“Follow your curiosity.” — Qiddist Hammerly
At PSU’s Impact Entrepreneurs, we’ve learned that there’s no best age for someone to become a changemaker. From early childhood to encore careers, changemaking and social entrepreneurship can be taught—and realized—at any age. As we expand our university and professional programs to younger members of the community, partnering with Catlin Gabel’s remarkable PLACE program was a natural fit. This year, we worked with PLACE to provide a series of workshops on developing key skills and mindsets for changemaking, including resilience, empathy, optimism, and curiosity.
These skills, linked to successful social entrepreneurs, are also highly desired by employers around the world. We worked with PLACE students using tools including the Business Model You framework and activities from the Transformative Action Curriculum. The students were also treated to a panel of youth changemakers, including the inspiring founders of menstrual hygiene nonprofit Camions of Care, rural clinic Orchid Health, youth prison book provider Liberation Library, and low-cost prosthetic device firm GO Prosthetics.
Students were asked to explore and outline their goals in life. By tying those to the social and environmental problems they care about, as well as the skills they need to create positive change, we hoped guide them to a better understanding of their purpose and how to follow that passion. The results were truly inspiring, from plans to run a community education session on sex trafficking at the new PLACE Center, to help immigrants pass the citizenship test, or simply to explore a newfound passion for changemaking.
When Qiddist Hammerly, a Catlin Gabel alumna and university student involved in Liberation Library, was asked where to start in making positive change, she suggested that students simply “follow their curiosity.” We’ve done the same as we work to teach social entrepreneurship to a younger audience than that of our typical adult workshops and university courses. Along the way, we’ve learned what to adapt (shorter lectures!), but more importantly, we’ve learned how much of what we teach is applicable for changemakers of any age.
For several years, Portland State University’s (PSU) School of Business Administration (SBA) has managed a case writing program for students, faculty, and staff to create original business cases showcasing sustainable businesses or social enterprises from the Portland area. The cases have been used in courses at PSU and other universities, provided valuable learning opportunities in academic writing, and given innovative local organizations international exposure.
The program has enjoyed global recognition: previous PSU SBA cases, all available for free online, include two winners and three finalists of the prestigious oikos Case Writing Competition.
We are delighted to share that Impact Entrepreneurs was involved in developing two award-winning cases in 2015, both planned and co-authored by Impact Entrepreneurs Program Manager Jacen Greene.
Grameen Intel Social Business, written by Jacen Greene, Impact Entrepreneurs Director Cindy Cooper, and PSU Professor Ted Khoury, won 2nd Place in the Next Billion Case Writing Competition. Based on content created for PSU’s Business of Social Innovation Certificate, the case details a unique joint venture between Grameen Trust and Intel Corporation to deliver technology solutions that enable some of the world’s lowest-income people to earn more money, increase early childhood education, and improve maternal health. The prize money was donated to PSU to be used by students for opportunities to learn about social enterprise and sustainability. The case can be purchased from the GlobalLens archive.
Hopworks Urban Brewery, written by PSU Professor Madeleine Pullman, Jacen Greene, PSU employee Xan Pedisich, and PSU MBA students Devin Liebmann and Nga Ho, won 1st Prize in the oikos Case Writing Competition. Building on material from PSU’s Business of Craft Brewing Certificate, the case details the sustainability initiatives of Portland, Oregon brewpub Hopworks, one of the greenest breweries in the nation. The prize money was split between the student and staff co-authors. The case is available for free at the oikos Case Collection.
If you’d like to see a review copy of either case and teaching note, or if you’re interested in having your own organization featured in a future case, please email Jacen Greene: jacen (at) pdx.edu
By Cindy Cooper, Co-founder & Director, PSU’s Impact Entrepreneurs
One of my favorite quotes from our 2013 Elevating Impact Summit was when Eric Dawson, Co-founder & President of Peace First, said, “Children aren’t the future. Children are the present.”
I’ve since thought a lot about the opportunity Eric laid out before us.
An Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, Portland State University is considered one of the world’s leading universities for making changemakers and inspiring action for a better world. I wondered how Impact Entrepreneurs, as a program in a university, could situate youth in our efforts to inspire, incubate and accelerate impact through the promise of business.
Then, I met George Zaninovich who knows a lot about tapping into the power of youth. George created PLACE: Planning and Leadership Across City Environments. A program of Portland’s Catlin Gabel school, PLACE provides high school students and recent graduates from any regional school with an opportunity to lead civic and urban planning projects that create positive change in Portland. For example, designing solutions to food insecurity in outer SE Portland in partnership with Zenger Farm, and developing transportation solutions and enhancing the safety on the Powell corridor with the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
In its seventh year, PLACE has engaged thousands of Portlanders in its projects and worked with hundreds of students from 18 high schools. PLACE has even made its program open source by creating a comprehensive curriculum guide that has been downloaded in more than 50 cities across the world.
Talking with George, we found shared learning goals and beliefs with one big difference: Where PLACE’s experiential projects are defined by the needs of community leaders and urban environments, Impact Entrepreneurs roots its hands-on learning in identifying and pursuing personal purpose for social change. This is the type of complementarity that collective impact is made from!
The decision to work together was a no-brainer, and over many months we co-created an approach that integrates Impact Entrepreneurs’ into PLACE’s 2015 summer program. The collaboration means that 24 PLACE students will explore personal changemaking through the lens of social innovation. They will meet inspiring innovators, examine best practices, and engage in activities to develop their own purpose and pathways toward making a lasting difference.
PLACE’s 2015 program starts July 6th. We’ll bring you updates as we go. Let the changemaking begin!
Jacen Greene, Impact Entrepreneurs, & George Zaninovich, PLACE
The Impact Entrepreneurs Social Innovation Incubator has emerged from hiatus! After taking a year off while we created our online certificate in the Business of Social Innovation, we are thrilled to be back.
We are excited to be working closely over the next year with four amazing new members. Check them out:
Construct Foundation is building a portfolio of partners and mutually reinforcing education initiatives to identify and support new models for teaching and learning, prioritizing K-12 students in Portland Metro’s underserved communities.
Gender Gap Year is closing the gaps in women’s representation, leadership, power and pay through an innovative gap year program in Portland Oregon. Through badging, boldness, action, and self exploration, the year long program empowers women between 18 and 22 to live authentic, connected, and strategic lives of equity.
Lanyi Fan incubates locally-generated solutions and facilitates international relationships to address the high unemployment and environmental problems encroaching on existing livelihoods in West Africa.
The Pathways to Prosperity Initiative, an intrapreneurial program of nonprofit Self Enhancement Inc. (SEI), provides at-risk urban youth and their families in the Portland area “with the knowledge, skills and support needed to leverage economic opportunities and increase financial capability.”
Employers increasingly want to hire more entrepreneurial, more ethical, more impactful employees. And it’s no coincidence that the skills taught in Portland State University’s online Certificate in Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (a “changemaker certificate“) match those most desired by employers. As work becomes more complex and demand for creativity and flexibility grows, the skills linked to creating positive social and environmental impact — those of a “changemaker” — increasingly overlap with those that help organizations succeed financially.
The influential economist Michael Porter argues that businesses succeed when they create value not just for owners, but “shared value” for society as well. A similar approach is embraced by nearly 1200 sustainable businesses that have obtained B Corp certification, and by the 27 states that now allow Benefit Corporations as a distinct legal entity. The social entrepreneurs recognized as Ashoka or Skoll fellows have been pursuing transformative approaches to creating value for society, around the world, for decades. But it’s not just triple-bottom-line businesses, social enterprises, and nonprofits that want changemakers as employees; traditional businesses do as well.
How do we know? We looked at five recent surveys of in-demand job skills covering more than 4000 employers and 5600 individuals both in the United States and around the world (from Mckinsey; Georgetown University; the National Association of Colleges and Employers; Gallup/Lumina Foundation; and a consortium of employer organizations). We then looked at the top 10 human skills listed in each survey, separating out training in specific technical skills such as math, English fluency, and computer literacy. What we found is that the remaining skills line up neatly with the attributes of successful changemakers identified across studies summarized by faculty at the University of Northampton (an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, like Portland State University).
For example, the top job skills demanded across all five employment surveys — oral communication, written communication, and critical thinking/problem solving — were also identified as critical attributes of successful changemakers in a number of research papers. Work ethic and teamwork, the next most desired skills, were likewise shared across both sets of research. Creativity, leadership, and self-management are key to both employability and successful change creation. Even skills like ethics and initiative, essential for social entrepreneurs, are highly desired by employers.
Our students explore each of these top skills in our certificate program. Experiential assignments and applied learning prepare them to launch a venture or to work effectively for an employer. Each student creates and refines a solution to a social or environmental problem of their choice, using best practices from design thinking, lean entrepreneurship, and leadership. Whether or not they decide to make their social venture a reality, they’re learning the most in-demand skills to be successful wherever life takes them. And we’re glad to know employers increasingly believe that employees who create shared value are also the most valued.
By Jacen Greene, Program Manager for Social Enterprise Initiatives, Impact Entrepreneurs at Portland State University
Forge 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
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.”
By Jacen Greene
Program Manager for Social Enterprise Initiatives
School of Business Administration
Portland State University