Monthly Archives: October 2009

World’s largest Business plan competition looks to help social entrepreneurs

To help jumpstart job growth in Massachusetts, a unique public/private partnership, Masschallenge.org, was launched earlier this year. By unveiling what it claims is the world’s largest business plan competition; the folks at MassChallenge are hoping to attract hundreds if not thousands of interested entrepreneurs. While most business plan competitions have been university based in the past, MassChallenge intends to go mainstream with entries accepted from all quarters. With the intent of raising serious money – a target of $25 Million for the first year – it hopes to change the way plans are run by providing the winning teams with $1 million in seed funding. It hopes to run six parallel competitions in the following areas:

  • Healthcare, and Life Sciences
  • IT, Software, and Gaming
  • Clean Technology and Energy
  • Social Development and Non-profit
  • Open Category, Seed Stage
  • Open Category, Expansion Stage

The one on Social Development and Non-profit caught my eye as it is along the lines of what we have been discussing on this blog. As I had said in some of my earlier posts, early stage social innovators sorely need a jumpstart as they face a tougher time raising funds than a for-profit. More importantly, Massachusetts has grown to be a focal point for social innovation attracting the best and brightest to the exciting programs offered in all the leading universities. Coupled with the incentives from MassChallenge and the Massachusetts Government, we have the opportunity to create a new growth cluster in the state. We have an opportunity to retain the top talent attracted to the programs in the area and to channel them to building the next generation of innovative social enterprises here in Boston.

I recently wrote a more detailed article for the MassChallenge.org blog that outlines this and am excerpting it below. Continue reading

Social Media for Social Entrepreneurs

Panel Description for ForSE 2009

One of the most popular panels in the past and one that promises to be very interesting at ForSE 2009, is on Social Media for Social Entrepreneurs.  With Twitter and Facebook revolutionizing the business of marketing, can social activists lag behind? Successful grassroots efforts have helped spread the word to thousands, even millions. But the devil is in the details. How does one turn followers into funders? Motivate movements with your messages? And leverage social networks to create social change?

The experts on this panel have shown others how to maximize their impact with the latest online tools and techniques and they will help you figure out the right approach to integrating social media within your strategies.

Panelists

  • John Haydon, Social Media Consultant @johnhaydon
  • Dan Croak, Thoughtbot @croaky
  • Tushneem Dharmagadda, Director, US Operations India School Fund @tushneem

Moderator

  • Kate Brodock, Founder & Principal, The Other Side Group @just_kate

You can prepare for this panel by reading a thoughtful piece by one of the panelists, Tushneem Dharmagadda, on his blog that describes four tips for Social Entrepreneurs to leverage Social Media. For more advice and great posts on social media strategies, check out @johnhaydon and @just_kate blogs.

Finally the afternoon will include a real live interactive case study highlighting the challenges Lokvani.com, a South Asian community portal and e-magazine with over 40,000 subscribers, faces as it tries to integrate the new media tools into its online strategy. Join Lokvani team members and the content experts to help brainstorm ideas for solving Lokvani’s challenges.  The session will be moderated by Kimi Ceridon (@kalepatech), Founder of Kalepa Tech, a design firm with deep social impact experience.

Towards a Greener Future

I attended a conference “Making Green Economy Real” organized by The Boston Pledge at Bentley University outside of Boston. After opening remarks by Partha Ghosh, founder of The Boston Pledge, that provided some great insights into the challenges facing the economy, Prof. Bill Moomaw, one of the authors of the IPCC report that shared in the Nobel Peace Prize with VP Gore, provided a terrific overview of what was needed for the US to really go green. 

Recently returned from Washington, Prof. Moomaw had accompanied the Tufts team that entered the biannual Solar Decathalon sponsored by the Department of Energy.  The Decathalon is a challenge to design, build and operate a house that is completely powered by solar energy on site at the Washington Mall. Twenty teams from all around the USA, Puerto Rico, Spain and Germany participated. The winner for the second time in a row was Germany. But more important were Moomaw’s observations about the state of the art in solar and energy efficiency as represented by the various entries. Continue reading

Sustainable Business Models for Social Ventures

Panel Description for ForSE 2009

In decades past, many non-profits have achieved only temporary success and limited scale due to dependence on grants and donations. A new breed of ventures has begun innovating revenue models to build greater capacity and sustain operations. These approaches leverage the power of markets to meet social needs. Whether they’re building a socially responsible brand of clothing, providing renewable energy solutions, or bringing banking to the poor, these organizations have discovered the sustainable power of partnering with their customers.

Hear from a panel of innovative organizations that are thinking outside the box in terms of building sustainable models. Click here to register.

Panelists

Moderator

  • Prof Nitin Joglekar, School of Management, Boston University

Equal Exchange – Special In-depth Case Study and solutions brainstorming

Case Presenter: Rodney North, The Answer Man, Equal Exchange

Moderator: Gaurav Rohtagi, Principal, Continuum

Equal Exchange, the Massachusetts-based employee-owned worker co-operative best known for introducing Fair Trade coffee to American grocery stores in that late ‘80s.

Equal Exchange has over 100 employees in 6 states and $35 million in annual revenue. They’ve recently won six different awards for their environmentally and socially responsible business practices including the Social Innovation Award from the Financial Times newspaper and the World’s Most Democratic Workplace award from WorldBlu.

Valuing Social Enterprises

Panel Description for ForSE 2009

As a number of young entrepreneurs launch their social enterprises, one of the areas they all struggle with is attracting socially conscious investors. A challenge for all is how to evaluate a social focused business on metrics other than strict return on investment. A number of innovative organizations have tackled this problem from different perspectives, developing alternate metrics, scorecards and criteria that weigh the benefits from an investment beyond cold dollars and cents. The panelists, all significant actors in this arena, either invest or provide access to social investors and will highlight several interesting approaches that funders use in evaluating social investments.

Panelists

Moderator

  • Prof. John Whitman, Professor, Babson College

Register for ForSE 2009 before rates go up!