We typically assume an entrepreneur is someone who founded a new organization, but some of the leading researchers on the topic argue that “starting a business is not the essence of entrepreneurship.” Instead, it is a focus on identifying and leveraging opportunities, creating positive change in the economy, and moving beyond the constraints imposed by a specific role or a lack of resources.  This means that entrepreneurs can be found in corporations, nonprofits, universities, and the government. To avoid confusion with those starting a new venture, entrepreneurs working inside an existing organization are known as “intrapreneurs” a term coined by Gifford and Elizabeth Pinchot. If intrapreneurial efforts are focused on creating social or environmental value, rather than just private value, they are social intrapreneurs.
Grameen Intel, a social business formed in partnership between Intel Corporation and the Grameen Foundation, is an outstanding example of social intrapreneurship in a corporate setting. Founder and CEO Kazi Huque worked within Intel to develop a new organization that combines Intel’s technology expertise with Grameen’s social impact to create healthcare and agriculture software serving the rural poor in Bangladesh. Huque had to act as a true entrepreneur to develop the model, establish the partnership and secure internal funding for the new venture.
Central City Concern (CCC), a nonprofit in Portland, Oregon that works to end homelessness through housing, healthcare, and employment, has created an entire portfolio of internal social enterprises. From janitorial and street cleaning services to a bedbug-resistant bed frame and their own coffee brand, these businesses each serve a unique role in training and employing CCC clients, raising awareness for their mission, or generating income for the organization. CCC has even created, in essence, a specific role to manage social intrapreneurship: Director of Social Enterprises, a position currently held by experienced social entrepreneur Clay Cooper.
Portland State University recently launched an intrapreneurship challenge, reTHINK PSU, calling for innovative internal proposals to reimagine university education. One of the award winners was The Business of Social Innovation, an online program in social entrepreneurship developed by our Impact Entrepreneurs team. The program takes the innovative approach of welcoming professionals, undergraduate students, and graduate students into the same courses, which can be taken for academic credit or in pursuit of a professional certificate. The program therefore both teaches social intrapreneurship and is itself an example of social intrapreneurship in an academic setting.
As social intrapreneurship becomes increasingly recognized across sectors, a number of practitioner resources have been developed. The League of Intrapreneurs provides resources, connections, and stories of corporate social intrapreneurship. The Echoing Green foundation has developed a “Field Guide for Corporate Changemakers.” Net Impact, a global organization of sustainable business professionals, provides an intrapreneurship toolkit and sponsors yearly Impact at Work Awards.
Social entrepreneurship is not solely the domain of those launching a new company. No matter what type of organization you work in — corporation, nonprofit, government agency or academic institution — you can embody the principles of entrepreneurship to start something new and make a positive impact on the world as a social intrapreneur.
 Professor J. Gregory Dees, “The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship.”
By Jacen Greene, Program Manager, Social Enterprise Initiatives at Portland State University’s Impact Entrepreneurs
Carol Levine, Encore Fellow and Founder of The Returning Veterans Project, describes her life as a series of events that fell into place, each equally important to her story and relevant to her work today.
In Carol’s first career, which began in the 1960s in New York City, she was hired as a systems analyst at IBM. However, on finding out what that job entailed, Carol quit before she started and decided to be a teacher, a wife, and a mother. When she and her family moved to the Pacific Northwest for her husband’s medical residency, Carol pursued a Masters in Education and then, rather than continuing to teach, she spent the next ten years running political campaigns and working for county executives in Portland.
Then Carol paused. For six months she wondered what would fall into place next and sensed that whatever it was, it would be important. Her next step could be seen as part two of Carol’s first career. She decided to pursue her second Masters, this time in social work. She saw this field as an intersection of education theory and social impact. With three clients signed up for therapy, Carol created her private practice, which grew and thrived for the next fifteen years.
At the time of Carol’s next big shift the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts were in full swing, veterans were returning home with severe trauma, and the news was entirely about war. Carol hated reading about these wars. In fact, she had always hated reading about war and watching war movies. Descriptions of war horrified her. Then, in 2005, like a switch, everything changed. Carol recalled an old Billy Bragg lyric from the 80s: “wearing badges is not enough in days like these,” and she had the idea to do something about the effects of war.
This spark launched what would become her encore career. First she did something she had never done: she filled her bookshelves with everything she could find on war and its effects. She read about combat, about prisoners of war, about injury and post-traumatic stress, the effects on families, society, and culture. Then she started working. She called together a group of therapists she knew and talked to them about donating one free hour of therapy per week to a returning veteran. Twenty-five practitioners signed up for the volunteer positions, and they established their status as a nonprofit organization.
Eight years later, The Returning Veterans Project now works with 156 care providers and has expanded beyond providing mental health care to offering physical therapies, including massage and acupuncture, with specially trained providers who are experts in releasing trauma. They are growing strategically, with careful provider selection and training as an integral part of their program.
In 2009 Carol was awarded the Purpose Prize by Encore.org, which honors those over 60 who combine their passion and experience for social good. She believes that she could not have achieved this without the extensive and diverse experiences of her earlier life stages and encourages her peers to be agents of change in their own lives, however many careers they’ve already had.
What’s it like spending Halloween in Tunisia with Mercy Corps staff from around the world? As you might imagine, there aren’t a lot of costumes, but there is a lot of innovation. On October 31st, just outside Tunis, Tunisia, Impact Entrepreneurs co-founders Cindy Cooper and Carolyn McKnight graduated the fifth cohort of participants from our Entrepreneurial Leadership Program (ELP) with Mercy Corps. Each year, global Mercy Corps staff gather to receive training from Portland State University professors in business fundamentals, social innovation, and leadership effectiveness, culminating in the design of new business ideas to address social problems.
Nineteen participants from fourteen countries worked over four fast-paced days to develop and pitch new concepts to a panel of entrepreneurs, nonprofit professionals and academics. The result was four new social venture concepts, two in Tunisia, one in India, and one in Indonesia. In Tunisia, one initiative will focus on providing a safe environment for young women working as domestic staff, and the other on addressing unsanitary conditions caused by uncollected garbage. In India, a new venture will work to improve maternal health on tea estates, and in Indonesia, the focus will be on ensuring the health of breastfeeding infants. Participants also developed personal leadership goals, working together on plans to pursue leadership opportunities in their lives and career.
By training nonprofit staff in business practices and social innovation, Impact Entrepreneurs and Portland State University work with Mercy Corps to develop global managers who are comfortable navigating across multiple sectors. As the scale and complexity of global challenges grow, it becomes ever more important to develop leaders with the skills, resilience and capacity to create solutions that incorporate business, nonprofit, government and advocacy-based approaches to achieve the most effective solutions.
The sixth Mercy Corps ELP cohort launches in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2014, and it will be a real treat to see the business solutions they develop.
Have you ever wanted to develop an idea that makes a lasting difference? More and more people do, from the Baby Boomers who make up the most entrepreneurial age group to the Millennials who are committed to creating positive change. Whatever your age or background, we invite you to join a diverse cohort of changemakers applying to our new professional certificate in social entrepreneurship, The Business of Social Innovation. Participants not enrolled in a university degree program can earn Continuing Education Units, and university students can enroll for elective academic credit.
This online program will give you the tools, connections, and skills you need to develop entrepreneurial solutions to social and environmental problems. Three eight-week online courses (10 weeks for university students), followed by an in-person field study either in Portland or abroad, will take you from identifying a social or environmental problem you care deeply about to designing an organization to address that problem. In less than a year, you’ll learn how to use Human-Centered Design from IDEO.org to brainstorm solutions, the Business Model Canvas and lean entrepreneurship to develop the right model, and the latest tools in social media and impact measurement to understand and communicate your impact.
Taught by practitioners and PSU faculty and featuring live conversations with social entrepreneurs and subject matter experts, The Business of Social Innovation professional certificate is designed to challenge, engage, and transform participants. You’ll have the opportunity to work with graduate and undergraduate students and other professionals who all share the same drive. We invite you to bring your passion for positive change and join us in unleashing the power of business for social and environmental good.
Learn more: www.changemakercertificate.com.
Join an informational session:
PSU Social Sustainability Colloquium:
Friday, November 15, 2–4 p.m.
Portland State University
ASRC (Rec Center Building), Room 660
1800 SW 6th Ave, Portland Oregon
Portland State University students can now earn credit for being changemakers. Launching in January, 2014, The Business of Social Innovation is an online program in social entrepreneurship that can be completed in less than a year. Four sequential courses will teach participants the skills they need to design, launch and lead a successful social venture or program in any sector. For the first time, undergraduate students, graduate students, and community members will participate in the same classes, reflecting the real-world diversity and cross-sector collaboration that is a hallmark of successful social entrepreneurship.
Course content is based on materials previously developed and delivered for PSU’s MBA curriculum and global clients including Mercy Corps and The Rockefeller Foundation. Students will use tools such as Human-Centered Design and lean entrepreneurship to identify and understand pressing social or environmental problems, design innovative and practical solutions, and learn how to successfully implement and measure the impact of their approach.
Learn more: www.changemakercertificate.com.
Join an informational session:
PSU Social Sustainability Colloquium:
Friday, November 15, 2–4 p.m.
Portland State University
ASRC (Rec Center Building), Room 660
1800 SW 6th Ave, Portland Oregon
Undergraduate students must apply for the program here: http://bit.ly/psuchange
Applications due by
November 8. Extended to November 22nd. Please don’t wait. Spots are limited.
Graduate students from any PSU college or program may register directly for the first course, MGMT 410/510s – Design Thinking for Social Innovation, through the regular course registration process.
Stay tuned for information on how community members can register (on a not-for-credit basis).
Marc Freedman, CEO and founder of Encore.org, has been confirmed as a keynote speaker at the second annual Elevating Impact Summit hosted by Portland State University’s Impact Entrepreneurs. The event will take place at the Gerding Theater in downtown Portland, Oregon on June 20, 2014.
Marc Freedman is leading a movement to engage millions of baby boomers in encore careers by combining personal meaning, continued income, and social impact. Freedman is the founder and CEO of Encore.org, an organization investing in people over 60 who are changing the world, and the Purpose Prize, which is a set of $100,000 awards to celebrate and advance their work. He also created Experience Corps, one of the largest nonprofits in the US engaging people over 55.
In 2011 Freedman published The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife, a book which has become a guide for some of midlife’s greatest opportunities. His earlier books include Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life (praised as “wonderful” and “highly recommended” by Library Journal); Prime Time: How Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America (hailed by The New York Times as an “inspiring, informative, mind-opening book”); and The Kindness of Strangers on adult volunteerism and mentorship.
Marc Freedman has also received accolades for his work as a social entrepreneur. In 2003 Freedman was elected as an Ashoka Fellow for his innovative idea that engaging millions of baby boomers in encore careers could produce a “windfall of human talent to solve society’s greatest problems.” In 2007, 2008 and 2009, Fast Company magazine named Freedman one of the nation’s leading social entrepreneurs, and in 2010 The Nonprofit Times named him one of the 50 most powerful and influential individuals in the nonprofit sector. That year he also received the prestigious Skoll Foundation Award for Social Entrepreneurship.
Encore professionals are often admirable examples of changemakers in our communities, and in the months leading up to the June 20 Elevating Impact Summit, Impact Entrepreneurs will highlight the stories of some of these individuals on our blog. Read our first post in the series here.
Portland State University’s Impact Entrepreneurs is thrilled to welcome Marc Freedman to the 2014 Elevating Impact Summit, and we look forward to being inspired and challenged by his stories of turning passion into action at all ages.
We continue to explore the state of impact investing in Oregon with an interview of Carolynn Duncan on the role of private funds in catalyzing successful social ventures. Read our earlier posts in the series to learn about the definitions we use and how other local actors are shaping the space:
- Impact Investing defined; Meyer Memorial Trust’s Invest Oregon
- Willamette University’s proposed student-led impact investment fund
- Ecotrust’s hybrid nonprofit/for-profit approach
Interview with Carolynn Duncan, founder of TenX.org, Social Venture Society, and the NW Social Venture Fund
Impact Entrepreneurs: What’s the purpose of the NW Social Venture Fund?
Carolynn Duncan: Our fund’s mission is to reduce global suffering through impact investing and scalable social entrepreneurship. We want to target huge problems that negatively affect the world, and as the White House Grand Challenges initiative which we are committed to states, work with engineers, entrepreneurs and other fund managers to tackle “ambitious yet achievable goals that capture the public’s imagination and that harness innovation and breakthroughs in science and technology” to drive solutions for humanitarian objectives.
What personally motivates you to create social impact through investment?
I am personally way too frustrated by the deluge of solvable problems that exist and create unnecessary suffering for vulnerable people in the world, and the slower pace of well-meaning organizations that have to meander through organizational politics, infrastructural inefficiencies, and a dilution of purpose through how those organizations are structured.
Throughout my career I’ve spent time working on special projects in juvenile probation, foster care, teen moms, deaf, blind & disabilities empowerment, juvenile sex offenders, ESL, low-income business training & lending, at-risk youth, unemployment, financial literacy, distance learning, homelessness, and other aspects of social justice initiatives, for example. It just kills me that a skilled social worker, nonprofit administrator or program officer, or social services activist is literally trapped in their ability to scale the volume of kindness that’s available in their soul to reach out and relieve humanity’s afflictions through appropriate programs, services and products — largely because of the absolute bullshit of slow operations, personnel or resource constraints, and a lack of innovation and entrepreneurial problem solving.
Startups don’t have room in their operating habits for these kinds of things because of the compression of lean infrastructure, the blank slate they have to work with, the need to find and scale an effective business model as quickly as possible, and the founders’ inherent motivation to build value so the business can be sold. This creates a powerful type of organization with which to look at and solve humanitarian problems that can be addressed with market-based solutions.
Like the Gates Foundation, who saw that polio had an effective cure, yet millions of people continued to suffer from polio; they have successfully applied a venture philanthropy approach to corral partnerships, funding and talent to close the gap so that polio is now 99% contained. I lack the patience to endure or observe senseless, systemic suffering for no reason, and I don’t personally have the human capacity to do enough by myself; so contributing my time and abilities to the field of venture philanthropy is the only thing I have found that is a strong enough vehicle to identify large-scale humanitarian problems, develop solutions, and scale relief. Just knowing that is possible is an instinctive motivator — and being able to contribute in these ways helps me to sleep a little better at night, too. I feel so grateful for everything that I have and can do, and I try to run as lean and effectively as possible so that I can direct any surplus energy, resources and time toward high impact areas.
What size and type of business would be a good fit for investment through the fund?
Our target investments range from $500K–$3MM — a standard Series A investment. We also are catalyzing angel impact investments through the Fast Pitch competition, through training and partnering with private impact investors who can provide earlier-stage seed capital, also through the mentorship programs of our accelerator, TenX.org. If a social venture is in the $0K–$1MM revenue range, then we want to see it.
How will you measure the social impact of your investments?
To start, we are inviting social venture founders to participate in our annual Hacking Social Impact unconferences, to learn directly from B Lab, Social Venture Partners, and other entities that have great tools for quantifying some of the intangibles and positive benefits they seek to develop. We encourage founders to use lean startup tools, like the Business Model Canvas, to target focus areas and pain points in the markets they wish to serve.
Finally, we use our hybrid venture capital approach — social impact indicators, industry tools like GIIRS, HIP, and startup metrics tracking — to monitor the performance and outcomes of our portfolio and deal flow. Providing opportunities for social founders and the impact community to learn best practices and tools in these areas is really the focus of Hacking Social Impact, coming up this Nov 18-19, led by our kick-ass organizing team, Stasi Baranoff, Simone Wren, and Andrea Bailey – more info at http://socialventuresociety.org/unconference, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Would you tell us a little about the Fast Pitch competition and different ways for people to get involved?
Fast Pitch is an investment forum (like OEN’s Angel Oregon), started by Social Venture Partners, highlighting scalable ventures aiming to generate high social impact. We welcome both for-profit and not-for-profit ventures to apply; dates to keep in mind are late January for Fast Pitch finals, with applications open now through early November, and due diligence and coaching/mentorship beginning November 4.
For-profit companies compete for an investment of up to $100,000 and the opportunity to present cutting-edge ideas to some of the most engaged social impact leaders, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and investors around Portland.
Not-for-profit ventures will compete for professional and capacity development. Like the for-profit teams, not-for-profit teams will receive feedback, mentorship, and the discipline of improving fundraising skills. This includes financials, impact reporting, presentation skills and pitching.
Impact investors and private angels, students, and social impact professionals can also get involved in the specialized impact investing training and hands on investment & due diligence program we are offering through Fast Pitch. We also welcome participation from the community for sponsorship and volunteer roles – our fabulous organizing team, who have done an amazing job on all aspects of the event, led by Julia Bromka, along with Andrea Bailey, Lin Lu and Melissa Bockwinkel, can help folks find the right way to get involved – email@example.com.
The Fast Pitch application and event info is available at http://socialventuresociety.org/fast-pitch/
What would you like our readers to know that we didn’t already ask?
Investing is about developing and maintaining economic assets that continuously produce financial resources, perpetually into the future — why not do similarly with cultivating high-performance social venture organizations as humanitarian assets whose primary interest is to tackle and buffer the problems and sufferings of humanity’s worst issues? [Here's] One quote I really like, that I found this summer while touring the LDS Church’s Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City: “A man [or woman!] filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.” I think that describes the way that social impact founders see the world, and it’s such a wonderful experience to be able to work with, invest in and empower folks with these values, to be able to do more and to scale their vision. Through managing the NW Social Venture Fund, I want to set fires with founders and visionaries who feel as driven as I do, to do meaningful things that support the well being of as many people as possible.
By Jacen Greene, Program Manager, Social Enterprise Intiatives at Portland State University’s Impact Entrepreneurs