New Styles of Courage


All our connections are deeply interrelated (from a close up of a large scale woodcut by Paul Edmonds)

Sometimes I am overwhelmed with admiration for those who have faced danger and summoned the courage to step forward and act. It is easy to see them as different from the rest of us. But some recent experiences have shifted my focus to what we have in common with that class of courageous heroes. No matter where we work, there are opportunities to connect the dots, to create our own style of courage.

Good examples help reveal what this might look like. The Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship is the capstone event for an ecosystem built from the Ebay success of Jeff Skoll. It is a good place to hang out with courage counterparts. In addition to this global community of social entrepreneurs, there were about 20 corporate representatives in attendance this year. But what a boon it would have been if there had been over a hundred.

The Oxford Jam, a fringe conference happening alongside Skoll, offers more opportunities to connect. I met a former hedge fund executive there who is investing her own assets to address the obesity epidemic. Her courage will rally others to innovate while she is also able to turn a profit.

Both Skoll and Oxford Jam offer a panoply of ways for companies to connect with social enterprises. Corporate leaders who make the decision to get to Skoll next year a priority will find a uniquely rich set of courage leaders with which to interact.

Another opportunity for exploring new styles of courage is Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development. This Grand Challenge (issued by USAID, the Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, the Government of Norway and the World Bank) will fund efforts to combine technology, service delivery and/or demand innovations that can directly improve the lives of mothers and their newborns. Up to $15 million will be awarded in the next 6 months. This will include 25 awards of $250,000 that will test new innovations.

The collaborative conversations around Saving Lives at Birth has resulted in a broad range of proposals that reflect how multifaceted this sector is. One of the teams I am working with is led by the Royal College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians (RCOG) and also includes an Ashoka fellow and Movirtu, an ingenious company that enables low-end cell phones to be shared while still maintaining individual identity and custom information (funding will develop simple applications such as calculating gestation month and providing tailored advice).

The proposal from SMILE (Saving Mothers and Infant Lives with Education) leverages relationships with governments, health systems and community health workers (CHW) that RCOG has been building for over a decade in Africa. Combining these relationships with Movirtu’s technology will enable low-resource environments to become high-touch environments where lives are saved through tailored advice and learning. When scaled, this program expects 30% or greater improvements in outcomes.

Forward-thinking companies who have women as primary customers can participate in these outcomes by finding programs that feature innovations where their expertise could add value.

The Skoll World Forum and Saving Lives at Birth are just two examples where courageous investors—of both time and money—are visible and can play a part in the innovation networks of a corporation. The learning and innovation that flow from these connections can be transformative, and begins with a simple sense of how you and your organization can find new styles of courage in your own innovation spheres.

Positive Black Swans

There are no black swans in the Northern Hemisphere, so whiteness was assumed to be an essential quality of swanness. When a Dutch explorer spotted a black one on an expedition to Australia in 1697, that concept had to be restated. It is a simple but useful analogy for how fragile a system of thought actually can be. Our assumptions, whether they result from reason, logic, falsifiability and/or evidence, can be undone in a moment.

As the second decade of the 21st century experiences continued natural and man-made disasters, the popularity of books like The Black Swan (by Nassim Nicholas Taleb) can be seen in a negative light. Added to the natural shocks is a string of unfortunate black swan (rare event) moments that have appeared successively in economics, the financial world infrastructure and politics. (See a brief description at the bottom of this post regarding Taleb’s use of the term “black swan.”) However, when enough people become dissatisfied with the business-as-usual approach, a world of increasing connectedness is also offering opportunities to create movements and infrastructure that can lead to the beneficial, good news black swans.

My take on the past year is that a lot of positive black swan road building is happening that is not visible to the business-as-usual crowd. As these new roads open up – and in many cases this is happening in the not so visible backwaters of the Global South – new innovations, commerce, solutions and jobs will continue to go unnoticed by the short-term profit maximizers.

Here are a few examples we encourage you to build into your thinking as you position your careers, companies and capacities to benefit from the unpredictable positives and mitigate risks of the unpredictable negatives:

Impact Investing While the numbers are still small – $25 billion by some estimates – the concept is big. Two decades ago Domini, Calvert and others began a crusade that resulted in $7 trillion dollars being placed in socially screened investments, i.e., companies that are actively demonstrating they are doing less harm. Now an intrepid group has set out to demonstrate your entire portfolio can be investments that are solving global and/or local challenges. These are organizations that produce significant social benefit as well as making a profit. Space does not permit a list of all the positive events, but the OPIC Impact Investing call is a $250 million bellwether. What if 10 percent of that $7 trillion moved to impact investments?

Innovation and Social Enterprise This first decade saw a lot of attention being paid to innovation. And there’s no question that global problems attract innovation leaders. Innovation conferences have begun to shift their focus to newer concepts like open innovation, crowd sourcing and challenge innovation. One of the largest innovation ecosystems centers on social enterprise and is led by organizations like Ashoka, The Skoll Foundation and a long list of others. If you do not recognize these names then it is time to do some open innovating of your own. The leading global corporate innovators (GE, P&G, Unilever) are definitely opening to the burgeoning sources of innovation represented by social enterprise.

Social Capital Formation I had the pleasure to hear Wayne Silby, founder of Calvert, speak to the Impact Investing conference hosted by Asad Mahmoud of Deutsche Bank last December in NYC. Besides Calvert’s leading role in social investing mentioned above, the Calvert Foundation is one of many leaders in the social bonds space. Calvert’s innovations have placed over $400 million from individuals into social enterprises that can access debt capital earlier than traditional entrepreneurs. Social impact bonds now promise to enable non-profits (and for-profits) to pay back the loans with results instead of assets.

Social Enterprise Scaling Infrastructure A broad range of efforts are coalescing here – Ashoka’s accelerator program, Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Incubator, Poptech, New Profit and our own ReachScale outreach to find the corporate scaling partners for the most innovative SEs – and the trend is growing.

These ecosystems are increasing in richness and connections. They are beginning to demonstrate the “power of pull” (from the book of the same name by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison) and the “powerlaw” lens (as referenced in Chris Anderson’s guest review of The Black Swan ) that Taleb talks about at length, and they will continue to attract resources and drive innovation. Putting yourself in the path of these positive trends is a good thing, for you and for your co-travelers.

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Note: Taleb’s “Black Swan Events” theory is offered up to explain the following:

1) The disproportionate role of high-impact, hard to predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations.

2) The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to their very nature of small probabilities).

3) The psychological biases that make people individually and collectively blind to uncertainty and unaware of the massive role of the rare event in historical affairs.

A version of this post first appeared on CSRwire Talkback.

Maternal and Child Health Reflections

Thoughts on how to merge women and children’s health goals with those of general healthcare.

ReachScale Vblog Every Woman Every Child from Leila Belmahi on Vimeo.

Five Questions to Measure Commitment to CSR

In conversations with marketing, communications and CSR leaders at the 36 conferences in which ReachScale participated in 2010, an unusually high number of executives said they are doing a strategic review of their CSR commitments and strategies. One might assume that the goal is to be more impactful, to do less harm and do more good. Instead of assuming, a question needs to be asked: Is the purpose of our CSR review to increase impact? The answer is not simple, given the current economic climate.

World leaders are faced with the same challenge as CSR leaders. Every three years the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit assembles the global ecosystem that was built through a commitment to the 10 principles of the Global Compact. (Review the list here.) Much good has come from the Compact and yet at the same time, promises have fallen short. The global economic meltdown has created a kind of schizophrenia in those organizations that committed to goals that appeared reachable in 2007 but seem less so today.

Empowering an ecosystem of leaders to re-envision appropriate responses is a tough challenge. In these circumstances it is no surprise that the proceedings of most conferences on CSR are dominated by testimonials of good works completed, of new projects and collaborations being started. But these are being discussed without the goals and measures that Porter and Kramer suggested are essential.

Based on our advocacy efforts and the testimonials heard from many conference podiums, we have distilled some simple but core questions for companies who are viewing their commitment to “shared values and principles, which will give a human face to the global market” (the quote that appears on the cover of the Gobal Compact Annual Review.)

1. Can we identify and focus on a cause or problem whose solution creates shared value?

As you answer this question please consider the following quote from Porter and Kramer:

“No business can solve all of society’s problems or bear the cost of doing so. Instead, each company must select issues that intersect with its particular business. Other social agendas are best left to those companies in other industries, NGOs, or government institutions that are better positioned to address them. The essential test that should guide CSR is not whether a cause is worthy but whether it presents an opportunity to create shared value – that is, a meaningful benefit for society that is also valuable to the business.”

2. Are we taking on a problem that our stakeholders would immediately recognize as significant?

For example: No one will argue that global banks are reputationally challenged in this post financial crash world. If you are the leader of a global bank and your response to current circumstances is to do exactly what community reinvestment laws require (and only in those countries that currently regulate you,) then you are working at zero base. On the other hand, you could make a commitment to address the global migration to cities problem, actively build community reinvestment principles and seek innovative partners to address the global slum problem in every country that delivers profit to you. That is an effort that would be clearly recognized as a commitment to a highly significant problem.

3. Is the problem we have chosen core enough to our business that we can ask our experts to apply their knowledge to the problem across multiple functions?

Using global banks as an example once again: Virtually every functional group within the organization has talent that can be applied with the appropriate innovation partners to solving this problem in every major city in the developing world in which that bank operates.

4. Is the problem we have chosen important enough that each member of the executive committee could justify spending 2 days a month (10% of work time) leading the organization and the ecosystem in seeking a solution?

The Global Compact is all about commitment. One could argue that for some companies, implementing the 10 principles will take at least that much time from executives at the beginning. As leaders drive the principles deep into the organization’s collective psyche, the muscle strength needed to take on larger opportunities will develop.

5. Is our wisdom, work and investment focused on attracting participants across the value chain?

The behavior of all players must change to achieve real results. Looking to engage multiple innovation sources encourages not just one corporation’s investment but also the commitment of many other companies as well.

Increasingly the ability to create value depends on market mechanisms that attract multiple value chain and investment participants. The social innovation to attract the participants will often come from outside the companies championing the changes. Finding and cultivating these innovations often depends on a problem solving commitment that goes beyond simply serving one company’s goals. The commitment must flow from an understanding that the problem goes beyond what any single company can do; the real work is assembling an ecosystem to solve a problem which requires a committed company’s best and brightest wisdom and work.

At Sustainable Brands 2010, Jason Saul of Mission Measurement stated that the CSR practice of reporting on the checks written and the volunteer hours logged will not be an adequate measure going forward. Ben Packard of Starbucks stated very openly that Starbucks knows they have not made enough progress in addressing the most significant impact they create as a business — the cup. Jason Saul and Ben Packard are two examples of leaders asking the right questions about real CSR impact.

Note: A version of this article first appeared on CSR Wire in February.

“Every Woman Every Child” Could Help Everyone


(UN Photo/Mark Garten)

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At UN Meetings (and the Clinton Global Initiative) last September I participated in the announcement of an expanded round of commitments for MDG 4 and MDG5. The Every Woman Every Child campaign is a massive set of commitments from countries, NGOs, corporations and others. (The original announcement can be found here, and progress on commitment announcements and partnerships is covered here.)

Headlines for the September 22nd announcement read:

UN Summit launches drive to save the lives of more than 16 million woman and children—Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health Draws more than $40 Billion in Resources

After the announcement, I read the commitments document. This is compelling reading for anyone interested in this area, particularly those who work in this space.

I am not an expert in development, women’s health or healthcare in general. But our work with social enterprises does expose us repeatedly to organizations that are working on the ground to deliver services and achieve transformative outcomes. These social enterprises tend to be smaller and more focused than many of the large organizations making commitments.

Given the difference in size, it is easy to see why these smaller entities might be overlooked in a process that is seeking large and visible commitments. I want to suggest however that these enterprises may be a key to actually achieving the spend that needs to follow the announcements.

As I read the commitments—especially those made by countries—I frequently found what I will call “pick a number” commitments. An example: Zimbabwe is committing to train 3,000 midwives. Sounds simple. But there’s more to understand.

Social enterprise leaders often speak about development efforts that under perform. Many of the examples they use are siloed, “pick one visible problem and fix it” projects. Most social enterprises are using more integrative and holistic approaches, dealing with causes and connections in ways that solves underlying issues ahead of the symptoms.

At many of the conferences I have attended recently I have asked questions about the reality of commitments ostensibly totaling $40 billion. One of the more common answers I have heard is a bit cynical: Many people have said that the financial commitments, especially those generated by individual countries, will never be spent.

Part of me resonates with that stance because the total dollar numbers being allocated across the 16 million lives to be saved is difficult to justify given the outcomes relative to the investments.

It is at this fulcrum that social enterprises can be a significant resource to the entire ecosystem. But what is needed to leverage social enterprise and translate their innovations into outcomes is not yet in place. New models and modalities are needed to make that happen.

Here is a simple example of what I am talking about:

Healthpoint: Integrated clean water, healthcare and mobile innovation

Healthpoint, a ReachScale client, is operating in Punjab, India and beginning operations in the Philippines. They are a for-profit social enterprise that can attract social, impact, corporate and other investors to address the recognized problem of basic modern healthcare for rural populations. This innovative holistic solution combines clean water, telemedicine, diagnostics, generic drugs, ERMs and mobile-enabled health workers. The combination of services makes profit possible and enhanced interaction with essential healthcare partners.

The numbers work as follows: An integrated clinic, telemedicine, pharmacy and water system costs $40,000. Spending $1 billion of the $40 billion currently identified in the EWEC commitments on building these clinics would deploy 600 clinics in 40 countries with the capacity to do water, healthcare, and maternal and child health basics for a half billion people—2/3rds or more women and children.

For $25 million—just .000625 of $40 billion—a country can serve 3-6 million women and children (and men) in 600 villages. This is a persuasive argument that a countries leaders could get behind.

Healthpoint along with Lifespring Hospitals and the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society are social enterprises with transformative models. In our view, this is an approach that is worthy of attention.

Scale and The Triple Bottom Line

Happy New Year…I’m expecting 2011 to take off with energy this week.

As we dive into the new year, I quote from the background page on ReachScale:

Over the past forty years, over 200,000 nonprofits were established. Only 144 achieved budgets of 50 million (USD) or more. Of that group fewer than 15 were scaled through corporate financial contributions.* In other words, corporate funding has scaled one nonprofit every three years.

Corporate philanthropy has historically favored the same large nonprofit organizations even though each dollar donated results in less than a dollar of impact. While business leaders are very aware of the upside potential for scaling an entrepreneurial business venture, the concept of applying the same principles of scaling to viable social enterprises has not been explored.

We did a lot of exploring in 2010—36 conferences and over 4000 conversations with social enterprise and corporate leaders. Our client Healthpoint announced their first corporate scaling partner, Procter & Gamble, and several other highly innovative social enterprises are in serious discussions. [For more about Healthpoint, see the coverage in Fast Company and my earlier post.]

One reason that these conversations are taking shape is the recognition that there is a new additive triple bottom line of benefits to global corporations that realize that their business and innovation talents are squandered when they are not driving scale in every investment and social responsibility activity.

ReachScale works with companies to achieve their sustainability and social responsibility goals by partnering and scaling innovative, problem-solving social enterprises. Selecting an area of social concern that affects a company’s core business and then innovating to make measurable progress in solving that problem is a win/win/win opportunity.

Here are three examples of what that triple bottom line could look like.

License to Grow
Social impact scaling that can demonstrate progress in meeting people’s fundamental needs while making a modest profit is a new innovation. It results in ethical marketing instead of interruption marketing. As corporate strategy guru Michael Porter pointed out in his article coauthored with Mark Kramer, “Strategy and Society” in the Harvard Business Review:

No business can solve all of society’s problems or bear the cost of doing so. Instead, each company must select issues that intersect with its particular business. Other social agendas are best left to those companies in other industries, NGOs, or government institutions that are better positioned to address them. The essential test that should guide CSR is not whether a cause is worthy but whether it presents an opportunity to create shared value–that is, a meaningful benefit for society that is also valuable to the business.

Healthpoint and Lifespring Hospitals are two examples of licenses to grow, one in rural villages and the other in maternal health. Arogya Parivar, an innovative outreach by Novartis India to rural regions of India is another example. AP received a prestigious award for “Best long-term rural marketing initiative” from the Rural Marketing Association of India (RMAI).

Increasingly companies will recognize that it is not enough to do less harm. A license to grow requires more vision and more impact. It requires building ecosystems and innovation models that turn problems into profits.

Reputation based on Results
Jason Saul of Mission Measurement said it best at Sustainable Brands: Donations and volunteer hours are no longer newsworthy unless presented in the context of strategic commitments to solve real problems.

This theme was repeated in a number of sessions at Sustainable Brands as forward thinking companies like Nike and Timberland admitted openly that they know their businesses are not currently environmentally friendly. Going forward they need to drive innovation to change their businesses drastically. In the future we cannot produce every day products like T-shirts the way we do today. The companies that do not exemplify this shifting reality will not be able to use “pretty pictures” CSR to shift their reputations.

Choosing an appropriately big problem and making measurable results in its solution can and will shift reputations based on results.


Return on Investment

This triple is not new. What is new however is how it is being achieved. In the past the core business produced the return and a small percentage was allocated to CSR and philanthropy—the cost centers. Increasingly global companies are seeing that the most pressing problems that seemed to be intractable resource sinks can be, with appropriate innovation and collaboration, profit making (or at least break-even after scaling and capacity building investments.) General Electric’s global business strategy centers on two critical challenges: health care and energy.

In the case of the for-profit through innovation and collaboration opportunity, the new goal becomes demonstrating the people impact, license to grow and reputation value. These can be mixed and deployed to attract multiple sources of capital. As you watch the investment announcements in 2011, you will increasingly see strange bedfellows clasping hands and acting together to drive integrated social and monetary returns.

Capacity building opportunities can be attractive as well. They enable the founders to develop social brand equity with great returns. Imagine if your organization had been the strategic scaling founder of Teach for America, a question we have addressed in an earlier post. Scaling to create profitable or breakeven portfolios of solutions or to attract a broad range of supporters who gladly join because of high impact through social innovations enables value creation without incremental funding.

This new triple bottom line enables the leveraging of corporate strategic and brand resources with highly innovative social enterprises. This achieves impact, enhanced reputation and a return on investment that can then go after new challenges.

A Congress Where One Can Visualize Innovation

The World Health Care Congress convened in Abu Dhabi on December 5. For those of us in the US, media coverage was focusing on a dysfunctional congress in Washington. So now for something completely different, an innovative congress happening on the other side of the globe.

At least four ecosystems were visible at the WHCC, each collaborating and co-creating to achieve the following over the next decade:

- Increased attention to breakthroughs around access, diagnostics, delivery, chronic care and behavior change

- Fewer resources invested in discoveries and expensive healthcare systems for the top of the pyramid

- Improvements—potentially dramatic— in healthcare innovation on the cost, access and prevention (especially prevention through behavior change) dimensions

As General Electric stated in the October 2009 Harvard Business Review article, “How GE Is Disrupting Itself”, survival in the next century requires companies to import their innovation from the most innovative sources in the developing world where priorities are driven by a very different innovation and resource focus.

ReachScale was at the World Health Care Congress to introduce the social enterprise ecosystem as a major innovation source for the global health transformation opportunity (more information about one of several innovation social enterprise models, Healthpoint, can be read here.) I suggested that more visibility for social enterprise and impact investing was needed, and the WHCC organizers agreed. (Coming directly from an impact investing conference hosted by Asad Mahmoud of Deutsche Bank I brought fresh insights into that point of view.)

The validity of this suggestion was quickly demonstrated when my first question to the assembly mentioned Ashoka and causing several people to ask, What is Ashoka? That led to many questions about social enterprise, primarily regarding the Ashoka and Healthpoint models, in multiple sessions. I was able to have conversations on this topic with over a hundred leaders from all over the world.

While social enterprise was the last guest to be invited to this gathering, the potential for innovation was greatly enhanced by convening the other ecosystem leaders. This was done brilliantly through a successful collaboration of the World Congress and the Abu Dhabi Health Authority whose leaders were influential in bringing some of the most thoughtful and innovative speakers and participants from the Gulf Cooperation countries along with a full complement from India, Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and North America.

There are four ecosystems which I envision collaborating with the social enterprise ecosystem to drive innovation breakthroughs around access, diagnostics, delivery, chronic care and behavior change. Your list might include a few others. And if you are a leader in one of those other ecosystems not named here, let’s talk and accelerate the conversation.

Here are my four:

1-New health care system builders (and broken health care system innovators)

2-Global South healthcare system innovators

3-The world organizations ranging from the UN and WHO to the functional and dysfunctional ecosystems around the MDGs, especially MGD 4 and 5

4-Corporations seeking a license to grow and committed to social brand equity as part of their global footprints

My next post will discuss why these partners are all essential, how they are currently innovating and how that innovation could move even faster if conversations and scaling opportunities like those we discussed in Abu Dhabi were blown up (to use a popular Millennial phrase).

Positive Black Swans


There are no black swans in the Northern Hemisphere, so whiteness was assumed to be an essential quality of swanness. When a Dutch explorer spotted a black one on an expedition to Australia in 1697, that concept had to be restated. It is a simple but useful analogy for how fragile a system of thought actually can be. Our assumptions, whether they result from reason, logic, falsifiability and/or evidence, can be undone in a moment. (See a brief description at the bottom of the post regarding Taleb’s use of the term “black swan.”)

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As the first decade of the 21st century comes to a close, the popularity of books like The Black Swan (written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb) could be seen in a negative light. There is no need to recount a string of unfortunate Black Swan moments that have appeared successively in economics, the financial world infrastructure and politics. However, when enough people become dissatisfied with the business as usual approach, a world of increasing connectedness is also offering opportunities to create movements and infrastructure that can lead to the beneficial good news black swans.

My take on the past year is that a lot of positive black swan road building is happening that is not visible to the business as usual crowd. As these new roads open up—and in many cases this is happening in the not so visible backwaters of the Global South—new innovations, commerce, solutions and jobs will continue to go unnoticed by the short-term profit maximizers.

Here are a few examples that we encourage you to build into your thinking as you position your careers, companies and capacities to benefit from the unpredictable positives and mitigate risks of the unpredictable negatives:

Impact Investing. While the numbers are still small—$25 billion by some estimates—the concept is big. Two decades ago Domini, Calvert and others began a crusade that resulted in $7 trillion dollars being placed in socially screened investments—i.e., companies that are actively demonstrating that they are doing less harm. Now an intrepid group has set out to demonstrate that your entire portfolio can be investments that are solving global and/or local challenges. These are organizations that produce significant social benefit as well as making a profit. What if ten percent of that $7 trillion moved to impact investments?

Innovation and Social Enterprise. This first decade saw a lot of attention being paid to innovation. And there’s no question that global problems attract innovation leaders. The innovation conferences have begun to shift their focus to newer concepts like open innovation, crowd sourcing and challenge innovation. One of the largest innovation ecosystems centers on social enterprise and is lead by organizations like Ashoka, The Skoll Foundation, and a long list of others. If you do not recognize these names then it is time to do some open innovating of your own. The leading global corporate innovators (GE, P&G, Unilever) are definitely opening to the burgeoning sources of innovation represented by social enterprise.


Social Capital Formation
. I had the pleasure to hear Wayne Silby, founder of Calvert, speak to the Impact Investing conference hosted by Asad Mahmoud of Deutsche Bank last week in NYC. Besides Calvert’s leading role in social investing mentioned above, the Calvert Foundation is one of many leaders in the social bonds space. Space does not permit a full rendition of that approach but suffice it to say that for-profit social enterprises can access debt capital much earlier than traditional entrepreneurs.


Social Enterprise Scaling Infrastructure
. A broad range of efforts are coalescing here—Ashoka’s accelerator program, Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Incubator, Poptech, New Profit and our own ReachScale outreach to find the corporate scaling partners for the most innovative SEs–and the trend is growing.

These ecosystems are increasing in richness and connections. They are beginning to demonstrate the “power of pull” (from the book of the same name by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison) and the “powerlaw” lens (as referenced in Chris Anderson’s guest review of The Black Swan ) that Taleb talks about at length, and they will continue to attract resources and drive innovation. Putting yourself in the path of these positive trends is a good thing, for you and for your co-travelers.

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Note: Taleb’s “Black Swan Events” theory is offered up to explain the following:

1) The disproportionate role of high-impact, hard to predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations.

2) The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to their very nature of small probabilities).

3) The psychological biases that make people individually and collectively blind to uncertainty and unaware of the massive role of the rare event in historical affairs.

A New Kind of Partnership: Healthpoint and P&G


Healthpoint Services is bringing clean water and health care to rural villages in India

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The ReachScale impact model test began last January with a simple set of ideas:

- The most innovative social enterprises can provide solutions to global challenges.
- When scaled by global corporations, social enterprises can create powerful licenses to operate.
- By working together, social enterprises and global corporations can galvanize difficult-to-acquire consumer attention and loyalty.

We set about looking for the best disruptive innovators. That process was aided by social entrepreneur screening pioneers such as Ashoka with its 2800 global fellows. Meanwhile ReachScale used international conferences as its own scaling engine. These gatherings make it possible to exchange ideas and visions of the future with both social and corporate leaders.

It was after many thousand conversations that a new possibility became visible: Combining social innovation and scaling innovation has profit making potential in many sectors. As in microfinance, this approach can be for profit or break even after an investment in capacity building.

Today is the culmination of that process and an important day for one of our clients. Healthpoint Services is announcing their first corporate learning and scaling partner—Procter & Gamble. The news is being announced at the mHealth Summit in Washington DC, a gathering focused on advancing the benefits of mobile technology for health and wellbeing for all world communities.

P&G’s reputation for innovation is legendary (The bestselling book, The Game-Changer, was written by P&G’s chairman and CEO, A. G. Lafley). So it is no surprise that Healthpoint would welcome P&G as a partner and investor.

But the big news is that P&G’s investment is driven by a desire to learn from Healthpoint.

Healthpoint was started by Al Hammond (a global base of the pyramid expert), Amit Jain (a clean water pioneer) and Chris Dickey (a doctor of public health with a Wharton MBA), and it is the first scalable integration of telemedicine, clean water, diagnostics and a robust generic pharmacy. This integrated solution enables real foundational healthcare and water delivery in a sustainable manner (i.e., profitably) via a village facility where doctor visits and tests average a dollar.

Each village Healthpoint clinic costs around $40k to build and equip. Healthpoint builds, owns and maintains the infrastructure and then reaches out to partner with the government on specific services. State and local governments are recognizing and supporting these significant investments in their region. Punjab, India is the site of the first Healthpoints, and 2,000 are envisioned in the five northern Indian states.

P&G’s Futureworks group is out front on this opportunity. They are by no means alone however. Transforming a corporation’s license to operate into a growth engine is top level thinking at the most innovative companies. (See “How GE Is Disrupting Itself” by Jeff Immelt in the October 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review.)

The world is changing rapidly. A new generation is rejecting single bottom line thinking. Their counterparts in the global south will become customers only when insightful companies create offerings that bring them appropriate products and services.

Our prediction is that a few years from now, the best companies will fund social innovation investment groups in a fashion similar to the way business mergers and acquisitions are done today. P&G’s Futureworks is getting there through Healthpoint’s innovation windows. Those not opening these windows now may find the growth lights hard to turn on later.

SOCAP Recap


The Cheena Vala (also known as the Chinese fishing nets) of Cochin, India: A technology of indeterminate age and source, the nets are balanced so that the weight of just one man on the main beam causes the net to descend into the sea.

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During the past three weeks while attending six conferences—see the full list under Road Work on the side column to the right—I felt like I was fishing in well stocked waters, using multiple nets, and lucky enough to be in the midst of a tidal surge. While my nets came back full, I know there was still a lot that I wasn’t able to catch.

Luckily these waters have no minimum size requirements so I’m keeping everything I caught. Here are a few highlights worth sharing.

The “Actions Speak Louder” Award
SOCAP attendance was several hundred more than a thousand, and attendance at the “unconference” on the third day had 600 participants and featured 12-15 UN sessions per time slot. This was twice as many participants as any other conference I attended and almost twice as many as SOCAP had last year. Most important, virtually every person was working on solutions to one or more global (and/or local) problems. To learn more, read Neil Eddington’s report here.

Hybrid Vigor
In an earlier post I suggested that the Investing in MDG Goals conference and the Ashoka Futures Forum be held together in 2011. I’d like to suggest another pairing: The US Chamber Business Civic Leadership Center and SOCAP should do their September conferences together next year. ReachScale extended SOCAP invitations to a dozen companies and about half accepted and participated in the privates session we conducted with top social enterprise leaders like Rebecca Onie of Project Health, Lelia Janah of Samasource, Abby Falik of Global Citizen Year and David Smith of Affordable Housing Institute. Adding the four hundred attendees at the BCLC to the mix would open an innovation window that would be enlightening for all parties.

For an example of the mobile innovation opportunities on display at SOCAP and analysis of why Omidyar is investing $55 million in mobile tech, read this article by Alice Korngold at Fast Company here.


Impact Investors Collaborate

To read a primer on impact investing, your time would be well spent turning to one of the founders of SOCAP, Kevin Jones. You can read his article on the Huffington Post here.

This article was written before the boomlet that was SOCAP 2010, anticipating a movement that is now forming. At SOCAP a group of innovative early stage impact investors agreed to share information, due diligence, tracking and measurement of investments. This effort is being called Toniic and is designed to partner with the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN). Early stage moves like this will lay the groundwork over the next decade for social investors to realize that while backing companies that do less harm is good, investing in companies that are actually solving problems will be even better. (Read the CSR Wire announcement here.)

Another piece of the puzzle is investment advise for guidance on impact investing. An announcement at the Clinton Global Initiative of the Global Impact 50, the first index of top impact investment fund managers that are delivering social and environmental value in addition to financial returns (including the leaders from microfinance, community development, fair trade, and other strategies) is well received news. Impact investing requires a willingness to put risk capital in play for early stage transformative investments. The Global Impact 50 will bring visibility to those playing this role. You can read the announcement in Forbes here.