What has happened to the American Dream – the idea that freedoms granted in the U.S. provide opportunities to prosper, succeed, and move up the socioeconomic ladder through hard work? The reality is that initiative and effort are often not enough to get Americans out of the traps of poverty, and that the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to widen. In an interview with Steve Zuckerman, MBA ’87, and Managing Director of Self–Help’s California operations, he revealed insights specific to financial challenges and solutions for the poor and underserved.
Greetings from Myanmar! After 50 years of isolation the country is now at a pivotal moment in time, entering a new era of international relations, development, and potential progress. In November 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, laying the foundation for political changes. Following Parliament’s 2011 selection of U Thein Sein as president, the country has begun to open up and ushered in myriad reforms. In May 2012, the Obama administration lifted most prohibitions on Americans doing business in Myanmar, marking a new era of diplomatic relations with the United States.
Where do the products we buy come from and how do we know that their production doesn’t leave a wake of environmental damage or exploited workers? Even brands we think we trust are often linked to suppliers with questionable or downright abusive practices, as exemplified in the November factory fire in Bangladesh, where 112 workers were killed at a factory that supplied Walmart, Sears and even the US Marine Corps, though all claim they had no idea that apparel produced there was destined for their stores.
As we enter 2013, I’ve reached out to a handful of my knowledgeable colleagues to hear their version of a New Year’s resolution in response to this prompt: If you had a magic wand and there was one thing you could change in the ecosystem for social impact, what would it be?
Thank you for being a part of our community of social innovators committed to building a better world for future generations. Imagination, experiences, and relationships spark innovation all around us every day. May you stay inspired in 2013.
This time of year offers the opportunity to express our care for friends and family through shared traditions and the exchange of gifts. Shopping can spin into a frenzy of purchases, but with a bit of thought it’s a great opportunity to put our money where it can make a difference. Last year’s “Shop and Give for a Better World” column was well-received, so I’m making it an annual tradition.
Digital textbooks, online lectures, innovative software, learning games, laptops, tablets, and smartphones have all made it possible to customize content, enhance instruction, and improve assessment in the educational arena. This convergence of possibilities could really revolutionize the way students learn. But the landscape is decentralized and complicated, and leveraging what’s possible to really move the field of education forward will not be easy.
A number of reports have crossed my desk recently about how to accelerate and advance social innovation. In many of these reports I notice a big imbalance in representation between those I’ll call the “doers” and those who consult, advise and fund the action. For example, on a back of the envelop analysis of four reports by leading social impact experts and consulting firms, just 24% of those surveyed/convened were “doers” who directly provide programs, services and interventions. The remaining 76% were assorted funders, consultants, intermediaries, advisors, and donors. In one report the doers accounted for a mere 3%. These percentages resonate with my observations at a variety of gatherings over recent years, and they raise concern.
A conversation with Ashley Boren, MBA '89 and executive director of the nonprofit organization Sustainable Conservation. Having been in the trenches since 1997, she knows what it takes to create “shared value” in the form of cross-sector partnerships to solve environmental problems and reveals the lessons she has learned.
At this time of year I seem to be in “pitch” sessions for any number of courses, competitions, and fellowships. A criterion that is always on the judging sheet is “scale.” Clearly, as Jeff Bradach noted in his article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Scaling Impact “Today, there may be no idea with greater currency in the social sector than ‘scaling’ what works.”