Heather Fleming and Catapult Design: Thinking Creatively, On Purpose


Heather Fleming, Founder of Catapult Design, is a trained product designer who helps foundations and non-profits apply design thinking to global development challenges. She visited Portland last week for a lecture at the Mercy Corps Action Center, and shared her authentic insights on a variety of issues ranging from water access on Navajo reservations to running a startup in San Francisco to product design for rural development. She presented her experiences candidly, and her demeanor was so casual and familiar that one might have missed the profundity of her big idea: the potential impact of design is that it can empower.

Like many innovators and entrepreneurs, Fleming can identify a few pivotal experiences that led her to where she is now. It started with her life in New Mexico on the edge of the Navajo Nation. Her extended family lived on the reservation and few of them had access to running water. She was inspired when her cousin went to college and later got a job building wells for some of those rural homes. When Fleming herself was in school, studying product design at Stanford, she noticed that both design and entrepreneurship required creative problem solving. Finally, Fleming saw something that would change the course of her work and her life. She saw that design had the potential to empower individuals and communities anywhere by engaging them as creative problems-solvers.

While there are countless ways we can (and do) define design, Fleming was able to identify some key qualities of design during her time at Stanford that fit with her values:

  • seeking to understand
  • multidisciplinary
  • a team sport
  • thoughtful
  • a process for problem solving

Combined with her experience developing consumer products, Fleming embedded these processes and concepts in her strategy as she launched Catapult Design, which strives to reintroduce the basic concept of creative thinking to address development  challenges. Why is creative thinking at the center of Catapult Design? Fleming proposes:

  • Social and environmental problems are complex, so solving them requires systems thinking
  • Social and environmental problems are always changing, so solving them requires iteration
  • Adoption of a product relies on users, so an effective product should be a user-driven idea

To get from the basic concept of creative thinking to leading a product design firm that embodies these principles, Fleming focused on the intersection of design, international development, and entrepreneurship.  Now Catapult Design, a small team of designers, engineers, and educators, is working with forward-thinking organizations using technology as a means to drive social change. Some examples of products they’ve created include a 50-cent scalpel for clean child delivery – because over 50% of the women in the world give birth at home – and rolling barrel-carts to transport clean water.  The ideas are simple, on purpose.

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A visual synopsis of Heather Fleming’s presentation by Stefanie Koehler, of Biomimicry for Creative Innovation

April 16, 2014 at 12:36 pm Leave a comment

Forge Portland: A New Co-working Space for Nonprofits and Social Enterprises

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 9.52.35 AM

37648_forge_robert_bartForge Portland aims to become the city’s newest co-working space, offering participating nonprofits and social enterprises free services and referrals across a range of topics. In May, their space at 1410 SW Morrision will open to members. We interviewed Forge Portland’s Founder, Robert Bart, about their offerings, Indiegogo campaign, and pending launch.

Impact Entrepreneurs: How would you describe Forge in a single tweet? 

Robert Bart: A collaborative workspace for nonprofits, social entrepreneurs and freelancers. Members have access to free basic services to help them run more efficiently.

What inspired you to start Forge? 

The inspiration for this model stemmed from wanting to find a way to help organizations without charging them a premium for delivering the services that they need. I first came up with the broad concept for Forge while biking back and forth to law school last winter. The initial concept was to allow organizations to share basic resources to cut down on overhead costs. Over the course of 200 conversations the concept was refined into our current model which provides Forge members with a physical space to work, while also giving them access to free resources to help them run more efficiently.

What do you see as Forge’s role in the local community?

Our goal is to become a hub for Portland’s non-profits, social entrepreneurs and freelancers. We want them to know they have a comfortable, professional office to work in, while also having access to resources and a community of like-minded people to share ideas and concepts. The services that we offer are designed to help a wide range of businesses and organizations, and as we grow we hope to offer these services to organizations that do not need desk space, but still need business development help.

Our space in downtown Portland is roughly 6,000 square feet and will double as an event space in the evening. We will provide organizations a place to hold regular meetings and events.

What type of organizations are the best fit for Forge?

The services that we offer are intended to be basic enough to address the needs of a wide range of organizations. While we are targeted at non-profits, social entrepreneurs and freelancers trying to do some good in the world, we also want people who work with the types of organizations at Forge. Our goal is to create an ecosystem where when a small business needs a graphic designer they already have a relationship with someone else who is working at Forge. We are creating an economy where members are spending their money with people they know and trust.

What services will Forge offer, and how much do they cost?

Forge members have access to free accounting templates, legal referral, business development, web templates, mentorship and intern placement. We do not charge our members for these services and do not make any money on referrals.

Our desk memberships start at $50 a month for a once-a-week access, $225 for a full-time hot desk, $325 for a private desk, and we have two remaining private offices for rent. We also offer a limited number of service-only memberships to organizations that just need business development assistance.

We intentionally set our prices to be the most affordable in town, because we want people to be able to access our services. Our goal and belief is that by helping organizations grow and expand good things will happen.

How close are you to launching, and how can the community help?

We are opening our doors in May at 1410 SW Morrison St. Right now, we are looking for a few more people to join our community and start working with us. We are limiting our initial membership and have about 10 available spots remaining. We are also about halfway through our Indiegogo campaign, which is helping us raise the last bit of capital to fund our build out costs in the space.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know? 

Forge is first and foremost about community and helping organizations. Over the past year dozens of people have contacted us with ways to help improve or add on to our model. If what we are trying to do resonates with you, please reach out and say hello: rob@forgeportland.org


April 11, 2014 at 10:05 am Leave a comment

Portland’s Business Incubators and Accelerators


In the latest federal ranking, Oregon is sixth among US states in job growth. How does a small city like Portland create a large footprint in the startup world, while stimulating employment and economic development? We think it’s partly thanks to a great and growing base of programs offering assistance to small businesses. After several years of rapid growth, there are now nearly 30 business incubators, accelerators and support programs in the Portland area.

Beyond working space and crucial programs like mentoring, skills-building, and networking, you may be surprised what resources you can find in this ecosystem of supporting organizations. Need a commercial kitchen? A pop-up shop downtown? A 3-D printer? Alongside the Portland Business Journal’s recent Portland Incubator Roundup, we hope this post serves as a 2014 directory for local incubators helping small businesses thrive. Let us know in the comments if we missed anyone!

I. Incubators for Social Impact Ventures

PSU’s Social Innovation Incubator and Business of Social Innovation Online Program: Embedded in PSU’s School of Business Administration, Impact Entrepreneurs delivers a curriculum integrating social, environmental and ethical issues through its Social Innovation Incubator and online program in social innovation, assisting early-stage social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in launching market-based innovations that generate systemic social and environmental benefits.

springboard-logo-newSpringboard Innovation: Springboard Innovation helps fill the gap of learning and support for those who wish to make a difference in a new way through workshops and memberships at Hatch, social entrepreneurship meetup groups, investment guidance, mentorship matches, pitch events, and more.

ForgeForge Portland: Just on the horizon, with a planned opening in May 14, Forge will be a shared workspace that offers a suite of free business and organizational tools designed to support nonprofit and social enterprise members.

II. Small Business Incubators and Accelerators

MCNW Mercy Corps NW: Mercy Corps NW supports small businesses and entrepreneurs through microloans, matched business grants, and small business classes taught by business professionals.

tenx_logo1TenX: An open source, business frameworks education company, TenX provides content, events, conferences & learning programs to generate growth & acceleration for high potential organizations & individuals.SBDC

Small Business Development Centers (SBDC): FREE to Oregon businesses and entrepreneurs, SBDC services include financial, marketing, production, organization, and international trade and feasibility studies.Starvups

Starve Ups: A virtual incubator and accelerator with peer mentoring as its cornerstone, Starve Ups is an end-to-end educational approach helping companies to survive, strive and thrive.

TiEThe Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE): Designed to accelerate the successful development of member companies, TiE provides support services including rental space, an incubator program, pitch sessions, and mentors.

besthqBest HQ: A business incubator, best HQ provides the support and resources for entrepreneurs to establish and grow their companies, in addition to providing workspace and management and leadership training.

SCORE: Score is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businessScorees with free personal counseling, ongoing mentoring, and 100+ high quality, modestly-priced workshops each year.

nedspaceNedSpace: This co-working resource has 14,000 square feet of great office space in the heart of downtown Portland for co-working, startups, entrepreneurs and remote workers.

III. Tech Incubators and Accelerators

OTBCOregon Technology Business Center (OTBC): OTBC helps entrepreneurs identify and attain their goals at whatever stage they are at by providing entrepreneurs with office space, access to OTBC’s coaching staff, and access to OTBC workshops and seminars.

PIEPortland Incubator Experiment: PIE enables creative business-building by helping startups learn, grow, and quickly conquer obstacles, pairing them with the mentors they need, when they need them, to solve their unique business challenges.

Portland seed fundPortland Seed Fund: The Portland Seed Fund is a privately managed fund and non-resident accelerator focused on providing emerging companies the capital, mentoring and connections to propel them to the next level.

Startup WeekendPortland Startup Weekend: A 54-hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation, Startup Weekend brings together developers, designers and business people to build applications and develop a commercial case.

PSBAPortland State Business Accelerator (PSBA): The PSBA provides office and lab space for science and technology startups, as well as a menu of services including turn-key affordable work space; conference room access; monthly CEO meetings and topic-related brown bags, plus ready information on business basics, raising funds and managing people.

OtradiThe OTRADI Bioscience Incubator (OBI): Oregon’s first and only bioscience-specific accelerator, the OBI provides scientists and young companies with the resources and expertise needed to take their research from the lab to the market.

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 10.22.56 AMMicro-Enterprise Inventor’s Program of Oregon (MIPO): MIPO is a non-profit organization that provides resources, training, and advising on inventing, designing, and marketing unique products and services globally.

IV. Craft, Culinary and Design Incubators and Accelerators

ADX_Logo_Header2ADX: ADX is a 12,000-square foot facility that combines membership, fabrication services, classes and coworking — to make ADX a hub for design and innovation in Portland.

CogspaceThe COG Space: The Cog Space co-workspace/ office and accelerator for small bike businesses in Portland brings together Portland-based industry talent in order to share common resources and services.

PCCPCC Getting Your Recipe to Market : In an intensive 14 weeks, this program will help you make your culinary idea commercial ready, with food industry experts that will take you step by step to produce, promote, and sell your product.

kitchencru-logoKitchenCru: A shared-use community kitchen and culinary incubator that supports culinary entrepreneurs in developing, operating, and growing a successful business.

TrilliumTrillium Artisans: Helping low-income artisans and craftspeople increase their craft business income and build sustainable microenterprises by providing small business counseling, access to markets, peer networking and technical assistance and training.

PNCA bridgelabPNCA Bridge Lab: Provides entrepreneurship development and resources for artists by helping artist-entrepreneurs focus your vision, connect you with business resources, and assist you in building your own personal network in the Portland creative community.

V. Incubators and Accelerators for Women and Minority-Owned Businesses

SBA (outreach)Portland State University Business Outreach Program (BOP): Helps local small businesses, including emerging minority and women-owned businesses, achieve their potential by providing technical assistance and business consulting services.

HaciendaHacienda CDC Community Economic Development: Serving low income microentrepreneurs at any stage of business development, the organization offers a culturally-specific Microenterprise Program that incubates businesses by providing training, access to capital and selling opportunities, affordable commercial kitchen rental and, in the future, retail space at the Portland Mercado.

MESOMicro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO): MESO improves the economic opportunities of underserved individuals through empowerment, education, and entrepreneurship for the benefit of families in the greater

OAMEOregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs: Participants in the Association can access the Incubator With Walls or the Incubator Without Walls. Both offer market rates, individual technical assistance, counseling with OAME’s staff or volunteers, cooperative marketing and business growth, and development support.

Women Of Mindful Business (WOMB): WOMB helps women create a natural framework for business and marketing efforts, and Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 10.27.38 AMis a platform for collaboration with a small group of heart-centered entrepreneurs and opportunity to learn to weave the feminine into your business.

April 4, 2014 at 8:37 am Leave a comment

Introducing Elevating Impact Keynote: Dr. Victoria Hale

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Dr. Victoria Hale, Founder and CEO of Medicines360

Framework change can solve systemic world health problems, or at least we know it can if driven by Dr. Victoria Hale. An admirer of early suffragists, Hale is unafraid of challenging the status quo. She has set out to close the gab between unmet health needs and pharmaceutical opportunities, introducing solutions around the world ranging from available, affordable contraception to cures for fatal diseases.

Having worked in the pharmaceutical industry since college, Hale understands medicine. She was raised in Baltimore, worked at Johns Hopkins University Hospital as a pharmacist, and received her PhD in pharmacology at the University of California San Francisco. She continued on to work with the FDA, conducted research with Genentech, the world’s first biotech company, and founded her own pharmaceutical consulting firm, Axiom Biomedical.

Despite the progress Hale had made in medical research with advanced institutions in the US, it was a trip to India that brought on what would be a pivotal revelation. Hale saw that the global health industry had lost its ability to drive innovation, and that it was unable to provide affordable treatments to poverty-related diseases.

In 2000 Hale founded OneWorld Health to develop safe, effective, and affordable medicines addressing ignored and often fatal diseases like visceral leishmaniasis and a number of diarrheal diseases plaguing people developing countries. OneWorld Health became the world’s first nonprofit pharmaceutical company.

Widely recognized as a social entrepreneur for effectively addressing a systemic problem with a scalable, sustainable solution, Hale was just getting started. In 2009 Hale Founded Medicines360, leveraging her understanding of science and social enterprise to make medicines that help millions. With Medicines360 Hale is taking a new approach. She believes that today’s healthcare system is failing women, and she has set out to change it. With the power of medicine, awareness, and accessibility, Hale aims to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry (again!) by developing innovative, affordable, and sustainable medical solutions, particularly for women.

Hale has facilitated an unlikely partnership of industries – innovative science and innovative business – to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. We are honored to highlight her following International Women’s Day, and welcome her to the 2014 Elevating Impact Summit as a keynote speaker.

To find our more about Dr. Victoria Hale’s story, the non-profit pharmaceutical industry, and the organizations she has built, visit medicines360.org or see her wonderful TEDx talk from last year here.

March 10, 2014 at 12:56 pm Leave a comment

2014 Pitch Fest and Impact Awards

IE_EI Summit_banner

Each year at Impact Entrepreneurs’ Elevating Impact Summit, we celebrate social impact in many forms, from new social ventures to proven approaches to addressing social and environmental problems. In 2014, we’re pleased to bring back the Pitch Fest and the Impact Awards. Nominations for the Impact Awards and applications for the Pitch Fest are now open to the public. Read on to learn more, and please join us on June 20 at the Gerding Theater in Portland, Oregon for the Pitch Fest, Impact Award announcements, speakers, panels, and stories celebrating social innovators of all ages and fields.

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Social Entrepreneurs: Apply to Pitch at Elevating Impact 2014

On the morning of June 20, the Elevating Impact Pitch Fest will showcase Portland’s latest and greatest. If you are a student, professional, or social entrepreneur from any background, and have an early-stage social venture that you’re passionate about, apply now to pitch your concept.

If selected to pitch, you will present your idea to a panel of experts and an audience of more than 400 enthusiastic peers. You will receive personalized feedback from impact investors, meet and mingle with other like-minded social entrepreneurs, and may link up with the partner, employee, resource, or organization you’ve been searching for to advance your work. Make the Elevating Impact Summit a stage for yourself and for your vision, and a take advantage of this chance to share your story with a strategic and supportive community.

Thanks to our sponsor Immix Law Group, the Pitch Fest participant with the most audience votes will receive $1,500 cash and $1,000 of in-kind legal support. The runner-up will also receive $1,000 of in-kind legal support.

Applicants must: be registered for the Elevating Impact Summit; be using an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to address a social or environmental problem; submit a two-minute, non-professional video pitching their idea; and apply by May 1.

Apply here to pitch >>

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2014 Impact Awards Call for Nominations

As part of the Elevating Impact Summit, the Impact Awards recognize the achievements of remarkable changemakers and teams who are using entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial approaches to generate positive social and environmental impact. Impact Award winners act boldly to implement programs or ventures that demonstrate innovation and lasting impact.

This year, awards will be given for outstanding impact in the following categories: Campus Innovation; Impact Intrapreneurship; and Impact Entrepreneurship. To submit a nomination for an individual, a team, or yourself, please follow the link below and carefully review the additional detail on selection criteria for each award category.

Enter a nomination for the Impact Awards >> 

March 3, 2014 at 11:14 am Leave a comment

Reflections from the 2014 Ashoka U Exchange


The Ashoka U Exchange, affiliated with the global Ashoka network for social entrepreneurs, is a yearly conference of colleges and universities teaching social innovation. From “Changemaker Campuses” (such as Portland State University) already recognized for their efforts in the field to those just beginning to incorporate social innovation into the curriculum, the aptly-named Exchange offers just that: a way to exchange best practices and new approaches. This year marked the release of Trends in Social Innovation Education, featuring the results of a comprehensive global survey and thought-leadership pieces by authors including our own Director, Cindy Cooper. I recently returned from the conference, held in Providence, Rhode Island and Brown University, where I was struck by some of the emerging trends in the field.

Massive Growth
Social Innovation education has exploded in popularity, with the number of offerings nearly tripling in the past five years, from almost 200 to nearly 600 worldwide. Much of this growth has been driven by student demand in programs that support their desire to make a positive impact on the world and enter careers that will allow them to do the same. The quick expansion of the field means that most universities are still developing their strategy, experimenting with different approaches, and working to identify appropriate learning outcomes.

Funding Challenges
Despite the popularity of social innovation programs among students, funding for these programs has lagged. A lack of funding was identified as the largest single challenge facing universities in this field, and anecdotal conversations at the Exchange confirmed this. Public universities and small private colleges struggle to secure endowments or grants for their work. At Portland State University, some of our programs utilize an earned-revenue strategy that enables them to be self funded, but this is relatively uncommon.

Teaching Approaches
The term “social innovation” spans a vast array of approaches, from sustainability to social justice to service learning, but is linked by an emphasis on transformative innovation. Social entrepreneurship is an emerging pathway to social innovation based largely out of business schools, where tools such as design thinking, the Business Model Canvas, and the Lean Launchpad are seeing widespread adoption. Recognizing the breadth of approaches to social innovation, and organizing them under terms such as “changemaking,” has better enabled interdisciplinary approaches and community collaboration.

The biggest takeaway is that social innovation is here to stay. As an organizing principle for teaching students to become leaders and innovate around ways to make a positive impact on the world, it offers a way for practitioners and educators of diverse fields to come together in our common work of creating a better future for all. As Linda Kay Klein of Echoing Green said at the Exchange, our goal is to help students do “what is right for them, good for the world, and bold.”

Downtown Providence, near Brown University

Downtown Providence, near Brown University

By Jacen Greene
Program Manager for Social Enterprise Initiatives
Impact Entrepreneurs
School of Business Administration
Portland State University 

February 27, 2014 at 8:56 am 1 comment

Social Entrepreneurship: How Can I Get Involved?


The core concept of social entrepreneurship — using business tools and approaches in nonprofit, for-profit, government and academic settings to address social and environmental problems — is rapidly gaining traction. But for everyone we meet with a great idea for a new business or program, there are many more who simply wish to lend their expertise, talent and insight to the movement. Again and again, we’re asked “How can I get involved?”

In response, we’ve put together this short guide to helping out. We left out the many crowdfunding, donation, and investment opportunities in the field to focus exclusively on platforms that enable you to offer high-level, pro bono support to social innovators around the world. After all, you don’t need a lot of time, money or ideas to change the world — just the desire to help out.

Ashoka Changemakers offers a set of social enterprise challenges and projects that link social entrepreneurs with supportive networks of partners and collaborators. The Ashoka network is one of the largest communities of social entrepreneurs in the world.

Catchafire matches skilled individuals to specific project needs posted by nonprofits and social enterprises. From finance to design to photography, the platform offers an array of pro bono consulting opportunities for professionals of every background.

Ecoapprenticea platform based out of Portland, Oregon, enables  students and professionals to work on real-world environmental challenges posted by local organizations. Individuals or teams with the best proposed solution for each challenge receive a cash prize.

OpenIDEO is a list of social challenges curated by IDEO, the design firm responsible for popularizing design thinking and developing the Human-Centered Design process. Each challenge is posted by a different organization seeking input and solutions from the general public to help guide the development of new programs and ventures.

We hope this short guide gives you a starting point to contribute your unique experience and knowledge to the field of social entrepreneurship. If you’re interested in working with us directly to mentor social entrepreneurs or help run educational events, please sign up for our quarterly email newsletter for news on openings and opportunities. Thank you, and happy helping!

February 12, 2014 at 2:39 pm Leave a comment

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