The Social Entrepreneur podcast just closed out an amazing March, thanks to these twelve social entrepreneurs and thought leaders.
I’m a lucky guy. I spend my time with changemakers who are making an impact in the world. March was an amazing month. I’m still feeling an emotional lift from being able to talk to these twelve changemakers…OK, thirteen if you insist, but I talked to two of them together, so let’s go with an even dozen.
They are working on a variety of issues from healthcare to electronic waste. They work in Eastern Africa, South Asia, Western Europe and North America, and yet all have a global point of view. Eight are women and four are men. Some are running small, local businesses and others global enterprises, but they all have two things in common. They are making a difference. And, when I hear their stories, I am inspired.
If you have a few minutes and you want to have your spirit lifted, check out these amazing social entrepreneurs. You’ll be glad you did.
Katy Ashe & Edith Elliott, Noora Health
Katy Ashe and Edith Elliot are working in the Indian healthcare system. As students at Stanford University’s famed dSchool, they were faced with a daunting task: to improve health outcomes in an overcrowded hospital system in Bangalore. The hospital administration stated the problem as they saw it: find a way to improve efficiency and flow of the patients through the system. If doctors could see more patients, they reasoned, health outcomes would improve.
Using design thinking, Katy and Edith, along with medical students Shahed Alam and Jessie Liu, spent a significant amount of time with the hospital administration, the healthcare workers and, most importantly, the patients. Their “empathy work” focused on the day to day lives of these audiences. The team soon noticed an underutilized asset: the families of the patients. They thought “how might we better leverage this existing resource?”
After several prototypes and iterations, the team came up with a solution: train the families to provide extra care for the patients. The results were dramatic: A 71% reduction in post-surgical complications. From this idea Noora Health was launched. You can hear the story of Noora Health here.
Mike Lwin, Koe Koe Tech
Mike Lwin of Koe Koe Tech is also focusing on health outcomes, starting in Myanmar. His path to social entrepreneurship started in 2009 when he visited Myanmar. On that trip, he met his cousin Yar Zar Minn Htoo. Mike was an American citizen and his cousin, Yar Zar lives in Myanmar. Mike was struck by two facts. The first is how exceptionally bright his cousin is. Yar Zar is both a physician and a computer engineer. He was also struck by how, because of the lottery of geography, the two of them were experiencing very different health outcomes. On average, Myanmar citizens have a life expectancy nearly 20 years less than an American.
Mike and Yar Zar worked on several business ideas from a distance. As fair and free elections were held in Myanmar, and as punishing economic sanctions were lifted, the two cousins saw an opportunity. The healthcare system in Myanmar was extremely broken – ranked by the World Health Organization as 190 out of 191 countries. At the same time, as the country opened up, Android smartphones flooded the country. 90% of all phones in the country are smartphones.
By 2012 Mike was in Myanmar working with Yar Zar to design what would eventually become Koe Koe Tech, a health technology company that is using mobile phones to transform the broken health system in Myanmar. You can hear Mike tell the story of Koe Koe Tech here.
Aruna Raman, Acara
I met Aruna Raman through the Acara Institute at the University of Minnesota. You may recall my conversation with Fred Rose of Acara. Aruna is Fred’s partner in India. Aruna brought a fresh perspective, and an important one to Social Entrepreneur. If you notice a trend in the first two stories and others to follow, there is a pattern of the global north reaching out to the global south. Let me be clear. This is important. The resource-rich world has an obligation to do what we can for the less-developed parts of the world.
The point that Aruna made in her interview is, the global south has resources that they can bring to bear to address their own challenges. Aruna is finding ways to connect across the global south, sharing knowledge, talent and experience. You can hear Aruna describe global south-south collaboration here.
Gretchen Steidle, Global Grassroots
Gretchen Steidle of Global Grassroots understands the importance of raising local leaders to solve local problems. Gretchen looks for change agents in the world’s most marginalized communities in post-conflict east Africa. Global Grassroots’ mission is to catalyze women and girls as leaders of conscious social change.
Gretchen’s work began in refugee camps. She quickly identified women who could lead. However, the impact of war had left these women traumatized. She developed a system that begins with mind-body trauma healing. As the women are able to do more, she teaches a unique approach to social entrepreneurship called “Conscious Social Change.” This is where mindfulness and social innovation meet. She also runs an accelerator that helps these women establish new social-purpose businesses. She even provides seed capital.
As her work has evolved, Gretchen now includes young women in the gap period between high school and university. You can hear Gretchen describe her work at Global Grassroots here.
Servane Mouazan, Ogunte
Servane Mouazan of Ogunte also works with women and girls, but does so on a global scale. And speaking of scale, she has a high ambition for growth. Ogunte has supported over 5,200 women social entrepreneurs through business coaching, impact investment, training, leadership development, awards and challenge prizes. Servane hopes to impact over 1 million women by the year 2020.
Ogunte supports women social entrepreneurs by enabling them to learn, lead and connect. Through Ogunte, Servane is creating an ecosystem of coaches, mentors, peer support and technical assistance for women around the world. You can hear Servane describe Ogunte here.
Krista Tippett, OnBeing
One of my favorite interviews of March was with Krista Tippett of OnBeing. I have long enjoyed her amazing radio program and podcast, but I was curious about the business side of Krista Tippett Public Productions. She calls it “a social enterprise with a radio show at its heart.” That intrigued me.
If you are familiar with Krista Tippett and OnBeing, you know her for a certain style – warm, authentic and thoughtful. I found her to be just as you would expect. She shared her story, now familiar to so many: her roots in Oklahoma, her education at Brown and Yale. Her time in Eastern Germany during the cold war and in the US Embassy as Pershing missiles were pushed around the map.
But Krista talked about things that she does not often discuss. She described the decision to spin off from American Public Media and what she is learning from running a social enterprise. When I asked her about the social enterprise with a radio show at its heart, she replied with a smile “We’re exploring what that means.”
Krista has a new book out in April, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. I can’t wait to read it. If you see Krista out on the book tour, let her know that you heard her interview on Social Entrepreneur.
Bill Drayton, Ashoka
If social entrepreneurship has a godfather, it’s Bill Drayton of Ashoka. He coined the phrase social entrepreneur to describe a new way of leveraging the best business practices to create system-wide social change.
Despite his hectic schedule, Bill took the time to tell me the story of Ashoka, from his early entrepreneurial efforts in elementary school to the tour of India that broke his heart and changed the direction of his life. He talked about Ashoka’s work with over 3,500 Fellows. And he described the future vision of Ashoka where everyone is a changemaker. “The world is at a tipping point,” he told me, “from a world defined by repetition, think assembly line or law firm, to one defined by the opposite of repetition, change.” You can hear Bill Drayton describe the work of Ashoka here.
Raj Sisodia, Conscious Capitalism
Another thought leader who appeared on Social Entrepreneur is Raj Sisodia of Conscious Capitalism. Raj’s work was important to me as I learned about social entrepreneurship though his books Firms of Endearment and Conscious Capitalism. He has a new book coming out in May, Shakti Leadership: Embracing Feminine and Masculine Power in Business. In this interview, Raj described the importance of embracing leadership traits that have traditionally thought of as feminine: generative, cooperative, creative, inclusive, and empathetic. You can hear the interview with Raj Sisodia here.
Scott Anderson, NextBillion
As the Managing Editor of NextBillion, Scott Anderson has a unique perspective on social entrepreneurship. He and his team publish over 400 articles per year on the topic. His fascination with social entrepreneurship started in 2004 with the publication of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits. As a journalist, he had a chance to interview the book’s author, C.K. Prahalad.
Scott told me, “But I think back at that time, it was very much ‘What is this? Are you serious about the idea that you can profit and you can help people emerge from poverty?’” Over the years, this fascination with the power of business to do social good did not leave him. Eventually in 2010, he was tapped to lead NextBillion. I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone more suited for their job – a fair-minded journalist who can balance advocacy for a nascent field with an honest critique. You can hear Scott describe his journey at NextBillion here.
Kavita Shukla, Fenugreen FreshPaper
One of the most popular stories told on Social Entrepreneur in March was Kavita Shukla of Fenugreen FreshPaper. Part of what strikes the imagination in Kavita’s story is her age when she started. She was 12-years old when she was experimenting in her parent’s garage with the properties of certain spices to inhibit bacterial and fungal growth. And, every good founders’ story begins in a garage, doesn’t it? Kavita was 17 when she received a patent for “impregnated material for the preservation of perishable substances.”
Part of the fascination with Kavita’s story is the problem she is taking on, food waste, with its massive global implications. And part of the fascination is that she found a natural and organic solution. Listeners have also commented on Kavita’s determination over so many years before she found the right product-market fit. But most of all, listeners comment that they just love Kavita herself. She has a fascinating story and she tells it well. You can hear Kavita tell the story of Fenugreen FreshPaper here.
Amanda LaGrange, TechDump
Amanda LaGrange of TechDump is not a startup founder. But she is definitely a social entrepreneur. Amanda was working as a senior financial analyst for a global packaged goods company and volunteering as a board member for TechDump. Eventually she joined the TechDump team in a marketing capacity and ultimately became the CEO.
Amanda told me “It wasn’t necessarily that I birthed the idea, but I’ve definitely been a huge part around growing and scaling it.” And as any startup founder can tell you, scale is one of the top priorities…and it’s not easy to do.
TechDump refurbishes and recycles electronic waste, keeping it out of the waste stream. That alone makes it, in my opinion, a social enterprise. But the social impact of TechDump does not stop there. They employ people who have barriers to employment, especially those who have a history with the justice system.
One more point about Amanda. I didn’t mention this during the interview, but because we live in the same city, I see Amanda everywhere I go. She is all over the social entrepreneurship scene, volunteering, encouraging and contributing. She uses her gifts to contribute in ways both big and small. You can hear Amanda talk about TechDump here.
Jennifer Ford Reedy, Bush Foundation
Of all of the guests I enjoyed meeting in March, Jennifer Ford Reedy is not only someone I enjoyed meeting immensely, but also the person to whom I am most often asked to make an introduction. It is possible that, that is because she described the Bush Foundation as “We have money and we give it away.” But I suspect it is more likely because her interview was filled with pragmatic advice from an authentic leader. She encouraged listeners of Social Entrepreneur to consider alternative paths such as intrapreneurship. She invited listeners to “Surround yourself with a group of people who will be honest with you on what you need to work on.” And she talked about a practical and inexpensive way to “Make the world your learning lab.”
As I talked to Jennifer, I kept thinking, “This person is a member of my tribe.” Or maybe I’m a member of her tribe. She has the mind of a McKinsey consultant and the heart of a philanthropist. She’s one of the people that, when I listen to her interview, I feel uplifted. You can hear Jennifer talk about the Bush Foundation here.
12 Different Looks at Social Entrepreneurship
In some ways these social entrepreneurs could not be more different. They come from different continents. They work on different issues. They differ in race, gender and age. But there is one thing that they have in common. They inspire me. When I listen to them, I want to be a better human being.
So go on. Listen to the ones that appeal to you. They will make your day better.