Tag Archives: social entrepreneurship

Quote

“…(But) creat…

“…(But) creating effective solutions is not a matter of simply sorting what works from what does not work, and then scaling up what works. It is a matter of understanding what works under which circumstances and for whom. The world is more nuanced and complicated than we want to admit. Rarely is the solution to a problem ‘one-size-fits-all.’ We need to realize that what appears to be ‘best practice’ has to be qualified and is usually temporary, best only until something better comes along. And we should always be challenging ourselves to do better.”

-Greg Dees

Christopher Gergen co-authored a nice piece in yesterday’s edition of the News and Observer that focused on remembering Greg Dees and highlighting some of his students who are carrying on his legacy. The above quote was initially published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Christopher’s full article is at http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/03/01/3659671/doing-better-greg-dees-helped.html

Staying pure after selling out

This week’s HBS Working Knowledge newsletter starts off with an interesting proposition: what happens when a well-known socially responsible business is acquired by a multinational?  Professors James E. Austin and Herman B. “Dutch” Leonard discuss their recent research, which examines such acquisitions as Ben & Jerry’s by Unilever, Tom’s of Maine by Colgate and Stonyfield Farms by Dannon.  Their work suggests that it is possible for a company to stay true to its social mission after acquisition, presented in a working paper asking “Can the Virtuous Mouse and the Wealthy Elephant Live Happily Ever After?”  

The discussion touches on some great questions, including why the elephants would want to acquire mice with a conscience and why it could be a good deal for the mouse (they’re not selling out – they’re scaling up).

An excerpt is below, but it’s totally worth your time to read the entire (brief) HBS interview with Austin and Leonard:

Q: How can elephants protect the mouse’s social value and brand integrity?

A: The more effective large companies have recognized that preserving the social icon’s distinctive culture and business approach is essential to preserving its key success factors. Consequently, they retain a large degree of organizational independence so as to prevent “contamination” of the social technology.

This stands in contrast to the common approach in acquisitions to integrate and rationalize the assets into the new owner’s systems, structure, and culture. Some of the specific mechanisms used in successful mouse-elephant agreements include governance structures and processes that give the “mice” review and even veto power over actions by the “elephants” that might jeopardize those elements that are deemed essential to the social values underlying the brand’s integrity.

Retaining the social entrepreneur in the joint venture is highly desirable

The Internet and Social Networking (and their enemies)

I’ve spent lots more time learning about and playing with social networks for my job lately (plus a couple of weeks out of town and completely offline), meaning less time actually participating in the internet culture via this blog.  So here’s a great quote from Christian Lorentzen (a senior editor at Harper’s Magazine) from an article entitled “The Internet and its Enemies”, making use of a quote from my favorite author, followed by a few articles about social media that I have enjoyed recently.

“TV,” David Foster Wallace has said, “is not vulgar and prurient and dumb because the people who compose the audience are vulgar and dumb. Television is the way it is simply because people tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests.” The difference between the Television Mind and the Internet Mind is that the latter has access to the vulgar and prurient and dumb as well as the refined and aesthetic and noble elements of culture. And unlike TV, the internet fosters a culture of participation that, though it may lead the majority to public displays of vulgarity, banality, and idiocy, draws enough talented people to noble pursuits in what might be called the “online underground” to give credence to the claims of the cyber-Utopians. The Internet Mind then is a craven, stupid, obedient thing – except in the frequent instances when it is compassionate, subtle, and free.
The interesting social networking articles:
The tools that I’ve been playing with most have been google reader and friendfeed.  Both have been highly valuable and taken way more time than I expected.  The biggest surprise is not the amount of noise that I get, but the amount of signal.  I’ve got about 150 items in my google reader that I actually want to read right now, but don’t have the time to devote to reading.  Not a bad problem to have.

“Deep Metaphors” connect with people

Gerald and Lindsay Zaltman of HBS (yep, it’s HBS catchup day) wrote a book on marketing using deep metaphors: Marketing Metaphoria: What Deep Metaphors Reveal about the Minds of Consumers. You can read an interview with them here, to get a better idea of what the book covers, and what they mean by “deep metaphors”:

Deep metaphors are basic frames or orientations we have toward the world around us. They are “deep” because they are largely unconscious and universal. They are “metaphors” because they recast everything we think about, hear, say, and do.

One example that they discuss is Coke’s highly successful “I’d like to teach the world to sing” campaign, which didn’t say much about Coke, but tapped into the deep metaphors of connection and social balance. The book apparently details 7 of the most commonly used deep metaphors across a variety of products.

If consumer goods are able to tap into these deep metaphors to improve sales, this information ought to be extremely useful to social sector organizations actually working to improve things like social balance. Perhaps the trick is to keep the message metaphorical, since “most thinking occurs without awareness”? Are we hurting ourselves by talking about literal benefits to society rather than speaking in metaphors? Is speaking to the unconscious more powerful than trying to raise consciousness?

Conversation: The Future of Social Enterprise

Harvard Business School professors V. Kasturi Rangan and Susan McDonald are hosting a conversation based on their recent paper, The Future of Social Enterprise. Click here to read a summary of their findings and join in the conversation.

The questions posed center around social sector evolution and measuring ROI and social impact – the conversation started today and already has some interesting posts.  These web forum conversations generally only last a week or two, so check it out now in order to participate!

L3C in VT – blending non-profit goals and for-profit structure

An interesting post from yesterday on npEnterprise – Vermont has passed a bill to allow incorporation as a “low-profit liability company,” or L3C.  This is basically an LLC (limited liability company) that is allowed to accept PRI’s (Program Related Investments, often from foundations) traditionally limited to nonprofits.

In other words, this is a new business structure that recognizes the blended value proposition of a double bottom line that incorporates both social and financial goals.  Legislation has also been introduced here in NC, and is apparently awaiting action in the House Finance Committee.

Check out Americans for Community Development’s website for more details on how an L3C works and the current legislative status.  Or read the original post with additional links below:

Thu May 22, 2008 9:58 am (PDT)

Vermont recently passed a lot of bill regarding L3C’s, which allows
organizations to incorporate into “low-profit liability companies.”

If you would like additional info on the concept, Heather Peeler (Managing
Director of Community Wealth Ventures) wrote an article last year that outlines
the purpose of L3C’s.
http://www.communitywealth.com/Newsletter/August%202007/L3C.html

The bill was championed by a group called Americans for Community Development.
Check them out here:
http://americansforcommunitydevelopment.org/

Becky Eisen
Social Franchise Ventures, LLC.

Some additional information: Vermont Legislature passed
our L3C bill and the Governor of Vermont signed it, so it’s now in the books.

Aspen Institute’s FIELD on Microfinance and Social Enterprise

Just learned of this nifty resource from the NP-Enterprise listserv: a new article called “Social Enterprise and MicroEnterprise: Understanding the Connection” posted at the Aspen Institute’s FIELD homepage (a program of the Aspen Institute focused on microenterprise as an anti-poverty strategy).  It’s a great brief on the basics of social enterprise, social purpose businesses, and micorenterprise.

Also on the homepage are links to a webinar on how microenterprises are using social enterprise to increase sustainability (free registration required, 90 min – unfortunately not able to be downloaded and saved, and I haven’t had time to listen to it in full yet) and a recent FIELD forum (their newsletter) focused on social enterprise.  Both of these resources include a case study of Mountain BizWorks, a project right here in North Carolina (up in Asheville) that I was previously unaware of.  Great reading!

RecycleBank on CNN

Just saw an interesting short news story on RecycleBank, which I hadn’t heard of before.  They motivate people to recycle by offering incentives from big corporate partners like Coke and Kraft.  Cities pay RecycleBank with money saved from landfill overuse fees, and the founder claims that most cities that implement the program have seen increases in recycling of over 100%.

A very interesting model for social entrepreneurship, and definitely seems to be scalable.  Seems that they’re currently located primarily in the northeastern US, but I’m guessing that the CNN story will help them scale out more quickly.  I’m very curious as to whether the customers (actually, I guess they should be called “end users,” as the customers paying for the service are the cities) have found the rewards program to be actually valuable.

I’m also really curious as to how the revenue works and the costs of the scanning equipment being retrofitted to the trucks (particularly upkeep/repair costs), but I’m sure that those things are trade secrets that won’t be revealed anytime soon.  Very interesting model, though, and the type of thing that I’d love to write a case study for!

Software Testing – The Specialists Are Autistic

Going through the old e-mails again, and found this fascinating article in HBS Working Knowledge that was shocking and inspiring.  First off, I must admit that I’m a fan of the show Boston Legal and that most of my knowledge of Asperger Syndrome comes from that show (yes, i’m pitifully uninformed or misinformed).  However, I’ve worked with autistic children in after-school programs and have heard lots of scary statistics about the “autism epidemic.” This can be a debilitating condition and the success stories seem few and far between – the only one I can think of (disregarding the Hollywood savant examples) is Temple Grandin, who apparently also is in the Asperger Syndrome category on the autism spectrum disorder scale.

Usually, when I think of job training and opportunities for autistic people, I think back to working at the Volunteer Center of Durham 15 years ago, and how we used organizations like Good Work for low-skill labor opportunities such as stuffing and labeling envelopes for mailings.  The results were haphazard at times, and we often had our Board of Directors and Junior League volunteers come in instead to place mailing labels on fund-raising and development mailings to insure quality.  Granted, these were an entirely different population and spectrum of developmental disorders, but still, I never would have thought that anyone on the autism spectrum disorder would be not only well-suited for software testing.  Not to mention that it would actually be so well suited as to provide a competitive advantage.

Enter the shock and inspiration:

“But who is best suited to control and manage the tests? The surprising answer may be found in a group of people previously thought to have a crippling condition: autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

In a new case coauthored by Austin, “Specialisterne: Sense & Details,” an innovative consultancy in Denmark has turned testing into its own specialty. While its 50 or so part-time consultants are considered best-in-class—they are paid industry-competitive wages, and customers include LEGO, Microsoft, and Oracle—75 percent of them live with what others might consider a handicap: They have Asperger syndrome or some form of ASD.”

And later in the article:

Specialisterne now has two offices in Denmark, another under construction in Scotland, and branches being planned in Sweden and India. Its niche, according to the case, is testing when the cost of establishing automated testing is too expensive and complex. In March 2008 Sonne was honored with Denmark’s IT Award for outstanding contributions to IT development. In a statement read at the ceremony, the award was bestowed to Sonne of Specialisterne because “these highly gifted people require special support to get on in society—but via their particular logical skills and sense for precision, they can contribute massively.”

Social Entrepreneurship in the New York Times

New York Times editorial writer David Brooks devoted his March 21 column to social entrepreneurship. The column and Letter to the Editor “Here’s What Social Entrepreneurs Can Do” written by Andrew Wolk, Founder and President of Root Cause and SEA Member, is saved here as a PDF.

One excerpt that hit a bit close to home (something I hadn’t put my finger on but have definitely noticed) is this description of SE’s:

“These thoroughly modern do-gooders dress like venture capitalists. They talk like them. They even think like them. That means that aside from the occasional passion for heirloom vegetables, they are not particularly crunchy. They don’t wear ponytails, tattoos or Birkenstocks. They don’t devote any energy to countercultural personal style, unless you consider excessive niceness a subversive fashion statement.”

Although to be fair, one of my SE friends is actually more at home in his Birkenstocks listening to Grateful Dead DAT’s as he is in his business garb – you just wouldn’t know it if you ever met him while he’s “on the clock”. Fashion sense aside, however, the most salient point in the article to me was this snippet:

“Their problem now is scalability. How do the social entrepreneurs replicate successful programs so that they can be big enough to make a national difference”

To address this challenge, I still think that the research and tools produced by Greg Dees is the best place to start (although Jeff Bradach’s work with Bridgespan is a great follow-up, and I am still just starting to read Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits, by Heather McLeod Grant and Leslie Crutchfield). However, Greg’s research on scaling social impact is easy for me to find and available free online (not to mention his status as an SE rockstar), so that’s where I’m pointing you right now. I’d particularly recommend the frameworks for thinking about scaling social impact section, which contains links to some free powerpoint presentations, practitioner’s toolkits, and links to articles and papers which go into greater depth about how to use these frameworks (including a couple of great articles by Greg co-authored by Beth Anderson and Jane Wei-Skillern, although the more recent one requires a subscription to the SSIR).

Ashoka

Taken from a post on npEnterprise this morning:

Ashoka’s Global Academy for Social Entrepreneurship has recently developed a “Social Entrepreneurship Teaching Resources Handbook”. The handbook is an excellent reference guide, and can be found in PDF format here.

This handbook includes a mapping of over 250 professors who are actively teaching or researching in social entrepreneurship
from more than 35 countries, with 29 different competitions, over 800 different articles and 200 cases used in social entrepreneurship
courses.

Sections include:
– Social Entrepreneurship Programs, Courses, Cases, Articles and other learning resources
– Profiles of Social Entrepreneurs, Support Organizations, and Competitions
– Social Entrepreneur Networks, Conferences and Events

Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector – HBS Interview

HBS Working Knowledge pointed me to this interview with Jane Wei-Skillern about the recent casebook that she and her HBS colleagues James E. Austin, Herman B. “Dutch” Leonard, and Howard H. Stevenson wrote: Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector. Jane co-authored several works with Greg Dees and Beth Anderson that I read when I was working with them at CASE (Center for the Advancement of Social Enterpreneurship), and I really like her work. The book will be added to the list of many that I’d like to buy and read one day. Right now, I’ve got too many in my “to read” pile to go out and buy more!

My favorite part of the interview is excerpted below (emphasis mine), but it’s a brief interview and definitely worth reading in full.

A major challenge facing business leaders is how to enhance the effectiveness of their social responsibility initiatives while substantially improving overall organizational performance.

This challenge cannot be overcome through incremental change in existing activities. Instead, it requires a fundamental transformation in the way that companies do business. It entails identifying new opportunities, creating new strategies, and establishing the structures and processes needed to pursue them. It is more powerful to envision this challenge as an entrepreneurial undertaking aimed at the innovative cogeneration of social and economic value.

Bill Strickland: new book, new blog

Bill Strickland, who I learned about in Greg Dees’ classes at Fuqua and subsequently saw speak (see link for streaming video) when he was honored at the inaugural Annual CASE Leadership in Social Entrepreneurship Lecture (Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank was honored in 2004, before his Nobel Prize win), has a new book out, and a new blog on Social Edge. Those unfamiliar with Strickland’s work may want to check out the Manchester Bidwell website.

America Forward Coalition – putting social entrepreneurship on the public policy agenda

In today’s issue of The Enterprising Voice from the Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA), they announce that last month the SEA became a member of the America Forward coalition. This new organization’s stated purpose (taken from their website) is:

America Forward works to connect social entrepreneurs with policymakers to promote innovative solutions and provide a new vision for the role government can play in solving our nation’s social problems.

I’m of mixed feelings on this one. Apparently this group came about as a result of discussions led by New Profit, Inc., a venture philanthropy that I’ve heard and read great things about. However, looking at their list of “high impact organizations” I saw some shockers – organizations that I wouldn’t have typically associated with being particularly innovative, enterprising or entrepreneurial.

I also don’t know about the necessity/efficacy of looking for government to play a greater role. Usually this seems to mean greater regulation of limited funds (or setting aside a portion for specific initiatives), rather than an increase in overall funding for the social sector. This often hits smaller, more entrepreneurial organizations the hardest, as they are often young and without the funding, infrastructure or history to scientifically prove their model. If this group starts to really emphasize the importance of investment in infrastructure and professional development in order to foster organizational sustainability and scaling social impact (as opposed to the push to decrease administrative costs that has accompanied the accountability movement in the last 20 or so years), I might be a bit more enthusiastic. However, looking at their blog page, it seems to be more about individual members working to push their individual agendas on Presidential candidates, often under the aegis of social entrepreneurship or social innovation. In my admittedly quick skim, I only saw one blog post that began to address thoughts on transforming the role of government and funding in the social sector in any meaningful way.

Further, in some ways this public policy approach seems to be antithetical to the market-driven, enterprising ideals of many blended businesses in the “third sector”. I would be surprised to see someone like Pierre Omidyar endorsing this initiative. I know that business, big and small, lobbies government for benefits such as tax incentives, funding of new technology initiatives, IP extensions for developing technologies and much much more – I just don’t know that such efforts are where we ought to be focusing our attention.

I see the value in further disseminating the central tenets of social entrepreneurship through media coverage and a “seat at the public policy table,” but worry that the message will only get through in a diluted form, and social entrepreneurs will become synonymous with social workers. Ambivalence abounds. I guess this is another one of those initiatives that I’ll be on the “wait and see” side (aka the sideline).

Great Nonprofits – An Interview with Perla Ni

A message on the npEnterprise listserv mentioned a list of blogs centered around social entrepreneurship. This list included several that I haven’t seen and may need to add to my own links. It also included Beth Kanter’s blog, which I haven’t visited in a while. I surfed on over and found this interview with Perla Ni, former publisher of the Stanford Social Innovation Review and founder of Great Nonprofits.

One Laptop Per Child

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program has been getting a lot of press recently.  You probably know about the promotion of buy one, donate one. Rather than a proper post, I’ll just let you explore some of what I consider the better/more interesting links I’ve seen:

HBS Case Study – free (with registration) Q&A with case author Professor John A. Quelch & link to purchase case study

Washington Post story following up on the HBS case study, focus on competition from for-profit companies 

Washington Post article on deployment in Peru

Photos and brief review by a U.S.  customer opening and trying out the laptop

Independent OLPC News Feed – keep up to date as this story/enterprise unfolds

Changemakers.net in SSIR

I didn’t realize how large Ashoka‘s Changemakers.net initiative had grown in the last several years until I read this article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.  It’s amazing that so much innovation can come from a contest offering such relatively modest prizes.  I do wish that the article’s subtitle referencing the wisdom of crowds was more than a simple name-checking.  The most compelling part of the article for me was this section:

“Like most funders, Robert Wood Johnson usually circulates its requests for proposals within a limited circle of U.S.-based nonprofit groups, and then treats submissions as intellectual property. The whole process has an air of secrecy about it.  In contrast, Changemakers’ approach was novel and refreshing, says Jeane Ann Grisso, an internist and epidemiologist who works as a senior program officer in the foundation’s vulnerable populations division. “Organizations I’d never heard of, doing projects I’d not even thought about, bubbled up through this process.” She says the foundation plans to solicit more proposals from the winners, and will almost certainly fund some of them.”

This is a portion of one of the key complaints/conversations that we had around the table as we formed ncyt over a decade ago.  In fact, we were more frustrated by the lack of transparency around the funding process and the often adversarial (or at best “guarded”) nature of the relationship between nonprofits and their funders.  Only as more funders came to the table did we realize the secretive and competitive nature of communications between the funders themselves.  When I went to business school in 2001, I was heartened to realize that this was a known issue, being addressed on a larger level as “field building” grants were being given to multiple foundations to collaborate and create some “industry standards” and benchmarks.  When I rejoined the ncyt Board in 2005, it seemed that these larger national efforts had stalled.  However, we did have some productive and fruitful conversations with organizations working to address these issues – most notably a conversation with Dan Moore, a consultant with NC Gives, an organization founded to create and sustain a more inclusive and collaborative network of philanthropy (including the very-hip-at-the-time and apparently growing giving circle concept).    Let’s hope that as time goes on there is an increased emphasis on impact, collaboration and transparency and less emphasis on who “gets the credit” for positive social change.

Gift guide for social entrepreneurs

The folks at Social Edge provide a gift guide for the person that wants nothing – other than to save the world.

I found Free Rice in Blue Egg

Since one of my colleagues is going to be starting a blog on sustainability at the Museum, I’ve been keeping my eye out for potential resources for him. I had an hour of relative downtime this morning, so I started clearing through some of my unread e-mail, including November’s free newsletter from Origo Inc. Sidenote: I love their newsletters, but they’re so full of information and articles that I want to read, they often remain “marked as unread” for quite a while. I have the same problem with my physical/paper issues of the New Yorker, which I generally skim immediately and, if possible, tear out articles to read later (although often there are so many articles I want to read that I end up just putting the entire issue in a pile to be read later).

One of the several links I followed was to a site called Blue Egg, a “beta” site for all things eco. Great design, interesting articles, and ambitious video. Nice enough for me to recommend a look, but not quite enough for me to sign up for their newsletter, on first visit at least. The thing that actually excited me the most about this was a link to Free Rice – a vocabulary quiz game that provides donations to alleviate world hunger via banner ads at the bottom of each quiz question. I answered about 10 questions and was disappointed in my score of 40, and kept going and slowly my score rose. I checked the FAQ and found that the best possible score is 50, so I’m pretty happy with my score now. With 20 grains of rice for each correct answer and questions that get harder or easier depending on your score to date (like the GMAT), I’ve currently earned 1200 grains of rice (that’s 60 correct answers for the math-impaired) and risen to a vocab level of 44. Thanks for making me take Latin, Mom! Thanks for making reading with a dictionary close at hand a pleasure, David Foster Wallace! To be fair, many of my correct answers have been guesses – the multiple choice format has always helped me in this way – but I have been surprised at how many words I’ve known without resorting to multiple guess. I’m guessing squire on this next one:free-rice-screencap.jpg