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We’ve Moved!

All your favorite posts are now available as permanent articles on our website’s Resources page: https://www.pdx.edu/impactentrepreneurs/resources. At our website, you’ll also learn about our range of programs for aspiring and successful social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, from the annual Elevating Impact Summit to our online Certificate in Social Innovation. Check it out and stay in touch for the latest on social innovation.

Website: pdx.edu/impactentrepreneurs

Email: impactentrepreneurs@pdx.edu

Facebook: facebook.com/PSUImpactEntrepreneurs

Twitter: @PSUimpact

February 24, 2017 at 1:51 pm Leave a comment

Thank you and so long from our co-founder, Cindy Cooper

KJJ PSU120Dear friends,

After seven amazing years at Portland State University, I’m leaving my role as executive director of Impact Entrepreneurs.

As with many startup stories, the birth of Impact Entrepreneurs was an answer to a calling with the faith that a vision would come. I started working at Portland State University’s School of Business in 2009 when Scott Marshall hired me to create social innovation programs. He introduced me to Carolyn McKnight, a leadership development expert who had previously held positions as a corporate executive. Carolyn McKnight and I joined forces to launch Impact Entrepreneurs in 2010 when we discovered a shared purpose to create more joy and less suffering through social entrepreneurship and found a mutual respect and desire for collaboration in each other.

Since then, we’ve had the honor of working with hundreds of students, social entrepreneurs and changemakers as we have explored social entrepreneurship together and worked to strengthen each other and the field itself.

Working with many of you directly, I’ve gained more than I could possibly ever offer in return. You’ve shared your greatest dreams and vulnerabilities as you’ve navigated the discomfort and thrill of creating something from nothing. It has been humbling, exciting, and even heartbreaking. Social entrepreneurship can be addictive and temperamental like that.

In partnership with you and a coalition of colleagues and organizations, our small but mighty team at Impact Entrepreneurs has built an internationally recognized program that has directly educated thousands who have, in turn, touched millions of lives. Two of the many highlights for me were the realization of our Business of Social Innovation Certificate, funded by the reTHINK: PSU Provost’s Challenge, and our selection to the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus consortium.

Our core team members Jacen Greene and Abby Chroman have dedicated their innumerable talents and resilient attitudes toward making our programs shine and thrive. Carolyn and I are pleased that Jacen will continue leading Impact Entrepreneurs’ core programs in the School of Business Administration as Program Director. In addition, Abby will continue providing project management across our suite of programs.

It’s been a gift to expose people to social entrepreneurship over the years and see their eyes and minds light up. It’s been almost 20 years since I first heard about social entrepreneurship. Only one person I knew had heard of it, and she taught me! My life was calling me to align my work with my purpose, and I was all in.

I believe now more than ever that business can and MUST be a force for positive change. From what I can gather, there are now millions of people who share this belief. It’s powerful to be in such great company. While sometimes I pine for those “Wild West” days of social entrepreneurship when it felt like we were just making it all up, I am heartened that we now know so much more about what it takes to build high-impact social ventures.

Businesses matter because they are uniquely able to build velocity and scale. A single company can get products and services to millions and even billions of people. It can inform and educate. It can make life-saving choices readily available. That’s why I want to see “do-better” businesses succeed and grow, and it is why I want to help in any way I can.

As I reflect on where it all began for me and where I’ve been, I find myself with the opportunity to leap back into the business sector. I’ll be joining the talented team at Koopman Ostbo Marketing Communications as their first Chief Marketing and Impact Officer. I’ll be dedicated to increasing impact internally and strengthening our ties with impact-driven organizations. And I’m delighted I will still be a resource to our community of changemakers. Please feel free to drop me a line any time.

Feelings can be boisterous when change is big, and I can tell you that right now joy and gratitude are loud and clear. When life called me to social entrepreneurship nearly 20 years ago, I replied “Yes!” and it has been an awesome adventure. Still, here we are today with much work left to do. Let’s support one another to keep up the good work. I would love to hear from you. What is calling you to take action? What’s new in your life?

Impact Entrepreneurs would not have happened if Carolyn McKnight and I had not combined our efforts with optimism and commitment to reaching a future state unknown to us at the time. Just as we could not imagine where we would end up now, I know that Impact Entrepreneurs is poised to achieve bigger things that we can’t even foresee right now. I can’t wait.

Here’s to remaining hand-in-hand in the pursuit of making choices that reflect our deepest hopes and dreams for the world, including those in our own lives. Thank you for believing that it’s up to us to make that difference.

Yours truly,

Cindy

Co-founder & Executive Director, PSU Impact Entrepreneurs

February 16, 2016 at 12:49 pm Leave a comment

Together, Elevating Impact

The full 2016 Elevating Impact Summit playlist is available here

In February 2016, Impact Entrepreneurs’ annual Elevating Impact Summit made a new home on Portland State University’s campus in the historic Lincoln Performance Hall. 450 attendees signed up to spend a full day together. They ranged from members of Roosevelt High School’s Rough Writers program to the Mayor of Portland, to academics, business executives, nonprofit and social enterprise professionals, designers, architects, and more.The event was a meeting place for changemakers working across professions. The presentations, performances, and discussions demonstrated creative ways individuals and teams are creatively solving pressing social and environmental challenges, and introduced the promise of social entrepreneurship and innovation to a broad and diverse audience.

Quotes, reflections, and memories from the event are captured on Twitter, in a YouTube playlist, and in photos on our Facebook page. We’d like to share just a few of them with you below.

  • “You have an army behind you – you just need to remember to turn around.” – Amelia Pape, Founder of My Street Grocery
  • “We are meant to tell stories. We are designed for it. It is our native language.” – Noah Schultz, Founder of Verbal Escape
  • “Be ready to be changed” – On Your Feet
  • “Equity is believing that we all have a shared fate and our success is interdependent.” – Nichole Maher, Founder and CEO, of the Northwest Health Foundation

We encourage you to keep the momentum going: follow up with your connections from the event, take the next (or first) step toward unleashing your vision no matter what stage of your career you’re in, and collaborate with fellow changemakers to truly elevate your impact. If you are interested in Impact Entrepreneurs’ certificate in the Business of Social Innovation and other programs, you can find information at pdx.edu/impactentrepreneurs or email the team at impactentrepreneurs@pdx.edu.

Finally, we’d like to leave you with Noah Schultz’s poem “Changemaker Militia:”

As my eyes scan this ocean of people they

are filled with the beautiful sight of changemakers.

Wrapped in skin and bone ready to explode

onto the scenes of a broken city.

An educated militia, marching to compassion,

Ready to implement action on massive

scales with the tactics of loving hearts.

Armed with the knowledge they learn from

text books, amplified by unique gifts

and personal experience.

“Changemakers”

The ones who see through the confusion,

and meet the status quo with innovation;

Who set up shop in deserted locations

because their hearts said so.

Because they know if they don’t take the

first steps they will never pass go.

So never stop moving;

Feet that move forward bring you

closer to improvement.

Stop saying start doing, because

you are changemaker.

A soldier not a student,

A lion not a lamb,

A changemaker.

Link minds with those like yours and create

unbreakable bonds of hearts.

There is no turning back;

Because memories live in the past

and you are the future.

Life is a moving train, so there

is no being neutral.

Pledge allegiance to love and

acknowledge your greatness;

Because you, my friend,

are a changemaker.

February 11, 2016 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Bread, Dreams, and Second Chance Employment: One Intrapreneur’s Story

This interview features Genevieve Martin who will be presenting at the 2016 Elevating Impact Summit along with Dave’s Killer Bread CEO, John Tucker in an intimate interview with PSU Assistant Professor Rachel Cunliffe. Tickets for the Summit are available here


Before the Impact Entrepreneurs team met Genevieve Martin in person, she was a student in PSU’s online Certificate in Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation at PSU. She was an intrapreneur, beginning to develop a new social venture inside an existing company.

Genevieve Martin Circle 125pxl

Genevieve Martin, Director, Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation

Over the course of the next year, Genevieve skillfully applied the social innovation tools from the certificate to her real-life professional challenge. By the time we went to visit her work, at the Dave’s Killer Bread Breadquarters, Genevieve was already launching the Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation. We sat down with her to hear her story.

Impact Entrepreneurs: What’s your history with Dave’s Killer Bread?

Genevieve Martin: I was hired five and a half years ago by Dave’s Killer Bread to start the Killer Café. At the time, the headquarters and production facilities just had this tiny little break room, so my job was to make it into a place where every employee would receive  free, nutritious meals, snacks and beverages . My previous experience was in managing front and back of house operations with food service ventures, so this all seemed within reach.

But my job grew quickly. One of my new responsibilities included running the small company store and its donations, which were from a percentage of store profits and product. The donations were given as unofficial, no-strings-attached gifts and at that point the criteria for giving was that the recipient was an organization near and dear to the family’s heart.  Everything we donated was coming directly off the shelves of the store.

While we loved giving the stuff away, we were losing a potential chunk of profit in the process. Being a little more “corporate America” minded, I thought, let’s create some structure here. This part was easy! We hired someone to help with requests and outreach, and then, two years ago came up with a formal grant program to decide who we gave to, and why. We provided donations to a variety of organizations from yoga programs, to youth programs, to conservation. They didn’t exactly relate to second chance employment, but at least we had a giving structure in place.

IE: Then what happened that put you in the second chance employment space?

GT: So it’s a kind of sad story.  First, I should point out that we’ve always hired people with criminal backgrounds. But two years ago we lost a couple of internal leaders to recidivism and drug use in quick succession. They had both started at Dave’s as hourly workers and been promoted up within their departments with supervisory responsibility. John Tucker, our  new CEO surprised us. Instead of saying, “let’s stop doing this,” John said, “what are we not doing?” I knew then that this guy was serious.

From there we piloted a few programs, including a peer mentoring program and a leadership skills series to see what might work best. Finally we just started collecting and sharing a bunch of resources where we could point people who were struggling. With that one, we started to see a change. People saw that we weren’t just a place to punch in and punch out.

Another outcome from the pilots was that we realized we need to understand the reentry landscape better. We knew it was important to hire people with criminal backgrounds, and we were really proud of doing that, but it kind of ended there. So I proposed we host an event where we would bring together government and nonprofit, and any business partner that was interested in talking about the state of reentry. My goal was 50 people and we ended up with 86. It was standing room only at the Westin, and everyone was leaning in. Halfway through that event John came up to me and said, “You need to hire another you.” I said, “Really? Are you officially telling me I can do that?” He said, “Yes, let’s talk next week.” Three months later ‘dI hired our now full-time foundation Program Manager and was in a position to propose and execute  next steps. Which was…. amazing…and really scary.

The conference revealed that what is missing from the landscape are employers willing to accept people with criminal backgrounds and openly discuss it.  We chose to create a  corporate foundation because it would allow us to leverage additional  funding streams, rather than keep it in house.  It also built  in the added commitment that this work is so important that it can stand on its own. .

IE: Can you say the Mission of Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation?

GT: To expand employment opportunities for people with criminal backgrounds.

IE: What were your big questions now that it was your job to start a corporate giving foundation?

(Laughs)… Well, for me this was another “holy !#$%^& moment” where I had to grapple with what I was doing here.  John Tucker’s confidence in me was encouraging but I needed some more credibility for myself, for external partnerships, and honestly, for internal people to take me seriously. So I started researching nonprofit and leadership management programs. To be honest, academics wasn’t my strong suit growing up and I was hesitant to jump into a laborious program, fearing that I’d be setting myself up for failure.  

After researching non-profit leadership courses, degrees and certifications I stumbled upon  the Business of Social Innovation Certificate at PSU.. I thought this sounds pretty amazing and  I immediately emailed for info. After talking to Abby at PSU’s Impact Entrepreneurs I was pretty sure it was what I should be doing, so I took it to John. He was so supportive and offered to move around budgets to cover the cost. It’s a very strange and wonderful feeling to have someone you’ve known a short time see that this is what you are supposed to be doing and make it possible.

IE: What have been the most relevant tools you’ve acquired through the certificate program that will help you accelerate this initiative at DKB?

The Human Centered Design piece, which was something I hadn’t heard about before, was huge, especially in the beginning. We still use the Business Model Canvas, and I have been using the empathy model from the Business Model Generation book as we put together our corporate goals. We’ve actually been using the Business Model Canvas for each department. Next year the café will do one as an assessment, and the same with the store. That resource was huge. It constantly pops up for me.

The customer development interviews, while they seem so simple and straightforward, were massively helpful and new to us. For example, one of our big pieces of work was writing the Second Chance Playbook. We had all these expert pieces of it, and were really struggling to get all the right content in there. Meanwhile, we’re doing the customer development interviews with really fantastic HR professionals who are excited about the work we’re doing, but who tell us basically that they’re not going to have time to read a book. I stopped in my tracks. Of course they don’t! That was my idea to write a book, and I don’t even have time to read one. See all those books on my wall? Those are my you-should-read-these-sometime books, and of course I never do. So that’s completely changed one of our programs. It’s currently in production to be an online set of modules with downloadable content, a program that HR professionals can use as their time permits..

It was uncomfortable  to do the customer interviews at first. I’m an introvert by nature and not a salesperson, so at first it was hard to approach people asking them to talk to me as a representative of Dave’s Killer Bread. But then I realized I had this great advantage in that I could say it was for a class project and when I did that, everyone responded very positively. It was so much easier. I recommend every student leverage that.

IE: What kind of influence do you think Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation will have?

GT: I think there’s potential for it to change the way people are employed, but there’s a long way to go before we see that. The wonderful thing about this work is that it’s ripe right now. There’s a national movement, more people are seeking information, and it’s a great opportunity for us to share what we know. Now it comes down to how we play it out. We have a new acquisition that has a ton of potential for how far we reach, both with our product and our message. The only thing that will get in our way at this point is ourselves!

December 20, 2015 at 1:46 pm Leave a comment

Top 5 Tips for Social Entrepreneurs from Van Jones

22570457552_c5d63523d5_oThanks to Portland State’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions, we recently had the honor of co-hosting Van Jones for a student seminar, dinner and keynote at Portland State University. With experience as a serial social entrepreneur, social justice leader, NY Times best-selling author, CNN commentator and former Green Jobs advisor to President Obama, he has positively impacted millions of lives and changed social and political systems through his work.

In his student seminar, Van Jones addressed the intimate group as a friend. “You all seem kind of weird,” he said. “I feel right at home.” Jones responded to questions and quandaries that ranged from fundraising advice to pedagogical theory, the whole time speaking from the heart. It was an inspiring afternoon with a lot of laughs and even a few tears.

22570458222_9c27d76bbd_o

“You can’t learn to swim [from a lecture.] You have to get in the pool.” Van Jones, Portland State University, October, 2015

Here are the top 5 social entrepreneurship tips we got from his talk:

  1. Do Something: Making a difference is harder than you think, but not as complicated as it seems. The way to make a difference is to do something. If you want to do something big, start small. If you start too big you will get paralyzed by it. For example: If you want to revolutionize education, start by teaching five kids something you know how to do.
  2. Salute Setbacks: Once you start doing something, if you do it long enough you will make a lot of mistakes. Everyone does, but you only ever hear about the successes. You will learn the most from the stuff that doesn’t work. Successes are important, but setbacks build character. Keep doing it over and over and you start to get results, staff and money. The next time around it will be easier.
  3. Get Out of the PC Thing: You can never be politically correct (PC) enough. No matter how much you are doing, people will attack you for what you don’t do. Focus on doing. If you try to do everything and help everybody, you will get paralyzed.
  4. Don’t Impress Yourself out of a Mentor. Competition is not the biggest motivator for people. Our strongest impulse is to nurture. Sometimes when seeking help, social entrepreneurs impress themselves out of a mentor. If you make yourself sound too successful or prepared, your potential mentor may not think you need their help. Share your successes, but also be willing to share your struggles. When someone helps you, they will want to keep helping you…for life.
  5. Know What Funders Want: You will need money. Other people have it. You need to know what they are looking for so they will give it to you. Funders are trying to identify three things: 1. That the problem is worth their time; 2. That your solution is plausible; 3. That you are the best person/team/organization to solve it.

Final thought: Our education system has taught us to be deconstructionists. We have become experts at breaking things apart and criticizing everything and everyone. We have forgotten how to bring people together to create and initiate solutions. We have to change this. Social entrepreneurship done correctly is about reconstructing, but we have to be willing to let all kinds of people in, find common ground and build together.

Do some of these ideas sound familiar? Helpful? What are your top 5 social entrepreneurship tips?

Check out more photos from our visit with Van Jones on our Facebook page: http://www.Facebook.com/PSUImpactEntrepreneurs

Check out Van Jones’ keynote from later that evening.

November 4, 2015 at 11:13 am Leave a comment

Partnering with Youth in 2015

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!

JacenG_GeorgeZ_PLACE

 Jacen Greene, Impact Entrepreneurs, & George Zaninovich, PLACE

 

 

June 9, 2015 at 4:53 pm Leave a comment

Social Innovation in Higher Ed

We’ve set off to attend the annual Ashoka U Exchange. The event has grown each year and now includes over 650 university representatives and students who will convene in Washington D.C. to discuss and learn about how to further social innovation in higher education. The Exchange includes sessions such as “bringing social solutions narratives into the classroom” and “systems thinking for leading changemakers.”

Impact Entrepreneurs’ Director Cindy Cooper will be a featured panelist in Online Learning: Inspiring Stories from the Front Lines, an interactive conversation about triumphs and failures of booming online learning platforms. As a speaker on the panel, Cindy Cooper will share her experience developing a rigorous online certificate in social entrepreneurship supported by the reTHINK: PSU Provost’s Challenge.

Abby Chroman, Project Manager with Impact Entrepreneurs, will moderate Universities as Catalysts for Social Innovation, a presentation featuring two of the 2015 Cordes Innovation award winners that explores how universities leverage existing resources to partner with communities and spark social innovation.

Angela Merrill, PSU’s Changemaker Campus Liaison, is heading to the Exchange to research best practices for catalyzing connections and student engagement across campus.

Certificate graduate and Social Innovation Incubator member Gina Condon, founder of Construct Foundation, will also be attending to participate in the K-12 Changemaker Education track.

Follow @PSUimpact and #Exchange2015 for our real time updates on the speakers, field visits and everything social innovation this weekend and look for another IE blog on Exchange highlights early March.

February 26, 2015 at 7:35 am Leave a comment

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