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Putting the audience in the content: lessons from Elevating Impact 2014

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - July 16, 2014 - 12:31pm

When we invited 24 speakers from diverse backgrounds to talk about lifelong changemaking at the Elevating Impact Summit, we knew we would learn something new. The range of speakers included a veteran, a pharmacist, a poet, and an angel investor. They were exemplary leaders at all stages of life and work, and we had started collecting their stories before they even arrived.

What we couldn’t have anticipated was that in addition to the admirable lineup of speakers we would have an audience of 375 incredible changemakers. Ok, maybe we could have figured it out; Portland does tend to be that way, but the quality, authenticity, motivation and energy of the people who attended this year’s summit left us speechless. Many of the attendees could have easily been on stage sharing their own stories of social innovation, their creative triumphs, and their unprecedented discoveries.

Hear from a few of our incredible event attendees and speakers, and find out why next year we’ll focus even more on helping the audience tell their stories. If we learned one thing at the 2014 Elevating Impact Summit, it’s that everyone has a story.

Impact Entrepreneurs 2013 Impact Report

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - June 30, 2014 - 3:29pm

You might not be surprised to find that as a program called Impact Entrepreneurs we’re interested in impact. We’re pleased this summer to release our 2013 report.

We believe that by bridging historical chasms between business and nonprofits, shared value and shareholder value, we can create the conditions that empower choices for good. To do this we build programs, projects, and relationships that meet social entrepreneurs where they are – whether it is at inspiration, incubation, or acceleration. We have selected metrics for our annual impact report that help us gauge our progress, where we should be making adjustments, and to see what is working.

This report is for us, to make sure we change in the right direction, and it is for you, our community. Here are some highlights from 2013:

LAUNCHED The Business of Social Innovation, a combined academic and professional online certificate open to students and community members of all ages. In January, 2014, nearly 30 students from Portland to Venezuela joined the first course in the new program.

HOSTED the inaugural Elevating Impact Summit, exposing 330 people to powerful entrepreneurial approaches to creating change locally and globally, and celebrating social entrepreneurship and social innovation across a diverse set of stakeholders. The second annual Elevating Impact Summit took place on June 20, 2014.

LED Social Enterprise Field Studies, introducing 11 students and community members to social enterprise through a combination of site visits, applied fieldwork and research, and meetings with subject matter experts in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

TAUGHT business fundamentals, social innovation, and leadership effectiveness to 21 managers from 15 countries through our Entrepreneurial Leadership Program. The experience empowers Mercy Corps and other global NGO managers with skills they need to grow as leaders and improve their organizations’ performance.

INCUBATED four new social ventures and supported the 16 alumni of Impact Entrepreneurs’ Social Innovation Incubator with resources and community connections. Stories from the alumni network include EcoZoom, a company that just signed a $21m contract to provide healthy, efficient, and ecofriendly cookstoves around the world; My Street Grocery, a mobile grocer recently integrated into Whole Foods Market as a new business unit; and Central City Concern, who in 2013 launched Central City Coffee, diversifying the parent organization’s revenue streams and providing employment and job training to clients who had previously experienced homelessness.

Download the full report by clicking on the image below:

Please contact for more information on our programs or report.

Introducing the 2014 Social Innovation Pitch Fest Finalists

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - June 4, 2014 - 12:02pm

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…

• Oliver Alexander, 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.

• 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.

• 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.

Jaime Wood, cofounder of IncitED, pitching at the 2013 Elevating Impact Summit.

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

Tickets are still available for the full day Summit at Find out about student tickest, volunteer opportunities, and more here.

Elevating Impact Stories: Marc Freedman

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - June 2, 2014 - 11:59am

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, 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, 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.

Marc Freedman will Keynote the Elevating Impact Summit on June 20, 2014 in Portland. Tickets are available at

Four Trends for Ten Years: 
a conversation with Amy Pearl on meeting the needs of the future

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - May 28, 2014 - 9:03am

Ten years ago Amy Pearl launched Springboard Innovation, an organization based in Portland OR, designed to deliver curriculum, programs, training, and models that build capacity in youth and adults to become better thinkers and more effective doers.

Last year Amy launched ChangeXchange NW, a brand new economic engine for growing community capital that includes a Northwest-only crowdfunding platform. Between then and now, she leased a building that would become HATCH: A Community Innovation Lab. Hatch is a collaborative space for visionaries and realists who are working for a better world.

It’s been a busy time. For a decade, Amy has been creating an infrastructure that supports small, locally owned business, investing for impact, and social enterprises. I sat down with Amy near the ten-year anniversary of Springboard Innovation to find out what would be next.

Impact Entrepreneurs: Ten years ago you were launching Springboard Innovation. Today you have added HATCH and the ChangeXchange. What will your work look like ten years from now? Can you paint a picture of Springboard Innovation in 2024?

Amy: When our decisions effect our own neighborhoods, we tend to make better decisions. In the next ten years we will see a shift in what we now call “impact investing.” We will see local investing thriving and communities investing in themselves. In ten years we will be putting our money in our own backyards, investing will be thoughtful and it will transform everything.

For the past ten years Springboard Innovation was focused on curriculum for entrepreneurs. We were getting people to address community problems. And we were good at it! Our programs are astounding. Yet, with all the people and all the ideas, there was no ecosystem or environment where those ideas and organizations could thrive. ChangeXchange and HATCH were born to address this.

When we started, impact investing was taking off as a theme, but the enthusiasm was only for globally scalable ideas. I remember back then I was confused about the lack of support for communities. Why aren’t we focusing closer to home? Then, things started to shift. The JOBS Act was signed into law, and locally focused efforts grew. We realized that really, it’s all about our local communities, wherever they may be.

My team and I have identified four key trends that, when taken together, could meet our needs and transform our ability to solve our own problems.

1. Social Entrepreneurship: A global trend consisting of entrepreneurs who combine nonprofit mission with business strategies

2. The “Local First” Movement: Partnerships and programs in states across the country are incentivizing citizens to shop, buy, source, stay, and invest locally

3. Impact Investing: An emerging class of investors will want their money to matter

4. Change in the Law: The JOBS Act and new state-based laws will transform how we view finance and create new pathways for unaccredited investors to engage. 

We have some powerful strategies to leverage here. They’re in our communities, in each other, and in us. It’s a fascinating, terrifying, incredibly exciting time… and we better start taking advantage of these opportunities!


Elevating Impact Stories: Steve Lee

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - May 21, 2014 - 9:43am

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.

Steve Lee responds to the question: What is your source of personal motivation? 

“I feel truly privileged in my role as a Service Designer, at a time when the remit of design is broader than ever, and its principles are being applied to humanize the complex systems and services we navigate every day as citizens, consumers, patients, students, and employees.

In its purest definition, the designer is a betterist. We make stuff better. But this doesn’t just mean the products we buy and can hold – a handier can opener, a sturdier mobile phone case, a more desirable car, or an unfeasibly expensive white Italian chair that you wouldn’t let your kids anywhere near, but thinking about the experiences we have with the other 80% of the economy, the service economy.

Transportation, health interactions, financial services, legal services, educational opportunities, understanding how these services are navigated and experienced by the people who use them and the staff who provide them is key to providing services that are both more useful and more desirable. Designing how each service is organized, and the touchpoints that constitute the service including the website, branding and communications, staff roles, the flow of a space and signage, can make a huge difference.

Spending a day shadowing a doctor or a housing applicant, or assessing the capacities of a community to mobilize around health or urban regeneration can reveal opportunities for innovation and relevant services around the true, latent or unmet needs of people.

Many of us are working on improving connections between people we work with and outcomes they are seek. I would recommend we all step back and become our own ‘Common Sense Police’. Empathize with each stakeholder. Ask why over and over to get to the root issues and seek to elevate impact by stripping away operational efficiencies which get in the way of effectiveness and better experiences – it can transform communities and change lives.”

Steve Lee is a Senior Service Designer at Ziba. He focuses on applying design thinking to complex systems, organizations and problems in the most holistic, sustainable, human way. From research and ideation to implementation and helping manage change, people are at the heart of Ziba’s Service Design methodology and Steve’s expertise. He has worked on projects for notable clients such as UHG and FedEx.

Steve hails from Prospect, London where prior to joining Ziba he worked at Engine Service Design and the Design Council on both the Technology Campaign and RED, their public services innovation unit. Steve studied Design at Goldsmiths College, University of London while working as an interaction designer at Imagination. He also helps to fund and run the Union Cycle Works, a social enterprise making beautiful bespoke bikes while assisting disadvantaged people in learning new skills.

Steve Lee will discuss building resilience in vulnerable communities at the Elevating Impact Summit on June 20, 2014.

The Philosophy of Hunger: Why Impact Capital Is So Challenging

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - May 16, 2014 - 12:35pm

This post was contributed by guest writer Carolynn Duncan, Founder of NW Social Venture Fund  and Moderator for a discussion on Impact Funding at the upcoming Elevating Impact Summit.

Imagine you have an apple, and someone that is hungry approaches you, asking “Do you have an apple?”

How do you respond? Do you give the apple to the hungry person?

Do you sell the apple to the hungry person?

Perhaps context matters. Is the hungry person at your house – your young child? Would it make sense to charge a child for the basic necessities? Probably not, because they are unable to provide economically for themselves, and because that is your responsibility as an adult, and as their caretaker, not theirs.

What if you are a business owner of a grocery market, and the hungry person is a customer? Would you jeopardize your employees’ paychecks, and reduce shareholder profits, in order to give away product to someone who by definition (a customer with a budget) should pay?

When do we give? When is it appropriate to encourage people to work for their resources and necessities, to resolve their own problems relying on their own capabilities, resources, and frankly, purchasing power? When in failing to give, do we individually and organizationally, contribute to perpetuating social ills, even if indirectly? When is it appropriate to ask that a person who benefits from the labor or product received, be required to commit resources or capital in exchange, under the business model of fair market economics?

Philosophically, these complexities demonstrate why impact capital is so challenging. Business and philanthropic giving, previously, have been fairly siloed. You made money in one vehicle, and you gave it away in another. Tax codes, legal entity structure, the actual flow of capital, the expected revenue streams attached to either the for-profit or non-profit entity, and the organizational structures themselves were very straightforward, but now these are all in flux in ways they never have been.

With so many widespread economic systems losing their formal infrastructure and becoming almost DIY — democratization of publishing, global connectivity through social networks, spread of the Internet and mobile technology, flexibility and transience of the labor force, on-demand manufacturing via 3D printed technologies — this movement is now shaking up the philanthropic and business sectors, too. Now, change makers of both privately-owned and public charity entities are getting creative, creative in how they blend financial + business principles with best-of-practice philanthropic metrics, narrative, and mission-driven organizational tools, and this movement is manifesting in the latest incarnation of giving: “social impact,” “social venture,” and “impact investing.”

This discipline that is emerging requires an entirely new vocabulary around giving, business, results, hybrid entity formation, intent, impact metrics, organizational structure, capitalization, motivations, and other key functions of individuals and organizations trying to make it possible to do well financially while doing really good work, and to further extend the ability to do really good work, by making charitable work profitable, or in the very least, self-sustaining financially. And it’s very, very complicated. To say the least of impact at scale, attempting to solve these buy vs. give vs. sell vs. donate vs. invest dilemmas, in ways that can truly affect millions of people and global economies.

“Philanthrocapitalism” is one of my favorite words for it. Venture philanthropy, too. Impact entrepreneurship – impact capital, what exactly does this entail, how is it done, who are the players, how does it work? How do you measure impact, how do you integrate the business model of high-scale entrepreneurship and venture capital, with the compassionate nature of philanthropic and humanitarian work at the international, world-changing level?

These are questions our team have been tackling directly since late 2011, when we launched our think-tank, Social Venture Society, and subsequently began development on the Northwest Social Venture Fund. We have been putting minds and hearts together to tackle these dilemmas, and more importantly, move forward to pave paths for impact capital and scalable social entrepreneurship, here in Portland and the surrounding NW region. It’s exhilarating.

There are days that are terrifying, too, as we stand on the forefront of the international impact investing movement and work with Limited Partners, foundations, private philanthropists, angels, NGOs, entrepreneurs, technologists, other fund managers, students and the academic community, to struggle through the complexities and build what we hope will become institutionalized best practices for doing early-stage impact entrepreneurship and venture capital-style impact investing really well, and to identify change makers who are, or can become, comfortable with building a scalable business model around a humanitarian challenge.

We’ll be at the Elevating Impact Summit Summit, and we would absolutely love to hear *your* views on these dilemmas, to better understand how you tackle the philosophy of hunger (so to speak), and what we can all do together to make impact capital a very viable component of our capital, business, and philanthropic network here in Oregon. You can also reach our team and learn more about our priorities in this work at See you on June 20!

Elevating Impact Stories: Molly Lindquist

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - May 14, 2014 - 9:53am

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.

In an imaginative conversation with her 21 year old self, Molly Lindquist explores the question “How has my life been different than I imagined it would be?”

Molly Lindquist, Founder and CEO of Consano is a mom and breast cancer survivor. She founded Consano after her cancer diagnosis in 2011 at the age of 32. Molly graduated from Stanford University with a degree in economics and went on to work as an investment banking analyst in the consumer group at Robertson Stephens. It was there that her love of Excel was born. After her stint in banking, Molly transitioned into the corporate world, travelling the globe sourcing products for World Market and then doing company planning for the Banana Republic brand of Gap Inc.

After the birth of her first child in 2006, Molly took on the most difficult job she’s ever had as a stay-at-home mom, and learned that there was no Excel model that could map out the whims of a small child. The complexity and joy of work only grew in 2008 when her second daughter joined the family. Molly has been excited to dust off her Excel skills and leverage her previous work experience as well as her experience as a patient to launch Consano.

Molly Lindquist will discuss Impact Funding and judge the Social Innovation Pitch Fest at the Elevating Impact Summit on June 20, 2014.

Elevating Impact Stories: Heather McHugh

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - May 8, 2014 - 11:53am

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 their writings that reflect elements of their journeys, you will learn more about each person, and explore the promise and challenge of social innovation.

Heather McHugh reads English versions of five poems by European poets.  

“I wanted to read these poems [...] to remind myself not to be hypnotized by repeated vocabulary. I want to remember what impact really means in human lives and human emotions.”

Heather McHugh won a 2009 MacArthur “Genius Grant” for poetry (and has published more than 10 volumes of poetry, essays and translation, most recently Upgraded to Serious from Copper Canyon Press). Her teaching career spans decades at the University of Washington, and before that stints at UC Berkeley, U of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Syracuse U., Warren Wilson College and elsewhere. In 2011 she began to design CAREGIFTED, a nonprofit that gives getaways (and celebratory recognition) to long-term caregivers of the severely disabled.

Heather McHugh will speak on the Encore Purpose panel and will read a poem at the Elevating Impact Summit on June 20, 2014.

Living Around the Poverty Line

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - May 6, 2014 - 2:31pm

This post was contributed by guest writer Lanette Andrew. An undergraduate student, Lanette reflects on unexpected feelings she discovered while taking Design Thinking for Social Innovation, a course in Portland State University’s online certificate in the Business of Social Innovation.

I would have told you that I had compassion and empathy prior to this class. I was raised to have compassion and help others.  Experiencing homelessness three times, all while employed full time, I thought my perspective was fairly clear. This course has changed what I thought the problems were and how I can help address those issues.

Researching the struggles of families living around the poverty line, through government and third-party organizations, as well as expert and beneficiary interviews, gave me real-life examples and a new perspective showing a completely different truth about the same situation.

The years I spent living with stress, guilt, and fear as my constant companions, while struggling to keep a roof over my family’s head, have left their mark in many ways, mental and physical.  Residual effects include Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, physical health issues, and the most crippling for me, the feeling of shame.  Shame is isolating.  Shame showed up when I was feeding my son food from the food bank, or asking for an extension to pay for utilities or rent, and in particular when I had to tell my son that all of our possessions were gone.  I was renting a room at that time, all of our possessions were in a storage unit, and I could not make that rent payment. American society shames people for being poor, and even though my friends would not have done that to me, I still allowed the shame to keep me silent and isolated.  If you have not had to count small change out for fuel on a semi-regular basis, then you will not understand how going to the gas station can cause anxiety and sweaty palms.  The worst times were when I had to sometimes cancel visitation with my child because there was just enough gas money to make it to work, but not enough to pick up and drop off my child.

Course research led me to read an article from Greater Pulse Portland about the gap between the Self-Sufficiency Standard and the government’s published poverty line; after reading the article, my situation made so much sense.  An example from the article: it requires 34% more income for a family of four to be self-sufficient than what the government considers poverty level.   The stereotypes that people accepting aid are addicts and bums have been bantered around society for so long that, even working full-time, I still felt like a loser needing assistance.  Interviews with families struggling to exist around the poverty line were both insightful and heartbreaking.  I could relate to their struggles and felt less shame with the first-hand knowledge that I was not alone in mine.  This knowledge alleviated some of the shame and guilt.

The interviews I conducted with families in economic crisis changed my thoughts on ways to address this issue. When entering the Impact Entrepreneurs course on Design Thinking for Social Innovation, my perspective was that the issue was too large, too overwhelming, and I believed one person could do very little.  I thought that I’d complete the course looking at the issue from a higher level and remain detached. That is not what happened. Instead, I dragged my poverty issues out, admitted to them, and began examining and using them to develop a solution.

The interviewees talked about the current assistance programs and provided insight as to where they perceived gaps.  Each person interviewed had slightly different perceptions about the same benefit programs.  All were true, just different for each family situation.  The families interviewed, like myself, all needed assistance at more than one time, when a significant life event tipped the family finances off the precarious balance they had worked so hard to maintain.  Most importantly, I understand how a person can feel intensely grateful for the assistance, and at the same time dislike having to ask for it.  The struggling families all expressed the same feelings.  Like myself, they all wanted to be self-sufficient.

Fear of not being able to provide for your family is debilitating; no one should have to live like that. I feel fortunate that I am coming out of this tough time in my life with a sense of purpose and hope — hope that on a small scale I can make a difference and offer some families a hand toward economic sustainability.  I will keep defining what my part in the solution is going to be as the year progresses.

To find out more about PSU’s online certificate in The Business of Social Innovation, and the upcoming course on Storytelling and Impact Measurement for Social Innovation, visit our website or email

Elevating Impact Stories: Kat Taylor

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - April 30, 2014 - 8:33am

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.

Kat Taylor answers the question… well, just listen to hear what question she answers. 

“I can always pull the frame back further and get more perspectives in the picture.”


Kat Taylor’s life has been dedicated to serving social justice and environmental health. Kat is active in a variety of social business, public benefit and philanthropic ventures in the San Francisco Bay Area. Currently, she serves as CEO of One PacificCoast Bank, a Community Development Financial Institution whose mission is to bring beneficial banking to low-income communities in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner. One PacificCoast Bank is the result of a merger between OneCalifornia Bank, which Kat and her husband, Tom Steyer, founded in Oakland, CA, and ShoreBank Pacific, with offices in Oregon and Washington. The bank’s revolutionary ownership design means that its profits be invested in the communities it serves.

Kat is also a Founding Director of TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation (TKREF) dedicated to sustainable food production through ranching, tours, research, and school lunch and garden programs. TKREF owns the social business LeftCoast GrassFed, which raises cattle in ways good for people and planet. Kat serves and has served on many non-profit boards including the Harvard Board of Overseers, Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, Insight Prison Project, KQED, Co-Chair of “Building the New CuriOdyssey Campaign”, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. She graduated from Harvard College and earned a JD/MBA from Stanford.

Kat Taylor will keynote the Elevating Impact Summit on June 20, 2014.

Heather Fleming and Catapult Design: Thinking Creatively, On Purpose

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - April 16, 2014 - 12:36pm

Heather Fleming, Founder of Catapult Design, is a trained product designer who helps foundations and non-profits apply design thinking to global development challenges. She visited Portland last week for a lecture at the Mercy Corps Action Center, and shared her authentic insights on a variety of issues ranging from water access on Navajo reservations to running a startup in San Francisco to product design for rural development. She presented her experiences candidly, and her demeanor was so casual and familiar that one might have missed the profundity of her big idea: the potential impact of design is that it can empower.

Like many innovators and entrepreneurs, Fleming can identify a few pivotal experiences that led her to launch Catapult Design. It started with her life in New Mexico on the edge of the Navajo Nation. Her extended family lived on the reservation and few of them had access to running water. She was inspired when her cousin went to college and later got a job building wells for some of those rural homes. When Fleming herself was in school, studying product design at Stanford, she noticed that both design and entrepreneurship required creative problem solving. Finally, Fleming saw something that would change the course of her work and her life. She saw that design had the potential to empower individuals and communities anywhere by engaging them as creative problems-solvers.

While there are countless ways we can (and do) define design, Fleming was able to identify some key qualities of design during her time at Stanford that fit with her values:

  • seeking to understand
  • multidisciplinary
  • a team sport
  • thoughtful
  • a process for problem solving

Combined with her experience developing consumer products, Fleming embedded these processes and concepts in her strategy as she launched Catapult Design, which strives to reintroduce the basic concept of creative thinking to address development  challenges. Why is creative thinking at the center of Catapult Design? Fleming proposes:

  • Social and environmental problems are complex, so solving them requires systems thinking
  • Social and environmental problems are always changing, so solving them requires iteration
  • Adoption of a product relies on users, so an effective product should be a user-driven idea

To get from the basic concept of creative thinking to leading a product design firm that embodies these principles, Fleming focused on the intersection of design, international development, and entrepreneurship.  Now Catapult Design, a small team of designers, engineers, and educators, is working with forward-thinking organizations using technology as a means to drive social change. Some examples of products they’ve created include a 50-cent scalpel for clean child delivery – because over 50% of the women in the world give birth at home – and rolling barrel-carts to transport clean water.  The ideas are simple, on purpose.

A visual synopsis of Heather Fleming’s presentation by Stefanie Koehler, of Biomimicry for Creative Innovation

Forge Portland: A New Co-working Space for Nonprofits and Social Enterprises

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - April 11, 2014 - 10:05am

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:


Portland’s Business Incubators and Accelerators

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - April 4, 2014 - 8:37am

In the latest federal ranking, Oregon is sixth among US states in job growth. How does a small city like Portland create a large footprint in the startup world, while stimulating employment and economic development? We think it’s partly thanks to a great and growing base of programs offering assistance to small businesses. After several years of rapid growth, there are now nearly 30 business incubators, accelerators and support programs in the Portland area.

Beyond working space and crucial programs like mentoring, skills-building, and networking, you may be surprised what resources you can find in this ecosystem of supporting organizations. Need a commercial kitchen? A pop-up shop downtown? A 3-D printer? Alongside the Portland Business Journal’s recent Portland Incubator Roundup, we hope this post serves as a 2014 directory for local incubators helping small businesses thrive. Let us know in the comments if we missed anyone!

I. Incubators for Social Impact Ventures

PSU’s Social Innovation Incubator and Business of Social Innovation Online Program: Embedded in PSU’s School of Business Administration, Impact Entrepreneurs delivers a curriculum integrating social, environmental and ethical issues through its Social Innovation Incubator and online program in social innovation, assisting early-stage social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in launching market-based innovations that generate systemic social and environmental benefits.

Springboard Innovation: Springboard Innovation helps fill the gap of learning and support for those who wish to make a difference in a new way through workshops and memberships at Hatch, social entrepreneurship meetup groups, investment guidance, mentorship matches, pitch events, and more.

Forge Portland: Just on the horizon, with a planned opening in May 14, Forge will be a shared workspace that offers a suite of free business and organizational tools designed to support nonprofit and social enterprise members.

II. Small Business Incubators and Accelerators

Mercy Corps NW: Mercy Corps NW supports small businesses and entrepreneurs through microloans, matched business grants, and small business classes taught by business professionals.

TenX: An open source, business frameworks education company, TenX provides content, events, conferences & learning programs to generate growth & acceleration for high potential organizations & individuals.

Small Business Development Centers (SBDC): FREE to Oregon businesses and entrepreneurs, SBDC services include financial, marketing, production, organization, and international trade and feasibility studies.

Starve Ups: A virtual incubator and accelerator with peer mentoring as its cornerstone, Starve Ups is an end-to-end educational approach helping companies to survive, strive and thrive.

The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE): Designed to accelerate the successful development of member companies, TiE provides support services including rental space, an incubator program, pitch sessions, and mentors.

Best HQ: A business incubator, best HQ provides the support and resources for entrepreneurs to establish and grow their companies, in addition to providing workspace and management and leadership training.

SCORE: Score is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses with free personal counseling, ongoing mentoring, and 100+ high quality, modestly-priced workshops each year.

NedSpace: This co-working resource has 14,000 square feet of great office space in the heart of downtown Portland for co-working, startups, entrepreneurs and remote workers.

III. Tech Incubators and Accelerators

Oregon Technology Business Center (OTBC): OTBC helps entrepreneurs identify and attain their goals at whatever stage they are at by providing entrepreneurs with office space, access to OTBC’s coaching staff, and access to OTBC workshops and seminars.

Portland Incubator Experiment: PIE enables creative business-building by helping startups learn, grow, and quickly conquer obstacles, pairing them with the mentors they need, when they need them, to solve their unique business challenges.

Portland Seed Fund: The Portland Seed Fund is a privately managed fund and non-resident accelerator focused on providing emerging companies the capital, mentoring and connections to propel them to the next level.

Portland Startup Weekend: A 54-hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation, Startup Weekend brings together developers, designers and business people to build applications and develop a commercial case.

Portland State Business Accelerator (PSBA): The PSBA provides office and lab space for science and technology startups, as well as a menu of services including turn-key affordable work space; conference room access; monthly CEO meetings and topic-related brown bags, plus ready information on business basics, raising funds and managing people.

The OTRADI Bioscience Incubator (OBI): Oregon’s first and only bioscience-specific accelerator, the OBI provides scientists and young companies with the resources and expertise needed to take their research from the lab to the market.

Micro-Enterprise Inventor’s Program of Oregon (MIPO): MIPO is a non-profit organization that provides resources, training, and advising on inventing, designing, and marketing unique products and services globally.

IV. Craft, Culinary and Design Incubators and Accelerators

ADX: ADX is a 12,000-square foot facility that combines membership, fabrication services, classes and coworking — to make ADX a hub for design and innovation in Portland.

The COG Space: The Cog Space co-workspace/ office and accelerator for small bike businesses in Portland brings together Portland-based industry talent in order to share common resources and services.

PCC Getting Your Recipe to Market : In an intensive 14 weeks, this program will help you make your culinary idea commercial ready, with food industry experts that will take you step by step to produce, promote, and sell your product.

KitchenCru: A shared-use community kitchen and culinary incubator that supports culinary entrepreneurs in developing, operating, and growing a successful business.

Trillium Artisans: Helping low-income artisans and craftspeople increase their craft business income and build sustainable microenterprises by providing small business counseling, access to markets, peer networking and technical assistance and training.

PNCA Bridge Lab: Provides entrepreneurship development and resources for artists by helping artist-entrepreneurs focus your vision, connect you with business resources, and assist you in building your own personal network in the Portland creative community.

V. Incubators and Accelerators for Women and Minority-Owned Businesses

Portland State University Business Outreach Program (BOP): Helps local small businesses, including emerging minority and women-owned businesses, achieve their potential by providing technical assistance and business consulting services.

Hacienda CDC Community Economic Development: Serving low income microentrepreneurs at any stage of business development, the organization offers a culturally-specific Microenterprise Program that incubates businesses by providing training, access to capital and selling opportunities, affordable commercial kitchen rental and, in the future, retail space at the Portland Mercado.

Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO): MESO improves the economic opportunities of underserved individuals through empowerment, education, and entrepreneurship for the benefit of families in the greater

Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs: Participants in the Association can access the Incubator With Walls or the Incubator Without Walls. Both offer market rates, individual technical assistance, counseling with OAME’s staff or volunteers, cooperative marketing and business growth, and development support.

Women Of Mindful Business (WOMB): WOMB helps women create a natural framework for business and marketing efforts, and is a platform for collaboration with a small group of heart-centered entrepreneurs and opportunity to learn to weave the feminine into your business.