“It’s both relieving and scary to see there isn’t a playbook for this kind of thing,” one student reflected during a tour of social enterprises in Portland, OR. She was one of seventeen students who spent the summer of 2015 studying operational excellence as part of Portland State University’s Business of Social Innovation Certificate.
As a part of the summer class, students traveled to six sites around Portland to meet with local social entrepreneurs and learn firsthand about their experiences. Their reflections from each site visit show that the perspectives on social innovation were at once personal and universal for entrepreneurs tackling social and environmental problems.
“Scott encouraged us to know the existing systems we’re working on, so we can challenge them and create new ones.“
Led by Scott Davison, Vocoform helps young adults facing poverty, addiction, and racial injustice identify and pursue jobs through skill development, life coaching, and enterprise operation/ownership. Launched in 2014, the ½ acre Arbor Lodge Urban Farm in North Portland is an enterprise training lab for Vocoform. The farm facilitates 20-25 internships each summer for youth 18-25.
“SEI’s model [is] focused on building human relationships and supporting children in every aspect of their lives to help them succeed.”
Self Enhancement Inc. (SEI) recently launched The Pathways to Prosperity Initiative, an intrapreneurial program of SEI that provides at-risk urban youth and their families in the Portland area with the knowledge, skills and support needed to leverage economic opportunities and increase financial capability. SEI Academy is the only Title I model school in Portland, ranking in the top 5% statewide among schools that serve high-poverty student populations.
Construct Foundation is building a portfolio of partners and education initiatives to identify and support new models for teaching and learning, prioritizing K-12 students. Construct Foundation partnered with Breaker Project, an alternative learning model that combines design thinking and challenge based learning, in an entrepreneur boot camp that connects participants to real world problems.
“Ryan Saari just had this sense of unstoppable of optimism and purpose.”
The Oregon Public House, where students had lunch, is the nation’s first nonprofit pub. The pub pledges to donate its profits to charity, and customers select the charity their purchase supports. The Board of Directors and Staff are also committed to creating a space that’s accessible and “diverse as the neighborhood that surrounds it.” In two years the Oregon Public House has donated more than $50,000 to mission-driven nonprofits and charities.
“The lean systems strategies at Plywerk are eliminating wasted resources and time inefficiencies.”
Plywerk is an eco-conscious photo mounting and art panel company that is committed to a triple bottom line operating philosophy, and that utilizes the four systems conditions of the “Natural Step Framework” to assess the lifecycle of every aspect of the business. Plywerk is a lean manufacturer that strives to avoid and eliminate waste to add value to the product.
“Ecotrust was able to identify what it is they do really well, and keep that a part of the business model as they grew.”
The Redd is a 1918 industrial ironworks and contemporary warehouse that Ecotrust has purchased and is transforming into a working urban ecosystem for the regional food economy. It aims to incubate young businesses and connect them to Oregon resources. The Ecotrust website states: “The Redd will serve “ag in the middle,” mid-size rural farmers, ranchers, and fishers who have outgrown direct-to-consumer channels, such as CSAs and farmers’ markets, and are looking to scale their business.”
The students experienced social entrepreneurship in real life, in a local context, alongside their peers. They asked difficult questions, and debriefed each visit while traveling on a the bus from one site to another. Some people say you have to view social entrepreneurship in action to understand it. The summer 2015 class jumped in.
“Follow your curiosity.” — Qiddist Hammerly
At PSU’s Impact Entrepreneurs, we’ve learned that there’s no best age for someone to become a changemaker. From early childhood to encore careers, changemaking and social entrepreneurship can be taught—and realized—at any age. As we expand our university and professional programs to younger members of the community, partnering with Catlin Gabel’s remarkable PLACE program was a natural fit. This year, we worked with PLACE to provide a series of workshops on developing key skills and mindsets for changemaking, including resilience, empathy, optimism, and curiosity.
These skills, linked to successful social entrepreneurs, are also highly desired by employers around the world. We worked with PLACE students using tools including the Business Model You framework and activities from the Transformative Action Curriculum. The students were also treated to a panel of youth changemakers, including the inspiring founders of menstrual hygiene nonprofit Camions of Care, rural clinic Orchid Health, youth prison book provider Liberation Library, and low-cost prosthetic device firm GO Prosthetics.
Students were asked to explore and outline their goals in life. By tying those to the social and environmental problems they care about, as well as the skills they need to create positive change, we hoped guide them to a better understanding of their purpose and how to follow that passion. The results were truly inspiring, from plans to run a community education session on sex trafficking at the new PLACE Center, to help immigrants pass the citizenship test, or simply to explore a newfound passion for changemaking.
When Qiddist Hammerly, a Catlin Gabel alumna and university student involved in Liberation Library, was asked where to start in making positive change, she suggested that students simply “follow their curiosity.” We’ve done the same as we work to teach social entrepreneurship to a younger audience than that of our typical adult workshops and university courses. Along the way, we’ve learned what to adapt (shorter lectures!), but more importantly, we’ve learned how much of what we teach is applicable for changemakers of any age.
For several years, Portland State University’s (PSU) School of Business Administration (SBA) has managed a case writing program for students, faculty, and staff to create original business cases showcasing sustainable businesses or social enterprises from the Portland area. The cases have been used in courses at PSU and other universities, provided valuable learning opportunities in academic writing, and given innovative local organizations international exposure.
The program has enjoyed global recognition: previous PSU SBA cases, all available for free online, include two winners and three finalists of the prestigious oikos Case Writing Competition.
We are delighted to share that Impact Entrepreneurs was involved in developing two award-winning cases in 2015, both planned and co-authored by Impact Entrepreneurs Program Manager Jacen Greene.
Grameen Intel Social Business, written by Jacen Greene, Impact Entrepreneurs Director Cindy Cooper, and PSU Professor Ted Khoury, won 2nd Place in the Next Billion Case Writing Competition. Based on content created for PSU’s Business of Social Innovation Certificate, the case details a unique joint venture between Grameen Trust and Intel Corporation to deliver technology solutions that enable some of the world’s lowest-income people to earn more money, increase early childhood education, and improve maternal health. The prize money was donated to PSU to be used by students for opportunities to learn about social enterprise and sustainability. The case can be purchased from the GlobalLens archive.
Hopworks Urban Brewery, written by PSU Professor Madeleine Pullman, Jacen Greene, PSU employee Xan Pedisich, and PSU MBA students Devin Liebmann and Nga Ho, won 1st Prize in the oikos Case Writing Competition. Building on material from PSU’s Business of Craft Brewing Certificate, the case details the sustainability initiatives of Portland, Oregon brewpub Hopworks, one of the greenest breweries in the nation. The prize money was split between the student and staff co-authors. The case is available for free at the oikos Case Collection.
If you’d like to see a review copy of either case and teaching note, or if you’re interested in having your own organization featured in a future case, please email Jacen Greene: jacen (at) pdx.edu
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, PSU 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!
Jacen Greene, Impact Entrepreneurs, & George Zaninovich, PLACE
I’m Nadya Okamoto, a 17-year-old in Portland, OR determined to make a difference, and founder and executive director of Camions of Care (COC). COC is a nonprofit organization based here in Portland that strives to address the natural needs of homeless women primarily through the distribution of feminine hygiene product care packages. In the last six months, we have distributed over 1,500 care packages to women in Portland, Connecticut, South Dakota, Salt Lake City, and Guatemala, and we are hoping to expand that network of outreach as we gain more support.
Last month was the 2015 Changemakers Night hosted in partnership by Social Venture Partners and Impact Entrepreneurs at Portland State University. I had the unbelievable honor of playing a role in the event as the emcee, and was given the opportunity to tell my story as a young and aspiring changemaker, as well as to introduce three inspiring new role models of mine. Throughout the event, through listening to the three keynote speakers talk, and hearing about the work of many of the attendees, I learned three unforgettable lessons that are key to being a changemaker:
1) Build your work around your purpose: The people at Changemakers Night were just savvy in their fields of work, but were passionate about their personal missions. Being a changemaker takes a lot of work and a lot of hours advocating, connecting, and implementing programs, and one cannot accomplish that to their greatest extent without putting relentless energy toward reaching their goal. Thus, identifying that purpose is key to ensuring that you have the determination and authenticity to make your mark. I believe that this concept was embodied by one of the featured speakers, Jeremy Hockenstein, who weaved together his passion for business, international nonprofit work, and technology to create Digital Divide Data. Digital Divide Data is pioneering an “impact sourcing” model to provide education, professional development, and technology-related jobs for young people in underserved communities around the world.
2) Embrace what sets you apart: Everyone brings a unique perspective composed of our backgrounds, experiences, skills, and passions. As we embrace our differences, we bring new and important insights to address complex and entrenched social problems. For me, an experience that may be classified as “different,” but also gives me my driving force to lead Camions of Care, is my family’s own experience with not being able to live in our apartment and having to transition into living under the legal label of “homelessness” for a period of time. I was inspired at Changemakers Night by Jane Stevens, a journalist and researcher who leveraged her unique set of skills and opportunities to begin shifting social perspectives and address the effects of toxic stress and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) with her organizations Aces Connection and Aces Too High.
3) Consider connections: It was at Changemakers Night that I reached a deeper understanding on the importance of connections. My epiphany on this was spurred by Kazi Huque’s speech. As the CEO of Grameen Intel Social Business, he leads a partnership between Grameen Bank and Intel Corporation spreading IT services to a whole new market on a global scale. As a leader, empowering others is central to growing a movement, and to gain inspiration from others is forever a possibility. Connections not only enable your work to spread beyond your own fingertips, but they also help generate a cohesive community that strives for a happier world.
The 2015 Changemakers Night was an unforgettable experience. It brought inspiration and introductions to new perspectives that will undoubtedly help each of us as we embark on our own paths to social impact.
See more photos from Changemakers Night here