Artisan Connect at SCU Magis 2014
On 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.
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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)|
|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.|
|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.|
|The Magis showcase evening program started with statistics outlining some of the world’s most pressing issues.|
|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.|
|Thane Kreiner, Executive Director of Santa Clara University Center of Science, Technology, and Society served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening.|
|Jim Koch, the founding Director of CSTS introduced the first Magis award.|
|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.|
|Kirk Hanson, Executive Director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics introduced second Magis Award recipient, Sally Osberg.|
|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.|
Jason’s company, iReTron, buys back used electronics for a cash value, and then re-furbishes and re-sells or recycles the products. (See below for a video where Jason and the iReTron team explain the concept).
Jason’s family immigrated to the US from China when he was 6. He observed their work ethic and discipline as they started a small business in northern California. And as he shared on his show, one of his early passions was judo, which he has been learning since he was five years old. He had been actively competing in the sport until he broke his back in high school.
Nileema’s accolades and recent recognition only tell a part of her story. After she decided to dedicate her life to serving the poor in her village and surrounding villages at only thirteen years old, she went on to spend over a decade engaging in her work before receiving such esteemed national and international recognition.
Her journey with her organization, BNGVN—dedicated to empower “everyone willing to work for earning his/her living must get an opportunity to do so”—has spanned:
Her reputation for initiating change made her a go-to resource for leading microfinance initiatives in her region of Maharashtra. And, when farmers in nearby villages began committing suicide when they struggled to re-pay steep bank loans in the face of continued famine—Nileema answered the calls for help by farmers in her village by raising funds to be able to loan funds directly to the farmers. Then, similar to BNGVN’s microlending initiatives, she instituted microfinancing for farmers.
Learn more about Nileema’s work, her next immediate goals, and how she has elected to structure her organization in her interview below.
When asked about what advice she has for emerging social entrepreneurs, Nileema emphasizes engaging in work that would benefit not only an initial cohort, but that would create benefit for the last person.
“If our work is only for us,” Nileema reflects, “the soul will not be there.”
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Join other thinkers, thought leaders, and social innovation explorers at this unique event focusing creating impact and value.
Zack is not a first-time entrepreneur. He has founded websites such as Gimme20, which became a social & sharing network for health and fitness enthusiasts and SixDegreesofZR, which connected jobseekers and available jobs within Zack’s network. While the sites do not appear to be active, there are a number of references to them online. His work also spans roles at WebMD, Buzzfeed, and SmartBrief and he regularly writes and speaks about startup entrepreneurship.
Zack may be an encore entrepreneur, but his latest venture has taken him to new realms including social enterprise and ecommerce. He noted that as he dives deeper into ways to empower his platform to do good and do well, he has started becoming more aware of the broader social innovation community. When he attended his first Social Venture Network conference in New York earlier this year he was pleasantly surprised to engage with the strong community of social entrepreneurs who participated.
The tagline for DoGoodBuy.Us is “the marketplace for social good/s”. The site lets users search products using various parameters including, by the cause that the product supporters, by type of gift you are looking to give (i.e. for teachers, clients, babysitters) as well as by price point and type of item. Up to 50% of proceeds are donated to support poverty-eradication, access to food, healthcare, and environmental sustainability measures.
In his interview, Zack talks about his decision to form DoGoodBuyUs as a for-profit and the reasons for doing so. He also explores what is ahead, introducing the concept of crowdcommerce—which allow groups to support specific initiatives.
Thane Kreiner founded, led, and developed multiple life sciences startups before joining Santa Clara University as Executive Director of the department that houses its prestigious GSBI program for social entrepreneurs.
A neuroscientist by training, Stanford Business School graduate, and an experienced serial entrepreneur himself, Thane brings a pragmatic optimism to his role at the helm of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at SCU. Listen below to is interview to learn more about GSBI, what kinds of social entrepreneurs should apply, past successes, and his advice for those thinking about launching a social innovation venture.
Piloted in 2003, Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) applies Silicon Valley acumen to help scale proven early-stage impact innovation for-profit and nonprofit ventures. It does this through offering 2 curriculum programs: the GSBI Accelerator is a nine-month program that combines online modules with mentor meetings and culminates in a in-residence bootcamp at SCU’s campus in California’s Silicon Valley. Social entrepreneurs can also engage through the GSBI Online program—which provides more general startup training through an exclusively online medium.
Both GSBI programs focus on startups that have progressed past early ideation (i.e. blueprint) and validation stages of their startup and are in the ‘prepare to scale’ stage of startup development, as articulated in From Blueprint to Scale.
Alumni of the program include Kiva, WE CARE Solar, Husk Power Systems, World of Good and over 200 other social innovation ventures with entrepreneurs spanning over 50 countries.
Applications for GSBI are open now and due this Thursday, October 31st 2013.
I had a chance to catch up with Thane about GSBI and his own experience and views on the importance of resources for social entrepreneurship. He is articulate and passionate about social innovation, and incredibly well-versed on the Silicon Valley startup experience.
Thane’s education spans a B.S. in Chemistry from University of Texas, Austin to a PhD in Neurosciences from Stanford School of Medicine, to an MBA from Stanford GSB. His professional portfolio includes a number startups that he has founded, led, and guided through development, such as:
Second Genome, Presage Biosciences, iZumi Bio, Inc. (now iPierian).
The event took place on the Stanford Graduate School of Business School, in the expansive Cemex Auditorium. It brought together over 400 educators, entrepreneurs, developers, investors, students, and those simply interested in learning about the topic—and, as you might suspect there was a broad spectrum of familiarity with the topic.
This talk was a perfect opportunity to seek depth by gaining introduction to key concepts, topics, questions, and challenges in the edtech space.
Instead of providing a summary—this post outlines a few recommendations, factoids, and topics imparted.
As explained in the introduction, and in the brochure, “The Common Core Standards, adopted by 45 US states imposes learning and testing which adapts to a student’s ability in real time.”
You can read the full Common Core curriculum requirements here:
Moderator Tina Barseghian outlined a few issues with the adoption of Common Core that have been raised:
- Some schools don’t have the necessary technology to implement it.
- Some teachers don’t want to be held accountable for its implementation.
- Some question its adoption saying that teachers weren’t part of designing it.
- Conservatives say its a liberal conspiracy.
- Some call its adoption a “Trojan horse” introduced in order to let corporations profit
She also articulately noted that the merits of Common Core as a concept were not necessarily the focus of the panel discussion. But hearing them helped add depth and color to the conversation.
One statistic presented estimated that $60B will be spent on edtech by 2015. This slide provided a helpful, visual overview of current players in the edtech space:
This book by Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, was mentioned a few times throughout the evening. It was brought up in the context of Benjamin Bloom (see below for more on Bloom’s Taxonomy) and the effectiveness of “mastery learning”. Washington Times did a review of Khan’s book last year, here.
The panelists easily agreed that trendy buzzword “formative assessment” has multiple definitions. One definition presented seemed to appease and empower, was that formative assessment is “actionable assessment happening in real time.”
The New York City Department of Education dedicates a page of their website to formative assessment strategies, and this is a topic that a number of edtech startups (including panel startups MasteryConnect and Illuminate Education) are focusing on.
- Is the business sound?
- Is the leader stable, driven?
- Has the startup addressed monetization?
For those unfamiliar with the study of education and teaching theory, the work of Benjamin Bloom was referenced. He led groundbreaking work in the field of education and mastery learning over the expanse of five decades up until his death in 1999. One topic that was raised during the panel discussion was “Bloom’s Taxonomy”. Here are brief descriptions and depictions of this concept:
Wikipedia: Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of learning objectives within education.
NWLink.com: Bloom’s Taxonomy was created in 1956 under the leadership of educational psychologist Dr Benjamin Bloom in order to promote higher forms of thinking in education, such as analyzing and evaluating, rather than just remembering facts (rote learning).
|image credit: PSA-NW|
[full disclosure: I serve on the Executive Team of VLAB as the Outreach Chair. Fuller disclosure, I became involved as a VLAB volunteer after covering an event for Innov8Social!]
Sometimes you can learn as much about people by what they ask as by what they say. I learned that early when meeting Doug Park. Read his bio– showcasing his success as a student, attorney, professor, and leader—and you might be surprised by his thoughtful curiosity and desire to continue exploring when you meet him.In addition to sharing his own experience, he asks nuanced questions, poses hypotheticals, and probes into issues of relevance to the social enterprise.I had the pleasure of meeting Doug Park a few months ago at an event showcasing the potential of social entrepreneurship, and recently sat down with him for an interview about his journey to the social enterprise space and the his tips for entrepreneurs.
The photo used above has been adapted from LinkedIn.
On a sunny Thursday afternoon, over 150 people packed an auditorium at the scenic Wharton San Francisco campus to hear about relevant issues in the social innovation space.
The event—The Wharton Social Impact Conference—was held on April 4th 2013 and featured two lively panel discussions by impact investors and social entrepreneurs.
The conference was organized by Wharton SF business students and was attended by colleagues, thought leaders in the field, aspiring social entrepreneurs, and members of the community interested in the topic.
The first panel brought together four prominent leaders in the impact investment space. Geoff “Chester” Woolley of Unitus, a VC firm that invests in scalable businesses serving East Asia that address poverty. When asked about what kinds of social enterprises his firm funds, Mr. Woolley said that Unitus is more focused on funding great entrepreneurs rather than financing individual ideas. He emphasized the importance of having a talented, cohesive team.
Next up was Ed Marcum of Humanity United, that funds efforts to give voice to the underrepresented and advance human freedom. He was followed by Penelope Douglas of Social Capital Markets (SOCAP)–which oversees HUB co-working spaces as well as the SOCAP conference. She emphasized that markets + business are crucial levers of change in social enterprise. The final speaker of the panel was Raj Gollamudi of Omidyar Network who spoke about various forms of capital and the increasing importance of patient capital or slow money—to fund major innovation.
Each successive speaker brought more to the table and delved into a particular unique facet of their social entrepreneurial experience. Leila Janah of Samasource was poised, articulate, and eloquent in explaining her non-profit’s commitment to alleviating poverty through job creation.
She was followed by Alicia Polak of the Bread Project whose candor and openness about creating a local job training & culinary program was disarming, instructive, and entertaining.
Always a crowd favorite, Back to the Roots co-founder Nikhil Arora recapped his journey into social entrepreneurship and touched on the remarkable growth and media their gourmet mushroom kits have garnered. Next up was Jill Vialet of PlayWorks who enlightened the audience about the importance of play and her company’s innovative approach to facilitate play-inspired recess sessions.
Erin Gruwell of Freedom Writers literally brought the crowd to tears with her story of her work challenging her inner-city high school students to write a book. Her passion for her work and her students touched not only the audience in the room but many thousands who watched the Hollywood movie based on her story, Freedom Writers (She was played by Hilary Swank)
In asking one of event organizers, Raghavan Anand about what he took away from the event, he shared his 3 key takeaways, “1) There is value in attaching meaning to money and seeing what impact it can make rather than the raw purchasing power; 2) As the quote goes, ‘Success does not drive happiness but happiness drives success’,” and he pointed out the passion that was felt when the social entrepreneurs explained their work. Finally, Anand noted “3) Happiness is not the end-game. Meaning is, as Viktor Frankl said. And you derive meaning by giving to others, and leaving your impact on the world.”
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