Monday, March 24, 2008

Phones4Loans and New HEROes?

Students in my Social Entrepreneurship class are working on a very cool project, Phones 4 Loans. Last year, I gave students the option of doing an impactful project in lieu of a final exam. They got student pledges to reduce CO2 emissions by over a million pounds. In just a few weeks. I was impressed. This year, we got started on the class project earlier in the semester.

Just like Butch Cassidy's knife fight*, there are few rules for an entrepreneurship project. The idea was to figure out a way to get money (by cleaning up some "bad") and then use it in a worthwhile way (doing some good). Oh, and since it was a business school course, it had to be an enterprise, not just a project. Not necessarily a company, but something that could grow past the end of the course.

The students were a bit worried about the pledges from last year. Would people really do what they said? These students wanted real impact they could see and measure. We discussed business models for H.E.R.O.s, those Human and Environmentally Regenerative Organizations that do good by cleaning up bad, so that no matter how much they grow, the earth is better off. We brainstormed, we intersectionalized, we did mock projects redesigning i-Products for Steve Jobs (I still don't think they believe that he calls me all the time right before class).

Then they saw Chris Jordan's artwork of the 426,000 cell phones discarded everyday. It hit a nerve.

"Let's collect and recycle cell phones."
"I think you can get money for some of them."
"Let's use the money to help do good."
"Hey, let's do Kiva loans, that way the money keeps rolling over and helping people."

Thus was Phones4Loans born. As with many start-ups, this one was formed by combining existing puzzle pieces. The Medici Effect and all. Companies like Collective Good have been set up to raise money for many organizations. But they are not yet linked with Kiva.

I will keep you bleeps posted. If you have an old cell phone in Fort Collins, look for our collection boxes around CSU campus and at local merchants. If you are outside Fort Collins, start a group doing the same thing. This is open innovation... the more the better. We are happy to share what we are doing. You can be a HERO too! Like Butch?
*OK, this is still one of my favorite scenes ever. And it helped me figure out how to embed a YouTube video in my blog. Listen to Butch. He is an entrepreneur. He has built a team. To make profits. He has been busy, and gone a lot. He is in a changing industry ("things are different now, you gotta plan more"). Looking to make a profit if things go against him. And a healthy disrespect for rules. Butch is the man.

Post a Comment