Why do you give?

Tibetan Buddhist monk in red robes handing out...

At a recent potluck, the conversation turned to the issue of homelessness and how we can address it, as individuals and as a society. Someone remarked that they feel good if they give a homeless woman a dollar, and then they continue on with their day. THEY feel good.

The issue of homelessness and giving to homeless and beggars is complex, and I struggle constantly with deciding how to view and approach the issue–especially after growing up in Santa Cruz, which has always had a large homeless population, and being approached by beggars nearly daily in India. As I thought more about this issue, it seemed that everywhere I looked and read there were articles and videos discussing generosity and homelessness. I think it boils down to two concepts: why do we give and how do we treat others?  (more…)


Failure Fireside Potluck

Photo via Kevin Adler from a Fireside Potluck

A few weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a Fireside Potluck, hosted by my StartingBloc friend and founder of inthis, Kevin Adler. The topic was one familiar to this blog–failure. (You may remember that Kevin participated in SocialStory’s Celebrating Failure series.)

With nearly 40 strangers cramped into a lovely San Francisco living room, we had a two-hour, open, honest, and insightful discussion on what failure means personally, professionally, and in society. Here are some highlights from our discussion:


Leverage The Failures Of The Past For Greatness In The Future – Steve Hardgrave (SocialStory)

Leverage The Failures Of The Past For Greatness In The Future – Steve Hardgrave (SocialStory)

The latest in my Celebrating Failure series for SocialStory

For this installment of SocialStory’s Celebrate Failure series, we spoke with Steve Hardgrave, a social entrepreneur who has worked in Mexico, the United States, and India.

Steve—who is now based in Bangalore, India—was previously the Founder and CEO of a microfinance organization that worked in a slum outside of Mexico City, Mexico.


Why You Should Go Out of Your Way to Find an Awesome Peer Mentor (Brazen Life)

An article I wrote about peer mentorship for Brazen Life

Imagine…You just had an invaluable meeting with one of your mentors. You feel really stuck at work, unsure whether to take that great promotion or follow your passion with the startup that asked you to join their team. Your mentor went through a similar dilemma, and their advice was fresh and honest.

Now, what if we told you that your mentor was not a senior leader in your field, a professor or your boss? Rather, your mentor was your peer—someone at the same level as you in their career. But, you ask, how can a peer be a mentor, and why would I even want a peer mentor?

Here are four reasons why you should have a peer mentor and some key steps to building a peer mentoring relationship that will last a lifetime:


Let’s Celebrate Failure (SocialStory)

Over at SocialStory, we’ve launched a series to discover social enterprise failures and lessons learned. Email us at failures@yourstory.in to participate. 

Every organization experiences failure. It’s inevitable.

Failure means something different to everyone, and it can be as small as a mismanaged project or as a large as shutting down your organization.

The goal is not to hide the failures, but to learn from them. What lessons can be drawn from the mistakes or circumstances that led to the failure? What preventive measures or changes can be implemented to avoid similar future failures? Learning from failures upon reflection and investigation is how organizations improve and innovate. As this article points out, we can even learn a lot from near-misses. It’s important to not only learn from your own failure, but to also learn from the failures of others. As Jean Case argues, “if everyone commits to sharing lessons from failure, the society as a whole will be stronger and more prepared to attack the next challenge.”


Lessons from SOCAP: It’s Time to Get Serious

I really appreciate the honesty in this post about the unspoken but prevalent issues in social enterprise today. 

One issue that is not explored enough is how to find the local entrepreneurs that nobody knows that are doing gamechanging work, without support or fancy titles.

“This results in seeking entrepreneurs within existing networks and therefore only exposing a very limited opportunity base. Investment deal flow will therefore be consistently limited, as we continually attract self-recognizable social entrepreneurs and individuals who fit a certain cultural box. Or, we will white wash it with a sub-standard entrepreneur to ensure the enterprise is racially or gender diverse. Meanwhile, no one has actively pulled up their sleeves and deeply penetrated new networks, associations, and cultures to truly source local winners.

We need to start finding real businesses, which might not be found through a business plan competition or pitch session, they might not culturally fit our educated, yet sophisticated backgrounds. But their potential for investment readiness, scale and impact are large.”

Another issue is that of impact accelerators and how to make them accountable and useful for social enterprises and deal flow. Daniel Epstein wrote a fantastic post on accelerators here that raises other important points that could apply to accelerators in the social space. 

“Unlike tech accelerators in Silicon Valley, impact accelerators are mostly non-profits. Most of them raise third party grants from donors, they are not necessarily incentivized to the success of the business, they are under capitalized and forced to rely on interns and under-qualified human capital to drive these businesses. It also seems that many impact investors are unwilling to have serious conversations with them and form long-term partnerships. 

Impact investors also raise grants for technical assistance, which often goes to expensive consultant resources incentivized to their day rate or short-term business development projects. 

Given the success of accelerators in Silicon Valley, there are some principles that could apply in the impact investing universe. Impact accelerators need to be incentivized to the success of the business and align their services to the needs of the entrepreneur. There is a potentially important role for impact accelerators to combine local in country deal sourcing services, intense investment readiness incubation, small amounts of catalytic capital and provide “qualified” deal flow downstream to impact investors. There might even be a space for accelerators to take on early stage deals and exit into impact investors.”

Lessons from SOCAP: It’s Time to Get Serious