Focus on Finances and Feedback: Lessons From a Social-Venture Boot Camp

No matter how much nonprofits try to incorporate the world of finance into their work, it’s rare that venture capitalists, grant makers and social entrepreneurs meet together to discuss their work.

That’s why the Unreasonable Institute, a three-year-old social venture, brought 75 investors and grant makers to Boulder, Colo., this summer to spend two days with social entrepreneurs attending a six-week boot camp on getting an enterprise off the ground.

The 22 social entrepreneurs came from five co…


Young Entrepreneurs Choose to Do Good as Well as Make a Profit

The growth of new business models that both turn a profit and do good gives those who are entering the professional world a new choice.

College graduates, for example, no longer have to choose between a career path of making profits and one of doing good. They can choose to do both.

I attended the recent Social Enterprise Conference at Harvard University to meet with young entrepreneurs who have started hybrid ventures that combine business principles with social good. I was particularly struck …


How to Use Technology to Inspire Good Habits

Two organizations have recently set out to use technology to help people adopt healthier habits.

While one is a nonprofit and the other a company, both are blending charity and business to develop creative ways to inspire people to change the way they live.

Choose You: American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society’s Choose You effort uses online tools to urge “women to put their own health first in the fight against cancer.” Individuals are invited to choose personal goals for one of five…


Social Business: A More Sustainable Way to Help in Haiti?

Children dressed in school uniforms sit in rows listening to one of their classmates sing a song while snacks are passed around. Two years ago, before a devastating earthquake struck the island, they were in a different location in a building that has since been demolished on a nearby plot of land here in Léogâne, Haiti.

Now these youngsters and their families are getting another chance with the help of an innovative antipoverty effort that combines business tactics with social goals.

Such new a…


When ‘Creative Swarms’ Come to Aid Your Cause

Online and mobile technologies have made it easier for people to champion their favorite causes and connect with others who share their passions.

Typically spontaneous in nature, “creative swarms” as they are often called, are collaborative efforts to shine a light on important issues and invite people who don’t necessarily known one another to work together to solve problems.

Edward Boches, chief innovation officer at the advertising agency Mullen, this week offered an explanation of this pheno…


Companies Take Fresh Approaches to Solving Social Issues

Businesses used to play a large role in their communities. In small towns, villages, and neighborhoods, business owners and managers lived among their customers, suppliers, and workers.

But somewhere along the way, that changed. As technology evolved, companies became global. And many companies began following the economist Milton Friedman’s dictum: The only concern of a corporation is to increase the wealth of the shareholders.

But as the aftershocks of the global financial crisis continue to r…


Purpose Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

When I was young, I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and make a difference. My father, an architect, was very involved in social causes as a founding member of the Committee of 1,000, which worked to help children orphaned during the war in Vietnam.

But, unlike my father, I wanted social good to be my vocation, not my avocation.

Armed with a couple of degrees—and corresponding student debt—I wanted to offer my passion, my purpose, and my endless supply of ideas and energy to a nonprofit…


In a Connected Society, Corporations Must Focus on the Social Good

“The Case Against Corporate Social Responsibility,” by Aneel Karnani, associate professor of strategy at the University of Michigan, appeared this week in a special supplement of  The Wall Street Journal, produced in collaboration with MIT Sloan Management Review

In the article, Dr. Karnani argues that corporations that focus on social responsibility will “delay or discourage more effective measures to enhance social welfare” and characterizes these efforts as a tax on shareholders.

With all d…


Let’s Find a New Way to Recover From Crises

In a recent post, I discussed how companies, charities, and individuals fell short in their response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Today I’d like to discuss how we can take a totally new approach—one with a different focus and a more ambitious, and important, list of goals in mind.

Nonprofit organizations, corporations, and individuals could have mobilized to do something that no single institution is equipped to do—deal with a major crisis by sharing the information people need to take real …


Lessons From the Gulf Oil Spill

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is over. The well has been capped.

There is no way to quantify the full extent of the environmental or economic damage—now, or possibly ever. But already we know that the response to this catastrophic event has not delivered the kind of radical shift in how we deal with disasters and respond to crises that was needed.

Why not? Simply put, the organizations and people who shared ideas, proposed solutions, and took action were doing so in their own self-interest…