“If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.” – Michael Phelps, US competitive swimmer, most decorated Olympian of all-time

Michael Phelps at Summer Olympics 2016.

photo credit New York Times


Whether you have have been glued to your screen of choice watching every Olympic event possible or have caught highlights from posts on Facebook, there is little doubt that spirit of the 2700-year-old games have once again challenged our view of the possible, propelled us to deepen our focus, and maybe even inspired us to play our favorite sports again.

So, what can the social impact sector learn from the Olympic Games?  Here are 3 takeaways that have been on my mind.


3 Things the Social Impact Sector Can Learn from the Olympic Games


1. It takes time to build a tradition.


In looking at nearly 30 centuries since the Ancient Olympics which took place in 776 BC  or considering the 120 years since the launch of modern Olympic Games…it’s clear that it has taken a hot minute to build the global, pervasive tradition that is the Olympic Games.


We all might wish the social impact sector was growing more quickly, that resources to grow and scale social enterprises were more readily available now; however, we might do well to ask ourselves how we want this space to look in 100 years. These critical moments, somewhere past inception but before full maturation, are when we can inform, influence, and shape the sector and how people across time (and perhaps space) may engage with it ahead.


With the long game in mind, we afford ourselves the opportunity to think more broadly and hopefully more boldly about what we are creating and how we can impact this growing sector that we hope, in turn, will go on to positively impact many others.


2. To make it stick and mean something, you have to invite people to the table.


It was only during its resurrection in Athens in 1896, and with delegates competing from 34 countries, that the Olympic Games became truly global. Fast forward to the Rio De Janeiro Games in 2016, and we witness participants from 206 countries and a first-time team of 43 refugees in competition.


The Olympics did not achieve its je ne sais quoi from limiting participation and involvement, but rather, by opening up the opportunity to everyone while also raising the bar for who could qualify and how. As a result, it has become a global symbol of excellence, rather than exclusion.


Applying this sense of community and possibility, we have to remind ourselves that the greatest innovations in impact will likely not come from behind closed doors, but rather at open tables. From my experience of covering social impact through Innov8social for over five years, I have seen (or later heard about : ) many private, closed door events. Or others featuring prohibitive entry fees. Technology is enabling innovations such as livestreaming and virtual participation, but it still feels like as a sector we can do more to include, invite, and raise the bar for how individuals and entities participate.

3. Planned, live events let people plan, get excited for, and train to innovate to the next level.


With all of the concerns we have seen in recent years as to whether Olympic host cities will “pull through” and be prepared by Opening Day, it is tempting to wonder if there might be technology-enabled solutions that would allow for remote competition and likely save hundreds of millions of dollars for host countries. However, time and again we are shown that the magic happens in the midst of live, in-person interaction.


In May 2016, Innov8social hosted our first live event, “Impactathon”. After years of creating content and syndicating over digital channels, through blog posts, podcast episodes, online course, book, and other online content, the inaugural in-person event did wonders to show the power of having committed, mission-aligned individuals in the same room ideating together.


Extending this more broadly to the social impact sector, there already are growing ways and events to bring together individuals for a live, planned event. Whether through fellowship such as Starting Bloc, Echoing Green, Global Social Benefit Institute, Opportunity Collaboration, Hive Global Leaders, or others; or through events or through pitch competitions; these exist and are growing by the day. However, there is not an “Olympic” standard type of event as of yet–one that is marked by its openness and rigor and which somehow recognizes or furthers the profile and legacies of its participants.


To reach our olympic potential in social impact, the opportunity is ripe for action and innovation, and more reasons than ever to #goanddo.


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

Create mug

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.  

Listen to the Interview

Meet Kelsey

What does it take to make a passion and idea into something more? Founder and Executive Director, Kelsey Suemnicht, is learning first-hand.  She recently launched a bold initiative, The Foreign Policy Project, to empower and inform girls to pursue paths in international relations and policy.

Kelsey SuemnichtWhen she reached out via social media and explained her work and vision, we connected on our experiences working and interning with the U.S. State Department. In the process of doing an interview for the website, she also outlined the problem she sees with the lack of engagement of women in foreign policy careers, and her long-time desire to address the need and build a network and community to support and foster girls to engage in the space.

Kelsey is a Master of Public Diplomacy graduate of the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. She is currently the co-founder of the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy San Francisco hub and has worked for the U.S. State Department, Foreign Policy Magazine, World Affairs Council, the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, ICANN, and The Leadership Program.
She is innovating in a well-established space by finding unique ways to bring new voices to the conversation. Just as any early social innovator, she is building and learning as she goes. It was exciting to discuss both her own path and mission, the need for resources, her vision for the new venture, and how logistically she sees it progressing (i.e. legal structures, growth, etc.).

We caught up before Kelsey’s 3 month trip to Southeast Asia where she hopes to meet and interview thinkers and doers with a background in international relations in addition to exploring and experiencing the region.

Learn More About The Foreign Policy Project

You can find out more at and follow Kelsey’s adventures on Twitter .
When enough people, especially those not otherwise connected with each other, recommend something, it can do wonders to capture your imagination and fascination. That happened with Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Incubator program.

Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI)

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

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

Attending a GSBI Accelerator Showcase

GSBI accelerator showcase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Courage to Try

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

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

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


Apply to GSBI by October 31

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

Application for GSBI are here.


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

5 Social Innovation Resources from SOCAP13


1. Book: Mission in a Bottle

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

3. Conference: Sankalp Unconvention, Annual Summit in India

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


5. Book: The Business Solution to Poverty


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

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

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

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


NetIP North America (Network of Indian Professionals) strives to “serve as the unequivocal voice for the South Asian Diaspora by developing and engaging a cohesive network of professionals to benefit the community.”

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

Dare to Be You

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

NetIP Descends on San Fransisco

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

Dare to Give Back

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

Power of Sharing

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

Singing the Body Electric

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

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

One of the remarkable things I have noticed from speaking to many driven social entrepreneurs is that their current effort is usually not the first they have worked on.And judging by the experience of Tristan Pollock it is often not the last.I first had a chance to connect with Tristan and co-founder Erik Eliason when they were cultivating and growing social enterprise SocialEarth.

SocialEarth, a Platform for Social Enterprise Content

SocialEarth—overviewed here last year (“What is SocialEarth?“)—crowdsources social innovation news, narratives, and features from around the globe. It was founded by Tristan and Erik in 2009 to provide a dedicated platform for seasoned journalists and bloggers as well as those new to penning thought to blog for the purpose of sharing and learning about impact-related events and stories.

Their endeavors resulted in favorable traction among a burgeoning community of social innovators.  By 2012, the site featured 170 contributors from 25 countries, and had a fan following of over 13K Twitter followers and 14K Facebook fans. (Today, those numbers are up to 200 contributors, 23K Twitter followers, and 80K Facebook fans)

Cognizant of the challenges of running a journalism-rooted site, when Tristan and Erik received an offer in March 2012 by leading CSR content distributor 3BL–the co-founders decided to sign the dotted line. And that made way for a new adventure.

Storefront, Pop Up Retail

Within months of SocialEarth’s acquisition, the co-founders were developing an innovative new startup idea, this time focusing squarely on the sharing economy and retail marketplace. From disrupting channels of social news, the latest effort—Storefront—disrupts retail sales outlets.

Instead of committing to lengthy leases in single locations, Storefront allows retailers of all kinds (i.e. brick-and-mortar, online, and specialty stores) the opportunity to engage in short-term leases (including single-day!) in a variety of locations.

Storefront joins other startups in the “sharing economy” by championing “pop up” retail experiences. It provides the platform for retailers to connect with available space and provides ways to let audiences know about pop-up experiences nearby.

Meet Tristan

Tristan Pollock is located in one of the social entrepreneurship capitals of the world, San Francisco. He and Erik launched Tristan PollackStorefront just months after SocialEarth was acquired. This effort has been unique from SocialEarth in a few respects: 1) the topic is distinct; and 2) the funding path has been different. In their latest venture, Tristan and Erik participated in AngelPad, an accelerator program for startups. Their work caught the interest of angel investors including 500 Startups, Sandhill Angels, and Great Oaks Venture Capital. They ended up raising $1.6M in initial seed funding.

The funds are enabling the duo to grow their team and expand their operations to New York City and beyond.

After following Tristan and Erik over the past few years, it was exciting to be able to chat with Tristan about his personal journey to the social enterprise space and what he has learned from two startups with very different paths and areas of focus.

Listen to the Interview


Further Reading

Interested in learning more? Here are a few links to posts and articles about Tristan and Eriks’ startups. And, you can take a look at the cool time lapse video of one of the pop up shops in San Francisco below!

Storefront Gets $1.6M To Grow Its ‘Pop-Up Shop’ Marketplace For Short-Term Commercial Rentals [TechCrunch]
Making Renting A Store As Easy As Booking A Hotel Room [FastCo]
Q&A with Storefront Founder Tristan Pollock [The News Funnel]
What Launching in New York Means To Us  [Storefront Blog]

Major newspapers have been making the headlines of their own front pages this week—such as the sale of the Boston Globe to Red Sox owner John Henry—at 7% of the price of its last acquisition by the New York Times. And not to be outdone, this week also saw the sale of Washington Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos…at what some financial analysts are calling, significantly higher than the market price.Journalism as a field has been ripe for innovation. This infographic by EByline published in 2012 provides a visual context of the recent trends of the space as well as the innovation which is already well underway.How will the recent sales transform journalism—print, online, and beyond. In this time of imminent transformation is there an opportunity to consider the impact that the industry has on the environment and community. Social entrepreneurs, on your mark—get ready….

Journalism�s death and rebirth in 60 seconds


This is a guest post by Anthony Pineda, Founder of Creatrix Institute. Read more in his interview here.Hip-hop music saved my life. It provides a way to critical analyze environments, motivations, and one’s sense of Self. The fact that hip-hop transforms is not a hidden aspect to the culture, yet scholarship has yet to provide the lens to build upon this tenet. As I build a framework to breakdown hip-hop within a theoretical framework that sheds light on a term I believe will usher in new scholarship, notably “transformative hip-hop,” I strive to provide a new way to see hip-hop based education (HHBE, a termed coined in Schooling Hip-Hop, 2013).

Ideally, hip-hop can offer a rich assortment of benefits to the listener. Hip-hop provokes critical thinking and offers ways to gain knowledge (the 5th element of hip-hop). I have chosen to walk a path that is hip-hop. At first when the ‘call’ came to me I assumed the path of an emcee. It is typical that people see hip-hop as an art form and that the only path may be that of a musician in the field, yet I have carved out a path with hip-hop that looks beyond the music. I am a practitioner and a scholar who feels hip-hop deep within my being.
Decoding lyrics fosters critical consciousness by building skills in reading and writing. These narratives in hip-hop music facilitate a way to emotionally connect with the artists and emotionally develop within the individual. In this piece I am writing I have given three distinctive songs that not only transform consciousness, when studied, they also provide a lens to construct reality. Let’s examine these tracks:

“We Don’t” by Zion I, Grouch, Eligh

So this song is their signature energy track, high energy and loaded with complex wordplay. What makes it transformational is their ability to create stories that require a lot of attention. It affirms all the artists determination and staying on their genuine paths.

Zumbi of Zion I at 46 seconds says, “Get clear, I am free, lightin’ up yo dome; leave the speaker blown…….spit obsidian” His affirmation about becoming free through his music and activating the mind as the listener. Then confirms his own beat and the clarity he constructs his lyrics by claiming he spits sharp, which is why he uses the image of obsidian, a stone that you can sharpen and shape.

Grouch at 1:26 starts of spiritual, “I got a call, so I answer cause it rings so loud; Origin, not a cell tower, thanks no doubt” describes how music is his calling. Also exposes its origin not material by using the cell tower image. Grouch’s affirmation expands through his verse and even describes the metaphysical thinking within these lyrics. Eligh looks back at his beginning in the bay during his verse and too comes to the psychospiritual nature of the music at 2:51 with, “check my energy my calling is calling me; free falling I’m falling, free are the ways that I’m balling; callout to the angels just follow me home” which suggests his sense of freedom within the music. The entire song is an affirmation of remaining true to oneself and that music is a way to channel energy. Their music is a constant reminder of listening for your purpose and when you proceed to remember the vow you make to oneself.

“My Soul” by Lowkey

This song is tremendous and has multiple social and political implications. The chorus reads, “You can take my life, but you cant take my soul; you might take my freedom, but you cant take my soul (x2)” which is politically charged because most identify governments with doing both of these to people around the world.

Then he goes on to say, “they cant use my music to advertise for coca-cola, they cant use my music to advertise for Motorola” which directly looks at the corporate sponsored music that many people in hip-hop acknowledge as limiting and destructive towards the human spirit. He says all this with six lines starting at 1:06. At 1:48 he tells us how unique he is and affirms the listener they too are just as special and unique, effectively calling out to seek purpose. Lowkey as an artist has made a unique contribution to hip-hop from the UK.

He often laces his lyricism with political and socially charged material in such a way that the listener views the stories. Not many people in hip-hop have been able to perform such a feat, but to name a few are Tupac, Immortal Technique, and Outkast. I think even more significantly is the work he just completed last year titles “Soundtrack To The Struggle” exposes the whole systematic breakdown of political corruption. Not an easy feat, yet he provides a way to see social problems and at the same time use hip-hop as social activism.


“Caught in a Hustle” by Immortal Technique

This song is one of the greatest ever written and created. Caught in a Hustle is his way to make amends with the path he has chosen as a political activist and emcee. At 32 seconds he says “But I never lose hope, success is psychological; the world is volatile and the street is my education” explaining the power of the mind to him as a way to gain motivation. He also identifies the importance of street knowledge. AT 37 seconds he states “shaping the nation, like the blueprint of a mason” implying the hidden agenda of secret societies which only some have any idea about or even that our founding father Washington was a mason. At 43 seconds he uses an image, “I’m like the little kids on TV that dig through the trash; I hustle regardless of the way you talk shit and laugh; a lot of n***** drop science but they don’t know the Math, cause their mind is narrower than the righteous path.”

All of this is emotionally charged and we have all seen those commercials that exploit the 3rd world. The Math he is referring to is actually lessons brought forth by study within the older hip-hop sects, such as Wu-Tang. The knowledge that the righteous path is narrow is also a biblical reference and has been restated over and over. When you look at the song in its entirety the energy you feel is devoted and out of time, so to speak. He acknowledges his music is political and can in fact endanger his life.

One tremendous line at me is at 1:17 when he says, “Like Yeshua, Ben Yousef flippin through Genesis; ignorance is venomous, and it murders the soul” referencing the alternate name of Jesus and the quick reference to ignorance seem to link a way to perceive a document that has caused so much destruction through the eyes of an enlightened being. Immortal’s rhymes have normally been high and angry, yet this song reflects a wisdom that I believe he walks with. Immortal’s music is transformative in ever case. Some of his lyrics are not for the faint hearted though.

These are just a few examples and the transformative nature of these artists music can become more apparent as one listens deeply. Music now a days often is not listened to , but just played to zone out. The depth of artists today in mainstream media lacks, yet the depth of underground artists continues to flourish.

Concluding Rant

What was your experience? What emotions are elicited by the artist? How did these songs alter your thinking regarding hip-hop music and culture?

These are some fundamental questions that I employ when I “actively listen” to hip-hop. It is critical we acknowledge the power of hip-hop to teach and enhance our consciousness. After I complete this film on hip-hop’s power, I will then provide a book outlining the theoretical framework for deep analysis on hip-hop discourse.

What is more important is to get HHBE into schools with curricula that will motivate youth towards paths in higher education and paths of purpose. Hip-hop saved my life and gave me purpose. That purpose is to change the face of education and bring trust back to the student/teacher relationship.

I am hip-hop! This is the mantra we live by in hip-hop culture and this is meaning. Hip-hop is at a cross-road, and the youth are starving for meaning in their lives and in their music. The time to bring about a revolution in hip-hop is now and the consciousness of hip-hop will create the means by which this happens.