Posts filed under ‘Opportunities for social innovators’
This post was contributed by Angela Merrill, Undergraduate at Portland State University’s Urban Honors College & Changemaker Campus Liaison
“Wherever we are in the world, we can commit ourselves to change.”
– Tichelle Sorenson, Director of the Portland State MBA
Since learning the term ‘social entrepreneurship,’ as a senior in high school, I have been presented with a variety of definitions for it. From Mohammed Yunus at the Grameen Bank, who was called a social entrepreneur for his work building the microfinance industry, to CanCity in Brazil, which empowers trash collectors to create furniture from melted-down cans, new ventures redefine the field every day.
Now, as the new student intern with PSU’s Impact Entrepreneurs, I’m not just out to define social entrepreneurship with a boundary for where it starts and stops because realistically, not everyone wants or needs to become a social entrepreneur. Finding an authentic personal journey to make change is still an important step towards creating more happiness (and less suffering) in our world.
Impact Entrepreneurs and the PSU Alumni Association share my conviction. Earlier this month they invited three changemakers to present at a lively event at Bridgeport Brewery. They each talked about finding their unique path to creating positive social impact throughout their lives and careers. Here my takeaways from their stories.
“Know what’s out there, contact an expert and help good people do good things.”
Currently a Research Associate at the Center for Public Interest Design (CPID) at PSU’s School of Architecture, Todd started off studying philosophy as an undergrad and became involved in various NGOs at rape and refugee call centers. Increasingly, he found himself needing to solve problems of design and, after watching a PBS documentary on Public Interest Design, decided to become an architect to work with (and not for) communities of underserved populations. Not only did Brad Pitt narrate the documentary, but it also featured CPID’s own director Sergio Palleroni – a leader in the field of Public Interest Design.
“Subscribe to be a lifelong learner and connect with those experts you might not normally connect with. Be curious. Agility is the strongest muscle, so being adaptable and having transferrable skills will help you be ready to tell your story.”
A self-proclaimed storyteller, Rhian is a serial “intrapreneur” who leads Corporate Citizenship at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide – one of the largest public relations firms in the world. She enables change by aligning the overall strategy of her clients and employees to create purpose and profit within the corporate giant.
At around 5pm each day, an alarm goes off on Rhian’s phone that says “Was today worth it?” She says the day she answers no to the question above, it’s the day to quit.
In the same way she aligns other business strategies with purpose, she too has learned that aligning herself with her company and personally defining impact is a key step in the journey.
“Have the audacity to step out of a predetermined role. If you have a crazy idea, do it.”
The skills software engineers employ are in high demand across sectors, and Eric’s story is no different. Although a first job working for a stock analysis firm paid him well monetarily, something didn’t feel quite right. After being fired from this job, he listened closely to his mind/body connection to discover where his passion was leading him – to make things and share them with people. Now a technologist with Idealist.org, he is able to do this by creating a platform that directly facilitates online users to find their own pathway to changemaking. He says, “At Idealist, we don’t necessarily have the skills to save the whales. But if you want to save the whales, we want to help you find other people who want to save the whales and can help you do it.”
It doesn’t matter to me that Eric, Todd, and Rhian didn’t introduce themselves as social entrepreneurs. They have found creative and pragmatic ways to solve the problems they see in their lives and they have crafted careers to address those issues. They are changemakers who inspired the audience to find their own pathways to changemaking.
“A Path Appears,” the latest book by Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, takes the reader on a journey starting with the story of a nine year-old girl who convinced people to donate money to provide clean drinking water for individuals around the world and ending with the tale of two college students that turned a homework assignment into an organization that delivers healthy school lunches to low-income schools in America. Through these captivating examples, this book makes the case that you do not have to be rich or business savvy to help make a change, and that problems exist closer to home than you might think.
A primary message in “A Path Appears” is that even small contributions can create a real impact in social issues across our nation and around the world. What may seem like a drop in the bucket can change someone’s life for the better. So often we find ourselves not contributing because we feel we don’t have enough to offer. This book teaches us that with a small amount of research and care you can make a change no matter how much money, time or experience you have.
Kristof and WuDunn also use this opportunity to challenge the common notion that issues like malnutrition, extreme violence, and lack of education only affect people in developing nations. The authors show us a different reality. They paint a picture in one story of Chicago’s west side, where three murders a day is the norm. “How could this happen in a developed country, in a wealthy city?” We ask. “And how can we stop it?” The powerful solution that Kristof and WuDunn illustrate here didn’t start with economic development or criminal justice, but with an open mind. Dr. Gary Slutkin, a medical doctor born a raised in Chicago, had an extensive background in infectious diseases. He worked around the world on illnesses from tuberculosis to HIV with a special focus on eradicating transmission. When Slutkin began looking at Chicago’s violence as an infectious, transmittable disease, he started to find ways to treat the problem as such. He looked at the time and place where violence would begin to escalate, or to move from one family to another, and that’s where he started stopping it. This is just one of the many stories that demonstrate that you don’t have to look across the world to find a problem and solve it. Sometimes you just have to look around you.
“A Path Appears” is full of powerful moments capable of motivating even the most skeptical person into wanting to make a change. Every night after reading the stories in this book I excitedly told my wife about things people across the world were doing to make a change. This book will drive you to take action and that step, even a small “drop in the bucket,” might just change someone’s life.
You can order a copy of “A Path Appears” here.
Social entrepreneurship has come on strong in the education space with an ever-growing number of institutions teaching entrepreneurial skills with a lens on social issues. From the midst of a fast-changing field, Impact Entrepreneurs at Portland State University paused to consider the social entrepreneurship education trends of tomorrow.
Business students will choose a focus on intrapreneurship
Social intrapreneurs use entrepreneurial practices inside existing organizations and institutions. Because their innovations ultimately yield bigger impact for their employers, intrapreneurs are in high demand. In the last few years, we have seen the rise of the social intrapreneur as one of the most prized employees. In the next five years, educators will include intrapreneurship in social entrepreneurship curriculum, organizations and institutions will fund employees’ pursuit of intrapreneurship education, and social ventures will thrive with intrapreneurs running programs and operations with new ideas and creative leadership. Join The League of Intrapreneurs here.
Boomers will join the ranks of social innovation students
The number of Americans age 55 and older will double in the next 25 years, and they’re not ready to quit. They will have a lifetime of experience and want to work on something they care about. It’s a huge opportunity. In many cases these encore professionals will seek training and education for their new stage of life and work. They will enroll in social entrepreneurship programs alongside younger generations to build skills and pathways to work with social purpose organizations and companies. Colleges and universities will craft experiences and curriculum for these new cross-generational audiences. Discover research, examples, and opportunities from the encore movement at Encore.org.
The world will see developing countries as sources of social innovation
The old narrative says that when wealthier nations invest in leadership and R&D, the solutions they invent benefit the rest of the world. But the developing world is a rich environment for social innovation where entrepreneurial leaders, often focused on their own markets, are effectively addressing pressing social problems daily. Now companies, countries, and organizations spot ideas from the developing world that could be successfully utilized in other contexts. Education institutions will follow this lead, guiding students to search for solutions from the developing world and practice collaborating with local innovators to grow their solutions for broad, international social benefit. Find a great example in this story about Kenya’s leadership in mobile money.
Programs and departments will collaborate across campus
The days are gone when the majority of students leave their university with one skill that they bring to their one job where they work forever. Now students demand a broad spectrum of experiences to support their career, which increasingly include a variety of roles. Social innovation and social entrepreneurship programs in particular will adapt by collaborating across campus, leveraging cross-disciplinary infrastructure, and building pathways for students to get the depth and breadth of experiences that will help them succeed throughout their lives as changemakers. Impact Entrepreneurs at Portland State University is collaborating with departments across campus to deliver the Certificate in The Business of Social Innovation.
Employers across sectors will look for changemakers
The most in-demand skills from employers match the goals of social entrepreneurship educators. Examples include leadership, creativity, empathy, hands-on training, problem solving, judgement and decision-making, and perceptiveness. As the overlaps between in-demand job skills and social innovation skills become more obvious, employers will partner with education institutions to fund programs that systematically benefit their workforce, their institutions and ultimately their impact. We’ve collected information here illustrating how the most in-demand job skills among employers today match social entrepreneurship curriculum.
This post was contributed by guest writer Gina Condon, President and Founder of Construct Foundation.
In 2013 I was in the process of launching the Construct Foundation. I was looking for the right professional development opportunity to help me form the building blocks of a new kind of education foundation. I researched everything from MBA programs with a social mission to weekend workshops for non-profit leaders. Throughout my search I kept returning to Portland State University’s Business of Social Innovation, a new online certificate delivered by Impact Entrepreneurs in the School of Business Administration. The new program prepares changemakers to tackle the world’s most challenging social and environmental problems.
An Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, PSU is recognized for their leadership in social innovation education and the PSU School of Business is ranked among the top 15 MBA programs by Aspen Institute Center for Business Education. The social innovation certificate is open to professionals as well as graduate and undergraduate students, creating a unique intergenerational community, and the faculty is made up of accomplished practitioners.
I’m honored this fall to join an inspiring group of peers in the first cohort to finish The Business of Social Innovation certificate. Among the many highlights of the yearlong program, we were treated to visits or webinars by Tim Clark of Business Model You; Kristi Yuthas, coauthor of Measuring and Improving Social Impacts; and designers from IDEO.org.
Now, with the courses all complete, we are on to the important work of identifying, designing, and supporting sustainable solutions to real-world problems. My work will be in the field of education. The team at Construct recently partnered with the founders of Design Week Portland and piloted the expansion of their education track as a way to celebrate the nexus between design, innovation, and K-12 education.
Next we plan to introduce the concept of an industry supported City-Wide Design Challenge for students throughout Portland metro region. This idea has grown from The Construct Foundation’s first initiative with Project Breaker. I was able to develop the idea throughout the Business of Social Innovation coursework. Here’s a micro-documentary about the project we ran last May. Now similar projects are being developed for middle schools and high schools around the city.
Congratulations to Impact Entrepreneurs for launching a powerful new course.
Portland State University’s Impact Entrepreneurs recently completed the pilot year of the new Business of Social Innovation Certificate, a professional and academic certificate delivered from within the School of Business.
The program’s goal, audacious from the start, was to greatly enhance an individual’s likelihood of transforming world-changing ideas into reality, whether working within an established organization or launching their own.
Aside from the ambitious mission, even getting the program up and running seemed like it would require some magic. The Impact Entrepreneurs team had only a few months to run design sessions for the program; tackle online learning tools; recruit instructors; record lectures; attract and register students; and move through the local, state, and regional accreditation processes.
Each term of the first year of the certificate was as much a challenge for the team delivering the content as it was for the cohort executing the coursework. Everyone involved was working hard, from the instructors to the diverse cohort of undergraduate and graduate students, nonprofit executives and for-profit business managers. Students completed three intensive online courses, attended site visits with twelve local social enterprises, and a developed a full business plan. What was the result of this collective marathon? Outstanding emerging ideas to address social problems and invaluable feedback based in experience to drive the program into year two.
The program participants developed:
Construct Foundation’s new Citywide Design Challenge for students, to be announced during Design Week Portland.
A cause marketing campaign to enable local breweries to support the Oregon Food Bank through competitions and seasonal beers.
New ways for NGO Lanyi Fan‘s programs to support sustainable entrepreneurship in West Africa.
… and more.
What they thought:
The Social Innovation Certificate program was an inspiring, positively challenging, practical experience that provided tools, insights and resources to convert ideas to sustainable actions that drive change. It supported my professional and personal goals in a meaningful, invaluable way, and facilitated a stronger network of passionate individuals of diverse backgrounds, committed to addressing systemic issues and opportunities in our community. - Rhian Rotz, Director of Corporate Citizenship, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, Portland
The program not only taught me how to start a business with a social mission, it also changed my ideology about the business world and gave me direction for after graduation. It was hard work but the benefits that I gained from the program are countless. I am so happy to have been a part of this experience and consider it an important milestone in my education as well as my personal life. - Patrick Ditty, Heavy Equipment Technician at Peterson Machinery, Portland
The program has been an amazing experience for me next to my doctoral studies in education at PSU. The classes, online discussions and assignments have provided me different skills I can use as I think and develop ideas as an entrepreneur. The framework in which the content is developed is flexible and inclusive. You will experience, in a close-to-the-real setting, how to develop your idea step by step with excellent feedback from your peers and instructors. I totally recommend taking this program. - Paulina Gutierrez Zepeda, Assistant Professor at Universidad Catolica del Norte, Chile
Enjoy more photos from the 2014 certificate experience here.
Watch local innovators pitch the region’s most exciting new social ventures and vote for a winner to receive $1500 cash at the Elevating Impact Summit on June 20.
The Elevating Impact Summit, put on by Portland State University’s Impact Entrepreneurs, is an annual one-day event in downtown Portland celebrating entrepreneurship and innovation for social impact.
On Friday, June 20, six finalists, each selected for their innovative and entrepreneurial approach to addressing a social or environmental problem, will have three minutes to pitch their idea to more than 350 audience members. Following each pitch, a panel of expert investors and entrepreneurs will discuss the finalist’s for-profit, nonprofit, or hybrid venture, their vision, and their plans.
When the real-time audience vote is in, Immix Law Group will award $1500 cash and $1000 of in-kind legal support to the finalist with the most votes. The runner up will also receive $1000 of in-kind legal support.
The 2014 finalists are…
• Ila Asplund, Half Sky Journeys
Half Sky Journeys creates global trips with a purpose: to boost funding and awareness for girl- and women-empowering organizations. Half Sky Journeys’ life-changing journeys give travelers an opportunity to improve the lives of others and transform their own in the process. The journeys help high-level philanthropists engage personally with innovative women leaders (in education, health, technology) and discover firsthand how investing in a girl is the starting point for changing the world.
• Ryan Carson, Treehouse Island, Inc.
Treehouse provides affordable, accessible tech education for high-paying jobs in a digital economy. Many schools lack tech teachers and teachers cannot keep pace with rapidly evolving technology. Treehouse’s online interactive tutorials teach job-ready skills in web design, programming and app design without massive debt. Treehouse has had success in high poverty and rural areas using the program to retrain workers. With your support, Treehouse aims to reach people everywhere to empower them to economic self-sufficiency and inspire innovators.
• Orion Falvey, Orchid Health
Over the past decade, health insurance costs have risen over 100%. While costs go up, care quality has decreased because insurance companies don’t pay providers sustainable rates. Orchid Health’s solution removes health insurance from primary care by having patients pay a monthly fee of around $50. This model, along with locating in Medically Underserved Areas, which allows Orchid to profitably serve those on Medicaid and Medicare, makes Orchid unique and ready to grow quickly.
• Aaron Killgore, Live Forest Farms
Live Forest Farms is a food import company that partners with projects that drive sustainable agriculture and conservation in critical parts of the world. Live Forest Farms’ prototype is in East Bali Indonesia, where they have created a nonprofit initiative, East Bali Watershed Initiative, and partnered with a cashew factory, to import single origin, ethically sourced cashews to Portland, Oregon.
• Katrina Scotto di Carlo, Supportland
Small, local businesses tend to be isolated, leading 40% to go out of business in the first three years. By increasing the exchanges in which small businesses engage, Supportland disables this isolation. Besides the quantity, we make exchanges simpler and more rewarding with business-to-business, business-to-consumer, and even with other players historically unable to build at-scale exchanges with independent businesses. All these exchanges deepen relationships resulting in stronger economic activity for small, local businesses.
• Amy Doering Smith, Safi Water Works
Safi means ‘clean’ or ‘pure’ in Swahili. Safi Water Works is a social purpose enterprise addressing two complex global issues: providing safe, clean drinking water and creating income-generating opportunities for some of the world’s poorest. Safi manufactures and distributes products that use off-the-grid/human sources to power an ultraviolet disinfecting process that results in safe drinking water. Products are designed to be economical and effective and appropriate for urban communities throughout the developing world.
Panelists joining the Pitch Fest to provide strategic questions and feedback to each finalist include:
• Carolynn Duncan (moderator), Founder and General Partner of NW Social Venture Fund and Founder and CEO of TenX
• Melissa Freeman, Oregon Community Foundation
• Molly Lindquist, Founder & CEO of Consano
• Tom Sperry, Managing Director of Rogue Venture Partners
Leading up to the Elevating Impact Summit on Friday, June 20 in Portland, Oregon, we’ve invited event speakers, award nominees, and panelists to engage in a stories project. We believe that storytelling is an essential part of effective social innovation. How can we tell stories in a way that generates interest and creates connections? How can we listen to the stories of others with the empathy needed to achieve true understanding? We hope that by sharing the stories of our speakers, or pieces they have written reflecting elements of their journeys, you will learn more about each person, and explore the promise and challenge of social innovation.
Why John Gardner Is My Retirement Role Model
By Marc Freedman
Seventeen years ago, I sat behind the wheel of a blue Volkswagen Beetle, speeding through the night on Highway 101 between San Francisco and Palo Alto. Seated beside me in the passenger seat was my hero and mentor, John W. Gardner. Dressed impeccably, as always, in a gray suit, with a felt fedora perched on his lap, Gardner was then 85 years old.
I took the late-night ride as the chance to ask him about his life and legacy, looking back from the perspective of one’s ninth decade. What was he proudest of? What did he feel had been his great contribution? Gardner’s answer was immediate and unequivocal: the book, “Self-Renewal,” first published in the early 1960s. I was so engrossed in Gardner’s reflections that I failed to notice the sea of taillights accumulating rapidly in front of us. I slammed on the brakes. John’s hands hit the dashboard, and I could hear him repeating the words, “Oh my God,” over and over again. The phrase repeating in my head was less uplifting: “You’re killing a national treasure!”
We survived, thank God, although I don’t think John ever drove with me again. But we remained close right to the end of his life five years later, in 2002. During that period he served as the founding board member of Civic Ventures (now Encore.org), the organization we started together to launch the program Experience Corps, and more broadly, to help transform the aging society into a source of personal and social renewal.
John’s own life was a marvelous example of renewal. In 1964, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, that ultimate lifetime achievement award, for his work in education and philanthropy. Already in his 50s with a long track record of achievement, he nevertheless refused to accept a ‘gold watch’ or an end to purpose—in fact, he was just getting started.
Over the next decades, Gardner served as Lyndon Johnson’s Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, where he implemented Medicare and many other groundbreaking reforms, then went on to found Common Cause and Independent Sector, and to help preside over the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, along with authoring a series of books on leadership and civil society. It’s no wonder that The New York Times titled an article about him, “Father of Invention.”
Along with being an inveterate and lifelong social entrepreneur, Gardner was a master of the memorable phrase. During the Medicare battles of 1965, he observed, America today faces “breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems,” an apt characterization for the demographic and longevity revolutions unfolding today.
The last time I heard him speak publicly, a year before his passing, Gardner talked in very personal terms about the challenges and opportunities of renewal in the second half of life: “All my feelings about the release of human possibilities, all of my convictions about renewal,” he stated, “are offended by the widely shared cultural assumption that life levels off in one’s 40s and 50s and heads downhill, so that by 65 you are scrap heap material.”
Then he offered a closing wish, aimed at all of us middle agers in the audience: “What I want for those youngsters in their 40s and 50s is several more decades of vital learning and growth. And I want something even broader and deeper. I don’t know whether I can even put it into words. What I want…is a long youthfulness of spirit. It doesn’t seem much to ask—but it is everything.”
And it is.
This article was originally posted in the Wall Street Journal
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, and is the author of several books on encore careers and volunteering.
Freedman has received numerous accolades for his work as a social entrepreneur. In 2003 he 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.