Category Archives: Social Enterprise

Give the Gift of Inspiration: Lessons from The Blue Sweater


A while back I wrote a post about Jacquline Novogratz, the CEO and founder of the Acumen Fund. I just recently read her bestselling memoir, The Blue Sweater and was amazed at the grace, humility and compassion with which she writes. Enter some guilty pleasure reading of the latest In Style magazine, which had an idea to leave a jar full of inspiring things to do that guests can grab one on their way out of a soiree (i.e. Pay for someone’s coffee behind you) in lieu of a traditional party favor and voilà, you have today’s blog post! A week’s worth of inspiring quotes from The Blue Sweater that challenge us to reframe who we see as the Other, live with a deep sense of purpose, humility and happiness on a daily basis, and find what’s truly important in life. Enjoy!

“Why do some people stop growing at age 30, just going from work to the couch to the television, when others stay vibrant, curious, almost childlike, into their eighties and nineties?”

“Give people a way to walk so that eventually they can run, and then you’ll see them dance. Some of them will even fly.”

The following are taken from African women Novogratz met after the Rwandan genocide:

“There is no reason to hold anger against another person…to many of us have died over small conflicts. It is time to heal…why should I bear a grudge?”

“When you have everything you start to think that material things are the most important. When you lose them all at first you think you have lost yourself as well. But with faith, you begin to see that it is only those things that you build inside-things that no one can take away from you, that matter. Now we try to live from a place of love. And we understand that you can only have great joy if you also know great pain.”

“We listen to one another and look into one another’s eyes and we see suffering. It is that suffering that binds us. It is that suffering that reminds us that we are all human.”

“Living in the service of other people I finally felt fully alive….You must radiate and shine despite the difficulties you have on earth…in the end, goodness triumphs over the bad. It is our challenge to do good and to serve others without waiting for the good to be returned. I’m convinced that those people who cultivate universal love will have good fortune on earth. In serving others, I found light in a place of utmost darkness.”

Novogratz on her work:

“Build a vision for the people and recognize that no single source of leadership will make it happen: This is our challenge for creating a future in which every human being can participate. Just imagine the inventors, scholars, teachers, artists, entrepreneurs who will grace the human race once this happens. The first step for each of us is to develop our own moral imagination, the ability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes. It sounds so simple, and yet it is perhaps the most difficult thing we can do. It is so much easier to pretend that others are different, that they are happy in their poverty, that their religion makes them too difficult to engage in real conversation, or that their faith or ethnicity or class makes them a danger to us. Each of us needs to develop the courage to listen with our whole mind heart and mind, to give love without asking for thanks in return, and to meet each person as a chance to know a new individual, not as a way of reaffirming our prejudices. Our work should remind us all that the poor the world over are our brothers and sisters.



The Basics of Grant Writing: Program Development


Right now I’m taking a grant writing class through the Jefferson County Public Schools Lifelong Learning Program here in Louisville, Kentucky. Yesterday’s lesson was Program Development so I thought I’d share a few gems I gleaned from the class, seeing as how it is relevant to the non-profit and social enterprise sectors:

•What is Program Development?
It is important to remember that funders look at the root cause of an organization. They look to see what the effects of this root cause, or mission, are. That’s where program development is important. It’s easy for funders to identify a start and end to a program written within a grant, but what is important is the stuff in between, or the details of how you plan to accomplish everything.

•Fleshing It Out
The logistics of the “how” part of the grant should be written in a series of goals and objectives. Goals do not have to measurable, they are the broad outcomes of an intended project. Objectives on the other hand, must be specific, measurable and tangible. These are the outputs. Here’s an example:

Goal: To create 50% more jobs for organization A.
Objective: Create 4 job skill workshops per month.

Ideally each goal should have three objectives that explain how it will be carried out. In sum a general outline of a grant writing format looks like this:

Mission of Organization
Goal 1
Objective 1
Objective 2
Objective 3
Goal 2….

•Other tips:

Funders often look to see how your project is going to be sustainable. Be sure to include self-sustaining mechanisms that are already in place, such as tuition, sales, etc. In-kind donations in the form of capital can also be included in this, such as computers. Be sure to write it as its market value. Example: $10,000 worth of computers.

Stay up to date on hot topics in politics, grants are always sure to follow in these fields. For example, my instructor said that because education and healthcare are two of President Obama’s big domestic issues she expects to see a rise in these types of grants.

Although non-profits have especially taken a hit in the economy, my instructor said that grants are still out there, just that their stipulations and guidelines have changed and become more stringent. For example, she said an organization might still give away $5,000 worth of grants but give away five $1,000 grants instead of 10 grants each worth $500.


Social Enterprise and Health Care: Serving the Poorest of the Poor


Although I usually write about advancements with regard to social entrepreneurship and women, I ask that you forgive me as I digress and write about a phenomenon led by a (gasp!) man. (Seeing as how they do represent 50% of the population perhaps we ought to give them credit where credit is due…) I digress mainly because health care is an issue that I am passionate about; there’s no greater gift than being able to improve the quality of someone’s life so that they might reach their full potential and live a fulfilling life.

While in India I had the opportunity to meet David Aylward, the Senior Advisor for Global Health and Technology at Ashoka*. Says Aylward, “We need to shift from a sickness focus to a wellness focus.” That means understanding how outside factors like diet, sanitation and environment contribute to one’s health. Also important is the need to focus on patients and not doctors and hospitals. Why? “In the developing world they don’t have the doctors and the facilities.”

Enter technology: roughly two billion people have mobile phones. Innovators, such as Aylward, are looking for ways to use mobile phones as a means to store and collect data, information and connections. Aylward and others who are working in this field hope to someday connect diagnostic services and monitoring devices to cell phones of people in rural areas, allowing them to self-diagnose without ever setting foot in a hospital or paying to see a doctor. For example, earlier in his career while working with mHealth Alliance his company gave a grant to an individual who had invented a plastic lens that cost about $2 to put on a cell phone. Then, after taking a picture of a person’s eye, it produced a prescription for eyeglasses. “That’s where groups like social enterprises and Ashoka fellow set-ups come in. They create entities that can test these kinds of systems and devices in the field, figure out what works, what doesn’t, feed that back into the global network that we have created and are creating.” However, it is imperative that these services become sustainable. Once the right devices, systems and products have been found or created, the challenge becomes distributing everything throughout the world at a low price that people in developing countries can afford. Although a daunting task, Aylward has hope; “
By analogy, if you look at what happened with wireless, here you have devices that got very inexpensive, and service that got very inexpensive. Therefore people in the poorest parts of the world are now paying cash so that they can have access to information. We need to do the same thing in health.”

However, there are a few caveats to this intersection of health and technology. First is the fact that cell phones can’t conduct operations, limiting long-distance communication. Also, several people argue that a cell phone can never truly replace the touch of a highly trained specialist and could even lead to misdiagnoses. Lastly, many people in rural developing areas are not literate, posing problems with medicine or injections once those products have been received by a village from a neighboring clinic.



*Ashoka is a nonprofit organization that supports the field of social entrepreneurship. It was founded by Bill Drayton in 1981 to identify and support leading social entrepreneurs through a Social Venture Capital approach with the goal of elevating the citizen sector to a competitive level equal to the business sector.

10 Women Entrepreneurs Making It Happen


Today myself and my dear friend Maggie (Anchal’s Visual Communications Designer) were talking about how difficult it is to get a “real” job and transition to “real” personhood. “When am I ever going to stop doing “resume building stuff” and stop having internships?” she wondered out loud to me. The truth is, many of us recent college grads, and those who have even been out for a few years, are all in this same boat. We feel undervalued as we still settle for internships instead of jobs with 401ks and feel slighted by the fact that we can’t even afford our own apartments yet (“yes mom, I’ll be home tonight, and no, it won’t be too late”). Sound familiar, anyone?

On my long imaginary list of “Stuff I Want to Do Before I Die” is Start my own business/company (right next to “Learn guitar” and “Take a month-long trip to the Outback”). In all seriousness, starting something of my own has been an idea that’s been brewing for some time. I just feel like I need more time, experience and direction before I launch myself head-long into a serious operation. What could be more inspiring than this list of 10 entrepreneurs who are women? And, if you look, most of them are quite young! Check out Alex Von Tobel, only 28 and starting her own financial consulting group. Many of them were able to go against the tide and start operations that were largely successful in the most trying of times. I’m not making any drastic moves yet toward my Future Company, but these young ladies have got me thinking…


10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs article


S if for September…and the Social Good Summit!


This year’s Social Good Summit in New York City will be held worldwide. Okay, I said it’s in New York City, but it will really be everywhere. That’s because the organizers of this three day conference “where big ideas meet new media to create innovative solutions” have decided that the best way to maximize technology for good is to open the entire summit up to the world. Although many participants will actually meet in person, the majority will connect online. These remote participants will take part in “The Global Conversation” – an event slated to be the world’s largest conversation on how technology can contribute to a more and more globalized “community.”

Interesting and intriguing, right?!

What’s even better is that America Ferrera, our very own celebrity advocate, will be speaking at the Summit.

Here’s a video that explains the concept of this year’s Summit:

Hope you can join!

There’s A “Method” To Their Madness


It was just a few short months ago that I graduated from college. During those years I lived in a “college” house (where the floors were sinking), with a “college” budget (Ramen was a dinner staple), and had a “college” cleaning ethic (our vacuum was broken for over a year). Needless to say, this combination didn’t bode well when my landlord demanded we deep clean our house or pay $300 to have it done before we moved out. After discovering that the few cleaning supplies my roommates and I had were expired or empty, off to Target we went. It was there, amongst the Windex and Clorox, that I first saw Method.

With four out of five roommates being design majors and the fifth having impeccable taste, we were all drawn to the beautiful packaging of the method products. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the cleaning supplies were being advertised as environmentally conscious too… This seemed suspicious. But just as I was coming to terms with the fact that these products had outer beauty and inner beauty, the price tag came into my view. I was sold. After using the products, I can say that Method made cleaning fun! Well, not really. But it did make the cleaning go faster since the products worked so well. And now I have some endearing, decorative bottles that I don’t feel the need to hide in my closet.

Even though Method products are technically just cleaning supplies, I found it inspiring that a company had taken the time to redevelop and actually redesign such a commonly used product all for the greater good. Most cleaning products are full of harmful chemicals to both the environment and to us. The founders of Method, Eric and Adam, realized that a simple reevaluation of these products could spark social change, not just in our houses, but in the world one day as well. Here is a summary of their philosophy and the list of principles their products adhere to:

“Eric knew people wanted cleaning products they didn’t have to hide under their sinks. And Adam knew how to make them without any dirty ingredients. Their powers combined, they set out to save the world and create an entire line of home care products that were more powerful than a bottle of sodium hypochlorite. Gentler than a thousand puppy licks. Able to detox tall homes in a single afternoon.”

CLEAN. At method, we’re happy about what we do. Sometimes we’re even a little giddy. But when it comes to the effectiveness of our products, we’re dead serious. They work. How could we be happy if they didn’t? Our cleaners use powerful formulas made with naturally derived surfactants that work by dissolving and removing dirt. Our team of green chefs (aka formulation chemists + product designers), ensure that our products are not only highly innovative, but also highly effective.

SAFE. Cleaning can be a chore. Stinging eyes, burning lungs and headaches aren’t just unfortunate side effects of a well-kept home. They’re warning signs. That’s your body telling you, “Don’t use this. This is bad for you.” Our greenskeeping team rigorously assesses every ingredient we use, so we can be completely sure of its safety. That’s why method’s entire product line is both people- and pet-friendly, specially formulated to put the hurt on dirt without harming a hair on you or your loved ones’ heads.

GREEN. We’re in business to change business. At method, we see our work as an amazing opportunity to redesign how cleaning products are made and used, and how businesses can integrate sustainability. Our challenge is to make sure that every product we send out into the world is a little agent of environmental change, using safe and sustainable materials and manufactured responsibly. Little green soldiers in the battle of doing-well-by-doing-good, if you will. This is why we make our bottles from 100% recycled plastic, why we constantly seek to reduce the carbon emitted by our business (and why we offset the remainder), why we never test on animals, why we design innovative products using natural, renewable ingredients, and why we’re transparent about the ingredients we use, how we make our products, and what our track record is as a green business.

DESIGN. Most companies treat product design like it ain’t no thang. At method, we believe product design is a thang. It’s very much a thang. So when we were figuring out how to package our products, we enlisted world-renowned designer Joshua Handy to sculpt some of the finest pieces of recyclable plastic art this side of MoMA. Form, meet function. Function, form. You two play nice.

FRAGRANCE. Some companies might think that ammonia or bleach is the fragrance of clean. At method, we’re for flowers. Also fruit. Maybe an herb here or there. We’ve noticed that some home products lead to rapid breath-holding and window-opening. But no one holds their breath while slicing a grapefruit. So we’ll stick with that.


Who is the Social Entrepreneur?


“A person who establishes an enterprise with the aim of solving social problems or effecting social change.”

Let’s be honest; what exactly is a social entrepreneur? The above is a definition one gets when “social entrepreneur” is typed into Google. But what does this term really mean? It seems to be cropping up everywhere nowadays, from appearances in newspapers to Facebook posts, tweets and other forms of social media. What I attempt in this article is to re-define this slippery, somewhat mysterious term and give it back some of its dignity.

In order to look at a cohesive definition of the term “SE” I sought reputable organizations within the social enterprise realm and looked at their definitions. In other words, the below definitions can be considered “trustworthy”:

Stanford Social Innovation Review: “(1) identifying a stable but inherently unjust equilibrium that causes the exclusion, marginalization, or suffering of a segment of humanity that lacks the financial means or political clout to achieve any transformative benefit on its own; (2) identifying an opportunity in this unjust equilibrium, developing a social value proposition, and bringing to bear inspiration, creativity, direct action, courage, and fortitude, thereby challenging the stable state’s hegemony; and (3) forging a new, stable equilibrium that releases trapped potential or alleviates the suffering of the targeted group, and through imitation and the creation of a stable ecosystem around the new equilibrium ensuring a better future for the targeted group and even society at large.”

Skoll Foundation: “Entrepreneurs change the face of business; social entrepreneurs are the change agents for society. They seize overlooked opportunities by improving systems, inventing new approaches and creating sustainable solutions to transform society for the better. Social entrepreneurs search, constantly, for superior ways to solve the problems that plague society.”

Ashoka: “Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change. Rather than leaving societal needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps.”

Whew! Lots in there, especially Stanford’s definition, but the few ideas that all definitions manage to convey is this: innovation, change, wide-scale problems. I’m no expert, but what I’ve gathered as I’ve researched and worked in this realm is that social entrepreneurship is, at its heart, trying to do good. Social entrepreneurs use business models and blueprints, but the social change must always outweigh or equal the financial returns. I guess the missing ingredient that perhaps might separate social entrepreneurship from “business” is the greed element. That is to say, social entrepreneurs, and therefore social enterprises are greedless. Social entrepreneurs are a unique bunch indeed, and I had the pleasure of working and interacting with them during my time in India. They are passionate about the world’s most pressing needs, from female empowerment, to technology dispersal, to healthcare reform and everything in between. They have courage, talent, and an unyielding desire to make this world a better place. When they fall, they don’t just get back up-they come back with a new plan, a way to re-route and fine-tune their seemingly crazy idea that they believe in. When they don’t have cash they dip into their bank accounts. They are unafraid to ask for your help or seek advice, and they look to family and friends as the cornerstones of their foundations. They don’t have bedtimes, working around the clock, writing emails on their phones during their “downtime.” They research, investigate, question, and never accept the status quo. They are unwavering, in their pursuit and their desire, for a more just world, and being in their presence can be an inspiring, if not somewhat intimidating experience. Simply put, they want to leave this world a better place than they found it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have my own qualms and hang-ups about social enterprise, what it means, it’s implications, looking for the hard data out there showing that this stuff actually works. I don’t know that social enterprise is the answer to big issues in this big world of ours, but I do believe it is a start. It is creative, versatile and a fresh perspective to what has been offered in the past, i.e. foreign aid, donations, military aid. I came across a review of the book The Search for Social Entrepreneurship by Paul C. Light, which investigates social enterprise using data and hard facts. The book is quite comprehensive, beginning with defining social enterprise, the debates surrounding SE, analysis of successful SE’s and the problems that social entrepreneurs face today. Perhaps Mr. Light can offer some insight into the woes of social enterprise for those of us who are still grappling and playing around with this definition and this space. Happy reading!