Thursday, December 31, 2009


As many of you know, I am a pro-business kind of guy. Entrepreneurship... capital... new business models... sustainable product design- these are the topics I write about with respect to tackling the challenges of the BOP. My bleeps know I also believe there is a role for charity (see my "Matrix" post).

So, what does my family do for charity? Where do we "invest"? What organizations do we support?

We focus our charity in 5 areas, which I list below, along with the specific organizations to which we gave, and my twitter length rationale. Careful readers will also note that many of these organizations are BOPreneurs, or directly support BOPreneurs. But not all. It's a theme, but not a screen.

1) Environment: because we can't live without it
-Nature Conservancy: an innovative leader in conservation; preserves threatened ecosystems; builds strong, sustainable local partnerships.
-Envirofit International: reduces air pollution with energy efficient products in developing world. Has sold almost 100,000 improved cookstoves in India, which use less fuel for cooking and make for healthier homes.

2) Health: because health is the cornerstone of development; it's hard to work or go to school if you are sick or dead.
-Rotary Foundation: Working to eradicate polio and build infrastructure (schools, clinics, libraries, water systems), a service organization of which I am proud to be a part.
-One World Health: Developing affordable medicines for the developing world, a non-profit pharmaceutical company.
-Doctors Without Borders: Nobel Award winning org who perhaps best fits the needs of delivering aid in times of crisis. Truly inspiring work.
-VisionSpring*: VisionSpring is working on innovative, scalable models to help people see. The answer is simple, inexpensive eye glasses, but the implementation is difficult. Vision problems are common reason for loss of livelihood.

3) Social/International Development: Admittedly, a catch all category. But basically for organizations that are working on innovative, primarily private sector approaches.
-Ashoka: they coined the phrase "social entrepreneur" decades ago, and now support thousands of them around the world. An army of change-makers (and quite a few BOPreneurs).
-Acumen Fund*: A non-profit venture capital fund. We like to invest in oxymorons. But seriously, they are breaking new ground in financing BOPreneurs and priming the social enterprise sector for investment. Seems like I should pitch in.
-One Acre Fund: a bottoms up approach to helping over 10,000 small farmers "grow their way out of hunger." A BOPreneur for sure.
-Ayllu Initiative*: a start up venture in Brazil, working on an innovative approach to launching and scaling social enterprises. I used them for an exam question, and so many students liked what they do, I thought I should make a donation.

4) Education: We are fans. Much positive change comes from education. Of course, we are "contributing" less to this category now that all our kids are out of college!
-CSU College of Business: Weird. Why give money to your employer? Well, we think CSU is doing some of the more innovative things in public education and sustainability. Land Grant University 2.0, baby.
-Central Asia Institute: building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But don't read my tweet, read the book. Mortenson was a BOPreneur before I knew what one was.
-Bainbridge Graduate Institute*: a leader in sustainable business education- "we are changing business for good." We support their scholarship fund for enhancing diversity.
-Vittana: another start up venture I used in my exam. They are the Kiva of student loans for BOP. I like that. I hope they go BIG.

By the way, we have stopped giving to the schools we attended. Each year, we consider it, but with limited funds, they don't make the cut.

5) Local Charities: there are so many needs in our own communities.
-Colorado Combined Campaign- Larimer Co. United Way- we think of them as a portfolio manager for investments in local non-profits.

I hope that by sharing our choices with you, we inspire you to give to those organizations you think are doing good work. Really, every donation counts!

Happy New Year!

*indicates new organizations we began supporting in 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

What if?

What if? This is one of my favorite two word questions.* An artist's question. A builder's question.

How might we...? This are my favorite three words to start a question. Implies a team. To me, a team provides fuel for any innovative spark I am lucky enough to have. And it implies a problem to be overcome.

Who could help us? A really good four word question to ask.

How do we get started? An essential five word question.

Coming up with new ideas and teams is simple. But not easy.

Really? [a one word question].
Of course, bleeps, "What Sucks?" is also one of my favorite questions, and it comes before "what if ?" But "what if ?" works in even the politest of company.