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Find Your Inner Hammer Thrower; A Call to Struggle

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - September 30, 2014 - 5:30pm

By Cindy Cooper, Co-Founder and Director of Impact Entrepreneurs

Sometimes I get stuck on a problem. I am not sure how to proceed, and I get scared I will choose the wrong path. Sometimes, I let that uncertainty stop me, and that can feel like this: Phew.

I feel relief that I’ve saved myself the embarrassment and pain of making a mistake. I can simply focus on what I know and feel good about my past successes, rather than attempt something that makes me feel naïve or dumb.

But other times, I keep trying, turning over rocks, and puzzling through it. My proudest accomplishments have been those that did not come easily. Reading “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Dr. Carol Dweck, I understand why venturing into discomfort can build confidence whereas reveling in the easy zone diminishes self-esteem.

Dr. Dweck’s research shows we have enormous capacity to grow our intelligence and abilities in every realm: art, business, sports, love and anywhere in between. A growth mindset not only builds our brains and brawn, but it also builds resilience, and who can’t use more of that.

In college, I got my fair share of good grades. I graduated a semester early, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. I also avoided classes based on difficulty. I was perfectionistic in most of my activities. Fortunately, I also tested myself. This was easier to do in areas that were less tied to my sense of self worth, such as sports. I wanted to be as good as I could be, but I had unburdened myself of the pressure of being great. So, after illness and injury, I was willing to give up being a sprinter and try my hand at hammer throwing, despite lacking all requisite talent and size to be any good. I was awful. I cried a lot after practices. I think Coach Goldhammer (yes, his real name) was teasing me when he told me to quit. His advice was, “Stop thinking!” I had no idea how to do that.

The truth is I could use my physical limitations and lack of experience as excuses, but this time my weaknesses made me lift more weights and stay out on the field long after most people had left. And at some point, something changed. I started to improve, and gosh was it ever fun! But, don’t get too excited. This isn’t a Cinderella story. I never did throw anywhere near as well as my teammates. Still, I felt self-respect and self-esteem that I didn’t get from earning As in Psychology and Spanish, which came much more easily than spinning around and pitching a hammer across a field. And that’s a key lesson in Mindset: It’s not the easy route that makes you feel good about yourself, it is the process of striving out of your reach until you get there.

At our final intercollegiate meet, the SCIAC competition, I threw a personal best. In his last note to me of the season, I received the best compliment from Coach ever: “Nice SCIAC meet! You are a come-through performer.”

With time, I’ve become braver. I have gotten better at giving myself permission to reach into uncertainty, despite not knowing how things would turn out. I have been willing to switch careers to seek more purpose in my work. I have worked with partners and teams to start businesses and programs in uncharted territories. That doesn’t mean I am reckless, or that I am not ever afraid. I am careful when my choices impact others, and pretty much all of them do. I still find myself answering questions like: “What’s the worst that can happen?” The answers are important.

I am applying similar dedication to my personal development. I pay attention to choices and behaviors. I seek out different perspectives when I am stuck. I (usually) believe that being a work in progress is a good thing. I truly believe I can be more fulfilled, purposeful and happy. I have learned I can have more positive impact by learning to be a better me.

As the new school year begins, it seems appropriate to celebrate the growth mindset by trying something new and challenging. I can’t make up for the times I’ve shied away from challenges, but I can approach the future with greater courage. I’ve never written an article like this before. I am an educator, after all, shouldn’t I have the answers? How will it look to admit publicly that I struggle with not knowing? I’m going to find out. This time, I am excited to learn from the experience. My heart is actually pounding right now, but I know that excitement and fear can both trigger this physical response. I choose: excitement.

How about you? How will you celebrate your wonderful, grow-able brain?


PSU Graduates First Class of Social Innovation Certificate Participants

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - September 29, 2014 - 8:55am

Students Deidre Schuetz and Gina Condon collaborate during a certificate workshop.

Portland State University’s Impact Entrepreneurs recently completed the pilot year of the new Business of Social Innovation Certificate, a professional and academic certificate delivered from within the School of Business.

The program’s goal, audacious from the start, was to greatly enhance an individual’s likelihood of transforming world-changing ideas into reality, whether working within an established organization or launching their own.

Aside from the ambitious mission, even getting the program up and running seemed like it would require some magic. The Impact Entrepreneurs team had only a few months to run design sessions for the program; tackle online learning tools; recruit instructors; record lectures; attract and register students; and move through the local, state, and regional accreditation processes.

Each term of the first year of the certificate was as much a challenge for the team delivering the content as it was for the cohort executing the coursework. Everyone involved was working hard, from the instructors to the diverse cohort of undergraduate and graduate students, nonprofit executives and for-profit business managers. Students completed three intensive online courses, attended site visits with twelve local social enterprises, and a developed a full business plan. What was the result of this collective marathon? Outstanding emerging ideas to address social problems and invaluable feedback based in experience to drive the program into year two.

The program participants developed:

Construct Foundation’s new Citywide Design Challenge for students, to be announced during Design Week Portland.

A new learning center at Universidad Catolica del Norte in Chile to improve retention and graduation rates.

A childcare facility for homeless families that offers fees on a sliding scale and flexible hours.

A cause marketing campaign to enable local breweries to support the Oregon Food Bank through competitions and seasonal beers.

New ways for NGO Lanyi Fan‘s programs to support sustainable entrepreneurship in West Africa.

… and more.

What they thought:

The Social Innovation Certificate program was an inspiring, positively challenging, practical experience that provided tools, insights and resources to convert ideas to sustainable actions that drive change. It supported my professional and personal goals in a meaningful, invaluable way, and facilitated a stronger network of passionate individuals of diverse backgrounds, committed to addressing systemic issues and opportunities in our community. - Rhian Rotz, Director of Corporate Citizenship, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, Portland

The program not only taught me how to start a business with a social mission, it also changed my ideology about the business world  and gave me direction for after graduation. It was hard work but the benefits that I gained from the program are countless. I am so happy to have been a part of this experience and consider it an important milestone in my education as well as my personal life. - Patrick Ditty, Heavy Equipment Technician at Peterson Machinery, Portland

The program has been an amazing experience for me next to my doctoral studies in education at PSU. The classes, online discussions and assignments have provided me different skills I can use as I think and develop ideas as an entrepreneur. The framework in which the content is developed is flexible and inclusive. You will experience, in a close-to-the-real setting, how to develop your idea step by step with excellent feedback from your peers and instructors.  I totally recommend taking this program. - Paulina Gutierrez Zepeda, Assistant Professor at Universidad Catolica del Norte, Chile

Enjoy more photos from the 2014 certificate experience here.


How to Map Your Career on One (Big) Page

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - September 24, 2014 - 9:43am

How often do you apply the same level of planning and strategy to your own career decisions that you do to your business decisions? Tim Clark, author of Business Model You, does it all the time. If a business model is the logic we use to create value for our enterprise, he considered, why note try the same for our professional lives?

Today Tim Clark is seen as the leader of the global personal business model movement. A trainer, teacher, and entrepreneur, Clark has authored and edited five books on business and personal development. Among these was the handbook Business Model Generation, which introduced the Business Model Canvas to the world, led to the creation of Business Model You, and is now used by over a million people across the globe.

This summer Tim Clark joined Impact Entrepreneurs to take participants of the social innovation certificate program through a powerful four-step method to draw their “personal business models.”

The exercise started with a recognition that our world is changing fast, in ways no one can predict, and that any plan should be flexible and ready to adapt.

At this point Clark introduced the Business Model Canvas, which is a visual tool built for simplifying complex ideas, and for revealing unspoken assumptions. It looks like this:

After the introduction to the business model canvas, Clark asked participants to get personal and begin reflected on their own interests, skills, abilities, personalities, and assets. Then Clark introduced the Business Model You Canvas, which looks like this:

At this point students were encouraged to use piles of Post-Its to come up with just one word about what they do. This was generally focused on what they do at their job, but extended into their personal lives.

Then they figured out the value of their activity – and not just in terms of deliverables, or ways that they do the activity – but the actual value that is realized through the work they do.

Next they had to think of whom they help. As Clark defines them, customers are anyone for whom you’re creating value.

Once the value and the customers were identified, listing the key channels was next. In this context the channels would be the means through which people would be made aware of the value offered.

After those were dialed in, participants rapidly filled in the rest of the canvas.

In the second part Tim Clark asked students to look at their canvasses and say, “ok – that’s where I am, but where do I want to go?” And then, in a flurry of new sticky notes, students explored their futures.

Parts three and four were about perspectives – participants organized into groups to share feedback and suggestions. The canvas-creator was challenged to listen without “defending or debating.”

The Business Model You exercise is something anyone can do, and it goes far deeper than this three-minute summary. You can use the tool to help identify purpose, tell your story, and to turn your ideas into action. You can find a ton of information about it on the Business Model You website, and you can pick up the book there. Think of it as a “one-page method for reinventing your career”.


Hacking Social Impact, for Gaza Sky Geeks, for Humanitarian Response, for Impact at Scale

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - September 11, 2014 - 11:03am
This post was contributed by guest writer Carolynn Duncan, Founder of NW Social Venture Fund. It was originally posted here

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Last week, Northwest Social Venture Fund co-hosted a series of 7 brownbag talks in support of Gaza Sky Geeks, a Mercy Corps + Google for Entrepreneurs founded accelerator, which aims to generate a spirit of empowerment and a homebase for tech entrepreneurs in Gaza, who are creating new businesses and developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem, in some very difficult conditions.


Innovators gather at the Stanford Center for Social Innovation


On campus at Stanford University, in Palo Alto, CA

Many individuals who attended gatherings in behalf of Gaza Sky Geeks, or who responded through social media, email or other avenues, let us know that they directly have a family, personal, or business connection to Gaza and Israel, that they have been thinking of their ties to the area and not knowing what is occurring on the ground, how to approach discussing the conflict with colleagues, friends and family, or how to absorb the dark, complex topics of the conflict while also maintaining personal motivation to contribute, and to find avenues to supply time, skills, donations, or support to the longterm humanitarian recovery response.


Impact Hub Berkeley, in Berkeley, CA


We love this quote board at Impact Hub Berkeley!

For our team at NWSVFund, to feel inspired to contribute to a humanitarian challenge, but to be disconnected from any actionable way to contribute, is heart-wrenching. We are so grateful to have a strong network and community, where we can work together to address challenges in conversation, and in action.

On this particular effort with Gaza Sky Geeks – Tom Sperry, from Rogue Venture Partners and one of the original advocates for Gaza Sky Geeks, Allison Deverman Vietor, founder of Tech4Change, a Mercy Corps partnership with Startup Weekend, and Lynn Le, founder of Society Nine and formerly at Portland Seed Fund, as well as NWSVFund’s founding partner Carolynn Duncan, a longtime supporter of Mercy Corps special projects – have independently been championing Gaza Sky Geeks, and through the brownbag series, were able to rally collective local networks to bring a broader, community-level awareness to the work that the Gaza Sky Geeks team has been doing to deploy entrepreneurship as a humanitarian tool to inspire longterm economic vibrancy for local Gazans.


On campus at the UC Berkeley Blum Center


Social entrepreneurs at UC Berkeley’s OnRamp program

We’d like to warmly thank our hosts at the Stanford Center for Social InnovationImpact Hub BerkeleyUC Berkeley Blum CenterMercy CorpsMercy Corps Action CenterNedSpace, and StarveUps, for facilitating dynamic conversations and sharing Gaza Sky Geeks and Northwest Social Venture Fund’s work with their communities.


Mercy Corps Action Center, in Portland, OR


Innovators gather at Mercy Corps Action Center

To continue amplifying the message about Gaza Sky Geeks’ important work, we invite folks to get involved by making a pledge to their upcoming Indiegogo campaign to support the accelerator’s operational development, and to make a personal contribution in any form, whether via crowdfunding, broadcasting promotional materials about the Indiegogo campaign to your network, working on special projects, or mentoring Gazan tech founders over the long haul as they work to establish sustainable businesses that provide jobs and hope locally.


Lynn Le, Carolynn Duncan and Iliana Montauk, at NedSpace


Innovators gather at NedSpace, in Portland, Oregon

Likewise, Northwest Social Venture Fund will continue to offer opportunities and special projects, that strengthen scalable social entrepreneurship and impact investing as two important tools in our overall mission, to reduce suffering in the world -

Our upcoming unconference, Hacking Social Impact, is a great avenue to connect with our team and work shoulder to shoulder on special projects and learning new skills in tech, finance, and impact, in order to become a more effective practitioner. We will focus this year’s unconference on how YOU can engage in scalable social entrepreneurship and impact investing, to make a clear and helpful difference to humanitarian initiatives like Gaza Sky Geeks and other special initiatives that we support and advocate for.

To get involved with Hacking Social Impact as a volunteer, sponsor, partner or speaker, please complete this registration link.


Gaza Sky Geeks’ Iliana Montauk speaks to StarveUps founders


Carolynn Duncan, Allison Deverman Vietor, and John Friess at StarveUps


NWSVFund’s Carolynn Duncan, and StarveUps’ John Friess

We also offer the Impact Investing Education Series, for university students, philanthropists/investors, fund managers and practitioners, who wish to more fully engage in the impact investing space, and bring personal skills in finance + impact up to speed through hands on learning in investment frameworks, impact metrics, analytics, and due diligence. To sign up for our fall IIES programs, based from NWSVFund offices in Portland, Oregon and Boulder, Colorado, and open via Google Hangouts video conferencing to participants anywhere in the world, more info is available here.

Finally, what impresses our team at NWSVF so much on a continuous, ongoing basis as we do our work in the impact community, is how much each of YOU really care, and for that, we are so grateful. If we can assist with something you are working on, we hope that you will reach out to let us know.

-Northwest Social Venture Fund

Connect with Gaza Sky Geeks
@gazaskygeeks / imontauk@ps.mercycorps.org / www.gazaskygeeks.com/

Connect with NW Social Venture Fund
@SVSociety / carolynn@nwsvf.org / www.nwsvf.org

Bringing it Home: A Social Innovation Summit for the Pacific Northwest

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - August 28, 2014 - 12:01pm

If the 2013 Elevating Impact Summit in Portland was a wild experiment, the 2014 Summit brought it home. For two years in a row now, hundreds have gathered for a full day of stories, discussions, and activities focused on social innovation across sectors and ages. The annual Elevating Impact Summit has become a touchstone for changemakers in the Pacific Northwest, and its value transcends the conference. Highlights from this summer’s event provide us with a social innovation roadmap, a lesson plan for our future, and an unending source of inspiration.

I. PITCH FEST
The Elevating Impact Summit will always highlight past experiences and great accomplishments, but it will also reveal insights into rising trends and the innovators who are building our future. The 2014 Pitch Fest was the stage for six local social entrepreneurs presenting their ideas in three minutes each. The audience voted on their favorite, and the winners received cash and legal support. Find out about this year’s winner here and watch the rapid-fire event play-by-play.

II. KEYNOTES
Kat Taylor’s presentation was smart, raucous, and authentic, much like her big idea. Through the verticals of food, energy, and money, Kat Taylor and her husband are disrupting the investment industry. They started by taking management roles in companies and organizations in all three areas to glean insights. What they came up with, in addition to a variety of new ventures, is what they call “beneficial banking.” They sought to leverage the great promise of what was previously known as banking, but this time to do it differently. In her morning keynote, Kat Taylor described how.

Marc Freedman’s mid-day keynote encapsulated one of the core themes of the 2014 Summit: the massive potential in unleashing the skills of the boomer population for the social change sector. After searching the US for examples of people who weren’t satisfied with retirement and who had dedicated themselves to pressing social challenges, Freedman formed Encore.org. The organization supports people who are crafting careers later in life that combine not only continued income but the promise of more meaning – and the chance to do work that means something beyond oneself.

Victoria Hale delivered the final keynote of the day. A quintessential example of the power of social entrepreneurship, Hale created the world’s first nonprofit pharmaceutical company. She has set out over the last decade to develop new medicines, and also to address the traps of poverty with collaborations across sectors and around the world. Hear Hale grapple with current challenges, like marketing to the poor, past learnings, like focusing on a great solution rather than trying to address every single problem, and how she has found a way to build precious medicines that belong belong to humanity, not to patent owners.

III. PANEL DISCUSSIONS
The first discussion brought together three amazing women with in-depth experience dealing with impact capital. The panel explored impact funding and investments from three distinct angles. This panel included facilitator Carolynn Duncan (TenX, NW Social Venture Fund) and panelists Molly Lindquist (Consano), Melissa Freeman (Oregon Community Foundation), and Gun Denhart (Hanna Andersson).

The next panel continued along the theme Marc Freedman brought to the table in his keynote. The panelists looked at Encore Purpose, or the unique value that people in their “second half of life” bring to the world and to the field of social innovation. This panel included facilitator Erin Flynn (PSU Strategic Partnerships), and panelists Derenda Schubert (Bridge Meadows), Heather McHugh (Caregifted), and Marc Freedman (Encore.org).

The third panel in the series looked not at one specific demographic, but at the great potential of diverse communities. This discussion centered on empowering diverse communities through the lens of design thinking, international development, and inclusive innovation. The panel included facilitator Jennifer Allen (PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions), and panelists Steve Lee (Ziba), Dwayne Johnson (Center for Inclusive Innovation), and Najia Hyder (Mercy Corps).

The final panel was not a panel. Behind every business, organization, or movement there a story that is as important as any new idea. The second Elevating Impact Summit removed the veil by challenging three changemakers to share their personal stories. They surpassed all expectations. This storytelling session featured Katrina Scotto Di Carlo (Supportland), Tim Carpenter (EngAGE), Deena Pierott (iUrbanTeen), and Pam Campos Palma (PSU)

Before they left for the day, attendees recapped their 2014 Summit in their own words:


How a DIY Healthcare Delivery System Can Solve the American Health Crisis

PSU Impact Entrepreneurs News - July 23, 2014 - 11:50am

Each year at the Elevating Impact Summit in Portland, a group of promising social entrepreneurs pitch their new ideas to an audience of hundreds. The audience selects their favorite to receive a cash prize and legal support, and in 2014 they chose Orchid Health.

The Orchid Health idea is to avoid the requirement of health insurance for primary and preventative care by having patients pay a monthly fee of around $50 for unlimited clinic visits. There is a flat-rate deal for small businesses and discounts for families and individuals who pay in advance. By working with clinics in Medically Underserved Areas, Orchid Health can profitably serve those on Medicaid and Medicare.

When Orchid Health stood up to pitch at the Summit, they were already having a momentous year. In 2014 alone they were granted $70K from Lane County’s Business Incentive Program, had won first place for concept-stage ventures at the Willamette Angel Conference, and secured over $100K from local investors.

While their three-minute pitch was awesome, and their press coverage has been extensive, I was still curious about the bright young innovators behind this radical new idea. I sat down with Orion Falvey and Oliver Alexander to try and understand how these recent university graduates were planning to turn health care delivery on its head.

Abby: Out of all the problems in the world, why try and fix Oregon’s primary care delivery?
Orion: I think the answer here is simple. What brought us to healthcare was the size of the industry, its potential scalability, and most importantly the opportunity to help people live happy and productive lives. We saw a service that was costing the average person thousands of dollars per year, yet was not solving any of their problems, and was sometimes even creating bigger problems itself. We strongly believe that primary and preventative care is the foundation of our country’s healthcare system, and that by working directly with patients to come up with a better solution, we will be able to save the entire system billions of dollars in the long run.

Abby: What’s new or different about Orchid Health compared to other primary care delivery programs?
Orion: We have taken a well-researched and well-supported framework for primary care, and created a do-it-yourself type model that allows us to move significantly faster than other healthcare organizations. The biggest change that we have made is removing insurance billing from everyday healthcare, which allows us to focus almost entirely on our patient experience.

Abby: How has your idea evolved since you started working on it? Was there a person, idea, experience, or policy change that influenced your work in a big way?
Orion & Oliver: The biggest change we have made is our decision to focus in rural communities that have at least 60% of their primary care needs not being met. Spending the past year working with the community of Oakridge, where our pilot clinic is opening next month, made us realize the true extent of what living without healthcare access is like. Additionally, rural communities provide us with a very defined population base, which we can use to show results and validate our model.

Abby: What does success look like for you and for Orchid Health?
Oliver: For us, success is being able to provide the highest quality patient-centered care, on par with the Mayo clinic, in each and every community like Oakridge across Oregon. Our model has the potential to help hundreds of thousands of people maintain and reclaim their health, while also saving them money, which is why we’re so excited about Orchid and the impact that it will have on the people who need healthcare the most.

You can find out more about Orion Falvey and Oliver Alexander, and more about the Orchid Health model here.


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.