Posts Tagged ‘social-enterprise’

Anyone with an iPhone, a Droid, or the infamous Crack-berry can personally attest to how much technology has evolved in the past decade. As devices get smaller, flatter, and faster, technology has become such an integral part of our own lives. Can anyone actually remember a time where you couldn’t take pictures, load your work-out playlist, and read work email all from your phone?

While technology has made our lives more interesting and perhaps more distracted, it’s also being used to make many lives healthier, more empowered, and just better all around. There are technology companies who are going the extra mile to invent tools that are solving big social issues and many of them are recognized by the annual Tech Awards. The Tech Awards is an international awards program that highlights the work of people who are using technology to benefit humanity. Looking at what some of the past winners of this prestigious award have achieved is an inspiring reminder of the potential technology has to kick-start social change

Husk Power Systems: This is a biomass company that is generating electricity in rural Indian villages with rice husks. There are 60 mini-plants that have been installed and provide close to 25,000 households with electricity. To date, the company’s plants have sequestered 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide. Not only is this technology replacing a cleaner and safer form of energy, it has also been a source of employment in these communities. They have employed and trained more than 300 local citizens and have generated $1.2 million in income. This company shows how technology can improve several systems in a small geographic area. Husk Power systems is bringing changes to the local economy, the environment, and the well-being of the residents.

Global Voices: Another laureate who is using technology in a very different way is Global Voices. They are a Netherlands based organization that aggregates and distributes news from citizen journalists from all over the world. With over 300 writers, editors, and translators, Global Voices has amplified experiences of people from Britain to Bali. With the recent uprisings throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Global Voices has become an important source of first-hand information about what’s happening on the ground.

While Husk Power Systems uses technology to build new systems in small communities throughout India, Global Voices uses technology as a portal for connecting communities who may never have encountered each other. It goes to show the vast potential technology has to facilitate important change on all levels.

If your organization is using technology to bring new solutions to old problems, throw your hat in the ring and apply for the Tech Awards 2011. The deadline for nominations is due March 31, so there is still time to get your application in. To find out more about the award criteria and how to apply, check out their site at http://techawards.org/.

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colloborateThe Chronicle of Philanthropy recently held a chat called “Making Change?: What does it take?” where nonprofit leader, Hildy Gottlieb, lead a conversation with nonprofit leaders on what it takes to make social change a reality. One interesting vein of the conversation turned to the role of collaboration among nonprofits. In response to a question about why nonprofits don’t collaborate more, Hildy responded with:

“The truth is that organizations don’t work together – people do.”

She then went on to describe how the crux of the problem really lies in the systems that lead organizations to compete against one another for funding, resources, and attention among their constituents.  It begs the question of how to rethink systems that actually foster collaboration between people, organizations and entities. We’re glad to say that there are several examples of organizations that are doing just this. Below are some highlighted models of collaboration that help people and organizations work together.

NCTC- National Community Tax Coalition

If organizations plan for their own accomplishments (again the silo thing) they will focus inward. If they plan for what they want the community to look like if they are 100% successful, they will naturally reach out to others, knowing they can’t do it on their own.

-Hildy Gottlieb

NCTC is the largest most comprehensive organization for nonprofits offering free financial services for low income families. As a coalition for organizations that are working on the same issue, there are several ways that they foster collaboration between their members. They offer Working Groups with the goal to “influence the development and position of NCTC’s products” . This gives different nonprofits an opportunity to work on something that is outside of their individual aims. Through real collaboration on projects that will improve the entire system that all the organizations are part of, NCTC manages to bring organizations together into meaningful partnerships.

Land Trust Alliance

So one basic system would be to provide space for people to get to know each other without it being about a grant proposal

-Hildy Gottlieb

The Land Trust Alliance is another organization that works to foster collaboration between various organizations. In this case, it works to support Land Trusts from around the country. One way that they foster collaboration between Land Trust members from around the country, is through their Learning Center. The Learning Center is a complete educational platform for Land Trust owners that shares a lot of information about how to successfully build and run a land trust. Not only that, but they have forums where members can interact with each other and share information on their experiences.  By using the internet to share relevant information with their members and building a platform that enables people to share with each other, they have managed to build an online community that fosters collaboration and connection between organizations who may otherwise have seen themselves as competing for the same funds.

These organizations are just two examples of entities that are building systems to encourage collaboration. By having their organizations join around information and engaging members to work for the greater good, they are helping facilitate more collaborative engagement between different groups. If we could find ways to make these practices commonplace in the sector for social good, we’d hopefully get closer to seeing real changes in society’s larger problems.

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In a MADSCIENTISTblog post by VP of Technology and Innovation of the Salesforce Foundation, Steve Anderson posed a question that many in the social space have probably asked: What is taking so long for the social change many of us have worked on for years, to actually happen?

In the wake of a recent three day summit for the Millenium Development Goals, it became clear that some goals were woefully off target. With only five years to go till the milestone for the goals, we’re wondering why there has been so little progress in some areas and some huge advances in others. You don’t have to work with a global behemoth like the United Nations to experience working on a social issue for a long time and not seeing gratifying results. And the legions of values-driven people working to make the world a better place has grown enormously into what is possibly the largest social movement ever (see Hawken’s Blessed Unrest and WiserEarth for more on that). So what’s the deal? Andersen believes part of the problem is the need for social innovators to implement change like scientists – systematically, methodically, and with measured progress at every stage. In order to become what he describes as a “scientist of change”, we must be willing to:

Test Bold Ideas:  Instead of letting your creative, big picture ideas stay abstract, frame them into measurable hypotheses that can be tested. Put thought into how you will design your experiment so that you can control for certain factors and isolate what actually works.

Excellence in Technical Execution: To adequately implement the experiment you’re testing, you have to be familiar with the tools available that will enable you to execute your ideas most efficiently. Social innovators can no longer be behind the curve in what their technology options are and how it can help them achieve their goals in faster, more comprehensive ways. Building partnerships with companies that are technically competent can help your company’s progress leap frog (that’s what motivates us at ifPeople!).

Meticulous Measuring: The only way you can tell if your experiment has worked is if you measure the results. Like scientists, it’s important to not just create an objective method of measuring the outcome, but to also share it with your social change counterparts. ifPeople was founded by scientists who are admittedly data junkies, so we love this point. Steve, you’ve inspired us to look at how we can share more of our lessons!

Relentless Iterative Experimentation: After your experiment, the onus is on you to continue to push forward with new ideas after getting results. Whether the outcome was undesireable or completely exceeded your expectations, the push forward comes from asking what’s next, and repeating the process. True to our company spirit – stay agile!

We got excited seeing Steve’s blog post – these ideas are a big part of what ifPeople embodies and seeks to continuously improve upon in our work. By improving the processes and systems of organizations and businesses that are aligned with our values, we feel like we’re helping to fast-track social change by making our clients more efficient, effective, and scaling their model.

What can your social business or nonprofit organization do something differently today to become scientists of change?

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ifPeople is honored to be a nominee for the YouTopia grant of $15,000 of branding services from Free Range Studios. To win this, we need your vote! Can you please take 3 minutes to register on the website and vote for our “Collaboration for Social Innovation” idea?

Our idea is to build a community of social innovators leveraging web technology to increase their impact. This community, which is already forming based on the work of our clients and our partners, will share lessons, exchange ideas, and collaborate. This community would include other partners and their clients who share the desire to build strategic and technology capacity in the sector.

We’re asking for your help in making this nascent community grow and thrive by supporting our YouTopia proposal! Why do we want to do this? Technology is a big challenge for most social enterprises, yet it’s also necessary for magnifying their impact.We use Plone and Salesforce.com to radically increase our clients capacity for communication, engagement and action. We believe this network will improve collaboration and knowledge sharing amongst organizations using similar tools and facing similar challenges.

Better Tech skills = Bigger Impact = A Better World

Voting is easy. You just need to create an account on the UserVoice website and then you can distribute 3 votes in the “Socially Responsible Business” category (you can give all three to one or distribute them). Vote for ifPeople here.

Please let us know any questions about the proposal in the comments. Thanks for your support!

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DC Central Kitchen gleans high quality, unsellable food from organic farms and hires the “unemployable” to turn the produce, chicken, beef, and eggs into gourmet frozen dinners, meals for the hungry, and lunch cart fodder for busy executives.  Every 12 weeks another class of chronically unemployed adults graduates their job training program and moves into the work force.  DC Central Kitchen is doing what most people consider charity work, but their social enterprises pay for 80% of the program’s cost and they are on-track to be completely self sustaining in 2 years. Now that’s entrepreneurship!

The 10th Annual Social Enterprise Alliance Summit held in New Orleans last week brought many inspiring entrepreneurs together for an intense exchange and learning environment.  This was my fourth Summit and I keep coming back to this conference to hear the stories and meet the people like Kevin Lynch of Rebuild Resources, who employs ex-addicts to make branded apparel providing job skills, transitional employment, and a recovery community.  Rebuild Resources is also operating at 80% self-sufficiency.

Social enterprises utilize market-based strategies to meet a social mission.  They take a variety of structures from non-profit corporations to the new L3C (low profit limited liability company) now available in some states. What all social enterprises share in common is that they are using earned income strategies to meet social needs.  Some enterprises are launched by existing nonprofits who are seeking to reduce their reliance on grants and donations, while others, like Greystone Bakery were founded to be social enterprises right from the start.  Lest you think this is some new fangled idea, some of our nation’s oldest non-profits, the YMCA and Goodwill, are social enterprises.

Everyone interested in good work that is making a difference should know the incredible stories of social enterprises like these.  Ten years ago, one could have argued that advertising is expensive and good work doesn’t make headlines.  With the rise of social media at the same time non-profits facing a decline in funding alongside an increase in demand for services, I don’t think it can be argued that media is inaccessible or the story isn’t relevant.

The difficulty is that many social enterprises are so focused on doing the work that they do not take time to tell their story, create a solid messaging, and leverage the tools available to market themselves.  Marketing is a core business activity that should not be forgotten by mission driven organizations.

In an effort to help enterprises market themselves on a budget,  ifPeople is offering a Social Media 101 webinar.  This course is part of our monthly trainings aimed at making enterprises more successful on-line. This workshop is a introduction for those just learning about social media tools and seeking to understand how they work. Join us Tuesday April 21st for a 1.5 hour training that begins at 1pm eastern.  Join our newsletter to receive notifications of upcoming trainings.

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