Entries in Social Enterprises (6)


Building a Ship, Building a Community

For the past year or so, I've been serving on the Board of Directors of the Educational Tall Ship Project - a special project meant inspire people to celebrate and experience the rich maritime history of the Bay Area, learn about and preserve our delicate ecosystem, and provide life-changing experiential learning opportunities for youth of all backgrounds, now and for generations to come.

The mission of the Educational Tall Ship Project is to construct a historic and sustainable wooden tall ship for the San Francisco Bay Area. The project will provide on the water and shore-based experiential education for students of all ages, both during construction and after completion. Programs will focus on marine ecology, sustainability, teamwork, leadership and the rich maritime history of the Bay Area.

Our goal is to create the most environmentally sustainable working tall ship ever built. In fact, our goal is to operate on a completely carbon neutral basis. A few of our sustainable features include:

  • Construction: All construction methods, materials, and equipment for the project will be selected with attention to their suitability for design functions, esthetics and the environmental impact of producing these materials and equipment as well as what happens at the end of the use cycle.
  • Education: Our goal is to turn the construction project into a vibrant, interactive learning experience in which youth and broader community are inspired about learning and take ownership of their own education. The educational program will combine natural and nautical curriculum elements to empower the next generation of sea stewards.
  • Operation: Day-to-day operations are designed to minimize energy and water use with a waste management system that will repurpose, recycle and reduce waste. By using LED lighting, induction cooking and low energy navigation and appliances, we will use less than 50kWh per day. Producing and storing enough energy from just four to six hours of sailing can achieve energy self-sufficiency.
  • Propulsion: The ship will produce her own energy and propulsion needs through a state-of-the-art hybrid system using wind power to produce electrical generation. By combining technologies from the 19th and 21st centuries—skipping over the petroleum era—ETS will become a unique teaching tool that can inspire appreciation for past boat building designs while utilizing innovative technology solutions to construct a truly green sailing ship.

I am thrilled to report that the board, staff, and Sausalito community have agreed upon a construction site and the project is set to begin!  Learn more about our progress from the press release below.

Educational Tall Ship Project
Sausalito, CA


December 14, 2012

Sausalito Planning Commission Approves Bay Area Non-Profit’s Plan to Construct First Wooden Tall Ship in Almost 100 Years

(Sausalito, CA) - Imagine the graceful lines of a wooden Tall Ship, an echo of San Francisco’s rich maritime heritage, tacking her way under the Golden Gate, appearing out of the fog under full sail like a 19th century ghost. On her decks and aloft are Bay Area youth of all backgrounds and abilities working and learning together, sailing her confidently, their faces bright with a sense of adventure and achievement.

Supporters of The Educational Tall Ship for San Francisco Bay (ETS), a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that is constructing the first ever sustainably built and operated “Living Ship” in North America, celebrated Wednesday evening after the Sausalito Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve their proposed construction site at Marina Plaza, 2330 Marinship Way. Members from the community, including site architect, Michel Rex, Director of Richardson Bay Maritime Association and Executive Director of Call of the Sea, Charles Hart, expressed their support for the project, but from the comments made by each member of the commission, it didn’t seem necessary. “What really impressed me was how very supportive each person was when they spoke about what the project will bring to our working waterfront”, said ETS Executive Director, Alan Olson. “Our goal has always been to make this a community project and we were all moved by the support expressed by the Planning Commission and the community members who came to speak”, Olson said.

The vessel will serve as an outdoor education platform for Bay Area youth serving an additional 10,000 students every year, expanding  existing on-the-water programs offered by “Call of the Sea” a Sausalito based non-profit.  The ship will incorporate old-world technology with a new sail  powered regenerative electric drive system. ETS will employ local, skilled craftsmen as well as apprentices and volunteers to implement the project. Expertise and supervision will be provided by the premier wooden tall ship designer/builders in the country, Tri-Coastal Marine of Richmond CA. The construction process will be open to the public, and volunteers from various backgrounds and age groups will partake in the building of this vessel to truly make it the Bay Area’s Tall Ship.

For More Information Contact:                 

Kimberly Kouri
Educational Tall Ship
60C Liberty Ship Way
Sausalito, CA 94965


Giving Tuesday

I first heard about Giving Tuesday from Rob Reich, one of my former colleagues from the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and an advisor to the group that is trying to start this philanthropic movement.

The premise is simple: Giving Tuesday is meant to sit in contrast to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and to emphasize the spirit of gratitude and generosity that are much more a part of the holiday season than is consumerism.

On Tuesday November 27, 2012 charities, families, businesses and individuals are coming together to transform the way people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season.

I am excited to see what can come of this idea, particularly because economic gains can be directly measured from Black Friday and Cyber Monday efforts. My hope is that this day will clearly demonstrate charitable gains to the nonprofit organizations working to improve the quality of life for people and planet.

My only criticism of the effort (I know - how can you criticize giving and generousity???) is that it seems focused primarily on financial gifts. As any good philanthropist knows, generous people can give time, talent, and (or?) treasure. There doesn't seem to be a strong service component, but I imagine the counter-consumer focus is meant to be felt relative to our bank accounts, as well as our hearts.

The site is filled with ideas, ways to get involved, and resouces. Check it out - AND GIVE!


Nonprofit Tech Companies

This weekend I hosted a party and one of my guests recently started working at Twitter. We had a nice conversation about social media and technology, and how in light of recent high-profile public offerings (Facebook, Groupon, LinkedIn, Pandora, Yelp, Zynga, etc.), little has been known about how these technology companies are turning a profit, like the recent 60 Minutes profile of Groupon.

I live two blocks away from the Zynga headquarters and walk past the Twitter's new building on my way to work each morning, so technology is a community interest for me, in some ways.

And for those tech companies that offer information or tools, it's fascinating to see some great examples of non-profit tech companies that serve a social mission, making the internet more of a nonprofit space, where ads and marketing aren't influencing the user experience.

I've been thinking more and more about this conversation and so I decided to explore the mission statements of my top 10 favorite nonprofit tech companies.

They are (in alphabetical order):

1. Bay Area Video Coalition (San Francisco, CA)
Mission: The Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) inspires social change by enabling the sharing of diverse stories through art, education and technology.

2. Craigslist Foundation (RIP, San Francisco, CA)
Mission: to empower people to strengthen their communities by connecting them to the resources they need to effectively engage in community building.

3. Creative Commons (Mountain View, CA)
Mission: Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.

4. Electronic Frontier Foundation (San Francisco, CA)
Mission: The Corporation was formed for the purpose of understanding and fostering the opportunities of digital communication in a free and open society.

5. Internet Archive (San Francisco, CA)
Mission: to offer permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.

6. Kahn Academy (Mountain View, CA)
Mission: to provide a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.

Note: Kahn Academy was recently featured on 60 Minutes.

7. Mozilla Foundation (Mountain View, CA)
Mission: to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the web,

8. TechSoup Global (San Francisco, CA)
Mission: TechSoup Global is working toward a time when every nonprofit and NGO on the planet has the technology resources and knowledge they need to operation at their full potential.

9. Tehnology, Entertainment, Design (New York, NY)
Mission: Spreading ideas.

10. Wikimedia Foundation (San Francisco, CA)
Mission: to encourage the growth, development, and distribution of free, multilingual content, and to provide the full content of these wiki-based projects to the public free of charge.

Please share your favorite nonprofit tech companies with me! I can be reached at


Philanthropy, Technology, and Resolutions

After seeing a recent article in The New York Times posted a number of times on Facebook in Twitter, I decided to give it a look. “Be It Resolved” by John Tierney offers a brief literature review on research related to the success of keeping a New Year’s resolution, or many resolutions, as the case may be, though willpower.

To my surprise, there were some interesting nuggets of philanthropy and technology noted in the article that implicated motivation in ways that I never would have considered.

Late in the article after a somewhat awkward story about the ability of a wealthy hedge fund manager to meet his fitness goals (read: a strange point - unrelated to research - that the ultra-wealthy can hire people to manage their willpower for them), Tierney mentioned a website,, which allows you to set a goal and put money behind it. Basically, if you fail to keep your resolution or meet your goal, they money will be sent to “a friend, a charity, or an anti-charity.”  The example of an anti-charity given in the article was that donation from “a Democrat could be the George W. Bush library. (The Clinton library is available for Republicans.)”

I presume that if you meet the goal in your resolution, you keep you money.  It’s not clear if you can still donate it to charity – or anti-charity – when you’re successful. If you can donate it to a charity if you're successful (or if they just give the money back to you directly to donate on your own), then this could be a wonderful way to fundraise through activity goals, with practical use beyond just resolutions, like one-time races.

This is the first time I’ve really thought about an “anti-charity” concept, much less as a motivational tactic to pursue goals and resolutions. Of course, most of us prefer to give to “good” charities based on good intentions. I guess it might provide a new level of motivation to think that “bad” charities would benefit by our failures.  But I could also see that it makes the whole goal-setting/resolution process more painful (“D’oh! I failed and my anti-charity succeeds at my expense!”).

The other philanthropy-related site listed in the article is, but this one is focused primarily on losing weight. The site is an exercise monitor that makes donation to charity based on how active you are.  The site says:

“At Striiv, we believe helping others is core to improving yourself. That’s why we’ve created a walkathon in every Striiv device that counts your steps and gives based on your movement. At no cost to you, Striiv and corporate partners donate on your behalf. Just walk, earn, and plug into your PC to donate. Its (sic) that simple. You have the choice of 3 charities - providing clean water to families in South America, polio vaccines, and help save the rainforest. The more you walk the more you give.”

I’ve run a few marathons and swam the Alcatraz Channel for various charities, so I can certainly support the idea of coupling philanthropic activism with physical activity. But I’m a little concerned that the charitable beneficiaries are not well explained online – it seems that you can’t even find their names or learn about how and where they give (beyond general parameters like “Bolivia, Tanzania, and India”).

It’s also a bit of a bump in the road to see that in order to participate in their approach, you have to buy a $99 device that tracks your activity. That’s not exactly cheap, considering most pedometers and phone applications cost much less. The software seems to be a large part of the sell, but it seems there is also an essential online component.

Also, it looks like you don’t actually donate your own money directly, since “At no cost to you, Striiv and corporate partners donate on your behalf.” But how much do they donate?  The site seems like an interesting concept, but there are lots of questions I have about the effectiveness of their approach, based on activity and philanthropy.

Let me know if you find any sites that offer the same “walk/run/bike-a-thon” concept online through setting and achieving goals, with easy, secure, linked ways to donate the money.  All the better if you can select the charity of your choice, as it would be quite convenient to document my activity activism and philanthropy over time. There needs to be a philanthropy diary online - anyone?

As for my resolutions? “Give more” is not one of them – I already made my philanthropic budget in 2011 and most of the beneficiaries are to places where I serve on the board of directors. So I don’t plan to turn to either of these sites for direction or motivation. But it’s great to see that charities, anti-charities, and technologies are using philanthropy to advance resolutions, or maybe it’s the other way around; using resolutions to advance philanthropy.

Good luck on those resolutions, friends!


Cultivating New Community Leaders

Full Circle Fund logo


New Full Circle Fund Members, July 2011

After three consecutive weeks of attending Full Circle Fund events on any given night – and another event on my calendar for next week – it’s clear to me that this is an organization that I need to tell others about.

There are a few reasons I’m involved with Full Circle Fund that map directly to my core values: community, contribution, and camaraderie. Or, to use another alliteration, I value impact, investment, and inspiration. So please indulge me to align the alliterations and say more about each.

Community and Impact

First, an introduction from the website: “Full Circle Fund is an engaged philanthropy organization cultivating the next generation of community leaders and driving lasting social change in the Bay Area. Full Circle Fund members leverage their time, money, skills and connections to the service of nonprofits, businesses and government agencies in partnerships that result in significant impact on the community.”

Although I’ve come across many civic and social organizations that seem to be a platform for elitism and exclusivity, Full Circle Fund is the kind of philanthropic group that directly engages in the community – and by that I mean, the place where its members live and work across a wide region in the Bay Area. I’ve always been struck by the phrase “think globally, act locally,” and it makes sense to me that we can all do much to improve the immediate needs that surround us.

But in addition to occupying or pursuing an occupation in any given area, Full Circle Fund members participate in an organization that values substantive change.  Even with an acknowledgement that we cannot do everything for everyone, our members come together because we believe that we can make a contribution that is meaningful and measurable.

"Impact” a buzz word that I hear often in the nonprofit sector, but usually it means something that is pre-defined. Sometimes it leads to square pegs in round holes. At Full Circle Fund, “impact” can mean many things, including innovations unknown. We are willing to look at our community and make a difference – or take a chance – that matters. If we leave our grantees better than when we’ve found them, we’ve done our best to contribute to positive change. Risk does have results, intentionally for the better.

Contribution and Investment

Second, Full Circle Fund members each have a stake in the outcomes. Instead of only writing a check to a grantee, we engage with nonprofits through strategic partnerships. I’ve often been told that philanthropy includes contributions of “time, talent, and treasure” and it's clear to me that Full Circle Fund members give it all. The combination personal, social and financial resources is powerful. Each member contributes a bit of each.

And let me be clear, as much as I admire the time and talent of members, there is a financial contribution that gives each member of the group a fiscal stake. Full Circle Fund is not a charity; it’s a venture philanthropy partnership.

Camaraderie and Inspiration

Finally, the members are the best part. As a nonprofit professional, my work-related circles are somewhat limited. At Full Circle Fund, I learn from people that don’t do the same things as me professionally or personally. Many of us are leaders in our respective areas, but a big part of the investments we pursue are based on a collaborative spirit. Full Circle Fund is a place where bankers talk to lawyers, that talk to techies and social entrepreneurs, that talk to nonprofit leaders and public servants. We have much to learn from one another.

And, I admire the sense of leadership that each member exemplifies. “Cultivating new community leaders” is the true essence of our membership. Quarterly Inspiring Leaders Series Events feature speakers who are experts in a social change field. The series provides an opportunity to learn from compelling visionaries, develop leadership and teamwork skills, share best practices, report on grant project milestones, and celebrate team successes.

In conversation with Bill Draper at the "Inspiring Leaders Series" eventA while back, I attended a series event with Bill Draper, co-founder of Draper Richards LP, a venture capital fund that invests in early-stage technology companies in the U.S. and founder Draper Investment Company. He also is co-founder of the Draper Richards Foundation, which invests in entrepreneurs starting new non-profit organizations. Run much like a venture capital fund, in addition to financial support, the foundation also provides expert guidance and coaching to its fellows and fosters their growth from a start-up non-profit to a successful venture.

At the event, he told us about his experiences in venture capital and venture philanthropy. He shared insights about success in each area, but also how the two are not necessarily mutually-exclusive. Investment skills can transfer across sectors – and better yet – they require a wise investor. And a talented investor in any area is skillful with their resources. At this event, I learned that innovation is not just thinking outside the box; it’s thinking across boxes and beyond.


Community and impact; contribution and investment; camaraderie and inspiration: Full Circle Fund has it all.

Partners in Philanthropy

Watch a video about Full Circle Fund:


Book Review: Small Change by Michael Edwards

Small Change: Why Business Won't Save the WorldSomtimes I think, "If I wanted to go into business, I would have gone into business..."

It seems often forgotten that many people – myself included – make an active decision to avoid politics and business. We have a variety of motivations and missions, but we seek change that comes beyond convention. Nonprofit… nonpartisan… we are defined by what we are not. And I think that’s great.

I am reminded of the special nature of civil society as I read Small Change: Why Business Won’t Save the World by Michael Edwards. The primary purpose of the book, in my view, is to be practical by raising challenging questions about the role of business in progressive social change. In response to a wave of “Philanthrocapitalism” (a la Matthew Bishop, Michael Green, et tout le monde), Edwards provides an analysis and critique of the movement, as well as an argument for what he calls “Citizen Philanthropy.”

Edwards sums his message early in the preface, when he argues against a "business-is-best" philosophy:

"That's an attractive proposition, but also a dangerous mirage. Can we compete ourselves into a more cooperative future, or consume our way to conserve the planet's scarce resources, or grow grow our way to out of deep-rooted poverty and oppression, or fight our way to peace?" ..."The claim that business thinking can save the world is a convenient myth for those who occupy positions of great wealth and power; and the constant celebration of the rich and famous individuals is a dangerous distraction from the hard, public work of finding solutions, all of us together" (p. xi). 

“Social transformation is not a job to be left to market forces or to the whims of billionaires. Perhaps if we supported the energy and creativity of millions of ordinary people, we could create a foundation for lasting progress that will never come through top-down planning by a new global elite, however well intentioned. When this principle is accepted and philanthropy is reconfigured to be less technocratic and more supportive of people’s own self-development efforts, then change will come – larger than we can control, quicker than we can imagine, and deeper than we could ever hope for by reducing everything to market forces” (pp. xiii-xiv).

To be fair, it seems that his message is meant to provoke debate. He isn’t suggesting that market forces are always inappropriate as a tool to advancing social change. However, he does argue that it can be detrimental to always use market forces in a blind manner.

I was able to hear Edwards speak about the book at an event with Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) – Bay Area Chapter in early Novemeber, 2010. Speaking to a group of young professionals, aspects of his message seemed to encourage our dedication to advancing social change, no matter the method. He suggested that we think critically about when markets (and associated tools) are appropriate and inappropriate.

I found the book to be an extremely interesting, quick read with some powerful and profound points. Coupled with a re-reading of Philanthrocapitalism, it’s worth knowing these perspectives and the arguments these authors make. Keep in mind that the dialogue is friendly, as you can watch Michael Edwards and Matthew Bishop debate on YouTube: