Social Spark- cultivating a socially conscious and entrepreneurial spirit in youth

Here’s a guest piece from Social Spark: Our society is continuing to face challenges. Yet, when it comes to developing solutions, youth are often overlooked despite being curious, resourceful, and passionate. Young people have the potential to not only be leaders of the future, but also change-makers of the present if empowered through appropriate training and guidance. Presenting Social Spark Social Spark is a non-profit that aims to spark change by cultivating a socially conscious and entrepreneurial spirit in youth. Through our various programs, we are: • Promoting the pursuit of sustainable solutions to complex social issues • Engaging youth through hands-on opportunities to exercise their creativity, knowledge, and passion • Training the next generation of promising social entrepreneurs and leaders For 2012, we have partnered with the University of Toronto, Ryerson University and Western University to deliver our program through hubs on their respective campuses. Guided by a central managing team, each of our hubs will provide Social Spark members the following: A monthly speaker series to inspire members on the topics of shared value, and social innovation and entrepreneurship. Our online platform will also provide resources to allow Canadian students to learn about what it takes to create social change. Case competitions and relevant job postings will be made available to all members. The case competition will allow members to apply critical thinking and social innovation to existing business problems. Internships will also provide members the opportunity to work closely with our partners. Our Social Venture Challenge (SVC) will feature 9 teams, 3 at each hub, participating in an intensive 8-month program with the goal of creating thriving social ventures. Participants will be provided with over 90 hours of hands-on mentorship and education from experienced professors and practitioners, as well as access to funding and the opportunity to pitch to investors.

Krochet Kids Intl- Empowering people in Uganda and Peru through the production and sale of products

Krochet Kids intl. is a non-profit accessories brand that is working to eradicate poverty
through sustainable economic development programs and unique, one-of-a-kind
products. The organization is currently working in Northern Uganda and Peru to fulfill its
mission statement – to empower people to rise above poverty.

Every KKi product is hand-signed by the woman that made it so you can know both who
and how you are helping. Learn more and view products on their website: http://krochetkids.org

KKI is in the running for a $1 million grant from Chase Bank, and if they win they will be able to start this program and join in helping the American population. You can learn more about this at: http://www.krochetkids.org/aga/

Book Review: Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City

I just finished reading Startup Communities: Building An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem In Your City by Brad Feld.  This book codifies the steps aspiring leaders need to take to create a startup friendly community anywhere. Several years ago when I was living in Northern California, I was engaged in a debate with a startup veteran on why Silicon Valley was what it was—a place where new transformational technologies would be invented every few years and create billion dollar industries overnight.  There are a few old reasons: – The defense industry had left a legacy of technology companies and these companies form the foundation of innovation
- The amount of venture capital money in the area is the glue and magnet that keeps drawing entrepreneurs to the area
- Stanford and UC Berkeley are very good engineering schools and they continue to feed the area with smart and technical founders

What my opponent argued, and convinced me, is that it’s not really about one of these things but rather the ecosystem where various firms were the organisms that had give and take relationships with the environment around them. A corollary to this was that Silicon Valley was extremely unique and it would be very difficult to replicate the model elsewhere.  I still believe this but that doesn’t put me at odds with Startup Communities. Brad Feld’s point in Startup Communities is that instead of trying to replicate Silicon Valley, the better approach is to support the growth of a community that takes advantages of the strengths and resources of the locale. Startup Communities is the manual for aspiring startup community leaders.  It dives into the who, how, and why of building an ecosystem.  What makes this book so good is that Brad’s experience really shines when describing certain personalities you might meet, classical pitfalls, and the best attributes for leading the growth of a community. Every town or city can sprout a startup community that’s unique to that particular locale.  This book is definitely worth checking out if you are passionate about startups and want to create a local ecosystem to support it. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon.

Rounding Up Volunteers, via New Apps

This New York Times article describes how the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy necessitated the development of mobile apps to organize volunteers and relief efforts: > Not long after the hurricane hit, Mr. Sims’s company was among those that began organizing events known as hackathons, where programmers and engineers develop applications and services around a central need or theme. George Shank, an interactive software developer who works with Mr. Sims, helped build a service called Sprout Help that relays information about where to send supplies and how to volunteer effectively. “A lot of it stemmed from wanting to help but not being sure how to do it,” Mr. Shank said. “We heard stories of people going to fire stations to volunteer and being turned away.”

Read more here.

NY Times: The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur

Here’s an opinion piece on the New York Times Fixes Blog from David Bornstein on the roots of social entrepreneurship and where it is today: > With the new attention has come confusion about what social entrepreneurs do, however. One problem stems from the word “entrepreneur,” which, to many, is synonymous with “businessperson,” and therefore implies that social entrepreneurs simply redeploy business skills and tools to build enterprises to solve social problems. However, some of those who track this work most closely say that the greatest strength of social entrepreneurs isn’t in the way they build ventures to deliver products or services, but in the way they connect people in new configurations and, in so doing, help people work together more effectively, influencing their career or life pathways.

 [Read more here](http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/13/the-rise-of-social-entrepreneur/?ref=opinion).

Amicus Uses The Social Graph To Improve Non-Profit Fundraising

Amicus is a new startup that recently came out of Y Combinator, a well known and highly regarded startup incubator based in Silicon Valley. They’ve recently raised $3.2 million in venture capital to launch their product which uses the social graph to improve non-profit fundraising. Description from TechCrunch: > Fundraising phone calls from strangers make people hang up. But if the caller’s a friend, friend of a friend, or is similar to you, you’re more likely to donate. Amicus has just raised $3.2 million to offer this social graph intelligence to non-profits. Y Combinator, FF Angel, 500 Startups and more have put money down because they think fundraisers will put money down on Amicus to get donors to…put more money down. Non-profits spend $0.20 of every dollar they raise on overhead, and a lot of that goes to inefficient fundraising. That equals $60 billion last year for U.S. non-profits alone. Until recently, though, there was no way to know who on your giant potential donor list was connected to your teammates. But now there’s Facebook. And there’s Amicus CEO and co-founder Seth Bannon. “I’ve been involved with causes since I was 14 and I’ve always been super frustrated,” he tells me. “I thought crappy tech was holding the causes back and wasting my time and my volunteers’ time. So a few colleagues challenged me to fix it and here we are.” Other plays in the social fundraising space like Causes and Fundly are focused on using Facebook and Twitter as channels for sending indirect invitations to donate. But Bannon thinks “those mediums are still very spammy. They’re not really great at compelling donations.” Anyways, only 11 percent of donations are raised online. The rest come from the tried and true methods of fundraising — phone calls and snail mail. Just think of it this way, Bannon explains: If a friend sent me a Facebook invite to donate, I have no problem ignoring it, because they probably wouldn’t even know. If a friend sent me an email, I might ignore it but I’d feel guilty. If a friend called me, I’d call them back. If a friend sent me a postcard I’d be giddy. So Amicus concentrates on getting non-profits more donations per phone call or snail mail. How? It combines the non-profit’s mailing and phone call lists with the Facebook data of all their supporters. It looks for matches and assigns staff members to call or mail people who are their friends, friends of friends, or who they have interests or other biographical data in common with. “Hi, I’m Josh calling on behalf of the Red Cross. We went to the same high school / are both friends with Eric Eldon / both love the San Francisco Giants. Can I tell you about our fundraiser for Hurricane Sandy?” The answer is more likely to be yes. And that’s why non-profits are willing to pay for Amicus. The startup is already profitable, in fact.

Two Degrees Food: A Nutrition Bar That Gives Back

NBC’s Today Show tomorrow (Nov 15) will feature a segment on Two Degrees Food. Here’s a quote from AARP’s blog post on it: > Walters along with his co-founder, Will Hauser, a 25-year-old former Wall Streeter joined together in 2010 to form a company with the purpose of doing business for good. By that, I mean developing “Two Degrees Food,” a nutrition bar company where a portion of the proceeds go to feeding hungry children both here and abroad. Two generations, both yearning for a new “life calling”! They had no real food manufacturing company experience, only believing they had enough connections and experience between the two of them to create a profitable start-up company that works for good.

A blog about how social entrepreneurship is making this world a better place