How do you manage your charitable giving?

For many people donations are impulse investments—a friend is running a race to fund cancer research, you see a photo of animals being mistreated, a natural disaster impacts thousands of individuals and you want to do something, you strongly support a cause on principal and want to vote with your dollar.

Bright Funds, a New Way to Manage Charitable Giving

Bright Funds, an innovative social enterprise startup launched in 2012, takes an investment portfolio approach to charitable giving. Bright Funds is an online platform that makes the process of donating more like investing—where you can create an individualized portfolio, diversify your giving according to interests and causes, and research relevant non-profits within your selected “Bright Funds”.

Julie StreuliMeet Julia

Innov8Social had a chance to catch up with Julia Streuli, Head of Communications of the lean Bright Funds startup team to talk about the inspiration behind the idea, how the platform works, and what’s ahead for the company.

Read the Interview

Q1 | Innov8Social: What problem is Bright Funds addressing?

A1 | Julia Streuili, Bright Funds’ Head of Communications:

In talking to Julia her enthusiasm for the concept behind Bright Funds and its potential to shift how we think about charitable giving is immediately apparent.

Julia highlighted the fact that high net worth individuals and philanthropists often hire people to research nonprofits to receive donations, noting however; that there are not many tools available for the average individual to track, research, and design charitable giving.

She explained that Bright Funds provides an investment approach to individual giving to ensure that donor dollars are channelled to non-profits that are highly impactful. There is a certain pattern in giving: 1) choose where to give and, 2) give; however, missing from the usual equation is 3) find out what impact your giving had on the cause. Julia noted that Bright Funds closes that “feedback loop” between donating to a nonprofit and following up on the impact of your donation by featuring non-profits that have a track record of being highly impactful in certain core sectors.

Specifically, Bright Funds uses multiple lenses to identify impactful nonprofits including assessments from platforms such as: CharityNavigator, Charity Watch, Universal Giving, GiveWell, and Philanthropedia.Individual donors (i.e. Bright Fund investors) choose the percentage of giving for each of four broad sectors: water, poverty, environment, education, health, or they can choose their own fund of non-profits not included in the Bright Funds list.  They can then research and select specific non-profits that serve their interest in the sector.Julia said that creating a portfolio based on sector was by design—because it shifts the focus from charities to the causes they champion. By aligning yourself with causes that are important, you can better assess impact on the issue, rather than the organization.

Q2 | Innov8Social: What tools does Bright Funds offer?

A2 | Julia, Bright Funds:

Julia overviewed the quick protyping and release of Bright Funds offerings. The startup launched a consumer-facing site in 2012 on #GivingTuesday, enabling anyone to create a profile and begin designing and tracking their charitable giving—all for free. The team is now in the midst of launching an enterprise platform.

The enterprise tool integrates with a company’s benefits system. It lets employees design and track donations and customize the list of nonprofits featured. So far, Bright Funds has seen interest in the new tool by various Fortune 500 and mid-sized Bay area tech companies. Many companies already feature allocated giving programs, but most haven’t designed a holistic approach to help employees manage their giving. Bright Funds sees potential for more-effective platform for personal giving, that can allow for efficiencies such as direct deposit (from an employee’s paycheck) as well as utilizing a company’s donation-match policies.

Q3 | Innov8Social: How does Bright Funds vet the nonprofits featured in its funds?

A3 | Julia, Bright Funds:

As mentioned, Bright Funds has identified major five major categories, each of which form a different Bright Fund (i.e. there are currently 5 Bright Funds: water, poverty, environment, education, health, or customized fun).

If donors are interested in supporting a specific cause or effort, they can read through the descriptions of the non-profits for each Fund to identify the “facets” (or focus areas) for each non-profit and can select or deselect individual non-profits to support on that basis.

Julia noted that Bright Funds strives to be objective in selecting nonprofits to be in porfolio offerings. As mentioned, Bright Funds looks at 5 different insititutional charity evaluating bodies, each of which has its own criteria to identify funds. Pooling information from various assessment platforms enables a more holistic view of non-profits—so as not to favor more-established charities over newer ones, etc.

Notably, Julia added that consumers can add any nonprofit/favorite nonprofits. For companies, if they support a group of local nonprofits, Bright Funds can build company fund portfolio.

Q4 | Innov8Social: Can individuals support social enterprises in their Bright Funds portfolio?

A4 | Julia, Bright Funds:

Julia said that at this time, individuals cannot support a social enterprise in their Bright Funds portfolio. She noted that Bright Funds has a non-profit foundation, through which donation is channelled. So it is possible that a donation to social enterprise could go through the Bright Fund Foundation.

Q5 | Innov8Social: What legal structure has Bright Funds’ selected?

A5 | Julia, Bright Funds:

Bright Funds is structured as a for-profit startup and non-profit foundation. Specifically, the for-profit entity is a commercial fundraiser– which means that it has signed contracts with all charities in the fund to act as a fundraiser for the nonprofit.

Julia noted that originally both cofounders considered becoming a nonprofit, but wanted to be able to leverage the initial investment. The decision to become a commercial fundraiser was based on idea that 100% funds should be tax deductible.

Q6 | Innov8Social: Is Bright Funds scalable?

A6 | Julia, Bright Funds:

Julia noted that since Bright Funds is a cloud-based platform, it is relatively easy to scale.

Q7 | Innov8Social: How has Bright Funds been funded?

A7 | Julia, Bright Funds:

Julia shared that Bright Funds has been backed by investor funding. It closed its first round of funding from angel investors around time when consumer platform launched in 2012. It is also a portfolio company at Hattery in San Francisco. She also mentioned the immeasurable assistance and mentorship that Leila Janah, Founder of Samasource and Bright Funds Board advisor and mentor, has provided.

Q8 | Innov8Social: How is Bright Funds monetized?

A8 | Julia, Bright Funds:

Julia explained that with its commercial fundraising status, Bright Funds takes a percentage of the raise. And noted that the amount taken is often about half of what the non-profit would budget for marketing and attracting donations.

Note: This post was edited to clarify distinctions of categories and types of Bright Funds. 
Literacy is a deceptive statistic in America. As we covered earlier, though the U.S. appears to top the charts in literacy rates globally—the numbers don’t account for low literacy. This is a topic ripe for social innovation.

Knowji, an App for Literacy

The need for new ways to address literacy was not lost on the founders of the mobile app Knowji, Emmie and Nick Thomas. They began researching literacy in America and learned the stark statistics of effects of non-literacy and low literacy from the Digest of Education Statistics and National Institute for Literacy, and were not just alarmed—they were moved to action.
Emmie and Nick have taken an active role as social entrepreneurs to develop a comprehensive, gamified app that gives users multiple ways to learn new words. Illustrations give a visual cue, recorded audio provides another way to learn, and new words are provided with context, synonyms and “collocations” (i.e. examples of common phrases that utilize the word.)But this app is not like reading a dictionary—users are introduced to characters and led through various games and exercises to test their knowledge. It is a way not only to learn basic words but to continue expanding vocabulary with advanced words.
Innov8Social had a chance to sit down with Emmie Thomas, one of Knowji’s co-founders to learn about the app she helped create and the inspiration behind Knowji.You can check out the multiple Knowji offerings in Apple’s mobile App Store and try out the free trial version which has samples of the other offerings.

Meet Emmie

Emmie is passionate about literacy, in part because as a first-generation American, she has lived its reality.  After her family’s  Emmie Thomasmove to the U.S. she saw and experienced the challenges of building her own vocabulary, comprehension, and literacy. Her efforts paid off and she completed her undergraduate education at NYU in Business and Finance. She pursued a career in asset management, technology development, mobile sales, and business development for nearly two decades before setting her sights on something much closer to heart and central to her identity.
After hearing a commencement speech by Bill Gates in July 7, 2007 calling graduates to take action to address some of the world’s most pressing issues, Emmie began researching resources for developing and furthering literacy in English. She found existing tools to be linear and, on the whole, outdated. With emerging technology such as smartphone apps and tablets, she felt like there were better, more-tactile ways to learn and to teach.
Emmie, and her husband Nick Thomas–Knowji co-founder and CTO– set out to pursue a big idea. They wanted to make literacy learning fun, educational, and comprehensive through a series of apps that engaged users by introducing compelling characters, establishing storylines, and using data-driven techniques to achieve true learning.

Literacy as a Spectrum, Not a Checkbox

When we sat down to discuss the interview questions, Emmie introduced an interesting concept.She mentioned that through her research she had found literacy to be a spectrum rather than a checkbox. Though we feel compelled to adhere to statistics that gauge literacy as percentage points, in reality, she noted that there are levels and grades of literacy. People might pass the basic definition of literacy but may actually be competently illiterate—they may be able to read and write, but have a minimal level of comprehension so as not to be able to read and understand a set of directions, a contract, or a newspaper article. Emmie observed that these individuals often fall through the cracks of the education system and may never have access to tools and learning techniques increase and expand their comprehension to a functional level.

Read the Interview

Q1 | Innov8Social: What drew you to create education and literacy apps?

A1 | Emmie Thomas, Co-Founder & CEO of Knowji:

Sure, I would like to begin by establishing what most people perceive when they think of the word “literacy” or “illiteracy”. We think of someone who cannot read or write at all, someone poorly educated. If we think of literacy in that context, the percentage of Americans who suffer from this is relatively small. However, if you include those who can read and write English in America but perform at the lowest level of literacy skills, approximately one in four American adults are functionally illiterate. Their literacy level is too low to perform basic functions in the workplace like paying bills, understanding legal and financial documents and using technology.
The effect this has on those people and society as a whole is staggering, and we feel that there is a real opportunity to make a difference. To date, we have published a set of 12 Apple iOS apps to help move people beyond functional illiteracy and all the way to advanced literacy such as teaching words for the SAT and GRE. Now we’re in the process of building more content for future apps. In particular, we are developing content to help people, specifically ESL/ELL people who are below functional illiteracy level in English.

Q2 | Innov8Social: Tell us a little about how Knowji started and its mission?

A2 | Emmie, Co-Founder of Knowji:

It was really a confluence of two events that gave birth to the idea of Knowji. Firstly, I was considering going to grad school at the time and found myself struggling to build my vocabulary for the GRE exam. I had thousands of words to learn and I was struggling to remember them all, and I found myself unnecessarily wasting a lot of time and effort in studying. At the same time, I was at an inflection point in my life where I felt a strong need to find work that was meaningful and fulfilling. This led me to explore and research different ideas, and out of that I found those ideas around education were the most compelling and fulfilling to me. I think the reason for this is because my family value education so highly. Education is the ticket to opportunity, to freedom, and it’s a great equalizer. My parents came to America specifically so their children would have the opportunity to go to college.

So the combination of these two events led me to the idea of starting a company that could work on problems in education. The reason we honed in on verbal development is because of the struggles I personally experienced and witnessed growing up in New York City. These are problems people often live with all their lives. However, with the right learning tools, these are problems that can easily be addressed. That’s the opportunity we’re excited about. I know since I started using Knowji myself, I have found myself to be a better communicator and writer. In today’s online and social world, having the ability to communicate well is crucial to success.

Our mission is to leverage technology and innovative content to bring affordable high quality education to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Q3 | Innov8Social: What drew you to create education apps?

A3 | Emmie, Co-Founder of Knowji:

In addition to what I said earlier, I feel strongly about empowering people in a way that is sustainable. Since I was a small child growing up in New York City, I’ve often pondered the question of how we can help lift people out of poverty, and thus reduce violence and suffering in homes and communities. I still think about this question, almost every day, and the solution that most resonates with me is this famous quote, “you feed a man a fish, you feed him for a day. You teach a man to fish, you feed him a lifetime.”

Q4 | Innov8Social: Where do you think the greatest opportunities are for the meeting place of technology + education?

A4 | Emmie, Co-Founder of Knowji:

This is a great question. We see four opportunities: Self-paced learning, adaptive and customized learning, distance learning, and mobile learning.

a) Self paced learning. Today technology can empower people to learn at their own pace. We see this in the results from people using our apps. Some of our users take two to three times longer to learn a word than others. In a traditional classroom, all students at the same age are under pressure to learn at the same pace. What if instead learning was self-paced? Students could self study while teachers are freed up to spend their time helping students through difficult problems.

b) Adaptive Learning. This is an area of opportunity that takes learning to a whole new level. Computers can aid in learning in ways that are humanly impossible to do. For instance, a computer can perform complex mathematical algorithms that generate a personalized curriculum tailored to the exact needs of each student. It can track an unlimited number of answers and behaviors from each student year after year, and at any time crunch all that data instantaneously to figure out the best lesson at that precise moment for a student’s learning style or ability. So a computer can perform tasks in scope and dimension that are humanly impossible, and therefore in the domain of education, become an amazingly powerful personal tutor in a way that was never before possible. I should add, we don’t for a moment imagine this usurping teachers in the classroom, but we certainly see it as an incredibly powerful tool to augment classroom teaching, and further empower students.

Our apps are a version of this personalized adaptive learning, though on a smaller scale. Based on a student’s interactions, our app presents words that the student is struggling with more frequently than other words. The app also calculates an optimal time when the student should drill each word so as to maximize their memory retention of the words. We’ve really just begun in terms of the complexity of our adaptive learning algorithm. Yet despite that, our apps are already helping people learn and remember hundreds of words in just a few weeks.

c) Distance Learning. Teachers and professors are no longer required to be physically located in the same classroom as their students. High quality education is now available to millions if not billions of people across the globe – either for free or at a substantially reduced rate. We’re already seeing this with companies like Khan Academy, Uadacity, and universities like MIT and Stanford that are spearheading this change.

d) Mobile Learning. With a mobile device, anyone can learn any time and anywhere. This is a very exciting opportunity when you consider that one in five adults on the planet cannot read or write. That’s 1.5 billion people. What if we could equip every child with a mobile device like an iPod Touch or an iPad that doesn’t require a persistent Internet connection? They could receive education even if they have to work to support their family. Studying a few minutes every day could empower a child to become literate, and who knows, that could open up for them the possibility one day of college.

Q5 | Innov8Social: What trends in education technology excite you?

A5 | Emmie, Co-Founder of Knowji:

If I had to pick one, I would pick mobile learning. However, I think the fusion of trends I mentioned is what makes it an extremely exciting time to be working in this area.

Q5 | Innov8Social: What advice do you have for other social entrepreneurs starting out in the education technology sector?

A6 | Emmie, Co-Founder of Knowji:


  • Always pick a problem/solution space that you are already intimately familiar with. I think it is really hard building something great if you don’t intimately understand the problems of your users or customers.
  • Have someone on the team who knows how to market and network in your target market. So for instance, selling to K12 schools has been a challenge for us because no one on our team had the connection or experience selling into K12 schools. We’ve had to build those connections as we go along. That takes a long time.
  • Finally, be very committed to your cause because this will help you stay on course when the going gets tough. And it will get tough!


Q7 | Innov8Social: Social entrepreneurship comes in different flavors. There are non-profits and for-profit companies. Why did you not choose to make Knowji a non-profit entity since it has such a social mission?

A7 | Emmie, Co-Founder of Knowji:

We thought through this question carefully when we started the company, and our decision ultimately came from a two important principles. First we want to be a self-sustaining organization, one that doesn’t require us to seek donations. Secondly, we aspire to be a company that will one day inspire other companies to do good and do well at the same time.

Innovation is not effective when seen as a sedentary object that be passed from company to organization, or that merely serves to accessorize an office desk or town hall meeting.

Innovation is better understood when seen to be a living, breathing entity that mixes, blends, challenges and inspires impact in diverse industries, cultures, and organizations. Acknowledging this dynamic nature of innovation, two prominent institutes known for teaching organizational strategy and process are teaming together to present the first conference of its kind.The 1st annual Strategic Execution Conference is is being hosted by IPS Learning and the Stanford Center for Professional Development on April 24-25th at the Hyatt San Francisco.

IPS Learning

Meet Tim Wasserman, Chief Learning Officer Tim Wasserman

The conference will bring together organizational leaders and change agents to discuss, explore, and connect on issues surrounding organizational strategy, execution, experience, design, and impact.Innov8Social had a chance to talk to Chief Learning Officer and key organizer of the conference, Tim Wasserman. In his role, Tim also serves as Program Director of the Stanford Advanced Project Management program, where he teaches a number of courses.

How do Strategic Execution and Innovation Connect?

In explaining how the conference came to be, Tim emphasized that IPS and Stanford already have a fourteen year partnership centered around teaching strategy and execution. Additionally, the entities collaborate to offer a Stanford Advanced Project Management Certificate. Tim mentioned that over 4500 students have ‘graduated’ from the certificate program, and nearly ten thousand individuals have taken participated by taking a course in the subject.

He explained that many graduates from the program inquired about how to connect with others in the field, other graduates, and to learn about the ‘real world’ application of strategic execution theory outlined through the coursework.

And thus, the seed for the conference was planted.

Who Should Attend the Conference?

Participants and graduates of the Stanford Advanced Project Management Certificate program are encouraged to attend. Additionally—since the focus is on real-world application and learnings—executives and leaders in of social enterprises, companies, and non-profits would not only gain but also be able to add value to the ongoing conversation about execution and process.

What Should an Participant Hope to Gain from Attending?

The conference organizers recently released the official agenda for the Strategic Execution Conference.  For social innovators, the Wednesday afternoon keynote speech by Nike’s former Sustainability Innovator, Darcy Winslow—will be of interest.

Since the field of strategic execution and process has been evolving and developing for a over a decade, social innovators can also stand to learn by asking questions about how project managers measure impact, and how project management differs and parallels when applied to social enterprise.

You can find out more about the conference and register on the Strategic Execution Conference website.

Special Offer for Innov8Social Readers

The organizers of the Strategic Execution Conference are offering Innov8Social readers a special offer for the event.
Enter the promotion code SECINNOV8 when you register to receive:
  • $1995 special rate, discounted from the original $2395 list rate (savings of $400)
  • One night free hotel at the Hyatt Regency (location of the conference)

Meet Jonathan Storper, Attorney in Sustainability

Innov8Social had the chance to speak with Jonathan Storper, a Partner at the well-established law firm Hanson Bridgett and lead attorney of the firm’s Sustainable Business Practice. Jonathan was instrumental in drafting and supporting the benefit Jonathan Storpercorporation legislation in California through all stages of its development and passage.

To provide a little background, Jonathan has been a prominent voice and early champion of creating a new legal structure that recognizes impact-oriented goals in addition to profit.

Storper has been synonymous with the benefit corporation movement from its nascent stage. If you have been keeping up with Innov8Social since its start in May 2011 you may have read recaps and posts about events such as the Sustainable Enterprise ConferenceSan Jose Green Business Academy, and SOCAP11—events at which Jonathan presented or spoke about the topic. The support extended to his firm, Hanson Bridgett, which has been frequently listed in support of the legislation.

Read the Interview

Q1 | Innov8Social:  How do you define social innovation?

A1 | Jonathan Storper, Partner at Hanson Bridgett LLP:   I define it as any new venture or action that attempts to improve the human condition. Social innovation harnesses the creativity of humans to improve the human condition in some way.

Q2 | Innov8Social:  Was AB 361 (California’s benefit corporation legislation) the first piece of legislation you helped to write? What was your experience in drafting it?

A2 | Jonathan Storper:   The benefit corporation legislation, passed in October 2011 was not the first legislative effort I was involved with. The first was AB 2944 in 2008, which was a precursor to benefit corporation legislation.

That bill proposed that companies could consider multiple stakeholders (including interests of employees, the community, and the environment) when assessing the best interest of the corporation. It passed through the California State Assembly and State Senate but was ultimately vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.

I found it interesting to see how the legislature works, how support and opposition for legislation works, and how coalitions work.  It was wonderful to work on enacting policy. And, I saw first-hand that passing legislation is an iterative process.

The first bill, AB 2944, was essentially a constituency statute, as 31 other states have. The bill had significant opposition of a committee from the State Bar.

Hanson Bridget is a founding B corp member and was in contact with the B Lab family early in the process. The idea for the new legislation came from a conversation with B Lab.  In thinking about proposing new legislation, I wanted to be sure the new form was one that social entrepreneurs wanted, not something only attorneys wanted.

For AB 361, the team drafting the legislation was more ready and more aware of support and opposition. I learned from the prior experience that projects like these take longer than you think and really require coalition-building. I knew it would be vital to build a constituency and have a broad coalition even before working on the legislation, so we created a legal working group to draft and develop the legislation and process.

I am much more satisfied with what [the 2011 legislation] evolved to [from the 2008 version]. It is broader than a constituency statute and provides for accountability, transparency, consumer protection, and shareholder rights. Legislation is iterative and even the current benefit corporation may also need to evolve and change in the future.

Q3 | Innov8Social:  Would it still be useful to have a constituency statute in CA?

A3 | Jonathan Storper:   Having a constituency statute would be great because it would encourage boards to do more for social and environmental issues.

However, there is no assessment or reporting required with a constituency statute. Considering that new legislation such as the benefit corporation requires transparency, it may be more protective than a constituency statute. I’m not sure that a constituency statute for California is as necessary now.

Q4 | Innov8Social:  What advice do you have for social innovation-minded attorneys interested in policy and legislation work?

A4 | Jonathan Storper:    Don’t get discouraged. It may take longer than you think—but a few really dedicated people can make a difference, still. A few people and a few good ideas are able to harness exponential power of really good people, companies, and associations. Being involved in the process has renewed my faith in the legislature.

If you choose to work for a firm, find one that encourages pro bono work. I am grateful to be part of a firm that supports pro bono work. Being so involved with the legislation has also been helpful to the firm. I have incorporated a number of benefit corporations, in fact–just one earlier today.Q5 | Innov8Social:  How has the passage of benefit corporation legislation and flexible purpose corporation affected your legal practice?

A5 | Jonathan Storper:   It has been interesting. I always tell people who are interested in converting or starting a social enterprise about the usual customary forms as well as flexible purpose corporation and benefit corporation. About 2/3 or 75% of social enterprises that have chosen one of the two new structures has elected to to structure as a benefit corporations. The choice to do so is more aligned with the already-existing mission/practice of the business.

I have been approached about new legal structures by companies such as an ad agency, music company, consumer product company, science fiction publisher, and education providers.

I have been asked to make presentations about the new structures, and found that I really enjoy the opportunity to speak and write about this topic.

Q6 | Innov8Social:  How do you see social enterprises measuring impact?

A6 | Jonathan Storper:   This is one of the biggest challenges for social enterprise. There are a number of different standard-setting organizations. This is unfortunate but is how our economy works.

It will take awhile for there to be a uniform way to measure impact, but will be valuable.

Q7 | Innov8Social:  What is next for you and Hanson Bridgett in terms of projects related to sustainability and social entrepreneurship…in 2013 and beyond?

A7 | Jonathan Storper:   A lot of attorneys interested in the area branch out and use their knowledge in sustainability to do different things. One of my Partners participates in Global Social Venture Competition at Haas.

My next goal is to come up with a best practices guide for benefit corporation in collaboration with UCLA’s School of Public Policy. I am interested in providing guidance on how a Board of Directors would approach a multi-stakeholder model.  We hope to provide guidance on how the Board can create an organization using assets that are tangible and intangible that help solve the human condition.

Accelerator programs have emerged as a popular way to experience the startup process, especially within the social innovation context. One of the most visited pages of Innov8Social is the expanding list  accelerator and incubator programs for social entrepreneurs.The ingredients for an effective accelerator program for social innovators appear to be:

  • a balanced combination of resources (in-kind and seed funding),
  • a focused purpose or social innovation niche,
  • a robust panel of mentors and supporters, and
  • a non-intrusive take (i.e. limited equity hold or monetary stake in the startup).

Meet Tumml, A New Urban Innovation Accelerator ProgramTumml

Tumml is a new social enterprise accelerator program that seems to fit the bill for success. Its focus is supporting urban innovation—that is, harnessing entrepreneurship to address issues related urban development. Tumml is poised to become a platform for meaningful social impact addressing the unique problems and issues that arise in city settings.

Tumml is structured as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and has received funding from sources including a grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and sponsorship from Accela.


julie and claraMeet Julie and Clara

Innov8Social had a chance to talk to one of Tumml’s Co-Founders, Julie Lein about the accelerator—which is a startup itself gearing up for its first cohort of startup teams.

Julie hails from a background dedicated to social innovation. After her undergraduate degree at Stanford, she pursued social impact through local politics and gained experience in polling and political consulting. She furthered her interest in social innovation through pursuing an MBA at MIT Sloan where she received the Sloan Social Impact Fellowship and Peer Recognition Award and served as Co-Chair of the MIT Sloan Women in Management Conference in 2012—where is also where she met her future co-founder and Tumml CEO Clara Brenner.

Interview with Tumml Co-Founder Julie Lein

Julie Lein
Q1 | Innov8Social:  What is Tumml?

A1 | Julie Lein, Tumml President and Co-Founder:  Tumml is an urban ventures accelerator, with the mission of empowering entrepreneurs to solve urban problems. As a nonprofit, Tumml’s goal is to identify and support the next generation of Zipcars and Revolution Foods. Through a four-month program, Tumml invites early stage companies into its office space to receive hands-on support, seed funding, and services to help grow their businesses and make a significant impact on their communities.

Q2 | Innov8Social:  What is the problem that the Tumml accelerator program is addressing?

A2 | Julie:  From growing obesity levels to a less competitive education system, our generation has a huge number of challenges to overcome. And, in the current economic climate, we cannot rely on government alone to tackle these problems. More than half of US cities canceled or delayed infrastructure projects in 2011 and 2012 was the fifth straight year of declining city revenues. These cuts are having profoundly negative impacts on the safety, education, mobility, and health of the 81% of Americans who live in and around cities.

Q3 | Innov8Social:  What do you envision as the solution?

A3 | Julie:   Urban impact entrepreneurs can fill an important role in the current economy. From Recyclebank to Alta Bike Share, entrepreneurs start companies that are nimble and scalable – and we believe that there should be more of them tackling urban problems.

Q4 | Innov8Social:   What are the unique challenges that urban impact entrepreneurs face?

A4 | Julie:  

1) They have trouble securing seed stage funding – In a Tumml survey of 106 entrepreneurs, 33% of traditional entrepreneurs had secured venture capital or angel investment, compared with only 15% of urban impact entrepreneurs.

2) They’re more than twice as likely to want to connect with civic and government leaders – These entrepreneurs aren’t looking to get hired or embed themselves in government, but they need help when it comes to navigating the urban landscape.

That’s where Tumml comes in. Applications launch in March — look out for it on our website at

Q5 | Innov8Social:   What inspired the launch of Tumml?

A5 | Julie:   My partner Clara and I met at MIT Sloan and co-directed the women’s conference. We had such a good time working together that we decided to start a company after business school. Clara came from a real estate and sustainability background, and I came from a local politics and polling background, so urban challenges were very core to both of our passions. And then Tumml was born!

(By the way, the name is Yiddish for a “shake up”, which Clara’s grandmother came up with).


Apply for the Tumml Accelerator Program

Applications to be part of the first cohort of the Tumml accelerator program for urban innovation, taking place from June 2013 to September 2013, will be available in March 2013. You can find out more on the Tumml program page.
Participants of the Tumml accelerator program will receive a few key benefits to help launch their urban impact idea, including:
  • $20,000 of seed funding (in exchange for approximately 5% equity)
  • $10,000 of in-kind resources including legal support, mentorship, and access to a co-working space
  • An opportunity to pitch to VC’s, angel funders, urban policy, experts, and potential customers and gain valuable feedback, as well as an opportunity to scale their projects

If you wonder what positive steps are taking place to support homeless populations in suburban areas, you just need to visit the Downtown Streets Team Facebook page to see uplifting updates.There is Joe who used to sleep under stairways, who now sleeps in his own home with his dog Mollie. There is Jesus (aka “Chuy”) who gained employment in catering and food services and completed his first shift earlier in February. There is Keceziner (sounds like “Cassina”) who found permanent housing through Downtown Streets Team and is enrolled in classes to become a pharmacy technician.

The FB page showcases many more examples of successful transitions, dedicated volunteers, and progress in the mission to address local homelessness.Downtown Streets Team

Meet Downtown Streets Team

Downtown Streets Team (DST) is an innovative 501(c)(3) non-profit organization envisioning creative solutions to addressing local homelessness. Looking beyond unhoused populations, DST collaborates with multiple stakeholders including social service agencies, government agencies, individual communities, private sector to empower, prepare, and equip unhoused individuals with the skills and resources that will make their transition a success.

Meet Andrew

Innov8Social had a chance to learn more about DST and its new social enterprise initiatives from Andrew Hening who oversees Employment Services and Social Enterprise at the growing organization.
Andrew Hening
Andrew studied Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia and interned at the Department of Economic Development in Richmond and clerked as a paralegal before heading west as an Americorps VISTA fellow. He worked on homelessness initiatives with the City of San Jose and continued his work in the field by joining Downtown Streets Team in 2011.
Andrew was a 2012 New Leaders Council Fellow and serves on the Steering Committee of Starlight REACH, a panel of local community leaders working on mental health outreach plans for local youth.

Andrew shared a little about the history of DST, a for-profit social enterprise arm that he is working on, and what is ahead for the organization.

Interview with Andrew Hening, Manager of Employment Services and Social Enterprise at Downtown Streets Team

Q1 | Innov8Social:   How do you define social innovation?

A1 | Andrew Hening, Manager of Employment Services and Social Enterprise at Downtown Streets Team:  For me, social innovation is any for-profit/non-profit/hybrid/program/project/initiative that deliberately looks beyond the profit motive and disrupts the status quo in order to address a societal challenge.

It is not just a company, for example, using environmentally mindful production processes because it is cheaper or the PR Department recommends it. Rather, it is a company that explicitly embraces going green in the mission statement and is trying to introduce a product or service that fundamentally changes the way we think about our relationship with the environment.

Q2 | Innov8Social:  What is the mission of Downtown Streets Team (DST) in Silicon Valley? How long has the organization been around?

A2 | Andrew:  DST strives to end homelessness by restoring the dignity and rebuilding the lives of unhoused men and women. Appreciation of other people ‘s own autonomy is essential, and to that end, we simply do whatever it takes to empower individuals to embrace their own change.

The program was created in Palo Alto in 2005 with just four Team Members and a $25,000 budget. We are now in Palo Alto, San Jose, and Sunnyvale with almost 100 Team Members and a budget close to $2,000,000. Though more importantly perhaps, in every community we’ve entered, we have helped shift the dialogue away from the homeless being the problem and, instead, to them being seen as part of the solution.

Q3 | Innov8Social:  What are the major barriers for homeless job seekers? How does DST address them?

A3 | Andrew:   Homeless job seekers face an array of barriers, such as large gaps in employment, criminal histories, and/or mismatched skill sets due to changes in the economy. Fortunately, we have had a great deal of success with helping people overcome these challenges. In the past 18 months, over 40 Team Members have graduated into employment, including people who had not worked in 20 years, people who have multiple felonies for assault and theft, and people who have had to completely retrain themselves in a new career field.

The fact of the matter is, all of our Team Members have so much talent to offer employers, and the real challenge, really the most significant barrier we see, is helping Team Members realize that themselves. Our work experience contracts, our weekly success meetings, our Participants of the Week awards, our peer-based management structure, and our commitment to treating people with respect and dignity are all designed to help people see the best in themselves again or for the first time.

Q4 | Innov8Social:  Can you tell us a little about the Social Enterprise initiatives of DST, such as the training class for homeless entrepreneurs?

A4 | Andrew:   In 2012 DST ran two business-planning classes for our more entrepreneurial Team Members. The curriculum fundamentally aims to show our Team Members that there is more to a business than the idea itself, which is a lesson I have had to learn myself. During the four week class we work with students on creating a business plan that includes: market analysis, sales and marketing strategies, organizational structure, product description and research, and basic financial information.

Of the ten Team Members who have taken the class, two people are actually in the process of launching their businesses, which could more accurately be described as micro-enterprises at this nascent stage. A Palo Alto Team Member is using his experience in power-washing to start a small contracting business with local restaurant franchises, and a San Jose Team Member has already obtained his business license and seller’s permit for a portrait business. It’s incredibly exciting to see the progression from a raw idea to an actual money-making endeavor.

On top of helping our Team Members find creative revenue streams for themselves, we are also in the process of starting a “for-profit” arm of DST. We are working with an organization in Berkeley to launch a “triple-bottom-line” weatherization company that will employ Team Members with all types of backgrounds and barriers. The company will be working on weatherizing homes in order to reduce energy usage in the Valley, and all profits will be reinvested in the company, so we can hire more Team Members, or they will be donated to DST’s “non-profit” services.

Q5 | Innov8Social:  What are goals for DST in 2013 and beyond?

A5 | Andrew:   In addition to starting the “for-profit” arm, one of our major goals for 2013 is to launch a new team in San Rafael. If and when this happens, it will mark our first expansion beyond Silicon Valley and will be a major test for the scalability of our program. DST has witnessed amazing growth since our founding, and the success of these two initiatives will propel our mission and our operating values to previously unimaginable levels. Our entire staff is extremely excited about the impact that awaits.

There are paths, and there are callings.  Listening to the story of Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora of Back to the Roots is less like hearing about two recent college graduates who sought a path to become innovative social entrepreneurs—and more like social entrepreneurs who could not ignore a compelling call to connect the dots between business, waste, and sustainability.

Meet Nikhil and AlejandroAlexander Velez and Nikhil Arora

I met the dynamic co-founder duo at the 2011 Green Festival in San Francisco. As I emceed the Sustainable Home & Organic Gardening stage, one of the speaker groups I introduced was Back to the Roots (BTTR). Though I hadn’t heard of them, I could tell something was unique when the hall filled to capacity and people lined the aisles and stood in the back just to listen in to the guys.

They Launched Back to the Roots, Making Gourmet Mushrooms from Coffee Grounds

Back to the Roots, a certified B Corporation, is a food company dedicated to making food personal again. Their leading product is a mushroom kit which utilizes coffee grounds (waste) incubated with mushroom culture to enable people to grow organic mushrooms within days, in the comfort of their home.  The seed of this innovative, unconventional business idea was planted by a an Economics professor at their alma mater, Berkeley, who mentioned in passing that coffee grounds can yield mushrooms.

The pair, who didn’t even know each other, both reached out to the professor who connected them. The rest, as they say, is mushroom farming history.

back to the roots at green festival 2011Since those early days in 2009, Alejandro and Nikhil have worked to achieve success and create impact. Not only has BTTR been profitable from the outset, it has diverted and reused over 3.5 million pounds of coffee grounds, helped families grow over 135,000 pounds of fresh food, donated premium soil (a byproduct of the mushroom kits) to 10 urban schools. Their mushroom kits are sold in over 300 Whole Food locations.

Like a rolling stone gathers no moss, their company and mission have gained incredible momentum, traction, and reach. They are celebrated TED speakers, were named in Forbes List of Top 30 Under 30 in Food and Wine, and were among of a handful of entrepreneurs invited to meet with President Obama about challenges and solutions for small business owners.

Nikhil and Alejandro have been successful in engaging, exciting, and delighting their customer base. With over 20,000 Facebook fans, BTTR uses the medium to encourage customers to share photos, tips, and questions about the mushroom kit experience. And, thanks to a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, BTTR will soon be introducing an entirely new sustainable product, the Home Aquaponics Garden, that will create a mini-ecosystem of plants, fish, and water.

The guys and the BTTR are busy. Between growing the business, engaging in social entrepreneur advocacy, supporting community sustainability efforts, and connecting with media & press…I learned first-hand that there is barely a moment to spare!

Innov8Social had a chance to ask the Alejandro and Nikhil a few questions about their social entrepreneurship journey.  Their enthusiasm for their work and for supporting others in the field is inspiring, and we are glad to be able to follow their story and progress.

Read the Interview

back to the roots at green festival 2011 (3)

Interview with Nikhil and Alejandro, Back to the Roots Co-Founders

Q1 | Innov8Social:  How did you define social innovation before you started BTTR in 2009? And how do you define it now?

A1 | Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, Co-Founders of Back the the Roots:  Before we started BTTR in 2009, enacting social innovation ourselves took the form on internships and work on campus. Alex founded Sage Mentors, and I worked at University of Ghana on campus sustainability. There was the idea that business didn’t have to do harm, but as we created and built BTTR it became clear to us that business could also do good, and there were growing examples of this. We knew we could do it too.

Q2 | Innov8Social:   2012 saw a major scaling up of the distribution and offerings of BTTR, what were some the wins and challenges you have faced?

A2 | Nikhil and Alejandro:  One of our major wins was increasing sales of our Mushroom Gardens – this means that more people are growing their own food! It also means that we scaled up our One Photo, One Kit program on Facebook – for every photo that someone posts of their mushroom kit, we’ll donate a Mushroom Garden and sustainability curriculum to a school of their choice. Another win was launching our Home Aquaponics Garden – though that was a challenge as well! Funding was a major challenge which we decided to approach by crowdfunding the project.

Q3 | Innov8Social:   BTTR also launched a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2012—how was your experience in leveraging funding from your supporters to expand your product line?

A3 | Nikhil and Alejandro:  We had an awesome experience with crowdfunding – the outpouring of support from our customers and friends was incredible. Part of the reason we chose crowdfunding was so that our customers could be involved with the project and really be a part of it coming alive. They even helped us choose which seeds will be included with the kits!

Q4 | Innov8Social:   Do you have any advice for early-stage social entrepreneurs who are trying to validate their social innovation idea and gain traction?

A4 | Nikhil and Alejandro:   Be transparent. If people know what you’re doing, they know they’ll be able to trust you. We never hid our warehouse operations or our struggles, and so people knew that when we told them something, it was true. Also – talk to everybody! Live and breathe what you’re doing and it will start to attract attention.

Q5 | Innov8Social:   What are your goals for 2013 and beyond?

A5 | Nikhil and Alejandro:   In 2013, we’re really focusing on the official launch of the Aquaponics Garden – it’s on pre-order right now. We’re also planning a revamp of the Mushroom Garden that we’re excited to share in the coming months! As for beyond, BTTR is always brainstorming the next idea and we’re looking forward to continuing our growth.

In Sanskrit the work “sangam” refers to a confluence, or place of meeting, such as the point where two rivers merge.  As Innov8Social often finds itself at a sangam of social innovation, law, and policy one very interesting topic is how social innovators can pursue studying the law.

Another Path to Practicing Law

There is law school—an excellent option for some. But there are a few drawbacks to law school depending on what a person is seeking. If it is the law degree—law school is the only way. However, if it is the experience of practicing law with dedicated legal professionals, the ability to continue working in a legal setting full-time while pursuing the study of law, and the opportunity to deeply engage with your community throughout your study—-there may be another path.

This topic came to my attention in meeting a remarkable social innovator who is not only an active leader at a non-profit dedicated to educating and retooling communities to thrive in the new economy but, fascinatingly, is training to be a lawyer in California—without the step of going to law school.

Meet Christina

Christina OatfieldMeet Christina Oatfield, who is participating in the Law Office Study Program of the State Bar of California.

Christina has been driven by creating change, as evidenced by her impact-oriented track record. As an undergraduate at Berkley, she became active in student organizations dedicated to sustainability.
She held leadership roles in the Berkeley Student Cooperative, the Green Initiative, the Sustainability Team, Associated Students of University of California (ASUC), and co-founded the Berkeley Student Food Collective—a nonprofit organization dedicated to tenets of democratic participation, sustainability, health and ethical foods and education.
Along the way Christina connected with the Sustainable Economies Law Center and its co-founder Janelle Orsi. Great advice for lawyer-aspirees is to volunteer or work in a legal setting and get a feel for the practice. Christina did just that when she volunteered at SELC to see if law was a good fit for her skills and interest.
Christina likely didn’t bargain on stumbling on a unique path that would let her work closely with a law firm and advising attorneys, continue her work at SELC, study law, and pursue a path to becoming a lawyer—all without the expense, resources, and full-time commitment required for a three-year stint at law school.

While studying law through the apprentice program, Christina has continued active involvement at SELC, most recently taking on a Policy Director role. She was instrumental in the grassroots campaign to enact the California Homemade Food Act (AB 1616) which allows small food businesses that produce certain foods deemed “low-risk” to operate out of a private home with limited regulatory oversight.Innov8Social caught up with Christina to hear more about the apprenticeship program available through the State Bar of California.

Read the Interview


Interview with Christina Oatfield, Policy Director at SELC and Pursuing Independent Study to Become a Lawyer in California

Q1 | Innov8Social:  How did you first learn about the Apprenticeship Program? What made you decide to apply?

A1 | Christina Oatfield, Policy Director at Sustainable Economies Law Center & Pursuing Independent Study to Become a Lawyer in California:  I heard about it while I was at a retreat with attorneys who work with the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC). I had been volunteering for SELC for several months hoping it would help me decide whether I wanted to make the big commitment of going to law school or not. Janelle Orsi, a co-founder of SELC, mentioned that she knew an attorney who got her license in California without going to law school, but Janelle didn’t know much about the process.I was immediately intrigued because speaking with the various attorneys at this retreat had confirmed by suspicions that I had been developing during my internship with SELC; that practicing law to support cooperatives, mission-driven businesses, nonprofits and community groups working to create more socially just and sustainable economies was what I wanted to do, but that law schools are overpriced and generally not set up to prepare students for that kind of work.Janelle and I immediately found the information about the California Bar’s Law Office Study Program online and I began to read about all the rules and contact other attorneys who were familiar with the program to help me decide whether it was right for me. The more I learned about it the more strongly I felt that it was the right path for me. So then I approached Jenny Kassan, SELC’s other co-founder, who practices law through her firm Katovich & Kassan Law Group in Oakland, and asked her if she and her firm would host me as an apprentice so that I could fulfill the requirements of the Law Office Study program. She and her partner John Katovich quickly agreed to it!

Q2 | Innov8Social:  What are the benefits you have experienced from pursuing a path to becoming an attorney through apprenticeship?

A2 | Christina: There are so many benefits!

-spending much of my time observing practicing attorneys doing exactly the kind of work that I want to do when I become an attorney
-in-depth learning about legal topics that are often not covered in law school courses (such as cooperatives, crowdfunding for small businesses and new types of legal entities)
-studying and taking exams at my own pace
-not paying for law school
-looking forward to finishing law school with lots of practical experience

Q3 | Innov8Social:  What challenges—expected and unexpected—have you had?

A3 | Christina: Most of the challenges I’ve faced have been expected. It can be a challenge to hold myself accountable to myself when I’m not immersed in a competitive school environment. Also, while my apprenticeship supervisor and the other attorneys at her firm are some of the nation’s experts in securities law for small businesses and unique legal structures for social enterprise, they are not experts in most of the many legal topics that are part of the bar exam, so there’s a lot that I need to study on my own, with just a little support from other attorneys who have taken the bar.

Q4 | Innov8Social:  Do you have any advice for someone considering applying to an apprenticeship program?

A4 | Christina: Yes, and in fact, I’m thinking of creating a whole website with resources after I’m a little bit further along in the process myself. Also, note: there’s not really an “application” process but more so it’s a “registration” process because anyone who meets the pre legal education requirements and submits all the information required can start the Law Office Study Program.

First, I would suggest to potential participants that you carefully consider whether you prefer learning in a traditional classroom environment or whether you learn better by doing. I would also recommend some self reflection on whether you are the type of person to take a lot of initiative. Attorneys who supervisor apprentices are generally full time attorneys and while they commit to spending 5 hours or more per week directly supervising you, that still leaves a lot of your learning process fairly unstructured. Students who are very self motivated are, I think, generally a better fit for the Law Office Student Program.

Second, think about what area of law you want to practice in after you become an attorney. After 5 or more years most attorneys have developed areas of expertise in certain legal matters and may have forgotten much of the material that is on the bar exam if it is not related to their area of practice (the supervising attorney must have been practicing for 5 or more years in order to supervise a student in the Law Office Study Program). Therefore, you’ll want to have a good idea of what areas of law you might want to practice in because the areas of expertise of the attorney you study under will probably become your areas of expertise and determine what your marketable skill set will be once you become an attorney. You can change who your supervising attorney is as often as every 6 months so within the 4 year program you could potentially study under as many as eight different attorneys, but that may not actually be feasible or necessarily something you would actually want to do for many reasons.

Third, if your goal in becoming an attorney is to make a high salary working for a large firm or to become a high level political appointee then the Law Office Study Program is probably not for you because it doesn’t come with the same prestige that a high ranking law school brings to you. If your goal is to learn about particular non-traditional legal topics, to learn by doing and to save money then it’s more likely that this is a good choice for you. I think the Law Office Study program is especially great for students interested in public interest legal work to consider because it’s tough to go into public interest work if you have one or two hundred thousand dollars in debt from law school since public interest lawyers tend to earn less than those working in the private sector.

Meet Nathan

Behind the big idea of social enterprise Goodjoe—a community-based T-shirt company with a passion for doing good—Nathan Pham, GoodJoeis co-founder Nathan Pham.

Nathan’s path to social entrepreneurship started  in tech and marketing. He graduated from UC Davis in 2003 with a degree in computer science before going on to work as a sales engineer at a few different hi-tech firms.
For him, the idea for a social enterprise sparked when he came across a Life is Good store in Chicago in 2007. He began researching the tshirt industry and crowdsourcing and reconnected with college friend Jourdan Yeh.

Meet GoodJoe, a Social Enterprise for Crowdsourcing Design

Together they worked on the concept of creating a platform to sell t-shirts with social impact messaging by crowdsourcing design from professional and amateur designers. In their business model, they built-in avenues to support non-profits looking to use Goodjoe by providing the service free of charge and promoting the non-profit ‘stores’ on the website and through design contests.The concept gained momentum and Goodjoe officially launched at the end of 2008.
Goodjoe now carries thousands of products featuring the work of numerous designers, has hosted over 60 themed design contests, and has raised over $100,000 for artists and non-profits.

Read the Interview

Interview with Natham Pham, Co-Founder of

Innov8Social had a chance to catch up with Nathan to learn more about GoodJoe and his path to social entrepreneurship.

Q1 | Innov8Social:  What inspired you to start Goodjoe? Did you feel like something was missing in the online shopping experience—or did you have an innovative take on it?

A1 | Nathan Pham, Founder of GoodJoe:  It all started when I was on a business trip to the East Coast in 2007. I was caught in a snow storm and got stuck at the Chicago O’Hare airport for the night. When I was there bored and curious, I wandered around and saw a Life is Good store. I was instantly attracted by their smiley face logo. Then I went on to learn more about them. Then became inspired and obsessed and wanted to start a similar business.

After tons of research, in addition to me not knowing how to design, I applied my understanding of the crowdsourcing concept to launch goodjoe, in Dec’08, as a community-based company. By hosting contests, goodjoe utilizes the talent of the graphic designers community to help nonprofits spread their message and engage with their users.One key differentiation of goodjoe and a couple crowdsourcing t-shirt sites out there is that we zoom in and focus on working with nonprofits and using their causes as design themes. We believe that there is a huge need in helping nonprofits expose their cause, solicit and engage supporters, and to us t-shirt design competition is the solution.

As far as online shopping experience, in addition to offering cool and unique graphic t-shirts and products, we thrive to be transparent with the way we do business and how goodjoe operates. That way each person that interacts with goodjoe can see their impact either through a purchase, a vote for a design, or simply sharing a nonprofit that they’ve learned about on goodjoe to their peers.
Q2 | Innov8Social:   What is the mission of Goodjoe? What are your greatest hopes for it in the next 5 years?
A2 | Nathan:  The Goodjoe Mission: We strive to empower and creatively inspire individuals to contribute to our local and global communities.
To elaborate…our hope is that the goodjoe t-shirts and products become a conversation starter in local communities. Every design is intended to create conversation about its origin, the artist that created it and what is the inpsiration behind it. When this happens, the message of the nonprofit and the cause travel far and wide offline, to wherever their supporters might be.Our goal in the next 5 years is to be the online marketplace of choice for socially and environmentally aware customers. For every product purchased, they will be able to connect with the designers and the nonprofit, which are supposedly aligned with their interest and values.
Q3 | Innov8Social:  How did your team decide to monetize your social venture?
A3 | Nathan:  From day 1, when we brainstormed the idea and concept, we made sure the business model can generate revenue, and not depending on things such as ads. Our philoshophy has always been to create cool products that end customers would want to buy and support us, the artists and the causes. That way, we don’t have to do things that require us to charge the nonprofits for using our platform. The end goal is that when a customer buys something, everyone benefits.
Q4 | Innov8Social:   What were some of the unexpected challenges you faced in launching and growing GJ? What did you learn?
A4 | Nathan:  Oh man, where do I begin? ;O) Before and in the early days of launching, the biggest challenge was to understand the ins and outs of the t-shirs production and the industry. Prior to launching goodjoe, we never had any experience with the industry. So we had to everything from scratch. Up until now, the constant challenge is the catch-22 that all the internet social startups must solve. For us, the catch-22 problem is attracting quality graphic designers so that the nonprofits can be interested in signing up and working with us. And with the designers, we need to show that they will receive exposure and monetary benefits from nonprofits promoting the contests and designs, which indirectly promoting them.

Up to date, we have been learning a lot from working with nonprofits. We’ve learned that the needs and wants of each nonprofit are very dynamic. So it has been difficult to pinpoint a formula that capture the consistent needs so that we can do the next build to service more nonprofits. We are almost there though. Also, we’ve found out that nonprofits are quite behind with adapting new technology and new ways of doing things. Most of them are barely catching on with the whole social media. And so when we explain the goodjoe model, most of them do get overwhelmed. Base on these experiences, we have been able to figure out how to better articulate our model so that nonprofits can see the benefits.

Q5 | Innov8Social:   What are 3 tips you have for social entrepreneurs starting out in the online space?

A6 | Nathan:   (1) Find a sector that you are very passionate about making a difference in; (2) Do extensive research to validate that there is a business opportunity there; (3) Find a couple people that share the same values and passion to take on the challenge. And don’t give up until you’ve tried every angle you can possibly think of.

You can read more interviews with social entrepreneurs on Innov8Social as part of our ongoing efforts to profile individuals active in the field. You can also nominate a social entrepreneur.

Take Action: Submit a Design for Democracy Today

One of the ways Goodjoe engages with t-shirt designers across the country is through hosting various contests calling for design. Designers can submit a shirt design idea to a weekly or daily contest or to one of the themed contests.In honor of inauguration day, Goodjoe and GlobalGiving are launching design contest today.

The call is to “create a design that evokes the power and importance of programs around the world that ensure that all people can participate. Design for democracy.”

You have from today until February 8th to submit a design and vote on designs you love.

A Logo to Fit

A post about Goodjoe would be remiss without mention of its own logo design. It is a creative doodle that incorporates the letters G and J for Goodjoe in a fun, quirky ensemble evoking sense of wisdom and gentle happiness—not unlike the calm, kind, and passionate presence Nathan himself evokes.
It is unique, clever, and is a great fit for the goodjoe concept.

Meet Kalen

Kalen GallagherKalen Gallagher is a social entrepreneur’s social entrepreneur. He doesn’t just resemble what it means to pursue social impact with an entrepreneurial mindset, he pretty much embodies it.Talk to him for a few minutes and you’ll notice that he possesses many of the characteristics of fellow millennials. Easy-going, confident, and ready to take on (and lead) change, Kalen has served his community as far back as he can remember. As a student at Westmont High School in San Jose he was active in community service organizations.
Kalen attended UC Davis as an undergraduate and served in student government in the roles of Senator, Vice President, and student body President. He stayed on at his alma mater for law school, graduating from UC Davis Law in 2009. Where passing the California Bar exam often signifies an official entry into the profession, for Kalen it was a turning point at which he decided to steer away from practicing law to focus on education. He took on the role of social studies teacher at a KIPP Heartwood Academy, a public charter school serving East San Jose.Kalen’s path to creating impact and pursuing entrepreneurship led him to join an education technology startup called ClassDojo in 2011. ClassDojo is a tool that helps teachers improve behavior in their classrooms and captures and generates data on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators. The Next Web named it one of the top education apps of 2012.

For Kalen, the roles of educator, innovator, and leader push him to seek different avenues to create impact. In May 2012 he announced his candidacy for Campbell Union High School District Board of Trustees. An elected position, he would be running against an incumbent and vying for a four-year term. In a close race fueled by grass roots campaigning, social media pushes, and plenty of precinct walks—Kalen won a seat on the Board on election day in November 2012.

I have had a chance to get to know Kalen, through one of his passions–New Leaders Council. Kalen and Reeta Sharma,  co-founded and co-direct the Silicon Valley chapter of this progressive fellowship program to build skills in leadership and social entrepreneurship…which I participated in as a Fellow in 2012 and continue to be involved in as an member of the Advisory Board.

Innov8Social caught up with Kalen to find out about his commitment to social entrepreneurship, and his path in the field.

Read the Interview

Interview with Kalen Gallagher, Social Entrepreneur and Elected Leader

Q1 | Innov8Social:   How do you define “social entrepreneurship”

A1 | Kalen Gallagher, Social Entrepreneur and Campbell Union High School District Board Trustee:  To me “social entrepreneurship” means using the principles of entrepreneurship to create sustainable, long-term solutions to our society’s biggest problems. While traditional entrepreneurs are primarily focused on earning money, social entrepreneurs seek societal change.

Q2 | Innov8Social:   What inspired you to run for office?

A2 | Kalen: I decided to run for the school board of my old high school district because it has been plagued by numerous issues for years with little discussion at the board level on how we can turn things around. Since well before I walked through the gates in 9th grade our dropout rate has been incredibly high, we’ve had low test scores, the number of our students going to and through college has been small, we’ve had the lowest paid teachers in the Bay Area, and even today we have a disturbing lack of technology available to teachers and students. While the districts around us are thriving, we’ve been held back, which is negatively impacting thousands of our community members every year. I think there’s a lot that bringing my teaching experience, the “startup mentality,” and higher expectations to the board can accomplish.

Q3 | Innov8Social:   What have you learned about the intersection of start-up entrepreneurship and education technology through ClassDojo?

A3 | Kalen: We’re in the middle of a dramatic shift in public education, powered in large part by young teachers. Any teacher 30 or younger (about 30% of all teachers) grew up in a post-AOL world, which means the internet has been ingrained in their daily lives since childhood. These teachers, along with older tech-savvy teachers, are helping change the expectations, and delivery, of public education.

This has been coupled with a revolutionary change in purchasing power. Traditionally if education companies wanted to reach teachers, they had to sell to districts, which was a slow, frustrating process. Today the internet and spread of cheap internet connected devices allow education companies to go straight to teachers and skip the middle man. Teachers are also much more in tune with the tools they want and need than a school board or administrator could ever be. Now, hundreds of teachers can be using a tool within a district without the school board having even heard about it. This new distribution strategy is allowing the shift we’re experiencing today.

Q4 | Innov8Social:   When did you decide to actively turn away from the practice of law to the practice of social entrepreneurship?

A4 | Kalen: It might seem ridiculous, but I actually knew I would never practice law when I applied to law school. To me law school represented something very attractive: a 3 year, socially-acceptable vacation that would give me amble time to explore my passions and learn the legal structure of California.

I spent the summer after my 1L year in deep-reflection, trying to figure out how I could make the biggest impact possible on the issues I’m passionate about. After all the soul-searching, research, and informational interviews, it was clear to me that if I should devote my life to improving public education. The lack of a quality of public education for all is at the core of most issues that plague the United States today. Four days after taking (and somehow passing) the California Bar, I was in my new classroom at KIPP Heartwood in East San Jose.

Q5 | Innov8Social:   Do you have any tips for those who want to create a career that creates social impact and profit?

A5 | Kalen: Genuinely care about the issue you’re trying to solve. Listen to your users. Focus. If you don’t do all three, you will go nowhere.