Monthly Archives: April 2009

Obama’s effort to address Social Innovation

I had previously written about the impending Service Act and President Obama’s editorial support for this legislation.

Well the day finally arrived when this legislation was signed into law by the President. On April 21, 2009, at a signing ceremony attended by Senator Edward Kennedy, after whom the act is named, President Obama said:

“We’re doing this because I’ve always believed that the answers to our challenges cannot come from government alone.”

“Our government can help to rebuild our economy and lift up our schools and reform health-care systems and make sure our soldiers and veterans have everything they need. But we need Americans willing to mentor our eager young children, or care for the sick, or ease the strains of deployment on our military families.”

As part of the legislation, a new White House Office of Social Innovation has been created. Sonal Shah, most recently heading’s global development programs has been tapped to head the office. While we await the official announcement, philanthropy sites have been eagerly abuzz with the news.

Yesterday, Sonal addressed the Global Philanthropy Forum in Washington DC, where she was listed as “Deputy Assistant to the President and Director Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation”. In her remarks to the audience, she outlined the three key areas the new office would focus on.

  • To find out “what are the innovations that are taking place”
  • To provide money to innovative nonprofit projects
  • To promote national service and volunteerism

You can find more information about her talk and additional conjecture about the plans for this office at the Chronicle of Philanthropy site.

Sonal’s experience in the private sector and her work with non-profits together with the charter of the new office, provides innovative social entrepreneurs with a new opportunity for funding and support.

Jacqueline Novogratz – Legatum Lecture at MIT

We are a connected world said Jacqueline as she described the story of her blue sweater, also the title of her recently published book. Once discarded by her at Goodwill, it turned up 25 years later in Rwanda where she found it on a boy in the countryside.

Speaking at the Legatum Center’s Lecture series at MIT, she described the innovative work of Acumen fund and how it helps build social solutions through its venture philanthropy.

She prefaced her talk by some of her observations from her work helping to build enterprises around the world that she undertook since her time in Rwanda.

  • Dignity is more important than wealth for the human spirit.
  • Traditional models of charity won’t solve problems of poverty.
  • Markets can’t solve poverty. 100 Million people went back into poverty last year and that is what happens when you only rely on market forces to solve these problems.
  • What is needed is patient capital that will address these problems

Continue reading

Two social visionaries from India

We were pleased to have Vibha Krishnamurthy and Ashish Karamchandani visit us in Boston on Sunday.

Vibha Krishnamurthy is the founder of Ummeed, ( ) a first-of-its kind center addressing the needs of the estimated 35 million children in India with developmental disabilities. After completing her fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital, Vibha moved back to Bombay determined to bring world class care to disabled children in India. She founded Ummeed in 2001 and it now supports over 1000 patient visits a week. Ummeed provides early diagnosis of development disabilities followed by in-house professional, medical and therapeutic care. It allows families to continue proper care and therapy at home by providing training and education programs for parents. For her tireless efforts to bring care to the disadvantaged, Vibha was named an Ashoka Fellow in 2007.

Vibha’s husband, Ashish Karamchandani is a visionary in his own right. Ashish returned to India to head Monitor’s Indian consulting office where he spearheaded an effort within Monitor to address the challenges of global poverty with market based solutions. He was successful in starting a new area of research within Monitor, Monitor Inclusive Markets, ( that he now leads. The group has brought scientific and business approaches to providing market-based solutions and has initiated financially-sustainable enterprises to address the needs of the bottom 60% of the income pyramid in India. Their work has identified housing as one of the key areas where market based solutions can alter the social and economic landscape of the country. Ashish has recently published a comprehensive report “Emerging Markets, Emerging Models,” based on their solid fact-based research. Continue reading

The 140-Character Mission: Social Media & Social Entrepreneurship

The TiE Boston Social Entrepreneurs Group put on a great interactive panel discussion on using Social Media for non profits. The panelists represented a spectrum of cutting edge users in the social media space. They included (with their Twitter ids)

  • Ken George, New Media Production Manager, WBUR Boston (@kengeorge)
  • Brian Halligan, CEO and Co-founder, HubSpot (@bhalligan)
  • Gradon Tripp, Founder, Social Media for Social Change (SM4SC) (@gradontripp)
  • Joe Waters, Director of Cause Marketing, Boston Medical Center (@joewaters)
  • Kate Brodock, Other Side Group (Moderator) (@just_kate)

After the introductory discussion two non-profits presented their current online challenges and asked the panel for direction/advice

  • Sam Vaghar, Managing Director, Millennium Campus Network (@samvaghar)
  • Julie Soforenko, Marketing and Outreach Coordinator, ACCION USA

It was a terrific session with some great insights and ideas.  I have tried to capture some of the nuggets from the evening in no particular chronological or preconceived order. Continue reading

Cover the basics – what to do when raising capital

Following up on the level headed advice that Chuck Lacy gave prospective social entrepreneurs, I came across a recent post on one of VC blogs that is equally relevant. Here are some excerpts, you can see the entire article at

Cover the basics before you raise capital

… We all know that coming up with market sizing and revenue forecasts for a startup is as accurate as the weatherman predicting the weather.  That being said, VCs want to understand the logic behind the numbers as much as the numbers themselves. Continue reading