeks to produce social benefits
  • Buzzwords: social entrepreneurship, social innovation, impact investing, venture philanthropy, social enterprise
  • Traditional balance of 3-sector society: government sector, business sector, social/philanthropic sector
  • Today, the boundaries between the sectors are blurring
  • Now, social innovators seek to deliver social benefits within each sector and across sectors
  • Social innovation in business: microfinance, corporate social responsibility, creative capitalism, socially responsible investing
  • Social innovation in non-profit: importance of business strategy, increased focus on measurable social impact (i.e. charitable return on investment/donation), new corporate/legal forms
  • Social innovation in government: White House Office of Social Innovation, partnerships between foundations and U.S. government (Investment in Innovation Fund–I3), Chief Technology Officer and Open Government Initiative
  • Perils of new social economy: 21st century warfare is asymmetrical warfare (nation state vs. non-state actor….i.e. war on terror), unchecked innovation in financial sector contributed to 2008 financial meltdown, 21st century innovation is happening in 20th century framework of policy
  • Concerns: there is inherent tension between for-profit pursuit and social mission, current legislation and structure for non-profits has not been updated since 1969, some forms of social impact are difficult or impossible to measure