Profitable Purpose

This year at SXSW at the CNN Grill, I was introduced to Adam Braun from Pencils of Promise. Since then, I've had the chance to learn more about what he and his team are doing and the growth of their impact through the world. He recently gave a talk to Google Zeitgeist and walks through what he believes is the future of social good, the ideas around Profitable Purpose. Tying in a lot of the ideas that I am kicking around as it pertains to the mindset of a Philanthropreneur, I thought it was definitely worth sharing.

Measured Impact

On of the most important things for me in the organizations that I choose to get involved with is measured and managed results. Earlier this week I wrote a post about how much I enjoy being a part of Kiva and offering some invitations for other to get involved. I was pumped to see folks take me up on the offer. But even more exciting than that, they then invited some of their friends to get involved. And then they invited their friends. And, less than 12 hours later, 26 people had joined up with Kiva and made 31 new loans to help entrepreneurs in 17 different countries.  I was able to pull all this information together because of Kiva's awesome website and being able to see the impact that each person chose to make.

And, as I recently revealed, I carry Crayola markers in my backpack. Over coffee this morning I made my own version of an Infographic to depicted the spread of the impact.

Thanks to everyone who got involved and big props to Kiva for making this initiatives something that was so easy to be a part of and so transparent to show the reach of the impact.

The First

Since the day she was born, my sister Katie has been the first to do a lot of things. The first in our family to get a tattoo. The first to skydive. The first to give up her Thanksgiving holiday to serve people in India. Today she's begun her next first: riding her bike across New York. The whole state. In five days. Katie first told me about her ride last year and that she had found an awesome way to do something adventurous and bring awareness to an issue that is important to her (and the world), human trafficking. There are millions of men, women, and children that are suffering the injustice of slavery and worse around the world and Katie's heart for these mostly unknown and voiceless people group compelled her to action. When she arrives in Buffalo today, she'll be meting up with a group of other passionate adventures from around the world and their bikes and beginning a trek across the Empire State. Each day they'll ride as a team and each night they'll be hosting rallies and meetings in the cities where they'll be staying to bring awareness to the cause and share how folks can get involved and help.

To say that I am proud of my sister would be a huge understatement. She is the most selfless and authentic person that I know and I can't wait to see her next weekend when she rides into the Big Apple.

If you want to keep track of her journey, or cheer her one, check her out on Twitter: @Ellweezie

Collective Leap of Imagination

It could be called the Sundance for Social Entrepreneurs. Or perhaps the SXSW for those with intent to change the world. Maybe even the Davos for the doers. Whatever analogy the strikes your fancy, the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, England was more than most could have imagined.  From performances by Peter Gabriel and Baba Maahl to a brand new film being premiere by the Sundance Film Institute to tmoving ideas shared by Princess Noor of Jordan and the incredible wisdom Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu - there wasn’t a shortage of incredible moments. But aside from the headliners and names that everyone knew before the event started, the new names and faces of social entrepreneurship have stolen the show.  From the moving speech of Rebecca Onie from Health Leads to the inspiring vision of Ned Breslin from Water for People, the big ideas and new level of accountability in action has been the undertone of the event.

Having attended Sundance, SXSW, and now Skoll World Forum this year, it was clear that each event had the potential to be an echo chamber for its audience.  Not every film at Sundance was amazing, nor every start-up at SXSW revolutionary.  The same could be said of Skoll: not every good intentioned entrepreneur had an idea that will change the way that you and I think about life in the community or field that they are working in.  But, the overwhelming and incredible part about the community that descended on Oxford is this: that’s okay.  Failure is accepted as a normal part of innovation and a possible outcome for the current strategies being played out by the teams that were in attendance.  The further they sail from the shores of conventional wisdom, the closer they are to create a new normal for the constituency they serve. A new normal that brings about permanent change in the real world and for generations to come.

When we understand that failure is a natural part, and even a predominate part, of the road to success, the less fear we have as we approach a new initiative or big idea that we don’t know will work.  As seen by the incredible stories of change at the Skoll World Forum, the timeline on which success must be viewed is much longer than we expect and will require the input and buy in of more people than we know.

Cara Mertes, the Director of the Sundance Institute's Documentary Film Program and my host in Oxford, has shared a quote with me a couple of times that I believe sums it up nicely.

“Every moment of major social change requires a collective leap of imagination” - Jeff Chang

Tourism for Peace

I recently quoted Matt Damon on the need for Thicker Passports.  At the end of his statement, he says that "there is no substitute for actually going and seeing things." And in a recent interview with Conde Nast Traveler, Tony Blair echoed very similar sentiments when speaking about the Middle East and his campaign to bring peace to the region. In his opinion, the path to peace won't be "built just by people sitting in a room negotiating." But instead:

"It’s built by what happens on the ground. If we could develop tourism in the way that it should be developed in the Holy Land, where Israelis and Palestinians were working together to exploit the common potential, that would be a major bonus for peace... We need a joint plan for tourism so the Israelis and the Palestinians can come together to develop sites and market them properly. Second, we need changes in policy. We need to let visitors and tourist guides—both Israeli and Palestinian—move around freely."

And then he said something that really fits into some of the bigger ideas of combining entrepreneurship and social change that I love speaking about, the ideas of the Philanthropreneur. He said:

"If people start to get a stake in the future, they will have a self–interest in peace, which is why the growth of the Palestinian economy is so important. Palestinian people on the West Bank are thinking that if they start getting somewhere, then they’ll become more prosperous, be better able to raise a family, do the things they want to do."

When people believe that their actions influence change in their lives and the lives of people that they care about, they will act more boldly.  But, when they believe that their actions will undermined by forces greater than themselves, such as governments or corrupt religious officials, the majority will play the role of victim, not hero.  With a vested interest in their community and an idea bigger than themselves, the barriers of ignorance and racial tensions will, eventually, be overshadowed by mutual success and the realized promise of a better life for all.

How To Start a Movement

Lat month I had the chance to be a part of CMJ 2010 here in NYC by moderating a panel called "How to Start a Movement."  It was a really privilege to be a part of the event and share the stage with some incredible talents whom each are making big waves in their industries.  The room was packed and when our session was over, there was a sense that we could have continued the conversation and Q&A with the audience for another hour or two. The panel was made up of (L to R) the man on a mission Kenny Laubbacher of Invisible Children, rock star designer Jac Vanek, visionary Constantine Roussos of (dot)music, tastemaker extraordinaire Nic Harcourt and myself.   As the five of us met in the green room before we got on stage, I realized the opportunity that we had to really share some big ideas with our audience and I furiously scribble notes as on top of my outline to make sure that no good ideas went unshared.  My hope was to give our audience of passionate young musicians, artists, and visionaries an real understanding of how each of the panelist took their ideas from concept to reality and share the challenges and victories along the way.  We talked about the problem that prompted their decision to take action, the plan they began with, and the people that were the most important to their success thus far.

There is a great recap of some of those thoughts HERE and Jac's thoughts on the day HERE

The name of this panel was inspired by a talk given at TED in Long Beach, CA in 2010 by Derek Sivers.  In his talk he breaks down what it takes to start a movement.  Check out this 3 minute video for a great break down of his thoughts as well.

There STILL Aren't Words

Last week I returned from spending a week in Argentina with a team from TOMS Shoes, AT&T, and Gowalla.  My biggest fear before the trip was not yellow fever or being separated from my iPhone for 5 days, but that I wouldn't have the words to describe the trip when I returned.  That fear has been realized.

For the past week, as I have talked with family and friends about the trip, I have resorted to words like "amazing," "awesome," and "incredible" to capture the sentiments of my memories and in place of the ability to truly convey the life changing experience that took place.  It is a strange place for me to be; without words.  It is a humbling place to be, to know that I experienced something that, naively, I had hoped I'd be able to capture in 140 characters or a succinct summary for a blog post. And it is a refreshing feeling to know that the story we began in Argentina has only really just begun.

I wish I had the words to describe what it is like the first time you get down on your hands and knees in front of a little eight year old girl named Clarissa and take off her hand-me-down hole-filled shoes and place a brand new pair of TOMS on her feet.  I wish there were words for her smile as she admired her new shoes for the next hour knowing the they were hers for forever and that they were beautiful.

I wish I could show the highlight reel from a soccer game that I organized with 20 boys and a new soccer ball.  I would love to show the pride that I felt when I, in completely broken Spanish, and with the help of a great kid named Andoline, convinced them to all line up, shoulder to shoulder, from "Grande" to "Pequeno," and then split them into two teams, "Unos" and "Doses." The pure raw talent that came out on the field, the joy that something as simple as a new soccer ball brought, the images of all these boys running faster because of new shoes on their feet: how can I show that?

I wish I had the words to capture the pride in Juan Carlos Sr's eyes as I placed a brand new pair of TOMS on 5 year old Juan Carlos Jr's feet.  I wish I could capture the pure joy on Juan Carlos Jr's feet as he took his first steps EVER with shoes on.  There aren't words for that kind of joy or the feeling I had when he started to run like he'd probably never run before, feet protected from the rough earth below.

As I fight for to recount the images, stories, and people who impacted me in Argentina, I am fighting even more with the responsibility to live up to the knowledge that I now carry with me.  The knowledge that one simple idea can change the world...  That one passionate attempt to help 250 kids 4 years ago has led to an adventure that has now helped over a million...  To see firsthand a model of sustainable giving in action and have my hypothesis on business as force of change validated...  To know that the bar for potential impact on this world has been set that much higher...

Those are the words that I am fighting to find.  And it is the fight that I look forward to fighting.

(photo credits: Josh Williams)