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On the third Tuesday of September, as on many 3rd Tuesdays of most months, MIT-Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB) hosted a panel on an emerging, disruptive technology. On the docket for the month of September—and fittingly nicely with back-to-school overtures at your favorite retail outlets—was titled “Education Technology Tsunami: Common Core Disrupts K-12”.The event focused on education technology opportunities and innovation (edtech) geared toward students in grades K-12 amid widespread adoption of Common Core standards.Now, in the off chance that the preceding sentence contained multiple words with which you are not used to seeing in the same sentence—you’ve come to the right place. This post is just the trampoline to provide both a soft landing and willing launch you deeper into this expansive field.

VLAB Edtech panelThe event took place on the Stanford Graduate School of Business School, in the expansive Cemex Auditorium. It brought together over 400 educators, entrepreneurs, developers, investors, students, and those simply interested in learning about the topic—and, as you might suspect there was a broad spectrum of familiarity with the topic.

This talk was a perfect opportunity to seek depth by gaining introduction to key concepts, topics, questions, and challenges in the edtech space.

Instead of providing a summary—this post outlines a few recommendations, factoids, and topics imparted.

 

The Panel

 

1. Buzzword: Common Core Standards

As explained in the introduction, and in the brochure, “The Common Core Standards, adopted by 45 US states imposes learning and testing which adapts to a student’s ability in real time.”

You can read the full Common Core curriculum requirements here:

 

2. Issues with Adoption of Common Core Standards

Moderator Tina Barseghian outlined a few issues with the adoption of Common Core that have been raised:

  • Some schools don’t have the necessary technology to implement it.
  • Some teachers don’t want to be held accountable for its implementation.
  • Some question its adoption saying that teachers weren’t part of designing it.
  • Conservatives say its a liberal conspiracy.
  • Some call its adoption a “Trojan horse” introduced in order to let corporations profit

She also articulately noted that the merits of Common Core as a concept were not necessarily the focus of the panel discussion. But hearing them helped add depth and color to the conversation.

 

3. How will Common Core Impact Edtech?

One statistic presented estimated that $60B will be spent on edtech by 2015. This slide provided a helpful, visual overview of current players in the edtech space:

 

4. Book suggestion: One World Schoolhouse

This book by Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, was mentioned a few times throughout the evening. It was brought up in the context of Benjamin Bloom (see below for more on Bloom’s Taxonomy) and the effectiveness of “mastery learning”. Washington Times did a review of Khan’s book last year, here.

 

5. Buzzword: Formative Assessment

The panelists easily agreed that trendy buzzword “formative assessment” has multiple definitions. One definition presented seemed to appease and empower, was that formative assessment is “actionable assessment happening in real time.”

The New York City Department of Education dedicates a page of their website to formative assessment strategies, and this is a topic that a number of edtech startups (including panel startups MasteryConnect and Illuminate Education) are focusing on.

6. What do Large Education Companies like Pearson look for in edtech startups?

Panelists Scott Drossos (Sr. VP at Pearson) and Karen Lien (from Imagine K12) were on-hand to provide a perspective on acquisition and funding potential for edtech startups.  It was mentioned that Pearson actively seeks to partner and invest in promising enterprises that address needs in the education space. In evaluating edtech startups, large education companies like Pearson evaluate factors such as:
  • Is the business sound?
  • Is the leader stable, driven?
  • Has the startup addressed monetization?

 

7. Buzzword: Bloom’s Taxonomy

For those unfamiliar with the study of education and teaching theory, the work of Benjamin Bloom was referenced. He led groundbreaking work in the field of education and mastery learning over the expanse of five decades up until his death in 1999.  One topic that was raised during the panel discussion was “Bloom’s Taxonomy”. Here are brief descriptions and depictions of this concept:

Wikipedia: Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of learning objectives within education.

NWLink.com: Bloom’s Taxonomy was created in 1956 under the leadership of educational psychologist Dr Benjamin Bloom in order to promote higher forms of thinking in education, such as analyzing and evaluating, rather than just remembering facts (rote learning).

image credit: PSA-NW

[full disclosure: I serve on the Executive Team of VLAB as the Outreach Chair. Fuller disclosure, I became involved as a VLAB volunteer after covering an event for Innov8Social!]

On September 12, 2013 Harvard Club of Silicon Valley organized an event focused on the rise of the “Maker” movement. The intimate gathering, titled “Meet Your ‘Maker’: The New Movement for Urban, Micro, & Craft Production” took place at the industrial chic Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco.Essentially, expansion of manufacturing technologies coupled with rise of conscious consumerism is creating new markets for the democratization of the “making of” things.Tempting notions of a “de-industrial” revolution, or “new industrial revolution” as Chris Anderson explains in his book Makers, the movement suggests alternatives to centralized locales for manufacturing. Instead, the movement highlights pathways of success for entrepreneurs focusing on using high tech and high touch to create strong brands, loyal fans, and innovative products.

Maker Event by Harvard Club SV

The Panel

The panel included:

The Maker Movement, Why Now?

Panelists noted a few factors that contribute to the growth of the maker movement, including:
  • Lower barriers to entry. New tools such as 3D printing and access to industrial manufacturing tools empower experimentation, which in turn drives innovation.
  • New toys. Facilities such as TechShop and the rise of micro-manufacturing creates new possibilities in decentralizing manufacturing.
  • Making v. manufacturing mindset. Distinguishing makers by their personal stories, artisan craftsmanship, and the rise of events such as SFMade (see also SJMade, Palo Alto Made, etc.) is creating a viable market for makers in an ecosystem generally directed by manufacturers.
This is a fascinating field—both in the enterprise sense as well as in terms of law and policy that is emerging to facilitate the maker movement. Stay tuned as we explore various aspects of the maker movement.
When enough people, especially those not otherwise connected with each other, recommend something, it can do wonders to capture your imagination and fascination. That happened with Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Incubator program.

Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI)

Though I learned about GSBI while researching social innovation startup accelerator and incubator programs, over the past few months I have heard it mentioned in various conversations with social innovators and entrepreneurs in the space.

Then, at the Womens’ Social Entrepreneurs’ Panel hosted by GABA at the Kiva offices in SF, a few panelists were also graduates of the program—and were doing absolutely fascinating work. My interest was building, and every subsequent mention of GSBI was akin to a “Klout” moment on my personal interest pique-o-meter.

Attending a GSBI Accelerator Showcase

GSBI accelerator showcase

More recently, SCU hosted a GSBI Accelerator Showcase on campus. The pitch event featured over a dozen social entrepreneurs, hailing from around the globe, who presented pitches and status updates on their endeavors directly to impact investors and the broader philanthropic community.

These driven problem-solvers were educators, artisans, farmers, and engineers—but took on the role of social innovators in the face of deep-rooted issues in their communities.

VentureBeat covered the event noting that “of the 202 enterprises that have completed GSBI programs since its inception in 2003, 90 percent are still in business and can boast of having positively impacted nearly 100 million lives around the globe and raising $89 million in funding.”

Thane Kreiner, Executive Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society, at Santa Clara University, which is home of the Global Social Benefit Incubator also published a recap of the event on NextBillion.

The pitches were direct asks for funds to help social enterprises cross the proverbial chasm in scaling to the next level.  Here is a sample of a few of the asks:

  • Clinicas de Azucar requested $3.3M to scale low-cost diabetes solutions to reach 200 clinics in Mexico.
  • Avani requested $500K to scale sustainable textile production by women to 101 villages in northern India
  • Nishant Bioenergy requested $600K to scale production and distribution of energy-efficient, sustainable, cookstoves.
  • Literacy Bridge requested $500K to scale their accessible (non-literacy dependent) audio solution for teaching agricultural practices to rural farmers in Africa
  • Drishtee requested $3M to scale their solution to extend last-mile distribution of products to remote regions in India.
  • Iluméxico requested $250K to scale solar grid electricity solutions to open 30 branches in 10 states in Mexico.
  • Husk Power requested $5M to scale mini powerplants and provide electricity as a service from 5K to over 25K households in India and East Africa.

(Note: videos of the pitch event can be seen here and will be posted on YouTube here.)

The Courage to Try

The pitches represented more than a singular idea. In social innovation, as in entrepreneurship, ideas often come “into vogue”concurrently—i.e. if you are thinking of a new innovation or improvement, there’s a good chance someone is thinking along the same lines too.

This simple realization humanizes the social entrepreneur’s experience and also takes it out of the abstract. These entrepreneurs who venture into the dimly lit space of creating value and impact aren’t necessarily the first, they are the the ones courageous enough to grab the torch and stumble into the darkness to test out their potential solution.

In the coming weeks I look forward to interviewing a few of the leaders of GSBI to learn more about the program, the selection process, how the institute has evolved, and what the organizers have learned from hosting an annual accelerator/incubator program for social innovation.

 

Apply to GSBI by October 31

Applications for the 2014 class of GSBI are available now and you can apply until October 31, 2013.

Application for GSBI are here.

 

GSBI accelerator showcase
GSBI accelerator showcase
One of my favorite parts of participating in SOCAP is learning about relevant new tools and resources in the social innovation space. Here are 5 interesting ones I learned about via #SOCAP13 webcasts.

5 Social Innovation Resources from SOCAP13

 

1. Book: Mission in a Bottle


Mission in a Bottle: The Honest Guide to Doing Business Differently–and Succeeding by Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff

On Day 2 of #SOCAP13’s morning plenary session included a presentation by Founder and CEO of Honest Tea Co., Seth Goldman. He introduced the new book he co-authored with co-founder (and former professor) Barry Nalebuff. Interestingly, it is written as a comic book—a format Seth touches on in his talk.

As we set out on writing our own book on social innovation—we are constantly seeking to hear honest narratives of entrepreneurs who have set out create value and impact. After Seth spoke I immediately ordered an ebook version of the book. At the time, I didn’t realize it was primarily in comic book format so I do lose a bit in the way of color and size but am delighted to see a unique, visual take on sharing their story.

You can take a look at Seth Goldman’s talk at SOCAP13 below.

 

2. Report: 2013 GSMA Report on Scaling Mobile for Development

Report: Scaling Mobile for DevelopmentHarness the opportunity in the developing world
(Aug 2013)
by GSMA Intelligence, with support from Rockefeller Foundation

In an afternoon session on Day 2 of SOCAP13, Matt Bannick of Omiydar Network moderated a panel titled, “Priming the Pump in Action: A Sector-Based Discussion on Mobile Impact.” The focus of the session was to parse out case studies of use and scale of mobile for impact and development.

Mentioned a few times in the session was an in-depth report prepared by GSMA regarding the use of mobile technology for development. Considering that mobile technology in the developing world has become the basis of innovative social enterprises tackling issues ranging from access to healthcare (MAMA), access to finance (M-Pesa), to reporting of labor conditions (LaborVoices).

Priming the Pump in Action: A Sector-Based Discussion on Mobile Impact

 

  • Monica Brand, Accion Frontier Investments Group
  • Matt Bannick, Omidyar Network (moderator)
  • Faith Sedlin, Range Networks
  • Corina Gardner, GSMA






3. Conference: Sankalp Unconvention, Annual Summit in India

SankalpForum.com




During SOCAP13, Conference Co-Founder and Convener Kevin Jones sat down for an armchair conversation with Vineet Rai Founder of Intellecap and Aavishkaar. Rai organizes the largest meeting of social innovation minds outside of SOCAP called “Sankalp”—which translates to “pledge” or “determination.”

Sankalp was founded in 2009 to connect social enterprises and investors but has grown to a broader platform to bring together thought leaders, industry experts, policymakers and global social innovators.

The Sankalp Unconvention Summit 2014 is scheduled for September 4, 2014. You can read the in-depth 2013 PDF Sankalp conference guide and watch videos from past conferences.

 

4. Publication: 5 Characteristics of a Social Entrepreneur by Greg Dees of Berkeley

 

Greg Dees
Professor, Thought Leader
in social entrepreneurship
(photo credit: AshokaU)

In Berkeley Professor Laura Callanan’s introduction to her insightful talk, “The Surprise Social Entrepreneur”on Day 2 SOCAP13, she referenced a list of characteristics of social entrepreneurs as set out by Professor Greg Dees.

I had not heard of this specific list referenced. In looking up the list and Professor Dees I see him as an early adopting and leading social enterprise thinker. To put it in perspective, I launched Innov8Social in 2011 to study the “emerging space” of social innovation. Professor Dees? He published his list of characteristics in 2001.

He has remained close to the evolution of the movement having held positions at McKinsey & Company, Yale School of Management, Harvard Business School, and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. He also serves on the board of the Bridgespan Group and World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council for Social Entrepreneurship. Professor Dees is on numerous advisory boards including Volans, REDF, Aflatoun, Business Leadership for Tomorrow, the Limmat Foundation, and the Social Enterprise Journal.

From “Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship” by J. Gregory Dees (published in 2001) 

Social entrepreneurs play the role of change agents in the social sector, by:

  • Adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value),
  • Recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission,
  • Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning,
  • Acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand, and
  • Exhibiting heightened accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created.

 

http://www.uniteforsight.org/social-entrepreneurship-course/module2

 

5. Book: The Business Solution to Poverty

 

During the morning plenary session of Day 3 of SOCAP13, one of the speakers was Paul Polack, co-founder and CEO of Windhorse International. A newly minted 80-year old (he noted celebrating his birthday two days prior) he spoke earnestly about his life-long dream of transforming business as usual and extreme poverty.

Paul outlined 3 movements that he said were in the “crossroads” between success and failure. This, from someone who has been immersed in poverty solutions for decades, was particularly insightful. On his radar were: 1) the movement to end extreme poverty as in need of new and innovative solutions;  2) the need for social impact to finds ways to demonstrate commercial profitability at scale; and 3) the need for big business to shift from designing and selling mindset of over-consumption.

He also introduced the new book he and co-author Mal Warwick released titled “The Business Solution to Poverty.”

Want more? Here are a few Storify compilations recapping SOCAP13:

 

If there is ever a frenzy similar to Chicken Little proclaiming “the sky is falling” that is 1) constructive and 2) applied to the social innovation community—it is that in preparation of the annual Social Capital Markets gathering in San Francisco. Affectionately abbreviated as “SOCAP”, add “#” at the front and appropriate two-digit year at the end for digital perfection, the conference brings together thousands upon thousands of thought leaders, movers & shakers, investors, and companies squarely in the social innovation sector.

SOCAP, the Holy Grail

So, you might ask, this must be your premier event of the year? I.e. your little blog on social innovation must erupt in rainbow colors and neon lights when this conference comes along—and you must gingerly pick out an appropriate consumer-conscious wardrobe, arrange your specially-ordered greenstock Moo business cards, and otherwise prepare yourself for a tsunami of information. Absolutely and kind of.

Welcome to SOCAP11
#SOCAP11: Go Big or Go Home

In 2011 after I found out about the event just months after I began my blog (and left my full-time job), I made the huge decision to pay the nearly $1K to attend the event. And so I did meticulously select a wardrobe–which paid homage to both the color green as well as the dangers of greenwashing–, I made arrangements to stay with a close friend in SF, I mapped out the public transport routes. And, I tried to meet anyone and everyone I could at the event by exchanging cards, LinkedIn-ing with impressive turnaround times, and creating #bff-level twitter friendships.
The event did hold muster. I interviewed a number of fascinating, driven individuals for Innov8Social—enabling me to launch a YouTube channel, wrote handfuls of posts, and otherwise tried to absorb as much of the event as I could. Not only that, having paid full sticker price, I wanted to make sure I continued my learning outside of the event. I used the conference info app to continue connecting with people after the event—meeting over coffee, Skype, or rollover minutes.
It was energizing, electric (concept further explained here, kindly scroll down), and eye-opening. But, as you may know, as a social innovator with an appetite for the future that can sometimes exceed resources in the wallet—paying to play without a fiscal sponsor was not necessarily a scalable solution. A blog is a tricky thing and while it has lent to some incredible interviews and consulting opportunities, it requires a discipline that is at times more aligned with “lean”, “bootstrap”, and “survival” than anything more lofty or luxurious.
(for your perusing pleasure, Innov8Social’s coverage of #SOCAP11 including interviews, session recaps, and photo essay.)



#SOCAP12: The Lost Year

In 2012, the timing and resource flow weren’t aligned to purchase another ticket. I did apply for other avenues such as a press pass or volunteer role but was not a lucky grasshopper on either count. #SOCAP2012 will remain the “lost SOCAP” for me as my work and study schedule didn’t permit online participation and my resources (or combined ingenuity) didn’t pave the path for actual participation.(Link to official #SOCAP12 webcasts is here)

#SOCAP13: Go Big, at Home

As SOCAP2013 rolled around I was again determined. I entertain innovation regularly and laugh in the face of closed doors and one-line rejection emails. Surely, this time around there would be some way to connect with the Holy Grail of social innovation events in the SF Bay Area.  Thinking about how my readership has grown (200K visitors have wittingly and unwittingly happened upon the site and  40+ amazing people have shared their time for an interviews), I tossed my name in the hat for a press pass once more. And, what the heck, for a volunteer role too.
This time, though, there was yet another avenue. Like a natural gas-powered organic food truck emerging from the SF fog, there was a new, accessible, potentially promising path to earn a golden ticket and contribute to the curriculum. And it was called SOCAP Open. We could pitch ideas for a session, gather support and buy-in via social media, and await determination from the SOCAP illuminati. Considering that co-author Shivani and I were in the concluding stages of finalizing our social innovation book idea and crowdfunding it, we pitched an idea that was forming the backbone of our book.  Maybe it could be a win-win-win and win for all. We could participate, gain access to the event, share some great learnings from writing the book, and engage in a meaningful dialogue that could in turn impact our content.
A few things added hairs of complication to the plan. Namely 1) we are still in the outlining phase of the book; 2) despite our humble yet valiant social media efforts, our session idea was not one of the 23 selected (out of 124); and 3) my volunteer and press pass queries must have lost in the proverbial metadata haystack, as I did not receive a response to either.
The SOCAP organizing team was magnanimous in offering a considerable discount for those who submitted idea. I think I lost track of both time and common sense, and did not act on the offer.
But this year I was determined not fall in the abyss and completely miss out. So I did what any #socent worth her salt would do—I looked for a quick and easy solution that would get me closer to the action at a fraction of the cost. I rigged my iPhone to my TV using the appropriate tethering Apple dongle and I streamed the sessions live online.
“What do you want to make absurd in your lifetime?”
social innovators Premal Shah (Kiva), Robert Gomez (filmmaker),
Donna Morton (Principium), and Bill McKibben (350 org)
“Accelerating the Good Economy”
Opening session – #SOCAP13

In 2011 I always grimaced when I was late to a plenary session—I hate missing keynotes, especially when they include jokes and funny anecdotes. This time, my strategy worked with true atomic watch precision. I sat directly in the center of the couch with my laptop poised in start position on my lap, and an appropriate array of remotes to my left. I had readied myself with plethora of open tabs—including Twitter, the official #SOCAP13 schedule, Wikipedia for unfamiliar concepts, and Linkedin & Facebook to share update and consult bios of the upcoming speakers. And then, I waited.

As soon as the plenary sessions launched, so did I. I tweeted, I facebooked, I even took handwritten notes. I would have thrown my business cards at the screen in hopes of networking, but that seemed excessive. I did email speakers who shared their addresses with the audience in hopes of following up. Moreover, I learned and absorbed.
I could let my mind wander around and through the concepts—and I myself could do the same in the kitchen and patio—as I listened. It was a much different experience than #SOCAP11 but it was a determined one. I learned much and truly appreciated the conference organizers’ efforts to let us simple humans connect with the grandeur taking place at the Holy Grail.

(to be sure I was actually tuning in and not just clicking on sponsored posts on FB, here are 5 resources I learned about from tuning in to #SOCAP13)

#SOCAP14: ________ ?

Stay tuned for a few concrete learnings about #SOCAP13—the home edition. And, know that you don’t have to take my word for it—those videos that I partook in are still available. As we wait for even newer ways to potentially participate in #SOCAP14, we can prepare ourselves by staging a viewing marathon of SOCAPs of years past. I can just imagine the happy tweeting of updates from the plenary sessions—nevermind that they took place months (or years) ago—and the throwing our business cards at the screen in gleeful appreciation.
NetIP North America (Network of Indian Professionals) strives to “serve as the unequivocal voice for the South Asian Diaspora by developing and engaging a cohesive network of professionals to benefit the community.”

dare to give back #netipconf2013
“Dare to Give Back” Panel at #netipconf2013 : (from right) Seena Jacob, Bookwallah;
Golda Philip, Hospital for Hope; Neetal Parekh, Innov8Social
[adapted from photos by Kavita T.]

Dare to Be You

One of the manifestations of its mission is the conference held annually at a different compelling metro in North America. The 2013 NetIP conference convened in the heart of downtown San Francisco on Labor Day weekend. The canvassing theme “Dare to Be You,” created a framework broad enough to accommodate a range of topics and bold enough to highlight breakaway paths South Asians are increasingly pursuing.  There were speakers from the CIA, entertainment, entrepreneurship, and even a relationship expert on hand to share what they’ve learned while also showing the potential of unconventional pathways in the process.

NetIP Descends on San Fransisco

Being in the backyard of tech and social innovation, the event also included features cognizant of the SF/Bay Area milieu.
For example, the event hosted its first ever “Fast Pitch” session in which entrepreneurs pitched early-stage startup ideas, and answered tough questions from a panel of experts in hopes of gaining valuable feedback and possible scoring a win on an enticing prize suite of products and services.
Another distinctive feature—which fellow event/conference enthusiasts can appreciate—was the unique pocket-sized program. Measuring just a few inches by a few more inches, the pamphlet could fit in the palm of your hand, in an oversized pocket, and definitely in any size bag or purse.  It was a “fit and light”version of its traditional full-size counterparts—half the calories with the same great taste.

Dare to Give Back

I was honored to join a panel titled “Dare to Give Back” which was designed with the focus of sharing stories of social innovation from those who have launched projects in the field. The panel:
The time slot of Saturday morning at 10:30 AM to noon did a couple of things. It likely dissuaded the faint of heart—whose interest in this topic hasn’t peaked or who didn’t realize there were sessions that started before 1pm on a Saturday. And, it brought together those who were inexplicably compelled by this topic. That latter group made the session an exceptional exercise in sharing, learning, being vulnerable, supporting each other, and generally getting fired up.
In our introductions we learned so much about each other. Not only was Golda working with an amazing team with audacious goals of creating rippling impact in healthcare for hundreds of thousands of villagers, she is also the youngest sister of two college friends who are phenomenal leaders in their own rights. Connecting with her brought back fond memories of undergrad leadership, and her quiet eloquence served to inspire those thinking about giving back in health care capacities in South Asia and beyond.
Seena disarmed the panel, audience, and attending media early in the session. Her vibrancy and honesty about the ups and downs of being a social innovator and nonprofit leader were genuine and uncoated. Bookwallah has maintained its vision of sharing storytelling and books with children in South Asia, but she quickly pointed out how the methods of effecting the vision have pivoted to adapt to actual and unforeseen needs and challenges the project faced. Her story and passion moved members of the audience to find out how they could help. A participant in one of sessions later in the day, wrote her a check on the spot to contribute to her work.
dare to give back #netipconf2013I shared what I have learned in launching a blog on social innovation, understanding the need, setting (and re-calibrating) expectations, and–most importantly–the actionable learnings about legal structure and business models for social innovation and social enterprise.

Power of Sharing

The session went from great to exceptional when we shifted the spotlight from the panel to the audience. With over a dozen audience members and nearly an hour left on the clock we invited attendees to introduce themselves and their ideas for stating a social enterprise, nonprofit, or what drew them to the session.
The responses were remarkable. Not only did we learn that attendees hailed from Washington D.C., New York, the Bay area, and the Midwest—we heard about work they have been doing, resources they have to offer, and the ideas that are just seedlings looking for ways to develop. As each person “pitched” their giving back aspirations, remarkably, everyone in the room conspired on ways to help. Golda, who herself is based in DC, was keen to follow up with the east coasters for a local DC follow-up gathering. Seena offered her organization as a volunteer opportunity for those looking to connect more deeply with projects around literacy.
There were attendees practicing law in one field but trying to find out how to help victims in more impactful ways outside of work hours. Health care professionals voiced interest in volunteering in South Asia in the developing world in new ways. One attendee shared a personal story of attending the session in honor of a dear friend dedicated to service, who passed away suddenly some years back—and how she actively sought ways to honor her friend’s memory.As people felt more comfortable and encouraged, they opened up and said aloud ideas that may have just seemed to be fleeting but whose repetition was cause for notice.

Singing the Body Electric

I remember picking up a Ray Bradbury book called I Sing the Body Electric! at a garage sale as a middle-schooler. I had been so taken by Fahrenheit 451 that any book by the author caught my eye. I can’t honestly remember any of its the short stories—-but the title has stayed with me.

1969 ... 'I Sing the Body Electric' - Ray BradburyWhen you engage in something you are passionate about—be it sports, fashion, art, tech, or service—there is a certain electricity that is generated when you recognize that common passion in others. Even though we had each descended to this session from different parts of the country, with varying levels of experience and interest, and different end goals—our common passion for service and working on ideas bigger than ourselves created an unmistakable melody of positive current.

The April 2013 gathering of Impact Law Forum was held at IDEO.org‘s scenic office in San Francisco.

Leading the session was Sean Hewens, IDEO.org’s Knowledge Manager + In-House Counsel

Sean Hewens, IDEO.org: law + human-centered design

Sean started by asking a simple question to the audience…

Sean Hewens, IDEO.org: law + human-centered design

Participants were asked to write 3 words they thought of when they heard the word “lawyer” on Post-its. The initial batch of responses was small…

Sean Hewens, IDEO.org: law + human-centered design

 

…but definitely expanded as the evening continued.

 

Sean Hewens, IDEO.org: law + human-centered design

The exercise was a great example of an emerging field, human centered design (HCD).  It was especially meaningful to hear Sean’s perspective on the field since IDEO and IDEO.org have been at the forefront of developing human-centered design approaches and applying them to pressing world issues.

What is human-centered design (HCD)?

Sean explained the field by contrasting it with the traditional approach to design, which involves  planning/drawings to show look and functionality of a product. Instead, human-centered design is a problem-solving approach to innovation. Sean explained that it begins with a deep empathy with a customer’s needs, hopes, wants, etc. and helps create innovation rooted in people, and the broader context that shape the way they live.

What is IDEO?

IDEO has gained ground as a leading design firm and international innovation consultancy. Founded in 1991, IDEO has worked on such iconic designs as Apple’s first mouse, Nike sunglasses, as well as with with top global brands on organizational development. IDEO arguably became a household name in 1999 when 60 Minutes and then NBC Nightly News aired a segment about the unique process-based approach to design. You can take a trip down memory lane…

What is IDEO.org?

IDEO has been involved in social-sector projects for over a decade. As Sean explained, in December 2011 IDEO.org was launched as a non-profit focused on design solutions with a focus on poverty alleviation. He reiterated that IDEO.org selects projects based on their anticipated impact on society, the environment, and/or people affected.
As explained on the “About” page of IDEO.org

What are Sean’s tips for designing for law?

Sean shared a number of surprisingly specific tips on how attorneys can begin to adopt a design approach to law.

1. Never use Times New Roman
2. Use one space between sentences, not two
3. Learn the creative suite, to make documents appealing, compelling, “pretty”
4. Use Keynote instead of Power Point
5. Be visual, i.e. use Post-Its and other ways to visually map solutions
6. Remember, you are smart + you are creative!

 

How did Sean go from a traditional path of law into law + design?

After completing an undergraduate degree at Columbia, Sean started his career in the Civilian Complaint Division at the NYPD. He worked primarily on drug law cases, which motivated him to pursue law school so he could reform drug laws. After law school, he detoured in to corporate law. He kept a journal during his four years as a corporate law and noticed a trend—he did not regularly interact with people, he was not happy.Sean Hewens, IDEO.org: law + human-centered designHe took a major leap by enrolling in a design program, which began to influence his approach to design. He was inspired afterwards to launch a non-profit called Smallbean to put used personal electronics in the hands of Tanzanians and travelled to Africa to create a technical hub. The project was incredibly eye-opening, but left him in a difficult financial situation. He classified the project as a “failure”, noting that failure is actually a win in the HCD world. The HCD approach is to fail fast, fail early, and iterate.

So, he did.  He and co-founder Ross Lohr launched Project Repat. The premise is that 90%+ of donated t-shirts and clothing is shipped to Africa. Project Repat would enter the local markets in Africa to reclaim t-shirts and re-sell in America, with 100% of proceeds given to the local African economies. Since its founding, Project Repat has shifted focus, you can read more in the update here.

Those experiences excited Sean to take his design + law approach to new frontiers, leading him to IDEO.org

Sean’s parting thoughts?

Get out there. Understand and observe. Work with other disciplines. Consider the system you are working in (or with). Make solutions visual. Prototype early and often.Don’t just be a lawyer…find opportunities to design.

Dive in!

+Acumen and IDEO.org are teaming up to offer a 5-week course called “Human Centered Design for Social Innovation.” Teams of 2-5 can sign up here by July 3rd. Hear Sean talk about the course below

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It’s not often that a speaker at an event shares live feed of their EKG. But then, the VLAB panel discussion titled “The Future of Diagnostics: Consumer Driven Medicine” was not an ordinary look at the field of medicine. The event–which was held at the Munger Center of the Paul Brest Hall of Stanford Law School–took place on Thursday, April 16th 2013.As part of illustrating emerging technologies in mobile health, moderator Dr. Kraft pulled up an app he regularly uses which tracks key health indicators. From his iPhone to the big screen, he shared real-time data such as heart rate and EKG.

Consumer driven diagnostics: emerging and disruptive

The event was a fascinating look into the possibility and scope that emerging technologies such as mobile phone apps, bluetooth technology, and mobile scanning have altered the way we track and understand our health. The burgeoning field of consumer driven medicine has already grounded costs of once-expensive processes such as DNA sequencing. As you may note from the NIH graph, the cost of sequencing a human genome used to be upwards of $10K in the early 2000’s, today costs a fraction of that sticker price. Industry leaders, such as Dr. Kraft, cited predictions that the cost of sequencing a human genome will one day cost in the range of $100-200.

The multi-level disruption of healthcare and diagnostics was the focus of this panel. It featured the following speakers:

Moderator, Daniel Kraft, M.D., Executive Director, FutureMed, Faculty Chair of Medicine, Singularity University
Panelist, Walter De Brouwer, CEO of SCANADUPanelist, Dr. David Albert, Founder and Chief Medical Officer at AliveCorPanelist, Anne DeGheest, HealthTech Capital, Managing Director and Founder

 

Watch the video

View the entire panel discussion in the following video:

 


What social entrepreneurs should consider

One aspect of consumer driven diagnostics is the technology + medicine aspect. i.e. How do you code for diagnostic medicine? A select sector of the entrepreneurial and social entrepreneurial communities will focus on this side of the rubics cube. This means understanding the science, the web development, and compliance landscape (i.e. “HIPAA”, etc.) of developing medicine-related technology.

However, there is another incredibly vital angle that will require impact innovation attention. It is the distribution, scaling, and effective analysis of crowdsourced medical data. Consumer driven diagnostics is as much a data problem as well as a medical-technology problem. If you aren’t building the consumer-facing software, you might consider creating efficient processes by which data collection becomes scalable, increasing amounts of data are accurately analyzed, and methods are developed for keeping this potentially-impactful data secure and private.

If you step back from the niche area of medicine + technology you arrive to a broader place of making sense of, efficiently using, and securely tracking big data. That is a problem that could benefit from the nuanced, triple-bottom line mindset of a social innovator.

Photos from the event

Here are a few photos from the event include images of the brochure, the networking hour that takes place directly before the panel, a view of a slide featuring the panel members, and a shot of dynamic moderator Dr. Kraft as he presented his engaging introduction.
VLAB panel on consumer driven health (#VLAVcdmed)
networking hour before fo

VLAB panel on consumer driven health (#VLAVcdmed)

VLAB panel on consumer driven health (#VLAVcdmed)

VLAB panel on consumer driven health (#VLAVcdmed)

VLAB panel on consumer driven health (#VLAVcdmed)

It’s Day 3 of Netroots Nation (#nn13), an annual conference for progressive leaders and media professionals.  This is a liveblog from Day 3.#nn131:33pm. The conversation with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, moderated by Zerlina Maxwell just took place in the large exhibit hall. It was an interesting talk, touching on progressive issues and causes. The moment that was particularly interesting, was the reaction Pelosi received in explaining her position on Edward Snowden. She received boos in the audience when she said he broke the law, and there were a few active audience members who stood up and yelled questions toward the stage. On the most part, Pelosi entertained and tried to address the questions.

1:38pm. The panelists for “How We Used the Internet to Help with the Presidential Election features key leader in President Obama’s re-election campaign—taking their message to the social media stage. Panelists include: Matthew McGregor, Zerlina Maxwell, Laura Olin, Jason Sackin, and moderated by Erica Sackin,
Netroots Nation #nn13
Erick provides an overview about how different the social media scene was in 2012 v. in 2008. Namely:

Internet usage shift from 2008-2012
200K to 40M tumblr
3M to 500M twitter
100M to 1B facebook

1:44pm. Jason Satler (@lolgop) shared key points. And some of his notable work : )  i.e.:

LOLGOP @LOLGOPFun Fact: Joe Biden is the only American Vice President in the eleven years who hasn’t shot a friend in a face.

1:47pm. Zerlina takes the stage. (Note: she just moderated the lunch session with Nancy Pelosi!) Shares two of her popular posts.  One was on Paul Ryan’s comment that rape is a form of conception. And one on Donald Trump. Her popular tweets covered race and the war on women.

1:52pm. Laura Olin takes the stage and speaks about her role in overseeing the official Obama twitter feed and tumblr accounts. She shared a few the popular tweets, including:

Laura’s tip: give people something they can share. She talked about the effectiveness of photo tweets.

1:59pm. Leaving this session to check out another.

2:01pm. Checking out “Big Ears Meets Big Data: How to Unleash Member Energy to Analytics”

2:03pm. Sara Haghdoosti talks about how she worked to get people working on systematic campaigns. She created an organizing model that tried to combine hundreds of years of best practice. But within the first week of using, realized that the organizing model was flawed. I.e. hypothesis: if you took a moment to sign an online petition, you were interested in being move involved. Realized it was wrong to expect a commitment that scaled up.

2:05pm. The slides says: Focus on weak ties. In a retreat to cover issues, she tried an experiment of people working on similar issues together to form a campaign v. people working on different issues to work on a campaign—she noticed that the latter was more effective because the members could provide more constructive, actionable feedback rather than getting caught up in the nuances of the issues.

2:06pm. The slide says: You need far higher conversion rates for online team actions.

2:09pm. Milan de Vries, of MoveOn.org,  explains distributed organizing. The slide says: thousands of petitions, on lots of topics, with different approaches…From his (the organizer) perspective it means managing and following thousands of petitions

2:11pm. Answers 2 questions: how do they determine the compelling campaigns and how they find people to engage in the campaigns. Look at petitions that are 1) progressive; and 2) that are strong. So can do a quick filter to determine which fit into this general bucket. First pass is by humans and also filtered by number of signatures, and look at successful shares.

2:14pm. Milan speaks on how it “tests” petitions, i.e. sending to cross-sections of its membership.

2:20pm.  In summary MoveOn is looking for petitions that are progressive and that are being shared & signed.

2:20pm. On to audience questions. “How do those of us who aren’t sitting on million-member lists” utilize the tips you just mentioned? Milan mentions that even with a smaller list (i.e. 5K) you can actually test and do a lot. Don’t be discouraged about the size of your list when assessing what you can learn from your group & how you can engage with them.

2:26pm. Sara Haghdoosti also answered and noted that for a crowdfunding campaign she was launching, she sent an email on her birthday and raised $6K. She did informal A/B testing on subject line and messaging. She noted that personalizing the message and sending to her close contacts helped achieve success.

2:34pm. A software engineer in the audience asks what statistical tools the panelists use. Amelia Showalter mentions using A/B testing with less formality than in an academic setting. For other campaigns she uses correlations and more sophisticated modeling. Milan underscores that the purpose of the stats in the case of online organizing and mobilizing is to guide decisions, rather than a more academic goal .

2:38. Question from the audience: what analysis do these websites do on people who open the email but don’t take action (i.e. sign a petition). Milan takes this one and notes that these organizations look at behavior of people over time, and so his org (MoveOn) has a vested interest in understanding why people behave in one way v. another.

2:48pm. Session ends. Will take up blogging again for the 3pm panels. There are a few that look interesting, so fair warning, there may be more panel-hopping ahead.

#nn13
“Beyond Aaron’s Law” Panel at #nn13

3:05pm. Starting out in the panel “Beyond Aaron’s Law: Reining in Prosecutorial Overreach”. Elliot Peters, Aaron Swart’z attorney at the time of his death, introduces himself.

For three decades Elliot Peters has litigated, tried and advised clients in some of the nation’s most high-profile, high-stakes complex commercial and white collar criminal cases. Mr. Peters has tried more than 50 cases on behalf of CEOs, leading law firms, and major corporations. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He has also been named Attorney of the Year by California Lawyer and The Recorder, the Litigator of the Week by The American Lawyer, and one of the Top 100 Attorneys in California by the Daily Journal. [Source: KVN]

3:07pm. Elliot speaks about his relationship with client Aaron, and Aaron’s goal of open access. He talks about Aaron’s actions to open access to JSTOR documents at MIT.

3:10pm. Aaron was arrested for computer crime. Prosecutors tried to figure out what crimes Aaron could be prosecuted on. Note, CFAA requires $5K in damages, here it was challenging to determine damages (if any). Elliot took on the case because he thought the defense had a strong case, but he worried about Aaron. On January 11th, Elliot spent the day working on the case and had succeeded on getting access to emails between local Boston official and the Federal govt. He packed his suitcase went home from work and rec’d the news of Aaron’s suicide. Elliot calls it one of the lowest points of his legal career. “Aaron’s loss is a great loss for everybody because he was truly, truly a remarkable person.” — Elliot Peters

3:14pm Moderator Marcy Wheeler introduces Jonathan Simon.

Jonathan Simon is the Associate Dean of the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program at Boalt Hall School of Law at University of California, Berkeleyauthor of Governing Through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear and Poor Discipline: Parole and the Social Control of the Underclass, 1890-1990co-editorof Punishment & Society, associate editor of Law & Society Review, and a professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Policy, and Legal Studies. [Wikipedia]

Who are prosecutors in America? Are usually politicians. Simon notes that historically that fact was held in check through 1) local politics, i.e. pushing back using local political machines; 2) on the federal level, the body of law was much smaller. That changed dramatically during ‘the war on crime’ (the subject of much of Simon’s work).

3:18pm. Simon turns from historical overview to looking at the case of Aaron Swartz. He looks at the problematic issues of whether he was “breaking into” a “dwelling” considering the facts. He considers the idea that the prosecutors thought that Aaron may end up ‘snitching’. Simon calls for an end to the ‘war on crime’—he questions the need for an emergency government.

3:26pm. Simon calls for a need for government to look at whether prosecutorial charges are fair and examine new charges carefully.

3:27. Next up on the panel is Shane Kadidal, his works focuses on the Material Support Statute, passed in 2006. Works like economic embargoes against countries against whom the US is at war.

Shayana Kadidal is senior managing attorney of the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City. He is a graduate of the Yale Law School and a former law clerk to Judge Kermit Lipez of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. In his eight years at the Center, he has worked on a number of significant cases in the wake of 9/11, including the Center’s challenges to the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay (among them torture victim Mohammed al Qahtani and former CIA ghost detainee Majid Khan), which have twice reached the Supreme Court, and several cases arising out of the post-9/11 domestic immigration sweeps. He is also counsel in CCR’s legal challenges to the “material support” statute (decided by the Supreme Court last term), to the low rates of black firefighter hiring in New York City, and to the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program. [Source: CCR]

Shane is talking pretty quickly—so instead of mis-paraphrasing his explanation of Material Support Statute, here is information about the bill directly from his organization’s website:

The “material support” statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2339B, makes it a crime (punishable by up to 10 years in prison) to provide “material support” to any foreign organization the Secretary of State has designated as terrorist.  “Material support” is defined in the statute to include almost any kind of support for blacklisted groups, including humanitarian aid, training, expert advice, “services” in almost any form, and political advocacy. The Patriot Act broadened these provisions in the wake of 9/11.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) contends that these material support provisions violate the First Amendment as they criminalize activities like distribution of literature, engaging in political advocacy, participating in peace conferences, training in human rights advocacy, and donating cash and humanitarian assistance, even when this type of support is intended only to promote lawful and non-violent activities. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court recently upheld the government’s broad reading of the statute to criminalize speech in the form of coordinated political advocacy. [Source: CCR]

3:34pm. This is an interesting panel, I especially appreciate the legal/policy review of issues at hand. Hopping over to check out another session.

3:41pm.  Ducked into a session: “Seeing is Believing: Visual Storytelling Best Practices”. The speaker Liz Banse is showing photo slides and providing comments on effectiveness in relaying a message.

Liz Banse, Resource Media communications specialist w/ a love for the visual. @RMedia. If I’m not here, find me in the mountains w/ my family. @lizbanse

3:45pm. Liz notes that a photo featuring a closeup of an individual who is looking directly at the camera is among the most compelling. She shows this National Geographic cover, the most popular of all NG covers.

3:47pm. Liz notes that what often moves audiences is awe and inspiring images rather than jarring or disturbing images. “Humans have an optimism bias”-Liz Banse
3:49pm. If you are trying to create a campaign for fundraising, support try introducing a single person and tell their story through a compelling image. People characteristically give more money when they are introduced to an individual versus through a mass/group.
3:51pm. As an exception to the above, images of protests and rallies are effective.
3:53pm. Final recommendation, after you find the right picture, make sure it is ‘packaged’ or staged well.  Liz mentions the idea of a “confirmation bias” re: websites. I.e. once our mind has made a decision, it is challenging to change your mind.
3:54pm. The laptop is on its last 2% of power with no power source within reach. Signing off for now, thanks for reading.
[This posted has been updated for minor edits and to correct the day of the liveblogging]

 

On June 18th, MIT-Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB) hosted its monthly event on virtual currencies, titled “Virtual Currencies: Gold Rush or Fools’ Gold. The Rise of Bitcoin in a Digital Economy” at the Stanford Law School campus, Munger Conference Center of Paul Brest Hall.For social entrepreneurs, virtual currencies represent new potential for the democratization and distribution of funds to further local and international work. As startups such as Coinbase, Ripple, and dozens of others, are building payment rails & making math-based currencies more accessible and usable for a broader base of users—there is a real opportunity for social enterprise to take notice and action as early adopters. This can be through accepting funding via bitcoin or other math-based currency, transacting via virtual currency, building crowdfunding sites that allow portions of raises to be made in bitcoin, and/or at the least become knowledgable about the topic and exploring its potential.To crowd of standing room only, the panel explored the topic of virtual currencies through various vantage points, with a focus on actionable discovery for entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors. The panel, pictured below, from the left included: Chris Larsen (CEO and Co-Founder, OpenCoin, the company developing the Ripple protocol), Fred Ehrsam (Co-Founder of Coinbase, a digital Bitcoin wallet), Wendy Cheung (Director of Compliance and BSA Officer, Silicon Valley Bank), Cameron Winklevoss (Principal Investor at Winklevoss Capital) and Tyler Winklevoss (Principal Investor at Winklevoss Capital)

VLAB Virtual Currencies #VLABvcurrency

VLAB Virtual Currencies #VLABvcurrencies

 

 




Event brochure

Virtual currencies (aka math-based or digital currencies or cryptocurrencies) are emerging forms and units of digital transaction, outside the realm of government regulation (so far, anyway). They usually can be transacted with virtual anonymity, and be transacted globally fairly quickly.

VLAB Virtual Currencies #VLABvcurrency

Infographic, adapted from Visual Capitalist, on Bitcoin

Bitcoin is the first such digital currency to gain traction. Created by a developer or group of developers named Satoshi Nakamoto (pseudonym) in 2009, today there are 11M bitcoins in circulation and the current market for Bitcoin already tops $1.5B. The currency itself is quite unique. Bitcoin are created (or “mined”) by computers completing complicated algorithms. The first to solve the algorithm and achieve the closest answer effectively claims an allocation of bitcoin. This goes on until the outer limit of 21M bitcoin are mined.

VLAB Virtual Currencies #VLABvcurrencies

VLAB Executive Chair, Ron Chavez, welcomes the audience 

VLAB is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit comprised of volunteers who pitch topic ideas that span innovation and disruptive technology and work in small teams to understand the space, identify controversies, and form an engaging panel.
VLAB Virtual Currencies #VLABvcurrency

Featured speaker, economist, and Stanford Business School professor Susan Athey introduces virtual currencies as an economic concept.

Professor Athey focused on four unique uses of virtual currencies as: a way to store value (especially in light of inflationary currencies); as a ledger; as a method of making anonymous transactions, and possibly as a basis for government monetary policy.

VLAB Virtual Currencies #VLABvcurrency

Moderator & Forbes Online Sr. Editor Kashmir Hill introduces her unique experience with Bitcoin, sushi, and cupcakes

Hill, whose work has lately focused on digital privacy took on a unique challenge in early May. She lived only on bitcoin for one week. She recapped challenges such as finding retail food locations beyond Cups and Cakes Bakery and Sake Zone sushi in SF. She recalled how things got interesting when her landlord didn’t accept rent in Bitcoin, causing Hill to have to find BTC-friendly housing for a few days.

 







Founder/CEO Chris Larsen (OpenCoin, Ripple) explains  math-based currencies and their potential to disrupt payment processing, exchange, and currencies

 

VLAB Virtual Currencies #VLABvcurrency

Panel discusses various topics related to virtual currencies, with questions posed by Moderator Kashmir Hill

VC’s Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss commented on the scope they see for math-based currencies as a disruptor to industries such as remittance. They own approximately 1% of bitcoin in circulation, and most recently funded a Bitcoin startup called BitInstant.

Wendy Cheung of Silicon Valley Bank spoke about state and federal compliance concerns relevant to bitcoin and math-based currency startups. SV Bank currently works with a number of startup companies in this space.

Fred Ehrsam (second from left) touched on unique challenges as a startup in the space. He co-founded Coinbase after noting efficiencies of current systems  as a foreign exchange trader on Wall Street. Coinbase  has had to navigate through the compliance and regulatory requirements and is poised to become the leading bitcoin wallet on the market.

Audience members could text in questions that were fed to the moderator’s iPad. Kashmir selected a few to ask to the panel and noted common questions. Of these a few popular questions were—directed to the Winklevoss investors—whether their firm would ever fund a startup using Bitcoin. Other questions asked about how mining for bitcoin actually works, and yet others touched on inherent limitations of a finite curency (i.e. There will be a total of 21M bitcoin available to be mined).

VLAB Virtual Currencies #VLABvcurrencies

You can view the video of the virtual currencies event when it is posted here

Events in the past year have included: the Founders’ Series, Collaborative Consumption, The Future of Diagnostics

, Commercial Drones

, Young Entrepreneurs

, Synthetic Biology

, Grid Energy Storage

, Software-Designed Networks

, and Gamification

.

VLAB Virtual Currencies #VLABvcurrency
[photo credit J. Fuqua]
A few of VLAB event team members with moderator Kashmir Hill

It was a wonderful experience co-chairing the event team for the virtual currencies panel with Frank Martinez (far right). A huge thank you and recognition to event team members including Edward, Jerry, Richard, Jenny, Tony, Lisha, Chethana, Prashant, Geeta, Luca, Jeanne, Michelle, and marketing team Siejen, Chitrak, Tom, Jae and the broader VLAB community.