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:


If social innovation is a journey, the infographic below attempts to map out a path and help define a process in broad brushstrokes. It resembles a design approach to identifying a problem, listening/empathizing with those impacted by it, brainstorming & prototyping, and evaluating.What is interesting about the infographic is that it doesn’t define a flow. Without arrows showing us which step is next, it reminds us that in some degree all of the elements or steps live on the same plane and social innovators skate across them at once as often as they dive deeper into any one aspect.This image is published by Innovation Management Game


As we ease from the crowdfunding phase of our social innovation book project and deepen our research, one big personal goal is to read more books spanning leadership, innovation, design, and sustainability.

I shared this fantastic infographic for business books a few weeks back. Now, thanks to an incredible post by Dimitar Vlahov of Sustainable Brands, we have a robust list of 13 sustainability-centered books by some of the leading thinkers in the space.

Read the full post:

Read the full post and see the graphic on the Sustainable Brands website here.

A few that caught my eye:

The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability — Designing for Abundance, by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, is the long-awaited sequel to Cradle to Cradle, arguably one of the few most influential sustainability books of all time. The Upcycle promises to be at least as impactful and comes fresh off the printing press!
Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future, by Jonah Sachs, has turned into an instant must-have classic on storytelling, a tool vital to the success of any corporate communications campaign in an era of information overload and instant content gratification. The New Sustainability Advantage: Seven Business Case Benefits of a Triple Bottom Line, by Bob Willard, shows how sustainability strategies can increase revenue, reduce costs, avoid impending risks and enhance brand value, resulting in profit improvements of 51-81% within three to five years for a typical company.We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media To Build a Better World, by Simon Mainwaring, is a powerful account of everything brands have to gain from an always-on and always-authentic social media presence.You Unstuck: Mastering the New Rules of Risk-Taking at Work and in Life, by Libby Gill, discusses the (surprising) difference between True Hope and False Hope, and formulates wise lessons in getting unstuck in one’s career, finances, health and relationships. As a renowned executive coach, Gil offers timely tips on employee engagement and organizational change.

Ready to kick off your summer reading? Mike Essex of Koozai created this awesome guide to savvy, creative business books to make explain new ways of thinking, challenge existing paradigms, and put you in an entrepreneurial mindset. Enjoy!

Under the umbrella of social innovation are the many emerging technologies that have the potential to create a meaningful, positive impact on society and the environment. Synthetic biology falls squarely into this category.

A Steve Jobs Perspective

“One of the very few silver linings about me getting sick is that Reed’s gotten to spend a lot of time studying with some very good doctors…His enthusiasm for it is exactly how I felt about computers when I was his age. I think the biggest innovations of the twenty-first century will be the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning, just like the digital one when I was his age.” – Steve Jobs

These words, captured by Walter Isaacson and said in a moment of reflection, are both profound and prophetic.

So what would Silicon Valley luminary and chief innovator, Steve Jobs, have said about a room full of the sharpest, brightest, most innovative minds in the field of synthetic biology talking about the future of the field?

MIT/Stanford VLAB Hosts “Programming Nature”, a Panel Discussion on Synthetic Biology

That is what the scene was this week at the MIT/Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB) event titled, “Programming Nature” held at the Stanford School of Business Knight Center.  Hundreds of attendees filled the auditorium to listen in on experts in the field share their insights and predictions.

VLAB: Programming NatureYou can check back on VLAB’s YouTube Channel to watch the entire event once it is posted.

A (R)evolution?

The discussion was moderated by Megan Palmer, Deputy Director of the Practices Thrust at the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC), which is housed within the Stanford University School of Bioengineering. At SynBERC, a multi-university initiative to promote synthetic biology, Megan recently organized the Synthetic Biology Leadership Accelerator Program (LeAP).

Beyond organizing and creating opportunities for others in the field, she is herself a tried and true synthetic biologist. She holds a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from MIT and a B.Sc.E. in Engineering Chemistry from Queen’s College in Canada.

Megan provided an effective guided tour into the field of synthetic biology, highlighting the key features that make it applicable across sectors. She introduced synthetic biology as a disruptive technology—asking the audience about what the potential could be if biology could be programmed just like computer program code.

She posed the advances in synthetic biology as a either an evolution or revolution since the field has been active for some time. And, Megan spoke to her experience of spending 6 years to test one single aspect of a hypothesis as an example of how the lengthy life cycles of bioengineering can impact the time it takes to see results. Synthetic biology seeks to make the design, build, test cycle for bioengineering faster, cheaper, and better.

VLAB: Programming Nature
An Infusion of Innovation

The panelists provided unique perspectives and infused the discussion with examples of innovation in the field.

Panelist Dan Widmaier, CEO and Founder of Refactored Materials in San Francisco, spoke about his company’s project of simulating spider silk fibers and mass-producing. The fibers, known for their strength, durability, and extensibility, have the potential for building cars and airplanes that are aerodynamic and light, creating durable  performance apparel and gear, developing medical devices that the body may be more apt to accept, creating new offerings in cosmetics, and revolutionalizing entire industries.

Other panelists included:

Nathan Hillson, Chief Science Officer and Co-Founder of TeselaGen Biotechnology. While at Berkeley Lab, Nathan was on a team that developed j5 software, which uses advanced sythetic bioogy techniques to support DNA design and efficient assembly instruction generation. TeselaGen has licensed j5, and according to BerkeleyLab News, has over 100 scientists and companies in its beta.

Alexander Kamb, Senior VP of Research at Amgen. Alexander pointed out that DNA sequencing has had the fastest rate of change of output of any bioengineering process. He noted that the first genome sequence cost in the range of $1B, the next iterations were in the range of $100M, and now a complete genome sequencing can be completed within a few thousand dollars. To illustrate the point, shows a table of cost per Mb of DNA sequence and cost per genome.

Warren Hogarth, Partner at Sequoia Capital in addition to being a chemical engineer. He brought to light how the long cycle of bioengineering can impact the kind of investment sought. Rather than depending on manufacturing deadlines or coding restraints, bioengineering is based on the lifecycle involving designing, building, and testing.

Interestingly, the requirement that venture capitalists look to the long term is akin to the “patient capital” aspect of social impact investing, which also generally involves longer life cycles for return.


Soul Searching

While the panelists displayed genius and creativity in sharing their views on the potential reach of synthetic biology, the night would have been even more meaningful if they also revealed its soul.

Just because we can program nature and synthesize biology, should we? In food nutrition just as there is movement to continue innovating in food synthesis, there is an equally robust movement to avoid genetically modified foods.

If biology can be programmed, so too can viruses, mutations, and destructive traits. Additionally does cloning or creating entire organisms through bioengineering create new life or is it am emulation of life?

The VLAB event, as always, was an amazing meeting of the minds—a braintrust of its own.

During this event, for those of us outside of the field who may conjecture about moral considerations of bioengineering, it would have been insightful to hear about how thought leaders in synthetic biology traverse the murky ethical dilemmas they must face at every turn.

#VLABsynbio Tweets

  1. . talks about open source as a foundation for hacking & research, with proprietary systems being for enterprise
  2. “It’s very hard to compete & scale a product when you’re trying to do something as a $1/lb commodity.” 
  3. . of sequoia notes, when starting a company you don’t really want funding, you want a company that pays for itself
  4. At  event at Stanford, good discussion with startups @refactoredmaterials chaired by SYNBerc’s Megan Palmer 
  5. : “DNA sequencing may be the fastest change rate of output of any technology in human history.” 
  6. Synthetic biology is notorious for having very, very, very unreliable timelines & failure rates. –  
  7. Curious to see if the panel will address the potential of destructive as well as constructive use of synthetic bio…solutions? 
  8. “Unlike electronics  doesn’t have good predictive tools yet so our design-build-test cycle is very empirical.” 
  9. “When thinking about  remember timelines are long & capital requirements are not small.” 

  10. @refactored_mat addressable mkts include performance, cosmetics, biomedical, aerospace, automotive, industrial industries
  11. Learning about synthetic biology tonight 
  12. Excited to be at the  event on  in synthetic biology 
  13. MTJoin  &  & learn how entrepreneurs are transforming  in two biz ventures 
  14. Discussing the endless possibilites of synthetic biology in the cloud at  tonight w/   
  15. Where will synthetic biology lead us?  Programming Nature  on Tues Jan 22 Register at: 
The facts are grim and disturbing. It’s mid-December 2012, and a twenty-something year old physiotherapy student and a guy friend, both originally from the Indian state Uttar Pradesh but now living in Delhi, catch an evening movie at an urban cineplex in South Delhi. They then board a 9pm-ish bus home. The bus veers from its route, and the driver bolts the doors. What transpires over the course of the next hour has catalyzed over 10,000 protestors, broad public outcry, and a crowdsourced demand for change.

Crimes Against Women in Delhi

According to Reuters, New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes of all major cities in India. A rape is reported to Delhi police every 18 hours. Many women’s rights groups claim that due to underreporting, the true number of sex crimes in the city is far higher. And, according the New York Times, even when rape cases are reported, the perpetrators are often not found or arrested.

Six individuals were taken into custody for gang rape and assault charges. The female student remains in critical condition. Though she has been under intense hospital care, she has worked with police to report what happened.

Mass Protests

Protests have cropped up at New Delhi’s historic India Gate and across the country, reaching a fever-pitch with tens of thousands of individuals seeking more serious, expeditious treatment of the over 100K crimes against women reported in the nation’s capital and across the country. Mass protests in Delhi have been met with governmental resistance—the Delhi government passed a late anti-protest ordinance (which has been largely ignored), city officials closed various transportation routes leading to India Gate where the protestors gathered.
The protests began peacefully but have also seen rowdy behavior including the overturning of a Parliament member’s car and provoking police. The police have responded with their own intensity–including tear gas, water cannons, and arrests.

The Call to Social Innovators

For social innovators, the news in Delhi is especially tough. India is one of the hotbeds for meaningful and innovative social impact initiatives. From new education measures to experiments in local farming, creative and driven thinkers in India forge new paths ahead.
The history for social entrepreneurship in India has been sometimes-inspired by the likes of prominent humanitarians within the country such as Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa, and great entrepreneurs such as Tata and Birla.
The victims’ calls for help weren’t answered in time. But the protests, responses, and online coverage is an active call that seeks response. It may be time for social innovators to support legislative changes that can help address issues of women’s safety, but also to think beyond the government to architect new ways that all people can be made more safe to study, work, and play in any city they find themselves in.

3 Things You Can Do, Now

1. Sign Online Petitions
2. Read 

The Great Inequality: What it’ll take for a Brighter Future for Women Worldwide (SocialEarth)

3. WatchIndian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh:
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit:

Jaya Bachchan, Actress/Politician:

VLAB crowdfundingThere was standing room only at June 19th 2012, “Crowdfunding: Disrupting Traditional Funding Models”panel hosted by MIT/Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB). The event was held on the Stanford campus at the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge.The talk centered around the passage of the federal crowdfunding legislation as part of the JOBS Act, and its implications.

Agreeing to Disagree

Berg Hall, StanfordThe panel was moderated by the founder of, Carl Esposti and featured players with  unique perspectives associated with the field. The main points of distinction between panelists had to do with the benefit (or proposed detriment) that is to come part and parcel with the new crowdfunding legislation. And while each panelist had significant experience and perspective on the topic, the opinions clashed on key points, making it all the more interesting to listen in on.
The evening also included a video message from Senator Scott Brown who introduced the crowdfunding legislation as a way to fund innovation. He noted that the SEC is reviewing the legislation and is accepting comments at
Below are some main points raised by the speakers.


Moderator: Carl Esposti, Founder at <<@crowdsourcing_>>

Mr. Esposti gave a little background on his experience in crowdfunding, which he began exploring 4 years ago. He entered the field to determine the ‘why’ of why bets are placed on whether companies succeed and to dive deeper into determining if crowdfunding companies would eventually lead to job creation. Since his entry into crowdfunding he noted that crowdfunding has taken on larger platforms and payment systems. conducted a survey which found a growth in the number of crowdfunding platforms from 450+ as of April 2012 to a projected 500+ by the end of 2012. He noted that the steep expansion of platforms is partially attributable to the ‘low cost of admission’ since there is often not much required in the way of setting up a crowdfunding platform.

He highlighted the U.S. as home to the greatest number of crowdfunding platforms, but noted that Europe is on the heels, and there are increasing efforts in Britain, Brazil, Netherlands, Australia, India, and China.

A key point Mr. Esposti set forth is the impetus behind crowdfunding as a way to support and grow entrepreneurship. He stated that crowdfunding is largely grounded in our desires for social experiences, to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

4 Types of Crowdfunding Platforms

Mr. Esposti outlined four distinct types of crowdfunding platforms, and noted that over $1.5 billion have been raised through all four types, and that reward-based platforms are the fastest growing ones.
  • equity-based crowdfunding (incl. revenue + profit-sharing)
  • reward-based crowdfunding
  • lending-based crowdfunding
  • donation-based crowdfunding

Panelist: Slava Rubin, CEO & Co-Founder at Indiegogo <<@gogoslava>>

Mr. Rubin started his talk on a very personal note, sharing the story of his father’s passing when he was only 15 years old. Ten years later Rubin decided to start a charity for cancer and used online platforms but noted that the process, in his words, “sucked”. He launched Indiegogo on January 17th, 2008 as an alternative to existing crowdfunding platforms.
He talked about how crowdfunding is not a new concept, noting that a version of it was used to raise funds for the base of the Statue of Liberty.  He shifted into explaining the concept of Indiegogo, namely   to be a global crowdfunding platform where anyone can raise funds for anything. In 2009 Indiegogo was open to all, and today hosts 70K campaigns, in 200+ countries, with millions of dollars raised, and a contribution happening every 55 seconds.
Mr. Rubin underscored that Indiegogo is a “no judgment platform” that does not filter the kinds of campaigns created. He noted that successful campaigns have had good pitches, have been proactive, and have been able to find an audience that cares about the campaign.
He also spent a few minutes dispelling myths related to starting a company:
  1. startup myth: there’s a right time to start a company—Rubin said there’s not. His team started in 2008, he noted that perseverance is a key trait for startup success.
  2. startup myth: you need a lot of initial funding to start—Rubin said Indiegogo bootstrapped for a long time.
  3. startup myth: you need a business plan—Rubin dismissed this myth saying, instead, that you need a 1 pager with your idea
  4. startup myth: it’s all about the idea—Rubin stated that while ideas are interesting, its actually about the expectation created from the idea.

Panelist: Ryan Caldbeck, CEO & Founder, CircleUp <<@CircleUp>>

Ryan Caldbeck recently founded CircleUp as a platform to present investment opportunities to investors. He explained that investors visit the site, read about various new companies, invest in them, wire funds over, and become an owner in the company.

Mr. Caldbeck expressed his skepticism about the new federal crowdfunding legislation which opens investment to non-accredited investors in addition to accredited investors (the current rule). He is concerned that venture capital (VC) firms will just make a decision to pass on companies seeking crowdfunding.

Panelist: Daniel Zimmermann, Partner, WilmerHale <<@WilmerHale>>

Mr. Zimmerman is a partner at WilmerHale, a corporate law firm with offices in a dozen cities across the globe. His specializes in corporate and transactional law. Regarding the new crowdfunding legislation, he said it would be interesting to see what specifics the SEC arrives at with regards to implementation and compliance.

He provided a background explanation of the crowdfunding legislation stating the JOBS Act laid groundwork for the bill. Mr. Zimmerman mentioned that where existing crowdfunding efforts and platforms are aimed at simplifying the raising of capital through loans and donation, there is a possibility that the new legislation may complicate the process.

Panelist: Don Ross, Managing Director/Founder and Board Member, HealthTech Capital and Sand Hill Angels <<@Sandhillangels>>

Don Ross provided a venture capital perspective to the conversation. In addition to being the Founder and Managing Director of HealthTech Capital, a funding group made of private investors supporting startups at the intersection of healthcare and technology, Mr. Ross is also a Board Director of Sand Hill Angels. Sand Hill Angels is a consortium of successful Silicon Valley tech professionals who are dedicated to supporting formation and growth of startup companies.

Mr. Ross stated that rewards-based crowdfunding has generally been ‘totally embraced’ by the VC community and noted that equity-based crowdfunding models may have hidden ‘landmines’ and issues, especially with regards to the how the new crowdfunding legislation may be implemented. He pointed to messy capital tables, liability issues, and requirements for public disclosure of business plans (eliminating the ‘stealth mode’ advantage most startups aim for) as issues that could become further complicated by legislative requirements.

He also stated that allowing non-acredited investors could raise accountability issues, increase responsibilities of entrepreneurs, and may even create situations ripe for abject fraud.

In December 2011 Forbes Magazine published the results of their recent study in Europe taking a look at  personalities of innovative entrepreneurs in business. After surveying over 1200 European executives, the magazine distilled the results into 5 personality types of innovators.

image credit:

Caveat emptor, the Forbes’ study consisted specifically of European executives and so may not account for cultural differences that may impact innovation within a company setting in a different region of the world. That being said, it gives a valuable look at the balance and distinct personalities needed to make innovation work.

Though profiles of leading entrepreneurs, notable social innovators (i.e. lists such as Forbes’ Impact 30 list identifying top social innovators) and rockstar founders often profile a single lead individual, the Forbes Insight study suggests that it is actually the push and pull, yin and yang, and creative process of multiple different personalities that lead to institutional innovation.

Below are the personality types Forbes identified. Do you identify with one or think there may be an unaccounted for category?

Forbes Identifies 5 Types of Innovators

  • Movers & Shakers— bold and sometimes brash, these innovators were described by Forbes as the visionaries with a noted ability to influence others. Along with their showmen qualities seem to be just enough impatience arrogance to boot. Executives identified in this category make up 22% of those surveyed.
  • Hangers-On— attention to process and comfort in structure seem to be describers of this category. Forbes describes a concentration of this type of innovator in roles such as CFO/Treasurer. Executives identified as this type make up  23% of the total surveyed.
  • Experimenters— Perseverance and perfectionism mark this curious innovator. This category is described as less concerned with failure but more concerned with pushing through a new idea or initiative. Coming in at 16% of all executives surveyed, this type seems to be consistent with many of our traditional notion of entrepreneurial innovators.
  • Controllers— with characteristics that seem compatible with Hangers-On, Controller innovators are described as markedly risk-averse, and tending find their forte in managing the vision rather than creating it. Innovators of this type made up 15% of all surveyed.
  • Star Pupils— this category is the undeniable talent. Essential to start-ups and full-blown enterprises these individuals are likely sought-out for their superstar skills and A+ report cards. And judging by the fact that they make up the largest slice, they may be rewarded grandly for the skills they bring to the table. Star Pupils made up  24% of innovator executives surveyed.
This weekend saw the arrival of exciting news, I was accepted into the New Leaders Council Fellowship 2012 program for Silicon Valley. I think it will be a great opportunity to build on leadership and communication skills, meet passionate individuals with similar interests, and nuance my understanding of social entrepreneurship and its practice.

What is New Leaders Council (NLC)?
Formed in 2005, New Leaders Council was founded with the specific goal of creating a progressive leadership development infrastructure for young professionals who have initial career experience. It supports a unique application of social innovation to create and support progressive political entrepreneurs–who can go on to engage skills in roles of local government, entrepreneurship, education, and their workplaces.
5 Facts about NLC Institute
The NLC Institute is the training program that enables the work of NLC. Here are 5 facts about the NLC Institute and its reach.
  1. It’s for ultimate weekend warrior. The NLC curriculum program is 5 months long (starting in January) and requires a commitment of 1 full weekend per month.
  2. There’s no “i” in NLC. The program focuses on teamwork and achieving goals together.
  3. Mentor mindset. Fellows are paired with mentors to broaden and build upon career goals.
  4. Volunteer run. Perhaps most amazing is that the entire Institute is volunteer-run. Fundraising projects by NLC fellows support programming costs and the Advisory Board, chaired by NLC CEO Mark Walsh, oversee broader fundraising efforts.
  5. 20 places and growing. NLC Institute programs are in twenty cities across the country and growing.
What happens after you graduate from NLC?
NLC alumni are part of a broad network spanning 600+ alumni in 20 cities/communities across the country. Local alumni engagement involves quarterly reunions, networking events, webinars, and access to active job boards.
What is the NLC fellowship application process?
Individuals can be nominated for an NLC fellowship or can self-nominate. The NLC application process involves answering a questionnaire and responding to essay questions about leadership experience, interest, and future goals. Selected applicants are interviewed by local board leaders and alumni, and fellows are notified of their acceptance in mid-December.
How do I find out if there is an NLC Fellowship program near me?
You can check on the NLC Institute chapters page here.
Social innovation fellowships & accelerator program
If you are looking to build your social innovation IQ through a fellowship or accelerator program, be sure to check out our growing lists + their deadlines below. Good luck!
Location, location, location. It is a key factor in deciding where to live, work, and play. And it can also be a telling indicator of where to launch.Introducing: Opportunity Scores by Opportunity IndexHuffington Post overviewed a new tool that enables you to assess the potential of any geographic area in the U.S. based on factors such as education, median income, poverty level, unemployment, and availability of affordable housing. These opportunity scores, part of the Opportunity Index project by Opportunity Nation, give an apples-to-apples comparison of counties and states.

How Can the Opportunity Index Be Useful to Social Innovators?

Understanding opportunity scores can help social innovators and social entrepreneurs decide where to launch, where to expand, and where to engage,  in surprising ways. Social ventures rely on business acumen and compelling social cause and arguably, launching in a place that is known for its economic and social stability and mobility could offer advantage at crucial stages of a social enterprise’s growth and development.

Alternatively, the Index can also help identify communities and region that could benefit most from social enterprise. Not the top-scorers, but the cities, counties, and states that are struggling. Knowing cities that have scored high gives us a learning tool to compare and contrast what has helped these cities succeed and how social innovation and social enterprise and can help rebuild and uplift cities with the greatest need, and the greatest potential.

Perfect 5’s for Opportunity: Method and Findings

The granularity of the information in the Opportunity Index extends to the county level. To find cities, I identified top-performing counties and selected a city within that county for the list. These cities were usually the largest cities or centers for local government.

I was anticipating finding a number of large cities along with medium-sized suburbs. Interestingly, the vast majority of perfect scores went to smaller towns, cities, and townships. These seemly tight-knit communities appear to have been able to weather, withstand, and in some cases, even flourish in the economic downturn–according to the success criteria of the Index.

37 Cities With Top Opportunity Scores

So here they are, in no particular order. Thirty-seven cities that scored an overall perfect 5 for opportunity based on indicators including unemployment, affordable housing, median income, education, and poverty.

  1. Quincy, Massachusetts (Norfolk County)
  2. Edgartown, Massachussetts (Dukes County)
  3. Derry, New Hampshire (Rockingham County)
  4. Burlington, Vermont (Chittenden County)
  5. Yonkers, New York (Westchester County)
  6. Hackensack, New Jersey (Bergen County)
  7. Hempstead, New York (Nassau County)
  8. Franklin Township, New Jersey (Somerset County)
  9. Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey (Morris County)
  10. Raritan Township, New Jersey (Hunterdon County)
  11. Norristown, Pennsylvania (Montgomery County)
  12. West Chester, Pennsylvania (Chester County)
  13. Columbia, Maryland (Howard County)
  14. Rockville, Maryland (Montgomery County)
  15. Ashburn, Virginia (Loudon County)
  16. Fairfax, Virginia (Fairfax County)
  17. Charlottesville, Virginia (Albemarle County)
  18. Ashland, Virginia (Hanover County)
  19. Jamestown, Virginia (James County)
  20. Cumming, Georgia (Forsyth County)
  21. Fayetteville, Georgia (Fayette County)
  22. Franklin, Tennessee (Williamson County)
  23. Delaware, Ohio (Delaware County)
  24. Troy, Michigan (Oakland County)
  25. Mequon, Wisconsin (Ozaukee County)
  26. Waukesha, Wisconsin (Waukesha County)
  27. Naperville, Illinois (DuPage County)
  28. Carmel, Indiana (Hamilton County)
  29. Fredricksburg, Texas (Gillespie County)
  30. Overland Park, Kansas (Johnson County)
  31. Castle Rock, Colorado (Douglas County)
  32. Boulder, Colorado (Boulder County)
  33. Grandby, Colorado (Grand County)
  34. Silverthorne, Colorado (Summit County)
  35. Los Alamos, New Mexico (Los Alamos County)
  36. Park City, Utah (Summit County)
  37. San Rafael, California (Marin County)