In the Business of Change
120 pages
English

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In the Business of Change

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Obtenez un accès à la bibliothèque pour le consulter en ligne
En savoir plus
120 pages
English

Vous pourrez modifier la taille du texte de cet ouvrage

Description

Meet the social entrepreneurs who are using business to disrupt the status quo and rebuild their communities
  • Author is the co-founder and publisher of SEE Change Magazine
  • She has been a journalist for over 15 years and written for major newspapers and magazines including Elle, Profit and Zoomer
  • As communities across North America struggle with economic decline and bankruptcy, governments and social services are fall short of meeting needs.
  • Enter the social entrepreneur. Social entrepreneurs are innovative people who focus their creative energy and business mind-set on social change
  • This book is a practical and inspirational guide to social entrepreneurship
  • The book highlights stories of social entrepreneurs around the world who are using business as a force for change
  • Includes stories from New York, Yonkers, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Columbus, Detroit, San Francisco, St. Louis, New Orleans, Vancouver and Fogo Island
  • Readers will learn how to apply business savvy to social change
  • Topics include: job creation; economic revitalization; affordable housing; education; food security; social justice; human rights; disadvantaged youth; violence and more
  • Shows people how to use business as a true force for change in their communities including profiles of social entrepreneurs, tips and lessons for success

    Story examples

    Komal Ahmad, founder & CEO of San-Francisco-based Copia, a social enterprise with a mission of solving the dual challenges of food insecurity and food waste.

    Alan Ricks, co-founder of MASS Design, a disruptor in the field of architecture. Boston-based MASS' mission is to build and advocate for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity.

    Laura D'Asaro, co-founder of Chirps Chips, a company that produces chips (and are working on other products) made from cricket flour.

    David Stover, one of three co-founders of Bureo, a for-profit social enterprise that uses discarded commercial fishing nets to produce skateboards and other products.

    Teri Dankovich and Jonathan Levine, co-founders of Pittsburgh-based Folia Water, a revolutionary new technology - silver infused filter papers - that eliminate bacteria, viruses and other pathogens.

    Rosanne Haggerty, CEO and founder of Community Solutions, a company that applies the best problem-solving tools from multiple sectors to help U.S. communities end homelessness and the conditions that create it. One of their initiatives, Built for Zero, is designed to help communities end veteran homelessness.

    Tom D'Eri, who teamed up with his dad to found Rising Tide Car Wash, a company based in Florida that hires 80 percent of its employees on the autism spectrum based in Florida.

    Audience

  • Business leaders, economic development professionals, municipalities and cities, social entrepreneurs, millennials and boomers looking to make a difference

Meet the social entrepreneurs who are using business to disrupt the status quo and rebuild their communities


Our communities are facing the fallout from the demise of vital industry, bankrupt economies, bad policy or policing, and political mismanagement. People are looking for answers, and the "same old" simply won't do.


In the Business of Change is a practical and inspirational guide that showcases how social entrepreneurs from places such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancouver, who are weary of waste, injustice, and government inaction, are using business savvy to tackle challenges in their communities.


Part storytelling, part lessons learned, coverage includes:



  • Profiles of remarkable individuals and companies in such diverse sectors as employment, food, art, education, and social justice

  • An overview of lessons learned and real impacts on the ground

  • Tips for getting started, connecting to the local community, and scaling up.


In the Business of Change is for everyone who wants to rebuild their communities and believes that business can be a powerful, positive force for change.


Introduction


Chapter 1: Sustain This: The Rise of Social Entrepreneurship

Chapter 2: Innovate or Bust

Chapter 3: From Crisis to Opportunity

Chapter 4: The Power of Partnerships

Chapter 5: Community Engagement

Chapter 6: Perchance to Scale

Chapter 7: Toward Financial Sustainability

Chapter 8: Storytelling

Chapter 9: Measuring Social Impact

Chapter 10: Support Systems



Conclusion

Resources

Index

About the Author

A Note about the Publisher

Sujets

Informations

Publié par
Date de parution 29 mai 2018
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781771422598
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0045€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

Exrait

Praise for In the Business of Change
This book will help you be a more powerful changemaker for the good - and that s what s required of all of us in today s reality where value comes from contributing to change, not from repetition. Elisa s storytelling will also delight you.
- Bill Drayton, CEO, Ashoka
Compelling storytelling and actionable insights from social entrepreneurs working across a range of sectors make this a highly useful and inspiring book for anyone trying to effect positive social change in their communities.
- Katherine Milligan, Head of Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, World Economic Forum
An inspirational cheat sheet to the future investment and business opportunities in the social enterprise space, spilling over with the sort of inspirational stories that get entrepreneurs and investors out of bed in the morning. Powerful stuff!
- Carla Javitz, President and CEO of the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund (REDF)
A veritable treasure trove, bursting with real-life examples and ideas to fire the imaginations and actions of new and established entrepreneurs looking to forge businesses that will change the world for the better. Get it, read it, live it!
- Bob Willard, author, The Sustainability Champion s Guidebook and The New Sustainability Advantage
Elisa is a potent force and leading journalist in the Canadian social entrepreneurship sector. Her contribution is central to intelligent and thoughtful advance of the field. Her clear-eyed and highly respected voice is essential to driving forward a refreshing new perspective on how pragmatic social change works in an everyday way. Accessible and engaging, Elisa s work always shows us insights to the future. Her integrity, commitment, and long-term vision infuse this essential reading, which is for all of us who want to be players ensuring a viable future, that is safe, fair, and prosperous.
- Joel Solomon, Chairman and Co-founder of Renewal Funds, author, The Clean Money Revolution
This panoramic survey of dozens of innovative social enterprises should serve as a valuable source of inspiration to future generations of entrepreneurs. Elisa Birnbaum s broad, open-minded approach to the topic provides hundreds of examples of ways businesses can be redesigned to do good.
- Bryan Welch, entrepreneur, Foster Care Technologies, B the Change Media, and Ogden Publications
In the Business of Change is an unfettered look into the social enterprise movement from one of its biggest champions. More than just a primer, this book introduces us to the innovators and changemakers who are rethinking social problems, and how we can learn from their struggles and celebrate in their successes, all while embracing the power and impact of profitability.
- Maria Kim, President and CEO, Cara
Elisa has assembled a fabulous primer on social entrepreneurship, chock-full of inspiring tales of courageous leaders who are using tools and techniques of business to right social and environmental injustices in their communities. Keep this one on your shelf.... You ll go back to it often.
- Mike Rowlands, CEO Junxion Strategy, and Director, Social Venture Network
This highly readable book by Elisa Birnbaum explains what lies behind one of the most important global trends of the 21st century, the rise of social entrepreneurship. The consummate storyteller, Elisa chronicles leading social entrepreneurs and demystifies how to build purpose plus profit enterprises. This is a book for every entrepreneur and changemaker.
- Tim Draimin, Executive Director, Social Innovation Generation (SiG) National

Copyright 2018 by Elisa Birnbaum. All rights reserved.
Cover design by Diane McIntosh. Printed in Canada. First printing April 2018
Inquiries regarding requests to reprint all or part of In the Business of Change should be addressed to New Society Publishers at the address below. To order directly from the publishers, please call toll-free (North America) 1-800-567-6772, or order online at www.newsociety.com
Any other inquiries can be directed by mail to: New Society Publishers P.O. Box 189, Gabriola Island, BC V0R 1X0, Canada (250) 247-9737
L IBRARY AND A RCHIVES C ANADA C ATALOGUING IN P UBLICATION
Birnbaum, Elisa, 1971-, author
In the business of change: how social entrepreneurs are disrupting business as usual / Elisa Birnbaum.
Includes index.
Issued in print and electronic formats.
ISBN 978-0-86571-871-5 (softcover).--ISBN 978-1-55092-664-4 (PDF).--ISBN 978-1-77142-259-8 (EPUB)
1. Social entrepreneurship. 2. Social responsibility of business. I. Title.
HD60.B57 2018
658.4 08
C2018-900417-7 C2018-900418-5

New Society Publishers mission is to publish books that contribute in fundamental ways to building an ecologically sustainable and just society, and to do so with the least possible impact on the environment, in a manner that models this vision.
Contents
Introduction
Chapter 1: Sustain This: The Rise of Social Entrepreneurship
Chapter 2: Innovate or Bust
Chapter 3: From Crisis to Opportunity
Chapter 4: The Power of Partnerships
Chapter 5: Community Engagement
Chapter 6: Perchance to Scale
Chapter 7: Toward Financial Sustainability
Chapter 8: Storytelling
Chapter 9: Measuring Social Impact
Chapter 10: Support Systems
Conclusion
Resources
Index
About the Author
A Note about the Publisher
Introduction
O UR URBAN CENTERS ARE STRUGGLING . Increasingly burdened by rising unemployment, crime, poverty, falling literacy rates, overflowing prisons and homelessness, social challenges weigh heavy, while race relations remain ever-strained. Government cutbacks, meanwhile, are at an all-time high, and the charitable sector - society s other go-to place in times of need - is burdened by the harsh realities of a slow economy and limited funds.
We see the effects everywhere. Detroit declared bankruptcy; New York s homeless rate is surging; New Orleans is still pulling itself out from under years after devastating calamities; and cities like Chicago and Los Angeles are experiencing significantly high rates of incarceration and recidivism. Whether a result of failing industries, embattled economies, bad policy or policing, political mismanagement or a combination of all the above, cities are looking for answers.
And the same old simply won t do.
Enter social entrepreneurs, innovative men and women who focus their creative energy and business-minded skillset and savvy toward social change. Finding new and empowering ways to tackle social problems, they re turning conventional models on their heads. Whether promoting job creation, affordable housing, education, human rights, food security, social justice or the influence of political will, these entrepreneurs are impacting communities in incredibly diverse ways.
Pursuing a different way of doing business - one that melds profit with purpose - social entrepreneurs are demonstrating that everyone has the capacity to effect change and that business can have impact unparalleled on the way we live, work and engage with our communities. Most significantly, they re proving that profit and mission are not mutually exclusive: you can do well by doing good.
Visiting cities like Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, Baltimore and Dallas, In the Business of Change profiles social entrepreneurs who, weary of waste, suffering and injustice, are taking steps to revitalize their communities. Examining diverse sectors, from education to health and the arts, agri-business, the environment and employment, this book will highlight changemakers making a substantive, measurable difference in the lives of many.
Each chapter - focused on lessons learned in one common area of practice in social entrepreneurship - gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at folks hard at work, facing struggles, celebrating achievements and offering practical advice for others. Along the way, we ll explore some valuable questions: What challenges do these entrepreneurs face and how are they working to overcome them? What can we learn about creating replicable models of change? What is the value in support systems? How important are partnerships and cross-sectoral collaborations?
And, of course, we ll look closely at who these passionate individuals are and what inspired their dive into social entrepreneurial waters. In truth, there are as many variations of changemakers as there are innovative ideas that fuel them. There are the non-profit leaders, grown tired of relying on grants and other handouts, who are finding more empowered, self-sufficient ways to support their work. There are the advocates working at the grassroots level, many without much fanfare. There are the folks looking for more meaningful ways to spend their second (or third) careers.
But a majority profiled in this book represent a growing contingent of young, socially conscious graduates who yearn for more in life than the corner office and company car. They want to take their skills and knowledge and use them to make a difference. Less enamored with the charitable sector, however, as are their older cohorts, these trailblazers are embracing the power of profitability to effect change.
Considering the increasing number of people searching for a sense of purpose in their work, many toying with the idea of social entrepreneur-ship themselves, this book can serve as a pragmatic tool offering valuable information and motivation along with tips and advice to guide them forward. With the abundance of gloomy headlines, it can also meet the basic human need for an uplifting narrative. Filled with inspirational stories of people making a fundamental difference in the world, In the Business of Change is a vicarious adventure into doing well by doing good.
A comment on approach
To provide a diversity of voices, I ve included a range of social enterprises in this book, some that have been around for years, others that are newer to the sector. But all share common challenges. Still, the stories are focused primarily in the US to allow for a deep dive into common issues that urban populations face in this part of the world - including high rates of poverty, recidivism, unemployment, crime and food security. But I ve interspersed the stories with examples from beyond the US too - places like London; Haiti; Vancouver, Canada; and Gaza - to provide a larger perspective and illuminate both our shared challenges and humanity.
A comment on definitions
There is some debate on the definition of social entrepreneurship. To ensure that we re all on the same page, in this book (as well as my online magazine, SEE Change ), I define the term very broadly: social entrepreneurship is a non-profit or for-profit venture that uses business savvy, models and skills to solve a social and/or environmental problem.
As such, though perhaps well-regarded and impactful, social programs that are run as ancillary to a business would not fall under this rubric. The distinction is simple: the venture or company running the program must have as its primary purpose the fulfillment of a social objective or mission, regardless of its structure.
To clarify further, I refer to the definitions used by two leading organizations in this sector: Ashoka defines social entrepreneurs as individuals with innovative solutions to society s most pressing social problems . Rather than leaving societal needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leap. The Skoll Foundation, meanwhile, defines them as society s change agents, creators of innovations that disrupt the status quo and transform our world for the better.
But my aim is not to get bogged down in definitions. My focus is on sharing stories of these visionaries, innovators transforming lives and offering tips and inspiration for others. In truth, many in the field are tired of the definitional debate, calling it a distraction from the more important discourse around helping social entrepreneurship reach its potential for social impact. Personally, I agree with them.
Chapter 1
Sustain This: The Rise of Social Entrepreneurship
S OCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP is no longer the obscure term it was years ago. The movement has come a long way since its origins in the United Kingdom, with examples sprouting up in every corner of the globe today. I remember almost a decade ago reading How to Change the World , the quintessential bible of social enterprise by David Bornstein, a book that inspired a growing interest in the field, including my own. At the time, many hadn t heard of the concept, much less understood how it worked.
But in 2017, the idea of using business skill, models and savvy to effect change is more commonly embraced among those looking for answers to significant challenges. For the progressive, business-minded entrepreneur, social enterprise is simply a more conscious, purposeful way of doing business, one that they believe will increasingly become accepted practice.
For veteran changemakers, social enterprise is an alternative to traditional philanthropy models, which have lost their sheen of late. Considered unreliable, with the potential to foster a counterproductive culture of dependency, philanthropy is seldom seen as the answer to long-term change. An approach that promotes self-reliance and empowerment is a breath of fresh air for many.
Along the way, social enterprise has become a powerful tool of sustenance. Certainly no panacea - with its own set of challenges, as we ll see - social entrepreneurship is supporting livelihoods and communities and instilling hope for a better future. Take Zita Cobb, an entrepreneur we ll get to know well, who returned to her hometown of Fogo Island, Canada, to help it revitalize after the demise of the cod industry - on which the community had depended for hundreds of years - left many struggling.
She established the Shorefast Foundation to provide jobs and tourism opportunities, effectively opening the small island up to the world. From a local business fund to an art residency and the Fogo Island Inn - a magnificent world-class destination for geotourists and anyone interested in visiting the beauty of this seemingly isolated corner of the world - every initiative Cobb launches comes down to promoting community resiliency.
For others, the quest for resilience means tackling a persistent problem that is undermining the sustainability of the state or nation, one growing seemingly out of control. Chris Redlitz never anticipated becoming a social entrepreneur. But that was before the venture capitalist (managing partner of Transmedia Capital) visited San Quentin Prison - and before he learned about the realities of the prison system in the US.
The US houses 25 percent of the world s prison population, and 10 percent of that 25 percent is in California. According to reports, the country also spends $80 billion a year on incarceration, meaning each American resident is paying around $260 annually (up from $77 in 1980) to maintain the prison system. In California alone, $9 billion is spent a year on incarceration - five times the amount spent on education - while the recidivism rate sits at 60 percent, often due to lack of opportunities for employment upon re-entry.
Contrast that statistic with the prediction that by 2020 there will be a shortfall of one million software engineering jobs and Redlitz knew he had the answer to the question, Can we do something better with those tax dollars while breaking the cycle of incarceration?
It all started when Redlitz was invited to San Quentin to speak to a group of prisoners about entrepreneurship and became impressed with their grasp of business and thirst for education. That one evening really changed my whole perspective of what was possible because I saw and spoke to these guys at length, and they hit me just like the founders we invest in. It was the same kind of look, a lot of the same enthusiasm, says Redlitz, who had no earlier exposure to prisons - or projects of social impact, for that matter. If all these guys weren t dressed in blue, I would have assumed I was in some Silicon Valley event. That s what really struck me.
The experience triggered a passion he couldn t ignore. It led him to launch The Last Mile (TLM) in 2010 with his wife and business partner, Beverly Parenti, to combat the incarceration realities on the ground. It was an unplanned, serendipitous involvement, he says of his new role as social entrepreneur. Perhaps so, but what began as a six-month entrepreneurship program has grown into a powerful tool of change, providing employment and potential for the post-incarcerated - and a non-partisan voice to tackle the ever-growing issue of mass incarceration.
They approached the new initiative like any startup, Redlitz explains. We looked at this as a nugget of an idea; we did due diligence around the market and the opportunity and the asset [the inmate]. Not to be too academic about it, but that s how we approached it. Of course, there was an emotional component too. I just thought these guys in some ways deserve a chance. But when you put everything together, it really made sense. If we can make an impact on recidivism and we have all the tools, why not? Redlitz explains.
TLM began with the simple idea of teaching business skills and know-how. Starting a business is hard; starting business with those other obstacles is even harder, Redlitz shares. Like any entrepreneur-ship accelerator, students learned business and social media basics, came up with business ideas, developed business plans and learned to pitch them.
As TLM s founders got to know the students more, the deep talent pool and the inequities of the criminal justice system became even sharper. Then in 2014, in partnership with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and CalPIA, TLM launched the first computer coding curriculum in a United States prison. With no internet access in prison, TLM found a way around that challenge by creating a proprietary programming platform that simulates live coding. In 2016, it started TLMWorks, a web development studio inside San Quentin that provides graduates of TLM with jobs as software engineers.
We just kept pushing the envelope, Redlitz says of TLM s evolution. The idea that we d have this technology incubator and be doing this crazy coding stuff, that was not even part of the concept initially, he says, adding that being outside of the bureaucratic system allowed them to ask a lot of questions and launch activities that wouldn t have been possible otherwise. Activities like having their groups engage in social media (using work-arounds as they did with coding) and tell their personal histories. That was counterintuitive to what they re used to, he says of the environment in prison that doesn t typically have a positive regard for vulnerability.
Today, the program is 80 percent focused on coding and 20 percent on life skills and entrepreneurship. It s all about making the students hirable. So far, 240 people have gone through the program, and 35 are currently out of prison, while many others await release dates. Governor Brown has a mandate to reduce the prison population, so we ve been a strong recipient of that, Redlitz says, explaining that many who have gone in front of the parole board are getting released, partly because of the TLM program, which incorporates post-release plans.
So far, those 35 graduates have done remarkably well in the marketplace, and their recidivism rates sits at zero, says Redlitz. That may not be a big number, but the downstream impact of those are extraordinary. It s about quality, not quantity, at this point. He s hopeful that future graduates will return to the community equally well positioned for employment, cutting down the incidents of recidivism and the surging costs (financial and otherwise) of reoffending.
The social enterprise has been an education for everyone involved. We didn t try to save the world in one swipe; it was very much an incremental growth thing, shares Redlitz, adding that patience is not a typical asset in his line of work. When you re an investor you can have patience to a degree, but you want to grow very quickly, and here it s really not about growing fast; it s about growing effectively and having those who graduate really resonate in the marketplace. That s the important thing.


Prisoners learning to code at San Quentin State Prison, California.
C REDIT : T HE L AST M ILE
Over the next five years and beyond, they plan to bring their TLM-branded program to any interested facility and via remote broadcasts from their San Francisco-based studio. We re set up to scale very cost effectively, where they have software, the modules and instruction available, he says, adding they ve already brought their program to remote places in California, and they ve had a lot of interest inside and outside the country.
The plan is also to get to a point of self-sufficiency, to ensure that TLM proceeds are funding the organization and that they re no longer reliant on grants or other subsidies. Working closely with the Department of Corrections in California has helped their growth and potential for impact, to be sure. They said, Here are the obstacles; figure it out, and we did. And they gave us permission to do things, and we kept having success and working with them closer; and now we re truly in partnership with them, Redlitz explains.
It s important that we show that public-private partnerships actually work and that you can create a self-sustaining non-profit, he says. Those overarching goals are really important for us, and we re tracking well to that right now.
In another chapter, we ll explore more deeply the value of partnerships, a running theme among many social entrepreneurs today. It stems from the simple idea that more can be done when done together. For those who began their social entrepreneurial journey in the non-profit sector - where working in silos is often the norm - partnerships are seen as a more effective alternative. What s more, many have come to value the assets that each sector brings to the table when tackling a challenge; the potential for impact is made all the more possible. It s not always an easy relationship to navigate, however, and we ll take a look at some who ve had success and how they ve made it work for them.
Redlitz is one of many social entrepreneurs in this book focused on tackling the broken prison system, with the realization that it poses numerous debilitating effects on society - from the increasingly high costs to taxpayers, to poverty and homelessness that the formerly incarcerated and their families face when they return to society looking for work (often unsuccessfully) and to the growing recidivism rates, with many falling back into old habits. Never mind the effects of broken and single-parent families on children and their communities.
Social entrepreneurs like Redlitz have come to acknowledge the domino effect of social challenges, how one problem can impact another and then another and another. And that sometimes you need to look deeper than just one issue if you re going to create long-term change and the sustainability of one community - or many.
Similarly, another common theme we ll explore in the book is the power of employment to lift people up and help them and their cities reach their potential. Giving someone a job can have an immense spiraling effect, influencing how they look at themselves and their world and so much more. A job brings economic stability, which influences self-sufficiency, which promotes self-confidence, which impacts education, health and food choices, which encourages hope and possibilities, which empowers everyone around you. And on and on it goes.
When Bernie Glassman, a pioneer in the American Zen Movement, started Greyston Bakery in a seminary housed in a beautiful mansion in the Bronx, New York, it was 1982, long before anyone had heard of the term social enterprise. Recognizing employment as the gateway out of poverty, Greyston was the Zen master s way of providing the hard-to-employ with hope for their future.
The initial intention was to provide work for his seminary students. As the bakery grew, others in the community - especially those struggling with issues like addiction and homelessness - were hired too. Not everyone in their Bronx community appreciated having that population in their midst. So in 1987 Glassman relocated to Yonkers, New York, which at the time was leading the country in homelessness, per capita. If there ever was an ideal place to have impact, Yonkers seemed a good bet.
But the bakery wasn t enough for Glassman s vision. Low-income apartments were then built to house workers and their families. A childcare center was created to alleviate yet another barrier for workers. Housing for people living with AIDS came next. He was an incredible visionary and fundraiser and able to generate energy around problem solving, says Greyston s current CEO, Mike Brady.
All these initiatives helped Greyston establish its street cred in Yonkers, which today also includes ten community gardens and a work-force development program created in 2009, designed to provide both hard-skill and soft-skill training to hard-to-employ individuals. But Greyston s social enterprise bakery - New York State s first benefit corporation that employs 100 staff - is the crown jewel of the organization and what makes it a known entity outside of the city.
The bakery recently added Whole Foods to its roster, but one retail partnership has proven the most fruitful for the enterprise and that s their 25-year relationship with Ben Jerry s, the purveyor of America s favorite ice cream. Greyston brownies are currently found in two of their top five flavors (the first and most popular, half-baked).
Our growth relies on theirs; we wouldn t be the size that we are without that relationship, affirms Brady, who advises social entrepreneurs to align their mission, whenever possible, with a major player that believes in what you re trying to do. He also cautions against trying to reinvent the wheel. Brownies aren t new, after all. You don t need to necessarily come up with the newest idea but with a more socially just or environmentally sound way of creating existing products, Brady offers.
The Ben Jerry s collaboration has an entire factory room floor dedicated to producing 35,000 pounds of brownies each day. In fact, 24 of the Greyston staff are on the Ben Jerry s line full-time. Take Mark, who s been at the bakery for three years now and considers it a life-changing experience. I learned to take pride in everything I do, he says of Greyston s impact. CeeCee, meanwhile, has been at Greyston for 16 years and is grateful for the work it provided and the childcare it helped her afford. Greyston did a lot of lifting up of the community and I love it, that s why I m still here, she says. Using the skills gained at Greyston, CeeCee hopes to one day open a restaurant in the local community, where she says she s known affectionately as the brownie lady.
Though Glassman is no longer at Greyston, his mission in creating one of America s first social enterprises still resonates. Bernie s vision continues; it s more relevant today than it was 35 years ago, shares Brady on my recent visit to their headquarters in Yonkers. The problems from 35 years ago are just as prominent around inequality, homelessness and lack of opportunity for people with barriers.
That may explain why Greyston s vision today is so large, at the heart of which lies its open hiring model. Promoting inclusion and diversity, the organization s hiring process doesn t focus on r sum s, references or background checks. Applicants put their names on a list and are called when an opening exists. In this way, no one can be turned away due to their past. It s a defining differentiator for the social enterprise - and upon which the future of Greyston is focused.
For thirty-four years, we were focused on Yonkers; our future is beyond Yonkers, shares Brady, who explains that they re looking to expand their unique model to communities who share their challenges. To that end, they ve launched the Center for Open Hiring to encourage businesses to approach hiring along their same lines of nonjudgement. With Gresyton s leadership, the hope is to help businesses overcome hiring obstacles and emerge a more inclusive workplace - inspiring a more inclusive economy in the process.
Our mission now is to create thriving communities through the practice and promotion of open hiring, affirms Brady, adding that the goal is to encourage the hiring of three percent of the workforce along those practices over the next five years. With pilots already ongoing, the center will fully launch in early 2018. We have to be a lot more deliberate than we have been in previous thirty-four years cause now we re thinking about impacting other communities, not just our own.
When it comes to the multiplier effect of job creation and its impact on the sustainability of our cities, newer social enterprises like Chicago s Bright Endeavors are carving strong footholds as leaders too. Based in West Garfield Park, a neighborhood on the west side of Chicago, Bright Endeavors hires young mothers aged 18 to 24 to make soy candles that are sold in a variety of stores. The enterprise also runs a votive candle rental business for event venues - one of the few businesses to offer these single-burn options. Tackling the problem of waste and inconvenience, the rental candles are a growing line of the enterprise.
Originally launched in 2007 as an independent business, in 2010 Bright Endeavors was brought under the umbrella of a non-profit organization called New Moms, with a mission of interrupting the generational cycle of poverty. Keep in mind that 40 to 60 percent of residents in the south and west sides of Chicago live below the poverty line, while the number of pregnant and/or parenting female youth in Illinois has more than doubled in the past 20 years, rising from 33 percent to 68 percent. Nearly half of the mothers who come to New Moms are homeless, and the community of West Garfield Park is one of severe disinvestment.
Since its inception, Bright Endeavors has served over 300 young mothers and created a thriving business that today sells its candles through its website, via wholesale orders and in stores such as Crate Barrel and Whole Foods in the Midwest region.
But the bigger picture is about building women up, helping them become more self-confident and better able to establish a positive, healthy direction forward. The 12-week program at Bright Endeavors delivers hands-on training to prepare young mothers for success in the workforce. Aside from learning soft and hard skills, including teamwork, quality control and leadership, the program provides job readiness training, offers financial literacy coaching and helps the women establish secondary education goals.
In line with the mission of promoting self-reliance and empowerment, pity is not part of the narrative at Bright Endeavors - for the women or the business. Determined to compete on equal footing with similar entry-level luxury good products, Bright Endeavors produces candles of top quality and priced similarly. We re small but mighty, says CEO Laura Zumdahl, of the eight to ten workers in her revolving team.
In fact, the business has grown by 20 percent over the past few years, thanks, in large part, to the diversification and growth of its product line and a more aggressive positioning of its business vis- -vis their competitors. With revenues topping $300,000, Zumdahl sees no reason why it can t be a million-dollar company soon and is hopeful it will reach half a million by 2020.


Program trainee, Jasmine, making candles for their Crate Barrel division.
C REDIT: E LISA B IRNBAUM
But Bright Endeavors faces similar challenges to many in this space, as we ll see more closely in the ensuing chapters. Financial support, for one, particularly due to a diminished state budget. Running a product-based (versus service) business offers a unique set of issues (and opportunities), for another. And then there s the tension between mission and revenue, between profit and purpose. It s a balance growing the business while growing the job-training program, says Zumdahl, who explains that, by design, the social enterprise has a 600 percent turnover rate to ensure that there s a constant stream of new cohorts every few months who can gain from the short-term training program.
In short, inefficiency is built into the mission, putting an additional strain on the capacity to be self-sustaining. But it s a necessary strain and why Bright Endeavors exists, after all, says Zumdahl. The mission - intimately connected as it is to employment - is also what makes them so determined to keep much of their production handmade, despite the fact that machines help achieve efficiency. It s messy, but that s the beauty of social enterprise, says Zumdahl, adding that, so long as intergenerational poverty is being addressed, they re meeting their goals.
That issue - one with debilitating effects on our urban centers - has been on Mark Edwards s radar too. He s the co-founder of Upstream, based in Oakland, California, but with growing impact across the US. While specifically focused on creating a stronger, more sustainable healthcare system, Upstream is the culmination of Edwards s long-standing interest in the issues of economic opportunity and inter-generational poverty.
Earlier, he was the founder and executive director of Opportunity Nation, a national bipartisan campaign of over 300 anti-poverty organizations working to close the opportunity gap in the US through federal policy reform. Through that work, Edwards heard the concerns of young people between 15 and 30 years old. What struck him and his co-founder was how often unplanned pregnancy was the starting point for their challenges, resulting in them dropping out of school, quitting their jobs and making other problematic decisions. We came to believe that unplanned pregnancy is the biggest driver of intergenerational poverty in this county, he says.
To be sure, the scale of the problem is huge. With half of pregnancies in the US being unintentional, there are 1.5 million unplanned children born in the US every year. Most of those women are using contraceptives, but the methods fail them. It s not a surprising fact considering that the method of choice, the pill, is not very effective unless a woman is really good at taking it, which many aren t, says Edwards. But there are new methods, such as IUDS and implants, that are 20 times more effective than the pill and require lower doses of hormones. Problem is they re hard to come by, especially in places where low-income women receive their healthcare. That reality is typically a systems, not a cost, issue - and that s what Upstream is trying to change.
They do that through health center interventions, essentially transforming the way care is provided. Upstream teams ensure that women have full access to all healthcare, are made aware of their choices and are provided with counseling so they can select their contraception method fully informed. (When given the choice, Edwards says, women tend to gravitate toward the more effective methods and stay with them longer.) Offering quality improvement and technical assistance means that, instead of it taking four visits to get an IUD implant, it takes one.
The benefits of those informed choices are many. We can help women achieve their goals by becoming pregnant when they want to. When you do that, lots of good things happen, explains Edwards, who adds that any initiative designed to promote economic opportunity is limited without pregnancy planning. Upstream programs not only impact unplanned pregnancies, they reduce the number of abortions, improve birth outcomes and save states money. And then there are the downstream outcomes. Women can complete their education, choose the partner they want to be with - all those good things happen, and it s better for kids as well, says Edwards.
So far, Upstream teams have provided intervention training in individual health centers across six states, serving 175,000 women. At the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Upstream conducted training in Puerto Rico during the Zika crisis. And they re leading a one-of-a-kind state-wide project in Delaware (chosen because, at 57 percent, the state has one of the highest rates of unplanned pregnancies in the country), training the entire healthcare system - hospitals, public and private centers, etc. It s an exciting initiative and one that Edwards is looking forward to replicating.
Women across Delaware can get any method of birth control through great counseling and with one visit. And we re taking that methodology and approach and expanding now into four other states.
With each intervention, another city, another community finds greater resilience, thanks to Upstream s ability to stem the domino effect resulting from unplanned pregnancies. But the goal for Upstream is even bigger. For Edwards and his team, the focus has always been national. If we can really do this at scale, in 15 or 20 years we think unplanned pregnancy can be cut significantly, he says. It s a chance to have one of the greatest public health wins over the last 50 years.
The win that J.J. Reidy is looking for is focused on public health too, except it s one that enables a strong, sustainable ecosystem. Reidy is the co-founder of Urban Pastoral, a Baltimore-based company that believes food has tremendous power as a community connector and economic driver. And from a developer s perspective, it s the best sustainable placemaker on the planet, bar none, says Reidy, who sees his company as next-generation real estate developers, always mindful of their responsibility to public health.
Ultimately, he believes that where people live and how those places are designed have far-reaching consequences. The environment in which you live and your zip code are key factors of your life span. With that in mind, Reidy and his co-founder wanted to create vertically integrated ecosystems - having an impact on food, housing, public health, development and employment - that closed the gap between production and consumption.
It started with a focus on agriculture and the hypothesis that demand for local produce far exceeds supply. They built a hydroponic farm in East Baltimore, an area 60 percent abandoned, thinking they d sell hydroponic produce wholesale and then expand. It soon occurred to Reidy, however, that if he really wanted to make the project economically sustainable, he needed to add value to the products beyond the commodity level.
I want to eliminate packaging, I want to eliminate distribution distance, and ultimately I want to sell to my own ecosystem entirely, he says. I will only build enough agricultural infrastructure to support my front-end ecosystem to get out of a distribution model, cause I don t want to sell a commodity.
That s what brought Urban Pastoral to hospitality and the development of a vegetarian-vegan restaurant that sources many ingredients from its farm and biodynamic farms across Maryland. Housed in a shared space for ten other food ventures in the fringe industrial neighborhood of Remington, west Baltimore, the eatery will soon be joined by Reidy s second restaurant, this one selling pizza.
The initiatives were helped along after a serendipitous introduction to a socially conscious real estate developer with a desire to help community. You don t meet a lot of those, says Reidy. The developer doubled down on Remington, offering tons of incentives for new home buyers to build community out of industrial wasteland by building homes, apartments and, yes, restaurants. The communal opportunity allowed Reidy to open his hospitality concept for a quarter of the price of doing it on his own. It also de-risked the model by allowing him to open in a market with ten other concepts simultaneously, quickly establishing itself as a destination, not an island.
Of course, integral to building an ecosystem is job creation for those who need it most. Before you can tackle food access, you need to look at economic mobility, Reidy says. As such, Urban Pastoral hires local people, often those with barriers to employment, for each of its projects. Two employees work at the hydroponic farm and 15 in the restaurant; most have never worked with fresh produce before.
The next phase of the project is acquiring a 14,000-square-foot building and developing everything from ground up, incorporating it all into one development. We re getting at social capital - what moves people forward in society - and the common tool is food, says Reidy, who adds that he needs to wear a variety of hats to build a vertically integrated system - farmer, restaurateur, real estate developer. But it all comes down to being a social entrepreneur.
It s also about challenging society s definition of a farm and who is a farmer. Reidy and his co-founder call their business a model for urban generation. It s part of a vision that began when, after a lot of international development work, they both came to realize that Baltimore s problems are the same as, or worse than, those of many developing-world countries. Frustrated with all the talk about impact with little done to achieve it, the duo realized that if they could build a successful model they could scale it and eventually work with governments across the world.
But that s for later. For now they re focused on Baltimore and the challenges it shares in common with other rustbelt cities, such as Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit. The common narrative among these post-industrial cities is the demise of manufacturing and the resulting intense unemployment, abandoned neighborhoods, poverty and crime. Big companies and investors don t typically care about these cities, he says.
But a combination of low rent, affordability, cultural diversity, a preponderance of artists and millennials, as well as a spirit of collaboration among those who remain, makes these cities attractive to entrepreneurs. As a result, many rustbelt cities are going through an entrepreneurial renaissance. It is our dream to go to different countries, but there s a lot of work to do still here before we move elsewhere. We want to see this model through in this city, says Reidy.
Urban Pastoral exemplifies a common approach of many successful social entrepreneurs hard at work on their own city s renaissance. Their focus starts local. They turn their attention nationally and beyond only once they ve established successful models with capacity to scale, if at all. One step at a time.
What Reidy also demonstrates is the rising interest among many in this field to look deeper. Not only to the domino effects of social challenges that we mentioned above but to the impact beneath the surface. For consumers and social entrepreneurs alike, a growing interest in supply chains is transforming the landscape of business and social ethics.
The mission of these forward-thinking entrepreneurs is to explore how things are made from the bottom up, determining whether and how they can be infused with a greater sense of ethical responsibility. It comes down to the idea that, if the supply chain is healthier from a social and environmental perspective, it will have its own domino effect, positively impacting how products are made, who are hired to make them and how those people are treated.
We ll explore this topic further when we profile social entrepreneurs like Nicole Rycroft, founder of Canopy, who s greening the publishing and fashion industries through an in-depth exploration and transformation of its supply chains. We ll also take a look at a company called Bureo, which makes skateboards and other products from recycled fishing nets, keeping the nylon plastic material out of the oceans.
And we ll meet Tal Dehtiar, whose shoe company, Olibert , dives deep into its fair-trade mission, ensuring that everything - from how the shoes are designed to where the leather is sourced and who he hires - can all be traced back to sustainability and an ethical approach to business. Dehtiar even built his factory in Addis Ababa, providing jobs to the local community, with the belief that only by creating self-reliance can we enable sustainable, long-term impact on the ground.
Of course, a discussion on long-term impact in this field would not be complete without mention of the growing number of social entrepreneurs who are adding policy change to their to-do lists. For example, frustrated by the diminished opportunities facing the formerly incarcerated, many are advocating for Ban the Box, a campaign aimed at persuading employers to remove the question about criminal records from their hiring applications.
There are numerous social entrepreneurs and organizations who, like Greyston, support policies that promote more inclusive workforces. And then there s Jos Qui onez, founder of Mission Asset Fund (MAF) - a San Francisco-based non-profit that helps low-income people improve their credit score through lending circles and other programs. Qui onez played a significant role in getting Governor Jerry Brown to sign a bill making California the first state to regulate and recognize the importance of lending opportunities for people without credit histories. And the stories go on and on.
To be sure, we re witnessing a new breed of entrepreneurs who are going beyond, tackling issues on a deeper level - even that of systems change. We ll meet Rosanne Haggerty of Community Solutions in the next chapter, for example, who s addressing homelessness by bringing together a diversity of sectors and players and examining their interplay for collaborative impact. The idea behind systems change is that, to truly solve social problems, we need to get to their root cause, which requires a look at a range of systems, sectors and their interrelationships.
To address a health issue, for example, means looking at access to health and the interplay between that access and the sociopolitical and cultural context within which it exists. It requires looking at all the sectors, all the stakeholders who impact the issue and the steps needed for real change to occur.
Whether working on a single issue at a time or adopting a larger, far-reaching lens of advocacy, policy and systems change, these entrepreneurs are establishing ventures with a comprehensive approach to social impact, transforming their cities and the world in big ways. Their far-reaching influence may just prove to be the future of social entrepreneurship and business itself.
Chapter 2
Innovate or Bust
D ISRUPTIVE . I NNOVATIVE . C REATIVE . An increasing number of social entrepreneurs have come to realize that moving from ideation to success often requires going beyond the usual, the traditional, the expected. They need to shake things up, turn ideas upside down and infuse their solutions to challenges with a creative twist, new technology and/or a bold rethink.
Of course, innovation is not an approach unique to social entrepreneurs. It s a popular tool for any entrepreneurs who want to rise above the fray and differentiate themselves from their competition. And to be innovative doesn t necessitate brand spanking new ideas or reinventing the wheel. Leveraging what already exists and adopting new ideas into the mix can prove effective - and profitable.
But, as we ll see in this chapter, for social entrepreneurs it s more than being disruptive for the sake of competitive advantage. It s about finding new ways to tackle social and environmental challenges because the old ways are simply not working - or not scaling at a pace that makes long-term change feasible. It s about looking for new, creative answers to old, seemingly unchangeable problems.
For Komal Ahmad, the old problems came in the form of food security and its sister challenge, food waste. Her inspiration? A homeless man with whom she generously shared her lunch one day who shared his story: he had recently completed a second tour in Iraq and was struggling to make ends meet while he waited for his VA benefits to kick in. That someone who had dedicated his life to the same country that was now failing to feed him seemed incredulous to Ahmad. That they were eating across the street from the Berkeley College campus she attended, where food was often thrown out from the cafeteria, only reinforced the paradox.
It was emblematic of much larger problem, that every day in the US over 365 million pounds of perfectly edible food is wasted, while one of out every six don t know where their food is coming from, she says. It occurred to her that, despite the oft-accepted belief, it s not the lack of food at issue but its inefficient distribution. Hunger is a logistics problem, not a scarcity problem.
She was now on a mission. She asked Berkeley representatives why they threw out so much excess food and was told it was a liability issue. But that didn t make sense. How was food worthy of feeding college students one minute potentially problematic the next? Upon further research, she found that in 1996 Congress had passed the Bill Emerson Good Samarian Act , which effectively absolved donors from liability when donating food, except in cases of gross negligence. Since that time, the number of lawsuits or legal claims has been zero, she says.
Armed with the law and an abundance of persistence, Ahmad approached Berkeley again and initiated the nation s first food-recovery organization on a college campus, redistributing unused food to organizations who needed it. Except, as the initiative started gaining ground, Ahmad quickly realized it was remarkably inefficient. She recounts her aha moment: driving around one day with a huge quantity of sandwiches, trying to find non-profits who needed them. Some took a few off her hands; others didn t return her calls; still others said they didn t need anything then but may need food at a later date. Why is it so hard to do a good thing? she remembers thinking. Where are all the hungry people when I have so much food?
It then hit her: what she needed was to innovate the old process to better match food waste with need. Copia was born in 2011. We didn t invent the concept of food recovery; we just put technology behind it, she explains. Copia allows businesses, event organizers and others to request a pickup of their surplus food for a fee contingent upon the quantity of food being donated.
An algorithm then matches the requests to non-profits who ve put in food requests, and Copia s food heroes are dispatched for pickup and drop-off. Photos and testimonials of recipients, as well as data and analytics, are made available to donors to reinforce measurable impact. And from start to end, Copia promotes environmental and financial efficiency.
The ideal customer is someone who gives away high-quality food 260 to 365 days a year from multiple locations across the country, shares Ahmad of her long-term vision. She s equally clear about her business model: We re built to solve hunger at scale; we re not a non-profit, she explains unequivocally. Determined to put an end to hunger, scale is thus inevitable. We don t want to be local; we want to be global, and that s only possible by creating an enterprise; no one loses just because you win.
Today Copia operates in San Francisco and is expanding into Los Angeles, Austin and other cities, with the expectation of growing across the US by 2018. As she contemplates a franchise model, Ahmad is also open to opportunities to partner with similarly minded organizations who can make use of their technology to streamline efficiency and increase impact.
To be sure, Ahmad has her eyes set on the world, having received over 60,000 requests from people wanting to use the platform and technology. Senior government officials in Germany and Austria, for example, are inquiring about better ways to match food and other resources for Syrian migrants. I would never have fathomed that possibility back when I was in college, says Ahmad. Once food redistribution is figured out on scale, the possibilities of matching different resources and needs are endless: disaster relief, medical supplies, books, medicines. Any need that doesn t stem from lack of resources but inefficient distribution can technically fall into her innovative, tech-savvy hands.
Of course, challenges remain. The pace of change, for one. If you asked me five years ago, I would say, Yeah, it would be solved already, she says of food waste. But when you get down to the nitty gritty, you realize why change takes time. I m hopeful we can create a model that will allow us to replicate quicker, she says. But it won t be completely uniform. Appreciating local distinctions, one model will work best for Middle America, another for New York, yet another for San Francisco and a distinctive one for London, UK. It s still early days, but, with growth essential, Ahmad s goal is to find a way to identify needs and operationalize without duplicating efforts.
As for lessons learned, at the top of Ahmad s long list is this simple yet powerful one: never give up. Don t be dissuaded by those who don t believe in you, she says, recalling how when she first started Copia, some people dismissed her efforts as cute. Now people take me more seriously. She laughs. They see I m still doing it; it s not a hobby. Eradicating world hunger is not a part-time job.
Sometimes innovation requires turning an industry on its head. Take Boston-based MASS Design, the ultimate disruptor in the field of architecture. Architecture is never neutral, their website proclaims. It either heals or hurts. With the belief that architecture has power beyond a building s four walls, that it should be held accountable for community and serve as a vital proponent to its health, MASS s mission is to build and advocate for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity.
If you believe, like co-founder Alan Ricks does, that architects should tackle challenges that face communities, the only way to do that is to turn architecture upside down, inside out. To create innovative buildings that better the lives of people and promote their health and dignity throughout the process - from design and planning and engineering to construction. Ricks says the idea for MASS Design came about after a stint in Rwanda, where an outbreak of tuberculosis was traced back to a health clinic. It made him realize that buildings can make people sicker. The question became, If bad design is making people sick, can good design make people heal?
To that end, MASS works on schools, hospitals, health centers, housing projects and any initiative that falls within their typologies of health, education and justice. To wit: they were hired by Haiti s Les Centres GHESKIO to create a health infrastructure to combat cholera - the country s first permanent facility for cholera treatment. Hit with the biggest cholera outbreak in the past century, Haiti faced the more pertinent question of how to move beyond emergency responses to tackle the endemic problem.
Effectively establishing a new paradigm for cholera and diarrheal disease treatment and prevention, the facility boasts easier-to-clean equipment, comfortable furniture and greater privacy for patients and their families, bringing back dignity to the healthcare equation. The patient-centric treatment center also offers an on-site sanitation system that helps combat water and waste issues. Given that only 28 percent of Port-au-Prince residents have access to clean water and sanitation, its capacity to treat up to 250,000 gallons of wastewater annually is fundamental.
In 2015 MASS Design worked on the Mubuga Primary School in Rwanda, which now serves as a model for public education in the country, promoting comfort, health and a playful learning environment. The new classrooms offer sufficient light, ventilation, a library and a teacher s space for resources. Believing in the importance of play and sports in facilitating healing, the school also has play areas, a volleyball court and outdoor education areas. And to ensure that their design is replicable and capable of addressing related issues of school infrastructure in the region, the architectural design for the building incorporated local materials and techniques. They even used local labor to promote community engagement and sustainability.
Today MASS is working in about ten countries in Africa on a variety of projects, which include a $50 million hospital in Monrovia and two district hospitals in Rwanda, where it has a second office with a staff of 35. It s actually where the company got its start, a fortuitous opportunity that offered the team significant insight into the systematic issues prevalent across the nation, resulting most particularly from rapid development and urbanization. It was that insight that gave the architectural firm its purpose.
About to celebrate MASS s tenth anniversary in 2018, Ricks hopes the first ten years will stand as proof of concept, demonstrating that designing around issues of social justice is not only possible, it s beautiful and cost-effective - and sustainable as a business model. As for the next ten years, Ricks wants to bring the model to the US, proving the takeaways are not exclusive to emerging markets. MASS is ready to show that this disruptive approach to architecture is as viable in Boston as it is in Kigali.
Of course, proving the benefits in emerging markets is not enough. For innovative design to be accepted in the developed world, it needs buy-in from industry and government too. Instead of evaluating buildings based on how long it took to build and their cost per square foot, Ricks is hopeful they ll be measured - first and foremost - by the value they provide to users and the public. The good news is that interest in MASS s novel approach to design is far greater today than ten years ago. It s just a question of whether the public and the marketplace start to demand it.
Sometimes it takes a bit more work to inspire that demand. But when it comes to pioneering innovative solutions to problems that are growing seemingly larger every day, the work is a worthy endeavor. Just ask Laura D Asaro. She was an undergrad student of African Studies at Harvard University when she had an opportunity to study abroad in Tanzania. That trip would prove a lightbulb moment, one that would set her and her business partner on a unique journey of social entrepreneurship. For it was in that African country that D Asaro was offered fried caterpillars to taste. Despite the initial ick factor, D Asaro was determined to try it - once. My first thought was it takes like lobster, D Asaro recalls with a laugh.
Upon returning to the US, she began researching the topic of eating insects and became fascinated with what she found. An on-again-off-again vegetarian - a decision influenced by environmental reasons - D Asaro quickly learned that insects have less ecological impact than any other protein source. The argument from a sustainability and health perspective was hard to ignore: it takes over 2,000 gallons of water to make one pound of beef, but it takes only one gallon of water to make a pound of crickets. The ethical concerns with factory farming, meanwhile, don t apply because the natural habitat of insects make them traditionally accustomed to living in close quarters.
For me this is a game-changing protein, says D Asaro, adding that more people eat insects in the world than speak English. In Cambodia, they fry up crickets for school lunch. In some places, insects are a huge delicacy. (Rumor has it the last emperor of Japan had a particular penchant for fried wasps, says D Asaro.) Even the US has a history of eating locusts before they became icky over the past 100 years or so.
The question was how to get Americans eating insects again. And D Asaro was up for the challenge. So she and her college roommate - soon to be business partner - bought all the insects they could find at a local Petco and tried to feed them to friends. It went horribly wrong, shares D Asaro. But, realizing the obstacle to be one of icky-ness, not taste, the women explored different forms the insects could take to make them more palatable.
That s how they fell onto cricket flour - crickets dried and milled into a powder. Now they just needed to figure out what to do with it. What can we put this into that would make the product a winner in its category? was the question that launched Chirps Chips in 2013 and put it in full swing a year later once the duo settled on their core product - chips. Chips are not typically known for their nutritious value, but crunchy chips made of cricket flour boast 70 percent protein, so there s no gross factor, and parents can get behind them too.


Selection of cricket chips available in stores.
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Today, Chirps Chips can be found in close to 400 stores in Boston, the Midwest and San Francisco and are sold online too. But the chip is just the beginning. It s the entr e to a multi-course mission of getting Americans to eat insects in a variety of forms as more sustainable and healthy meat substitutes. People have been trying to make plants taste like animals for years, and it s hard, shares D Asaro. Crickets are a lot closer to cows, so it can make more realistic alternatives. ( Save a cow, eat a cricket is their tagline). It s about giving people options.
Before they expand their product line, though, they re concentrating efforts on the chip aisle - and on expanding mindsets, something they re already witnessing. We re trying to make eating insects normal; that s how we define success. All the products we re coming out with are a journey to get people there.
That public shift in perspective has also been essential to David Stover, one of three co-founders of Bureo, a for-profit enterprise that uses discarded commercial fishing nets to produce skateboards and other products. Without it, they wouldn t be enjoying a significant growth spurt. But what inspired their innovative solution can be traced back to the water. I ve never lived more than a mile from the ocean, aside from the college, he says.
He and his co-founders were practically born with surfboards under their feet, undulating waves their guide. Still, each pursued more traditional jobs initially, studying mechanical engineering, environmental assessments and finance. They eventually met in Australia and then converged onto Chile, where they shared a desire to pursue more passionate goals. At the same time, they were becoming increasingly disturbed by plastics in oceans and were resolved to do something about it.
If Bureo s story can teach social entrepreneurs one thing, it s that finding an innovative solution to a challenge requires a lot of research, networking and trial and error. What s more, innovation doesn t always present itself as obvious. In fact, sometimes the obvious answers are not the most effective for tackling your problem.
To be sure, the ideation process was an adventure. In the early days, the only things they knew for sure were that they would be working with plastic and would be recycling that waste into something useful. But into what, and how, was still debatable. We went down the road of crazy ideas, says Stover. In the end, they let their passion dictate their primary product - skateboards, an especially timely choice considering the resurgence of plastic skateboard decks at the time.
As to how they landed on fishing nets, well, it came down to additional research. First, they debunked the misconception that you can recycle and combine all ocean plastic into viable products. Next, they looked at plastic bottles. But HTP (from which they are made) is weak and tends to break down a lot. Besides, they didn t want to compete with the abundance of collecting and recycling initiatives already in motion. We would have been lost in the masses.
The questions became, What plastic product wasn t being addressed? Where was there a lack of infrastructure? Through discussions with fishing communities, they learned that, due to cost and efficiency, fishermen would often discard old fishing nets on beaches, workshops or at sea. (Landfills were privatized in Chile, which made that route an expensive proposition.)
The more they asked, the bigger they realized the issue was. Fishing nets make up about ten percent of plastic pollution in ocean, according to Greenpeace, a statistic echoed by Ocean Conservancy, which reported that it was one of the top ocean polluters. Not only do they take a long time to decompose, fishing nets are harmful to marine mammals, who get caught in their tentacles, to reef systems and to ocean ecosystems in general.
It was time for a trial. The trio were lucky to have taken part in a startup program at Northwestern University, IDEO. It was there they had the opportunity to work with R D teams, feeding truckloads of fishing nets into the recycling machine to test their crazy plan. Sure enough, they found that fishing nets can be made into durable pieces of plastic.