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

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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

Reflections from the 2014 Ashoka U Exchange

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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?

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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

Sneak Preview of Hatch, Portland’s New Co-work Space for Social Entrepreneurs

IMG_3103We recently spoke with Jon-Paul Bowles about Hatch, a new community innovation lab and co-working space for Portland social entrepreneurs. Jon-Paul is working with Hatch and Springboard Innovation Founder Amy Pearl to bring the new space to life and create a system of supporting services for local social entrepreneurs. 

Impact Entrepreneurs: How would you describe Hatch in a single Tweet?

Jon-Paul: Hatch: A Community Innovation Lab. An innovation generator, a place where social and local entrepreneurs create solutions. Where good works.

What role will Hatch play in the local community?

Hatch is both a place and a community. We’ve been surprised by the power of place because we’ve already seen people help each other out organically. So in one sense, it’s a place where a lot of incredibly bright, motivated social entrepreneurs work, have parties, host events, and take meetings. A beautiful co-work space. But in the deeper sense Hatch is simply a community of like-minded people who have a lot to learn from and offer each other and are passionate about using enterprise to solve big problems one small solution at a time. We have specific programs to draw community in. So a lot of different kinds of people find a home in this community. More and more every day.

What inspired founder Amy Pearl to create Hatch?

Amy has deep passion and expertise about helping create healthy local economies. Through Springboard Innovation, she’s been working on helping local economies access local capital for almost a decade. She was reluctant to look for a building to house the programs because changing how we invest in local economies really is about influencing existing institutions, habits and economies, and creating new ways to use legal and financial processes to free up capital for community investing. But it became clear that there’s a demand for people working in social enterprise to have spaces that hatch their ideas and build enterprises. Once she found the old Timberline Dodge building, the rest fell into place. The response has been really positive. And we’re not even open yet.

What type of organization is the best fit for Hatch?

Social enterprise. As your program is really good about explaining, social enterprise can take different forms, be for- or non-profit, etc. Anyone who wants to use enterprise as a means to accomplish a social or environmental end is a good fit. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already been wildly successful, or are just putting the pieces together and want some help.

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What services does Hatch offer, and how much do they cost?

Hatch has a few different services. We have an incubator space that will provide access to top-notch experts brought in to help make them successful. Right now, desks in the startup space are $250.

We also have co-work space, which starts at $95 a month for 5-day access, and tops out at $295 for full-time, 24-hour access.

We also have Fireboxes (like cubes, but cooler) that cost $350 a month. It’s a dedicated desk with a locker, and lots of other amenities.

But most importantly, all our members have access to our programs, workshops and seminars — which revolve around getting them the expertise they need to be successful in whatever work they’re doing. So we’re trying to create an ecosystem that people can step into and thrive.

Do you have any interesting stories from the planning and buildout process?

The whole process has been a lot of fun. When you step into an old car dealership with a very 1990s feel and say, “Yeah, this would make a great co-work space for the community,” you have to be able to roll with the punches (just like any social enterprise startup). One minute you’re engaging leaders in the Portland community and the next you’re ripping off old awnings and wondering how to install more outlets. But mostly it’s been fun to see our team come together with our ideas and have the whole process evolve. Someone walked in the other day and said, “Wow. This is the new sexiest workspace in Portland.” That was fun.

When is the official launch party?

Glad you asked. We’d love to welcome the PSU community.

Where: 2420 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland
When: Thursday, January 30th | 5:00 – 8:00 PM
Who: Meet tenants including XRAY, Albina Opportunities Corporation, TEDx, Mojalink, and many others who are helping form the Hatch Community. Learn how you can grow your own project or get involved in moving another forward. Hear about our 2014 calendar of many new and favorite programs and events.
Cost: Free! Bring a friend and introduce us!

RSVP: to rsvp@hatchthefuture.org

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

Please check out the Hatch website to learn more. Or just come by and ask for a tour.

I also want to say that Portland is a great place for social enterprise. It’s nascent, but emerging. There are a lot of dedicated people already doing a lot in that space. Our goal is to grow the entire ecosystem of social enterprise, to collaborate with many partners like Impact Entrepreneurs and complement each other’s work.

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January 16, 2014 at 9:03 am Leave a comment

Here to Hear: Reflections from a Social Enterprise Field Study in Cambodia

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Each year a mix of community members and PSU students travel to India or Cambodia with Impact Entrepreneurs to spend a few weeks working, learning and collaborating with social enterprises. This year the group is in Cambodia. Here are their stories.

By Tanya Murray (center)

The Human Centered Design approach that we are using to work on our design challenge starts with a simple concept: Hear. The idea behind starting with hearing is that for solutions to benefit those they are developed for requires a solid understanding of their experiences and needs. Before we came to Cambodia, back home in our pre-trip class sessions, we talked about the how to truly hear requires what’s often referred to as “beginner’s mind.” The idea behind beginner’s mind is that there is value in being able to listen openly without being distracted by pre-conceived beliefs, ideas, or experiences. When our mind is open, we hear more. In the design process, being able to hear more means we become more informed about the problem we are exploring and the opportunities that exist.

I’ve practiced this concept at other times with varying degrees of success. I’ve found that in practice, the ability to really listen and hear with a beginner’s mind is challenging. I find it extremely tempting to start formulating solutions at my first inclination of a good idea. The ego can easily be lured by the attraction of achievement and focusing on a solution and the actions required to develop it is a great way to escape the ambiguity of the discovery process. I find myself wanting to relate what I hear to my own experience, labeling and organizing by the constructs I understand. The problem with chasing after the first great ideas that come to mind or judging too quickly is that opportunities can be missed.

I came to Cambodia and to this experience in social entrepreneurship with an intention to practice listening with a beginner’s mind. Given that the topic my team was charged to work on is small-scale farming, a field that I have in-depth experience in and care deeply about, I knew that I was in for a big challenge.

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Over the past six days, I’ve worked with my design team conducting intensive primary research on small-scale, chemical-free agriculture in Cambodia and the produce supply chain in Phnom Penh. We talked to farmers, restaurant owners, the local organic certification organization, and several local NGOs who work to promote the viability of small-scale, chemical-free farming. We heard about what these people care about and their frustrations and successes.

Now, leaving Phnom Penh, my head is full, still spinning from the experience I’ve had. In part this is because Phnom Penh is a lively, bustling city that bombards the senses. Since this was my first time travelling in Southeast Asia, and my experience traveling in the developing world is very limited, there’s been a lot to take in. But even more than feeling filled with the beautiful cacophony of this city, I am full of the rich, inspiring stories that I’ve taken in over the past six days of exploration and discovery. I take the fact that I have yet to fully put all these stories in order as a testament, at least in part, to a small bit of success in hearing with a beginner’s mind.

Yesterday my design team gave a presentation on our research findings and our recommendations for possible solutions. I observed myself feeling critical of our recommendations, finding them vague and far from anything resembling a model or plan of action. Our findings speak more to the qualities that a solution might have. There are no models or financial projections yet, just little nudges toward a solution.

What I’m realizing, with a few miles of perspective on our experience, is that not having a solution yet is a good thing, serving as further evidence of my developing ability to listen with a beginner’s mind and sit with the ambiguity of this process. While we’ve started getting hints of the form that a solution might take, there are still more questions to ask and more to discover. A full-formed solution would be premature. I’m recognizing the value in being able to hear, working on developing the patience and presence required, and looking forward to the solutions that emerge.

December 23, 2013 at 9:56 am 1 comment

Change Maker: Reflections from a Social Enterprise Field Study in Cambodia

IMG_2810Each year a mix of community members and PSU students travel to India or Cambodia with Impact Entrepreneurs to spend a few weeks working, learning and collaborating with social enterprises. This year the group is in Cambodia. Here are their stories.

By Melissa Loney (far right)

As we wrapped up our days here in Cambodia, we had a farewell dinner in which stories came out and realizations were revealed. There was fun, laughter, and remembrances, as well as deeper thoughts exposed. Throughout all of these, one topic stuck with me: how do you “turn it off?” How do you turn off the empathy you feel for the people or things you can’t change without turning off your empathy or understanding of the world around you?

For me this was a provoking idea, as I tend to feel like I’m more “turned off” in my usual life — and it carried over to this trip as well. We go through our daily lives and don’t tend to notice those things we see each day: the homeless person on the corner, the family who looks unkempt, or any other similar occurrence that happens often. These are things I consistently see in Portland, and they are things I would like to change, but because the underlying problems are so overwhelming, they tend to get put in the “think about it later” part of my brain. Then things get busy and these items are generally never thought about again, therefore perpetuating the problem.

I don’t think I noticed until now, but during a portion of this trip I still had at many of these walls up. Perhaps it’s because I’m an extremely practical person, or maybe it’s because I unconsciously don’t want to face the feelings that coincide with the visual inputs, but whatever the reason I was still feeling at least partially closed off through the goodbye celebration. During this discussion over rice and fake Ray-Bans, I came to realize I had become so focused on a part of the goal of my trip, working with ARTillery Café, that I failed to recognize some of the details.

Upon further reflection, as well as a walk around the city with Kate today, I came to realize we had not only seen parts of the country for our project, but we saw many things tourists and visitors here don’t get the chance to see. We saw villagers doing what they can to get by, spoke to farmers trying to make their crops viable and NGO employees doing their best to help out wherever possible, as well as other glimpses into the everyday lives of the people of Cambodia. We were invited into some people’s lives for a glimpse at what they consistently do, as well as perspectives on the same topic from multiple sources. When this realization hit, many of the emotions I was trying to unconsciously ignore came forward and I felt this overwhelming sense of helplessness. This is the feeling that the dinner conversation was about: how to turn off, or be able to live with, these strong feelings everyday.

Now that our part in Cambodia is over, I believe I will really be able to reflect on these feelings and try to understand a conclusion discussed last night. These emotions are there for a reason, and should be a part of your everyday, but by counteracting their overwhelming presence with your own personal brand of good you put out in the world, it can change that feeling from helplessness to pride. This is your personal brand of social responsibility, and can lead you down the path of understanding your place in the world. Where you can place yourself to do the most good with your strengths as well as helping to counteract those overwhelming emotions. This is how social entrepreneurship begins: with the realization that your presence could create change, no matter how small the scale.

On a final note, this trip has been an eye-opening experience, and I have met some amazing people that now are all friends. Thank you for making this trip so worthwhile and creating an environment that was completely open and nonjudgmental. This trip would not have been the same without all of you, so thank you again for your support through this shift of presence and thoughtfulness.

December 20, 2013 at 9:07 am Leave a comment

An Introduction to Social Intrapreneurship

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. [1] 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

Photo by Grameen Intel

Photo by Grameen Intel

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.

Photo by Central City Coffee

Photo by Central City Coffee

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.

[1] Professor J. Gregory Dees, “The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship.”

By Jacen Greene, Program Manager, Social Enterprise Initiatives at Portland State University’s Impact Entrepreneurs

December 4, 2013 at 2:43 pm Leave a comment

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