What a rush! The podcast, Social Entrepreneur launched on November 8, 2015. In the last two months of 2015, we featured 25 interviews with a wide array of social entrepreneurs and thought leaders. I spoke with founders from Peru, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Uganda, India, Rwanda, Malaysia, South Africa, Australia, Kenya, Indonesia, Canada, and the United States. They ran for-profit, nonprofit, hybrid organizations and university programs. Some ran incubators and many came through an accelerator program. They made me laugh, surprised me (I’m looking at you, Carrie Rich!) and always inspired me.
Social Entrepreneur Organizations
In this article, I’ll tell you a little about twelve of them and invite you to hear them tell their stories. These twelve were the most popular of my guests according to the number downloads. You can always find these and other stories on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Soundcloud or your favorite podcast app.
Fred Rose, Acara
I owe a lot to Fred Rose. When I was first learning about social entrepreneurship, he offered an open enrollment course for aspiring and new social entrepreneurs. Fred is the co-founder and director of Acara, a program of the Institute on the Environment, at the University of Minnesota. Fred’s story takes him from a small family farm to Silicon Valley to Honeywell in India to the University of Minnesota. He’s a bright guy with a huge heart making a massive impact. When you listen to his interview, listen for the question I ask about whether or not he runs an accelerator. His quiet answer will make you laugh.
Julian Maha, KultureCity
The challenges that Julian Maha of KultureCity takes on are huge. He not only wants to change how autism is perceived throughout the world, he wants to rewrite the rules for nonprofits while he’s at it. Julian described the devastation that he and his wife felt when they first learned that their four year-old son suffered from autism. However, it only took one week for Julian to completely change the course of his life, and the lives of hundreds of thousands of others, simply by reframing the issue. His story illustrates how one little shift in your thinking can lead to positive change. Of all of the stories I have featured on Social Entrepreneur, none have received more comments and shares on social media than Julian’s. Listen for how he is building his tribe of motivated followers.
Carrie Rich, Global Good Fund
Carrie Rich told me a story that was so surprising, I almost missed the rest of her important work. If you only have five minutes and you want to be inspired, go to her story here and listen from the [5:34] mark through [10:30]. You’ll be glad you did. However, you’ll want to stay around for the rest of the story. Carrie’s Global Good Fund has an unusual model in that they work with social entrepreneurs with a couple of years of experience under their belt, those who are poised for growth. The Global Good Fund works with them to develop their leadership skills. You know that founders are not always the best CEOs or even COOs. The Global Good Fund gives them a chance to grow their leadership skills in order to prepare them for their next level of responsibility. I love everything about this story.
Shanil Samarakoon, Empower Projects
Shanil Samarakoon is a good soul. He writes poetry, is working on a book of fiction and, oh, by the way, runs a unique social enterprise. Empower Projects uses an asset-based community development approach, which means that they focus on the aspirations of the communities, help the communities to realize the assets that they have at hand, and facilitate meetings in which the communities can take on their own problems. What is interesting about Empower Projects is that they make a five-year commitment to a community before they begin. This seems to be unique among development organizations.
Tanyella Evans, Library For All
I’m always fascinated by the unlikely stories of social entrepreneurs. You might wonder how Tanyella Evans, from a town of around 1,000 people in the highlands of Scotland ends up running a digital platform in Haiti, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cambodia. It’s a great story and one that Tanyella tells so well. What I particularly like about Tanyella’s interview is that she illustrates the power of technology to transform. In the industrial age, Andrew Carnegie built physical libraries across the United States. In the digital age, Library for All leapfrogs the necessity of building physical buildings and distributing printed books, and yet the result, literacy for the masses, is still achieved.
Tom Dawkins, StartSomeGood
Speaking of the power of platforms, Tom Dawkins has a rich history of building platforms for good. His story of synchronous events across two continents would make for a fascinating tale on its own. What’s more interesting to me is the crowdfunding platform that he is building with StartSomeGood. And, he and his team continues to innovate with new offerings such as their tipping point model and CrowdMatch. I honestly don’t know why anyone would use a different platform to raise funds for a social good project.
Stefan Phang, Soap for Hope
Stefan Phang is the only intrapreneur (entrepreneur within a corporate structure) I spoke to in 2015, and listeners were fascinated. His story has been shared and reshared. Stefan works with hotels to convert their leftover bars of soap into hand-crafted artisan soaps. In the process he lifts families out of poverty, provides sanitation to those who would have to do without and prevents one of the roots causes of sex trafficking. Soap for Hope creates a win for Sealed Air, Stefan’s employer, for the hotels and for the local communities. What I love about Stefan’s story is how one individual can make a massive difference if they just begin wherever they are, even inside of a corporation.
Sasha Fisher, Spark MicroGrants
September 11, 2001 changed the trajectory of Sasha Fisher‘s life. She lifted her gaze from her local neighborhood, located just blocks from ground zero, to discover what the rest of the world looked like. As she explored the world, she saw a lot of what did not work when it came to community development. That’s why, with Spark MicroGrants, Sasha takes a different approach. Like Empower Projects, mentioned above, Spark takes an Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) approach. And, Spark MicroGrants puts money behind the ideas developed by the local communities. Spark MicroGrants maintains a 92% sustainability rate for their projects and 97% of the villages where they work continue to stay organized after the initial grant process. Listen to her story to lean how they achieve these results.
Roger L. Martin, Rotman School of Management
If you wanted to characterise Roger Martin‘s career, you will find him attacking models that do not produce the results we want, but persist anyway. I first knew of Roger through his work with A.G. Lafley of Procter & Gamble. Eventually Roger co-wrote the book Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works. I have given away this book to dozens of business leaders. More to the point of the podcast, Social Entrepreneur, Roger also coauthored Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works with Sally Osberg of the Skoll Foundation. In his interview, Roger spent a generous amount of time diving into the four stages of social entrepreneurship. His interview is definitely worth a listen.
Tonya Surman, Centre for Social Innovation
Tonya Surman of the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) knows how to grow social enterprises. CSI operates five spaces for early stage social-mission organizations. They have 165,000 square feet under management and they support and provide space to over 1,000 social-mission organizations. In this interview, I compare Tonya to a master gardener. She embraces the comparison. Tonya uses a process called community animation to reduce friction and foster collaboration. Listen to find out more about Tonya and how CSI has been so successful.
Azalea Ayuningtyas, Du’Anyam
When you hear a story of people working against great odds, do you naturally root for the underdog to win? That’s how I feel about Azalea Ayuningtyas and Du’Anyam. The scrappy ladies at Du’Anyam are taking on a host of problems related to high risk pregnancies, in the poorest area of Indonesia, using only their wits and the handcrafts of the local women. They are up against big odds, in harsh conditions, and yet they are making a difference. And, they’re building a following. When Du’Anyam shared their interview on Facebook, we had one of the largest spikes on our servers for any interview we have aired. The scrappy underdogs are winning, with a lot of help from their friends. Listen to their story here:
Funlayo Alabi, Shea Radiance
When I think of Funlayo Alabi of Shea Radiance, the word I think of is elegance. But like a swan, what appears elegant on the surface of a lake is paddling like crazy beneath the surface. Funlayo has a wild story to tell of success, crash, retooling and success again. She has lots of sound advice born of some hard-won victories. Listen for her story of how success nearly broke her company and how she pulled it back from the brink.
There are a lot more stories like these on Social Entrepreneur. You might also enjoy hearing from Nathan Chan of Foundr Magazine, Luni Libes of Fledge and Rick Hooper of Barefoot Power. You can find these and other stories on Social Entrepreneur on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Soundcloud or your favorite podcast app.