(B)enefit Corporation West Coast Forum

On April 27, 2012 San Francisco University and B Lab hosted the (B)enefit Corporations West Coast Forum. It was a day of seminars, talks, and networking intended to connect academia with social entrepreneurs, and to provide an overview of the benefit corporation movement.

One of the interesting panel discussions featured three social entrepreneurs who actively pursue triple bottom line results in their companies. It was moderated by San Francisco-based B Lab Director of Business Development, Dermot Hikisch.

Here is a rundown of the speakers and a few of their key points.

Mike Hannigan, President of Give Something Back

Give Something Back (GSB) is the largest business to business office supplier in California, and has been running for around 20 years. What makes the business socially entrepreneurial is that the company pays competitive wages, but invests 100% of its profits to community non-profits.

Hannigan reiterated that the community was the key stakeholder in his company, which is a registered B corporation. (Note: a point of confusion is b corporation v. benefit corporation. They aren’t the same thing! Learn about the differences here). He noted that when the company was launched two decades ago, it represented a new and novel way of doing businesses, but that he is noticing more and more new companies being started with social mission in mind.

Benefit corporation symposium 3He also underscored the concept that his business has been successful because, at its core, it has a strong business model and can beat out its competition. In fulfilling the company’s vision to support the community and environment, employees receive competitive wages and full health benefits.

Hannigan outlined the democratic process the company engages in to decide on where to redistribute profits within the community. GSB polls their 10,000+ customers and clients to decide on the causes and organizations to support.

Kirsten Saenz Tobey, Founder and CEO of Revolution Foods

If the audience wasn’t already wowed by the history, and operations of Give Something Back—Kirsten Saenz Toby’s story about how and why she started Revolution Foods surely inspired the room.

Tobey started the company six years ago after to change the way kids eat at school and with the vision of fundamentally changing the relationship between food and kids.

She outlined her company’s founding value with simplicity: food should be real. Tobey and her team found ways to replace processed foods (with numerous additives and preservatives, high salt content, and too many grams of sugar) with healthy, nourishing alternatives. And they found ways to mass produce and deliver these healthy meals to local schools on a daily basis.

Tobey also spoke about honoring and respecting the workforce, and shared that in addition to providing full health benefits, her business model makes each employee part-owner of the company.

As they say, the proof is in the pudding, or in this case maybe in the fruit and yogurt parfait. The company has grown fast, very fast. Revolution Foods has gone from preparing and delivering 500 meals per day in 2006 to 120,000 meals per day in 2011. And, it is expanding to eight different regions across the country.

Revolution Foods certified as a b corporation (not the same as a benefit corporation) in 2011. Tobey spoke about the certification process, saying that it was valuable in outlining a roadmap for how her company wanted to grow, expand, and operate. She mentioned that as a social entrepreneur, she has often found it her role to educate potential investors about what b corporations are and what the triple bottom line entails.

In answering an audience question about the future of Revolution Foods, she didn’t rule out an exit strategy such as an intial public offering (IPO) or acquisition by a larger company.

Vincent Siciliano, President and CEO of New Resource Bank

Turning to a banking state of mind, the third panelist Vincent Siciliano of New Resource Bank opened his presentation by asking if we knew where our money “spends the night.” He spoke about his company’s goal of ensuring that every dollar of depositor’s funding is invested in building a sustainable community.

Founded in 2006, New Resource Bank has aimed to bring new resources and create new opportunities for sustainable business. Siciliano mentioned that the bank became a certified B Corporation in 2010.

He expanded on the ways his bank evaluates impact for its stakeholders, mentioning a client sustainability assessment that identifies learners, achievers, leaders, and champions in sustainability. New Resource Bank actively practices slow banking because it does not consciously seek an exit strategy, but instead focuses on long term growth and reach, franchising, and creating lasting economic impact in communities.

Answering questions from the audience, Siciliano mentioned foundations as an emerging source of funding social entrepreneurs, in addition to VC funding and crowd sourced funding. For example, Kellogg Foundation became an equity investor in Revolution Foods.

When asked about the academic community’s role in the (b)enefit corporation movement, Siciliano reiterated the need for impact metrics to support data-driven decision-making.

This weekend saw the arrival of exciting news, I was accepted into the New Leaders Council Fellowship 2012 program for Silicon Valley. I think it will be a great opportunity to build on leadership and communication skills, meet passionate individuals with similar interests, and nuance my understanding of social entrepreneurship and its practice.

What is New Leaders Council (NLC)?
Formed in 2005, New Leaders Council was founded with the specific goal of creating a progressive leadership development infrastructure for young professionals who have initial career experience. It supports a unique application of social innovation to create and support progressive political entrepreneurs–who can go on to engage skills in roles of local government, entrepreneurship, education, and their workplaces.
5 Facts about NLC Institute
The NLC Institute is the training program that enables the work of NLC. Here are 5 facts about the NLC Institute and its reach.
  1. It’s for ultimate weekend warrior. The NLC curriculum program is 5 months long (starting in January) and requires a commitment of 1 full weekend per month.
  2. There’s no “i” in NLC. The program focuses on teamwork and achieving goals together.
  3. Mentor mindset. Fellows are paired with mentors to broaden and build upon career goals.
  4. Volunteer run. Perhaps most amazing is that the entire Institute is volunteer-run. Fundraising projects by NLC fellows support programming costs and the Advisory Board, chaired by NLC CEO Mark Walsh, oversee broader fundraising efforts.
  5. 20 places and growing. NLC Institute programs are in twenty cities across the country and growing.
What happens after you graduate from NLC?
NLC alumni are part of a broad network spanning 600+ alumni in 20 cities/communities across the country. Local alumni engagement involves quarterly reunions, networking events, webinars, and access to active job boards.
What is the NLC fellowship application process?
Individuals can be nominated for an NLC fellowship or can self-nominate. The NLC application process involves answering a questionnaire and responding to essay questions about leadership experience, interest, and future goals. Selected applicants are interviewed by local board leaders and alumni, and fellows are notified of their acceptance in mid-December.
How do I find out if there is an NLC Fellowship program near me?
You can check on the NLC Institute chapters page here.
Social innovation fellowships & accelerator program
If you are looking to build your social innovation IQ through a fellowship or accelerator program, be sure to check out our growing lists + their deadlines below. Good luck!
Special discount from Back to the Roots
Having met the founders of Back to the Roots at the SF Green Festival 2011, I was immediately struck by the social innovation concept and the follow-through of the company’s dedicated founders.
To help Innov8Social celebrate our first 6 months, Back to the Roots is generously offering readers a 10% discount on their gourmet mushroom kits. Curious about how coffee grounds can yield up to 1 1/2 pounds of edible mushrooms in 10 days? Check out this fascinating 19 second time-lapse video….
Get the code on the Innov8Social Facebook pageYou can go to the Innov8Social Facebook page to find out the coupon code.
In law, sometimes you find the most important reasoning in the footnotes. And at conferences, sometimes you find the best advice in the asides.For example at the popular event, Social Media for Nonprofits SF in the course of explaining their key takeaways on social media, many of the speakers, panelists, and attendees also mentioned social tools they use regularly.This was a great complement to high-level thinking on goals and strategies for social media to promote social cause, because it provided practical “how-to” or “how do I do that” tips to enact the big picture.

8 Social Media Tools, Overheard at Social Media for Nonprofits

1. lets you poll an audience instantly through mobile phone voting (i.e. text and twitter). It’s like American Idol polling capability for social innovators. It is free for small audiences and has pricing plans for larger groups as well as plans for K-12 and higher education. Other interesting features include a downloadable slide with results that updates as people vote.


2. is a search engine for tweets and Google+. It lets you track influence and influencers according to Twitter and Google+ usage. At Social Media for Nonprofits, Topsy was mentioned as an effective way to find influencers in your field or related to your cause. Connect with influencers, and your message, mission, and social innovation may find a broader reach.



3. is a way to share presentations online. The site is the largest community for sharing presentations and is used by the White House, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Social Media for Nonprofits. Users can upload and download presentations, share on social networks, embed video and links, and can sign up for a free account or can opt for pro.



4. is a simple way to listen in to tweets about a particular topic. Just enter the desired hashtag and you will see live twitter chatter about that topic. At Social Media for Nonprofits large screens were set up on either side of the podium featuring live tweets containing the #sm4np hashtag, powered by Tweetchat.



5. Tweet-in is not a website but an innovative concept employed by Darian Heyman (@dheyman), Social Media for Nonprofits conference convener, emcee, and author. He essentially posed questions related to social media challenges and goals to the room of participants and called on everyone to respond with the #sm4np hashtag. The result? everyone in the room could view the large screens and virtually network with everyone else. It was a unique way to simultaneously connect with potential partners, resources, and mentees. Creative!

6. is a tool that lets you mine tweets for trending topics, news, and influencers. It gives provides an interesting statistic called “TPH” (tweets per hour) for a particular topic. For example, I searched #socinn and came up with real-time results including highlights (left column), news (no news stories came up) and live twitter feed (right column). The TPH rate for #socinn was 3.


7. is a tool that helps you pinpoint the lesser-known influencers on twitter. It lets you do some interesting searches, such as searching 3 twitter handles and finding out common friends and mutual influencers. You can make maps and tables that tell you how various tweeters and tweeps are connected. TMI? Maybe you meant TMZ, because TMI doesn’t seem to apply to web 2.0 :)

8. is a fascinating tool to enable social media storytelling. You can search social media outlets such at twitter, facebook, rss feed, flickr, and google for content based on search terms. Then comes the fun part, you can actually assemble a storyboard with the social media finds you want to be included. The result is a more-cohesive presentation of social media. Considering the importance placed on storytelling in social innovation, it could be extremely useful.



Social Media for Nonprofits, San FranciscoSocial Media for Nonprofits delivered its 8th conference in its popular series to a packed room of hundreds at the Marine’s Memorial Club in San Francisco last week.The conference kicked off with an engaging video–complete with vivid statistics and action-inspiring music—and filled the day with sessions on social media from noted thought leaders in the industry.

Social Media Learnings Apply Across Sectors
And though the conference focused on providing social media tools to progress the non-profit space—there was ample for social entrepreneurs to learn it from too.
Here are a few takeaways that social entrepreneurs can implement today to make their social media campaigns more effective, farther reaching, and more impactful.
6 Key Takeaways for Social Entrepreneurs from Social Media for Nonprofits Conference (#sm4np)

1. There are no social media experts. Conference convener and emcee Darian Rodriguez Heyman and various other speakers including Victor d’Allant of SocialEdge emphasized the point that in the fast-paced world of social media–there are no bonafide experts. We learn so that we can ask better questions.

They may agree that it is valuable to strive for inexpertise—so that you can come closer to knowing what you don’t know about social media. And so you can focus on asking better questions, testing out bolder hypotheses, and tracking more far-fetched metrics so you can develop a better understanding of this space.

2. Learn to ask. Something I picked up was the need to be able to ask your friends, followers, fans, and readers to take action. The recommendation to avoid “press-release” verbiage and instead opt for open, frank communication with a humble request was helpful. Especially since it came from non-profits, foundations, and websites with massive followings and ambitious goals to create change. It makes sense that a personal appeal with individuals who you already have a personal connection with is often far more impactful in broadening reach, raising funds, and spreading a message.

3. Create the best content. I loved the talk by Evan Baylin, author of Outsmarting Google and his upcoming release, Outsmarting Social Media. Maybe it was because it tied so directly to the daily efforts related to Innov8Social—creating compelling content, connecting with what Google bots register as good content, and focusing on “long-tail” keywords rather than popular keywords was telling. Evan’s view of excellent content? Puppies, babies, love; fascinating images; and clever commentary.

4. Measure, set goals, evaluate…even if its like root canal. One of the speakers made her presence felt in many of the sessions preceding her. Beth Kanter is a known and beloved thought leader in the non-profit social media space and is the author of  The Networked Nonprofit. She polled the audience on whether using social media measurement tools felt more like root canal or like being in a candy shop.

Kanter outlined four stages of sophistication with regards to measurement analytics, and offered tips on defining results and establishing SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) results. It reminded me that no matter what stage our social media efforts are in, there is great value in measuring, projecting, trying, and then evaluating our efforts. Something I plan to put into effect…now!

5. Reward and recognize your fans. If Netflix has reminded us of anything, it is to value our fans and followers. This theme was reinforced by speakers such as David Boyce of He drove home the point that we all want to be winners (especially those who support us) and that we should take every opportunity to recognize, reward, and celebrate our collective achievements.

The reason that Innov8Social is still here (after nearly 6 months) is not due to my interest in the subject alone. It is because you have shown up and shown me that there is interest and value in this content. It has given my work a unique sense of purpose and given me the next challenge of how think bigger and grow these efforts into something useful and sustainable.

6. It’s all about the story. We have heard it so often, tell a story. Perfect your pitch. Describe your journey. These all make complete sense—and the conference provided a unique perspective about this advice. As I saw tens of speakers share their social media learnings, I realized that I remembered best the ones who presented a compelling story about the issues their organization is trying to address, why they individually are involved, and how their social media efforts have progressed. One such speaker was Christina Samala of the Story of Stuff. She told the story of the stories that her site produces. I am intrigued and look forward to their release of “The Story of Broke” on November 8th.

Cafe cappuccinoEngaging a personal connection is more than a tweet, a like, and a plus.  And if you are a social innovator, a social entrepreneur, or an entrepreneurial non-profiteer—here is one thing I have learned over the past few months of launching and growing Innov8Social that may apply to you too:

Never underestimate the power of meeting up for coffee.

No Matter What Stage of Ideation

No one is born a social innovator. Everyone who is on the path of creating triple bottom line value started with an idea, concept, or inclination towards being involved in this evolving field.  For those established in the field, those ideas were nurtured, fostered, and driven through building relationships and refining concepts. And that process, after all is said and done, probably involved considerable live interfacing with other people.

Everyone Can Meet Over Coffee

So, even if you’re in early ideation stage—I challenge you to challenge yourself to engage a personal connection and meet interesting people in the field over a cup of coffee, herbal tea, or chilled sparkling water. Talk about your big idea, an unmet need that compels you to act, and listen to the life and work experiences of someone else trying to do well by doing good.

I think you may notice, as I have, that the social innovation community is encouraging and willing to meet you wherever you are in the process and help you brainstorm how to get to where you want to be.

And know that small ideas can be made big and big ideas can find an outlet in the informal, personal conversations that happen in the midst of frothing milk, double-espresso shots, and ground coffee beans. 

Launching Innov8Social has been marked by attending fascinating events, the opportunity to be part of compelling legislative efforts, and the chance to interview passionate people in the field.

And it may be time stretch our handshake a little further. Innov8Social would love to enlist your social media support for our efforts.  You can email here with any ideas, feedback, or observations you have on the blog, the concept, and topics discuss.

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An Idea Only As Compelling As the Community that Supports It 
An idea is only as compelling as the community that supports it~~ and part of Innov8Social’s mission is supporting the idea of social entrepreneurship by building a community of informed, passionate, active individuals.
Arigato ~ Mahalo ~ Merci ~ Shukran ~ Grazie
Thank you for your support. It means the world. I hope engaging with Innov8Social will be as meaningful for you as it already has been for me.