Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Clara Miller, the head of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, always has terrific insights into sector, especially in the area of funding as one might expect. She just published an article, The Looking-Glass World of Nonprofit Money, which zeroes in on many of the problems of the sector. It's a great argument for social enterprise, because earned income can be used in the ways that for-profits would invest money for growth and infrastructure.

But, Clara's article is much bigger than just that one issue. I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Last month I was able to introduce Steve Case (of AOL fame) for his closing keynote at the 6th Gathering of the Social Enterprise Alliance. His remarks just appeared in the Wall Street Journal under the title Purpose and Profit Go Together.

It's very exciting to see the spread of interest in social enterprise and social entrepreneurship among the community of top tech entrepreneurs. Steve's own foundation has become a major supporter of the Social Enterprise Alliance, a group I helped found five years ago to advance the movement of social enterprises. He's putting his money where his mouth is, and I'm firmly convinced that will lead to some great social benefits as hundreds of nonprofits start mission-related businesses.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Yesterday I visited Betsy Bayha, a friend of mine who is a producer for Lucasfilm, working on documentaries. Skywalker Ranch is a very cool place! I was passed by four guys in Stormtrooper gear: the publicity machine is getting ready for the release of the new Star Wars movie later this month. The environment is designed to be conducive to the creative process: I was especially impressed by the library in the main house. It's both an architectural marvel as well as an effective library supporting the creation of films.

Betsy and I know each other from years of working on disability issues. One of her recent projects was Freedom Machines, the PBS documentary on the award-winning P.O.V. series, which was released last year. It's all about how adaptive technology improves the lives of people with disabilities. Well worth seeing. I especially liked it because our Open Book reading system was mentioned in the film.

The last stop on my visit was for lunch in the main house (terrific food). It was great sitting in that wonderful environment, talking about how telling stories with film can influence society. I shared my experience seeing a segment of The New Heroes, the new PBS program premiering next month. At the Skoll Summit in Oxford, we were treated to seeing a segment about fighting slavery in the modern world. Skoll also was a funder for the translation of the movie 'Gandhi' into Arabic, which I also saw a clip at Oxford. I'd tell you more about the cool projects Betsy is working on, but they are still under wraps. Suffice it to say that telling great stories with social impact is part of the package!

Monday, May 02, 2005

I just had to post this email I received. A couple of the Benetech team members hold the patent on the talking GPS locator for the blind technology, and this user is using technology we helped create.


From: "Rich Irwin"
To: "Gps-Talkusers"
Hi All:

Thought I would share a great GPS experience I had last week. I needed to take a 50 mile trip using several public transit systems to an area I had never been before. After a short cab ride, a Golden Gate Bus ride to San Francisco, a BART ride to Pittsburgh, I was told to take a Delta Transit bus to Oakley. Not only had I not been to Oakley before, but I had never heard of Delta Transit. I found the bus stop and the correct bus with the help of another passenger who was taking the same bus. What we both learned quickly was that this was the bus drivers first day on the route. After about a half hour of bus ride, as we left one of the stops, everyone on the bus hollered at the driver that he was going the wrong way. He went a few more blocks before he stopped and asked the passengers if they knew how to get back on the route. The general response was that nobody knew. I had my Braille Note GPS on and asked him where he needed to be to get back on the route. He gave me the intersection where he had made the wrong turn. I mapped a vehicular route from our current position and let the Braille Note tell him how to get back. Needless to say, everyone on the bus was amazed that the blind guy could navigate better than they could. What a great tool the Braille Note GPS is!

Rich Irwin