The International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) is a professional exchange program dealing with the foreign policy goals of the United States government. In April 2019, 23 representatives from 22 countries took part in an IVLP focusing on social entrepreneurship, exploring the American spectrum of social and impact innovation.
The international representatives are working on a large variety of social change in their home countries - groundbreaking social models in the academia in Turkey, economic re vamp in Chile, small farm holder dignity in Mexico, creative legislation in France, a reimagined vision for poverty in Hong Kong, global cultural revival of Armenian literature, environmental resolutions in Romania, a reinvention of education in Portugal, a new banking paradigm, for stateless people, in Malaysia and much more.
The group traveled to many different cities –the large group visited New York, Philadelphia and Miami together. In a smaller group, Cincinnati and Seattle were explored. Meetings included inspiring entrepreneurs, seeking to transform their communities, bright investors who understand the importance of the new capital paradigm: profit-people-planet, and ecosystem builders and supporters, weaving into reality the global impact revolution.
One of the most inspiring innovators we were privileged to meet was the remarkable Yasmin Mustafa of Roar for Good. Yasmine is a social entrepreneur and Adriane de Rothschild Fellow. ROAR for Good is a woman-led and mission-driven technology company dedicated to creating safer workplaces.
In addition to ROAR For Good, Yasmine launched the Philadelphia chapter of Girl Develop It (a non-profit providing affordable opportunities for women to learn software development) and serves on the board of Coded by Kids (a non-profit providing free tech education to inner-city youth). Her personal story is as inspiring as her company’s vision.
We were also lucky to hear, in New York, from renowned environmental activist Daniel Katz, co-founder or Rainforest alliance - an international non-profit working at the intersection of business, agriculture, and forests to make responsible business the new normal, where people and nature thrive in harmony. With Daniel we discussed potential strategies to battle climate change on a large scale, the evolution of the environmental movement in the US and best practices for environmental impact measurement.
Amongst the innovation programs we met with, one of the most interesting models presented was: Mortar, a Cincinnati based program on a mission to enable under-served entrepreneurs and businesses to succeed; creating opportunities to build communities through entrepreneurship with a “never about us without us” approach and a strong on the ground presence within their target communities.
Team members Derrick Braziel, Karla Dunn, Tim Barr and Royclle Parker shared with us their hands on program and alumni engagement strategies. Alumni, many of whom sell products, are offered to use the space of Brick OTR for pop-up shops, designed to give entrepreneurs a chance to test out their business ideas in real time.
Each program we met had, not surprisingly, different strategies to measurment and management of impact and social return on investment as well as dissimilar expectations of financial ROI (if at all).
One of the more interesting models of measurement is used by an accelerator and VC we encountered in Seattle - Fledge, a global network of conscious company accelerators and seed funds, helping entrepreneurs create impactful companies and co-ops at scale through intense, short programs filled with education, guidance, and a massive amount of mentorship.
Their impact model was presented by Luni Libes, who has written extensively on this topic in his book The Pinchot Impact Index. The scale (1-7) moves from local change to universal enlighten, accounting for intended, actual and potential impact while allowing for a very clear comparison between ventures while being vertical, location and target market agnostic.
One of the most fascinating ecosystem builders we met with was Formative, headed by Jonathan Rosoff, out of Seattle. Formative operates in the arenas of social good and purpose-driven brands, working to design and launch campaigns, programs, and platforms that maximize impact to navigate the complex worlds of marketing, advocacy, and technology to connect with audiences and get results.
In the meeting Jonathan walked us through case studies (e.g. battling homelessness in the US), helped us start thinking about optimal marketing strategies for impact in our communities and shared lessons learned from less successful campaigns.
Another fascinating eco system builder also operating from Seattle is Cascadia Consulting Group there we met with Ruth Bell, Caroline Burney, Emily Chan and Miguel Nigenda. Cascadia is a 100% women owned business. Their processes are based on data gathering, followed by policy and plan development as well as program design and finally, when relevant, active outreach.
Finally, practical free tools we learned about include the B lab assessment, for B corps, and the onboarding questionnaire of TrustLaw helping social organizations assess their legal challenges.
Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash