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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.

 

Anthony shares video examples of transformative hip hop in his guest post, here

For many of us, music plays a huge role in our lives. It is the soundtrack to what do and think about. It is helps inform our memories. It can shift our mood and give perspective. It can make us want to dance. And, according to Anthony Pineda, it can be a powerful force for transformative social change.

Meet Anthony Pineda, Founder of Creatrix Institute

Anthony holds a Masters degree in Consciousness and Transformative Studies from John F. Kennedy University and is the Anthony Pinedafounder of Creatrix Institute. He is currently finishing a documentary on transformational hip hop—the culmination of over seven years of research and work.

Anthony has been a student of the effects of music and human consciousness since 1999, when he reflected on the role music played in his own life. Hip hop, specifically a genre dubbed ‘Conscious Hip Hop‘, transformed his outlook and personal and professional goals. It was a catalyst to his personal evolution and launched him on a path to deepening his understanding of the music and sharing its potential with others, especially kids.

In fact, Anthony has demoed a class called “Hip Hop & Poetry” in local middle schools and high schools in Silicon Valley. He designed a class specifically for emotionally disturbed students and used conscious hip hop as a way to connect, related, and help students move forward.

Starting with the music, he analyzes elements that make it conscious-raising and transformative, as well as creating ways to discuss themes of overcoming hardship and challenge through examining lyrics and message.

Conscious Hip-Hop: A Tool for Social Innovation?

Anthony firmly believes in the power of hip hop to be conscious-raising and in a word, transformative.

What struck me most about meeting Anthony over a year ago during the course of our New Leaders Council Fellowship in 2012, was his determination to create the life he envision for himself and share his knowledge and passion. From becoming a father at an early age to finding his voice and purpose in hip hop, he has worked against numerous challenges to pursue his education, develop his art, and set a meaningful example for his family. It is humbling to meet such a determined, committed proponent for social change.

I had a chance to sit down with him and discuss in depth his evolving view of music, hip hop, conscious hip hop, and the 2.0 version he calls transformative hip hop.

 

Q | When did the transformative/conscious hip hop movement begin?

Anthony Pineda, Founder of Creatrix: The movement of transformative hip-hop was in the beginning, in my opinion. Hip-hop began in America as a way to transcend socioeconomic and environmental situations. It was to expose the ills of society and a critique of what was happening on the streets of impoverished areas of America.

Some may argue that the golden age of hip-hop through the mid 90’s with Tupac began a new stage in conscious hip-hop. I believe it was created with this premise of being transformative, so the basic foundation of hip-hop culture is a conscious movement. I feel that transformative hip-hop is a new phrase I feel I am contributing to the academic discourse of hip-hop studies. People often use ‘conscious hip-hop’ or even ‘spiritual/positive hip-hop’ to define sub-genres of hip-hop music, yet transformative hip-hop denotes a process by which the music offers a new perspective to become self-aware and change one’s path.

 

Q | How can someone get involved in the movement?

Anthony: First, I think its important to note that hip-hop is a global youth culture and most of our youth are in fact involved with the movement. The way to get most involved in the movement is to become a practitioner of the craft or culture. To be involved means to act, and action can occur in many ways. For me, becoming not only an emcee, but to actively engage my community and help facilitate dialogue regarding hip-hop as a way to educate youth is part of my path within the movement.

 

Q | Tell us about the film project and what you hope to accomplish with its release?

Anthony: So the film represents the story/narratives of Hiphop music and culture. The power of Hiphop to save the minds and lives of people who use it to evoke their consciousness. We are looking at the impact of the music to be transformative and educational.

The main themes are education, spirituality, and story. The therapeutic implications of Hiphop are innate, so perspectives will solidify the current and ongoing research of Hiphop within institutions and systems. We are interested in personal stories with the youth and desires to expand Hiphop culture as a main aspect towards educational aspirations and what would it mean to include Hiphop in schools with structure and curricula. I have been documenting hip-hop in my life for 7 years and this film is the culmination of my transformation and research.

I hope that people begin to question the stereotypes of hip-hop and what we can accomplish with hip-hop in schools and around the globe. I also hope people acknowledge the power of lyrics in hip-hop to advance human consciousness. I want this to be the first installment of future projects on hip-hop research in visual form and to continue to document what it means to be hip-hop and what our responsibilities are to youth and their development. Hip-hop is more then entertainment and culture, it is a way of life and a spiritual practice by which people transform.

 

Gene Takagi has been a friend of Innov8Social nearly from the start. He demonstrates a dedication to nonprofit and social enterprise law and uses social media in innovative, nuanced ways. It was a pleasure to interview him and learn more about his path into the the social enterprise law space as well as the future he sees for the field.

Meet Gene Takagi

Gene TakagiGene is a leading attorney in the nonprofit law space and is an active voice for social impact on social media.

He is the Managing Attorney of NEO Law Group (Nonprofit & Exempt Organizations), based in San Francisco, CA. His presence on social media includes regularly blogging on the Nonprofit Law Blog and tweeting as @Gtak. He also posts a weekly series called “Nonprofit Tweets of the Week“.

Listen to the Interview

Interview with Gene: key takeaways

How did you get involved in social enterprise law?
  • Gene started as a science major in college, graduated with degrees in Zoology and Oceonography
  • First worked in for-profit sector, including role in operations of Duty Free Business in San Francisco.
  • Realized he wanted to work in non-profit sector
  • Then pursued graduate studies in non-profit
  • Worked at SPCA in San Francisco, learned about the power of advocacy
  • Attended law school to develop skills in nonprofit law school
  • Worked at a big law firm as an associate in corporate and securities law, leading him to reassess his interest in working in nonprofit law
  • So, started own law practice focusing on nonprofit 8 years ago
What role do you see social media playing in the nonprofit/social enterprise space?
  • Plays a huge role in sharing of information, potential development of networks, collaboration among organizational leaders—it is already showing an impact
  • In social enterprise law space, however, there aren’t currently a lot of players on social media—why? Lawyers tend to be risk-averse and there are not many attorneys in this space.
  • However, for small firms/solo practice firms—they can share more valuable information that can be helpful and informative. There is more of a willingness to share over social media.
  • Tries to get the conversation started about key issues in the space through his social media
What do you think of new legal structures for social change? 
  • The movement is tremendously valuable and the time has come
  • Sees a gap between for-profit and nonprofit that new legal structures might fill
  • It is incredibly valuable
  • There is a misconception that as a board member of for-profit, the primary purpose is to maximizing shareholder valuable. Gene doesn’t think that is exactly true, but notes that there is a grey area in how board members can promote social cause.
  • On a case by case basis, it can be more challenging to recommend a new structure because of the lack of case law and untested treatment by courts, ability to attract institutional investors
What tips or advice do you have for social entrepreneurs who are considering what legal structure to adopt?
  • Become educated about the process
  • Read For Love or Lucre, Stanford Social Innovation Review which outlines some key considerations and options for traditional and new legal structures
  • “Hybrid” legal structures used to refer to situations in which for-profit and nonprofit entities were affiliated in some way
  • Talk to a knowledgeable consultant or attorney early in the process before setting your heart on a particular structure
Do you have any tips for new attorneys, JD’s, and policymakers interested in the social enterprise space?
  • First off, follow your passion into the social enterprise space
  • You can maintain a traditional career and also start working with clients in the nonprofit space
  • If seeking to work at a traditional firm, get tax and corporate securities background before joining a firm dedicated to nonprofits
  • If you do engage in a solo or small firm practice, cultivate a business acumen so you can effectively run a practice
  • Invest in your networks and developing knowledge in the social enterprise law

Miss an Innov8Social interview? Here is a list of Innov8Social interviews with thinkers and doers in social innovation—including social entrepreneurs, members of academia, attorneys, legislators, media personalities, impact funders, and those in search of solutions.

 

Innov8Social Interviews

 

What does Janelle Orsi have in common with the Dalai Lama, Buckminster Fuller, Mahatma Gandhi, and Dr. Seuss? She joins them as one of 100 individuals named on the (En)Rich list of inspirational leaders whose work contributes to a sustainable future.

I was introduced to Janelle by Jenny Kassan last year—they both co-founded the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) in 2009. Based in Oakland, California, SELC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides legal resources, education, and advocacy to support more sustainable, localized, and just economies.

Meet Janelle Orsi, a leading attorney for the sharing economyJanelle Orsi

Janelle continues to actively run SELC, serving as its Executive Director. She also manages a law practice focused on meeting the needs of the sharing economy.  The sharing economy encompasses social enterprises, collaborative consumption startups, local food initiatives, cooperatives, and co-housing projects that are shifting the way we seek, use, and spend on products, services, and space.

How is Janelle a leading attorney in the space? She wrote the book on the topic, literally.

In 2012 ABA published her latest book, “Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy: Helping People Build Cooperatives, Social Enterprise, and Local Sustainable Economies”.

Listen to the interview

I had a chance to catch up with Janelle for the first time at a coffee shop in downtown Oakland, along with SELC staffer and law apprentice Christina Oatfield in 2012. More recently, we sat down to learn more about her path to social impact law, her interest in the sharing economy, and the future challenges and successes she envisions.

Key Takeaways:

  • Janelle was originally interested in defending juveniles in the court system
  • Her focus shifted after taking a transactional law class taught by Professor Bill Kell at Berkeley
  • She then looked at the types of organizations that impact change—and focused on shared resources (i.e. car-sharing, shared housing, food cooperatives, etc.)
  • She started her own practice in “sharing law” out of law school because this was an emerging field
  • She has been surprised by barriers encountered in sharing economy—regulations that were intended to protect, but don’t fit will in highly-collaborative, highly-democratic sharing initiatives
  • Has seen that even in the past 3 years, we have gone from not using the phrase “sharing economy” to an explosion of the use of the phrase. She foresees the sharing economy and social enterprise will bump up against the existing law, causing law to evolve to include these new ways of thinking of consumption and business.
  • Her advice for attorneys and law graduates interested in this field: start a law practice

 

SELC goal: raise $300K in 2013

SELC has some exciting projects it is working on, including building a legal apprenticeship program, hosting a regular “legal cafe” to make law more accessible to those in the community, and working on legislation to legalize cooperative housing. An overarching goal for SELC is to raise $300K in 2013.

Learn more in the cartoon (ahem, with narration and guitar by Janelle!)

Jenny Kassan is a pioneering attorney in the social enterprise space. I first met her two years ago when she delivered an insightful presentation at the San Jose Green Business Academy. There, she detailed ways that social entrepreneurs can raise capital.When we met last, she recapped her involvement with the federal crowdfunding legislation (part of the JOBS Act), which at the time was still making its way through Congress. (See her Huffington Post article here). Since then, the bill has passed and is awaiting official rule details from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Meet Jenny Kassan, a pioneering social enterprise attorney

Jenny is incredibly personable, experienced, and passionate about connecting law, sustainability, and small businesses to create Jenny Kassansocially responsible ventures. She is the CEO of Cutting Edge Capital (check out their great blog), and a Partner at Katovich & Kassan Law Group.

It was a sincere pleasure interviewing Jenny for Innov8Social. It was an opportunity to hear more about her path to social enterprise law,  her interest in pushing for equity crowdfunding for non-accredited investors, her current work with creating new financial tools, and advice she has for individuals entering the social enterprise law and policy space.

Listen to the interview

A few interesting takeaways:

  • After law school, Jenny became interested in community development
  • Saw that law alone didn’t necessarily help individuals in disadvantaged communities—legal remedies do not always address the root of issues
  • Completed a Masters in City Planning after law school
  • Worked at community development nonprofit, Unity Council for 11 years, in the commercial district in Oakland
  • Loves working with small business owners
  • Joined John Katovich’s firm and worked to find new ways for small businesses to pursue financing
  • Launched Cutting Edge Capital in 2011, focused on creative financing tools for social enterprises—with focus on raising funds from their communities
  • Direct Public Offering (or investment crowdfunding) is a financial tool small businesses can use to raise funds: is legal, but must comply with strict legal compliance guidelines, open to accredited (wealthy) and non-wealthy investors
  • Suggests law students interested in social enterprise law take classes and electives in corporate law subjects

 

Big news for Cutting Edge Capital!

*Note: Since our interview, Cutting Edge Capital successfully raised $150K in a Direct Public Offering of their own. Congratulations! You can contribute until July 1, 2013. More information here.

Visit D-Prize.org and your bound to do a double take when posed with the question:

“If you were awarded $20,000, how would you fight poverty?”

I had a chance to learn about this innovative program that identifies and funds promising social ventures that are still at an idea phase through a conversation with Nicholas Fusso. Nicholas serves as Program Director of D-Prize.

Q & A with Nicholas Fusso, Program Director of D-Prize

Nicholas FussoWhat is D-Prize?

[Nicholas Fusso] D-prize is a competition program to identify top social entrepreneurs focused on innovative initiatives for distribution.

It was launched by Andrew Youn, of One Acre Fund. Andrew has been working with African farmers to help them become more sustainable. Since One Acre fund started in 2006 it has expanded in scope and scale, now serving over a 100K families.

Through his work at One Acre Fund, Andrew became increasingly frustrated because he saw easy solutions to major problems but they were not being scaled & distributed effectively. He and a few co-founders launched D-Prize to focus on the distribution end of the social enterprise equation. The “D” in D-Prize stands for “distribution equals development”.

How does D-Prize work? Is it an accelerator program?

[Nicholas] D-prize is not necessarily an accelerator program. It is a mechanism to fund ventures that are at the idea stage.  Entrants are considered based on: (1) distribution-focused venture; 2) that can radically scale up (i.e. create massive amounts of impact). Ideal candidate will read the description and come up with concept that meets (1) and (2) and then can apply for D-Prize.

D-prize applications are generally accepted on a rolling basis. Our first round of applications was due April 30, 2013, and we received over 300 applications.  The next deadline for applications for the Fall 2013 cohort will be November 30, 2013.

What are the requirements for candidates? U.S.-based? Proven Model?

[Nicholas] There is no geographic requirement, however, solutions have to be launched in developing areas. The organizations that D-Prize looks to fund are generally highly proven, and just need innovative methods of scaling and distributing solutions. The other skill we look for is the ability of the founders to listen and find out what people need in the area.

How is D-Prize funded?

[Nicholas] By the co-founders & colleagues.

How is D-Prize structured?

[Nicholas] It has applied for non-profit status.

Tell us a little about yourself

[Nicholas] I have been in the role of Program Director since February 2013. When I started, D-Prize had already  published and launched the first competition program, and interested applicants had about 5 weeks to submit an idea. We had an aggressive schedule but were able to identify entrepreneurs in that space.

A little about me…I studied political economics in college and had a lot of friends with idealistic goals pursue nonprofit and ngo-work. I was one of the few to go into business. My first social enterprise was right out of college, called “Sustainable of Sexy.” The mission was to educate people of coffee-drinking habits, especially sustainability of coffee-related goods, such as coffee cups. We took the problem on from a business perspective, trying to show how reusable coffee cups could be better for business all-around. We had a blog, and received some great press coverage. The whole experience really excited me about entrepreneurship. D-Prize was a great fit and has been an exciting experience.

What do you see as the connection between enterprise and impact?

[Nicholas] I see entrepreneurship as the surest path to sustainable development.

How is funding disbursed?

[Nicholas] People submit a 1st round application, then if its a good fit will invite them to a final round. Selected finalists will receive $10-20K funding. Payment method will be Lump sum or in parts, based on what makes more sense for the concept and work. It’s important to determine what type of venture to figure out how to fund. (i.e. build website, market, etc.). D-Prize does not necessarily take an equity stake. The amount of funding is partially based on the budget that applicants must include as part of the final application.

What are you looking for in D-Prize candidates?

[Nicholas] Measurable impact, and lots of it. Whether applicants are non-profit or for-profit, we look at whether they are committed to creating responsible change—that it part of their core business, and not just a consideration. Finally, we are look for ideas that are transformational in their approach to meeting the distribution challenge.

How does a team apply?

Visit the D-Prize competition page for deadlines, etc. and download the application packet.

[Note: This post has been updated to reflect that D-Prize may not necessarily take equity stake in startups.]

Through a confluence of interesting happenings, I had the chance to do a quick phone interview with Gary Vaynerchuk, social media headliner, last month. It. Was. Awesome.

Gary talks social entrepreneurship. Listen in.

 
A few notes: this was done on Google Voice, so you will hear the “start recording” message. You will also hear the runaway guest star of the interview, i.e. Gary’s GPS.

Takeaways:

  • Gary’s thoughts on social cause marketing–It is at an interesting point in maturation. Business people are leveraging cause marketing, not sure if it’s a good thing–will it cause consumer cynicism?
  • Business models that have caught Gary’s attention: buy one, give one is clever, so is giving percentage of retail price. He is more concerned about the passion of founding entrepreneurs of a startup—how are they evangelizing the message of impact + business?
  • Social enterprises Gary likes: Warby Parker, charity: water

 

Gary Vaynerchuk, a household name after 2008 TED Talk

A little background on Gary, and my sincere enthusiasm in having a chance to chat with him. Gary has been a household name for me and my entrepreneurial siblings since we watched his TED Talk  —“Do What You Want (no excuses!)”— about a year after it was posted.

To be fair, I think we were as captivated by his passionate, colorful speaking style (note emphasis of phrases such as “please stop doing that!” and “there is no reason [in 2008] to do $#@! you hate!”)  as by the clarity of his message. [tune in, esp. to 25-55 sec :]

There is something refreshing about his vigor and unapologetic, no holds bar approach to entrepreneurship. He went all in for his new venture, saw traction, and was committed to making it grow. Let’s just say, at moments demanding inspiration, I have tuned back in to this talk—and maybe even joined him in some of his memorable phrases.

A book, another two, and an empire

Since those early days of breaking into the social media scene, Vaynerchuk has attained certain celebrity status among social media superstars. There was the first book in 2009, Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion, which was well-received and frequently quoted. The follow-up came just a couple years later.
The Thank You Economy and has been topping charts as a best-seller. Gary will be releasing his latest book this year,  Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy, Social World.


Gary V’s empire now expands beyond WineLibrary TV to include books, a social media consultancy, and investments in upcoming startups. He frequently headlines large social media events and conferences, is popular for his candor and humor, and is unabashed in giving advice to new entrepreneurs. (See him give his two cents to this entrpreneur at a talk at 59:00: warning, expletives)

What would Innov8Social have to ask Gary Vaynerchuk?

Gary Vaynerchuk does not profess to be a social entrepreneur, so why interview him for Innov8Social?

As has been mentioned before, in this blog’s authentic exploration of social innovation, I have found (repeatedly) that one of the hardest part of social entrepreneurship is being an entrepreneur. It is the initial hurdle.

Whether you are enterprising for money, world domination, or social good—there is a pervasive emphasis on taking on the challenge with an entrepreneurial mindset. And that’s why Gary Vaynerchuk was a great candidate to continue and deepen the exploration. In a few words (some of them likely four-letter) he can get to the heart of the matter when it becomes to being an entrepreneur.

Notably, not every entrepreneur needs to be like him. Not by a long shot. But there is an infinite depth that can be learned from his enthusiasm, belief, and strategic thinking when it comes to launching and growing enterprises.

 

Gary shares what he really thinks about Innov8Social

As you may have noticed from the audio interview (above) we spent part of our 15-20 minutes doing a Q&A for Innov8Social readers. The rest of the time I talked blogger-to-blogger with Gary. I caught him up on my efforts with Innov8Social at the meta level, asked his opinion of how I can focus on growing, and what would be “success” for this blog and effort.

As I anticipated (and hoped), he was frank and honest. From dealing with readership in hundreds of thousands of pageviews, and millions of clicks—Innov8Social is at best a humble effort. It was good to talk to him openly and pause for reflection on my efforts so far, and how Innov8Social can grow into the expansive vision I have for it.

Hope you enjoy listening to our conversation as much as I did having it., and that it provides a different perspective on how a through-and-through entrepreneur views social enterprise.

Interview with Kim Meredith, Stanford PACS

We have covered the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) website, the blog, a webinar, articles, and an event of Stanford PACS on Innov8Social. So it was a special experience to sit down with Kim Meredith, the Executive Director of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS)–the research center dedicated to studying social innovation and which publishes the SSIR.

PACS is an remarkable ecosystem supporting academic research in philanthropy & social innovation. It produces and crowdsources ideas and experience through the SSIR online and print publications, conducts webinars, hosts free live workshops, and supports emerging research in this evolving field.

Its leader, Kim Meredith, is in an instant warm, knowledgeable, and engaged in the nuances of the field as well as the overarching high-level topics surrounding social innovation, philanthropy, and community engagement. She shared her broad vision for PACS and SSIR, what drives her work, and how the broader community can stay connected with the important social impact work being done there.

You can hear Kim explain the mission and work of PACS in this brief video:

Q&A with Kim Meredith, Executive Director of Stanford PACS

What is PACS?

[Kim Meredith, PACS]: PACS is a research center for scholars, practitioners, leaders, and publisher of the SSIR, focusing on topics of business, law, education in civil society. It emphasizes cross-sector collaboration, forming cross-disciplinary discussions and relationships, to be a center of knowledge-creation and sharing. It has 3 full-time faculty co-directors with backgrounds spanning organizational behavior, Political Science, and Law.
Interview with Kim Meredith, Stanford PACS

How has PACS grown since its start?

[Kim Meredith]: PACS has seen remarkable growth in the past few years—both in size of the center and its reach. PACS started out employing one full-time faculty member and now employees nine employees, and has scaled six times in two and-a-half years.

What goals have guided your work at PACS?

[Kim Meredith]: I learned about the position opening through my daughter, who was attending Stanford at the time. The vision and goals put forth regarding PACS fit well with my executive experience at Planned Parenthood and I was enthusiastic about pursuing the growth potential of PACS.
The goals that have guided me have been simple:
  • Acquire SSIR, which was originally housed in the Stanford business school.  The addition of SSIR has facilitated a deeper degree of knowledge-sharing, and has brought that publication into the same building as other impact-related research initiatives.
  • Fund valuable research. I outlined this as a priority so as to establish PACS as a center of learning and knowledge creation. It has been remarkable to see the level of engagement and sharing that PACS represents today—through publications, curriculum, and events.
  • Go global.  Our team has been working closely with Peking University in China to create a research center for Stanford faculty, students, and field practitioners to research philanthropy and civil society in China. The efforts resulted in Stanford PACS Peking (note: read an interesting interview with Kim Meredith re: the Peking campus)

What kinds of events does PACS host?

[Kim Meredith]: Recent PACS events have included:
Philanthropy Educators Symposium: The largest-ever convening of philanthropy educators, hosted by the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS) in partnership with the Learning by Giving Foundation and Giving 2.0.
10 Years of SSIR: 10 year anniversary celebration with remarks by Paul Brest, PACS faculty co-director,and others
Donors Choose + charity: water: Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, Stanford PACS Founder and Board Chairman, leads a conversation with Charles Best, Founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org, and Scott Harrison, Founder and CEO of charity:water.
GoodJobs event: A challenge focused on open data, jobs, and the social sector. GoodJobs invites Stanford students to create mobile and web tools that will help young people access social impact jobs.

Who are the current faculty directors?

[Kim Meredith]: Stanford PACS is guided by three thought leaders in the impact space.
  • Woody Powell, Professor of Education and by courtesy Sociology, Organizational Behavior, Management Science and Engineering, and Communication;
  • Rob Reich, Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty Director of the Program on Ethics in Society and, by courtesy, of Philosophy and the School of Education; and
  • Paul Brest, Professor of Law, Emeritus and Former Dean of the School of Law, and formerPresident of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

What is “civil society”?

[Kim Meredith]: It refers to what is popularly called the “third sector”, independent of government and business.

What is the role of foundations in philanthropic giving?

Interview with Kim Meredith, Stanford PACS
continued reading: Giving 2.0,
SSIR 10th Anniversary edition,
upcoming event flier…thanks Kim!
[Kim Meredith]: Foundations only account for about 14% of philanthropic giving. Individuals give the lion’s share, i.e. over 80%, of giving. Beyond monetary contributions, foundations are drivers of change, they raise awareness about key issues, and work strategically to achieve outcome-oriented action.

What is the “new social economy”?

[Kim Meredith]: It encompasses the space between public, philanthropic, and private sector. The new social economy often involves nonprofit, as well as hybrid structures, and has opened up a new kind of discussion about mission-based ventures.

Do you see funding institutions that embrace this venture philanthropy mindset?

[Kim Meredith]: Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (sv2) and Full Circle Fund are two funds that are actively engaged in this space.

What role do you think bloggers and entrants to the social innovation space can have? 

[Kim Meredith]: Bloggers and newcomers to this field can play a vital role in identifying, sourcing, and analyzing relevant, big data. There is an increasing need for qualified data, and writers and researchers in the field may be well-poised to address this need.
Answering these questions such as who is collecting data, how is it being collected, and where is it stored, creates an informed discussion about giving, philanthropy, and impact

Do you have any book recommendations?

[Kim Meredith]: Giving 2.0
and The Dragonfly Effect
are books that frame the social innovation and philanthropy issues and provide insight into emerging trends.

California holds a special place in the story of new legal structures for social enterprise. Not only was it the 6th state to pass benefit corporation legislation, it was also the first state to pass flexible purpose legislation—-in the same legislative term.

Meet Attorney Todd Johnson

One of the thought leaders in social enterprise law in California, and co-author of the FPC (flexible purpose corporation) law is R.Todd Johnson Todd Johnson. Todd is a Partner at Jones Day and is the Practice Leader of the Energy group of the firm where he focuses on Renewable Energy and Sustainability.

Todd has had a lengthy career serving social entrepreneurs, having represented companies such as SunPower, Embrace Technologies, GoodGuide, LaborFair.com, as well as Grameen Trust, and advising companies like Good Capital, Global Giving, and B Labs during his 25 year career at Jones Day. He also blogs at Business for Good.

Innov8Social had a chance to speak with Todd Johnson about his vision for the intersection of law, policy, and social enterprise; as well as the story behind California’s flexible purpose corporation.

Read the Interview

Q1 | Innov8Social:  How do you define social entrepreneurship?

A1 | R. Todd Johnson, Partner at Jones Day:

 Social entrepreneurship is applying the best tools of entrepreneurship to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems, in a way that people and the planet can flourish.

Q2 | Innov8Social:  Can you share the history of the flexible purpose corporation?

A2 | Todd Johnson :

In the late 1990’s as I started working with social entrepreneurs I noticed some dysfunction in the way the legal community thought about legal structures for social enterprises. The thinking was bifurcated…there was a 1 or 0 mentality on the subject, and there wasn’t much middle ground. Entrepreneurs were forced to choose between being a “for-profit” or a “not-for-profit,” terms loaded with baggage of what entities should and should not do.
Then, a shift started happening. Companies such as Salesforce championed a 1-1-1 model and other corporations, often spurred by institutional investors, adopted strong environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) measures. These innovations moved the for-profit model more toward a company doing good rather than merely minimizing harm.
Even these initial steps were cautiously taken. Companies like Google already had standing mottos of doing the least harm (i.e. “don’t be evil”) and certain sin stock filters on portfolios excluded vice-products such as tobacco, alcohol, etc.
I began working with the social enterprise PureVida Coffee in the late 1990’s, whose founders had new questions. For example, they wanted to know if you want to do something that is fully blended, what legal structure should you adopt?
As I started thinking about these issues, I met Jay Cohen Gilbert and others social enterprise thinkers at the Aspen Institute. He and B Corporation co-founders were beginning to develop the B Lab and B Corporation concepts.
In working closely on issues of social enterprise law, I saw a huge flaw in many corporate statutes. In California, for example, a social enterprise couldn’t even file Articles of Incorporation with a mission/impact driven statement of purpose. The fact that founders could not write in a purpose for their corporations was a major issue.
In 2005-2006 I did a study on constituency statutes for B Lab. Constituency statutes can be effective tools in legal tool kit; however, they don’t necessarily create transparency around stakeholder empowerment. And in all 31 states with constituency statutes, it is elective (i.e. Boards can abide, but are not required to).
In 2008, B Lab proposed a California constituency statute applying a “shall” requirement—to apply to all corporations. While I supported the idea that the market should allow for social enterprise, I was wary of forcing it on every corporation. A few entities, including the State Bar Association opposed the proposed law. 2008 was also the first year of major budget battles in CA (i.e. there were 99 bills that Gov. Schwarzenegger allowed to lapse, and vetoed by default). The governor didn’t comment on any of the vetoes, except for this one—he told the bill’s sponsor that he wanted a better bill, and wanted CA to be a leader.
I convened a meeting at our SF offices in Fall 2008. The robust discussions resulted in a working group of 10 lawyers including attorneys from large firms, smaller firms law firm, academics, nonprofit attorneys, and foundation attorneys who kicked off a multi-year effort to create a new statute for social enterprise.
In 2009, we published a draft of a new law and distributed it to 300 social entrepreneurs, organizations, thought leaders, and incubators, and received comments from many. In response, we made changes to the proposed legislation and prepared an FAQ to explain the changes made and those that were not made in response to comments. That FAQ remains available to this date, providing transparency in the trade-offs made in drafting the legislation. In 2010, California state senator DeSaulnier sponsored the bill. Unfortunately it was another budget battle bill year, and the bill didn’t proceed very far. In 2010, B Lab also ended up introducing their own legislation in MD and VT, and in 2011, introduced a version in California.
In 2011, both the benefit corporation and flexible purpose corporation legislation passed into law in CA. Since that time, fifteen states have adopted either a benefit corporation or social enterprise legislation that resembles FPC. And just two weeks ago, Delaware (the grand-daddy of all corporate laws), introduced legislation that is a hybrid between the benefit corporation and the flexible purpose corporation.

Q3 | Innov8Social:  What have you seen from the front lines of being part of social enterprise legislation?

A3 | Todd Johnson:

The structuring of social enterprise is in its infancy. We are in the rapid prototyping phase, and we should realize there will be failures. I think it is key to apply design theory in determining legal structure for social enterprise.
For me, the real test for these new legal forms will be whether they attract capital. Today, the jury is still out on that point. Most of the B Corporations that have institutional investor funding are traditional Delaware corporations or they are companies like Patagonia – owned and controlled by a founder with a passion around anchoring the mission. The key will be when capital flows freely into companies that are organized affirmatively to achieve blended value or the triple-bottom line and are structured to make that institutional, rather than subject to the will of the founder (which is always at risk of death, divorce or a change of heart).

Q4 | Innov8Social:  How do you help social enterprises determine the right structure for their business?

A4 | Todd Johnson:

When I discuss legal structure options with social entrepreneurs, I walk them through a “design tree” of options. It helps to evaluate the traits of each form against the needs of a particular business.
I personally don’t find tandem structures (using both a for-profit and a non-profit corporation) to be a good option, except in the situation of a “corner case”. Look, a startup is hard to launch on its own—without a social mission. Nine out of ten startups fail in the first two years. And social entrepreneurs aren’t just doing a start-up, but they are also trying to tackle some of the world’s hardest problems.Tandem structures lead to social enterprises doing all of that while living with the worst of both worlds—i.e. having to adhere to strict accountability of corporate law as well as IRS regulations.
However, some social enterprises have chosen a tandem model because tax deductible contributions are key to the business model. For example, Global Giving adopted a tandem structure; although I’m sure that Mari and Dennis could give founders an earful about the challenges of establishing and operating such a structure. In contrast, there seems to be a movement for social entrepreneurs to consider starting in a non-profit as a way to cover the soft costs of start-up, and then morphing into a for-profit once a product or business idea is fully baked. This is challenging and not for the faint of heart, even if it is possible. Embrace Technologies did something like this, but not without receiving hundreds of pro bono hours from a law firm to navigate the challenges. Also, it can be difficult and costly to move assets between entities–a business and nonprofit (i.e. you need 2 law firms, and huge transaction cost are major). At the end of the day, I think the administrative and operational costs of pursuing this route make it extremely unwise, except in the rarest of circumstances.

Q5 | Innov8Social:  Should CA still pursue a constituency statute?

A5 | Todd Johnson:

No, that’s crazy!
In mid-1980’s states introduced constituency statutes to be able to look at other interests besides maximizing shareholder value. So 31 states have passed them, but they were essentially anti-takeover tools. The idea of using them for social enterprises as a way to anchor the mission is no longer necessary in most cases, now that B Lab has been successful in getting alternative legislation adopted in so many states.
And we need to remember, no courts have ever looked at using constituency statutes as a way to anchor the social mission of a social enterprise. There is a risk that a constituency statute might not be effective to protect a corporation’s mission.

Q6 | Innov8Social:  What are your thoughts on how social enterprises should measure impact?

A6 | Todd Johnson:

First, let’s be clear. Social enterprise is not a sector! A social enterprise is a business deploying capital to solve problems/do good. Organizations that are making money and doing good are social enterprises. At its essence, social entrepreneurship is a “way” of doing business, rather than a type of business.
But that means that measuring impact depends on the type of business of a social enterprise. We can’t think of impact in a uniform way. For example, Change.org can measure impact by successful petitions. Embrace can measure the number of babies lives saved by the number of inexpensive infant incubators distributed. The folks at d.light can estimate the amount of kerosene not used in favor of their solar-powered LED lights and the health and environmental benefits.
It’s incumbent on the social enterprises to develop an impact strategy and a means for measuring and reporting that impact. Of course, as my examples note, this will be different for a base of the economic pyramid company than for a Western-focused technology company. And it will be hard for companies with a mission around personal transformation. But social enterprises need to own this issue as part of their business plan, and it must include looking and thinking about the unintended negative consequences.Bottom line: If social entrepreneurs want to attract impact investing money, then they need to have a well-developed impact story, developed using the same type of empathic design thinking they used to develop their service or product.

Q7 | Innov8Social:  What inspires your commitment to the social enterprise movement?

A7 | Todd Johnson:

My parents have always been very active in their communities and always modeled giving back. From the very beginning of my legal career I have sought out ways to give back.
At Jones Day, I run the renewable energy and sustainability practice—and that fits well with my passions.
But ultimately, I feel like that part of my responsibility–and others of us who are more established in the field (or just older)— to help build an ecosystem for the young lawyers passionate about this emerging arena.

Q8 | Innov8Social: What advice do you have for attorneys interested in practicing social enterprise law?

A8 | Todd Johnson:

First, there really isn’t such a thing as “social enterprise law.” The most important goal for any young lawyer passionate about this area must be to become a very good lawyer in a specific expertise – capital markets, mergers and acquisitions, venture capital and private equity, intellectual property, etc. Then apply that expertise to social enterprises. Initially, focus on becoming an expert.
Lawyers need to understand at the beginning of their careers that the trajectory of an attorney’s career is like an hour-glass—broad at the beginning, specialized as it develops, and broad in the later years — and prepare accordingly.note: photo of Todd was adapted from his LinkedIn photo.