The news of 27 adults and children losing their lives at the hands of a gun-carrying twenty-year old has numbed a nation…and brought it to its feet.Numerous calls for discussion regarding gun control law and policy in the United States have rung across the fifty states in the past few days, chief among them initiated by President Obama during his speech at the vigil held two days after the shooting.The discussions are vital to understand the issue of guns in the U.S.—to follow their life cycles from production, to sale, to use, to storage, to disposal.  They are important in assessing the difficulty involved in obtaining a gun and the qualifications for operating a firearm an individual must possess to actually purchase and own one.

These vital discussions may turn into important proposals for new legislation, which could result in the passage of landmark laws and policies that can inform and dictate the acquisition of guns.


What About Addressing Guns Now?

As the legislative powers begin working, one cannot help but to wonder if there is another agile, adept sector of passionate, informed individuals who can do something sooner to address access to guns.

Social innovators have tasked themselves with addressing the world’s most pressing problems. Is there a way for social entrepreneurship to incentivize gun reduction sooner?

Gun Buyback Programs

Since the devastating news of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 15th 2012, a number of innovative gun buyback programs cropped up across the country.  These programs have been funded by the government or private donors and offer a modest sum in exchange for arms.

Here are a few buyback programs that have appeared across the U.S. just over the past few days:

The Truth About Gun Sales in the United States

According to just a weekend of collection, over a thousand guns were voluntarily surrendered. And as individuals look for causes to donate their hard-earned funds, they may consider creating a local buyback program of their own to incentivize gun reduction.
But, how do these numbers compare to gun sales? According to the FBI, the agency that must approve all gun purchase requests, it received over 16.8 Million applications to purchase firearms in 2012. And though a number of applications were likely rejected, the enormity of the total gives a broad idea of the demand and interest in purchasing firearms. Notably, the FBI received a record number of applications in 2012.

A Need For Social Innovation

Consider this an open call to social innovators and entrepreneurs. The legislative process is at its start, gun buyback programs are gaining steam and seeing localized results, but are there other ways to leverage the crowd and the cause to make gun ownership safer?
A social innovator’s work is never done…and this issue summons action.Screen Shot 2012-12-19 at 4.59.09 PM


We are in the middle of StartUp Weekend for Social Good in San Francisco, hosted by Hub Ventures. The concept of Startup Weekend is to bring together budding entrepreneurial-minded coders, designers, business folks, marketers, media, and just about anyone to dedicate 54 hours (Friday pm through Sunday) to work on a startup idea.There is an emphasis on pitching ideas, forming teams, validating concepts through customer feedback, and building as much of a prototype as time allows.This StartUp Weekend has an extra layer of focus. It is being held to bring cultivate startup concepts that focus on social impact in addition to entrepreneurship.

Though we are just crossing the halfway point, the weekend has been exciting so far—it has been interesting to see the kinds of ideas that have cropped up and the unique effect adding an impact focus has added to business models.  Here are a few photos from the first night.

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Wes Selke, Founding Director of Hub Ventures, introduces his organization’s social enterprise accelerator program.

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StartupWeekend SF participants respond to questions from the speaker.
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A few areas in which social entrepreneurs create impact.
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Keynote Speaker Nick Ellis talks about his social enterprise, Job Rooster, which connects anyone, anytime, anywhere to local employment through text messages–addressing issues of access to job listings for non/low-tech job seekers.

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Startup Weekend organizer John Beadle explains the game plan for the weekend.


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After the speakers it was time to test our pitching skills with a pitch exercise.
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After individuals presented, attendees ‘shopped’ around for ideas they wanted to work on.
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Groups met and strategized how to begin building a startup in a weekend.
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Burning the midnight oil, groups stayed late to map out an approach to do well by doing good.
Dear Innov8Social readers and followers,

Happy Thanksgiving! Hopefully the holiday left you charged to not only count your blessings, but multiply them for yourselves and those around you.


Innov8Social has not been far from my mind for the past few months. And I am excited to share my recent adventures and ideas for what’s ahead with you.
white board notesIn September 2012 I participated in StartUp Weekend, an exciting entrepreneurship event that brings together developers, designers, and non-coders for 54 hours of a ‘hackathon’-like experience of building out a startup idea. The goal is to be able to give a brief pitch of the idea and show a prototype to the judging panel by Sunday evening. Our team won recognition for our website design.
The event was a mind stretch—requiring participants to wear multiple hats, think through potential pitfalls and problems, and be able to pivot our idea in any direction as we built it. It was the quintessential experience in entrepreneurship.
I was fortunate to have joined with a dynamic team and together we began building a solution to the problem of how people in a neighborhood can ‘vote’ on which local businesses they wish to see in their neighborhoods. From our review, there seemed to be a need for effective ways for people to support and encourage small businesses they desire in their neighborhoods. That, combined with the popularity and influence of crowdfunding platforms, put us on a fascinating journey involving lots of interviews, product market fit testing, and pivots on the idea.
I have learned that in social entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship is the initial challenge. And the challenge can be formidable! Before you think about how your business should run and what it’s core values are…you have to have a business.
The experience makes me all the more appreciative of start-up entrepreneurs who bootstrap their way to profitability and then scale and grow their ideas to broader audiences and markets, all the while staying within the broad course of their core values.
The past few months have been all about ‘getting out of the building’ a phrase that Steve Blank uses often in his Udacity lectures to encourage entrepreneurs to be action/input-oriented rather than insular inventors.
I’ll be posting more on these recent adventures. But for now, I wanted you to know that I am thankful for this space for us to connect and that there is so much we can do together. I have ideas of ways to continue building and improving Innov8Social, and would love to hear your input on what you would like to see.
All the best, always.
In whatever stage of your social entrepreneurial dream you find yourself in, there is something you may have noticed. There is a power in momentum. Here’s insight on the momentum that led to the launch of BlendedProfit and to my involvement with the new site.

The Momentum Effect

Momentum. It can be challenging to build, and once achieved you have to think strategically about how to maintain, pace, or even shift it.

One interesting aspect of momentum that I have noticed is that once it is set in motion, it can actually build on itself.  I have been writing on Innov8Social for over a year this week. It has been amazing, exhilarating, and eye-opening. Parts of it have been marked by solitude and self-motivation, and others have been built on collaboration, attending events, and meeting thought leaders.

One aspect of my social innovation journey that I realized I wanted to build a few months ago, was working with a team.  I think some of our best work emerges when we work with and alongside dynamic thinkers, dedicated to exploring a field or concept from various angles.

So it was a welcome surprise when one Brian Weinberg connected with me over social networks after reading one of my blog posts. He talked about his idea about a new site featuring podcasts by thought leaders and helpful resources for social entrepreneurs and innovators (he had seen Innov8Social’s list of fellowships), and he wanted to know if I was interested and what I might be able to bring to the table.

And just like that, a wheel was slowly put into motion.

Push Start — BlendedProfit emerges

That was months ago, over half a year even. The idea was big and, in some ways, amorphous. Conversations, emails, Google hangouts, text messages, and cloud-based documents slowly chiseled it into something we could understand, participate in, and contribute to. Brian’s podcast interview with Sam Daley-Harris (former Director of Microcredit Summit Campaign and thought-leader in micro finance) was not only informative and professional, but provided a footprint of possibility for how these interviews can give useful insight on past and current social innovation efforts.

When the website mockup of BlendedProfit was released, it further fueled the momentum.

The Team

Through our connection, the entire BlendedProfit team has been inspired by Brian as the ringleader. He has taken the role to heart, welcoming ideas, infusing input, and facilitating collaboration. And if Brian connected individuals, the idea of a blended economy sustained the connections. Says Dhruva, one of the team members, “Inspiration to join the team was first and foremost Brian’s passion…In addition, I think that the blended profit economy is the most sustainable way to build the world most people would want to live in.”

It has been inspiring virtually working with dynamic individuals spanning the realm of social innovation. Here’s a snapshot of the founding team, broken down by the various section of the site:

Content Team

Operations Team
  • Graphic/Web Design: Carol Nguyen
  • Marketing: Kristin Schultz and Carol Miller
  • Business Development & Strategy: David Dimmock and Dhruva Rajendra (@drajwfu)
  • Social Media: Pelpina (@pelpina)
  • Audio Engineer: Emre Yagni

Mission-Inspired Momentum

As simply posted on the site, “ seeks to aggregate actionable resources for a community of people committed to a lifestyle that supports good business. By shifting how we interact with business throughout our societal roles, we can grow the good economy together.”

BlendedProfit + You—Together Ahead

Our journey with BlendedProfit is on its way, and no doubt the months ahead will show evolution and growth in content, organization, and a better sense of how the site will engage and serve the audience.
But the journey for you is just beginning. Now is the time for you to connect with the idea of a good economy, one based both on profit and on values of sustainability, social responsibility, and environmental tenets. You can connect with BlendedProfit on Facebook and Twitter, so we can continue the journey together.
There’s nothing quite like being in a room of 1000+ individuals interested, curious, and passionate about of exploring ways of connecting social media with social innovation. Unless, you can do it in the comfort of your own computer, from anywhere in the world.Stanford Social Innovation Review has been producing and hosting compelling content in the social innovation and social entrepreneurship realm for years. But earlier today they tried something new. Partnering with Living Cities, SSIR hosted a free webinar and invited Q&A via online, live submission.


The Webinar 411: Leadership & Innovation with Digital Media (#hyperconnect)

Leading in a Hyperconnected World: Driving Innovation & Impact with Digital Media
Wednesday, May 30th 2012. 11AM PST.
Ben Hecht, President & CEO of Living Cities (Moderator, SSIR blogger)
Stephen J. Downs, CTO & Information Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Claire Diaz Ortiz, Head of Social Innovation at Twitter
Watch the recording here. Official Twitter hashtag #hyperconnect

Below are some key takeaways from the panelists.

Ben Hecht (@benhecht) Shares His Top 3 Lists

Ben Hecht of Living Cities handily kicked off the webinar with some helpful, organized insight. Namely in the form of three easy-to-digest top 3 lists.

3 Reasons to use Social Media:

  1. To share intelligence and ideas
  2. To get realtime feedback
  3. To broadcast knowledge with a broader network

3 Principles that Living Cities Follows:

  1. Mine. This including mining at all stages of development (i.e. early ideation, emerging idea development, and for refining ideas).
  2. Engage. Ben underscored the goal of his organization to engage continuously, rather than transacting. He said that information flow should be two-way.
  3. Let go. Once the information is out there, he suggested stepping away, letting go, and decentralizing the information so it can move on its own.

3 Things that Living Cities Has Learned:

  1. Ideas really can go viral. Ben highlighted one instance when a single blog post was read by over 170K individuals, through simple sharing and re-posting through various social media platforms.
  2. Social media can make the adjacent possible. Innovation comes when innovations from different sectors collide and intersect. Social media, positioned Ben, enables those collisions and intersections, thus furthering and enabling new innovation.
  3. Social media networks can strengthen problem-solving resources. Perhaps couched on the idea of losing what you don’t share, Ben mentioned that his organization has benefited in trouble-shooting and strategizing longer-term solutions through tapping their social media networks for tips and best practices.


Steve Downs (@stephenjdowns) Connects Leadership with Social Media

Steve Downs of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation explained his organization’s mission and overall usage of social media and refocused the discussion on social media to one about how to utilize digital platforms to further leadership, especially in the mission-driven world.

He outlined his organization’s multi-faceted approach to social media as involving openness, participation, and decentralization. Steve underscored the importance of participating in the social media stream rather than using it only to push content.

Claire Diaz-Ortiz (@ClaireD) Shows Us How It Works

Claire Diaz-Ortiz of Twitter illustrated the power of social media through the story of photojournalist James Bock, his initial reluctance in using Twitter, and how it literally saved him from jail time while covering protests in Egypt in 2008. Read the story on CNN here.

She also provided an evolved look at the slacktivism, highlighting the statistic that 40% of those using social media platforms are consuming content rather than producing it. Taking the edge off of passive use of social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other—she emphasized the importance of an engaged audience, and how those individual touch points could lead to further involvement and leadership in the future.

Questions to Ponder

There were a number of great user-generated questions. Ones that were not only useful to hear the panelists discuss, but would also be equally useful for social entrepreneurs and innovators to ask of themselves and their own efforts.

  • Is it important to adapt to the paradigm shift?
  • How can you take online dialogues offline?
  • How will you measure ROI with social media?
(B)enefit Corporation West Coast Forum

On April 27, 2012 San Francisco University and B Lab hosted the (B)enefit Corporations West Coast Forum. It was a day of seminars, talks, and networking intended to connect academia with social entrepreneurs, and to provide an overview of the benefit corporation movement.

One of the interesting panel discussions featured three social entrepreneurs who actively pursue triple bottom line results in their companies. It was moderated by San Francisco-based B Lab Director of Business Development, Dermot Hikisch.

Here is a rundown of the speakers and a few of their key points.

Mike Hannigan, President of Give Something Back

Give Something Back (GSB) is the largest business to business office supplier in California, and has been running for around 20 years. What makes the business socially entrepreneurial is that the company pays competitive wages, but invests 100% of its profits to community non-profits.

Hannigan reiterated that the community was the key stakeholder in his company, which is a registered B corporation. (Note: a point of confusion is b corporation v. benefit corporation. They aren’t the same thing! Learn about the differences here). He noted that when the company was launched two decades ago, it represented a new and novel way of doing businesses, but that he is noticing more and more new companies being started with social mission in mind.

Benefit corporation symposium 3He also underscored the concept that his business has been successful because, at its core, it has a strong business model and can beat out its competition. In fulfilling the company’s vision to support the community and environment, employees receive competitive wages and full health benefits.

Hannigan outlined the democratic process the company engages in to decide on where to redistribute profits within the community. GSB polls their 10,000+ customers and clients to decide on the causes and organizations to support.

Kirsten Saenz Tobey, Founder and CEO of Revolution Foods

If the audience wasn’t already wowed by the history, and operations of Give Something Back—Kirsten Saenz Toby’s story about how and why she started Revolution Foods surely inspired the room.

Tobey started the company six years ago after to change the way kids eat at school and with the vision of fundamentally changing the relationship between food and kids.

She outlined her company’s founding value with simplicity: food should be real. Tobey and her team found ways to replace processed foods (with numerous additives and preservatives, high salt content, and too many grams of sugar) with healthy, nourishing alternatives. And they found ways to mass produce and deliver these healthy meals to local schools on a daily basis.

Tobey also spoke about honoring and respecting the workforce, and shared that in addition to providing full health benefits, her business model makes each employee part-owner of the company.

As they say, the proof is in the pudding, or in this case maybe in the fruit and yogurt parfait. The company has grown fast, very fast. Revolution Foods has gone from preparing and delivering 500 meals per day in 2006 to 120,000 meals per day in 2011. And, it is expanding to eight different regions across the country.

Revolution Foods certified as a b corporation (not the same as a benefit corporation) in 2011. Tobey spoke about the certification process, saying that it was valuable in outlining a roadmap for how her company wanted to grow, expand, and operate. She mentioned that as a social entrepreneur, she has often found it her role to educate potential investors about what b corporations are and what the triple bottom line entails.

In answering an audience question about the future of Revolution Foods, she didn’t rule out an exit strategy such as an intial public offering (IPO) or acquisition by a larger company.

Vincent Siciliano, President and CEO of New Resource Bank

Turning to a banking state of mind, the third panelist Vincent Siciliano of New Resource Bank opened his presentation by asking if we knew where our money “spends the night.” He spoke about his company’s goal of ensuring that every dollar of depositor’s funding is invested in building a sustainable community.

Founded in 2006, New Resource Bank has aimed to bring new resources and create new opportunities for sustainable business. Siciliano mentioned that the bank became a certified B Corporation in 2010.

He expanded on the ways his bank evaluates impact for its stakeholders, mentioning a client sustainability assessment that identifies learners, achievers, leaders, and champions in sustainability. New Resource Bank actively practices slow banking because it does not consciously seek an exit strategy, but instead focuses on long term growth and reach, franchising, and creating lasting economic impact in communities.

Answering questions from the audience, Siciliano mentioned foundations as an emerging source of funding social entrepreneurs, in addition to VC funding and crowd sourced funding. For example, Kellogg Foundation became an equity investor in Revolution Foods.

When asked about the academic community’s role in the (b)enefit corporation movement, Siciliano reiterated the need for impact metrics to support data-driven decision-making.

Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press / April 6, 2012, credit:
Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press / April 6, 2012, credit:

On Thursday (4/5/12) President Obama signed into law groundbreaking crowdfunding legislation that would open up investment to start-ups to anyone—not just accredited investors.

The bill reached his desk after passing with an overwhelming majority in the U.S. Senate in late March.

The news is huge and Jenny Kassan–President of Community Ventures and Co-Founder of Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) had this to say in a recent HuffingtonPost article, “The legislation is remarkable, as it (rightly) reverses more than 90 years of restrictions on raising capital at the grass-roots level.”

Kassan advised student volunteers of SELC when they filed a petition with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2010 requesting an exemption to the archaic rules that allowed only accredited investors to invest in start-up ventures.

The organization’s perseverance and momentum as key politicians from both sides of the spectrum rallied behind federal legislation changing the existing law.

I had a chance to talk to Jenny about the legislation and her role in the new law in November 2011 and was impressed with her knowledge of the history of the law surrounding crowd sourced investment and her knowledge and familiarity with the bills.

It’s an exciting place to be for social entrepreneurs…with great potential ahead.

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.
With the U.S. Senate’s passage of a crowdfunding bill (CROWDFUND Act) that served to amend the House’s parallel bill (JOBS Act) this week, there are a number of insightful articles, blog posts, and online resources discussing the crowdfunding bill and its implications. Here’s a sampling:

  1. Senate Passes Brown-Merkley Bipartisan Crowdfunding Bill (Sen. Scott Brown)
  2. Crowdfunding Bill Passes in U.S. Senate, 73-26 (Innov8Social)
  3. U.S. Senate Votes in Favor of Crowdfunding! (StartUpExemption)
  4. Crowdfund Act (S.2190) (
  5. Bipartisanship, new businesses and new jobs, with a little help from your friends (Google Public Policy Blog)
  6. Soon Even Your Mom Can Invest: Senate Passes Crowdfunding Bill 73-26 (With Protections) (TechCrunch)
  7. Senate Passes Start-Ups Bill, With Amendments (New York Times)
  8. US Senate passes crowdfunding bill to allow Kickstarter-style investing (TheVerge)
  9. Tech Startups in Line to Benefit from Senate Backed Crowdfunding Bill (PR Newswire)
  10. The legitimate goals — and overblown claims — of the JOBS Act (Washington Post)
  11. Senator Brown’s Crowdfunding Legislation Passes as Part of the JOBS Act, Paving the Way for Increased Entrepreneurship (SF Gate)
  12. How Will the JOBS Act Affect Small Business? (Reuters)
  13. U.S. Entrepreneurs Need Crowdfunding To Create 1.5 Million Jobs (HULIQ)
Feel free to add any others that you have come across in the comments below.
shift forwardThe U.S. Senate passed the CROWDFUND Act, a bill allowing average citizens the ability to invest modest amounts in emerging start-ups, by a vote of 73-26 this past Thursday this (3/22/12).We talked about this bill in earlier posts “What is Crowdfunding?“and “Crowdfunding Bill Goes to the U.S. Senate” on Innov8Social. Those posts outlined the concept of crowdfunding for investment, versus for donation (as online platforms such as Kickstarter successfully facilitate).Under existing law, the SEC only allows accredited investors to easily invest in start-ups. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a version of the crowdfunding bill in December 2011 and again in March 2012. The House’s version is named Jumpstart Our Business Startups–tidily referred to as the JOBS Act. And now the Senate has responded with passage of the CROWDFUND Act, which serves as an amendment to the JOBS Act.

A look at the CROWDFUND Act

Key features of the U.S. Senate’s CROWDFUND Act include:

  • Entrepreneurs can raise up to $1M annually through an SEC-registered crowdfunding portal.
  • Individuals earning less than $100K can invest the greater of $2K or 5% of their income. Those earning more than $100K can invest the greater of $100K or 10%.
  • Crowdfunding portals must provide investor protection, including investor education about risks related to small issuers and liquidity.

Crowdfunding for Investment, the Social Entrepreneur’s New Frontier

It is hard to even begin to assess the potential impact of citizen investment in emerging companies. And, for social innovators, it is an exciting new juncture. We have talked in the past about citizens’ abilities to ‘decide with their wallets’ through buying from socially responsible companies and outlining new policy an legislation that supports social entrepreneurs. This new turn enabling tangible investment in new companies only underscores this concept. It can make each of us impact investors, seeking both financial and social return on our small investments.

Social entrepreneurs, it’s time to get in the know about the specifics of this legislation and become poised to act if it passes and is signed into law by President Obama.

As they say, shift happens. And sometimes, we shift + forward.