Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

SOCAP15 Tickets on Sale Now

December 18th, 2014


You spoke. We listened. 

We heard many of you wanted to take a break for Labor Day so this year we are moving SOCAP to October. Here’s your chance to enjoy Burning Man or recharge with friends before heading to SOCAP!

Join the world’s leading social innovators in San Francisco at Fort Mason Center, October 6-9 for SOCAP15. Buy your tickets today.

Tickets are on sale early so those of you who have money left in your professional development budget can take advantage of this great price. SOCAP is a great educational opportunity to learn directly from entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders and social innovators to accelerate your career.

We are offering the lowest SOCAP15 ticket rate that will be available – 50% off at $697.50 – until December 31, 2015.

SOCAP15 is building off a SOLD-OUT 2014 EVENT that gathered 2,200+ innovators representing 60+ countries. If you’re committed to enriching your own social impact knowledge, career, projects & networks while helping to build the momentum of a global movement don’t miss SOCAP15.

Your ticket will include access to 3 full days of content, meals, evening parties, online connection platform & more.

P.S. If you would like to pay for part of this with money from your 2014 budget and pay the rest in 2015, email for more information.

Flip Labs unveils results of DISCOVERY LIVE: Crowdsourced insights from SOCAP14

September 5th, 2014

Over the past three days, Flip Labs has been crowdsourcing insights from SOCAP14 attendees through a process they call Discovery Live. Two large panels across from the coffee area in the Festival Pavilion hosted a grid of five challenges facing social enterprises that were identified through pre-conference interviews, which was gradually populated with sticky notes on which passersby wrote down the solutions they’ve adopted to tackle these challenges.


This morning, after some pattern recognition and qualitative analysis to synthesize the advice generated from the crowd, Flip Labs unveiled the following overarching principles for experiencing greater success in the social impact world:


Make the Pie Bigger:
Stop thinking about grabbing your “share” of the opportunity. It’s big enough to collaborate, or you can make it bigger by doing so. Invite competitors into the problem-solving space and find ways to make them allies. This anti-scarcity thinking also captures the strategy of broadening a customer base by drafting off of existing values, rather than forcing your version of what people should care about into a market.

Build and Sell Iteratively: You have to get things done and sell your idea before its execution is perfect. And it won’t ever really be “finished.” Get comfortable working in phases, going through short cycles of inventing, testing, incorporating feedback and revising—and communicate transparently throughout the process as you learn and even fail. This form of emergent strategy builds organizational resilience and long-term sustainability.

Become an Intermediary: New markets often lack the players to smooth the way for transactions, whether those take the form of knowledge exchange or purchases. Building connections, pathways, and accessible onramps to link existing resources (natural, human, capital) to needs is often the key activity to build market momentum.

Live in an Ecosystem: Don’t build your company or organization as though your solution is the only one, or even the “best.” Your idea resides in an ecosystem of solutions, many of which need to succeed to amplify your work. Understand the value of partnership and collaboration for that reason. Likewise, when the various stakeholders who are residents in the system foster collaboration and collective ownership, impact grows.

The colorful grid of pie charts, which is color-coded by conference track, shows how different companies and organizations that attended SOCAP14 are using certain principles to overcome specific stuck points. The size of the chart roughly corresponds to the number of Discovery Live participants it represents.

In the next two weeks, Flip Labs will be conducting some further analyses of the info they collected for inclusion in a short summary document, which will be available for download from their website:

Thursday Plenary: “Fear not. The world is beautiful. Trust the world.”

September 4th, 2014

By: Danielle Abraham

Do not underestimate the determination or resilience that is required to realise your vision and meet with success. That was the message sent out this morning to the budding social entrepreneurs sitting in the audience.

An inspirational case study in determination and resilience was presented during this morning’s early plenary session through the story of Leila Janah – the founder and CEO of Samasource. An innovative social business, Samasource connects women and youth living in poverty to dignified work via the internet. Samasource is now an award winning 501(c)(3) non-profit with support from leading individual donors and philanthropic organisations including The Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, the U.S. Department of State, and, just to name a few.


Leila Janah

Leila Janah

Such success, however, did not come easily. During her conversation with Kevin Jones, they recounted the tough early years she faced trying to get Samasource off the ground. Kevin recalled that when they first met he gave her $50 a month as a protein donation because she was only eating ramen!

Leila shared with the audience that at the beginning she received a lot of negative feedback about her idea. People were not convinced by her vision, politely informing her that women from the slums will never be able to do computer work. Convinced that the problem was not with the intelligence of these women but the lack of opportunity, Leila pressed on, her determination and resilience shining through.

During those early stages her real validation came from the people on the ground. Alongside that validation Leila was aware that the most worthwhile ventures are usually the hardest, and it was in this context that her grandmother’s motto “Fear Not. The world is beautiful. Trust the world” made so much sense to her.

However, solid determination, resilience and trusting the world alone will not lead to success. It is just as important to pair such qualities with an understanding of when you should stop or change direction. As Leila suggested, the trick is to know when to adjust and pivot and not to give up too early!  So how do you know?

Kevin probed Leila to share with the audience the advice she would give to aspiring social entrepreneurs on this point. Her key pieces of advice were:

  1. Set clear goals and targets. If you are not meeting them you should begin an evaluation process, see what is going wrong and adjust accordingly.
  2. Along with such metrics it is important to remember that every model has an incubation period. Most initiatives cannot get off the ground or gain traction for three years – so ensure you have enough funding to really give it a good run.
  3. Don’t quit before adjusting or pivoting.

Leila’s final words of advice were to the young social entrepreneurs who would like to follow in her path. “The most important thing is to clarify your core values and then when you have decided on a model embrace it with grace, grit and optimism.”

Danielle Abraham is the Co-Founder of ID² Invest for Impact – an Israeli venture facilitating the connection between impact capital and Israeli enterprises with technological solutions for the BoP and emerging markets.

#SOCAP14: Challenges in Scaling Inventions

September 4th, 2014

By: Meg Watkins

At a session this morning here in the acknowledged tech capital of the country, the audience represented a pretty saturated market when it comes to devices. There were several Macbook Airs in the first few rows alone, and surely every pocket contained a smartphone.

DayOne Waterbag


It’s clear that even recent technological advances have changed our lives in significant ways. What is less clear is how the development, production, and distribution of those products happens, particularly in underdeveloped markets. This panel, entitled “First in Flight: the Challenge of Scaling Inventions”, aimed to spark discussion around making innovations available to those who need them most, with representatives from D-Rev, DayOne Response, Inc., NCIIA, Village Capital, and The Lemelson Foundation offering perspectives from their different places on the innovation value chain.

One of the only points of obvious dissimilarity came with the definition of scale. In our metrics-obsessed community, we talk a lot about numbers, but it’s often difficult to understand what those numbers mean or who picks them. For D-Rev, reaching scale is about reaching every last person who might need a particular type of prosthetic; for NCIIA, it’s about helping entrepreneurs to touch a million end users and then passing them off to other funders. The question around scale –when it’s reached and what it is – is really the fundamental question of social enterprise: where and when does the balance of dollars and impact stop making sense?

For different organizations that balance point will happen in different places.  In hardware, with its overlapping regulatory and cost and design demands, and in base-of-the-pyramid-focused innovation, the money often runs out before an entrepreneur can even start looking to expand. This is particularly true for products that require a lot of iteration and end-user contact before going to low-rate production. Rob Weiss of D-Rev spoke about how crucial customer input was to the design of a prosthetic knee, and Tricia Compas-Markman of DayOne Response concurred with her own story about how customer input on a low-level prototype helped them rethink the closure on a water storage bag (sand and a Ziploc-type seal did not mix). Both organizations had the ability to return to the lab and make the product even better, improving the lives of their customers, but this is not true for all organizations. For example, Janine Elliott of NCIIA mentioned the development of a potentially groundbreaking new type of breast pump, which requires lengthy FDA approval and thus has stalled for lack of funding.

Financing hardware development provides a stark example of one of the key tensions of the social enterprise world: investment in innovation is a high risk, high reward proposition, and the potential reward here is better, longer lives for more of us.  It’s true that less red tape and more customer involvement could always make the process easier, but no matter your definition of scale, no matter how saturated any market seems to be, the development of truly disruptive products can improve lives.

Pictured: DayOne Response’s waterbag in use (from

Pictured: D-Rev’s iterations of its ReMotion knee joint, altered after extensive customer interviews (from

Meg Watkins is a 2014 graduate of the Yale School of Management and a San Francisco resident.

Opening Plenary: Focus on Resilience

September 4th, 2014

By: Meg Watkins

At this morning’s Plenary Session, in a room full of attentive entrepreneurs, investors and managers, in yoga pants, suits or saris, Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation referenced the famous 1906 earthquake that decimated San Francisco. After some of the smoke had cleared, Edward Harriman of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company saw a unique opportunity: he focused rebuilding his lines in the areas that had been most severely damaged, thus creating a business-savvy investment that also helped the citizens of the city most in need. As Rodin pointed out, this was only the beginning of the rich history of combining meaning and money in the Bay Area.


Kevin Jones - Blog


At this morning’s Plenary Session, in a room full of attentive entrepreneurs, investors and managers, in yoga pants, suits or saris, Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation referenced the famous 1906 earthquake that decimated San Francisco. After some of the smoke had cleared, Edward Harriman of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company saw a unique opportunity: he focused rebuilding his lines in the areas that had been most severely damaged, thus creating a business-savvy investment that also helped the citizens of the city most in need. As Rodin pointed out, this was only the beginning of the rich history of combining meaning and money in the Bay Area.

Each new stress or shock to our economy reinforces the relevance and necessity of investment in robust systems as well as individual organizations. Several speakers at this morning’s Plenary – Kevin Jones, co-founder of SOCAP, Antony Bugg-Levine of Nonprofit Finance Fund, and Sir Ronald Cohen among them – stressed the importance of investment in infrastructure. Unsurprisingly, there are several sessions this week on building resilient communities (including one on the Rockefeller Foundation’s initiative 100 Resilient Cities); after all, the advent of impact investing as a defined sector has coincided with a period of worldwide economic shocks. Willy Foote of Root Capital, when asked about his organization’s learnings in the past few years, talked about appreciating how any one endeavor is just a participant in its ecosystem. As Judy Wicks of White Dog Café pointed out, “There is no such thing as a sustainable business, only a sustainable system.”

This holistic focus on systems is exactly what SOCAP is for.  When SOCAP began eight years ago, it filled a hole by providing a forum for connection, to help make individual organizations more impactful and, of course, more resilient. This coordination has helped the sector grow tremendously and enabled organizations to become increasingly specialized. Just like Harriman’s railroad, these linkages help the community to fill gaps in the market, which helps everybody.  Kevin Jones attributed SOCAP’s growth to the “unlikely ally” effect: the interdependence that arises when private and public and non-profit collide. Eight years after its founding, SOCAP now welcomes hundreds of “unlikely allies”, from corporations trying to access new markets at the bottom of the pyramid to small-scale entrepreneurs. Each one is a crucial member of this community, which requires an unprecedented level of cross-sector interdependence to flourish. If the past few years of growth and the spirited discourse at SOCAP 2014 are any indication, that interdependence is thriving, and so is the sector’s resilience.

Last week the Bay Area experienced another earthquake. This one did not result in the vicious fires of 1906, but it did serve as a reminder of how crucial it is to create and support hardy systems by choosing our investments wisely. SOCAP is the perfect place to look for a different kind of disruption, and to ignite – not fragile homes and cities – but vibrant, healthy, rock-solid communities to action.

Meg Watkins is a 2014 graduate of the Yale School of Management and a San Francisco resident.