Posts

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

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.

One of the remarkable things I have noticed from speaking to many driven social entrepreneurs is that their current effort is usually not the first they have worked on.And judging by the experience of Tristan Pollock it is often not the last.I first had a chance to connect with Tristan and co-founder Erik Eliason when they were cultivating and growing social enterprise SocialEarth.

SocialEarth, a Platform for Social Enterprise Content

SocialEarth—overviewed here last year (“What is SocialEarth?“)—crowdsources social innovation news, narratives, and features from around the globe. It was founded by Tristan and Erik in 2009 to provide a dedicated platform for seasoned journalists and bloggers as well as those new to penning thought to blog for the purpose of sharing and learning about impact-related events and stories.

Their endeavors resulted in favorable traction among a burgeoning community of social innovators.  By 2012, the site featured 170 contributors from 25 countries, and had a fan following of over 13K Twitter followers and 14K Facebook fans. (Today, those numbers are up to 200 contributors, 23K Twitter followers, and 80K Facebook fans)

Cognizant of the challenges of running a journalism-rooted site, when Tristan and Erik received an offer in March 2012 by leading CSR content distributor 3BL–the co-founders decided to sign the dotted line. And that made way for a new adventure.

Storefront, Pop Up Retail

Within months of SocialEarth’s acquisition, the co-founders were developing an innovative new startup idea, this time focusing squarely on the sharing economy and retail marketplace. From disrupting channels of social news, the latest effort—Storefront—disrupts retail sales outlets.

Instead of committing to lengthy leases in single locations, Storefront allows retailers of all kinds (i.e. brick-and-mortar, online, and specialty stores) the opportunity to engage in short-term leases (including single-day!) in a variety of locations.

Storefront joins other startups in the “sharing economy” by championing “pop up” retail experiences. It provides the platform for retailers to connect with available space and provides ways to let audiences know about pop-up experiences nearby.

Meet Tristan

Tristan Pollock is located in one of the social entrepreneurship capitals of the world, San Francisco. He and Erik launched Tristan PollackStorefront just months after SocialEarth was acquired. This effort has been unique from SocialEarth in a few respects: 1) the topic is distinct; and 2) the funding path has been different. In their latest venture, Tristan and Erik participated in AngelPad, an accelerator program for startups. Their work caught the interest of angel investors including 500 Startups, Sandhill Angels, and Great Oaks Venture Capital. They ended up raising $1.6M in initial seed funding.

The funds are enabling the duo to grow their team and expand their operations to New York City and beyond.

After following Tristan and Erik over the past few years, it was exciting to be able to chat with Tristan about his personal journey to the social enterprise space and what he has learned from two startups with very different paths and areas of focus.

Listen to the Interview

 

Further Reading

Interested in learning more? Here are a few links to posts and articles about Tristan and Eriks’ startups. And, you can take a look at the cool time lapse video of one of the pop up shops in San Francisco below!

Storefront Gets $1.6M To Grow Its ‘Pop-Up Shop’ Marketplace For Short-Term Commercial Rentals [TechCrunch]
Making Renting A Store As Easy As Booking A Hotel Room [FastCo]
Q&A with Storefront Founder Tristan Pollock [The News Funnel]
What Launching in New York Means To Us  [Storefront Blog]

Sometimes to understand a river’s path, it helps to go to its source. As a co-founder of B Lab, Jay Coen Gilbert is one of the original architects of B Lab which has facilitated the B/benefit corporation movement that has been gaining traction across the nation (including legislation passed in 19 states!) and globe.

About B Lab

B Lab is the 501(c)(3) non-profit engine behind the benefit corporation and B corporation certification movement—designed to foster business that serves the community and environment in addition to pursuing profit. Founded in 2006, B Lab took the idea B Labof impact-driven business out of abstraction and thrust into a working reality. One of its first major acts for the organization was drafting the B Impact Assessment—a tool that lets organizations and companies evaluate their impact. Another milestone was the approval of the first B Lab certification in 2007—which has paved the way to today’s 800 certified B corporations spanning 27 countries and 60 industries.

On a personal note, following the B/benefit corporation movement in 2011 was the early subject of Innov8Social’s exploration of social innovation. I had the pleasure of meeting Jay along with fellow co-founder Andrew Kassoy following the passage of AB 361—California’s benefit corporation legislation.

Meet Jay

Talk shop with Jay for a few minutes and you will note that his stance on sustainable business is firmly rooted in pragmatism as Jay Coen Gilbertwell as possibility. His early career as an entrepreneur informs his approach to impact-driven business. Jay co-founded AND 1 an athletic footwear and apparel company which was later sold for $250M.

He has become one of the key spokesperson for the movement—-authoring articles on Huffington Post, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and speaking at TED talks.

By the time most people learn about a movement for change—it usually has already been long in the works—and it is its sheer momentum that draws new supporters.  In talking to Jay, I wanted to learn more about the genesis of the idea that has turned into a movement as well as the path ahead involving adoption. He highlighted a key impetus for B Lab as the golden rule of doing unto others as they would have them do unto you—and applying that to business.

 

Listen to the Interview

 

Additional Reading

Every 500 Years or So by Jay Coen Gilbert [Stanford Social Innovation Review]
Jay Coen Gilbert on Huffington PostJay Coen Gilbert on ForbesJay Coen Gilbert on Sustainable BrandsBenefit Corporation Info CenterDo-Gooder: Jay Coen Gilbert, Co-Founder, B Lab [Social Good Network]
Q&A with Jay Coen Gilbert, Co-Founder of B Lab [Philadelphia Generocity]

This podcast episode features an interview with Dirk Sampselle, and attorney and founder focusing on supporting social entrepreneurs, impact investors, and nonprofit organizations.

The Numerous Choices Available for Social Entrepreneurs Can Be Overwhelming

Increased choice can create confusion. Barry Schwartz’s 2004 book titled Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More even suggests that the process of making a decision among many choices can actually decrease our enjoyment and confidence in our choice.Viewing social innovation through that unique lens, there seems to be a certain trend emerging. The trend of more. Today there are new legal structures, new business models, additional sustainability certifications, and more choices than ever before when it comes to effectuating change and measuring impact.The space that is emerging, while exciting and motivating, can seem overwhelming to both the consumer as well as the entrepreneur. The increased choice creates opportunities for experienced guides who can use and make sense of growing data to guide social entrepreneurs through the space.

B Revolution, a Consultancy for the B Corporation Movement

That’s why it was fascinating to come across new initiatives such B Revolution, seeking to address the potential problem of increased choice in social innovation. Founded by Dirk Sampselle in 2011, B Revolution serves growth companies, nonprofits, as well as individual and early-stage entrepreneurs. The consultancy assists its clients in projects such as designing an impact strategy, identifying investment sources, and taking a holistic look at legal and business needs in evaluating structuring options.

B Revolution has launched a few initiatives related to the impact space, including:

  • ezBcorp – a new B Revolution initiative that combines Legal Zoom type automation with benefit corporation legal structure to create an online platform for social entrepreneurs to explore benefit corporation options as well as incorporate as one.
  • B Revolution Consulting – consulting service for entrepreneurs, impact investors, companies, and nonprofits traversing the impact space.
  • B Revolution Capital – pairing mission-driven entrepreneurs seeking $50K-$1M in funding with impact investors seeking new avenues of creating impact-aligned investments.

Interestingly, B Revolution Consulting is itself structured as a California benefit corporation subsidiary of B Revolution, Inc., a B Corporation-certified Maryland benefit corporation.

Meet Dirk

DIrk SampselleDirk Sampselle grew up in Maryland and completed his undergraduate education at the University of Florida, where he also created a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called “Citizens for Social Justice.”

His path to finding new ways to create meaningful change in society and business drew him to become involved in the benefit corporation movement early on and he has co-authored several white papers for B Lab on the subject. He recently graduated from Pepperdine University with dual degrees in business and law.

Listen to the Interview

 

Learn More

You can read Dirk’s white papers on benefit corporations here:

Can you make a business model around volunteering? The co-founders of GoVoluntr have put their bets on yes.I met M.J., Kevin, and Young when they served as judges of a panel for New Leaders’ Council Silicon Valley Startup Saturday in the Fall of 2012.   They provided insightful input from a social entrepreneur perspective to current fellows who pitched potential fundraiser ideas. They also introduced their work to make volunteering opportunities social, easy to find, and company-friendly.

Meet Young

Co-Founder and GoVoluntr’s CEO Young Han also led a session on social entrepreneurship Young Han(along with GoodJoe founder Nathan Pham) and participated in the informal social innovation unconference we organized in Spring 2013. The events provided a whole new snapshot on his passion for this work, his depth and breadth of experience in entrepreneurship, and the dynamic qualities that help him articulate GoVoluntr’s broader vision.

Young is a serial entrepreneur with the title of “Professional Do Gooder”, he helped launch GoVoluntr in 2011.

Listen to the Interview

 

GoVoluntr: Creating a Business around Volunteering

What makes a social entrepreneur unique is adopting a mindset of impact + enterprise. Adding layers of impact to the already-challenging task of creating a business is a puzzle all its own. As Young explains in his interview, it can help to be passionate about a problem or cause.

The founders of GoVoluntr saw a need in volunteerism. They saw potential to build a community of do gooders by making volunteer opportunities easy to find, creating ways to easily track and reward volunteers, and finding ways to centralize and encourage volunteering by companies.

Their innovative platform does these things in an easy-to-use format. A new user can select to create a volunteer, nonprofit, business, or school profile and login using Facebook. From there the fun begins by finding volunteer opportunities—which include one-time events (like local film, music, and art festivals) as well as ongoing needs (such as mentorship, math/reading tutoring, or museum volunteering). Sign up for an event and you receive a reminder by email as well as an automatic tracking of hours. In case you volunteer outside of the offered opportunities, you can submit “missing hours” to continue tracking your total.

To gamify the experience, volunteers receive rewards and badges for their service to the community. And companies can encourage employee participation by providing ways to track hours and share unique volunteer experience internally.

Read Interview Responses

Q | Innov8Social:  You have a rich history in entrepreneurship, tell us a little about your path to your current startup GoVoluntr.

A | Young Han, GoVoluntr:  I don’t think a typical person would call my entreprenuerial journey “rich” but it does sound much nicer to say that than saying, I’ve failed several businesses prior to GoVoluntr. (LOL). I think that there are a lot of experiences that have helped me to land on GoVoluntr. Including my various business ventures, community service roles, and my time at Starbucks and Apple. I know that I’ve always had a desire to be an entrepreneur since I was in high school and was able to leverage my experiences in the last decade to realize and bring together my passion for business and volunteerism through GoVoluntr.

Q | Innov8Social:  Do “social” and “entrepreneurship” mix—-or does it create more challenges for the social entrepreneur?

A | Young:  I think they mix wonderfully. I believe that with societal changes that have been trending, the next iteration of businesses will be inherently socially conscious business model. Partly due to the demands coming from future “paying” customers as well as the the future workforce looking for more and more responsible business operators to work for. Currently there are some challenges in overcoming the initial misunderstanding of what constitutes a social entrepreneur and we face the inability to understand how we are a for profit social good company. We are bridging our monetary gain with our social impact, creating a fairly unique model where the more money we make the more good we do and vice versa. It is becoming increasingly more popular though with great social good startups like Tom’s shoes and Causes leading the way.

 

Q | Innov8Social:  Tell us a little about GoVoluntr—how does it work, what inspired this startup idea, how is it structured, have you rec’d initial funding?

A | Young:   GoVoluntr is an online platform that brings together volunteer, nonprofits, and businesses to engage in doing good. We enable volunteers/employees to quickly and easily find the right volunteer opportunity, register for specific shifts, positions, times and dates, then work with our nonprofit partners to track and verify their service hours. Once the hours have been added by the nonprofit the volunteer starts to earn virtual recognition through Volunteer Pins. They can earn VPins the more they volunteer and each VPin comes with Points, that they can then go to our Volunteer Rewards store to purchase goods and services from businesses that support community service.

In addition we help Nonprofits effectively source, track, manage, report, and reward their volunteers. For businesses we offer a turn key employee volunteer program, cause related marketing program and robust reporting. They all fit together to create a mutually beneficial ecosystem around doing good.

We have raised an initial seed round to get us started and will be working on subsequent rounds as we work towards further building out the ecosystem and platform.

 

Q | Innov8Social:  What advice or tips do you have for new entrepreneurs who are trying create value but also make a positive impact?

A | Young:   Be unbelievably passionate about your impact and laser focused on the value you are creating. It’s not necessarily harder to be a social entrepreneur but like anything, it has it’s unique pros and cons, but being a social entrepreneur will require a certain amount of creativity and resourcefulness as it’s not a path that has been tread as much as other fields and industries.