SOCAP Voices: A Conversation with Megan Mukuria on ZanaAfrica’s Latest Grand Challenges Grant and New Impact Study on Women and Girls in Kenya

Posted by on April 11th, 2016

In Kenya, one million girls miss school every year because they lack access to sanitary pads and reproductive health education. This lack of access leads to unnecessary shame, preventable illnesses, and unplanned pregnancies that keep women and girls home from school and work, and consequently from achieving their full potential in life. ZanaAfrica Group is a Nairobi based hybrid social enterprise working to solve this challenge by manufacturing, selling, and donating sanitary pads and underwear, while offering easy access to critical health information.

Megan_Mukuria_ZanaAfrica

ZanaAfrica Group Founder and CEO Megan White Mukuria first presented her solution to the SOCAP audience last year as a SOCAP15 Scholarship Entrepreneur. In March of 2016, ZanaAfrica Group was awarded a $2.6M Grand Challenges Grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This four-year grant, given under the Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development (WGCD) initiative, will fund a groundbreaking new impact study. I recently spoke with Megan about the award and other exciting developments in her enterprise and her field of impact.

You had been living and working in Kenya for several years before you founded ZanaAfrica. What opened your eyes to this challenge?

Megan White Mukuria: Back in 2002, when I was working with street children, I put together a cost-per-child budget, and then I further segmented it out by gender. I found that sanitary pads were girls’ second biggest cost, after bread, which was just stunning. I came to understand this expense competes with food. Women and girls often have to choose between buying pads and having dinner. Families are already reducing from three meals to two or two meals to one. Poverty means that you are hungry. When I asked girls what they did when they didn’t have pads, they said time and again “I stay home from school.” I found this unacceptable.

“I found that sanitary pads were girls’ second biggest cost, after bread, which was just stunning. I came to understand this expense competes with food.”

I was like a mom to those 200 girls, and they would talk to me. I couldn’t allow these girls who are like my daughters to go through this. So it was really responsive compassion and love. I had already started a village bakery and several other businesses, and it just made sense to try to start selling sanitary pads. That turned out to be a much bigger undertaking, but one that had the potential to help eradicate poverty.

Meanwhile, I also witnessed how so many organizations had such limited ability to talk to girls about reproductive health because they were limited by their own religious values or lack of comfort around the topic. And so girls were getting unintentionally pregnant and were unable to negotiate sex on their own terms. I thought that was appalling. I wanted to see how I could solve this problem not just for my 200 girls, but for how many? Could I create a sustainable model to serve two million? 20 million? How many commas can we add in there? And when I realized that nobody was going to do anything to sustainably solve these dual challenges of pads and related health education, I decided to step up. So that’s what I’ve done and am still doing.

“… when I realized that nobody was going to do anything to sustainably solve these dual challenges of pads and related health education, I decided to step up.”

Can you describe the WGCD Grand Challenge initiative and the ways that ZanaAfrica’s work fits that program?

Melinda Gates launched the Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development initiative at the Grand Challenges conference in 2014. Melinda Gates has really been looking at how putting women and girls’ voices and needs at the center of development initiatives can lead to stronger long term outcomes.

 The Gates Foundation has taken increasing interest in menstrual health. This is our third Grand Challenges award. We’re one of the longer-term grantees in the Grand Challenges community on the African continent, having been a part of the program since 2011. At the Grand Challenges Africa launch, the Gates Foundation spoke of our work as an example of a project that started out with one type of innovation, the material science innovation of sanitary pads, and through that journey transitioned to a new type of innovation, namely leveraging sanitary pad brands to deliver reproductive health education through engaging, girl-centered comics and a magazine that is anchored in the UNESCO sexuality education curriculum.They also highlighted it as an example of an innovation that was at the fringe and has moved towards the center of their work.

The Gates Foundation and WGCD grantees are together thinking deeply about how to measure “empowerment.” We 19 grantees are really at the epicenter of a movement that is thinking through questions of what empowerment means and how to measure it, including the role of qualitative metrics to capture empowerment indicators. At a recent Monitoring and Evaluation workshop for the initiative, there were a lot of discussions about the importance of qualitative data when it comes to measuring the success of more nuanced gender-based work. That is huge because important projects are too often shelved because funders say, “it’s not measurable.”

Please describe the impact study the grant will fund.

The study is going to be a six-armed randomized controlled trial conducted by Population Council, an international research organization, that will elucidate the role of sanitary pad provision and different health education delivery methods on girls’ educational attainment and well-being. It is a rather large trial–we will be tracking approximately 7,000 seventh grade girls in 120 schools over two years–so as to provide statistically rigorous longer-term results. One of the key areas we will be assessing is whether and how reproductive health education delivered through our magazine and text message-based (SMS) service compares to reproductive health education delivered by a facilitator (someone standing up in a classroom and talking). The latter is the “go-to” approach for health education in Kenya and most countries, but can at times pose challenges when it comes to maintaining not only the quality of content, but also cost-efficiency at scale. ZanaAfrica’s combined magazine and SMS tool offers girls a referable resource that is rooted in their real questions, as well as UNESCO’s technical guidance on sexuality education.

ZanaAfrica’s combined magazine and SMS tool offers girls a referable resource that is rooted in their real questions, as well as UNESCO’s technical guidance on sexuality education.”

In the menstrual health space, much attention has been paid to the returns of menstrual health management and reproductive health education on girls’ school attendance. From our work on the ground over the past eight years, we’ve learned that oftentimes, even when girls attend school during their periods, they may become withdrawn in class due to shame or discomfort. Over our two-year evaluation we will be examining other aspects of educational attainment in addition to attendance, such as matriculation into eighth grade, scores on national exams, and advancement to secondary school. We will also evaluate other factors such as self-efficacy and self-confidence. Assessing these broader areas of potential impact will be of vital importance to global education and health research.   

“Over our two-year evaluation we will be examining other aspects of educational attainment in addition to attendance, such as matriculation into eighth grade, scores on national exams, and advancement to secondary school. We will also evaluate other factors such as self-efficacy and self-confidence. Assessing these broader areas of potential impact will be of vital importance to global education and health research.”

What do you hope will be the ultimate outcome of this impact data?

I hope that it will help organizations, whether large UN entities, small development organizations, or governments, pay attention to this link between menstrual health management and reproductive health education and be able to normalize that intervention across their girl-focused programs. We believe that girls deserve to manage their bodies with dignity because menstrual health management is a basic human right. We also recognize that data is fundamental to large-scale systems change.

“We believe that girls deserve to manage their bodies with dignity because menstrual health management is a basic human right.”

The onset of puberty and the provision of pads is an amazing opportunity to speak to girls about a range of issue that will affect them and to help them be in the driver’s seat of their own destinies. Hopefully governments and organizations that work with girls around the world will begin providing feminine hygiene products such as pads alongside comprehensive sexuality education rooted in girls’ real questions and experiences. That is not currently happening in many parts of the world, including in the US. And to be honest, I think reproductive health education is the next frontier in women’s rights. We deserve to know what is going on with our bodies and the choices and rights we have.

For instance, in Kenya, right now about 45% of girls’ first sexual encounters are unwanted—they are coerced, forced, or transactional. That is stunning and awful and we can and must change this. Answering girls’ basic questions about health, rights, and sexuality, while providing them with pads and tampons can help reduce this dynamic. While the focus of this WGCD trial is not to get statistically significant data to prove this kind of intervention reduces incidences of such trauma, I believe we are going to contribute to a growing evidence base that eventually will answer such questions.

 What call to action would you offer the SOCAP Community?

To any organization that works with girls, I would ask you to consider how you are coming to understand girls’ needs around menstrual and reproductive health. To think about how your organization could leverage that understanding. One of the most powerful ways to engage with girls is to give honest answers to their real questions. The first step is offering a listening ear to whatever they feel the need to say or ask.

I would also add that the field of menstrual health management, tampons and pads, is a $13B global industry with an $85M market in East Africa alone. I think, coming from both a human rights perspective and from a business perspective, we should be asking how can we be innovating products that meet the needs of women and girls who are locked out of the market in a responsible way without being completely extractive.

ZanaAfrica Group is looking at a “buy one–give one” type model locally, where a percentage of the revenue would go back towards giving out free products for girls whose families can’t afford them through our nonprofit arm ZanaAfrica Foundation. This would be the first of its kind that directs sales from within a low-income country to serve needs of girls in that country, which inherently gives greater dignity to consumers, and creates a movement that enhances brand equity. Such a model would require more patient capital. If we are taking out, say, 5% of every product sold to give back to girls that could take slightly longer to repay.

Right now ZanaAfrica Foundation supports 10,000 girls a year throughout Kenya by delivering reproductive health education, sanitary pads, and reusable cotton underwear through a network of 21 community based organizations, while also collecting data on each of those girls every term. While the Foundation receives some institutional support, we also rely on a strong network of grassroots donors to help fund our programs. A donation of $10 can help provide a girl with the tools she needs to stay in school for an entire academic year. I encourage the SOCAP community to support our Foundation’s work or just learn more about how this issue is affecting so many girls in Kenya (and around the world).

For those interested in supporting the work that ZanaAfrica is doing on the manufacturing and product development side, we are going to be opening a new round of investments soon. Menstrual health management–real, comprehensive MHM–is a field that can sometimes fall through the cracks when it comes to investment, because this work cannot be classified only as education, or health, or sanitation, or even gender. I urge impact investors to think about broadening the ways at which they are looking at health and education. Educate Global Fund is a fabulous fund out of London that is expanding the definition of educational investment beyond brick and mortars or teachers to include all the educational inputs that school children need, including menstrual products, sanitation, and more. I think taking a more integrative and ecosystem approach is where this space is heading and where it should be heading.

“Menstrual health management–real, comprehensive MHM–is a field that can sometimes fall through the cracks when it comes to investment, because this work cannot be classified only as education, or health, or sanitation, or even gender. I urge impact investors to think about broadening the ways at which they are looking at health and education.”

We are also currently in the process of looking for a CFO for the business, and welcome inquiries about that.

Can you tell us about other developments that have taken place for your enterprise since SOCAP15?

On the company side, it’s been an epic couple of months for us. We’ve introduced our second-generation product design and rebranded our Nia pad products with a new look, as well as sourced a new producer. Also our sales closed last year at $90K and we are serving about 20,000 customers in the market. We’ve experienced 10X growth in sales from 2014, as we have launched into commercial markets to meet the BOP where they want to shop.

On our Foundation side, we’ve really formalized our Accelerator Program. We have five amazing Community Based Organizations that are getting a much deeper dive in terms of basic leadership skills, fundraising, and organizational capacity building. Because we recognize that change comes from within communities, we want to equip existing organizations that are already on the ground to be agents of change from within their own communities.

Also, on the policy side, our team in the US at ZanaAfrica Foundation has been collaborating with advocates in New York who are working to eliminate the “tampon tax” and provide free pads for girls in public schools. As you may know, across the US and the UK, bills are being put forward with advocates and politicians clamoring to end what’s called the “tampon tax,” which is an antiquated tax code on feminine hygiene products that unfairly penalizes women and girls. In some states in the US, prescription drugs like Viagra are not taxed, but tampons are. There is simply no way to justify that.

 “… Kenya was actually the first nation to eliminate a tax on tampons in 2004, ended an import duty on pads in 2011, and through our organization’s advocacy efforts, Kenya became the first nation in the world to provide pads for girls in schools. Now we can help to leverage that expertise to help advocate for girls in New York and other states.”

This has been very exciting–to see the Menstrual Health movement really take off in the United States. What many do not know is that Kenya was actually the first nation to eliminate a tax on tampons in 2004, ended an import duty on pads in 2011, and through our organization’s advocacy efforts, Kenya became the first nation in the world to provide pads for girls in schools. Now we can help to leverage that expertise to help advocate for girls in New York and other states. That is a great example of innovation happening in Africa that we believe America and other countries desperately need. We are committed to helping make that happen, not just in the US, but for girls globally.

What is inspiring you in your work right now? What gives you hope?

I have a strong faith and I think that really helps. I’m also inspired every day by our team. We have such incredible people! On the company side, our brand tagline is Live Your Purpose and I think every one of my team members really is living her or his purpose. They are so smart in their areas of expertise and so passionate about listening to girls and women. With the right people, it is inspiring to see the ideas that I’ve had come to life even better than I originally imagined them. And then the girls themselves inspire me daily. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing girls believe in their inherent value and dignity, and thrive.

Watch Megan Mukuria speak about ZanaAfrica Group’s work on Stage at SOCAP15.

SOCAPTV: How to Eat What Bugs You

Posted by on April 1st, 2016

For Rose Wang, the moment of truth came when a friend dared her to eat a fried scorpion in Beijing. As a Nashville city girl, Harvard student, and self proclaimed “overachiever,” Wang wasn’t one to back down from a dare, although she admits to the audience at SOCAP15 that her first response was fear.

“I closed my eyes and put it in my mouth, and my first thought was: this tastes like shrimp,” she says. “That’s really interesting, because actually insects and crustaceans are very closely related.”  

Insects: Next Level Sustainable Protein

A week later, Rose read a UN FAO report on insects being one of the most sustainable protein sources available. Around two billion people in the world eat insects as a regular part of their diet, and the benefits go beyond nutrition.

Six Foods Diagram

“It takes two thousand gallons of water to make a pound of beef but only one gallon of water to make a pound of crickets,” explains Rose. Crickets, she says, have twice the protein and half the fat of beef for the same amount of meat, without the waste and greenhouse gas emissions you find in the livestock industry.

“It’s a complete animal protein, so basically all of this is to say that the world would be a better place if we all ate insects,” she laughs. “We thought we could change food’s impact on climate change, but it was an idea that people were scared of.”

Launching Six Foods

Rose joined forces with her roommate, Laura D’Asaro, and another Harvard student, Meryl Natow, to launch Six Foods. (“Because six legs are better than four!”) Over time, they became more and more comfortable with the idea of eating insects, experimenting with different insects and modes of preparation.

SixFoodsFounders

They perfected their recipes and honed their pitch, and when they got in front of an investor he said it was the worst idea he had ever heard.

An advisor told them to keep going.

“Maybe you are crazy,” he told them. “But there are a lot of other crazy people out there, so go find them and ask them what they think.”

They ended up launching a Kickstarter for Chirps–chips made from cricket flour–and the response was overwhelming. Together, they raised $70,000 in 30 days, becoming one of the most funded food Kickstarters ever. Last year Rose and Laura were named Echoing Green Climate Fellows and this year they landed on the 30 under 30 list in Forbes.

“Every single day we get to feed people bugs, and, you know, I get to see their face go from being really scared to them being really curious, and then the spark of–‘Oh my god!, I just completely blew my own mind’–come over their face. It’s the most amazing feeling because just for that second we realize that anything, even eating bugs, is possible.”

For more on the story of Six Foods and Chirps, watch Rose Wang’s SOCAPtv session, How to Face Fears and Eat What Bugs You.

Narrowing the Gap Between Entrepreneurs and Investors

Posted by on March 15th, 2016

By Kate McElligott, Director of Strategic Development for the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE)

FullSizeRenderI just returned from Amsterdam after spending a week with dozens of entrepreneurs and investors for the launch of VilCap Communities. The goal of VilCap Communities is to narrow the gap between entrepreneurs and investors by enabling ecosystem leaders—like business accelerators—to build effective training programs for entrepreneurs solving real world problems, while giving investors the tools to make investments in their own sectors or geographies.

What I found most profound while participating in the launch, was, of course, the entrepreneurs! They had such passion and conviction. For years I’ve spoken with philanthropists and impact investors about great ideas in the impact sector, but I’ve never had the pleasure of spending one week with so many global entrepreneurs running businesses in Pakistan, Ecuador, South Africa, Cambodia, Myanmar, and beyond.

What Idea Would Be Worth Risking It All?

image3It takes guts to be a changemaker. Each entrepreneur faces sourcing, logistical, talent and capital challenges. On top of that, they often face cultural and political challenges. By the end of my week in Amsterdam, it seemed that investing—could it be possible?—was the easier part of the equation. And, I had always thought that attracting finance was the most difficult hurdle.

Developing talent is messy and often takes time. Inspiring and coaching the next generation of creative and disruptive innovators is hard work. Talent development is at the core of most business accelerator programs, but without evidence to show what’s working and not working, we’ll never be able to systematically help entrepreneurs in emerging-market contexts overcome these barriers.

 

ANDE and Partners Launch Accelerator Research

I’m proud that the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), in partnership with Emory University’s Social Enterprise @ Goizueta, had a key part to play in the launch of VilCap Communities. Together, with Village Capital, we have embarked on an industry leading investigation to uncover what is working and what is not working in business acceleration. This program, the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI), was launched last year, and we are exploring ways to expand the program.

Since then, we’ve begun to learn more about the effectiveness of accelerators—as well as identify areas needed for growth. This month, we plan to release a full report on our findings, with a special focus on 15 accelerator programs from Village Capital. Please check the ANDE website for this soon-to-be released report later this month.

Currently, we have 56 accelerator partners and we plan to reach over 100 accelerator programs in the coming years. By recruiting new partners, we’ll be well positioned to dive deeper into the nuances of particular kinds of acceleration in particular contexts. Please, join us. Entrepreneurs are risking it all to address the world’s most vexing challenges and investors are coming forward to fund those solutions, which makes the growth and efficiency of accelerators critical in narrowing the gap between these two communities of changemakers.

photoKate McElligott currently serves as the Director of Strategic Development at the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) where she is responsible for developing partnerships to fuel the growth of the small and growing business (SGB) sector in emerging markets. Kate joined ANDE with ten years of experience in relationship management, business development, and marketing for global development and social enterprise. She previously served as Senior Manager, Thought Leadership and Strategic Partnerships at Grameen Foundation where she worked for five years garnering resources for economic development, mobile technology, and livelihood programs. Early in her career Kate spent a year volunteering in China as part of the Harvard Kennedy School’s WorldTeach program, and ran several capital campaigns as a consultant for CCS Fundraising. Kate graduated from the American University with an M.A. in Social Enterprise. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Providence College.

Watch Demystifying Accelerators on SOCAPtv to hear ANDE Deputy Director Jenny Everett talk about the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative on stage at SOCAP15.

How the B Impact Fellowship is Expanding the B Corp Movement

Posted by on March 9th, 2016

HVD headshotB Corporations are leaders in the growing movement to use business as a force for good.  More companies than ever before are assessing their impact and seeking B Corp status to show they are meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. There are now over 1500 B Corps spread across 42 countries, including companies such as Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Warby Parker, and Mission Hub (the parent company of SOCAP). To grow the movement even more, B Lab, the nonprofit that assesses and certifies B Corps, has created the B Impact Fellowship, a program that provides training and professional development opportunities for the next generation of leaders in the impact economy. B Lab is now accepting applications to be part of their second cohort of Fellows. I recently talked to Heather Van Dusen, Director of the B Impact Fellows Program, about the successes they are seeing come out of the Fellowship and B Lab’s plans for the next cohort.

One of the goals of B Lab is to redefine success in business. How does this Fellowship serve that goal?

B Lab has been working to shine the light on leaders in impact over the past eight years through the B Corp Certification, but we know that in order to create broader cultural change we need to be talking to businesses who aren’t B Corps. We must reach out to companies that, though they might not identify with the social enterprise or sustainable business movement, would still really benefit and get value from being able to measure their impact.

“Partners like municipalities, business associations, chambers of commerce, and financial institutions want to learn about how to help their companies measure what matters, but often lack the expertise, time, or bandwidth to really launch an impact measurement program.”

We’ve found that there are a lot of partners who will enable us to reach out to companies we wouldn’t ordinarily get to work with. Partners like municipalities, business associations, chambers of commerce, and financial institutions want to learn about how to help their companies measure what matters, but often lack the expertise, time, or bandwidth to really launch an impact measurement program. The B Impact Fellows are helping those partner organizations bridge that gap and talk to companies about measuring their impact and how to take advantage of the tools we have developed to help businesses improve their performance.

“… if we’re going to build a movement, we have to  leverage the leadership of those 1500 B Corporations to inspire change in the corporate behavior of the 7 million businesses in the United States and millions more around the world.”

The Fellows are working at the frontlines of the movement, which is why I am so excited about this program. They are talking to companies that wouldn’t necessarily seek out B Corp status and teaching them how to measure and improve their impact, while working with community partners across the country to really embed this kind of process into their programming. Reaching out into those broader communities of businesses is how we can encourage all companies to redefine the ways they measure success in their business. It can’t just be about the Certified B Corporation community – if we’re going to build a movement, we have to  leverage the leadership of those 1500 B Corporations to inspire change in the corporate behavior of the 7 million businesses in the United States and millions more around the world.

Can you tell us about some of the results you’re seeing coming out of the first year of the B Impact Fellowship?

Fellows at DanskoWe’ve had amazing success. The first cohort was almost all placed in organizations around New York City to help launch and accelerate the Best for NYC Challenge, which is a campaign designed to encourage all companies in New York to measure what matters: the impact on their communities, employees, and environment. So far, the Fellows have been able to flip the numbers on the types of companies that are coming through the Best for NYC campaign versus the types of companies that are coming to the B Corporation and the B Impact Assessment process by themselves. Generally about 80% of the companies who register for the B Impact Assessment identify as sustainable businesses or social enterprises. And 20% are more traditional companies who might not identify themselves as such. The Fellows got hundreds of companies registered on Impact Assessments through that Best for NYC Challenge and 80% of those are companies that do not identify as social enterprises. It’s this kind of bridge building to groups of businesses who wouldn’t ordinarily seek us out that’s going to create the kind of change we want to see in the world.  

It has also been really exciting to hear stories about how companies are being inspired by this campaign. For instance, a granola company in Brooklyn was inspired by the story of Greyston Bakery, a company in Yonkers that gives folks who have barriers to employment – a history of incarceration or homelessness, etc – a second chance through their open hiring program. That company in Brooklyn is now working with Greyston Bakery to figure out how they can incorporate an open hiring program into their own business. Many more companies have learned about what it means to pay a living wage or how to reduce their environmental impact. The Fellows are developing relationships with partners who would not necessarily have been part of the B Corp movement who are now getting the word out and helping companies consider their impact.

The B Impact Fellowship is becoming a two-year program with a different focus each year. What are the differences between the two years?

We learned a lot over the course of our first year of the Fellowship. One of the biggest lessons was that there is a huge learning curve for the Fellows. This is really in-depth work and in order for Fellows to build a strong foundation of knowledge, not only in the Impact Assessment and the B Analytics tools, but also in how to lead workshops, how to work well with partners and companies, they needed to have more of an immersion experience in B Lab. So the next cohort will be part of the B Lab team for a full year doing re-certifications and on-site reviews and helping the Measure what Matters team with their cohort process so they understand everything at an in-depth level. Then in the second year, when the Fellows will go out to work with their community partners, they will know how to best apply all that they have learned.

One of the reasons that many people apply to become a Fellow is that they are inspired by the B Corp community and want to get a chance to work directly with them. Adding a second year to the program will allow for the next cohort to dive in and work more deeply with the community of B Corporations. By working with that community of Certified B Corporations, Fellows will have the opportunity to see examples of how people are creating impact at scale and learn from the leaders in the space.

What are some of the developments that B Lab hopes to see come out of the Fellowship Program?

megan state islandWe are looking to figure out the best way to leverage B Lab’s tools to support Measure what Matters initiatives in a variety of community partners. This is a newer lens for B Lab, this focus on reaching out and building bridges to other communities of businesses and measuring their impact. So we are new to this. The focus of the Fellows Program is to engage those companies but, from a qualitative perspective, we hope to better understand what programs and resources we can develop for our partners to share or that companies can access individually, that make this idea of using business as a force for good something that is easy. Something that makes taking that first step towards measuring your impact not intimidating or too time consuming, but exciting and valuable for all the companies and parties involved.

What skills, talents, and characteristics are you looking for in B Impact Fellows?

There are three skills that we are looking for in all Fellows. First and foremost would be passion for using business as force for good. We want this to be a springboard into a lifelong career in the impact economy. We want this opportunity to be a meaningful beginning to a career so having a passion for taking this learning into the future is critical.

Secondly, Fellows need to have really great communication skills across the board, whether presenting to the board of your partner about the results of the program or having a one on one conversation with a small business owner about the value of impact measurement. Both in person and written communication skills are necessary. Fellows should be able to break down and communicate ideas in a very clear way.

fellows at partner eventConnected to that is the third quality, relationship building skills. This entire movement, what we are really learning, is all about relationships. We can have all the best tools in the toolbox, but if we don’t have relationships with companies and partners we aren’t going to be able to bring this movement into other kinds of communities. This is really about connecting with people who are different from you; being able to communicate your values in different ways so that people can connect and really understand where you are coming from, as well as the long term vision. To help people understand that we are in this for the long haul, we are in this to change capitalism. And so to be able to bring that kind of long term view, even into a short term process, and build relationships is really going to be key to a successful fellow.

Beyond that, basic qualitative skills are necessary for analytics and assessment pieces. Fluency in a second language is highly recommended. A business background is useful, but not required. We want a diverse set of skills in our next cohort. That should include some folks with business backgrounds, but others as well so we have a diverse set of Fellows.

Is there a call to action you wish to issue the SOCAP community?

Apply or invite someone you think would be great to apply. If you have a company that is not yet a Certified B Corp, get involved. Take the assessment. The best way that we can improve our tools is to have companies actually go through and let us know how we are doing. It is actually a very useful tool for companies to be able to get a sense of their baseline impact and what best practices are out there. And spread the word!

Entrepreneurs: Apply For the B Impact Fellowship

The deadline for applying to be part of the 2016 – 2018 cohort of the B Impact Fellowship is March 18th, 2016.

Apply Here.

SOCAPtv – Clean Tech Needs You: Impact Investors in the Eco Revolution

Posted by on March 2nd, 2016

Dawn Lippert opens her SOCAPtv talk with something of a riddle:

What do Bill Gates, Steve Case, Nancy Pfund, Pierre Omidyar, and Will Smith have in common?

The answer? They’re all clean tech investors.

 

Lippert, the founder of Hawaii-based startup, Energy Excelerator, an organization working to help solve the world’s energy challenges, was at the White House for the Clean Energy Investment Initiative when Will Smith’s investment was announced. It was Smith’s first investment into clean tech, backing a little-known energy startup called Quidnet, an energy storage company that stores energy in underground pockets, like caves.

In a Fortune article, Drew Fitzgerald, energy advisor to the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, called the new model of investing “the next generation of foundational giving.” If the model ends up working, the Smith Foundation hopes other foundations will consider similar types of investments.

“Really, the question is how do you bring these kinds of investors that are interested in the future of our world into clean energy innovation?” asks Lippert. “It’s a new area for them and it’s highly technical.”

What is Clean Tech, Anyway?

Clean tech, or clean technology, is much broader than what we generally think of as just solar, electric vehicles, and transportation.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 9.08.33 AM

“It can actually help children in Tanzania learn to read at night. It can help women in Nicaragua find clean water for their families more easily, and it can help micro-entrepreneurs in Thailand provide distributed cell phone networks to many people,” says Lippert.

At her organization, Energy Excelerator, they think about clean tech as a “full system.”

“So anything that impacts our infrastructure, environment, the place we live — we consider that clean technology. For us, that’s clean transportation, it’s vehicles, as well as mass transit, and data; it’s clean water, it’s security, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable agriculture,” she says.

Over the years, Lippert has seen a shift in the venture capital world in Silicon Valley into things that have faster returns (think Instagram or SnapChat), but that don’t address the large, full system problems we’re facing.

“Our mission is to bring much of this money from these foundations back into this [clean tech] space and talk about how long-term commitments to these problems can be a great match for impact investors who have a long-term need to see their dollars at work,” she says.

Funding the Clean Tech Space

Despite the significant assets held by foundations and the clear environmental impact of clean tech, only a tiny amount of foundation funding goes into clean tech each year.

But, as Lippert is quick to point out, the market is still there.

“Energy’s actually 10 percent of global GDP — it’s a huge market,” she says.

That’s where her organization and others like it are coming into play, trying to bring impact investors back into the clean tech space.

To Lippert, the timing right now is critical:

We’re seeing very rapid transformation in the energy sector in particular, as well as transportation and water, and over the next ten years we’re going to be making decisions that determine how the next hundred years of infrastructure is going to look, in this country and around the world,” she says.

For more on clean tech, including three reasons why impact investors should come back into the clean tech space, and two important tools for foundations wanting to get involved, watch Lippert’s SOCAPtv session, recorded live from the stage of SOCAP15.