Showing posts from April, 2007

Working to Change the World - May 24, 2007

Bill Coleman and I will be speaking at Santa Clara University on Working to Change the World on May 24th, 2007. It should be fun: I really enjoy talking with Bill and this is a chance to talk about what we both think really matters! Here's the announcement from SCU. Santa Clara University's Center for Science, Technology, and Society Presents “WORKING TO CHANGE THE WORLD” A conversation with: Bill Coleman Founder, CEO and Chairman, Cassatt Corporation Jim Fruchterman President and CEO, Benetech Moderated by: Jeffrey Miller Venture Partner, Redpoint Ventures Join us for an inspiring evening as two of Silicon Valley’s key business leaders, Bill Coleman and Jim Fruchterman, discuss how they’ve turned their own professional successes into ventures that foster change and better the greater community. Coleman, co-founder of BEA Systems, the fastest growing technology company in history, and Fruchterman, recipient of the 2006 MacArthur Genius Award, will talk about their passion f

Seeing Beyond Sight Salon

I'm on the host committee for an event honoring my buddy Tony Deifell and his new book, Seeing Beyond Sight. So, if you're in the Bay Area on May 17th, consider going and having a good time! Lighthouse for the Blind is proud to be partnering with a new book Seeing Beyond Sight to bring you a wonderful event. SEEING BEYOND SALON: An evening of social-networking, creativity & big-picture thinking Thurs, May 17, 111 Minna Gallery | $10 | for tickets go to: Only $5 in advance with special coupon for Lighthouse for the Blind friends (use coupon: “lighthouse” AFTER entering credit card info) [5:30pm] Social networking with emerging & established nonprofit leaders presented by Craigslist Foundation, w/ talk by Jim Pitofsky, Executive Director of Hands On Bay Area [7:30pm] Interactive Art presented by Exploratorium and SFZero + book party & exhibit for Seeing Beyond Sight: Photographs by Blind Teenagers (Chronicle Books), with talk by Autho

Gathering: looking back

Most Successful Ever! I wasn't surprised to find out that this was the best attended Gathering of the Social Enterprise Alliance. So many people did a great job making this the event for social enterprisers in North America. I'm hoping we can expand our reach globally in future years! The Gathering is designed to help stave off the loneliness so many social entrepreneurs face. Back in our "normal" environments, we're trying to break the mold. Like all entrepreneurs, we're told we're crazy and that our ideas are faulty. It's terrific for at least once a year to get together with six or seven hundred people who think the same way. Not only do we get the warm validation feeling, but we get to dig into the issues that face us with like-minded individuals. Peer learning as at the core of both the Gathering and the Social Enterprise Alliance . And of course, it's the people who make all of this possible. First, I'd like to acknowledge the d

Blogger creates trouble!

Late breaking news from the Gathering. Yours truly clearly ticked off our articulate and thought provoking keynote speaker, Carl Schramm, the head of the Kauffman Foundation. Carl's foundation is the foundation for entrepreneurship. Carl started off with a spirited advocacy for the power of entrepreneurship, touching on the vision of Ewing Kauffman, the founder of his foundation. He noted that the post-war predictions were that economic growth would come from large corporations, and that the era of the entrepreneur was over. Carl went to explain how much this is now the era of the entrepreneur, with half of the new jobs in the U.S. created by new ventures. Carl covered the Foundation's efforts to foster entrepreneurship in kids (quite successful by his report). A really exciting venture is the creation of a REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) to address the need of charter schools for viable buildings for their schools. He's also a big fan of of Teach for America. S

Seeing Beyond Sight

Tony Deifell rocks! Our opening keynoter at the 8th Gathering of the Social Enterprise Alliance was Tony Deifell, who has been working as the senior strategy person at Kaboom!, the rapidly expanding social enterprise that builds playgrounds for kids. Tony has just published a new book entitled Seeing Beyond Sight, photographs by blind teenagers. As someone who has been working in the blindness world for a long time (18 years!), I was fascinated to learn about the paradox of blind kids taking pictures. Full disclosure: I bought the book a month ago and it sits on the meeting table in my office, so you might guess I ended up converted to Tony's point of view. Tony's talk blended photographs from his book with key questions that we should be asking ourselves. The questions were illustrated by the stories behind the pictures shot by his students at the state school for the blind in North Carolina. Tony recalled talking to Merlett about her best friend, Reba. So many social

Tuesday at the Gathering

The Board Meeting The board meeting went well. I met Kris Prendergast, the new CEO of the Social Enterprise Alliance, as well as new board members for the first time. I'm looking forward to my last year (out of 8!) on the board, feeling that we're going in good directions. I think Kris comes with the knowledge and the ambition to grow this movement. The Hybrid Form session This was jointly hosted with the Aspen Institute. Last year's Gathering had really indicated our members were interested in a new organizational form that might better serve social enterprise rather than bending the for-profit or charity forms to our purposes (since we aren't really either). This meeting moved the conversation forward. One new initiative that I got to hear about was the L3C proposed in North Carolina. It's a low profit LLC specifically structured so that private foundations can invest in it and not have to go to the IRS for a letter ruling to approve this form of PRI (program

Spooling up for Day One of the Gathering

I'm noticing one sign of the Gathering maturing: multiple meetings to choose among for what is traditionally a light first day. For me, the morning is the board meeting of the Social Enterprise Alliance (the hosting organization for the Gathering). Other folks will be attending the pre-conference on faith and social enterprise this morning. This afternoon there are three choices: the Aspen Institute/SEA session on creating a new hybrid legal form for social enterprises, tours of local social enterprises, and a workshop on earned income ventures. I'm one of three people here from Benetech, and I'll be attending the hybrid form meeting while Peggy Gibbs and Barbara Morrison told me they were going to the earned income workshop. Then the Social Enterprise Institute (which is also a part of our local host committee) is taking attendees on a cruise around the Long Beach Harbor. Right after that (!) is the official opening reception for the Gathering: a Social Enterprise Ma

Getting Ready for the Gathering

I'm flying to southern California tomorrow, and have been packing for the trip. I remember back seven years, when I first met Jed Emerson and he told me that I was a social entrepreneur, but that a bunch of them were meeting for a "Gathering." That meeting in Miami was a landmark event for me. Not only was this a community of people like me (after eleven years of feeling like a real weirdo), but they were talking about the issues I had been, was then and would be facing. This moved me to volunteer to be on the founding board of what has turned into the Social Enterprise Alliance, a foolhardy move I still don't regret! It also built an abiding interest for peer learning, which is often the most valuable kind of educational opportunity. So, I'm heading to Long Beach tomorrow looking forward to more of that camaraderie and shared learning. We'll be talking about the future of the Alliance, bringing in new board members, discussing a new hybrid organization

Route 66 Meeting

We recently had a meeting in Silicon Valley to celebrate the progress we're making with the Route 66 Literacy program. Gerry Davis, who is one of our board members was there and took some pictures, and I thought I'd blog them and share the moments. The main reason for the meeting was that Professor Karen Erickson was in town. Karen is the innovator behind Route 66, and it was a chance to have Karen speak to us and some of the key donors who made Route 66 possible. She heads the Center of Literacy and Disability Studies of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Two local Silicon Valley foundations were especially noteworthy for supporting Route 66 at its earliest stages. The Severns Family Foundation and Special Hope Foundation both were enthusiastic about Route 66 and willing to take the risk that this effort would lead to a real effort to advance reading for people with developmental disabilities. Dave and Sharon Severns attended: the Severns family helped ta

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

I've just co-authored an essay that presents the challenges of accessing capital for expansion for social enterprises. The paper, Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Addressing the Critical Gaps in Risk-Taking Capital for Social Enterprise, was published by the Skoll Centre at Oxford's Said Business School. Jed Emerson and Tim Freundlich asked me to join them on this paper one year ago at the 2006 Skoll World Forum, after I said something relevant in one of the plenary sessions. The structure of the nonprofit capital market has been something I am dedicated to trying to both understand and influence. Since I come from the Silicon Valley venture world, I'm familiar with a capital market that is tough, but very much provides incentive to accomplish the goal of maximizing financial returns to investors. The nonprofit capital structure is more complicated, but it could be augmented with some new approaches that would drive the goal of maximizing social returns to society.

Wrapping Up the 2007 Skoll World Forum

The Balancing Act: just about right This is my third Skoll Forum, and I definitely think that it was the best. And that's saying something, since I got my award last year and that was pretty exciting. The challenge here has been the balancing act between the business school home of the Forum and the practitioner community. A couple of years ago, the focus was too academic and much of the material was not interesting to the social entrepreneurs. And, I know that academics need this kind of interaction: it's their career and passion. This year I think they got it right. Most of the plenaries were focused on inspiration and building the field as a whole. As usual (based on last year), we got to see four Sundance-created short films on Skoll entrepreneurs. The researchers got two days of focused seminars and content, while the practitioners and non-academic attendees were happily engaged in workshops and what I dubbed "master classes:" where Skoll Award winners wou