Social Good With Market Returns at Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship

April 15, 2010

Why I’m At Skoll…

I’m in Oxford, England today for the first full day of the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. I’m making great connections with investors who care about social impact equally to financial returns and learning how iContact can be a more socially responsible enterprise.

Our vision for iContact is to “Build a great global company based in North Carolina for our customers, employees, and community.”

So I’m here to ‘go to school’ for three days on how to truly maximize return for customers, employees, and community so that we can in turn maximize financial results for our shareholders. Fiduciary duty can go along with human social duty!

To me, having a formal CSR program and caring about impact for the customers, employees, and community is just good business sense that in fact maximizes financial return.

Increasing Financial Results By Focusing On Social & Environmental Impact

Personally, I strongly believe, in today’s new world, ensuring your business provides a positive social and environmental impact (or at least not a negative one!) will increase your financial return, not decrease it. I’ve seen this happen with numerous for-profit socially responsible companies like Ben & Jerry’s, The Body Shop, Whole Foods, Burt’s Bees, and Salesforce.com.

How can focusing on social impact improve financial results?

How can focusing on social return improve financial results? In three simple ways.

  1. The type of employees who want to work at companies that care–companies that put equal emphasis on profits and purpose–are the most productive and often most aware and intelligent team members.
  2. There is a growing movement toward consumers who care. Consumers will have much more brand loyalty to a company that they know cares and makes a positive social impact.
  3. When customers become passionate about a brand they talk about it more and more people will write about it.

The Tipping Point

After 30 years of so many in the social enterprise field working towards this, the tipping point has been passed wonderfully and thankfully. As the Dean of the Oxford Said Business School Colin Mayer said last night, the financial crisis has shown that short-term focus on only financial results does not lead to long term success.

Organizations like B-Labs have succeeded in changing public policy toward the benefit of companies who care. Self-interested (”greedy”) business owners who want to make money will now wonderfully benefit financially from implementing a formalized Corporate Social Responsibility program and ensuring they track and social impact and environmental impact.

The invisible hand is now starting to work toward social good with economic growth now that incentives are being realigned properly toward sustainable economic growth. While there is much more path to tread toward truly aligning policy incentives and consumer purchasing behavior toward companies who care–it is happening and the tipping point has passed! Eureka!!

Social Good With Market Returns?

Right now a panel called ‘Social Good With Market Returns’ is about to begin. I’ve been tweeting a lot about the conference via @ryanallis.

The moderator is Herta von Stiegel of Ariya Capital.

The speakers are:

Nick O’Donohoe, Global Head of Research JP Morgan
David Chen, Principle, Equilibrium Capital Group [video]
John McCall MacBain, Founder and Director, McCall MacBain Foundation

Nick from JP Morgan is talking about the Social Finance group at JP Morgan. Nick is not a “normal banker.” They invest in social enterprises that have a double-bottom line (financial and social). This social investing field is also being called “Impact Investing.”

Ensuring Off-Balance Sheet Externalities Are Positive

There is a engaging discussion going on now at the panel around off-balance sheet externalities (positive and negative) of impact (positive or negative). Nick says “every time we make an investment we are creating externalities.” He says these externalities can be positive (jobs) or negative (pollution). He says “for the first time the investment community is measuring the social impact of what they are doing and only investing in companies that create net positive externalities.”

This discussion is at the core of global history of the past 200 years as the ideological battle between communism, socialism, and capitalism has been waged. The new consensus that is emerging here is that what has won (and in fact what must win for the sake of humanity’s ability to continue) is socially responsible capitalism. As John Perkins points out in Hoodwinked, there is nothing inherent in the model of Capitalism and the competitive market economy that require off-balance sheet externalities that destroy the world.

Taking Into Account the Full Cost of Environmental Damage

Now the discussion is revolving around how to adjust public policy to enable the true cost of negative externalities to be accounted for in the financial accounting results. Some are saying the Holy Grail for improving the world through business is to make all investing ‘impact investing’ by taking into account the true cost of environmental resources that are not renewed into Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

“Better accounting for negative externalities is really important” said John McCall MacBain of the McCall MacBain foundation just now on the panel. The discussion is revolving around environmental costs being forced on any organization that destroys a natural resource (public good) that does not replace it sustainably and the impact this would make on ensuring warped incentives are not provided to global financially-focused Boards of Directors.

The discussion has shifted to bringing the silos of philanthropy, impact investing, running non-profits and socially responsible for-profit entrepreneurship.

Borrowing a meme from my friend Judith Cone who worked at the Kauffman Foundation and now works at UNC as a Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, perhaps it is all about where goodness lies. Goodness can be in the heart of the public sector official, for-profit socially responsible entrepreneur, non-profit executive, global multinational Board member, activist, or investor.

Nick O’Donohoe from JPMorgan is speaking about how JP Morgan can access capital high net worth individuals and institutions they work with which want to tap into investment funds specifically set up for investing in companies who put an equal emphasis on social impact as financial results.

Questions & Comments?

What questions are there on this topic of public policy changes and investing in companies that create social good while achieving market returns or above market returns? I’d love to discuss this more!

You can follow tweets from the Forum here.

Tech Awards: $50K for Using Technology to Address Humanity’s Challenges

March 1, 2010

Tiffany Yee from Santa Clara University reached out tonight to ask me to share information about the upcoming Tech Awards which is offering five winners $50k each to scale their innovation solving a major human challenge.

The Tech Awards, a signature program of The Tech Museum, honors innovators from around the world who are applying technology to address humanity’s most urgent challenges.

In partnership with Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society, 15 Laureates are selected annually and $50,000 is awarded to one Laureate in each category: Environment, Economic Development, Education, Equality, and Health.

Individuals as well as nonprofit and commercial organizations are eligible. Anyone may submit a nomination. Self-nominations are accepted and encouraged.

Deadline for nominations is March 31.
Deadline for final applications is May 5.

This year’s Laureates will be honored during a week of activities in Silicon Valley leading up to The Tech Awards Tenth Annual Gala on Saturday, November 6, 2010.

You can nominate today at www.techawards.org

Past winners can be found at http://www.techawards.org/laureates/

Bull City Forward: Looking for Socially Responsible Tenants in Durham

February 7, 2010

Bull City Forward is opening up a coworking/incubator space in downtown Durham on March 1st for socially responsible companies and non-profits. They are providing subsidized office space and services that include:

  • Central Internet, fax, copying, phones, mailing address, meeting rooms
  • Workshops on fundraising, legal structures
  • Networking events, speakers and a community of change makers
  • Space for members to host their own events

They will be in the Greenfire building at the Kress Building at the corner of Mangum St. and Main St. at 101 West Main in the heart of Durham.

For information on becoming a tenant you can contact Alison Dorsey at alison.noel.dorsey[at]gmail.com.

The Durham Herald-Sun did an article on their vision in January.

It’s truly wonderful what is happening in Durham. This city has been transformed in the past five years and the pace of positive change is accelerating!

How I Aligned What I Love With What I Do & Scaled Myself

February 3, 2010

This post will require a certain degree of vulnerability. Sometimes we build a hard shell around us when we’re going through difficult times. This is a story of personal growth.

A year ago I was sitting late at night in my Durham office at iContact wondering if I’d become a corporate sellout.

Was I trading in some of my most productive years of life to build a company I was no longer passionate about?

I had gone from being an entrepreneur to a manager. I was 24 and we had 150 employees and $20M in sales. I was dealing with purchase order forms and paid time off policies. We had achieved all the goals we had ever set out for ourselves. Where was the entrepreneurial passion?

We had gone from #20 to #2 in the market in five years and I had no idea how we’d get to #1. I thought it might be the time to start thinking about finding my replacement.

Even though we were still growing very quickly, we weren’t quite growing at the same percentages as we were before and for the first time in our company’s history we were going to have a year in which we would not double sales.

My confidence was wavering. I had made some big mistakes:

  • I had waited too long to launch a stock option plan for the whole company.
  • I hadn’t hired a CMO soon enough.
  • I hadn’t built the right ecosystem of mentors that could help me get to the next level as a CEO.
  • I had focused too much on the surrogate-family side of our culture and not enough on the performance-focused side that was needed.
  • I hadn’t created values that people believed in and used every day. I could recall just four of our ten values without looking.
  • I had waited too long to start a formal manager training program.
  • I hadn’t truly aligned my passion for social responsibility into the ethos of the corporation.
  • I hadn’t created any effective mechanism for communicating strategic direction to the company and we had a lot of confusion as to what our focus was and operating choices were being made with different assumptions as to direction.

And these were just the mistakes I knew about!

Was I Right for the Job?

As I sat there in May 2009 I wrote in my journal “I’m not sure I’m the right person anymore to lead the company into this next stage of growth. We need to make some changes to keep the growth and hit our goals. Scary to think about. Terrible to have lost some of my confidence.” I wrote an email to our CFO on May 20th thinking about succession planning for me.

I wasn’t sure whether we should try to get acquired or keep the faith that we’d get to the $60M-$70M in annual revenue needed to go public and stay on track for the 2012 IPO. At certain points I lost the faith.

Finally in July we got the CMO we wanted. And things were looking way up by the end of the summer when we got an investment term sheet with a nine figure PMV. Wow!

But then came October. In the same week my business partner got cancer (he is now doing well!), my mom started having worsening chronic arm pain (she is now doing better), and a company that was looking to acquire us told us they weren’t going forward. I guess they say that difficult times are the foundry from which greatness is cast. But it’s sure not fun being the molten iron!

Through that baptismal fire I came to a critical understanding of self and what I needed to do to align what I love with what I do–something I’ve been preaching atop the mountain for five years in speeches but only half-heartedly living. It helped me discover my authentic self. It helped me find my Csikszentmihalyian flow.

Motivated More Than Ever

So I sit here tonight in my home in Chapel Hill motivated more than ever. iContact is now at a $34M revenue run-rate and growing that by more than $1M each month. We will hire more than 50 new team members in 2010. We had our first ever post-investment EBITDA positive month in December(!!!). We’re well on our way to fulfilling our dream of “building a great sustainable company in NC for our customers, employees, and community.” And we’ve got a plan to go from #2 to #1. We have a plan to win.

I no longer question whether I’m a corporate sellout putting in my time. I’m aligned, I’m focused. I’m learning. I’m surrounded by amazing people every day who know how to do what they do so much better than I ever could.

What I Changed?

So what did I do? Three things (and I’m still working on fully implementing them)…

  1. I worked to align my long term life mission with what I do everyday today. My life mission, the one that’s been on my bedroom wall since May 2007, is to “be a leader of our generation as we work to end extreme poverty in our lifetimes.” While I was learning a lot about leadership and management and being paid to do it, I was somewhat unclear how building a SaaS company aligned fully with a passionate desire to end extreme poverty in the developing world over the next fifty years. The incessant question in my head was whether I’d be better off finding my replacement and either applying to the Kennedy School of Government or moving to Africa to invest in entrepreneurs there. I learned a lot about the integrated 1/1/1 corporate philanthropy model of Salesforce.com and wanted to see if we could do that at iContact. On January 8th, 2010 we launched an expanded CSR model, what we call the 4-1s Corporate Social Responsibility Model, at iContact in which we take 1% of equity, 1% of product, 1% of employee time, and 1% of payroll and invest it in local and global non-profit organizations. Since we’ve expanded this CSR program I’ve been able to see the tangible and immediate connection between my passion for social responsibility and what I do going to work every day. In 2009 iContact contributed $109,000 to 63 different 501(c)(3)s and in 2010 we’ll reach $150,000. But it’s not just money anymore. Now, each of our employees has the opportunity to be paid to take 1% of their time (2.5 days off from work) each year to do community service during business hours, which we’re tracking through VolunteerForce. While we’ve got lots of work to do to improve it, the model has real impact and tangible value for us and the community and it’s significantly helped me to a much greater degree see the meaning behind what we do everyday. I love it!
  2. We changed our company values at iContact. I realized in July of last year that we had ten “Corporate Values” but I could only remember four without reading the sheet. At an EO entrepreneurial exec ed program at MIT in June I learned you should never have more values than you can remember and that to be worthy of being a company value you’d have to be willing to let someone go if they didn’t live up to it. Our values fit neither requirement. In December at our two day Senior Leadership Team (SLT) offsite in Chapel Hill we came up with WOWME. WOWME stands for 1) Wow the Customer 2) Operate with Urgency 3) Without Mediocrity 4) Make a Positive Wake and 5) Engage as an Owner. We launched these values last month at iContact and now every SLT member knows them by heart and we’re working toward all managers using them during every performance and coaching discussion. We will hire and fire by these values, live up to them, and hold each other accountable to them. They’ve even inspired me to pick up my game and get it in gear. I love it!
  3. I let go of control. The best thing I’ve ever done for the growth of iContact is let go of control (and I’m still working on this skill). We have a six person Senior Leadership Team at iContact that can all do their jobs much much better than I can. We now have a thirteen person Leadership Team underneath them all of whom have more business experience than I do. When I realized that my job was not to ensure they did their jobs the right way but rather to enable them to do their jobs and hold them accountable for the results, my world shifted. I’m still learning in this area, but this single realization is enabling me to scale. I now focus on 1) people 2) strategy 3) culture 4) investment. Each time we get to a new stage in our company’s growth ($100k, $1M, $5M, $10M, $25M) I have to reinvent myself and my job description. I love it!

And here are some other life changes that are less critical to helping me align what I do with what I love, but are still fun to share…

  1. I made an equity investment in an African company. On January 4th I became a 10% owner of Village Energy Ltd. of Kampala Uganda. For four years I’ve been personally making contributions to non-profit organizations focused on ending global poverty. My philosophy has changed on economic development over the past year. Today I believe that while effectively monitored bilateral aid is an important component of ending extreme poverty and emergency humanitarian aid is morally and critically necessary in many locations, an investment in a local entrepreneur in Africa will have much greater long term impact in terms of job creation, tax revenue base, and constituent-focused democratic institution building. I was very excited to invest in Village Energy which is bringing a $60 solar panel powered LED lighting solution to rural village homes through a microfinance and franchise distribution model for $3-$4 per month per home. The product is a substitute good for kerosene which often costs $5 to $6 per month, causes lung inhalation problems and often burns down the thatch houses. I hope this $15,000 investment turns out to have much greater social impact than a $15,000 contribution. There is SO much opportunity to invest in Africa and so many entrepreneurs and companies poised for growth. And there is a huge gap between the countless MFIs that loan out $50 to $1000 and the Acumen Fund which invests $50k to $250k. Ten years from now I dream of running a socially responsible venture capital firm on the African continent. The challenge will be finding a scalable model of investing $5000 to $50,000 at a time. I think it can be done. I know the pipeline is there.
  2. We started a new entrepreneurial division of Virante. Virante is a 11 person company downstairs in the iContact building that I started as “Virante Design & Development” in 2000 that is now run by CEO Malcolm Young. I won’t say much about this early stage effort now because the team is still acquiring all the related domain names and IP, but it’s a socially responsible ecommerce play that I’m extremely excited about. Fortunately we’ve already got the team to make it happen and it won’t take much time. With the help of the Virante team and a 17 year old intern Aneesh that comes in each Wednesday they’re making it happen. Here I must quote my new New York friend Kim Scheinberg, “Starting a company is like having a baby. By far the most enjoyable part is the idea conception phase.”
  3. I followed my passion for writing and started the next book. This post is the beginning of book #2. My plan–one 5 page blog post per week that by the end of 2010 will be a ready to become a book. The title–”Dare Mighty Things: How Entrepreneurs & Social Entrepreneurs Are Changing the World.”

I have had two wristbands on my wrist since November. The first one says “Make Poverty History.” The second, “$100M in 2012.”

Thank you to everyone who has supported me through this endeavor and to all who are with us in this journey.

Here we go…

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Thoughts, comments, suggestions??? Feedback is the breakfast of champions!

Why Poverty?

November 20, 2009

As I sit on the 28th floor of a hotel in San Francisco I am angry, yet hopeful.

I wonder why in a world with as much wealth as we see, as much luxury that we experience, should 40% of the human species live on under $2 per day?

2.56 billion human beings, people just like you and I, live on under $2 per day. On average, 24,900 children under 5 die each and every day in the developing world, often from preventable diseases and starvation. 24,900 children under 5. Check out the sources below. This is absolutely unacceptable.

Why does no one talk about this?

Were you aware of this? Please comment…

-Ryan

——-Sources——-

1 – 2008 World Development Indicators: Poverty Data Supplement, World Bank

From p. 10: “…the number of people living on less than $2.00 a day has remained nearly constant at 2.5 billion. From Table 3: “People living on less than 2005 PPP $2.00 a day (millions), 2005 – 2.564″

2 – UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2009

From p. 121, Statistical Tables, Table 1 Basic Indicators, Summary Indicators, Developing Countries “Annual Number of Under 5 Deaths (Thousands), 2007 – 9109″ We arrived at 24,956 deaths of children under 5 per day by taking the 9,109,000 total deaths per year for children under 5 in developing countries and dividing by 365.

Five Ways a Non-Profit Director Can Be An Entrepreneur

September 3, 2009

As a Non-Profit Director, you are an entrepreneur as well. You have a product and a customer, and you are working to rearrange limited resources to create value.

For the non-profit entrepreneur, today earned income models are becoming the norm rather than the exception. While 501(c)(3) non-profits have a benefit of being able to receive tax deductible contributions, these contributions are often unpredictable and at times can influence a non-profit to go in an undesired direction.

The age of non-profits being able to rely solely on donors and grants is over. For a non-profit entrepreneur, an earned income model exists when the non-profit company sells a product or service to others and gains net income on that sale which is reinvested in growing the non-profit in a sustainable manner. The line between non-profit entrepreneurs and for-profit entrepreneurs is indeed getting gray.

While you are required to reinvest practically all your net income back into the organization, you have a great advantage. As a registered 501(c)(3) you can accept tax-deductible monetary contributions from individuals and corporations. You can apply for and receive grants from foundations. You can also receive in-kind donations from local companies or receive discounts or pro-bono work from service providers.
At the end of the day, just because you cannot distribute net income to your shareholders doesn’t mean you aren’t an entrepreneur. Here are some ways you can be entrepreneurial as a non-profit founder or director:

1.Create an earned-income model. Find a product or service you can sell to others. Just because you have to reinvest your profits, doesn’t mean you can’t make a profit. You don’t have to give away everything. The more value you create, the more you will can earn and the more you’ll be able scale your organization to serve its mission. –> Quick Case Study: As an example, a non-profit I’m the Board Chair of this year, Nourish International, has an earned-income model.

Nourish teaches college students to run entrepreneurial ventures on its campuses. These ventures range from ‘Hunger Lunches’ with corn bread and beans to poker tournaments to selling medical scrubs.

Nourish then takes the net profit from the students’ ventures and funds a portion of administrative overhead at the national office and contributes to community-based non-profit organizations in the developing world that work to reduce extreme poverty and hunger. This past summer Nourish sent 58 of its students to nine projects in developing countries. Nourish’s model is growing and it now chapters on 29 college campuses.

2.Have an entrepreneurial mindset. Just because you have donors doesn’t mean you don’t have to have a sense of urgency and work quickly and efficiently to produce results and compete. The market for non-profit donations is competitive and contributions will go to those that are well-run and maximize positive human impact with minimum dollars (or at least maximize human impact in the fields that those with resources most care about, a substantive difference).

While there seems to be a somewhat unfortunate reality that some well-established non-profits with celebrity representation or large budgets can often get the bulk of available contributions and crowd out perhaps more deserving smaller NPOs, many of these established non-profits were start-ups once as well and only came to be influential by being efficient, achieving their mission, and attracting larger and larger contributions and grants.

3.Hire people who are smart, ambitious and driven. Don’t settle for poor-performers. As a Non-Profit Director you have the ability to attract talented, caring staff members that are willing to work hard for less than market pay. Use this to your advantage.

There are driven, smart, ambitious, educated, and talented individuals in the work force that want to work for a non-profit. Too often I have seen non-profit entrepreneurs settling for lower quality team members and not managing their performance. Hire A players who are passionate about what you are driving to achieve and empower them to be entrepreneurial, take risk, and grow the organization.

4.If You Aren’t Maximizing Social Value, Consider Merging. One of the issues in the non-profit world is that it is rather challenging for one non-profit to merge with or be acquired by another non-profit. This creates the reality that there are often dozens if not hundreds of small non-profits inefficiently and disparately going after the same cause. Industry consolidation and M&A in the business world happens naturally as controlling shares can be purchased in private or public markets. For a non-profit this is not possible so it is up to the humility of the founder to consider whether a merger could create a better social outcome.

Allowing for the benefit of competition and time it takes to start-up, test your model, and make it scale–consider shutting down or merging your organization with a more efficient or larger organization if you feel like your organization isn’t best using resources to create positive social value. Non-profit mergers can allow the combined entity to share resources, reduce overhead costs, and go after bigger grants while achieving the shared mission.

5.Run your non-profit like a business, because it is. Non-profit organizations sometimes use their non-profit status as an excuse not to seek to be efficient, employ staff performance management systems, or make the tough decisions for-profit businesses have to make to survive and thrive. Being a non-profit does not mean you should not seek to earn profit. It simply means you must reinvest this profit. The more profit your organization can make the faster it can scale and grow and achieve its mission (of course don’t make a profit in a manner that goes against your values and mission!). After all, your non-profit corporation is a business, just one that has committed to reinvest its profits every year back into the business and not distribute them.

What type of organization should I work for to make the greatest positive impact?
Often the best answer to the question “what type of organization should I work for to make the greatest positive impact” is a gray hybrid to the old-school black and white.

The answer is often a for-profit business that is socially responsible and integrates the concepts of social business into its organization, or an entrepreneurial non-profit organization that is run like a business, efficiently and with a sense of urgency.

And finally, today the boring and bureaucratic public sector is slowly but surely changing as it is again becoming cool for smart driven people to work in government. The bureaucracy that is Washington D.C. can only change if it is infused with entrepreneurial, efficient management that has a sense of urgency and passionately cares about making a positive difference.

Five Ways a For-Profit Entrepreneur Can Be a Social Entrepreneur

September 2, 2009

At the Entrepreneur & Social Entrepreneur Meetup on Tuesday I was having a great discussion with a new friend named Phil. Phil asked me a question I’ve heard often recently, “Can I still be a social entrepreneur if I run a for-profit business and not a non-profit?” In my view, the answer is a resounding yes.

What is an Entrepreneur & What is a Social Entrepreneur?

To me an entrepreneur is “a problem solver who takes action.” To me a social entrepreneur is “a problem solver who takes action.” There is no difference. The line is wonderfully blurry. Let me explain.

An entrepreneur is someone who rearranges the resources of land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurial ability to create a product or service that provides value to others. Whether the entrepreneur is doing this within a for-profit corporation, in which the net profits are either reinvested in the corporation or distributed to the shareholders or a non-profit corporation in which the profits are fully reinvested into the corporation, he or she remains an entrepreneur.

Non-profit founders and directors have customers and products too. Traditionally the customers of a non-profit are its donors and grant makers and the product is the social value it produces. If the product is not valued, customers (donors) will stop giving and leave.

Today, the black and white world of non-profits and for-profits is graying. If you want to change the world for the better, it is an open question as to whether you can make a bigger impact in a for-profit or a not-for-profit company.

Profit’s Correlation With Social Value Provided,
As long as the for-profit entrepreneur a) competes within the laws of a competitive market system b) does not create short-term profit for the company by externalizing the costs of the off-balance sheet destruction of the environment and c) does not exploit its labor force, the only way for the entrepreneur to make a profit is by creating value for others.

The more the ethical entrepreneur helps others, the more profit he or she will make. Profit for an ethical entrepreneur who has not exploited the environment or labor force to gain that profit is not an ugly sign of exploitation but rather a laudable sign of value created. The successful and profitable entrepreneur has rearranged resources in such a manner that the value of the output created exceeds the sum value of the inputs.

For the ethical for-profit entrepreneur, as products are produced that help others, social value is created. The very act of building your business creates jobs, provides product and services that others value, and enables you to give back to your local and global community.

Your for-profit business can often be more sustainable than a non-profit business as you are not reliant on grants and donations to grow. While you have a disadvantage of not being able to receive tax-deductible donations, you have the big advantage in the labor market of being able to offer a wonderful thing called stock options to employees, which enables you to attract top talent and enable all to participate in the value-creation.

One of the most important things you can do as a for-profit entrepreneur to enable you to make a social impact is to be profitable. As Joel Makower argues in his book Beyond the Bottom Line, “One of the most socially responsible things most companies can do is to be profitable.” Without profits one cannot pay taxes, provide jobs that pay well, give back to a community, or invest in innovation.

Five Ways a For-Profit Entrepreneur Can be a Social Entrepreneur
So for a for-profit entrepreneur, if you really want to be a ’social entrepreneur’ here are some suggestions:

1. Give all your employees stock options. Requiring a team member to be there a minimum amount of time (like 6 months) before they earn the options is okay. Vest the options over a few year period (3 or 4) to help with retention.

2. Treat your employees well. Show that you care about them. Offer health insurance and good working conditions. While you have to manage to results and that requires being a professional firm that tracks performance, you can do many little things that create a good work environment and culture that actually help the firm reduce costs, retain great people, and attract a better team.

3. Ensure your net impact on the environment is at least neutral, if not positive. Don’t externalize the cost of environmental damage. In other words, don’t profit off of destroying the environment, even if it may still be legal to do so. Take into account the full cost of any environmental degradation or destruction in the production of your products and services. Look up the supply line and ensure your suppliers also neutralize their impact on the environment.

Quick Case Study: Last Month, Walmart introduced a Sustainability Product Index that asks each of its suppliers fifteen questions on energy, climate, resource use, and labor practices. It has asked its suppliers to respond by October 2009. It is using this data to understand the practices of its upstream supplier network (of over 100,000 suppliers) and provide a Sustainability Index for each of its suppliers. Walmart is also creating a “consortium of universities that will collaborate with suppliers, retailers, NGOs and government to develop a global database of information on the lifecycle of products – from raw materials to disposal.”

4. Have a formal corporate social responsibility policy. A particular CSR structure I’m fond of is called the 4-1s program, in which you set aside 1% of company profit (or 1 percent of payroll if you are venture-backed and not yet profitable), 1 percent of employee time, 1 percent of product, and 1 percent of equity to contribute back to your local and global community.

Quick Case Study: At iContact, we have been contributing 1 percent of payroll since 2007. In 2008 we contributed $55,000 to 37 different non-profit organizations. In 2009 we’ll reach $100,000. We are now expanding our CSR program based on the 4-1s model to include 1 percent of employee time (up to 2.5 days of paid time-off per year to be spent on community service products), 1 percent of product (we are providing iContact free to any non-profit organizations in the Triangle), and 1 percent of equity. Don’t wait until you’re 60 and wealthy to give back. Start from day one and create an integrated giving model. You can read about iContact’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program here.

5. As you succeed personally, give back. A great differentiator for the for-profit entrepreneur is that you and those working with you can become wealthy through the appreciation of the value of your stock ownership as you scale your ability to help others.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a liquidity event (go public or get acquired) use your personal resources to invest in other entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs who are changing the world for the better, contribute personally to the organizations (and candidates) that you feel are making the biggest positive impact for humanity, and vote with your dollars as a consumer and doing your best to purchase from companies who have a similar view about corporate social and environmental responsibility.

There is a movement of socially responsible companies that is defining our generation. These socially-responsible for-profits, sometimes informally called B Corporations instead of C or S corporations, can make a huge positive impact on the world, up and down supply chains.

Networks springing up
There are networks springing up for socially responsible professionals such as the Social Venture Network and Net Impact.

Companies like Vestergaard Frandsen, Salesforce.com, Danone, Stonyfield Farms, and Whole Foods are leading the way in this integrated social business model. They are doing well not in spite of their social mission, but often partially because of it.

There is a new genre of books focused on how to use business to change the world. There are many, but my favorites are The Business of Changing the World, Creating a World Without Poverty: How Social Business Can Transform Our Lives, The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World, and The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits.

There are now publications that focus on the socially responsible business owner, including Stanford Social Innovation Review and Good Magazine (founded by the son of INC. Magazine). There is even a newswire just for social responsible news called CSRWire. There is even a stock index called the KLD400 for socially responsible companies!

There are venture capital firms that now focus on investing in socially responsible companies. These include Good Capital and SJF Ventures.

What Ben & Jerry’s and The Body Shop started is becoming wonderfully mainstream and necessary as a new generation that connects and collaborates globally like none before it becomes corporate leaders.

While I am generally a fiscal moderate who believes in the ideology of individual freedom and liberty, Milton’s Friedman’s 1970 assertion that ‘the business of business is just business’ was wrong. As Peter Drucker argued in 1942 in The Future of Industrial Man, companies must have a social dimension as well as an economic purpose.

What Jess, Bob, and I Did in Africa

July 10, 2009

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July 5th, 12pm – I’m looking out the Virgin Atlantic airplane window at Mt. Kenya as we end our twelve day trip to Kenya and Uganda. We’ve begun the twenty-eight hour journey home. East Africa is a beautiful region with substantial economic opportunity, and very worthy of a visit. This was my second trip to Uganda, but first to Kenya.

What Drew Us In

We went to learn. We went to visit some of the non-profits The Humanity Campaign has worked with in the past and those we are considering supporting in the future. We came back changed permanently having seen the juxtaposition of the beautiful rising Africa against the constant suffering of unlistened to and forgotten millions of people just like you and I. In the developing world, 2.6 billion people live under $2 per day (PPP adjusted) according to the World Bank and 49,300 people die each and every day needlessly from preventable disease and starvation according to the WHO.

Some of The Stories That Sear Themselves Into Your Memory

For just a second, imagine 139 girls from your local elementary school have been kidnapped by an armed rebel group and taken to a jungle 400 miles away. One hundred and nine of them are negotiated to be returned but 30 of them stay and are raped, abused, and are forced to be sex slaves for as long as thirteen years. Six of these thirty girls are killed attempting to escape. Imagine hiding in a snake-infested ceiling drop at your high school to avoid being kidnapped by the LRA. Imagine being 17 and living in a slum in Africa with over 1 million residents. Both your parents died of AIDS, then your grandfather was killed, then your pastor who took you in abused you. Now you’re on your own, struggling everyday to survive. These are just some of the life altering stories I’ve heard over the last twelve days.

Day By Day, What We Did

Bob Phoenix, Jess Shorland, and I left the iContact parking lot at 4:30pm on Wednesday June 24. We drove over to Raleigh-Durham International Airport for our flight to London. We arrived in Heathrow Airport on Thursday morning, took the Heathrow Express to Paddington, took the Underground to Waterloo, and were on the London Eye by 10:30am in good tourist form. In our twelve hour layover in London we rode the Eye, took photos on the lions at Trafalgar Square, ate Bangers and Mash at The Clarence, saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham, and visited the London office of Credit Suisse in Canary Wharf to visit some of Bob’s co-workers.

We departed from Heathrow that Thursday night and arrived the next morning in Nairobi. After filling out our Kenya arrival cards and swine flu papers, we made it through immigration in about an hour. Three $25 Kenyan Visas later, we picked up our luggage at baggage claim and excitedly met Mary Muhara from Africa Rising at international arrivals. We had checked into the Bush House and Camp in the South C district, which had a reasonable rate of 4600 Kenyan Shillings for a double room with an en suite bathroom (and hot showers). We left our bags and proceeded with Mary to begin what we we really there for–to visit the non-profits we were working with and learn as much as we could about extreme poverty, hunger, basic healthcare, and conflict resolution.

We visited Nairobi, Kampala, Lira, Gulu, and Mityana over the twelve days. We were there to visit the organizations that The Humanity Campaign has contributed to in the past and to scope out new organizations to invest in the the future. We were also there to learn–to venture another foot into the water of exploring what it will actually take to end extreme poverty and hunger in our lifetime. Jess’ focus was to learn about conflict resolution.

During the trip we visited nineteen social entrepreneurial organizations all told (some non-profit, some for-profit) in Kenya and Uganda. We visited seven schools, four community non-profits, three local businesses who had received microloans, two microlending institutions, one hospital, one clinic, and one technology incubator.

Our itinerary was as follows:

Day One – Fly from Raleigh to London
Day Two – In London, Fly from London to Nairobi
Day Three, Nairobi – Africa Rising, TULIP
Day Four, Nairobi – Carolina for Kibera, Trash Clean Up, Soccer Tournament Fun Day
Day Five, Nairobi – Fly to Entebbe Uganda, Car ride to Kampala to home of Louis Ntale
Day Six, Kampala, Lira, Gulu- Concerned Parents Association, Community Microlending to Young Mothers Program
Day Seven, Gulu – Invisible Children Uganda / St. Joseph’s High School, Gulu High School, MEND
Day Eight, Kampala – Bus from Gulu to Kampala, Appfrica meeting in Kampala
Day Nine, Mityana – Mityana Hospital, Mityana Secondary School, Affinet, Naama Millennium Primary School, Santa Maria Medical Clinic
Day Ten, Kampala – Faula Uganda / Opportunity International
Day Eleven, Entebbe – Bob and Ryan Flight from Entebbe to Nairobi, Jess gets picked up by Juma to go to WOMEDA in Karagwe, Tanzania
Day Twelve – Fly from Nairobi to London to New York to Raleigh

Where We Spent Our Time

Here is a report on each of the organizations we visited with while in Uganda and Kenya the past twelve days.

AFRICA RISING

Africa Rising is a non-profit organization based in Durham, North Carolina that currently supports organizations in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. The organization retains a representative in East Africa named Mary Muhara, a Kenyan residing in Nairobi. Mary’s job is to vet potential non-profit organizations for the group to contribute to and to follow-up with those currently in the Africa Rising network. Mary was very kind to take us around Nairobi on our first day to show us TULIP and a Beacon of Hope store.

TULIP GIRLS CENTRE

The first organization we visited with Mary was TULIP Girls Centre. TULIP is an organization that Africa Rising supports today. TULIP was founded by Mary Munyi. Mary started by taking in five disadvantaged girls from the community around here. Today, TULIP is a private school for sixty disadvantaged girls aged 13 to 16 (form 2, 3, and 4) located just outside of the Korogocho slum, the second largest slum in Nairobi after Kibera and the most dangerous.

We met with Nicera Muriithi the Program Manager. Nicera explained that their operating budget was $30,000 per year. We learned that their teachers were paid approximately $125 per month.

When we asked why we should support a private school in the area Nicera explained that the government had not built a primary school in the area because it was a poor area and that there was no public school nearby. Nicera explained that her biggest need was to get more land so she could expand the school. She indicated it would cost $25,000 to purchase the one acre of land. She also requested textbooks and a computer so she can train the students in typing.

We had a chance to speak with the students. When we asked what they wanted to be in the future, they named lawyer, doctor, preacher, and politician. The reality was however that all these professions required a college degree and that these girls would not be able to afford to attend university.

CAROLINA FOR KIBERA

On Sunday June 28 at 8am we showed up at the office of Carolina for Kibera (CFK). CFK has a girls center, clinic, waster management program, and youth soccer program.CFK was founded in 2001 by Rye Barcott, a friend of mine and fellow Tar Heel. Rye was a U.S. Marine Officer for five years who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. Rye just finished a MBA at Harvard Business School and a MPA at the Kennedy School of Government.

Kibera is in Nairobi and with 1 million residents, it is the largest slum in Africa. That day in Kibera, Jess, Bob and I walked about 30 minutes to the soccer field with a couple interns from Duke and UNC and some visiting Muzungus (white people) from Vancouver. We grabbed rakes and helped remove trash from the street and sewers in Kibera as part of CFK’s ‘fun day’ in which kids did a couple hours of community service cleaning up the area and then participated in a soccer tournament.

It was an eye opening and life altering experience walking through the dirt paths of Kibera and raking clothes, water bottles, shoes, fruit, corn, and litter out of open drainage ditches filled with brown water and human excrement as part of a team of perhaps 200 that went out in the community to clean up. I had seen rural poverty in Africa before, but this urban poverty was different. The community seemed vibrant, entrepreneurial, alive, musical. Dozens of stray dogs and chickens roamed. The small one-room houses in which 6-8 slept were made of mud with a tin roof. Yet we knew we wouldn’t be safe by ourselves, especially after dark. The lack of sanitation was very visible.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia on Kibera, “Kibera is heavily polluted by soot, dust, and other wastes. Open sewage routes, in addition to the common use of Flying toilets, also contribute to contamination of the slum with human and animal feces. The combination of poor nutrition and lack of sanitation accounts for many illnesses. Not only are death by disease and conflict common inside this slum, but it is estimated that 1/5 of the 2.2 million Kenyans living with HIV live in Kibera.”

Kibera was the center of many of the riots and killing that occurred following the contested Kenyan election in December 2007.

At 11:30 that morning we had to leave the soccer field and walk the 30 minutes back to the CFK office. We couldn’t find anyone who was willing to walk with us and were told we should not walk alone due to safety (and we didn’t remember the route). We finally found a wonderful 17 year old young lady to show us the way back. She was the 17 I spoke of earlier in this post whose parents had died of AIDS. She moved in with her grandfather but he shortly passed. She then moved in with her pastor, but he abused her. She was effectively alone struggling to survive and all she wanted was a small place of her own. Stories like this were all too commonly heard.

It was a life changing experience to spend four hours in Kibera, and I know I’ll return. I have a very high level of respect for everyone at Carolina for Kibera. I’d love to work to start a similar program in Korogocho, a slightly smaller but more dangerous slum in Nairobi.

Here’s a video of me dancing with the children in Kibera before a Carolina for Kibera soccer match:

CONCERNED PARENTS ASSOCIATION

After taking the Post Uganda bus to the Kamdini depot, we were picked up by Richard from Concerned Parents Association, another organization that Africa Rising currently contributes to. We met with Anthony, the Interim Executive Director of CPA. CPA started in 1996 after 139 girls aged six and seven were abducted from a local school by the LRA. Of the 139 that were taken, 109 were returned quickly in negotiations, but 30 remained. Since 1996, 24 of the 30 remaining abductee girls have returns. The other six were killed while attempting to escape. The girls today are all 19 or 20 years old. In March 2009, the last surviving girl returned. To give some perspective, in order to escape successfully each girl had to walk for one month, often alone, in the jungle of Northwest Uganda or the Garamba Forest.CPA helps these returnee abductees with counseling. Almost all of the 24 returnees girls brought with them babies. They had been made wives or sex slaves of the LRA while the bush (forest). These babies were called ‘Bush Babies’ by the local community, and often discriminated against. Today, the LRA still has over 3,000 women and child that they have abducted. July 2006 was the last abduction in Uganda. However, today the LRA is abducting children in the Congo and most recently massacred 600 over the Christmas 2008 holiday in the DRC. The people in Lira still fear the LRA returning to Acholiland (Northern Uganda) according to Anthony.

Today the Concerned Parents Association is focused on improving children’s rights and fighting/reporting rape and domestic violence in their tribe of Lango around Lira, a city of 62,000 people. They have sixty employees and work with over sixty parent groups at schools in the area. They amazingly operate on an annual budget of $350,000 per year. They currently receive funding from Save The Children Uganda, The Mennonite Central Church, the Christian Aid, UNICEF, and the European Union, –although the EU funding is likely to run out in October. They do and can give out condoms in their area as part of their reproductive health and family planning efforts even though they are funded by some Christian organizations. They have four offices including the main headquarters in Lira and branches in Gulu, Kitgum, and Oyam.

Anthony noted that while most of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps have dissipated in Lira and Gulu, there are still people in IDP camps in Kitgum, due to concern about the return of the LRA and an especially ruthless Ugandan tribe of cattle-raiders, the Karamajong.

We asked why Anthony chose to be involved in CPA. Anthony himself was almost abducted by the LRA. He told us that the LRA once attacked his school in 1995 when he was 17. In order to avoid being abducted, he hid in a snake infested ceiling drop.

Anthony indicated that CPA’s needed include additional assistance with report writing and documenting in English and funding.

LIRA GIRL MOTHERS MICROFINANCE PROGRAM

After visiting with Anthony at the Concerned Parents Association, we were taken to visit one of the programs that CPA supports, the Lira Girl Mothers Microfinance Program (LGMMP). We met with two advisers and eleven young single mothers, who seemed to range in age from about 15 to about 24. We met with them sitting in blue plastic chairs under a tree outside of a primary school about 2km away from the center of Lira.One of the things that struck me immediately was how softly these women spoke. One could literally not hear them from eight feet away. Even their advisers and our female guide from CPA spoke extremely softly. I found it challenging to decide whether to ask them to speak louder and risk offending them. Eventually I did. The women mostly spoke Luo and not English, so our guide translated for us.

The LGMMP had twenty-eight girl mothers involved in its programming and eight advisors. They sang a song for us at the beginning with the lyrics, ‘we will never forget you, please don’t forget us.’ They were involved in five different types of microbusinesses that they had been trained to start. Initially they were given $75 each to start their businesses (as a grant not a loan). They used $17 of this to purchase ‘trading licenses’ so they could start their business legally, so they were left with $58 to begin.

They had started a grinding business, a distillery, a sewing company, a charcoal company, and a bakery. They indicated their biggest challenges were:

  1. Transporting of their goods to the market
  2. The expense of trading licenses ($17)
  3. The fluctuating price of food
  4. Finding space for their businesses and paying rent
  5. Inability to sell their whole product before it goes stale

As an example of their issue with transport costs, the mother running the charcoal business would pay 10,000 UGX ( ~$5) for her charcoal bushels at wholesale, then pay 4500 UGX (~$2.25) and then be able to sell her charcoal 15,000 to 20,000 UGX ($$7.50 to $10). On a bad day she would work all day to make $0.25. On a good day she might make $2.50, depending on the retail price she could negotiate.

When they had the opportunity to ask us questions, their first question was whether we would be able to help financially support them so they could expand the program to other young mothers in the area. They indicated their morale was low as they had held meetings with potential donors before but hadn’t yet received any outside support. They also requested assistance in finishing their formal education.

Their biggest business needs was capital–particularly a grinding machine ($35) and a sewing machine ($75). In the four months the program had been operational, the twenty-eight women had successfully been able to save 800,000 UGX ($200).

I found myself struggling whether to attempt to give the ladies helpful business advice based on my experience (group supplies together in one shipment to reduce transport costs, use savings to reinvest in capital now rather than later, etc.). With Bob as an investment banker from Credit Suisse and me an entrepreneur we naturally wanted to. Yet at the same time we recognized we knew so little about their businesses and environment.

We ended up choosing to use questions to inquire why they were or weren’t doing certain things. They had good answers. We asked why they didn’t use these savings to invest in the capital necessary to reduce their renting costs and earn a higher profit. They responded that they had committed to saving for one year or until they got to 5,000,000 UGX ($2,500), whichever was first. Once they reached this mark they would consider whether to use their savings to allow other mothers into the program and/or invest in necessary machinery.

Overall the ninety minute meeting gave us a fairly good understanding of the business and personal challenges these women faced and left with an appreciation of the work that CPA was doing and an even greater respect for organizations like Opportunity International and FAULA who follow a slightly different model of providing small loans instead of small grants. It is truly amazing what $75 can do, whether as a loan or grant. It can give a woman her freedom.

INVISIBLE CHILDREN UGANDA

I first heard about Invisible Children in the summer of 2008 while visiting Uganda. I learned much more about IC while meeting their co-founder Bobby Bailey and CEO Ben Keesey at The Summit Series event in Aspen in April. Invisible Children began in 2003 as a documentary after three young filmmakers from Southern California visited Gulu. They rather courageously filmed and released a documentary about what was happening in Gulu in 2003 (children being abducted, attacks by the LRA, children being forced to walk miles every night to find a safe place to sleep).Today, the Gulu region and the Acholiland region of Northern Uganda is peaceful and relatively safe (and very worth visiting!). However, Joseph Kony and the LRA have moved on to the Garamba Forest in Northeast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and continue their abductions and raids into Sudan, East Congo, and the Central African Republic. Since 2003, Invisible Children has produced six additional short videos telling the challenging stories of individuals there around Gulu. In 2005 IC registered as a U.S. non-profit organization and in 2007 they registered as an NGO in Uganda. They work primarily in Gulu, Pader, Amulu, and a bit in Kitgum.

In the United States, Invisible Children raises money, mostly through high school and college students, to fund both their on the ground efforts in Uganda and to fund legislative lobbying events and rallies (to encourage the U.S. Congress and State Department to work with Uganda, the DRC, and the ICC to pursue and capture Kony and stop his abductions and mass killings.

In 2008, Invisible Children had an overall annual budget of $7M, of which approximately $2M went to fund projects on the ground in Northern Uganda around Gulu.

Jess, Bob, and I arrived at the Gulu office of Invisible Children Uganda at 9am on June 30th. We met first with Erika who worked in communications. Erika was extremely nice and helpful and share a lot with us about IC Uganda.

In Uganda, Invisible Children has three on the ground programs. These are

1. Economic Development Iniatives (EDIs) including:

  1. Bracelet Making – IC started out their EDI programs by hiring 182 bracelet makers to produce bracelets that would be included in the Invisible Children DVD packs. They now have a surplus of bracelets, so have transitioned this individuals to a training program on income generation.
  2. Savings & Investment Program – These 182 individuals are now part of a savings and investment program which provides a six to eight month curriculum on income generation
  3. MEND – A new for-profit arm of Invisible Children that produces messenger bags and purses with the brand MEND from a nice factory near Gulu that we visited under the director of a talented and energetic designer named Marie. MEND started with 10 women and now has 13. Almost all of them are former abductees.
  4. Cotton – A program to provide organic cotton to Bono’s wife’s organization Eden, to help assist people in moving out of the IDP camps and back to their ancestral homelands.

2. Visible Child Scholarship Program (VCSP)

  1. Secondary Scholarship Program – Provides scholarships to 650 secondary school students in and around Gulu and Pader
  2. University Scholarship Program – Provides scholarships to 59 university students in Uganda and 1 who earned a full-ride to Boise State University in Idaho
  3. Mentorship Program – Providing 24 mentors to local students

3. Schools for Schools (S4S) –

  • A program through which schools in the United States support a school in Northern Uganda. IC provides assistance to ten schools in the area.
  • They work to rehabilitate structures and classrooms, install running water and water tanks, add toilets, and put in computer labs.
  • We visited St. Jospeh’s College (A High School), Gulu High Schools, and another primary school which I cannot recall the name of to see the work that Schools for Schools had accomplished.

Meeting with Jolly, Country Director for Invisible Children Uganda

After meeting with Erika outside under a thatched reception area, we went inside to speak with Jolly Okot, the Country Director for Invisible Children Uganda. Jolly indicated that the LRA was abducting children as a human shield. She indicated many in the LRA had been brainwashed to believe that Kony had spiritual powers. Today, she said, the LRA was abducting many more children in the DRC, Central African Republic, and Sudan. Jolly spoke of the political discussions between the DRC and Uganda about allowing Ugandan forces into the Congo to go after Kony. She indicated that Kony was being supported by President Bashir of Sudan, who also has an ICC warrant out for his arrest.

The other major NGOs I saw represented in Gulu were World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, African Revival, UN, UNICEF, and UNHCR.

APPFRICA

Appfrica (on Twitter at @appfrica) is an technology entrepreneurship incubator and custom software development firm run by Jonathan Gosier, an American living permanently in Kampala with clients including Google and the Grammeen Bank. Jonathan currently has 8 programmers. He pays $900 per month for an internet connection of 192 kpbs, equivalent to DSL and about 1/10th the speed of cable broadband we get in the U.S. for $40/month. He spoke to us about the EACOSS, EASSY, SEACOM, and O3B (by Google) initiatives to bring faster broadband access to Africa. Jonathan was a big believer in making change through business. He felt there was a wealth of programming talent (especially with Python, Ruby, Symbian, Java, and C+) but a lack of opportunity in Kampala.

MITYANA HOSPITAL
On Thursday July 2 we had the chance to visit Mityana, a town about an hour to the West of Kampala. We visited five organizations that day, the first being the Mityana Hospital.The hospital was built in 1947 and serves the 288,000 people who live in the district and many from surrounding areas. It has 6 doctors, 100 beds and 4 wards: maternity, male, female, and children. It has an HIV/AIDS clinic that serves 4,000 regular patients with the help of Population Services Internatational. It also has an x-ray lab and a dental office.

Funding from the hospital comes from the government, with some additional funds coming from NGOs. According to their Director, their biggest needs are surgical and diagnostic equipment and an ambulance. They have an operating budget of 23,000,000 UGX per month ($11,500).

MITYANA SECONDARY SCHOOL

Mityana Secondary School is one of two high schools that iContact and The Humanity Campaign have started a scholarship program for. I visited the school for the second time on this trip and had a chance to speak to their entrepreneurship class. Their principal indicated their biggest challenges are parents paying school fees, orphan students, and transportation.They indicated building additional dorms for some of the students would be very helpful to the children without parents and those for whom the school is a many miles away. One of their biggest needs is getting internet access to their computer lab, which is currently outside of their budget.

The school has 1,350 students and 70 staff members. The government pays the teacher’s salaries and parents pay school fees, which are 468,000 UGX ($234) per year normally and 900,000 UGX ($450) per year for students who live at the school.

AFFINET

AFFINET stands for the African Friends in Need Network. It is the second school that the iContact/Humanity Campaign scholarship program will be benefiting. It is a vocational school in Mityana, Uganda. It was started in 2000. It has a strong social justice mission. It provides classes on sewing, fashion design, carpentry, and home economics. It has 111 students and focuses its efforts on girls who have been left behind. It has had 195 graduates so far since the first class graduated in 2004.Over lunch with the Bishop, we learned that AFFINET would like to start classes in bricklaying, IT, and livestock. They need computers, sewing machines, and funds to complete their bathroom and ceiling in the girls dorms.

NAAMA MILLENNIUM PRIMARY SCHOOL
Namma Millennium Primary School was founded in 2000 by Dr. Christopher Kigongo, a Ugandan who now works at Duke University. I’ve worked with Christopher over the past year to set up a scholarship program for students at the school that is providing funds for students who attend Naama Millennium Primary School in Mityana, Uganda to continue on to secondary school at either AFFINET or Mityana Secondary School.I first visited Naama in 2008 and fell in love with the children. Last year, they danced and drummed. This year, students from Duke had developed a play on nutrition and hygiene that the students performed for us, followed by the amazing popping and locking hip hop dancing of a five year old boy (followed by Bob, Jess, and I doing a dance for them).

In 2008, a number of students from Nourish International worked at the school to put in cement floors, windows, doors, and a rainwater harvesting system. The improvements were very visible this year.

SANTA MARIA MEDICAL CLINIC

Our final stop in Mityana was the Santa Maria Medical Clinic. The Clinic is a for-profit private business, started and run by Dr. Paul Mugambe. The clinic today sees 60 patients per day. They provide more available and better care than Mityana Hospital according to Dr. Mugambe. They most commonly treat malaria, respiratory issues, diarrheah, and HIV/AIDS. They have 30 beds today.The clinic’s biggest challenges are people who need care but cannot afford it and thus do not pay their bills, high taxes, and a lack of surgical room. The clinic charges 60,000 UGX ($30) for a normal baby delivery and 300,000 UGX ($150) for a c-section delivery. Dr. Mugambe would like to expand the clinic but is currently renting so cannot make additions to the property. He is looking to get a loan of 75,000,000 UGX ($37,500) to purchase the property, but loan interest rates are currently too high at 20%.

FAULA / OPPORTUNITY INTERNATIONAL

On our final day in Kampala on July 3 we visited with FAULA and Opportunity International in Kampala. Both are microfinance organizations that are working together in Uganda. Jess, Bob, and I had the chance to meet with the CEO of Opportunity International Uganda.They have 200 staff members in the country, nine branches, and a $6 million microloan portfolio. Their average client takes out a loan of $150 and makes repayments weekly. They have a 2.4% default rate. They work through a group system in which a group of at least ten takes out a loan together (the peer pressure and accountability provides higher repayment rates). Once an individual pays back their group loan they can obtain a larger individual loan.

Opportunity prices their loans at 3% per month interest (compounding to be equivalent to 43.5% per year). While this is high, they indicated that the return from the use of their capital that is otherwise unavailable is much higher. They’ve developed an impressive, sustainable model.

We visited three of Opportunity International’s clients in Kampala, the owners of a banana stand, a metalworking shop, and a small conveyance store.

Opportunity International also has a partnership with Compassion International in Uganda.

WOMEDA
After Bob and I left to go back home, Jess was picked up by Juma Masisi who runs WOMEDA in Karagwe, Tanzania. Jess has been at WOMEDA for a few days now. She is studying conflict resolution and women’s rights there.WOMEDA stands for WOMen Emancipation and Development Agency. According to their web site, WOMEDA “promotes the status of marginalized groups by creating and strengthening equal opportunities for women, men, and children through the provision of socioeconomic, legal, and human rights activities in order to attain sustainable development.”

We are hoping that Mary Muhara from Africa Rising will have a chance to visit WOMEDA in the coming days and consider supporting the organization.

Overall we very much enjoyed our time in Kenya and Uganda. I wanted to especially thank Louis Ntale and Rebbecca Ntale who allowed us to stay at their house for three nights and their son Kenneth Ntale for driving us in Uganda. Thanks to all for reading. Comments are very welcome!

Can a For-profit Entrepreneur Be a Social Entrepreneur?

June 1, 2009

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Can a for-profit entrepreneur be a social entrepreneur? Can the Executive Director of a non-profit be an entrepreneur? Yes and yes!

At the Entrepreneur & Social Entrepreneur Meetup on Tuesday I was having a great discussion with a new friend named Phil. Phil asked me a question I’ve heard often recently, “Can I still be a social entrepreneur if I run a for-profit business and not a non-profit?”

In my view, the answer is a resounding yes.

What is an Entrepreneur & What is a Social Entrepreneur?

To me an entrepreneur is “someone who rearranges resources to create value.” To me a social entrepreneur is “someone who rearranges resources to create value.” There is no difference. The line is wonderfully blurry. Let me explain.

An entrepreneur is someone who rearranges the resources of land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurial ability to create a product or service that provides value to others. Whether the entrepreneur is doing this within a for-profit corporation, in which the net profits are either reinvested in the corporation or distributed to the shareholders or a non-profit corporation in which the profits are fully reinvested into the corporation, he or she remains an entrepreneur.

Non-profit founders and directors have customers and products too. Traditionally the customers of a non-profit are its donors and grant makers and the product is the social value it produces. If the product is not valued, customers (donors) will stop giving and leave.

Today, the black and white world of non-profits and for-profits is graying. If you want to change the world for the better, it is an open question as to whether you can make a bigger impact in a for-profit or a not-for-profit company.

Profit’s Correlation With Social Value Provided

As long as the for-profit entrepreneur a) competes within the laws of a competitive market system b) does not create short-term profit for the company by externalizing the costs of the off-balance sheet destruction of the environment and c) does not exploit its labor force, the only way for the entrepreneur to make a profit is by creating value for others.

The more the ethical entrepreneur helps others, the more profit he or she will make. Profit for an ethical entrepreneur who has not exploited the environment or labor force to gain that profit is not an ugly sign of exploitation but rather a laudable sign of value created. The successful and profitable entrepreneur has rearranged resources in such a manner that the value of the output created exceeds the sum value of the inputs.

For the ethical for-profit entrepreneur, as products are produced that help others, social value is created. The very act of building your business creates jobs, provides product and services that others value, and enables you to give back to your local and global community.

Your for-profit business can often be more sustainable than a non-profit business as you are not reliant on grants and donations to grow. While you have a disadvantage of not being able to receive tax-deductible donations, you have the big advantage in the labor market of being able to offer a wonderful thing called stock options to employees, which enables you to attract top talent and enable all to participate in the value-creation.

One of the most important things you can do as a for-profit entrepreneur to enable you to make a social impact is to be profitable. As Joel Makower argues in his book Beyond the Bottom Line, “One
of the most socially responsible things most companies can do is to be profitable.” Without profits one cannot pay taxes, provide jobs that pay well, give back to a community, or invest in innovation.

Five Ways a For-Profit Entrepreneur Can be a Social Entrepreneur

So for a for-profit entrepreneur, if you really want to be a ’social entrepreneur’ here are some suggestions:

  1. Give all your employees stock options. Requiring a team member to be there a minimum amount of time (like 6 months) before they earn the options is okay. Vest the options over a few year period (3 or 4) to help with retention.
  2. Treat your employees well. Show that you care about them. Offer health insurance and good working conditions. While you have to manage to results and that requires being a professional firm that tracks performance, you can do many little things that create a good work environment and culture that actually help the firm reduce costs, retain great people, and attract a better team.
  3. Ensure your net impact on the environment is at least neutral, if not positive. Don’t externalize the cost of environmental damage. In other words, don’t profit off of destroying the environment, even if it may still be legal to do so. Take into account the full cost of any environmental degradation or destruction in the production of your products and services. Look up the supply line and ensure your suppliers also neutralize their impact on the environment. –> Quick Case Study: Last Month, Walmart introduced a Sustainability Product Index that asks each of its suppliers fifteen questions on energy, climate, resource use, and labor practices. It has asked its suppliers to respond by October 2009. It is using this data to understand the practices of its upstream supplier network (of over 100,000 suppliers) and provide a Sustainability Index for each of its suppliers. Walmart is also creating a “consortium of universities that will collaborate with suppliers, retailers, NGOs and government to develop a global database of information on the lifecycle of products – from raw materials to disposal.”
  4. Have a formal corporate social responsibility policy. A particular CSR structure I’m fond of is called the 4-1s program, in which you set aside 1% of company profit (or 1% of payroll if you are venture-backed and not yet profitable), 1% of employee time, 1% of product, and 1% of equity to contribute back to your local and global community. –> Quick Case Study: At iContact, we have been contributing 1% of payroll since 2007. In 2008 we contributed $55,000 to 37 different non-profit organizations. In 2009 we’ll reach $100,000. We are now expanding our CSR program based on the 4-1s model to include 1% of employee time (up to 2.5 days of paid time-off per year to be spent on community service products), 1% of product (we are providing iContact free to any non-profit organizations in the Triangle), and 1% of equity. Don’t wait until you’re 60 and wealthy to give back. Start from day one and create an integrated giving model. You can read about iContact’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program here.
  5. As you succeed personally, give back. A great differentiator for the for-profit entrepreneur is that you and those working with you can become wealthy through the appreciation of the value of your stock ownership as you scale your ability to help others. If you’re fortunate enough to have a liquidity event (go public or get acquired) use your personal resources to invest in other entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs who are changing the world for the better, contribute personally to the organizations (and candidates) that you feel are making the biggest positive impact for humanity, and vote with your dollars as a consumer and doing your best to purchase from companies who have a similar view about corporate social and environmental responsibility.

There is a movement of socially responsible companies that is defining our generation. These socially-responsible for-profits, sometimes informally called B Corporations instead of C or S corporations, can make a huge positive impact on the world, up and down supply chains.

There are networks springing up for socially responsible professionals such as the Social Venture Network and Net Impact.

Companies like Vestergaard Frandsen, Salesforce.com, Danone, Stonyfield Farms, and Whole Foods are leading the way in this integrated social business model. They are doing well not in spite of their social mission, but often partially because of it.

There is a new genre of books focused on how to use business to change the world. There are many, but my favorites are The Business of Changing the World, Creating a World Without Poverty: How Social Business Can Transform Our Lives, The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World, and The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits.

There are now publications that focus on the socially responsible business owner, including Stanford Social Innovation Review and Good Magazine (founded by the son of INC. Magazine). There is even a newswire just for social responsible news called CSRWire. There is even a stock index called the KLD400 for socially responsible companies!

There are venture capital firms that now focus on investing in socially responsible companies. These include Good Capital and SJF Ventures.

What Ben & Jerry’s and The Body Shop started is becoming wonderfully mainstream and necessary as a new generation that connects and collaborates globally like none before it becomes corporate leaders.

While I am generally a fiscal moderate who believes in the ideology of individual freedom and liberty, Milton’s Friedman’s 1970 assertion that ‘the business of business is just business’ was wrong. As Peter Drucker argued in 1942 in The Future of Industrial Man, companies must have a social dimension as well as an economic purpose.

Five Ways a Non-Profit Director Can Be An Entrepreneur

As a Non-Profit Director, you are an entrepreneur as well. You have a product and a customer, and you are working to rearrange limited resources to create value.

For the non-profit entrepreneur, today earned income models are becoming the norm rather than the exception. While 501(c)(3) non-profits have a benefit of being able to receive tax deductible contributions, these contributions are often unpredictable and at times can influence a non-profit to go in an undesired direction.

The age of non-profits being able to rely solely on donors and grants is over. For a non-profit entrepreneur, an earned income model exists when the non-profit company sells a product or service to others and gains net income on that sale which is reinvested in growing the non-profit in a sustainable manner. The line between non-profit entrepreneurs and for-profit entrepreneurs is indeed getting gray.

While you are required to reinvest practically all your net income back into the organization, you have a great advantage. As a registered 501(c)(3) you can accept tax-deductible monetary contributions from individuals and corporations. You can apply for and receive grants from foundations. You can also receive in-kind donations from local companies or receive discounts or pro-bono work from service providers.

At the end of the day, just because you cannot distribute net income to your shareholders doesn’t mean you aren’t an entrepreneur. Here are some ways you can be entrepreneurial as a non-profit founder or director:

  1. Create an earned-income model. Find a product or service you can sell to others. Just because you have to reinvest your profits, doesn’t mean you can’t make a profit. You don’t have to give away everything. The more value you create, the more you will can earn and the more you’ll be able scale your organization to serve its mission. –> Quick Case Study: As an example, a non-profit I’m the Board Chair of this year, Nourish International, has an earned-income model. Nourish teaches college students to run entrepreneurial ventures on its campuses. These ventures range from ‘Hunger Lunches’ with corn bread and beans to poker tournaments to selling medical scrubs. Nourish then takes the net profit from the students’ ventures and funds a portion of administrative overhead at the national office and contributes to community-based non-profit organizations in the developing world that work to reduce extreme poverty and hunger. This past summer Nourish sent 58 of its students to nine projects in developing countries. Nourish’s model is growing and it now chapters on 29 college campuses.
  2. Have an entrepreneurial mindset. Just because you have donors doesn’t mean you don’t have to have a sense of urgency and work quickly and efficiently to produce results and compete. The market for non-profit donations is competitive and contributions will go to those that are well-run and maximize positive human impact with minimum dollars (or at least maximize human impact in the fields that those with resources most care about, a substantive difference). While there seems to be a somewhat unfortunate reality that some well-established non-profits with celebrity representation or large budgets can often get the bulk of available contributions and crowd out perhaps more deserving smaller NPOs, many of these established non-profits were start-ups once as well and only came to be influential by being efficient, achieving their mission, and attracting larger and larger contributions and grants.
  3. Hire people who are smart, ambitious and driven. Don’t settle for poor-performers. As a Non-Profit Director you have the ability to attract talented, caring staff members that are willing to work hard for less than market pay. Use this to your advantage. There are driven, smart, ambitious, educated, and talented individuals in the work force that want to work for a non-profit. Too often I have seen non-profit entrepreneurs settling for lower quality team members and not managing their performance. Hire A players who are passionate about what you are driving to achieve and empower them to be entrepreneurial, take risk, and grow the organization.
  4. If You Aren’t Maximizing Social Value, Consider Merging. One of the issues in the non-profit world is that it is rather challenging for one non-profit to merge with or be acquired by another non-profit. This creates the reality that there are often dozens if not hundreds of small non-profits inefficiently and disparately going after the same cause. Industry consolidation and M&A in the business world happens naturally as controlling shares can be purchased in private or public markets. For a non-profit this is not possible so it is up to the humility of the founder to consider whether a merger could create a better social outcome. Allowing for the benefit of competition and time it takes to start-up, test your model, and make it scale–consider shutting down or merging your organization with a more efficient or larger organization if you feel like your organization isn’t best using resources to create positive social value. Non-profit mergers can allow the combined entity to share resources, reduce overhead costs, and go after bigger grants while achieving the shared mission.
  5. Run your non-profit like a business, because it is. Non-profit organizations sometimes use their non-profit status as an excuse not to seek to be efficient, employ staff performance management systems, or make the tough decisions for-profit businesses have to make to survive and thrive. Being a non-profit does not mean you should not seek to earn profit. It simply means you must reinvest this profit. The more profit your organization can make the faster it can scale and grow and achieve its mission (of course don’t make a profit in a manner that goes against your values and mission!). After all, your non-profit corporation is a business, just one that has committed to reinvest its profits every year back into the business and not distribute them.

What type of organization should I work for to make the greatest positive impact?

Often the best answer to the question “what type of organization should I work for to make the greatest positive impact” is a gray hybrid to the old-school black and white. The answer is often a for-profit business that is socially responsible and integrates the concepts of social business into its organization, or an entrepreneurial non-profit organization that is run like a business, efficiently and with a sense of urgency.

And finally, today the boring and bureaucratic public sector is slowly but surely changing as it is again becoming cool for smart driven people to work in government. The bureaucracy that is Washington D.C. can only change if it is infused with entrepreneurial, efficient management that has a sense of urgency and passionately cares about making a positive difference.

Comments & Thoughts?

I’d love your comments on this post! Particularly if you have any examples of companies that truly integrate social responsibility into what they do, interesting models of corporate social responsibility, or examples of non-profits that are run like an entrepreneurial businesses. Also, I’d love any thoughts on the graying of the for-profit and non-profit sector and any thoughts on infusing entrepreneurial principles and efficient management into government. Thanks for reading! – Ryan

OptInNow.org – Opportunity International’s New Kiva-Like Site

April 23, 2009

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This is something really cool.

I had coffee this evening at the HW55 Starbucks in Durham with Sam Serio from Opportunity International. Opportunity International is a Christian microfinance organization that’s been around since 1971.

Opportunity International has launched a site called OptInNow.org. OptinNow allows you to make small loans directly to entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Comparison to Kiva

OptInNow is similar to Kiva, with the exception that the loans made are contributions to Opportunity International and are re-loaned over and over again to entrepreneurs with microenterprises in developing countries instead of paid back directly to the lender. Another difference is that Opportunity International has a Christian affiliation whereas Kiva does not.

OptInNow.org is in the early stages, so the site does not yet have as extensive inventory of loans and projects as Kiva, but does allow loans to be made to entrepreneurs in Kenya, Ghana, the Philippines, and Mexico with many more to come soon.

Props to the folks at Opportunity International for creating a well-designed usable interactive site that will get a lot more visibility and unique donors for their organization.

Aid 2.0

As opposed to the old-school ‘top-down’ Easterly-criticized bi-lateral government-to-government aid model where funds were given to oft-unelected semi-corrupt dictators for cold-war geopolitical reasons that indebted the populace without providing much benefit to them while sometimes forcing the funds to be used to pay Western contractors (okay I’m being a bit harsh here but do read Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and Stiglitz’ Globalization and Its Discontents), OptInNow’s model is from the grassroots–from the bottom-up. It gives small amounts of funds that can make a world of good directly to the local entrepreneurs who know how to best use them. It’s market-based aid versus the top-down centrally controlled aid of the past.

Who Is It Run By?

Opportunity International is currently run by CEO Christopher Crane, an entrepreneur, YPO member, and Harvard MBA who took commercial real estate information provider COMPS InfoSystems to 450 employees and took it public in May 1999 before being acquired by CoStar (NASDAQ:CSGP) in February 2000. I haven’t met Christopher yet but look forward to meeting him soon.

Here’s a video about OptInNow. Spread the word!

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About Opportunity International

Opportunity International, the largest not-for-profit microfinance organization in the world. OI began in 1971 and specializes in working with the poorest of the working poor, those who make less than $2 a day. OI has 1.2 million active loan clients in 28 countries and 85% of their clients are women. Here are some key facts.

Opportunity International 2007 Highlights
Current loan clients worldwide:
1,121,786
Value of current loan portfolio worldwide:
$500,891,820
Number of loans made in 2007:
1,772,139
Value of loans made in 2007:
$702,278,911
Average loan size:
$227 (excluding Eastern Europe)
Average first Trust Group loan:
$162 (excluding Eastern Europe)
Loans to women:
84.13%
Loan repayment rate:
98.5%
Source: http://videos.opportunity.org/website/media-center/Opportunity_International_Fact_Sheet.pdf

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About OptInNow
Our mission is simple. We’re working to end global poverty. Faster. How? By providing those who live in chronic poverty with one vital thing they need to transform their lives: Opportunity. Along the way we hope to transform additional lives, like yours. That’s why we’ve made it so simple for good people everywhere to come together, to fund small loans, to witness big and lasting impact, and to truly change the world. That’s what we’re really about. We’re about every land becoming a land of opportunity. And with your help we’ll get there.

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