Each year at Impact Entrepreneurs’ Elevating Impact Summit, we celebrate social impact in many forms, from new social ventures to proven approaches to addressing social and environmental problems. In 2014, we’re pleased to bring back the Pitch Fest and the Impact Awards. Nominations for the Impact Awards and applications for the Pitch Fest are now open to the public. Read on to learn more, and please join us on June 20 at the Gerding Theater in Portland, Oregon for the Pitch Fest, Impact Award announcements, speakers, panels, and stories celebrating social innovators of all ages and fields.
Social Entrepreneurs: Apply to Pitch at Elevating Impact 2014
On the morning of June 20, the Elevating Impact Pitch Fest will showcase Portland’s latest and greatest. If you are a student, professional, or social entrepreneur from any background, and have an early-stage social venture that you’re passionate about, apply now to pitch your concept.
If selected to pitch, you will present your idea to a panel of experts and an audience of more than 400 enthusiastic peers. You will receive personalized feedback from impact investors, meet and mingle with other like-minded social entrepreneurs, and may link up with the partner, employee, resource, or organization you’ve been searching for to advance your work. Make the Elevating Impact Summit a stage for yourself and for your vision, and a take advantage of this chance to share your story with a strategic and supportive community.
Thanks to our sponsor Immix Law Group, the Pitch Fest participant with the most audience votes will receive $1,500 cash and $1,000 of in-kind legal support. The runner-up will also receive $1,000 of in-kind legal support.
Applicants must: be registered for the Elevating Impact Summit; be using an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to address a social or environmental problem; submit a two-minute, non-professional video pitching their idea; and apply by May 1.
2014 Impact Awards Call for Nominations
As part of the Elevating Impact Summit, the Impact Awards recognize the achievements of remarkable changemakers and teams who are using entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial approaches to generate positive social and environmental impact. Impact Award winners act boldly to implement programs or ventures that demonstrate innovation and lasting impact.
This year, awards will be given for outstanding impact in the following categories: Campus Innovation; Impact Intrapreneurship; and Impact Entrepreneurship. To submit a nomination for an individual, a team, or yourself, please follow the link below and carefully review the additional detail on selection criteria for each award category.
The Ashoka U Exchange, affiliated with the global Ashoka network for social entrepreneurs, is a yearly conference of colleges and universities teaching social innovation. From “Changemaker Campuses” (such as Portland State University) already recognized for their efforts in the field to those just beginning to incorporate social innovation into the curriculum, the aptly-named Exchange offers just that: a way to exchange best practices and new approaches. This year marked the release of Trends in Social Innovation Education, featuring the results of a comprehensive global survey and thought-leadership pieces by authors including our own Director, Cindy Cooper. I recently returned from the conference, held in Providence, Rhode Island and Brown University, where I was struck by some of the emerging trends in the field.
Social Innovation education has exploded in popularity, with the number of offerings nearly tripling in the past five years, from almost 200 to nearly 600 worldwide. Much of this growth has been driven by student demand in programs that support their desire to make a positive impact on the world and enter careers that will allow them to do the same. The quick expansion of the field means that most universities are still developing their strategy, experimenting with different approaches, and working to identify appropriate learning outcomes.
Despite the popularity of social innovation programs among students, funding for these programs has lagged. A lack of funding was identified as the largest single challenge facing universities in this field, and anecdotal conversations at the Exchange confirmed this. Public universities and small private colleges struggle to secure endowments or grants for their work. At Portland State University, some of our programs utilize an earned-revenue strategy that enables them to be self funded, but this is relatively uncommon.
The term “social innovation” spans a vast array of approaches, from sustainability to social justice to service learning, but is linked by an emphasis on transformative innovation. Social entrepreneurship is an emerging pathway to social innovation based largely out of business schools, where tools such as design thinking, the Business Model Canvas, and the Lean Launchpad are seeing widespread adoption. Recognizing the breadth of approaches to social innovation, and organizing them under terms such as “changemaking,” has better enabled interdisciplinary approaches and community collaboration.
The biggest takeaway is that social innovation is here to stay. As an organizing principle for teaching students to become leaders and innovate around ways to make a positive impact on the world, it offers a way for practitioners and educators of diverse fields to come together in our common work of creating a better future for all. As Linda Kay Klein of Echoing Green said at the Exchange, our goal is to help students do “what is right for them, good for the world, and bold.”
By Jacen Greene
Program Manager for Social Enterprise Initiatives
School of Business Administration
Portland State University
The core concept of social entrepreneurship — using business tools and approaches in nonprofit, for-profit, government and academic settings to address social and environmental problems — is rapidly gaining traction. But for everyone we meet with a great idea for a new business or program, there are many more who simply wish to lend their expertise, talent and insight to the movement. Again and again, we’re asked “How can I get involved?”
In response, we’ve put together this short guide to helping out. We left out the many crowdfunding, donation, and investment opportunities in the field to focus exclusively on platforms that enable you to offer high-level, pro bono support to social innovators around the world. After all, you don’t need a lot of time, money or ideas to change the world — just the desire to help out.
Ashoka Changemakers offers a set of social enterprise challenges and projects that link social entrepreneurs with supportive networks of partners and collaborators. The Ashoka network is one of the largest communities of social entrepreneurs in the world.
Catchafire matches skilled individuals to specific project needs posted by nonprofits and social enterprises. From finance to design to photography, the platform offers an array of pro bono consulting opportunities for professionals of every background.
Ecoapprentice, a platform based out of Portland, Oregon, enables students and professionals to work on real-world environmental challenges posted by local organizations. Individuals or teams with the best proposed solution for each challenge receive a cash prize.
OpenIDEO is a list of social challenges curated by IDEO, the design firm responsible for popularizing design thinking and developing the Human-Centered Design process. Each challenge is posted by a different organization seeking input and solutions from the general public to help guide the development of new programs and ventures.
We hope this short guide gives you a starting point to contribute your unique experience and knowledge to the field of social entrepreneurship. If you’re interested in working with us directly to mentor social entrepreneurs or help run educational events, please sign up for our quarterly email newsletter for news on openings and opportunities. Thank you, and happy helping!
Some say that storytelling is an ancient art. But at PSU we think it’s timeless. Advancing technologies, evolving communication tools, and expanding global communities make it possible to tell stories in new ways.
PSU was selected to be a part of the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus consortium, a select group of institutions of higher education that demonstrate commitment and cutting-edge approaches to galvanizing solutions to major human and environmental challenges. Driven in part by the designation as a Changemaker Campus, and in part by the stories that were at our fingertips, a PSU collaboration emerged that set out to use the power of storytelling to inspire, educate, and encourage everyone to be an agent of positive social change.
Here are the stories of PSU changemakers. Learn about other PSU changemakers and how you can join us at http://www.pdx.edu/changemaker.
Impact Entrepreneurs and the Alumni Association at PSU share a goal of providing pathways for anyone to achieve meaningful careers that positively impact our community and the world. What better way to start working together on this than in a warm winter gathering at a local microbrewery to discuss social entrepreneurship? Last week we had the opportunity to do so, and here’s how we approached it.
1. Pick presenters with a range of experiences: Cindy Cooper has a background in corporate business and is the co-founder of Impact Entrepreneurs and the social enterprise Speak Shop. Jacen Greene has a background in business consulting and uses his talent to strengthen the impact of social entrepreneurs. Amelia Pape is a full-time social entrepreneur, running the for-profit social enterprise My Street Grocery. Justin Stanley has a family, works full time in the tech industry, and moonlights as a social entrepreneur leading the nonprofit social venture The Uprise Books Project.
2. Invite everyone: There is a time and place for selective audiences, but we find that building community is an inclusive activity. We reached an intergenerational, cross-sector group of 88 community members at the event last week, creating an atmosphere where everyone had something to learn and to offer. Attendees had heard about the event through meetup group websites, social calendars, PSU Alumni listservs, social media, and word of mouth. Everyone was invited.
3. Provide something to eat and drink, and time for it too: There’s something about food that brings people together, and that holds true even at professional events. Gathering around the cocktail table with a microbrew and a plate of delicious food is a great way to listen to a presentation. It’s also a great way to meet your next employee, co-founder, teacher, or friend. We planned a 45-minute panel followed by an hour-long casual gathering. The result was an energetic, productive and inspired party with concrete fodder for discussion; in other words, community building. A big thanks to everyone who came. We hope to see the rest of you next time.
We recently spoke with Jon-Paul Bowles about Hatch, a new community innovation lab and co-working space for Portland social entrepreneurs. Jon-Paul is working with Hatch and Springboard Innovation Founder Amy Pearl to bring the new space to life and create a system of supporting services for local social entrepreneurs.
Impact Entrepreneurs: How would you describe Hatch in a single Tweet?
Jon-Paul: Hatch: A Community Innovation Lab. An innovation generator, a place where social and local entrepreneurs create solutions. Where good works.
What role will Hatch play in the local community?
Hatch is both a place and a community. We’ve been surprised by the power of place because we’ve already seen people help each other out organically. So in one sense, it’s a place where a lot of incredibly bright, motivated social entrepreneurs work, have parties, host events, and take meetings. A beautiful co-work space. But in the deeper sense Hatch is simply a community of like-minded people who have a lot to learn from and offer each other and are passionate about using enterprise to solve big problems one small solution at a time. We have specific programs to draw community in. So a lot of different kinds of people find a home in this community. More and more every day.
What inspired founder Amy Pearl to create Hatch?
Amy has deep passion and expertise about helping create healthy local economies. Through Springboard Innovation, she’s been working on helping local economies access local capital for almost a decade. She was reluctant to look for a building to house the programs because changing how we invest in local economies really is about influencing existing institutions, habits and economies, and creating new ways to use legal and financial processes to free up capital for community investing. But it became clear that there’s a demand for people working in social enterprise to have spaces that hatch their ideas and build enterprises. Once she found the old Timberline Dodge building, the rest fell into place. The response has been really positive. And we’re not even open yet.
What type of organization is the best fit for Hatch?
Social enterprise. As your program is really good about explaining, social enterprise can take different forms, be for- or non-profit, etc. Anyone who wants to use enterprise as a means to accomplish a social or environmental end is a good fit. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already been wildly successful, or are just putting the pieces together and want some help.
What services does Hatch offer, and how much do they cost?
Hatch has a few different services. We have an incubator space that will provide access to top-notch experts brought in to help make them successful. Right now, desks in the startup space are $250.
We also have co-work space, which starts at $95 a month for 5-day access, and tops out at $295 for full-time, 24-hour access.
We also have Fireboxes (like cubes, but cooler) that cost $350 a month. It’s a dedicated desk with a locker, and lots of other amenities.
But most importantly, all our members have access to our programs, workshops and seminars — which revolve around getting them the expertise they need to be successful in whatever work they’re doing. So we’re trying to create an ecosystem that people can step into and thrive.
Do you have any interesting stories from the planning and buildout process?
The whole process has been a lot of fun. When you step into an old car dealership with a very 1990s feel and say, “Yeah, this would make a great co-work space for the community,” you have to be able to roll with the punches (just like any social enterprise startup). One minute you’re engaging leaders in the Portland community and the next you’re ripping off old awnings and wondering how to install more outlets. But mostly it’s been fun to see our team come together with our ideas and have the whole process evolve. Someone walked in the other day and said, “Wow. This is the new sexiest workspace in Portland.” That was fun.
When is the official launch party?
Glad you asked. We’d love to welcome the PSU community.
Where: 2420 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland
When: Thursday, January 30th | 5:00 – 8:00 PM
Who: Meet tenants including XRAY, Albina Opportunities Corporation, TEDx, Mojalink, and many others who are helping form the Hatch Community. Learn how you can grow your own project or get involved in moving another forward. Hear about our 2014 calendar of many new and favorite programs and events.
Cost: Free! Bring a friend and introduce us!
RSVP: to email@example.com
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Please check out the Hatch website to learn more. Or just come by and ask for a tour.
I also want to say that Portland is a great place for social enterprise. It’s nascent, but emerging. There are a lot of dedicated people already doing a lot in that space. Our goal is to grow the entire ecosystem of social enterprise, to collaborate with many partners like Impact Entrepreneurs and complement each other’s work.
Higher Education Reform in America: What are we trying to make more affordable? The road to strong US College Scorecards
This post was contributed by guest writer Marie Mainil, a political scientist and Business and Product Development Consultant with The Amani Institute.
Recent news have pointed out that institutions from Federal, State, Private, and philanthropic sectors are on a mission to make higher education more accessible to low-income students. But what exactly do we plan on making more affordable?
While reaching college is a challenge for low-income students in the US, there is also an achievement gap once they’ve arrived. The graduation rate for low-income students is around 25 %, less than half the national average. We also know that student loan debt has now surpassed the credit card debt that played a significant role in the great recession.
Both President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have called education the civil rights issue of our generation. Post-secondary credentials, in fact, tend to be a prerequisite for 21st-century jobs. Yet, despite high unemployment rates among young people around the world, employers across sectors complain that they find it difficult to hire suitable talent. Employers face the prospect of hiring recent graduates whose education may not afford them the skills they need to meet the demands of the current global economy.
Recent higher education policies and programs have been successful in expanding opportunities for students (of all backgrounds) in the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) field. This is great, given that American students fare relatively poorly in math and science. But why stop at STEM?
One current policy provides for grants to develop innovation within the private and philanthropic sectors in order to improve student achievement in general. Current policy also emphasizes a set of measures designed to strengthen community colleges, as well as to hold colleges and universities accountable for cost, value and quality. The launch of the College Scorecard is in fact meant to empower students and families with more transparent information about college costs and outcomes. Yet extra steps are needed to strengthen the university education we are trying to make more affordable.
There is a link between university curriculum and youth unemployment. Studies consistently show that the attributes employers most value in prospective employees are largely things not received from a typical university degree. This is especially true in the social change sector, a sector favored by the millennial generation. Employers in this sector rank leadership, problem-solving, initiative, project management skills, and communication skills as more important than academic and analytical/quantitative skills (which is not to say, of course, that those are unimportant). See here and here for more.
Since, according to employers, soft skills matter has much as hard skills, opportunities for leadership development, problem-solving skills, empathy, cross-cultural fluency, and self-mastery need to be systematically baked into higher education training programs—for the sake of both future employees and job creators. While still along the margins of the mainstream, an increasing number of outstanding organizations are working on providing such opportunities. See the Transformative Action Institute, Impact Entrepreneurs Leadership Programs, Global Citizen Year, Watson University, Mycelium, Uncollege, or Global Health Core, to name a few.
One additional organization institutionalizing the skills above with the goal of helping reform the higher education system is The Amani Institute (full disclaimer, I am a consultant there).
The Amani model focuses on developing 4 essential skills, which are also the core values by which the Amani team measures its impact:
- The vision to see what needs to change, to see what is not, and ask why not. This skill involves looking beyond one’s own position and identifying what one can do, such as setting a new direction for self, an organization, or communities.
- The courage to step into the unknown, and into the possible, without having all the answers, holding steady in the face of both the attractions and perks of the status quo.
- The empathy to work effectively with others, standing up when others can’t (or won’t).
- An ethos of change-making towards a more peaceful and just world, building, not just critiquing, deploying not just skills and knowledge, but one’s whole being.
Amani students, through semester trainings and apprenticeships, develop a professional toolkit and networks, and come to understand the personal journey impactful work requires in terms of effectiveness and personal sustainability. It is also worth noting that The Amani Institute does all this while reducing the traditionally high cost of top-class global education. The Amani model is certainly food for thought in the context of upcoming pushes for higher education reform.
America needs a workforce that is skilled, adaptable, creative, and equipped for success in the 21st century global marketplace. If we are going to create more pathways to higher education for all Americans, we should also ensure that higher education provides pathways to 21st-century jobs. This requires paying attention to the link between embedding problem-solving skills, empathy, cross-cultural fluency and self-mastery in higher education, and creating/filling 21st-century jobs that bring societal returns.
To learn more about The Amani Institute and apply to its programs, visit http://amaniinstitute.org
We are deeply saddened to share that professor J. Gregory Dees passed away at the age of 63 following complications from illness. Greg was often referred to as the “father of social entrepreneurship,” a title he deserved but eschewed. He influenced countless of us with his seminal definition of the meaning of social entrepreneurship and enhanced the development of the field with his many articles, books, courses, and a continuous stream of conversations in classrooms, boardrooms, and stages. We are fortunate that Greg will live on in the work he produced and the connections he made. As one of our advisory board members, he provided insightful guidance and shared his knowledge at events for our Portland community. We hope you had the chance to meet him when he was here. Anyone who did was able to appreciate the brilliant, kind and humble man who stood with many collaborators behind the building of a field. We were introduced to Greg by his friend and our advisory board member, David Sawyer, who shares with all of us a deeper look at Greg and his meaning in our lives.
“Greg’s professional credentials were impeccable, but if you had the chance to know him, you’ll recall a gentle soul who was rather surprised to find himself at the forefront of an international movement. A former McKinsey consultant, Greg understood early on that blending business savvy and social good just made sense. He emerged as the leading scholar of social entrepreneurship, a radical idea at the time, ‘an idea whose time had come.’ He made sure the idea stuck.
Greg taught and launched programs at three of the leading business schools in the world: Harvard, Stanford, and Duke. He lectured all over the world, wrote several books, even led the social entrepreneurship effort at the World Economic Forum in Davos. When Impact Entrepreneurs took off at Portland State, he was right there, joining our Advisory Board, speaking at events, offering sage advice, cheering us on. Greg Dees was the Johnny Appleseed of social entrepreneurship.
I met Greg in Kentucky, where he was on sabbatical from Harvard Business School. Don Harker, the CEO of MACED (Mountain Association for Community Economic Development) basically threw down the gauntlet to Greg and said: ‘If you’re serious about all this, if this is more than just academic talk, then get out of your ivory tower and come to the coal fields of Appalachia.’ Greg picked up that gauntlet, spent a year in the mountains, refined his ideas, and observed first hand the heartbreaking poverty and hopelessness that characterize much of the region. But more importantly, Greg saw the incredible resilience and determination of the people, and never for a second looked down on anyone. Rather the opposite. He admired the mountain spirit, which is not surprising. Greg was a native Kentuckian himself, and he was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Greg got it.
I was working with Greg on The Denali Initiative, a national training program for social entrepreneurs, at a defining moment in the evolution of the field, a moment where Greg showed prescience and courage. The field was becoming divided. A strong camp argued persuasively that the proper definition of social entrepreneurship applied only to nonprofit efforts with an earned revenue stream. Greg disagreed, and his “broad tent” definition of the field in 1998 proved to be crucial. The term “social enterprise” came into the lexicon after this, referring to both nonprofits with an earned revenue strategy, and to businesses with a social mission. But both were still examples of social entrepreneurship. From Greg’s perspective, the key was entrepreneurial thinking and practice, whatever the sector or economic model. Think how much poorer we would be if the noble efforts to make the world a better place, for-profit or not-for-profit, were not all understood as social entrepreneurship. Think Teach for America. gDiapers. World Pulse. Mercy Corps. The list is long.
One of the few times I saw fire in this gentle man was at a gathering of Social Venture Partners in Portland. I was the Executive Director at the time, and he was the speaker that night. One of the partners was testy when he asked Greg: ‘Why should we worry so much about scaling social impact efforts? Isn’t small beautiful?’ There was a fierceness in Greg’s voice and a light in his eyes when he said, ‘We have an absolute responsibility to scale what works. Social impact is about relieving the suffering of as many people as possible as quickly and intelligently as possible.’ The room stood still for a minute. I never forgot that.
Personally, I owe Greg more than you might imagine. Several times, when Greg was too busy to take an engagement, he suggested me in his place. We joked about that, me always being ‘the second choice.’ His recommendations alone were sufficient, and gigs that were way above my pay grade simply materialized. It is not an exaggeration to say that Greg deserves much of the credit for whatever success I’ve achieved. But I wasn’t special – many others could say the same.
I intend to pay Greg back: To carry on his legacy. To keep combining business savvy with social purpose. To never stop genuinely believing in people. To remain humble. To combine deep analysis with even deeper compassion. To strive, with every breath, to make our trembling world a better place.
I hope you too will help me carry on the noble legacy of this singular soul.”
Each year a mix of community members and PSU students travel to India or Cambodia with Impact Entrepreneurs to spend a few weeks working, learning and collaborating with social enterprises. This year the group is in Cambodia. Here are their stories.
By Tanya Murray (center)
The Human Centered Design approach that we are using to work on our design challenge starts with a simple concept: Hear. The idea behind starting with hearing is that for solutions to benefit those they are developed for requires a solid understanding of their experiences and needs. Before we came to Cambodia, back home in our pre-trip class sessions, we talked about the how to truly hear requires what’s often referred to as “beginner’s mind.” The idea behind beginner’s mind is that there is value in being able to listen openly without being distracted by pre-conceived beliefs, ideas, or experiences. When our mind is open, we hear more. In the design process, being able to hear more means we become more informed about the problem we are exploring and the opportunities that exist.
I’ve practiced this concept at other times with varying degrees of success. I’ve found that in practice, the ability to really listen and hear with a beginner’s mind is challenging. I find it extremely tempting to start formulating solutions at my first inclination of a good idea. The ego can easily be lured by the attraction of achievement and focusing on a solution and the actions required to develop it is a great way to escape the ambiguity of the discovery process. I find myself wanting to relate what I hear to my own experience, labeling and organizing by the constructs I understand. The problem with chasing after the first great ideas that come to mind or judging too quickly is that opportunities can be missed.
I came to Cambodia and to this experience in social entrepreneurship with an intention to practice listening with a beginner’s mind. Given that the topic my team was charged to work on is small-scale farming, a field that I have in-depth experience in and care deeply about, I knew that I was in for a big challenge.
Over the past six days, I’ve worked with my design team conducting intensive primary research on small-scale, chemical-free agriculture in Cambodia and the produce supply chain in Phnom Penh. We talked to farmers, restaurant owners, the local organic certification organization, and several local NGOs who work to promote the viability of small-scale, chemical-free farming. We heard about what these people care about and their frustrations and successes.
Now, leaving Phnom Penh, my head is full, still spinning from the experience I’ve had. In part this is because Phnom Penh is a lively, bustling city that bombards the senses. Since this was my first time travelling in Southeast Asia, and my experience traveling in the developing world is very limited, there’s been a lot to take in. But even more than feeling filled with the beautiful cacophony of this city, I am full of the rich, inspiring stories that I’ve taken in over the past six days of exploration and discovery. I take the fact that I have yet to fully put all these stories in order as a testament, at least in part, to a small bit of success in hearing with a beginner’s mind.
Yesterday my design team gave a presentation on our research findings and our recommendations for possible solutions. I observed myself feeling critical of our recommendations, finding them vague and far from anything resembling a model or plan of action. Our findings speak more to the qualities that a solution might have. There are no models or financial projections yet, just little nudges toward a solution.
What I’m realizing, with a few miles of perspective on our experience, is that not having a solution yet is a good thing, serving as further evidence of my developing ability to listen with a beginner’s mind and sit with the ambiguity of this process. While we’ve started getting hints of the form that a solution might take, there are still more questions to ask and more to discover. A full-formed solution would be premature. I’m recognizing the value in being able to hear, working on developing the patience and presence required, and looking forward to the solutions that emerge.
As we wrapped up our days here in Cambodia, we had a farewell dinner in which stories came out and realizations were revealed. There was fun, laughter, and remembrances, as well as deeper thoughts exposed. Throughout all of these, one topic stuck with me: how do you “turn it off?” How do you turn off the empathy you feel for the people or things you can’t change without turning off your empathy or understanding of the world around you?
For me this was a provoking idea, as I tend to feel like I’m more “turned off” in my usual life — and it carried over to this trip as well. We go through our daily lives and don’t tend to notice those things we see each day: the homeless person on the corner, the family who looks unkempt, or any other similar occurrence that happens often. These are things I consistently see in Portland, and they are things I would like to change, but because the underlying problems are so overwhelming, they tend to get put in the “think about it later” part of my brain. Then things get busy and these items are generally never thought about again, therefore perpetuating the problem.
I don’t think I noticed until now, but during a portion of this trip I still had at many of these walls up. Perhaps it’s because I’m an extremely practical person, or maybe it’s because I unconsciously don’t want to face the feelings that coincide with the visual inputs, but whatever the reason I was still feeling at least partially closed off through the goodbye celebration. During this discussion over rice and fake Ray-Bans, I came to realize I had become so focused on a part of the goal of my trip, working with ARTillery Café, that I failed to recognize some of the details.
Upon further reflection, as well as a walk around the city with Kate today, I came to realize we had not only seen parts of the country for our project, but we saw many things tourists and visitors here don’t get the chance to see. We saw villagers doing what they can to get by, spoke to farmers trying to make their crops viable and NGO employees doing their best to help out wherever possible, as well as other glimpses into the everyday lives of the people of Cambodia. We were invited into some people’s lives for a glimpse at what they consistently do, as well as perspectives on the same topic from multiple sources. When this realization hit, many of the emotions I was trying to unconsciously ignore came forward and I felt this overwhelming sense of helplessness. This is the feeling that the dinner conversation was about: how to turn off, or be able to live with, these strong feelings everyday.
Now that our part in Cambodia is over, I believe I will really be able to reflect on these feelings and try to understand a conclusion discussed last night. These emotions are there for a reason, and should be a part of your everyday, but by counteracting their overwhelming presence with your own personal brand of good you put out in the world, it can change that feeling from helplessness to pride. This is your personal brand of social responsibility, and can lead you down the path of understanding your place in the world. Where you can place yourself to do the most good with your strengths as well as helping to counteract those overwhelming emotions. This is how social entrepreneurship begins: with the realization that your presence could create change, no matter how small the scale.
On a final note, this trip has been an eye-opening experience, and I have met some amazing people that now are all friends. Thank you for making this trip so worthwhile and creating an environment that was completely open and nonjudgmental. This trip would not have been the same without all of you, so thank you again for your support through this shift of presence and thoughtfulness.
Each year a mix of community members and PSU students travel to India or Cambodia with Impact Entrepreneurs to spend a few weeks working, learning and collaborating with social enterprises. This year the group is in Cambodia. Here are their stories.
By Kate Rood
I probably use the word collaboration a couple dozen times a day at work. When I talk with executives about getting involved with our cross-industry leadership conferences, I use phrases like collaboration is the key to our future economic prosperity and strength in numbers and exchange best practices. The jargon is thick, but the value is real.
I can talk to any executive from any industry – public sector and private sector – and uncover a universal anecdote that goes something like: inspiring my team and delivering innovative results for my company is daunting and sometimes lonely work… I once had a particular project/launch/meeting/client that had me feeling particularly stuck… until a peer from a completely different world than mine shared something that made me think in a new way… their insight saved me time/made me money/saved me money/gave me new purpose.
This is a simplified storyboard for thinking about collaboration and the importance of spending time with a peer group that pushes you, but just like the stories from those C-suite execs, this trip has been full of conversations between 13 members of the PSU community who see things very differently, but who are open to the idea that their thinking can be improved by others. Hopefully we can all take these interactions back to our personal and professional lives with the intention to trade comfort for collaboration.
In particular, I learned something from each of the diverse leaders on this trip, and I’ll share what I think each teammate offered the group with the hope that there is some transferable wisdom for other social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs:
Dennis taught us to keep moving no matter where we are. Explore. Cover ground. Map where you have been and where you are going. Momentum and activity generate change.
Erik taught us to expand our vocabulary for looking at wicked social problems to be inclusive of both business and public sector solutions. Business minds can learn from policy minds. Leaders who typically think in financial measures can and should take a lesson from the public sector at times, and vice versa.
Nick taught us the importance of quieting the mind and the role a mindfulness practice can play in creating the space for emotion and creativity in business.
Kim taught us that cultivating a deep and diverse personal network is potent. The role of a connector is important and all of us should strive to connect people in our lives that might not meet otherwise if it weren’t for our vision to bring them together.
Brian showed us a model for grace and humility. His empathy is genuine, his reflections meaningful, and his natural ability to lead without politics or posturing is an example of how to be truly present in a group.
Rebecca taught us the power of a strong sense of self. When work puts you in new places, there is value in setting boundaries and knowing what works for you and what doesn’t. From that grounded place, you can create an environment that brings out your best self.
Melissa showed us that a willingness to be changed is the best foundation for learning. Her open and eager attitude cultivates confidence in her and those around her, uncovering opportunities that might otherwise not appear.
Devin taught us the power of inquiry and curiosity. There is so much to be gained from having genuine and persistent curiosity and the will to explore. From Devin we learned not to settle, but to keep searching beyond the surface level for the information that will make a real impact.
Tanya taught us that there is reward in “beginners mind,” even with deep expertise in a particular field. There is reward in reserving judgment and conclusion as long as possible, just as there is reward in sharing expertise well cultivated.
Pascal taught us the universal power of building rapport and developing strong connections. Charisma is a tool, use it to make bonds quickly and lay the foundation for candid collaboration.
Jacen reminded us to take risks to see reward. Social impact business has risk. Collaboration generates uncertainty. But a kind heart, clear intentions and a little bit of trust, perseverance and humor go a long way.
Carolyn taught us to always seek out a theory of change, to strive for outcomes beyond actions, and to know your purpose.
Thank you to all of my collaborators for the past 10 days. Here’s to being changed by each other for years to come.
Each year a mix of community members and PSU students travel to India or Cambodia with Impact Entrepreneurs to spend a few weeks working, learning and collaborating with social enterprises. This year the group is in Cambodia. Here are their stories.
By Devin Liebmann, 12/14/13
During our initial meeting with East Meets West to get oriented on our project, we poured over reams of data to try to get a feel for their operations. East Meets West offers rebates for people to install latrines. Initially these numbers seemed so far away and were not connected to anything. As we asked questions and dug into some of the data, our host, Kim Hor the Country Director for East Meets West in Cambodia, pulled up some pictures of the installations to illustrate a point. Suddenly everything made sense.
Seeing pictures of people standing in front of their newly constructed latrines breathed life into the cold hard statistics that we all like to throw around. Suddenly, the $100 USD written down on a piece of paper next to a blue thumbprint, leapt forth from the page as Kelly green tin roof and siding, solid concrete floors, 2 by 4’s, and a ceramic urn. Each of these details had been rolled up into that single, inflexible, unexpressive number with a dollar sign in front of it hiding each of these components. Smaller dollar figures revealed Tyvek stretched across bamboo and sticks to keep out wind and rain, a 5 gallon plastic bucket to hold water, and dirt floors. However, the same essential components as the more expensive latrines remained the same throughout. As each picture was opened, a slideshow of people’s stories unfolded before us.
The expressions on their faces were priceless, some squinting in the sun, others with knowing eyes patiently awaiting the end of the photo op, and even a few smiling, while clutching their rebate paperwork.
Each one of those individual numbers represents a story. A story of struggle, sickness, and ultimately triumph. Of the 313 households surveyed in Kampot Province, 65% did not have latrines prior to East Meets West beginning work there. Of those without latrines, 90% said it is because they cannot afford to buy a latrine. It is really important to maintain the connection between the numbers and the people that those numbers represent. In a world of information overload, large numbers begin to lose their meaning. We as human beings cannot easily grasp what each of these numbers truly represent without stories to go with each one or a photograph that can bring a particular data point to life. Tomorrow we will begin meeting these people to hear their wants, needs, and desires first hand.
Each year a mix of community members and PSU students travel to India or Cambodia with Impact Entrepreneurs to spend a few weeks working, learning and collaborating with social enterprises. While there, they experience the real-life struggles and successes of social entrepreneurs in some of the world’s most inspiring places. The group is currently in Cambodia. Here are their stories.
Today in the field we interviewed a farmer about his growing practices. He proudly explained that he’d harvest a kilogram of cucumbers off of two small plots of land. I asked him what he attributed this high yield to. I expected to hear that yields were improved by using black plastic to cover the bed tops, drip irrigation to supply a steady of water to his crop or the use of a newly available fertilizer or seed. Instead he attributed these yields to using compost that he made from a mix of material from a termite mound, buffalo dung, and hay. When I asked how he learned to make this compost his response ways simple. “From my ancestors,” he said. Another group described learning from a farm business advisor that farmers from his village were employing crop rotation practices, a technique also passed down from past generations to maintain soil health.
Having spent over twelve years as an organic vegetable farmer in the states, when I hear stories about farming practices passed down from ancestors, based on the integrity and resilience of natural systems, I recognize tremendous value. To me these methods are familiar and not far from the compost piles and crop rotations I’ve used myself to benefit to soil health, plant nutrition, and ultimately human health. It’s easy to be seduced by what is familiar and fits into my way of doing things. I suspect this is true for most of us.
At the same time I recognize the need to for continuous improvement, adaption and learning that is at the heart of innovation and entrepreneurship. Clearly there is a need for the kind of “New Growth” that the iDE program, Lors Thmey, that we are here observingis named for. My concern is that it is can be easy to embrace new technology without fully understanding the value of the old ways already in place. This seems especially true when working in a country and culture that is not our own. In his paper, “The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship”, J. Gregory Dees shares Joseph Schumpeter’s description of “entrepreneur as the innovators who drive the “creative-destructive” process of capitalism.” This description illuminates what I see as a potential risk of entrepreneurship that charges ahead to new technology and innovation without first fully understanding what is already in place. The risk here, being that in our effort to innovate and create, it can be all too easy to destroy opportunity and value that already exists. Dees also offers a valuable perspective here. He says, “Entrepreneurs need not be inventors. They simply need to be creative in applying what others have invented.” To me this serves as an important reminder to look for opportunity that create new growth while incorporating, building on, and honoring old ways.
We typically assume an entrepreneur is someone who founded a new organization, but some of the leading researchers on the topic argue that “starting a business is not the essence of entrepreneurship.” Instead, it is a focus on identifying and leveraging opportunities, creating positive change in the economy, and moving beyond the constraints imposed by a specific role or a lack of resources.  This means that entrepreneurs can be found in corporations, nonprofits, universities, and the government. To avoid confusion with those starting a new venture, entrepreneurs working inside an existing organization are known as “intrapreneurs” a term coined by Gifford and Elizabeth Pinchot. If intrapreneurial efforts are focused on creating social or environmental value, rather than just private value, they are social intrapreneurs.
Grameen Intel, a social business formed in partnership between Intel Corporation and the Grameen Foundation, is an outstanding example of social intrapreneurship in a corporate setting. Founder and CEO Kazi Huque worked within Intel to develop a new organization that combines Intel’s technology expertise with Grameen’s social impact to create healthcare and agriculture software serving the rural poor in Bangladesh. Huque had to act as a true entrepreneur to develop the model, establish the partnership and secure internal funding for the new venture.
Central City Concern (CCC), a nonprofit in Portland, Oregon that works to end homelessness through housing, healthcare, and employment, has created an entire portfolio of internal social enterprises. From janitorial and street cleaning services to a bedbug-resistant bed frame and their own coffee brand, these businesses each serve a unique role in training and employing CCC clients, raising awareness for their mission, or generating income for the organization. CCC has even created, in essence, a specific role to manage social intrapreneurship: Director of Social Enterprises, a position currently held by experienced social entrepreneur Clay Cooper.
Portland State University recently launched an intrapreneurship challenge, reTHINK PSU, calling for innovative internal proposals to reimagine university education. One of the award winners was The Business of Social Innovation, an online program in social entrepreneurship developed by our Impact Entrepreneurs team. The program takes the innovative approach of welcoming professionals, undergraduate students, and graduate students into the same courses, which can be taken for academic credit or in pursuit of a professional certificate. The program therefore both teaches social intrapreneurship and is itself an example of social intrapreneurship in an academic setting.
As social intrapreneurship becomes increasingly recognized across sectors, a number of practitioner resources have been developed. The League of Intrapreneurs provides resources, connections, and stories of corporate social intrapreneurship. The Echoing Green foundation has developed a “Field Guide for Corporate Changemakers.” Net Impact, a global organization of sustainable business professionals, provides an intrapreneurship toolkit and sponsors yearly Impact at Work Awards.
Social entrepreneurship is not solely the domain of those launching a new company. No matter what type of organization you work in — corporation, nonprofit, government agency or academic institution — you can embody the principles of entrepreneurship to start something new and make a positive impact on the world as a social intrapreneur.
 Professor J. Gregory Dees, “The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship.”
By Jacen Greene, Program Manager, Social Enterprise Initiatives at Portland State University’s Impact Entrepreneurs
Carol Levine, Encore Fellow and Founder of The Returning Veterans Project, describes her life as a series of events that fell into place, each equally important to her story and relevant to her work today.
In Carol’s first career, which began in the 1960s in New York City, she was hired as a systems analyst at IBM. However, on finding out what that job entailed, Carol quit before she started and decided to be a teacher, a wife, and a mother. When she and her family moved to the Pacific Northwest for her husband’s medical residency, Carol pursued a Masters in Education and then, rather than continuing to teach, she spent the next ten years running political campaigns and working for county executives in Portland.
Then Carol paused. For six months she wondered what would fall into place next and sensed that whatever it was, it would be important. Her next step could be seen as part two of Carol’s first career. She decided to pursue her second Masters, this time in social work. She saw this field as an intersection of education theory and social impact. With three clients signed up for therapy, Carol created her private practice, which grew and thrived for the next fifteen years.
At the time of Carol’s next big shift the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts were in full swing, veterans were returning home with severe trauma, and the news was entirely about war. Carol hated reading about these wars. In fact, she had always hated reading about war and watching war movies. Descriptions of war horrified her. Then, in 2005, like a switch, everything changed. Carol recalled an old Billy Bragg lyric from the 80s: “wearing badges is not enough in days like these,” and she had the idea to do something about the effects of war.
This spark launched what would become her encore career. First she did something she had never done: she filled her bookshelves with everything she could find on war and its effects. She read about combat, about prisoners of war, about injury and post-traumatic stress, the effects on families, society, and culture. Then she started working. She called together a group of therapists she knew and talked to them about donating one free hour of therapy per week to a returning veteran. Twenty-five practitioners signed up for the volunteer positions, and they established their status as a nonprofit organization.
Eight years later, The Returning Veterans Project now works with 156 care providers and has expanded beyond providing mental health care to offering physical therapies, including massage and acupuncture, with specially trained providers who are experts in releasing trauma. They are growing strategically, with careful provider selection and training as an integral part of their program.
In 2009 Carol was awarded the Purpose Prize by Encore.org, which honors those over 60 who combine their passion and experience for social good. She believes that she could not have achieved this without the extensive and diverse experiences of her earlier life stages and encourages her peers to be agents of change in their own lives, however many careers they’ve already had.
What’s it like spending Halloween in Tunisia with Mercy Corps staff from around the world? As you might imagine, there aren’t a lot of costumes, but there is a lot of innovation. On October 31st, just outside Tunis, Tunisia, Impact Entrepreneurs co-founders Cindy Cooper and Carolyn McKnight graduated the fifth cohort of participants from our Entrepreneurial Leadership Program (ELP) with Mercy Corps. Each year, global Mercy Corps staff gather to receive training from Portland State University professors in business fundamentals, social innovation, and leadership effectiveness, culminating in the design of new business ideas to address social problems.
Nineteen participants from fourteen countries worked over four fast-paced days to develop and pitch new concepts to a panel of entrepreneurs, nonprofit professionals and academics. The result was four new social venture concepts, two in Tunisia, one in India, and one in Indonesia. In Tunisia, one initiative will focus on providing a safe environment for young women working as domestic staff, and the other on addressing unsanitary conditions caused by uncollected garbage. In India, a new venture will work to improve maternal health on tea estates, and in Indonesia, the focus will be on ensuring the health of breastfeeding infants. Participants also developed personal leadership goals, working together on plans to pursue leadership opportunities in their lives and career.
By training nonprofit staff in business practices and social innovation, Impact Entrepreneurs and Portland State University work with Mercy Corps to develop global managers who are comfortable navigating across multiple sectors. As the scale and complexity of global challenges grow, it becomes ever more important to develop leaders with the skills, resilience and capacity to create solutions that incorporate business, nonprofit, government and advocacy-based approaches to achieve the most effective solutions.
The sixth Mercy Corps ELP cohort launches in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2014, and it will be a real treat to see the business solutions they develop.