Posts

An Increasing Need for Clean Water, Demands Solutions

Sometimes a need can be so necessary and apparent, that a innovation is a welcome sight, rather than a big surprise. Access to clean water after a disaster is one such need that has affected global superpowers as well as countries deep in their development stages. Whether the need for clean water comes after natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes or from man-made scenarios such as war, explosion, or delayed government response—it is essential, and often unmet.

Meet DayOne Response

DayOne Response is a social venture aiming to answer the call for clean water. DayOne Response’s V.P. of Business Development, Amy Cagle, was on hand at the SOCAP11 Innovation Showcase on the second day of SOCAP11.Below she shows us the DayOne Waterbag that can sanitize any water and make it potable by utilizing the technology of PUR purifier packets (that purify using chlorination-flocculation technology) along with a specially-designed waterbag for easy water collection, filtration, and delivery.

Watch the Interview

How can a waterbag do that? 

DayOne Response demonstrates in this short training video taken in Haiti. Water filtered using DayOne Waterbags and PUR packets meet the World Health Organization guidelines for drinking water.

The DayOne Waterbags may be a scaleable solution, since they take up little space when empty, can turn almost any water into clean drinking water, and can be distributed quickly after a disaster, which can free up resources, and can give affected individuals quicker access to safe water.

One way of getting to SOCAP11 this year at the Fort Mason Center was via the Bus 30 stop in San Francisco. Veering right, then left, and hiking a mini super hill would lead you to this view of what would become your new home campus for the next few days:

SOCAP11 at Fort Mason Center

SOCAP11: Money + Meaning = ?

September 6-9th 2011 marked the 4th annual Social Capital Markets Conference (SOCAP). SOCAP connects social innovators including investors, social entrepreneurs, foundations, non-profit institutions, designers, ‘social’ media, and thought leaders.

As the best attended SOCAP to date—with well over 1500 attendees—this year’s conference focused on impact investing and featured a number of sessions that explored the financial angle of investing in social ventures. It also took a look at the big why—why it matters to invest in projects that have meaning or create some material positive impact. And it delved in to the big how’s—how to design for social innovation, how to build audience, and how to secure seed funding and investment.

Outside Insider

SOCAP11 was an insider’s conference—with plenty of financial-speak, legalese, design lingo, and social innovation buzzwords to tire out your Twitter fingertips.

And SOCAP11 was a place for newbies too, providing a guided path into the world of social impact investing through a broad variety of session tracks, ‘open space’ time for impromptu sessions, and plenary group sessions to bring everyone together and to help distill the deluge of useful information.

In fact, there was a balanced buffet of tracks an attendee could choose from to explore their interest in the field, and even partake in a few “Wild Card” sessions that didn’t squarely fall into a track but were topics of interest. And you could mix, match, sample, and float in and out of tracks based on your preferences.

SOCAP11 Tracks

Doing Well By Doing Good

A huge focus of the conference was exploring the meaning behind social innovation. And time and again individuals from various niches mentioned this phrase…”doing well by doing good.” It seems to be the call that social entrepreneurs, designers, socially-inspired professionals and impact investors alike are determined to answer.

Tweet-casting

After tweeting live from Dreamforce and appreciating the experience as a way to share and learn from various perspectives, I joined a number of other regulars tweeting live from #SOCAP11. It was a great way to connect in real-time. There was even a “tweet-up” to meet the fellow tweeters live.

Parse, Share, Repeat

I met a number of interesting innovation start-ups, learned even more about the benefit corporation movement, and was introduced to a plethora of new keywords. I look forward to parsing out the ripe picks and sharing them with Innov8Social readers. So, don’t change that dial—I will be sharing my experience through photos, video, informative posts, buzzword drilldowns, and reflections on Innov8Social in the upcoming days. To stay connected, just click the SOCAP11 tag to see all Innov8Social coverage of the event.

Catch Up on SOCAP11

There are a number of ways to get your fill on the conference and individual sessions.  Here are a few:

SOCAP11 kicked off informally Tuesday with pre-registration at the Hub in San Francisco. The conference officially starts on Wednesday, September 7th at Fort Mason.

Welcome to SOCAP11

This excerpt from SOCAP Convener Kevin D. Jones in the conference guide explains a little background behind SOCAP:

“SOCAP’s mission is to help create social and economic power for the poor. And we help catalyze a for-profit market to make that happen. Our initial goal in creating SOCAP was to show that the market between giving and investing was real, that it was big and that it was growing…”

SOCAP11 Coverage

Follow our live tweets of SOCAP11 @innov8social on Twitter. You can also search  #SOCAP11 on Twitter for related tweets. After the conference, read posts by clicking on the SOCAP11 tag on Innov8Social.

Attending Dreamforce 2011 in San Francisco laid bare a very apparent reality— “social” as commonly used in “social innovation” or “social media” connotes different meanings.

Defining Social

For social innovators and social entrepreneurs “social” in this context relates to a cause or public benefit, as outlined in this definition:

social – “of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society.” <social institutions> (Merriam-Webster definition)

For cloud computing afficianados, “social” refers to dynamic digital, linked online content, as articulated in this definition:

social – “tending to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others.” (Merriam-Webster definition)

So, Which Is It?

It’s both, of course. The two definitions of social share a major similarity—they both involve connecting.  In the social innovation context, is connecting with communities, the environment, the downtrodden, animal welfare, civil rights, societal ills, education, underrepresented populations, and other causes or communities.

mint leaves in glassesIn the computing context, “social” refers to connecting online, through social networks, social media, and online platforms and networks that enable online exchanges easily and in real-time. It is the ability to voice a concern or praise not on an individual basis or in a vacuum, but in a crowded room, in which you are shoulder-to-shoulder with companies, manufacturers, media, various other constituencies, and other users of the product or service.

While we may try to correct those who confuse the two popular definitions of social—in reality, it may be time to somehow reconcile the connotations and allow enable the definitions to be connected.

Social relates to cause. And in today’s society, championing a cause will effectively call for an effective social content strategy.

So the next time someone asks you, “do you mean social, or social?”

Just say yes. 

It was the idea of combining two powerful concepts of entrepreneurship and social cause that inspired the start of Innov8Social. And though Innov8Social launched in 2011, the concepts have been marinating for much longer.One such concept that has shaped this site is the idea of for-profit entities that are also committed to doing good. And the more we have learned about the B/benefit corporation movement, the more compelling it has become. It is the start of a conversation on sustainable enterprise that will no doubt be epic and that has the potential to change the way we see and do business.

California’s version of the benefit corporation legislation is AB 361. And perhaps what is most appealing is the simplicity and unintrusiveness of the bill. It is voluntary—a choice for boards of directors to discuss, and for shareholders to decide.

If anything, AB 361 is starting this chat with a question…if we create a new type of business to recognize social enterprise, will they come?

Passing AB 361 lets this question be asked to California businesses and consumers. Read below to read Innov8Social’s letter of support for AB 361 to Governor Jerry Brown.

Letter of Support for AB 361
(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

Social innovation may seem like the new hipster concept on the ‘do-good’ block, but in reality it has been evolving longer than we may realize. Ask Ashoka–an organization whose founder Bill Drayton literally coined the term “social entrepreneur” and which has been facilitating and supporting social innovation for over 30 years.npr logoNational Public Radio (NPR) has featured a number of stories and interviews over the past decade that trace the growth and evolution of social entrepreneurship, at a systemic level. Below are a few that help set the scene for understanding where social innovation has been and where it is going.EvolvingIn listening to interviews over the expanse of a decade there seems to be a kind of progression in the movement of social innovation. Starting from concept and practice by specific efforts in developing countries that harnessed the power of entrepreneurship in the context of social change, social innovation gained support through focused support and vibrant community (i.e. Ashoka’s Fellowship program). The concept seems to have grown to a level of recognition calling for academic study (i.e. new courses, centers for study) and governance (i.e. White House Office of Social Innovation) to investment (i.e. green venture capitalism).

The next logical step may be legislated change (such as benefit corporation) that would enable social entrepreneurs to recognize of multiple stakeholders beyond shareholders (i.e. the ‘triple bottom line‘ of people, planet, profits) and focus on creating material positive impact.

NPR Interviews on Social Innovation

1. Social Entrepreneurs – January 2004

Neal Conan talks to a panel of social entrepreneurs in this episode of Talk of the Nation. The panelists introduce social capitalism as a concept and how it differs–but complements–traditional business and non-profit work. The panelists talk about specific problems they each recognized and how they engineered social entrepreneurial solutions.

There is discussion and questions from callers including an interesting caller perspective (at 20:40) regarding the relationship between systemic change and social entrepreneurship, and a question by a caller wondering why Muhammed Yunus had not yet won a Nobel Prize. (He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize two years after the interview, in 2006)

The panel includes:

NPR’s Pam Fessler reports on the new initiative by President Obama’s administration established in 2009 in this piece for Morning Edition. The White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation (SICP) was created to identify non-profit solutions to broad issues such as homelessness and poverty and develop solutions that could be expanded.

Citing organizations such as Teach for America, Fessler notes that successful concepts such as these often face challenges in expanding and growing for lack for funds and infrastructure. And these are the types of projects that the new initiative hopes to support.

Fessler also reports on naysayers to the new office. Those such as blogger Allison Fine claim that true social innovation requires more risk—taking a chance on an idea that hasn’t been proven–rather than one that has experienced success in a small-scale setting.

3. Change You Can Invest In: Social Entrepreneurship – December 2010

NPR Education Correspondent Larry Abramson reports on the growth and evolution of the field of social entrepreneurship and takes a look at how social innovation has found its way to academia at universities such as the University of Maryland’s Center for Social Value Creation, which is part of the business school.

In this report for Morning Edition, he talks with social entrepreneurs such as David Wish of Little Kids Rock about the original social innovation institution—Ashoka—and it’s ability to support and connect social entrepreneurs. Abramson also talks to non-profit consultants such as Chuck Harris about the importance of making non-profits work more like corporations for efficiency and to ensure oversight.

Hear More From NPR

Interested in hearing more? Here are more NPR interviews on social innovation that caught our eye.
Though Innov8Social is entirely dedicated to exploring social innovation, after reading a few posts you still may find yourself asking, “so, what exactly is social innovation again?”
“Social” Typecasting
And you wouldn’t be alone—in the social media-wired world you say the word “social” and many people immediately begin thinking the trifecta: Facebook, Twitter, and everything else (Google+, LinkedIn, etc.)
While online networking capabilities can play a major role in enabling social innovation—the “social” in social innovation is more related to public good or public benefit.
Stanford Professor Rob Reich Explains Social Innovation
If you have about a half hour, the clip below can answer many of your questions, provide a framework to understand social innovation, and introduce you to roses and thorns of the field.
The address is by Director of Program on Ethics in Society at Stanford University, Rob Reich made to 2011 Stanford graduates at Stanford Class Day Lecture on June 11, 2011.
Watch below and read further below for an overview of some of the topics raised.


Key Points from Professor Reich’s Talk:

  • The new social economy seeks to produce social benefits
  • Buzzwords: social entrepreneurship, social innovation, impact investing, venture philanthropy, social enterprise
  • Traditional balance of 3-sector society: government sector, business sector, social/philanthropic sector
  • Today, the boundaries between the sectors are blurring
  • Now, social innovators seek to deliver social benefits within each sector and across sectors
  • Social innovation in business: microfinance, corporate social responsibility, creative capitalism, socially responsible investing
  • Social innovation in non-profit: importance of business strategy, increased focus on measurable social impact (i.e. charitable return on investment/donation), new corporate/legal forms
  • Social innovation in government: White House Office of Social Innovation, partnerships between foundations and U.S. government (Investment in Innovation Fund–I3), Chief Technology Officer and Open Government Initiative
  • Perils of new social economy: 21st century warfare is asymmetrical warfare (nation state vs. non-state actor….i.e. war on terror), unchecked innovation in financial sector contributed to 2008 financial meltdown, 21st century innovation is happening in 20th century framework of policy
  • Concerns: there is inherent tension between for-profit pursuit and social mission, current legislation and structure for non-profits has not been updated since 1969, some forms of social impact are difficult or impossible to measure
Cruise to the San Francisco Chronicle building in SF and you may discover something unexpected on the first floor. A Hub. Or, The Hub (SoMa) to be more specific.In exploring social innovation, a former colleague who is now deeply engaged in the field suggested checking out Hub SoMA. And no sooner did we sign in and enter the lobby–featuring trendy seating and a number of individuals hard at work on a late Thursday afternoon– did I begin to realize that this is no ordinary co-working space.

Take a look at the quick video showing a 360 degree view of the Hub SoMA to get the look & feel…and then read on to find out a few features that make the Hub unique and how it could be a useful tool for any entrepreneur exploring the social innovation space.


Funk and Soul


Alissa Walker wrote a great post on the Hub for Fast Company (“The Hub Bay Area: Where Change Agents Share Space and Ideas”) in which she overviews the Hub, its offerings, and sheds a little light on its history and design—including that it was designed with advice from the well-known design firm IDEO and under the direction of a local lead architect.

Visiting the Hub SoMA, I definitely picked up on vibes of funk and soul. Work tables on wheels, unique conference spaces, privacy booths for telephone calls (or very small meetings) and conference rooms complete with writable glass walls are all features that give it a funky, groovy feel. And the soul is the sheer diversity of individuals, organizations, causes, and ideas that flow through the airy space in any given moment.


Movement


Sans cubicles there is a lot of movement at the Hub. Literally. Walk around and you will see a CEO of one organization walking over to chat with a founder of a budding social venture. Or you may spot an blogger taking a break for tea and chatting with a developer stirring a latte. Wait until evening and you may see all of the desks and chairs shifted over to host a Hub workshop or networking event.  There is movement at the Hub—and that can be a welcome counterbalance to inertia that organizations and individuals may face when trying to think through a big idea.


en-Listing


Membership at the Hub requires committing to a monthly fee that enables you to use the space for a specific allotment of hours per month. The lowest increment is five hours per month for $25. Is it really worth it? One of the big adds in being a Hub member is being a member of the mailing list—and that may itself make the monthly fee worthwhile. Through the internal listserv you can post about your organization and receive updates on employment opportunities, upcoming events, volunteer activities, and social/health happenings.

Being a Hub member at SOMA also gives you access to Berkeley’s Hub (and vice versa).


Sexy Salad Wednesdays


A peek at Hub SoMA’s calendar  reveals a number of events—intended to inform, introduce, and entertain. Perhaps one of the most memorable events our host (and tour guide) for the afternoon mentioned was Sexy Salad Wednesdays. A time to bring the ingredients you have and share with others to create some healthy, delicious, and downright tempting fruit and veggie re-mixes.

The emphasis on social activity is a key feature of Hub membership. Just like communities aren’t based soley on work, the Hub organizers realize that social change is effectively fostered when it’s, well, social.

From a newly-minted Hub SOMA member, you are invited to take a tour, a peek, and perhaps partake in a sexy salad and consider joining a community of social innovators.


I had the serendipitous good fortune of being able to attend the U2 concert in Oakland yesterday after a good friend had an extra ticket. As only of the greatest bands can do, U2 made a lasting impression on upwards of 60,000 fans.

I Am One
ONE campaign wrist band from Oakland U2 show, June 2011

Bono and U2 offer a unique view of how social innovation can work. We have heard of celebrities championing causes, but attend a U2 concert and you may find the theme of social awareness is weaved in to nearly every aspect of performance.

The entire concert experience becomes a call to reflect, motivation to act, and a reason to believe.

In fact, even before the concert began, while enthusiastic ticket-holding fans were waiting in line, volunteers for the advocacy group ONE—co-founded by Bono—were on the scene. With iPads blazing.

With a few quick strokes and multitasking ease, they explained the “I Am One” campaign, added names to their petition, and handed out simple but dramatic wristbands. Bono even recognized the volunteers, the cause, and a few of ONE’s achievements during the concert.

So, what is the ONE campaign? Here are a few facts to put it in perspective:

  • ONE is an advocate. The ONE campaign is a grassroots advocacy movement fighting extreme poverty, preventable disease, and pressuring political leaders on policy ranging from supporting democracy to providing education for children.
  • ONE is a global citizen, with a special interest in Africa. With efforts spanning the world, ONE been key in securing over $100 billion in debt relief for nations struggling with extreme poverty, which has enabled countries in Africa to fund education to put 42 million more children in school. The ONE Campaign also recently supported $450 million in debt relief for Haiti after the earthquake.
  • ONE has rockstar lineage. What is now the ONE campaign is actually an amalgam of an anti-poverty advocacy group founded by Bono in 2002 and a separate grassroots anti-poverty movement launched in 2004. The two groups joined forces under the umbrella of ONE in 2008. The Board of Directors includes Bono, Bobby Shriver (of the Shriver family),  Howard and Susie Buffett (son & daughter of master investor Warren), as well as rockstars from academia, government, the non-proft sector, and business.
  • ONE is not asking for your donation. As an organization primarily focused on advocacy, ONE is not a fundraising effort. They work with world leaders to change and develop policy and practice. (note: apparently you can buy some ONE swag. ONE is also allied with (RED) the business venture designed to raise money to combat AIDS in Africa)
  • ONE wants to make its collective voice louder. ONE wants your signature, as your endorsement for its work. It wants to rachet up its member base so it can leverage its worldwide base of support in negotiating change with law makers and political leaders.
  • ONE is living proof. A big part of being a problem solver is being an active listener. The ONE campaign has a site dedicated telling the stories of issues it is addressing around the world. Real lives, and ONE living proof.
Interested in ONE? You can find more information and sign up on the ONE campaign website.
What do you call it when you make big life changes to “find your destiny” or “realize your true potential” or to answer a whisper that has been long-marinating?

If you’ve lived in the past quarter-century of Oprah Winfrey, you may simply refer to it as the Oprah Effect.

I’m always amazed when I get a harsh or caustic reaction to the mention of Oprah’s name. I’m sure there are naysayers and skeptics–and reasons for their criticism– but I guess she has just been part of our household and my life for so long that for me there isn’t space to dismiss her reach, her passion, her success, and her motivation to inspire.
For my mom, moving to the U.S. in her mid-twenties, Oprah was a friendly voice and willing tour guide to America and its sometimes-surprising ways. For my sister and I she has been an inspiration, and has set a high bar for what is possible, and what we can contribute, teach, and achieve.
Watch her show and you will see profound examples of the Oprah Effect. Individuals who have creatively raised money for causes in need of support, who have used their own talents to serve, who have lived through excruciating circumstances with level grace and dignity, and who–in spite or because of–events in their lives have found a voice, a place, a purpose.
I would like to think the Oprah Effect has held the hand of social innovation—or at least given it a place to grow.
She is perhaps among the most known coincidental social innovator—using her acumen in enterprise, her expansive platform, and her team-building to raise awareness of social injustice, shed light on environmental issues, toast efforts (charitable and corporate) that are making a difference.
And above all, she has constantly underscored the importance of dialogue–a tenet of lasting social innovation.
We may never know Oprah’s celebrity–never be able to understand how profoundly it can impact the way decisions are made, how deals are brokered, the kind of compromises that are required, how empires are grown. But in seeing the rise and fall of those who have experienced it—I think her commitment to authenticity and service speaks lessons of a career well-pursued.
So, to those who have been moved to be the best version of themselves by the Oprah Effect and those of us who strive to—Oprah, good luck in your future endeavors. And Godspeed.