August 6, 2012, 10:01 am
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 continents; some work on for-profit ventures, others on nonprofits projects. Among their missions: helping farmers in Africa get better crop prices; inventing more efficient stove tops for people in developing countries; turning waste into fuel; and recycling plastic bags into high-fashion products.
At the end of the institute’s previous two boot camps, the entrepreneurs piled onto a …
April 2, 2012, 12:24 pm
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 by the young social entrepreneurs who were a part of a keynote panel.
All of them have created interesting ventures that seek to address problems they’ve encountered in their efforts to make a difference. And their stories offer an interesting look at how and why some people are turning their passion for changing the world into for-profit ventures.
The panel’s moderator was Daniel…
February 7, 2012, 7:01 pm
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 categories: Eat right, get active, quit smoking, get regular checkups, and protect your skin.
Choose You challenges each participant to set an eight-week goal. Anyone who falls short can make a commitment to donate money to the American Cancer Society.
The participant chooses a friend or family member to serve as “referee” and help keep her accountable. And to help provide support…
December 20, 2011, 8:51 am
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 approaches are much needed in Haiti. Even before a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the country in 2010, it faced profound structural issues: ineffective government, widespread poverty, and little educational opportunity.
Only half the children in Haiti actually start school, and just 1 percent complete their education through the secondary level. One of the biggest obstacles is…
November 29, 2011, 8:53 pm
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 phenomenon:
The Swarm is my new term for the digital echo chamber we live in. It’s an acronym for the Social Wave Amplified by Repetitive Media. We see it all the time. … Swarms emerge out of nowhere, create instant social buzz, a flood of content in the stream, then disappear as quickly as they arrived.
Creative swarms can lead to novel solutions for charities since the participants bring …
November 9, 2011, 10:16 am
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 reverberate and the Occupy movement continues to grow, some corporations are returning to their roles as community leaders. Two notable efforts are worth exploring.
Chipotle and the Family Farm
Chipotle Mexican Grill, the national fast-food chain, has built itself around the concept of sustainable farming—making sure that it uses sustainable, locally grown ingredients at its…
September 8, 2010, 10:00 am
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. But the low pay—and the fact that many groups had organizational structures that thwarted innovation—forced me to give up my dream of a nonprofit career. I instead explored working in the for-profit world.
The world has changed significantly since my early-career decision. But most nonprofits still offer below-market salaries and remain maddeningly inhospitable to innovation.
August 26, 2010, 11:49 am
“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 due respect to Dr. Karnani, the argument he put forth is wrong. Moreover, his essay has exposed the futility of an ideological debate pitting the free market against the common good as if they were wholly separate entities.
This is not a hypothetical conversation. The world is full of real problems that threaten the corporate sector.
We face unconventional threats and irregular enemies, and we…
August 12, 2010, 1:14 pm
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 action. They could have developed reasonable alternatives to old, tired methods taken by government and other leaders.
How might you put together such a powerful collaborative effort, based on the problems caused by the oil spill? Here are some of the key steps:
Launch an independent effort to assess the response to the oil spill, focusing on areas that President Obama’s commission won’t. This…
August 9, 2010, 9:13 pm
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. For example:
• Nonprofit organizations raised millions of dollars for people hurt by the oil spill (and in the process expanded their own e-mail lists). But their efforts aren’t really helping to rebuild the economy of the Gulf.
• Cause-marketing campaigns helped to brand corporations as philanthropic and committed to serious issues. But the money they have contributed pales in comparison with…