The Future of Philanthropy, with Janet Mountain, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation’s mission is to transform the lives of children living in urban poverty through better education, health, and family economic stability.

Janet Mountain, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

Janet Mountain, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

Janet Mountain has been the executive director at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation for the last 15 years. Their headquarter is in Austin, Texas, but their work spans the globe.

Their work focuses on making a meaningful difference for children and families in urban poverty. When you think about pathways out of poverty, the work includes areas such as education, college success, job placement, and financial coaching. Janet describes the work this way: “The work we do at the Foundation is about creating and accelerating human opportunity.” But, that’s a big task. According to Janet, “No matter how hard the work gets it is always worth it when it comes to children living in urban poverty.”

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is creative in using financial services such as grants, debt, and equity. But their work does not end there. They also provide hands-on services and consulting.

One of the foundation’s recent publications is A Philanthropist’s Guide to the Future. One important aspect is that it is important for foundations to constantly audit the work that they are doing to ensure that it is both achieving measurable results but also that the work is evolving with the environment. What the report revealed is that money is certainly an important component in making a difference. However, it ultimately doesn’t solve problems. It is the humans that are involved in applying those resources that change human lives.

The foundation uses eight social impact principles that guide their work.

  1. If it looks easy, look closer. The only way to solve the surface-level challenge is to address what’s happening underneath. Use your passion and skills to dig deep and find the roots of the problem.
  2. Take the risks your challenge deserves. Our greatest challenges require doing some things differently. Push the boundaries and be willing to take risks where others won’t.
  3. Stay the course. Behaviors change slowly. Time is often the most important investment you can make. It’s going to take more than one try to make an impact, and it’s going to take more than one success to make a difference.
  4. Money alone doesn’t solve problems. Money doesn’t solve problems, people do. A combination of talent, ideas, resources, and execution is the only way to create solutions that last.
  5. Invest in people. Collaboration among unlikely partners amplifies impact. Find people who challenge your thinking and invest in them.
  6. Measure mindfully. Evidence is the only way to know whether you’re making a difference, but not all data is created equal. Always measure, but be smart about what you measure, and how.
  7. If it doesn’t work, tell everyone. Your outcomes, both good and bad, are opportunities for others to learn and do better. We all win when we learn together.
  8. This is worth it. No one ever said that creating lasting change was easy. The work ahead is incredibly challenging. When you see the real-world impact your work has made, you’ll know the effort was worth it.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Janet Mountain

[spp-tweet tweet=”“No matter how hard the work gets, it really makes it worth it.” @JanetatMSDF, @MSDF_Foundation”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Our work is focused on making a meaningful difference in urban poverty.” @JanetatMSDF, @MSDF_Foundation”]

“The work we do at the Foundation is about creating and accelerating human opportunity.”

“[spp-tweet tweet=”Money doesn’t actually solve problems: humans do.” @JanetatMSDF, @MSDF_Foundation”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We, as a foundation, are very hands-on in our giving.” @JanetatMSDF, @MSDF_Foundation”]

“As long as you’re doing charitable work, the range of organizations can be very broad.”

“The report is an outcome we didn’t start with.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We have to make sure our work is achieving measurable results.” @JanetatMSDF, @MSDF_Foundation”]

“We all need partners in this work because it’s really, really hard.”

“When something doesn’t work that’s truly the most crushing part of this work.”

“Measurement is the only way to know if what you’re doing is making a difference.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“If it doesn’t work, it’s not something we should brush under the rug.” @JanetatMSDF, @MSDF_Foundation”]

“That change won’t happen in 5 or 10 years if we’re not doing things in the moment to push that change.”

“Remembering the fact that it is going to take more than one try to make an impact is an important mindset.”


[spp-tweet tweet=”“Activities don’t actually change lives. It’s the outcomes that change lives.” @JanetatMSDF, @MSDF_Foundation”]


“Be ready to stick with it and stay the course.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Time is often the most important investment that you can make.” @JanetatMSDF, @MSDF_Foundation”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It’s going to take more than one try to make an impact.” @JanetatMSDF, @MSDF_Foundation”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Using Your Professional Skills to Volunteer, with Ann Herzog-Olson, Social Venture Partners, Minnesota

Social Venture Partners is a nonprofit that uses the venture capital model to help other nonprofits build capacity and grow.

Ann Herzog-Olson, Social Venture Partners, Minnesota

Ann Herzog-Olson, Social Venture Partners, Minnesota

Sometimes you want to do more. It might feel satisfying at the moment to march and chant. But does the impact last? You can donate money to social causes, and that’s important. But sometimes, it feels like you want to do even more.

One trend in philanthropy is engaged philanthropy. Engaged philanthropy recognizes that you have more than financial capital to give to a cause. You also have intellectual capital and social capital. You can use your skills and experience to help a nonprofit. You have a network of connections which can benefit a nonprofit. Social Venture Partners allows individuals and corporations to practice engaged philanthropy.

There are 42 Social Venture Partners affiliates around the globe. Social Venture Partners, Minnesota is one of them. They focus their efforts on serving youth.

The partners at Social Venture Partners identify potential nonprofits to target. They look for nonprofits that are emerging early stage, with some proof of concept. Ann Herzog-Olson, the Executive Director of Social Venture Partners Minnesota says, “We focus on nonprofits who have a vision of where they want to go and look like they’re emerging. Then we help them build a capacity building plan.” The individual and corporate partners at Social Venture Partners stick with the nonprofit for three years as they build their capacity.

In some cases, the nonprofit wants to serve more youth. In those cases, Social Venture Partners help them to scale. In other cases, the nonprofits want their existing programs to be more effective.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Ann Herzog-Olson


[spp-tweet tweet=”“Youth are kind of lost in the middle.” @AnnHerzogOlson, @SVPMinnesota”]


“Social Venture Partners is focused on building capacity.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We look for nonprofits that are directly serving youth.” @AnnHerzogOlson, @SVPMinnesota”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It’s what we call engaged philanthropy.” @AnnHerzogOlson, @SVPMinnesota”]

“It’s skilled expertize, professional expertize, that we provide to the nonprofits.”

“We usually get about 30 to 50 applications, and we select just one nonprofit.”

“We walk alongside them.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It’s highly strategic skilled volunteers.” @AnnHerzogOlson, @SVPMinnesota”]

“We use revenue as a proxy.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“They double their revenue in three years.” @AnnHerzogOlson, @SVPMinnesota”]

“We expect our partners to become involved and volunteer their time.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It’s sophisticated volunteering.” @AnnHerzogOlson, @SVPMinnesota”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We train people to use their skills to help a nonprofit in a strategic way.” @AnnHerzogOlson, @SVPMinnesota”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We are impacting more teens as we add more partners.” @AnnHerzogOlson, @SVPMinnesota”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Development is really about the donor.” @AnnHerzogOlson, @SVPMinnesota”]

“They need to have a vision of where they want to take their organization.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Investing in, Connecting and Celebrating Social Entrepreneurs, with Sally Osberg, Skoll Foundation

The Skoll Foundation drives large-scale change for the world’s most pressing problems. They invest in, connect and celebrate social entrepreneurs.

Sally Osberg, Skoll Foundation

Sally Osberg, Skoll Foundation

Sally Osberg’s reading early in life shaped her outlook. “I was reading biographies of people like Eleanor Roosevelt, and Jane Adams, and people who convinced me that you could make a pretty powerful difference in the world. And somehow that seeped into my consciousness and gave me a real sense of agency…to make the world a better place.”

Sally is the President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation. They invest in, connect and celebrate social entrepreneurs. She describes what they’re looking for this way. “We look for the convergence of an innovative idea; a great innovator with the determination and wherewithal to stay at this work; and an inflection point where there is sufficient evidence that this idea works.”

Jeff Skoll was the founding president of eBay. He launched the Skoll Foundation in 1999. His vision is a more peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. In 2001, he reached out the Sally to help him create a different kind of philanthropy.

Each year, the Skoll Foundation recognizes four to six changemakers who are ready to scale their impact. They invest in these changemakers through the Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship. Awardees receive a $1.25 million investment over three years. They also gain access to a global community of innovative leaders and who are solving the world’s most pressing problems.

“We’re looking for a proven track record,” Sally explains. “We’re looking for a truly pressing global problem…And then this inflection point. Is the team in place? Is the evidence in place? Is there a discipline in place? Is there a great board?”

The Skoll Foundation connects social entrepreneurs through the annual Skoll World Forum. They document and share the stories of these changemakers.

Sally has announced that she will be soon stepping down from her role at the Skoll Foundation. As she looks back and forward at the same time, she reflects on the world as she sees it. “The challenges have never seemed so complex and massive in scale. And yet, the upwelling of talent and interest and goodness from people… I look at young people and see this incredible determination to tackle these problems and not make a choice between doing good, making a difference and a viable career. And I believe that holds so much promise.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Sally Osberg

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We partner with social entrepreneurs and celebrate the impact of their great ideas.” @SallyOsberg, @SkollFoundation”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I tried to channel his DNA, which is fundamentally entrepreneurial.” @SallyOsberg, @SkollFoundation”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Our mission is our strategy: Invest, Connect and Celebrate.” @SallyOsberg, @SkollFoundation”]

“There are great solutions out there. We just have to open our aperture to find them.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“People think of social entrepreneurs as lone rangers. They are anything but.” @SallyOsberg, @SkollFoundation”]

“We first and foremost are trying to be a good partner to the social entrepreneurs.”

“We can help to amplify, accelerate and strengthen, how all this comes together.”

“I plan to continue working with people who want to make a difference in the world.”

“I believe the empowerment of women and girls holds major promise for the world.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It is not a moment for us to descend into cynicism or despair.” @SallyOsberg, @SkollFoundation”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I see this aspiration in young people around social entrepreneurship.” @SallyOsberg, @SkollFoundation”]

“That combination of expertise and humility…is a critical piece.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Develop some area of expertise.” @SallyOsberg, @SkollFoundation”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Think about social entrepreneurship differently.” @SallyOsberg, @SkollFoundation”]

“Learn about a social entrepreneur who is making a difference on an issue that they care about.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


The World’s Largest Network of Late-Stage Social Entrepreneurs, with Katherine Milligan, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship is the sister organization to the World Economic Forum. They manage the world’s largest network of late-stage social entrepreneurs.

Katherine Milligan, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

Katherine Milligan, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

Katherine Milligan says, “I have always been deeply touched by the inequities of the world.” She spent time in the Peace Corp where she lived in a village in Benin without running water or electricity for two years. While there, she saw first-hand how an international shift in the commodity price of cotton had a significant impact on local cotton farmers and their families. “It opened a deep curiosity in me to understand why the conventional ways of delivering solutions to these populations were failing.”

Her curiosity led her to pursue a Master’s degree in Trade and International Development. This was followed by two years as a Research Fellow, traveling the world, interviewing stakeholders from ambassadors and trade representatives to the WTO and farmers. She says that this study gave her an appreciation for how complex problems are. “When you know very little about a problem, it’s easy to see it in a black and white way and to propose a simplistic solution. When you dig into it, and you understand the complexities of it, that’s when you appreciate just how challenging and complex these problems are to solve.”

Katherine’s search for solutions to large, complex global problems led her to the World Economic Forum in 2005. In 2009, she took over the lead role for the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship is the sister organization to the World Economic Forum. They manage the world’s largest network of late-stage social entrepreneurs. They elevate the work of late-stage social entrepreneurs on the platform of the World Economic Forum.

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship was launched in 1998 by Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum and his wife, Hilde. Their initial goal was to introduce the work of social entrepreneurs on a global stage. At the time, the concept of social entrepreneurship was mostly unknown.

Each year the Schwab Foundation recognizes several social entrepreneurs through a “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” competition. This year they selected 17 social entrepreneurs from 13 organizations. These social entrepreneurs become part of the broader Schwab Foundation community of more than 300 entrepreneurs to exchange expertise and experiences. They are also fully integrated into the World Economic Forum’s events and initiatives, giving them a global presence and visibility.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Katherine Milligan

“When you get that kind of spotlight and exposure, it changes the dynamics and resources come to you.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I’ve always been deeply touched by the inequities in the world.” @jk_milligan, @schwabfound”]

“When you know very little about a problem, it’s easy to see it in a black and white way.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“You have to log those hours.”  @jk_milligan, @schwabfound”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Know your strengths.”  @jk_milligan, @schwabfound”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Surround yourself with people who compliment your skills.” @jk_milligan, @schwabfound”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“This is a really challenging path.” @jk_milligan, @schwabfound”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Understand the role of self-care.” @jk_milligan, @schwabfound”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“If you let the cause consume you, what good are you to the cause?” @jk_milligan, @schwabfound”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


The World’s Largest Network of Late-Stage Social Entrepreneurs, with Katherine Milligan, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

The Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, with Mark Norbury, UnLtd

UnLtd is the UK’s largest supporter of early-stage social entrepreneurs.

Mark Norbury, UnLtd

Mark Norbury, UnLtd

Mark Norbury grew up in the time when Land-Aid, Band-Aid, and Live-Aid were popular. “The idea that you can be a rock star who saved the world was pretty damned compelling when you’re fourteen years old” he confesses. But, with a lack of musical talent, Mark decided to focus on the second half of the equation, changing the world.

As an 18-year-old, Mark volunteered on London’s east side, working with Father Duncan. “He was much more of a social activist than he was a priest,” Mark explains. “He was five-foot-nothing. He was a British-Asian guy who experienced a lot of racial abuse…He also fostered a young kid who had come from an abusive background. And he had a rare blood disorder that caused him to have to take whole body blood transfusions.”

During his work with Father Duncan, Mark experienced a world different from his own, from domestic abuse to illiteracy, to the lives of the elderly. “That was where I realized that what I needed to do was to try to make a difference.”

After university, Mark worked in nonprofits but did not quite find the sustainable model he was looking for. He eventually enrolled at INSEAD where he encountered social entrepreneurship. With social entrepreneurship, he saw the bridge between service and economic sustainability.

Mark helped set up INSEAD’s Social Innovation Centre where they introduce and develop new business models that deliver sustainable economic, environmental and social prosperity. He also was a trustee at Bridges Ventures. It was while at Bridges Ventures that he first had contact with UnLtd. In 2016, he joined UnLtd as its Chief Executive Officer.

UnLtd has backed over 40,000 individuals over the last 15 years. They provide three levels of awards to early-stage social ventures:

  • Try it, which is £500
  • Do it, up to £5,000
  • Grow it, up to £15,000

These awards come with support such as business advice, coaching, mentoring, and peer-to-peer support.

UnLtd has also runs the Big Venture Challenge, an award program that provides match funding to help growing social enterprises to raise investment and deliver social impact at scale.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Mark Norbury

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Everything we do, the social entrepreneur is at the heart of it.” @MarkjNorbury, @UnLtd”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I grew up in the Land Aid, Live Aid, Band Aid era.” @MarkjNorbury, @UnLtd”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“UnLtd is a gem, but it’s not realized its potential yet.” @MarkjNorbury, @UnLtd”]

“You’ll find social entrepreneurs in these communities making something with nothing.”

“They’re creating a micro-conglomerate of brilliance and hope, and it’s all self-sustaining.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Make it about the people and communities you’re serving.” @MarkjNorbury, @UnLtd”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Do it in a co-production model.” @MarkjNorbury, @UnLtd”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Social entrepreneurs don’t always ask for help enough.” @MarkjNorbury, @UnLtd”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I’m an idealistic optimist.” @MarkjNorbury, @UnLtd”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


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Before you go, grab a free chapter of my new book, Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs.

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129, Martin Burt, Fundación Paraguaya | The Poverty Stoplight

Martin Burt wants to eliminate poverty. He lets the poor measure poverty for themselves.

Here are two truths that I’ve learned about social entrepreneurship. One, there is not a single, straight path to becoming a social entrepreneur. Two, it’s important to measure your impact. Martin Burt of Fundación Paraguaya illustrates both points.

Martin’s path to social entrepreneurship began in Paraguay in the early 1980s, when it was ruled by a dictator. Because his family was not part of the dictatorship, he found it difficult to find a job. What does a social entrepreneur do in this situation? Start the country’s first social enterprise, of course. He started a microenterprise development program, providing financial services to the poor. Martin told me, “We always thought that, in addition to financial services, poor people needed training, motivation, skills, so we developed the country’s first youth entrepreneurship program.” By 1995, he transformed an agriculture school. In 1999, he was the mayor of Asunción, the capital of Paraguay during a popular uprising when he famously used garbage trucks to take on tanks.

Today, Fundación Paraguaya has a microcredit program that serves 86,000 micro entrepreneurs. They provide entrepreneurial and financial education for youth. They run a financially sustainable farm school to teach “rural entrepreneurs.” And they have a process that replicates their model around the world by “teaching a man to fish.”

As important as all of these developments are, I was most anxious to talk to Martin about the Poverty Stoplight. This tool allows the poor to measure their own poverty and to develop customized plans to overcome poverty. The Poverty Stoplight is being applied in over twenty-five countries. They also use it within corporations in what they call “Companies without Poverty.” The goal is not poverty alleviation, but poverty elimination.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Martin Burt

“Our mission is to design, develop and disseminate through the world new ways to eliminate poverty.”

“We have adapted the poverty stoplight to what it means to not be poor in over twenty-five countries.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘What we want to measure is the outcomes.’ @martinburt, @fundaparaguaya”]

“For 50 indicators, we have asked local populations to define what it means not to be poor.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Each poor family is poor in their own way.’ @martinburt, @fundaparaguaya“]

“What we have done is to take poverty from a complex construct and disaggregate it.”

“We’ve always been concerned that microfinance is very important, but is not, alone useful to help families to overcome poverty.”

“We were always thinking, how can we come up with sustainable services to help people help themselves?”

“We started consulting with the poor, with whom we were working.”

“We came up with the poverty stoplight which is a new metric and a coaching methodology.”

“We’re working in more than 25 countries.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Learning by doing, selling and making money.’ @martinburt, @fundaparaguaya“]

“We have found that in the process of becoming rural entrepreneurs, students become 100% employable.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘We have put in a system whereby education pays for itself.’ @martinburt, @fundaparaguaya“]

“The key to economic development is the fine line between subsidies and self-help.”

“The element of getting out of poverty and becoming developed is economic self-reliance.”

“When you subsidize, you run the risk of sending a signal that the person is not capable of helping themselves.”

“We have five thousand kids competing to see who gets their parents out of poverty first.”

“There is nothing more powerful than a 16-year-old girl who wants to win a competition.”

“We put $5,000 in multiple prizes and we generated $180,000 in home improvements, through a competition that is called My Bathroom, My Kitchen, My Pride.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘We know that money was never the problem.’ @martinburt, @fundaparaguaya“]

“The paradigm shift here is, instead of governments, the United Nations, the World Bank measuring people’s poverty, today, technology allows us to have the poor people measure their own poverty.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘The poor were not even invited to the banquet…to the discussions about poverty.’ @martinburt, @fundaparaguaya“]

“Bottom-up participatory approaches that can be scaled worldwide is the paradigm shift.”

“We are working in a new concept of corporate social responsibility called Companies Without Poverty.”

“It’s really a fascinating journey to unleash the trapped energy within poor people.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Try to find something where you don’t have to separate your work from your personal life.’ @martinburt, @fundaparaguaya“]

“The thing is to challenge the existing paradigms.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

107, Ana Pantelic, Fundación Capital | Participatory design of services for the poor

Ana Pantelic uses participatory design to create solutions.

When you meet, Dr. Ana Pantelic, a poised, inspiring young woman, it’s hard to picture her as an 11 year-old, standing on a street corner, exchanging currency on the black market. And yet, this very street-level experience in the informal economy is the source of her resilience, adaptability and empathy. She knows what it is like to go from solidly middle-class to living in uncertainty. This causes her to listen to the people she serves, in order to learn from them.

Ana grew up in the former Yugoslavia, feeling as if she were secure and safe. As ethnic tensions rose and war broke out, Ana’s grandparents initially took Ana and her sister to Florida. They shuttled back and forth between the United States and Serbia until major bombing began. She told me, “Growing up in the former Yugoslavia, where there was this sense of security…to suddenly be faced with the situation where the country is falling apart, changing names, people are hating each other…you have this resiliency that comes out of you unexpectedly.”

Ana was determined to find her own way. She set up gallery exhibitions where she sold her sister’s art at a commission. As an eleven year-old she was exchanging currency on the streets in order to make money on the black market. “That’s the reality of many people in the world, these informal economies are part of our daily lives.”

Fundación Capital Uses Participatory Design to Create Solutions

There are billions of people who are locked out of banking and financial systems. They lack the ability to use banking services that you and I take advantage of every day – savings, checking, debit cards and ATMs. Without banking, they cannot build their assets, and therefore remain stuck in a pattern of poverty. Fundación Capital breaks the pattern.

By using participatory design, the team at Fundación Capital learned about financial inequality. The poor need financial inclusion. But the needs do not stop there. The team realized that, once the poor have access to banking services, barriers still remain. Therefore, Fundación Capital’s services go far beyond mere banking services. To get people to use financial services, the products have to be tailored to their needs. They have to be accessible and affordable. Fundación Capital provides the tools and training that allows the poor to lift themselves out of poverty.

Participatory Design Quotes from Ana Pantelic

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘We do a lot of experimentation and innovation.’ @anapantelic, @FundaCapital “]

“What makes us unique is, we spend a lot of time getting to know what it’s like living in poverty.”

“When we have that agility to innovate, and to perhaps bring some new ideas to the table, that’s when we see a lot of change and a lot of empowerment happening. For us, doing so at scale is important.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘The problem that we see is the challenge of inequality.’ @anapantelic, @FundaCapital”]

“For us, it’s about getting the poor access to the tools and services that they need.”

“I moved from Serbia to Colombia to start a project that everybody, whom I respected and who had more experience than I did in the field, told me it was a silly idea and it wasn’t going to work. Four and a half years later, it’s had more than 250,000 users, in five countries and has been integrated into public policies.”

“We were inspired by the experience of Sugata Mitra, the hole-in-the-wall experiment that he organized in India.”

“What we did was have the tablet circulating in the community.”

“As far as I know, this is the first time that anything like this has been attempted.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Have an idea of where you’d like to go, but really be open to change.’ @anapantelic, @FundaCapital”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘I’m not a workaholic. I’m a work-a-philiac.’ @anapantelic, @FundaCapital”]

“When you are passionate about what you do, and you find meaning in what you do, it’s never going to feel like a chore.”

“When I think of economic citizenship and empowerment, what we’re really seeing is this need for active participants rather than passive recipients.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘One word we have to get rid of in our vocabularies is the word beneficiaries.’ @anapantelic, @FundaCapital”]

“The only thing that differentiates somebody born into wealth and somebody born into poverty is luck of the draw.”

“I think, an openness to listen to those voices, to support it when we can, to inject capital when it’s needed or to provide access to an internet connection…I think that’s where we’re going to see a lot of innovation coming.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Listen to the quiet ones.’ @anapantelic, @FundaCapital #ParticipatoryDesign”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Do whatever it takes to get everybody’s voice heard.’ @anapantelic, @FundaCapital #ParticipatoryDesign”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

075, Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation | Civil Society in a Time of Transformation

Civil society is often referred to as a third sector of society, with business and government being the other two. The very nature of civil society is undergoing transformation – from how we gather information, to how we engage in debate to how we support one another.

Alberto Ibargüen has a unique perspective on the rapidly changing nature of civil society. He grew up in a family that practiced impassioned political discussions in two languages. He practiced law, worked in the Peace Corps, spent a career in journalism and now heads the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Knight Foundation works to create informed and engaged communities. They do so in the context of a civil society undergoing transformation.

Several times in my conversation with Alberto, I thought of this Eric Hoffer quote. Hoffer wrote in Reflections on the Human Condition:

In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.

Similarly, when Alberto arrived at the Knight Foundation, he looked at their activities. He told me, “It struck me that we were taking the best people to the best universities and training them for a future that didn’t exist.” He and his team recognized that they did not have all of the answers. They set about to transform how the Knight Foundation would give – using contests to spark creative solutions. But how would they recognize a successful proposal? “All transformational processes seem to have a set of five characteristics that are common,” he told me. They are as follows:

  1. Discovery – Deal with the facts
  2. Vision – A vision of what could be
  3. Courage – You have to have the courage to share that vision
  4. Know-how – You have to have or obtain the know-how
  5. Tenacity – Stick to it when things get rough

Using these criteria, the Knight Foundation funds projects in communities, journalism, and media innovation. They also fund the arts.

I deeply enjoyed this wide-ranging conversation with Alberto Ibargüen. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Civil Society Quotes from Alberto Ibargüen:

“When mission and commerce were in balance in the newspaper industry, it was a phenomenal model. When it got out of balance and commerce started to make requirements that cut into mission, that’s when I think we had the problems.”

“I need to know the idea. I need to know that you’re capable of executing and I want a return. I don’t invest just to throw the money out the door. I want to invest to make the community better. That’s my return. Impact is my return.”

“One of the things you look for when you’re making these investments is, does this have the capacity for transforming the field or the community?”

“Be realistic about the circumstances. Don’t deal with things you wish were there, just the facts.”

“You have to have the courage to put out that vision and be laughed at if necessary.”

“That’s what I look for when somebody walks in and says ‘Hey, I have an idea to do X.’ It almost doesn’t matter what X is. I just want to know, are you dealing with the facts? Tell me your vision. Do I think you’ve got the courage to do it? Can you put together the know-how, and have you got the intestinal fortitude to stay with this?”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Doing things that are your passion is the way to live a fulfilling life.’ @ibarguen”]

“I think it’s as important as you be impassioned about the goal that you be feet on the ground about the business plan and about the sustainability.”

“Anybody who thinks that he or she is running an organization that is not a media organization, isn’t paying attention.”

Mentoring Giveaway:

Throughout the month of April, we’re giving away ten one-on-one mentoring calls to help you launch or grow your social enterprise. We’ll be drawing each week. To enter, go to

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

075, Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation | Civil Society in a Time of Transformation

058, Jennifer Ford Reedy, Bush Foundation | Inspire, Equip, Connect

Jen Ford Reedy grew up in Lawrence, KS, a college town. She knew from a young age that she wanted to do something meaningful with her life. As an adult, she spent 9 years as a consultant with McKinsey & Company where she honed her strategic business skills. In 2008 she moved into philanthropic work first as VP of Strategy with Minnesota Philanthropy Partners. In 2012 she moved into the role of President of the Bush Foundation. It’s a role that seems to suit her blend of keen strategic insights and a heart for good.

The Bush Foundation is an independent, private philanthropic foundation. It was created in 1953 by Archibald Bush, one of the people who built 3M to the success it is today. They have a broad mandate, but of course, Jen understands that every choice made has an opportunity cost. Together with her staff and her board they make careful choices about how to best use their resources.

They have a very active and productive fellowship program. They also have a number of grant programs available:

  • The Bush Prize for Community Innovation
  • Community Creativity Cohort
  • Community Innovation Grants
  • Education Ecosystem Grants
  • Leadership Network Grants
  • Major Investments – Education
  • Native Nation Rebuilding Grants.

The Bush Foundation focuses on Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and 23 native nations.

 Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Jenn Ford Reedy:

“There are very few charitable institutions that have the degree of flexibility that we have.”

“Philanthropic strategy is all about opportunity cost.”

“We think of our work as investing in great ideas and the people who power them.”

“When we talk about purpose, we talk about inspiring and supporting creative problem solving.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”We talk about ‘inspire, equip and connect.’ @fordreedy of @BushFoundation”]

“Consider intrapreneurship.”

“Surround yourself with a group of people who will be honest with you on what you need to work on.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”Make the world your learning lab. @fordreedy of @BushFoundation“]

“If you can boil down, ‘what are the competencies I need’ and then think creatively about how you can get them, I think you can actually, for zero dollars per day, have a pretty good training program.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

058, Jennifer Ford Reedy, Bush Foundation | Inspire, Equip, Connect