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Entries in Social Entrepreneurs (8)

Friday
Aug092013

Honor the Treaties

Today is the United Nations International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples and the theme is "Indigenous people building alliances: Honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements."

Appropriately, today is also the launch of the new website of Honor the Treaties, an innovative organization dedicated to amplifying the voices of Indigenous communities through art and advocacy. Founded by Aaron Huey, National Geographic Photographer and author of Mitakuye Oyasin, the organization funds collaborations between Native artists and Native advocacy groups so that their messages can reach a wider audience.

I'm honored to serve on the Advisory Board of Honor the Treaties to establish a strong partnership with the Lakotamedia Foundation. Together, we are part of a growing movement and of building alliances that honor treaties and other constructive agreements.

We Have A Responsibility

Today, indigenous communities are fighting their most important battles in recent history—battles to protect the integrity of their land and water and traditions. The treaties are at the heart of these battles. Article VI, Clause 2 of the US Constitution, also known as the Supremacy Clause, lists these treaties as the "supreme law of the land."

These legally binding contracts contained promises that recognized tribes' rights to live self-governed and undisturbed on their own land, with religious freedom; to hunt, fish, and gather natural resources; and to have benefits such as healthcare, education, and in some cases financial payments for lands previously sold to the government. These treaties, on a daily basis, are being violated.

This is not a closed chapter in history. This is a living issue. You can make it visible. You can teach it. You can join the fight. We have a responsibility to honor the treaties, honor the earth, and honor one another.

Artistic Activism

Checkout this Ted Talk by Aaron, America's Native Prisoners of War, based on his experiences photographing poverty in America, which led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. There, the struggle of the native Lakota people—appalling, and largely ignored—compelled him to refocus.

Sunday
Dec302012

2012: Year of the American Indian Summer

In most years, an “Indian Summer” describes a heat wave that occurs in the autumn that occurs in the Northern Hemisphere between late September and mid-November. In 2012, however, it could be argued that “Indian Summer” now means something more similar to the “Arab Spring” uprisings that arose independently and spread across the Arab world in 2011.

The “American Indian Summer” wasn’t similar to the “Arab Spring” in that it involved expressions of violence within revolutionary conflicts, but it was similar in its effective use of new media technologies in a variety of coordinated social movements.

2012: the year the American Indian Movement effectively used digital, mobile, and social media technologies.

It’s about time.

Researchers have noted the “digital divide” – inequalities in access to information and communication technologies, as well as inequalities in the knowledge and skills needed to effectively use the information gained from connecting. No doubt, there are geographic and generational barriers to connectivity in American Indian communities, complicating social fragmentation and other disparities.

However, recent events suggest that the American Indian Movement is dramatically different in the 21st Century: it’s no longer institutional, protected by trademarks, or governed by a Grand Council.

Now, it's that and it's digital, mobile, and social. It's open source and open to all!

Take, for example, the creative mobilizing efforts of the “Save Pe’sla” movement. Artists, celebrities, tribes, and people from many other social spheres, came together to purchase the sacred site by using various digital media projects, such as this video, spread via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media platforms, most of which centered around the "Last Real Indians" website by Chase Iron Eyes.   

Or, how artist Aaron Huey raised awareness of the Lakota fight to claim the Black Hills in South Dakota, demanding that the government start Honoring the Treaties. He did so though a book, documentary filmTed Talk, mural project, and website, to name a few of his strategies.

Or even more recently, the #IdleNoMore movement in Canada has rallied behind a collection of digital, mobile, and social strategies that include a tweeted hashtag meme, flash mobs, and website – all mixed with traditional protest methods of road blocks, marches, and even a very real, human hunger strike – inspired by assertion that if "Aboriginal people did not speak out it would mean they "comply with [their] silence" on the most important issues to indigenous communities. The movement has grown to broaden the conversation, calling for treaty recognition, tribal self-determination, and policy reformation, among other important areas.

I see these movements as the product of very real contributing factors, including:

  • Policy: The 2009 passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama early in his administration.  A portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act designated approximately $7.2 billion in investments to expand broadband access nationwide, improve high-speed connectivity in rural areas and public computer centers, and increase Internet capacity in schools, libraries, public safety offices, and other public buildings.
  • Philanthropy:  people today - particularly social entrepreneurs and innovators - see that the commons can be more creative and nimble than political change via government policies, or developing solutions based on markets and profit margins. The Save Pe’ Sla movement was ultimately a fundraiser, for example.
  • Technology: hardware and software have dramatically improved as our phones have become smarter, increasingly light and mobile, and easier to use. The above referenced examples provide evidence to suggest that websites and widgets are dramatically improving creative connectivity through devices that are increasingly common and relatively affordable.  For example, I learned about Aaron Huey’s Documentary Video and TedTalk from a friend at a barbecue, later watched both on YouTube on my iPad and then promptly downloaded the digital illustration he used on his mural as my new desktop wallpaper.
  • Society: it’s clear that people now see the adoption of digital, mobile, and social media technologies as standard tools in our mobilization kit. People can and do use a mix of basic mobile devices, such as Androids and iPhones, basic social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to produce basic  digital with content such as images and videos, all delivered through basic digital media platforms such as YouTube and  Flickr. We consider the insights of bloggers and “posters” of all kinds, from status updates to manifestos. You can follow the hunger strike in your news feed.

Welcome to 2013 – join me in watching what will come in the year ahead for the new American Indian Movement and the digitization, mobilization, socialization of media from indigenous communities across the globe.

I'm reminded that these recent events all began after the Return of Pté San Wi, the White Buffalo Calf Woman in July. Could these events be the dawning of the Age of Illumination, the age when mankind walks upright and once again remembers his true relationship with Creator? In the words of Black Elk, "...the yellow for the south, whencer come the summer and the power to grow.

Monday
Nov192012

Protect Pe'Sla Lakota Sioux Sacred Site

Artist Shepard Fairey and photographer Aaron Huey created this image in reference to the U.S. government's policy of ignoring the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie.Not long ago I wrote a post, Vistory at Pe'Sla, about how Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney in South Dakota, wrote an article on LastRealIndians.com to raise money to purchase Pe'Sla, a sacred site in the Black Hills. At the time, it seemed like a true success story about a group of young, professional, 21st Century American Indians reclaiming our land through grassroots activism.

Sadly, the victory call was too good to be true. For now.

According to The Washington Post, the land holds sacred significance for the Lakotas: "The property is important to their creation story, and tribal members have long held ceremonies there. When the land was put up for sale, tribal members worried it would be developed because of its proximity to Mount Rushmore."

This area is partly owned by the Reynolds family. They planned to auction off almost 2,000 acres on August 25, 2012 to the highest bidder. According to The Washington Post, "Landowners Leonard and Margaret Reynolds canceled a public auction of the property earlier this year after tribal members expressed outrage. The Reynolds then accepted the tribes’ bid to purchase the land for $9 million if they have the money by November 30, 2012."

The Great Sioux Nation must raise $9 million to purchase the land by November 30, 2012, securing it as a sacred, undeveloped site, accessible to all. They've raised $6.5million and with the help of a number of influential celebrities, are on track to get the rest. Spread this video far and wide. Donate and get more info at lastrealindians.com and indiegogo.com/pesla.

This is what the American Indian Movement looks like in the 21st Century. Digital media, social media, and traditional media are spreading the message: NOW is the time to act! Hoka hey!

PE'SLA 2012 from Village Beat on Vimeo.

Tuesday
Sep042012

Victory at Pe'Sla

Artist Shepard Fairey and photographer Aaron Huey created this image in reference to the U.S. government's policy of ignoring the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie.

Although I live in California, far from the the Black Hills and my family in Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming, I am still very encouraged to learn about the grassroots efforts of people in my generation making positive contributions to the Lakota people by protecting our sacred lands.

On August 1, Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney in South Dakota, wrote an article on LastRealIndians.com to raise money to purchase Pe'Sla, a sacred site in the Black Hills. He explains:

"Pe' Sla is an area in the Black Hills of South Dakota (just west of Rapid City) that is considered by the Lakota people to be the Center and heart of everything that is. It is part of our creation story. It is a sacred place. We perform certain ceremonies at Pe' Sla which sustain the Lakota way of life and keep the universe in harmony.

This area is partly owned by the Reynolds family. They plan to auction off almost 2,000 acres on August 25, 2012 to the highest bidder. It is likely that the state of South Dakota will put a road directly through Pe' Sla and open up this sacred place for development.

The seven bands of the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Oyate (people) aka Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) have a collective effort to buy as much of Pe'Sla as we can at this auction (although we also believe that the land cannot be owned and that our sacred places were illegally taken by the United States). Yet we are trying to work within the current U.S. laws to regain custody of our sacred sites and prevent future road and industrial development. Our sacred ways must be protected and passed on to our future generations so that our children may live.

This area of the Paha Sapa (Black Hills) is also home to many plants and animals who should also be protected. In fact, many consider that the area should possibly be a historical site, which would also assist in protecting it from future development as well.

As Lakota people, our ancestors prayed here, at Pe' Sla, at certain times of year, when the stars aligned. We cannot go elsewhere to pray. We were meant to pray here. This is what they do not understand. Please help the Lakota people. "Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children." - Chief Sitting Bull, 1877.

We have a group of young professional Native people that are dedicated to the promotion of education, health, leadership, and sovereignity among our indigenous Nations. Our goal is to assist in any way possible the purchase of Pe' Sla and other sites by a collective effort of the seven bands of the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) - the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota people. All proceeds from this campaign will go towards that effort. This area would be open to tribal nations for ceremonial purposes. The plants, animals, water, and air in the area would be respected and honored."

Over the course of the month, the website raised more than $300,000 that was combined with $1.3 million from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Together, they are credited for purchasing and saving the sacred site:

"We are greatly encouraged by the enormous outpouring of support to protect Pe'Sla and for the reigniting of our collective consciousness related to sacred sites and the Black Hills - Wamaka Ognaka y Cante (the Heart of Everything that is)" reads a press release on LastRealIndians.com.

Family and friends in Rapid City, a rally will be held Wednesday, September 5 at 5 p.m. to celebrate the purchase of Pe’ Sla at the Memorial Park Band Shell.

Watch this video from their press conference on Saturday, September 1, 2012 - Chase Iron Eyes tells the story of this important victory for the Lakota:

Mid-month, I was at a BBQ event in San Francisco and a friend told me about how his family, on vacation, watched a documentary by Aaron Huey, Honor the Treaties. It was in viewing these videos that I came to learn about Chase Iron Eyes' efforts to mobilize people to protect our lands. The documentary, with many hard truths, sends our message of self-determination.  Watch the video:

Honor the Treaties | The Film from eric becker on Vimeo.

Saturday
Mar312012

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) bavc.org
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) craigslist.org
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) creativecommons.org
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) eff.org
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) archive.org
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) kahnacademy.org
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) mozilla.org
Mission: to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the web,

8. TechSoup Global (San Francisco, CA) techsoup.org
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) ted.com
Mission: Spreading ideas.

10. Wikimedia Foundation (San Francisco, CA) wikimediafoundation.org
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 adam@badwound.org.

Thursday
Nov172011

Giving 2.0

Back when I worked at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society,  I had the great honor of working with Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen as her teaching and research assistant at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Department of Public Policy for her courses on Strategic Philanthropy and Philanthropy and Social Innovation.  In truth, I credit her for inspiring me to make philanthropy a central part of my professional and personal ambitions. 

Now, she's promoting her new book, Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World, which is a practical guide for philanthropists and families.  Although our backgrounds couldn't be more different (she's from extreme wealth and I'm from extreme poverty, for example), one of the things I appreciated most about working with Laura is that she can bring out the philanthropist in anyone. 

Even me.

And true to her generousity, 100% of author royalties from the sales of Giving 2.0 will be donated to innovative, high-impact nonprofits through the Giving 2.0 Grants program. Checkout this promotional video:

Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World from Giving 2.0 on Vimeo.

 

Also, be sure to watch her interview on Charlie Rose.

Thursday
Jul282011

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.

Conclusion

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:

Sunday
Nov142010

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: