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Are you a student or teacher in your field? For social entrepreneurs there can be great value in being both, even simultaneously.

In the past month, I have had the unique opportunity to engage as a speaker, attendee, pitch judge, pitch participant, interviewer, interviewee, mentor, and mentee–and all within the realm of social entrepreneurship. It has been incredible. And, it has provided a unique lense to see synchronicity in these seemingly divergent roles.

Social Entrepreneurs are Novices and Experts

Social entrepreneurship as a whole is a kind of dance between being a novice and expert. With (often) low barriers to entry and high turnover, it’s common to two-step into, out of, and around the space. Add to that experience in specific areas of impact, measurement, traction of customers, raising funds, and/or surviving pitfalls—and a social entrepreneur is recognized for being able to share her valuable learned insight in the space. However, even a slight pivot to serve another market or need and the social entrepreneur is back in the familiar role of novice–humbly seeking expertise, financial backing, and searching for ways to turn a particular idea into reality.

This back and forth is actually a great thing. It keeps social entrepreneurs (and those who serve them) on their toes to constantly be learning and sharing, can instill a sense of humility, and can act as a key equalizer in bringing new and seasoned entrepreneurs to the same table.

I learned so much by pitching to VC’s as a social enterprise and then gained clarity of what an investor looks for when I judged social entrepreneur pitches. I was able to pass on these perspectives with the genuine empathy of having been on both sides, when I mentored aspiring social entrepreneurs as they prepared to pitch their social enterprise startup ideas. Each role not only provided ways to understand and empathize with different vantage points—each contributed to thinking bigger about the work and vision for Innov8social.

Social Entrepreneurs are Problemsolvers First

This ability to ‘toggle’ between the roles of receiving and sharing knowledge is particularly key in social entrepreneurship because it focuses our attention not on who we are, but what we are trying to solve. Beyond aspects such as legal structure and business models, social enterprises are unique because they pursue dual goals of creating impact and generating revenue. These dual goals, in turn, involve a multitude of variables. And like solving for and y in Algebra, we are forced to shift focus from who we are to how we can most effectively problemsolve.

Be a Teacher, Student….and Keep Moving Forward

This is the synchronicity of being both teacher and student. Stepping between the roles lets us loosen our sense of self and ego to recognize that problem identification and problem-solving come from anywhere, and everywhere. It lets us focus on educating ourselves on what we don’t know, and then sharing that experience with those addressing the problem through different lenses. The growth of social entrepreneurship depends on its practitioners as receiving and sharing in equal parts. We must be teachers, be students, rinse and repeat.

Our role is to honor our experience in the space as we honor the experience of others, to share what we learn, to ask for help, and above all—to keep moving forward.

A Photo Recap From the Past Month

 

As a new mentor at the Sustainability Innovation Lab at GSVlabs,I recently had the opportunity to speak there on a topic I am often asked about, namely—what are the essential things that founders should know about social entrepreneurship.

From the engaging follow-up questions and spirited conversation during the presentation, I thought it might be useful to share the slides and key learnings here too.

 

5 Things Every Founder Should Know About Social Entrepreneurship, GSVLabs, July 2015

1. There are legal structures for social entrepreneurship.

This topic was one of the inspirations of founding Innov8social—i.e. to follow the progress and explore the potential of various legal structures including benefit corporations, social purpose corporations, limited low-profit liability companies (L3C’s), and various combinations thereof. These legal structures are intended to form companies founded on principles of creating impact as well as generating profit. These new structures serve to expand the ‘bottom line’ focus of a company to a double or triple bottom line (i.e. people, planet, profits)  and in doing so, expand the stakeholders to which a company owes a legal duty from shareholders to stakeholders such as the environment and community as well.

2. There are business models for social entrepreneurship.

We often say that a legal structure is a “glove” meant to fit the business goals and model of a venture. With that in mind, founders should know that business models are emerging to serve social impact ventures. Models such as buy one give one, or 1%-1%-1%, or dedicating a percentage of revenue to non-profit/policy entities, or pay-what-you-can models are gaining ground as ways to easily explain and account for impact and profit.

3. There are  funding options for social entrepreneurship.

Traditional funding options such as loans, grants, and venture capital can be applicable to social enterprises; however, sometimes the dual goals of impact and profit can make these hard sells for social ventures. There is also a growing body of funding options that can serve social entrepreneurs well—these include impact investors (who actively seek a return on impact and profit on their investments), Program-Related Investments (“PRI’s”) powered by foundations, and the use of crowdfunding (both donation-based and investment-based) to validate and fund social impact companies.

4. Social entrepreneurship isn’t just a way of doing business — it is also a mindset.

Since countries such as the US do not legally define social enterprise per se, that term along with social entrepreneurship and social innovation are often used to describe various legal structures and business models (for-profit and nonprofit). With this broad application, social entrepreneurship signifies a mindset as much as a specific type of venture. In fact, social entrepreneurs are often described as those seeking business-minded solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. They employ methodologies of entrepreneurship and ‘lean’ approach to startups in building revenue models and impact potential. This mindset is a way to problem-solve and calls on the problem-solver to consider and account for multiple end goals, and to do so with accountability and transparency.

5. You are NOT alone! There are resources, tools, and communities to help you reach your profit and impact goals.

If there is one thing to emphasize, it is that social entrepreneurs (and those aspiring to be) are NOT alone! Being an entrepreneur is challenging, add the additional goal of creating impact— and the path to success can feel distant and even lonely. However, there is an ever-strengthening ecosystem of support emerging and evolving to better meet the needs and challenges of social entrepreneurs.

A few leading resources for social innovation and social entrepreneurship:

Resources we have compiled and are building:

 

Here are Prezi slides from the talk



Meet Neil

This episode of The Innov8social Podcast features Dr. Neil Patel, a social entrepreneur with a doctorate in Computer Science, who grew up in northern California and then relocated to India in 2010 where he launched and is scaling an innovative impact venture, called Awaaz.de.

Neil Patel

Neil Patel

Awaaz.De connects mobile voice-based technology with a social platform to provide low-cost, voice messages that can be shared with hundreds or thousands of people. Neil has described it as a “voice twitter”.
Awaaz.De originally focused on working with small farmers in rural Gujarat, a state in the central India, to enable the sharing of best farming practices and agricultural information.
The company’ has scaled and grown, won a number of awards, has facilitated over 4M calls to 400K people, is now in 6 countries, 9 languages and is constantly finding new applications for their technology.Neil received a Bachelors in Computer Science from UC Berkeley before pursuing his Ph.D at Stanford University. His doctoral thesis focus was designing voice-based virtual communities which led to the co-founding of Awaaz.De, along with his Ph.D advisor and UC Berkeley Professor, Dr. Tapan Parikh.

Listen to the Interview

 

Find Out More

More About Neil

More About Awaaz.De

  • Website: https://www.awaaz.de/
  • Value proposition: “We provide content to our partners and users in their local language to communicate with important stakeholders and beneficiaries for a variety of purposes and goals. Our clients include businesses, rural communities, schools, NGOs and many more.”
  • Awaaz.De Streams – group voice messaging for everyone
  • Awaaz.De Surveys – enabling rich data collection via phone survey surveys
  • Awaaz.De Voice Forums – moderated voice message “chat rooms”

Meet Brandon

Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith

This episode of The Innov8social Podcast features Los Angeles-based Brandon Smith, a dedicated serial social entrepreneur.

Brandon leads the Child and Family Guidance Center’s social enterprise development efforts toward diversifying the agency’s revenue streams. He also recently served as President of Net Impact Los Angeles Professional Chapter.

And, Brandon is working on a number of impact initiatives. One such social innovation is CauseDate– a dating platform for the sustainably conscious.Brandon also co-founded Awesomework.org — a database of nearly 6500 impact organizations, and  is working with student organization Oxypreneurship at his alma mater–Occidental College– to help establish a student scholarship for social entrepreneurship
I met Brandon at a Net Impact conference a few years back and have enjoyed connecting over social media and learning more about his expansive view of impact from the articles and content he shares.

Listen to the Interview

 

Read more

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How is a social impact pitch different from other kinds of startup and company pitches?

1. You have to tell the most compelling version of the story (even especially the emotional / non-business part).  After interviewing dozens of thinkers and doers in the social impact space, one thing has become clear. The why that inspires a social innovator’s work often eclipses the what, in terms of impact storytelling.
Whether because of a personal life experience, a pivotal observation, or an life-shifting epiphany—something subtly or glaringly profound shifted your path from “conventional business” to mission-driven. My challenge to you, is find a way to express that impetus clearly, confidently, and briefly. Even if it is uncomfortable or seems out of place in a “pitch” setting. Sharing a personal anecdote can put you and your audience “on the same page” and can help them not only like you more, but remember and root for you and your impact venture.
2. You have to quantify impact (which can be hard to do).  One of the most fascinating areas of the emerging social innovation space has everything to do with quantifying and measuring impact. There are a number of emerging organizations, nonprofits, sets of criteria, and even startups that are tackling this part of the social entrepreneurship spectrum— but there is not yet consensus on adoption of any singular methodology for measuring impact. What that means for you is that your core team and extended support network of advisors and mentors should have meaningful discussions (debates even) about criteria you will use to measure and track your impact and how you will quantify it. Is it one-for-one (think TOMS), is it 1-1-1 (think of the model Salesforce articulated early on, and that B corporations like Rally Software have adopted), is it the number of procedures performed (think Aravind Eye Care) — or is it another method unique to your initiative or solution.
Once you are clear on the how and why of your impact measurement– you can find a way to succinctly and simply explain it as part of your pitch. These metrics can absolutely change as your social enterprise pivots, gets customer feedback, and gathers more kinds of data— but establishing and articulating your impact in quantitative terms lends credibility and focus to your company’s vision and work.
3. You have to educate your audience on basic elements of social enterprise. Growing up, my brother liked to remind us that when you “assume,  it makes an ‘a–’ of ‘u’ and ‘me’”. It was a colorful (and memorable) way to convey a key insight. It especially rings true for impact storytelling. If you go into a pitch scenario assuming any number of things including : that the audience knows or cares about impact, that they know or care about a ‘triple bottom line’, that they know or care about definitions of social enterprise— you might be in for an unwelcome realization. They didn’t know (or care) and your assumption that they did made them less seek clarification, and they basically tuned out.
Instead, practice explaining key concepts about social enterprise that contextualize your solution and the problem it solves, so that you can do it efficiently and with such ease that a middle-schooler could understand it. As a participant in the still-emerging social innovation space, you are a de facto ambassador of the space too. Use your platform to inform and educate as you pitch.
4. You have to think bigger about your ask.  No matter what kind of story you are telling (impact or otherwise), your pitch should lead to some kind of an ask. Are you seeking funding? If yes, how much, for what, and by when. Potential investors will want to know these details. However, for social innovators, it’s key to think bigger. You may be seeking strategic partnerships to gain access to potential new market segments. You may be looking for an advisor or mentor. You may be seeking certain resources — such as technical, marketing, or data analysis support to scale and amplify your work.
Funding is often the main objective in pitching — but as a social innovator, your ability to think bigger, more creatively, and with an innovator’s mindset can help weather startup challenges and continue the sail ahead.
5. You have to quantify success, and quantify failure. What does success for your social venture look like? Because your audience may be new to the solution and problem you are solving, they will look to you to define success. For example, success could be traction of 10M users for a micro payment app aimed at populations who do not participate in the traditional banking system, or it could be the adoption of impact criteria by 500 global brands. Metrics like these can paint the potential of impact-driven companies and show the need for new solutions.
What does failure look like? When your work is rooted in impact, among other considerations, it can powerful to show how your failure can be detrimental to communities or to the environment. For example, failure of a smartphone app designed to assess water quality could have a broader negative impact for communities who lack inexpensive, mobile assessment tools. Remember the phrase “too big to fail”? It is another example of creating urgency for success by making the prospect of failure a bleak one.

Why does social impact storytelling matter?

If you cannot tell your story, you cannot create or expand your impact. It’s as simple as that.
It’s well-noted that 90 percent of startups fail in the first two years. That includes all startups — mission-driven and otherwise.  Social enterprises often need far more than funding to survive. They need impact partners, they need traction, they need proof that their social innovation is actually creating the impact they anticipated. Your ability to tell your story can help you build an ecosystem of support around the specific problem and solution your venture is addressing.
It takes a village to raise a social enterprise—and sometimes you are part of the village, and sometimes you are the social enterprise.  Being able to tell your story can help you be effective at both.


Neetal Parekh, is the Founder & CEO of Innov8social — which helps social entrepreneurs, companies, and individuals reach their impact potential. She is a social entrepreneur, impact storyteller, and attorney passionate about connecting people with the social impact sector.  
Earlier this month we had a chance to interview Nyna Pais Caputi, a director of the upcoming social SF_Docfest_Petals_official_movie_posterimpact documentary Petals in the Dust: Endangered Indian Girls which is set to have its world premier on June 6, 2015 in San Francisco.Petals in the Dust examines themes of gender discrimination and violence against women—through the lens and stories of incredible individual women from India and across the diaspora. The project has been one of passion and commitment by Nyna, taking over 7 years to make into reality.

Meet Nyna

Nyna Pais Caputi has the incredible knack of taking Gandhi’s quote “be the change you wish to see in the world” to heart. When her own journey led to her to explore adopting children from India, she was confronted with stark gender inequality norms and difficult realities such as infanticide. Instead of standing by, she began the epic project of writing, directing, producing, and releasing a documentary that explores the layers of gender inequality in India—and also tells the stories of women who have found ways to overcome difficult realities.

As she researched her film and learned about atrocities such as killing of women and girls in India and globally, she took a bold step to galvanize attention and community by founding the Global Walk for India’s Missing Girls. Now in its fifth year, it has become an inNyna_cameraternational awareness campaign on the violence and genocide of Indian women that has taken place in over 25 cities and five countries.

And again, when she moved to San Francisco and couldn’t find a group for international women interested in pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors, she took it upon herself to launch “The Expat Woman” as a group where women can hear from other women, can showcase their own ventures and products, and (soon) can pitch their startups in a “Shark Tank”-like pitch event.
I had the chance to speak on one of Nyna’s Expat Women panels focused on the experience of entrepreneurship in the SF Bay Area.
Nyna has been recognized for her leadership and tenacity with honors including selection as a “2015 Woman of Distinction” by Soroptimist International of Diablo and was selected for a “Women of the Year” award by the California State Assembly in 2015.

Listen to the Interview with Nyna

See the Trailer for “Petals in the Dust : The Endangered Indian Girls”

Jordan Phoenix - Canada to Mexico walk 2014-2015

Meet Jordan Phoenix–a civil engineering by training, social entrepreneur, blogger, and Founder of Project Free World–an organization that facilitates and creates social innovation projects to improve access to food, human rights, education.

He is also the author of a recent book called “It’s All My Fault: How I Messed up the World and Why I Need Your Help to Fix It.”

To add to his work, Jordan also embarked on a 1 year project to walk from 1000+ miles down the west coast of North America to build support and awareness for community incubator projects focused on alleviating poverty. He kicked off his journey in mid-2014 in Canada and spent the better part of the year, walking, meeting new people, and sharing & exchanging ideas.

I had a chance to catch up with Jordan as his journey reached Northern California. In a residential neighborhood in one of the iconic cities of Silicon Valley, Palo Alto, we walked and talked about the inspiration for his walk, what he has learned on the journey, and the community incubator project he is most excited about developing over the next few years.

Listen to the Interview

More on Jordan

Jordan is a HuffingtonPost contributor, is active on Quora, and runs his website–Uncommonsense.is.

You can read more about his interesting and authentic journey of impact and self-exploration and in these posts:

It was year two of participating in Social Good Tech Week in San Francisco. This time, it was an honor to serve as a judge to the immensely driven, mission-oriented social entrepreneurs who pitched on the Main Stage on Friday afternoon.Social Good Tech Week SF 2015

Social Entrepreneur Pitches

The startups and nonprofits that pitched were:

  • Noora Health (Judges’ Selection) – training patients & families with high-impact health skills to improve outcomes and save lives
  • SWAT App (Peoples’ Choice) – aims to end police violence everywhere (Safety With Accountability, Transparency)
  • tinyGive – enables people to donate to causes with just a tweet
  • Long Distance Voter – the absentee ballot experts
  • Say This Not That – new tool for compassionate communication
  • FeelGood – mobilizes resources and the public to address the pressing challenges of our time
  • Youthful Savingsempowers the next generation with financial education and entrepreneurship training
  • ActOn mobile apphelps users engage with causes, organizations and responsible brands by taking simple actions on mobile app
  • HandUpdirect giving for the homeless and others at risk
  • Charity Miles – earn money for charity when you walk, run, or bike
The entire experience of the workshops, sessions, and presentations was incredible and…immersive. There was a chance to connect and get to know a number of attendees, thanks to ample networking time and ahead-of-schedule timing.
Below are various forms of media, including YouTube, Flickr photos, and tweets, to get a look and feel for the Main Stage (Friday) and a workshop on Growth Hacking (Saturday).
Looking forward to following the progress of the startups who pitched!

#SGTech Multi-Media Recaps

 

As detailed in the Photo Essay of Santa Clara University’s Magis 2014 Showcase for Social Entrepreneurship, the event brought together hundreds of social entrepreneurs, thought leaders, practitioners, and academic thinkers for an evening of exploration, reflection, and recognition.

One of the most impactful features of the event was the networking time before the speeches and evening meal. Flanking the auditorium were tables headed by social entrepreneurs, many of whom were GSBI graduates and current participants.
Here are video interviews with two of the participants. You will learn a little more about the kinds of social enterprises GSBI has incubated, what the program has meant to them, and about the why, what, and how that guides their work in the impact space.

Artisan Connect at SCU Magis 2014

 

Interview with Vrnda Dalal, Supply Chain and Artisan Partnership Manager at Artisan Connect., Artisan Connect is an online marketplace for quality home goods made by artisans in developing countries. It was founded by GSBI mentor Amanda North.

Global Women’s Water Initiative at SCU Magis 2014

Gemma Bulos, Director of Global Women’s Water Initiative , a nonprofit and GSBI alumnus, explains the organization’s work in training and building a movement of local women water experts to address water issues, that affect them the most. GWWI focuses on Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and has trained over 200 women to build over 30 rainwater harvesting systems, that provide over 300K liters of clean water to their communities.

SCU Magis  2014On a beautiful Sunday evening in mid May 2014, hundreds of social entrepreneurs, mentors, funders, leaders, professors, and faculty members gathered for a gala to honor two individuals in the social enterprise space as well as to further the global dialogue about mission-driven ventures.The inaugural dinner named Magis—the Latin term for “more” (i.e. as in more strategic, or better) highlighted the work of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS) and its long-running Global Social Benefit Institute which has over 200 alumni social enterprises that have positively impacted nearly 100 million lives since the program launched over a decade ago. It also recognized and honored the work of Graham Macmillan, former Sr. Director of VisionSpring ( social enterprise dedicated to ensuring the distribution of affordable eyewear) and Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation (one of the institutions that support GSBI).Santa Clara University is no newcomer to social enterprise. As learned through an Innov8Social audio interview the Center of Science, Technology, and Society Director Thane Kreiner—-the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) has a rich history in the space, and Thane’s own experience as a serial entrepreneur in the health sciences arena informs and inspires his work at CSTS. The department also hosts an annual GSBI Accelerator Showcase, which features pitches from current participants. (Coverage of the 2013 GSBI Showcase here.)

Though the Magis showcase & dinner evening was seated in elegance and dressed to the nines, one of its most glimmering accessories was the humility of its participants. From Master of Ceremonies Thane, to featured speakers, and award recipients, to the esteemed guests, there was an honesty and authenticity in engaging in value-driven work, understanding the reason behind the work, and the long and often challenging road in launching ventures that seek to improve lives in addition to employing an entrepreneurial mindset. In this space, just as with any niche, there can be a tendency to gild individual contributions or the sector itself, or brush past known challenges and failures. But the tone of Magis, perhaps due to its firm roots in the Jesuit tradition or because the presence of so many active social entrepreneurs in the evening’s program, was one of engaging in dialogue, of furthering conversations, and of finding ways to help each other better understand and support the space.

Photo Essay: Santa Clara University Hosts MAGIS — Celebrating Global Social Entrepreneurship

Sunday, May 18, 2014

 

SCU Magis 2014
A pre-event slideshow featured various GSBI and social enterprise projects and initiatives.

SCU Magis 2014
Final touches before attendees are seated.

 

SCU Magis 2014
One of the social enterprises featured at the tables was WE CARE Solar— a portable solar-powered off-grid electric system to power electricity in hospitals that do not have steady electricity. Co-founder Dr. Laura Stachel spoke about her experience in starting this organization on a panel at Kiva in 2013.

 

SCU Magis 2014
Mexico-based social enterprise Prospera, a 2014 GSBI participant, empowers female-led micro businesses with consulting and training and connects them to conscious citizens and consumers looking to create a more equal and engaged society. See the beautiful video they created to explain their work.

 

SCU Magis 2014
Solar Ear, a Brazil-based social enterprise, tackles the daunting World Health Organization statistic that over 6000 million people worldwide have some form of hearing impairment. It develops high quality and affordable solar-powered hearing aids, produced by deaf people to hearing impaired ones in deprived areas.
SCU Magis  2014
GSBI mentor Amanda North has turned social entrepreneur, with Artisan Connect— an online marketplace for quality home goods made by artisans in developing countries. Read about how witnessing the 2013 Boston Marathon explosion shifted Amanda’s focus from her corporate work to starting this social venture.

 

SCU Magis  2014
Gemma Bulos, Director of Global Women’s Water Initiative, a nonprofit and GSBI alumnus, explains the organization’s work in training and building a movement of local women water experts to address water issues, that affect them the most. GWWI focuses on Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and has trained over 200 women to build over 30 rainwater harvesting systems, that provide over 300K liters of clean water to their communities. (see their impact infographic)
SCU Magis  2014
Sankara Eye Care Institutions, a 2014 GSBI participant, aims to eradicate preventable and curable blindness in India by providing free high quality eye care to millions of rural poor. Over the span of 35 years, Sankara’s network has grown to 11 eye hospitals, 120+ doctors, 600 paramedical professionals, and over 250 support staff–that have collectively impacted an estimated 40 million people.
SCU Magis  2014
Launched in 2010 and a GSBI alum of 2013,  Ilumexico is a social enterprise comprised of a for-profit and nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting development in rural areas through solar-powered electricity systems, with a focus on last-mile distribution.

 

SCU Magis  2014
The Magis showcase evening program started with statistics outlining some of the world’s most pressing issues.

 

SCU Magis  2014
Statistics and initiatives from organizations such as the World Wide Hearing, based in Jordan, were featured in the slideshow. WWH, a current GSBI participant, provides provides access to affordable, high quality hearing aids to children and youth with hearing loss in developing countries.

 

SCU Magis  2014
Thane Kreiner, Executive Director of Santa Clara University Center of Science, Technology, and Society served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening.
SCU Magis  2014
A brief video outlining innovation and social impact was shared.

 

SCU Magis  2014
Jim Koch, the founding Director of CSTS introduced the first Magis award.
SCU Magis  2014
Thane and Jim presented the award to Graham Macmillan.
SCU Magis  2014
2006 GSBI participant and former VisionSpring Sr. Director Graham McMillan accepted the inaugural Magis Award for his work in field and his continuing work within the social enterprise sector, now in a funding role. To date, 2 million people have access to affordable eyewear as a result of VisionSpring’s work. He related the near-death experience he faced in the wake of 9/11 and how it changed his view on everything and inspired his work in social impact.  “We are aspirationalists” said Graham of his fellow social entrepreneurs.  You can see a NextBillion video interview with Graham here.

 

SCU Magis  2014
Kirk Hanson, Executive Director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics  introduced second Magis Award recipient, Sally Osberg.

 

SCU Magis  2014
Sally Osberg,  President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, spoke about her experience and pragmatism in supporting the social enterprise space and the honor and “shame” associated with the term “social enterprise”. You can watch a Skoll video featuring Sally here.

 

The dialogue continues! Catching up with social enterprise attorney Barbara Krause after the event.