#plugintodevin - Your Mark on the World with Devin Thorpe

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Host Devin Thorpe, candidate for Utah's 3rd Congressional District, interviews guests to discuss social issues that impact Utahns. Paid for by Friends of Devin Thorpe.

Devin D. Thorpe

    • Jun 30, 2022 LATEST EPISODE
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    Latest episodes from #plugintodevin - Your Mark on the World with Devin Thorpe

    Four-Way Merger Yields Demonstrable Synergy

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 30, 2022 22:36

    Devin: As you look back on all the things that you have done and accomplished, what do you see as the superpower that has been most critical to your success?Erin: I’ve been told that I’m an unwavering, relentless optimist and that there’s no problem that doesn’t eventually become solvable.SynergyOK. I get it. My 1993 MBA is showing. The strategic combination of four tech-for-good companies into the new Bonterra I discussed with CEO Erin Mulligan Nelson has what she calls “benefits.” Synergy, we called it in 1990s b-school parlance—and nothing was sexier.Chatting with Erin about the combination of Social Solutions, Cyber Grants, EveryAction and Network for Good brought back memories of my investment banking career. She helped me see the strategic value of the merger.The combined entity is huge, with 5,500 1,400 employees, 19,000 nonprofits and half the Fortune 100 are on the client list, and $7.5 billion flows through the platform to nonprofits each year.Erin sees the enhanced value coming from an end-to-end solution:We begin with the givers. The givers can be corporate foundations or corporations, community foundations, individuals. We have the CSR platform that helps Fortune 500 companies figure out how they're going to do their grant making, figure out how they're going to engage their employees with gift matching or volunteerism.We've also got very large fundraising and engagement applications in Network for Good and EveryAction that are helping individuals and community foundations give—and giving can be time, money or voice. Then we move to the folks that are receiving those funds, nonprofits, and we have software that enables them to actually maximize their impact. So we have case management software that nonprofits utilize to actually create and manage and measure their programs. What we like to think about is from end to end, from givers to getters to doers to impact, how can we start to think about data and technology enabling efficiency and effectiveness and transparency and visibility? And our ultimate goal is to maximize social impact.In addition to this big vision, Erin identified three examples of synergy (again, my word, not hers—she didn’t cloud her judgment with an MBA in the 90s).Matching Gifts. Independently, the now combined businesses were helping Fortune 100 and other corporate clients with donor matching programs and simultaneously helping donors give. Often, employees gave without knowing their companies could match their gifts, so the gifts went unmatched. Now that Bonterra has data about matching grants and individual gifts, client companies can match many more donations. “The whole entire cycle of generosity just increased just because we have a couple of products that interact.”Impact Measurement. The combination of the four businesses enables better aggregation of data for impact measurement, allowing Bonterra to help philanthropists determine whether or not their money will make a difference.Complete Product Suite. Together, the companies offer a more complete nonprofit product suite that Bonterra can provide in a way that eases the adoption and accelerates the benefits of upgrading the organizations’ technology.This latter benefit highlights a vital part of our conversation about the benefits of technology investment for nonprofits.Never miss an episode! Subscribe!Benefits of Technology for NonprofitsFor context, Erin delivered a startling fact: 38 out of 50 states don’t have enough social workers.“An average social worker has 300 cases they’re managing, and those cases can go on for years,” Erin says. “They need tools to be more efficient so that they can spend more time with their clients.”Improved technology can also help nonprofits perform better. “They can look at their programs and say, this particular program improved school truancy. This particular program got more people into permanent housing,” she says.“For the nonprofits that don’t have access to technology and data, we’re forcing them to operate in a world where they’re knowingly not going to be able to be as good as they can be,” Erin says. “It’s part of our mission to make sure that data and tech are accessible because we believe that it’s going to be a game-changer for the world of social good.”“There’s plenty of data that demonstrates when you apply a dollar of technology, we’ve seen real-time first person, you’re getting $3.3 worth of benefit,” she says.Erin used the example of a food bank to make the point. If the goal is to have more food on the shelves at the right time, it is just as essential to have great technology as generous food donations.“We’ve got case studies that demonstrate payback periods that honestly you’d look at, and you’d think that can’t be real, but they are,” Erin says.In 2019, Steve Ballmer’s fund invested $59 million in Social Solutions, which I covered at the time with an interview with Erin’s predecessor Kristin Nimsger, who I featured in my book Superpowers for Good. Erin notes that Steve is passionate about getting nonprofits the tech they need and has devoted substantial philanthropic dollars to it.Erin calls upon her optimism as a superpower to accomplish so much good.How to Develop Optimism As a SuperpowerErin calls on her optimism to help face daunting challenges. “When you’re working with nonprofits that are on the front line, and they’re dealing with such tragedies of huge, epic proportions, I think there are times when it can be very easy to become downtrodden and think like, we’re never going to make a change.”“To me, 50 percent of this is just saying, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way.’”Harking back to her early career in the 90s working for Dell Computer, she had an experience that has particular resonance with the current economic environment. A chip shortage and shipping delays made it almost impossible to make and sell computers.Proving her optimism, she says, “We developed partnerships with different shipping channels. We figured out how to maximize our supply in different ways. We figured out how to manage demand in ways that optimize the supply we had.” She helped Dell through a crisis that caused some competitors to shrink.“Our team recognized this is a challenge. We can rise above it,” she says.One key she points to for developing greater optimism is to remember to balance the ledger. It is common for people to focus on the problems that need to be solved. She says she always recommends having another column for the tailwinds. There are opportunities that you have to take advantage of, too.“There are oftentimes as many good things to take advantage of and as many opportunities for advancement as there are challenges,” she says.By following Erin’s example and advice, you can make optimism a superpower for good.” Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    Art Changes Lives for Cancer Survivors

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 29, 2022 20:27

    Devin: As you think about all you’ve accomplished, what would you identify as the superpower you have deployed in this work that has made it all possible?Jenna: Well, I don’t think it’s a superpower because everyone has it. I just chose to use it. So I’m not like some superhero here that was born a certain way. I just chose to do this. So, you know, I think because I was diagnosed at 29 with a rare form of cancer called Gray Zone Lymphoma. I had the whole world ahead of me, and all of a sudden, my life was put on pause. And I think because it came out of the blue and was almost so outrageous that I chose to be vulnerable about my experience. I was open. I was honest. I was raw. I was unapologetic. And I think, in turn, because I was so open about it, people felt comfortable opening up to me. And really, that’s what Twist is all about. It’s about empowering people to come forward with their story so that they can process it and put it out there in the world.The nonprofit Twist Out Cancer began on little more than a whim when founder Jenna Benn Shersher, enduring her own cancer battle, turned her laptop camera on to record and share herself dancing the twist, encouraging others to join her.From this courageous, vulnerable beginning, a thriving international nonprofit has grown to touch countless cancer survivors, their families and friends.A program called Brushes with Cancer is now the nonprofit’s primary focus. Jenna describes it:We match artists with people that have been touched by cancer and we call them our inspirations. And over six months, the inspiration has an opportunity to connect with their artist, share their story, and really process what they've gone through, what they're going through, what their fears are, what their dreams are, all of it. And in that period of time of opening up and making themselves vulnerable, they then forge this connection with the artist. And the artist creates a work of art that's reflective of that journey and that at the end of the program, we essentially have a large art exhibition or gala.The art is serious. “We have some unbelievable artists that have works in the MoMA and the Tate, you know, like crazy level art,” Jenna says. “But then we also have students that are unbelievably talented that are in it for the right reason.”Jenna emphasizes the process over the piece. “As much as the art is important, the most important part is the connection between the artist and inspiration.”“We have a pretty intensive application process for both the artist and inspiration to make sure that they’re in it for the right reasons,” she says. “We want to make sure the inspiration is emotionally prepared for this type of undertaking and that the artist is as well, and that they’re doing it not just to promote their name, but they’re doing it to support someone who is either enduring or has endured a health crisis.”“I participated again this year to mark my ten-year cancer-versary,” Jenna says. Paired with artist Kate Van Doren, an art therapist, Jenna got more than she anticipated from the experience. “I found, ten years later, after my cancer experience, I still had a ton of stuff to process,” she says. “It’s not like I put it on hold and put it under the rug. I’m very much involved in therapy and all the things to continue to nurture my survivorship and to be the best person that I can. And I still found that there was so much left to uncover and to explore and to challenge and to think about and to process.” Jenna credits Kate for much of the value she got from the experience.During covid, the gala gave way to virtual events to reveal the artists’ work.“We did our reveal on Instagram, which was good for the organization. But I was super vulnerable. I fell apart. I mean, it was so overwhelming for me to see someone else’s depiction of my story and to see what resonated for them. It can be powerful no matter where you’re at in your journey with cancer.”After the reveals, the artists donate their work to the nonprofit, which auctions it to fund the program, allowing another cohort to participate. Jenna says inspiring things sometimes happen; an anonymous buyer will donate the art to the inspiration.Seeing the value of art as part of the healing process, Jenna has incorporated some art therapy into the Twist Out Cancer programs. She says Jackie Carmody, an experienced art therapist, helped design a replicable program for the organization. While Jenna doesn’t see her core strength as a superpower (few of the people we profile do), she uses her courage and vulnerability to change the world for cancer survivors and their families.Never miss an episode! Subscribe!How to Develop Courage and Vulnerability As SuperpowersThe twist started with me in my room. I had no hair. I was immunocompromised. I was underweight. I was—my sense of balance was off. I put up a video of myself doing the twist and said, who's joining me on the dance floor? This was not thought through. There was no high tech camera. It was me on my laptop and I posted it on Facebook. It was really a desperate call to action to say, I want to see who you are. I want to know who's following along because I know you're there, but I want to see you. And so it was just a spark that I put out into the world. And as a result, look at what has happened.That courageous moment came about for complicated reasons. “I was able to take a lot of risks because I didn’t feel like I had a lot to lose. And that was totally informed by my cancer experience,” Jenna says.Asked about how she’d coach others to develop her superpower, Jenna cautioned, “I can’t tell everyone to go out and act like you have nothing to lose. That’s something that you either feel or you don’t feel.”“What has helped me along the way is that I am not scared to know what I don’t know and to ask for help,” she says. This observation reveals at least some of the power of vulnerability. Without the courage to acknowledge a need for help, it is challenging to get that help.Jenna demonstrates this vulnerability regularly. She related how she’d scheduled time with a new acquaintance on the day of our conversation to ask for help in an area where Jenna knew she needed guidance.“I am very quick to admit when I’m out of my comfort zone,” Jenna says. “That’s also vulnerability. It’s admitting what you don’t know. Sometimes, people feel like you have to have it all together to launch something. And it’s so not true.”She’s living proof that you don’t have to have it all together to do something great in the world of doing good. By following Jenna’s example and her counsel, you can make courage and vulnerability your superpowers for good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    This West Point Grad Honors Her Oath With Community Service

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 23, 2022 25:21

    Devin: As you look back at your career, what do you see as the superpower that has enabled you to be so successful?Donna: That superpower is an orientation to service and a desire to make a meaningful and measurable impact in the community. I live and serve that community.“Transportation is a formidable barrier to economic mobility and just about everything,” says Donna Matturro McAleer, executive director for the nonprofit Bicycle Collective. “Access to everything associated with that upward mobility and progress—whether it’s jobs, whether it’s food, whether it’s goods, health care, schooling—relies upon the ability to get around in an efficient way for an affordable price. And bicycles do that.”Working to create transportation equity, the Bicycle Collective accepts donated bicycles from people in the community, tunes them up and puts them in the hands of underrepresented communities with unsupported needs. “We repair, refurbish or recycle them with the focus on getting them in the hands of people who don’t have access to independent mobility,” Donna says.“We focus on newly arrived refugees, people coming out of substance abuse, income-eligible families, individuals experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity,” she adds. Remembering that “helping any of us helps all of us,” Donna says the bicycle collective provides a significant social return on investment. “Communities with a habit of removing obstacles for different subsets of people tend to get better for everyone.”Donna shares the story of the Bicycle Collective’s founding:It got started in 2002, when a group of bicycle enthusiasts in Salt Lake City found a couple of children's bikes in a dumpster and they recovered those bikes, recognizing that there was really nothing wrong with them other than flat tires and needing a little chain grease to get that chain going around the cassette. They were like, “These are not consumable items, these are durable items. And there is some child out there that could really benefit from a bicycle.” If you think back to your days when you learned to ride a bicycle, the excitement, the adventure, the escape. That was really how it started.Donna is passionate about the individual and collective benefits of bicycles. “Cycling promises freedom and a sense of adventure. It’s practical. It’s affordable. It contributes to economic well-being, physical health, and emotional stability. It’s a simple, eco-friendly transportation option.”Every year, the Bicycle Collective receives about 5,200 donated bikes. “Those are bikes that might have ended up in a landfill,” she says. “Last year alone, we recycled more than 57 tons of material.”Teams triage the bikes upon arrival. “If we get in a bike and we evaluate it and say, ‘Hmm, probably is a lot of work or too expensive to repair this,” we’ll strip it down for parts, and we’ll make those parts available in our do-it-yourself shops, and then we recycle the rest.”The Bicycle Collective not only provides bikes to those who can’t afford them, but it also operates thrift stores in Utah where anyone looking for affordable transportation can buy one. “We are growing our digital presence online. Our online shop is open 24/7.”The pandemic idled one of the organization’s most successful programs. Donna explains:Pre-pandemic we had a very robust youth program throughout all our four shops and we really ran two programs. One was what we call an open shop, where we had young people in primarily between the ages of about ten and 16 to learn basic bicycle mechanics. They learned basic bicycle mechanics first by learning the parts of a bike, by learning how to strip it. So while they're in our shop, they're helping us strip bikes that are going to be recycled and put parts in our bins that are available for do it yourselfers. Over time we ran a—we call it a colored apron system—which was very much like a black belt system in the martial arts that at every increment of knowledge there was an opportunity to demonstrate that skill and work towards a carrot, which was a part or a component. When you reached up to 60 hours of time in the shop, they earned a bicycle that they then could rebuild for themselves.When COVID hit, obviously, the health and safety of our patrons and our program participants and our staff was paramount.Donna says the program starts again this summer.The other youth program she alluded to is a junior bike mechanic certification program. The eight to ten-week program qualifies kids to work as bike mechanics in bicycle shops.The Bicycle Collective works with 62 community partners to support refugees and other underserved populations. “These are the community partners such as the International Rescue Committee and Catholic Community Services,” Donna says. “Those two are two of the largest organizations that welcome incoming refugees into the state of Utah and help them get started in a new life as new Americans.”Not only does the Bicycle Collective provide bicycles to people in this community, but it also provides training, so they leave with the ability to keep their bikes running well.Donna is driven in her work by her superpower, a desire to make a meaningful and measurable impact in the community.How to Develop a Desire to Make an Impact As a SuperpowerDonna is an Army veteran who graduated from the elite military academy West Point. She credits her service with defining her superpower.When I was 17, I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And I took that oath again when I graduated and when I was commissioned as an officer in the Army. And we take that oath every time we're promoted. I took that oath again when I was appointed to serve on the Defense Advisory Committee for Women in the Service. I take it very seriously; it's part of my DNA. Just because I no longer wear the uniform doesn't mean that obligation goes away. That obligation is for my lifetime.Years ago, using her superpower, Donna had the opportunity to coach a high school girls’ volleyball team. “I was surprised at what was being purported and promoted in the media. This is well in advance of the proliferation of social media. But for a lot of the young girls I coached, sexual allure was enshrined as the Rosetta Stone of confidence and self-esteem.”She wanted to help young women see new measures of success. “I thought if I could expose my young athletes to the women I went to West Point with in the very early years of West Point being open to women and the women I served with in the Army, those I served with, those that were my superiors, those that were in my units, that maybe my young athletes would see and learn of opportunities far beyond their current environment.”Donna wrote the book Porcelain on Steel, the Women of West Point’s Long Gray Line. It is a collection of biographies about women who graduated from West Point over the first 24 years it was open to women. It begins with a profile of Kathy Gerstein from the class of 1980, the first to include women. It ends with the story of her daughter, Sarah Gerstein, who graduated in 2007.With the book, Donna hopes to “open the aperture of that definition of success.”For those wishing to develop their desire to make a measurable impact in the community, Donna suggests three fundamental principles:Get out of your comfort zoneLearn from failureVolunteerBy following Donna’s example and advice, you can develop a desire to make a measurable impact in your community as a superpower to help you do more good.This post includes affiliate links that may provide commissions but that do not increase the price you pay. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    Expert: '99.7% of the Investors in Our Country Are Not Professional'

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 21, 2022 26:36

    Devin: What is your superpower?Jenny: I think one of my biggest superpowers is seeing the potential that exists in people, just seeing the gifts they have to share with the world and helping them see it, too.Jenny Kassan, President of The Kassan Group, has devoted her impressive career to helping people accomplish more for the greater good of their communities and humanity. She is a partner in Crowdfund Mainstreet and Opportunity Mainstreet and helps lead Angels of Mainstreet. She’ll also be speaking at SuperCrowd22 in September.Explaining her work at The Kassan Group, Jenny says, “What we’ve grown into is a full-service law firm/consulting/coaching firm that supports entrepreneurs in their efforts to raise money for their business in a way that allows them to stay true to their mission, goals and values.”“Our clients are very diverse in terms of what they can realistically offer to investors, what it is about what they’re doing that’s going to be attractive to investors and what type of investors will be attracted to what they’re offering,” she says. “So we try to throw everything into the mix and have a lot of community support as well.”“We even have opportunities for them to present to potential investors,” Jenny adds.“Over the years, I’ve learned how many different pieces to the puzzle need to be in place for someone to successfully raise money,” she says. “it’s beautiful to watch our clients successfully raise money everywhere from a few hundred thousand to a few million and do it on their own terms.”Jenny doesn’t work with everyone who virtually walks through the front door. “Our main criteria when we’re deciding if it’s a good fit for us to work with someone is whether they are very passionately mission-driven in what they’re doing in their business.”Never miss an episode! SubscribeFounding Story of Crowdfund MainstreetJenny was a critical part of creating Crowdfund Mainstreet but admits, “I never would have wanted to do that myself.”The roots of Crowdfund Mainstreet, founded in 2017, go back to 2010. At the time, Jenny was working with Janelle Orsi at a nonprofit called Sustainable Economies Law Center. “One of the first things I did out of that nonprofit was to write a petition to the Securities and Exchange Commission to ask for a change in the law to make it easier for regular folks to invest in businesses that they love and care about,” Jenny says.Two years later, the JOBS Act passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Obama. The Securities and Exchange Commission, charged with implementing the new law giving ordinary investors the right to invest in private companies, acted methodically, launching Regulation Crowdfunding in 2016.Jenny was disappointed by the market’s reaction to crowdfunding. “I wasn’t seeing any of the platforms that started to come out be aligned with the whole reason I did that in the first place, which was to support Main Street style businesses.”About that time, she encountered Michelle Thimesch, another lawyer who sees the world through the same prism. Michelle wanted to launch a FINRA-regulated crowdfunding site focused on serving the market they’d both hoped would flourish under the new rules.Jenny became counsel to Crowdfund Mainstreet. “We hit it off so well that she invited me to be a co-founder.”Today, Crowdfund Mainstreet supports social entrepreneurs, especially women and BIPOC founders, to raise the money they need to succeed.The Story of Opportunity MainstreetJenny and Michelle never seem to be satisfied. Progress doesn’t seem to be fast enough for them. They’ve launched Opportunity Mainstreet to serve as another sort of catalyst for building a community around underserved entrepreneurs.They saw that while women and minorities are raising more money via crowdfunding as a percentage of the marketplace compared to venture capital, angel investments and traditional banking, they still don’t do as well as white men. They’re building Opportunity Mainstreet to fix that.“We decided to do it in Baltimore because the real estate prices were reasonable. And we love Baltimore,” Jenny says. “It’s like it’s such an amazing city. It’s a very entrepreneurial city.”She described their vision. “We were able to buy this gorgeous, historic building downtown. It has a beautiful space on the ground floor where we can host all kinds of events, have a commercial kitchen, have a retail space, a cafe.”They are creating a place where entrepreneurs, customers and investors can gather routinely to build relationships of trust that will facilitate growth and prosperity in the community.Opportunity Mainstreet also helps Jenny with her law practice. This is my fifth time raising money from investors. Part of the reason I love to raise money from investors is so that I learn all the things that happen when you're raising money, because it helps it lets me help my clients better. I can really be in their shoes.Having already acquired the building, Jenny and Michelle continue working to raise capital for the business to make the needed upgrades to realize their vision. “We found some people would rather invest in a debt instrument. Some people would rather get equity,” she says.A bit ironically, Jenny and Michelle are raising the money for Opportunity Mainstreet from accredited, that is, wealthy, investors only.“The debt pays a 7 percent interest rate; the equity has a projected return of 13 percent,” Jenny says. We’re finding people are more drawn to one than the other. Some people are doing half and half.”Notably, she says that the people who are investing in Opportunity Mainstreet are not folks who self-identify as investors. “They’re not professional investors, but they love the opportunity to invest in something like this.”“According to my calculations, 99.7 percent of the investors in our country are not professional investors,” Jenny says. “They’re just regular folks who maybe have never before invested outside of Wall Street. Those are the people we go to. We’ve already raised several hundred thousand dollars that way.”“We do have a six-step process that we go through to design a fundraising strategy, which I wrote about in my book Raise Capital on Your Own Terms,” she says. “basically, it’s all about figuring out what to offer. What is it that’s going to be a good offering for your goals and values but also will be attractive to your ideal investors?”“If you just stay persistent and keep reaching out, keep telling people about it, eventually you will start to find people who are interested,” she adds.Speaking at SuperCrowd22Jenny will be speaking at SuperCrowd22. She delivers her keynote on Thursday, September 15 at 5:00 PM Eastern/2:00 PM Pacific. She titled her speech, “What women and non-binary folks need to know about investment crowdfunding.”“I’m just so thrilled that you’re putting the effort in to create a big gathering for everyone to get together and talk about where we are, what the potential is and how to include more people in the success,” she said about the conference.Remember, Superpowers for Good readers can register for the conference at half price. Click here for details.In all her work, Jenny relies on her superpower, an ability to see people’s potential and help them see it too.How to Develop Seeing Potential As a SuperpowerEarly in her career, Jenny felt this superpower as a beneficiary of other people wielding it on her behalf. “It happened to me when I was very young and very insecure and didn’t believe that I had the ability to do that many things,” she says. “I had a boss, and it ended up I had three different bosses in a row that all, thank goodness, saw potential in me and helped me see it in myself.”Today, this skill shapes her practice. “When I meet an entrepreneur, I so often just see the vision of what they could do if they only had the resources they needed to make it happen,” she says.“I don’t necessarily believe they need some accelerator program or some quote-unquote smart investor on their board,” Jenny says. “They know what they need to do. They know how to build the thing that they’re dreaming of doing. They just need the money to make it happen.”Jenny offers two tips for developing this superpower.Find examples. Look for people who start from a small place and have, with support from a community, gone on to do amazing things.Find someone who sees your potential. Look through your experience for people who saw your potential before you did. Emulate them with respect to others you meet.By following Jenny’s example and advice, you can make seeing potential a superpower to do more good in the world. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    Expert Tips for Keeping Kids Safe From Predators

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 16, 2022 23:08

    Devin: What do you see as your superpower?Tania: I love this question. I knew it was coming. I will say that I've been told that my superpower is my ability to empower and energize individuals.“One in five kids, according to the CDC, are sexually abused by the time they’re 18,” says Tania Haigh, founder of the Kids Too Movement organized by Parents Against Child Sex Abuse (PAXA). The vast majority of perpetrators are men.Tania notes that discussions of child trafficking may cause parents to shift their focus in the wrong direction. “The truth of the matter is that child sexual abuse is happening under our very noses,” she says. “In 90 percent of instances, it’s done by someone, the child and the family know. So it is someone—a trusted individual.”Tania launched PAXA in 2017. Last year, she launched the Kids Too Movement with the hashtag #KIDSTOO to bring greater attention to the threat and build on the #MeToo movement.Never miss an episode. Subscribe!Tips for Parents to Keep Kids SafeTania offers some tips to keep their children safe from sexual abuse.Be aware that child sex abuse is common.Engage with the organizations that have your children. From school to scouts and sports, Tania encourages parents to know who is with their children and how they protect children from harm.Talk to your child annually, from about age two, in age-appropriate ways about the risks and dangers. Start by naming the body parts. Tell children, “If anyone touches you, tell mom and dad.”Tania notes that this latter point is vital because predators typically have a specific age group to which they are attracted. Your two-year-old who is uninteresting to the predator in your circle may be a prime target at age six.“In high school, it’s more about the predators going for relationships or convincing them that they’re in love,” she says. “It’s very complicated.”Protecting Kids on Social MediaThis isn’t 1998. You can’t just hope your kids are safe on social media. Kids are engaging at younger and younger ages, not just on Instagram and TikTok but also video game platforms like Roblox and chat apps like WhatsApp. Tania advises parents to “get in there.” You have to monitor what your kids are doing.Some apps have features that allow strangers who may fake their identity online, say by pretending to be closer in age to your children, to connect and communicate privately. Tania notes that you can turn off some private or direct messaging features in social media accounts. “Shut it down,” she says. By allowing your kids to participate in the public side of social media, they can feel like they are engaging with their peers but be safer online.“It’s not about being combative or removing the iPad,” Tania says. “It’s just putting limits, getting in there and shutting things down.”Predatory Red Flags“The other, even larger part of this is paying attention to the adults around your children,” Tania says.She listed a few red flags:The uncle that’s being the tickle monsterThe older teen that has all this interest in playing with the littles in the basementFriends of single moms who are eager to help with the kidsMen who isolate children at block partiesPeople who drink too much around childrenPAXA advises Parents to learn more about red flags that could signal a threat to their children.Symptoms of Child Sexual AbuseThe last thing a parent wants to imagine is someone abusing their child. But if you’re not watching for signs, it could go on indefinitely. Without treatment for the trauma, the impacts could be devastating and lifelong.“As a parent, you always hear, oh, you know, this too shall pass. This is a phase. We don’t get a guidebook to raise our children,” Tania says. “Well, the truth of the matter is that when a child’s being traumatized through sexual abuse, there are behaviors that come out, and those also range by age.”“With toddlers, their anger issues might be stronger, their tantrums might be more frequent,” she says. “They might not want to go into that into the tub or have a really hard time bathing, because anything that has to do with their clothes being taken off is incredibly triggering.”Teens may start “closing the door more,” Tania says. “They don’t really talk to Mom and Dad, or they’re being more sneaking. These are things worth investigating before writing things off.”“We encourage parents to dig in and add sexual abuse to the list,” she says. “I know it’s uncomfortable, but investigate.”In this critical, sensitive work, Tania uses her superpower of empowering and energizing people.How to Develop Empowering and Energizing People As a SuperpowerThe work Tania leads is emotionally challenging. Parents and other leaders of children often shy away from these difficult conversations.“I think you can feel my energy and my passion like that when we’re empowering a grassroots group of parents who are just at their wits, and they can’t wrap their head around the news that a favorite teacher has abused a child,” Tania says of her approach.By empowering and energizing people to lean into difficult subjects, she helps protect children.“Recently, we got invited to participate and to hold a parent town hall in one of our neighboring suburbs in the Chicagoland area, where there’s a prestigious high school that was having issues on teen on teen assault,” Tania says. “There was a lot of silence around the topic.”Parents were lost, not knowing what to do. Tania led the community through an educational process that helped parents understand what was happening and how they could keep their children safe. She gave the parents the tools they needed.That’s the key to empowerment. She says it is content-driven. By providing parents with actionable information, she empowered them to act. In the Chicagoland situation, she brought in experts, including a private investigator with 50 years of experience and an activist parent who had successfully lobbied the legislature and was a survivor of educator abuse. Parents left knowing what they could do, no longer feeling helpless.The second key to empowerment is practice. Tell five people about what you want to empower them to do. “That starts flexing that muscle,” she says.By following Tania’s example and advice, you can make empowering and energizing people a superpower for good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    Salesforce Tackles Climate Justice

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 14, 2022 22:22

    Devin: What do you see as your superpower, your stand-out skill that allows you to be effective at the great work that you’re doing?Naomi: I think my superpower is that ability to bring lots of people with lots of ideas and get them together so we can drive greater impact.Salesforce, the enterprise CRM giant, has launched a $100 million “Ecosystem Restoration and Climate Justice” fund. Naomi Morenzoni, the company’s senior vice president of philanthropy, joined me to discuss it. (Disclosure: I own a few shares of Salesforce.)Climate JusticeThe idea of climate justice is still emerging as a theme at the intersection of social justice and climate change solutions.“When we think about climate justice, we think about those who are hit first and frankly worst by the impacts of climate,” Naomi says. “And it’s those in our communities who are often furthest from success, who are having the greatest impact in these moments.”Her comments cause me to think of friends and colleagues living in Bangladesh, where 50 million low-income people live in areas that sea level may permanently flood before the end of the century.Naomi provides further context: If we want that healthy, prosperous society, we have to have an inclusive society. But at the foundation, we have to have a healthy planet. We have to make sure that our world, frankly, is not on fire because we're never going to be able to achieve any of those other goals that we've set out if we don't go after that first.The problem far outstrips available resources, Naomi says.“The funding that goes into this area is so small,” she says. “I think it’s something—only 2 percent of philanthropic funding goes to climate right now. If you look into community-led solutions by founders who are underrepresented, you’re looking at something like 0.6 percent. It’s abysmal.”Never miss an episode. Subscribe!Salesforce’s Ecosystem Restoration and Climate Justice FundSalesforce has made significant progress on sustainability, moving to 100 percent renewable energy. The company also sells a Net Zero Cloud that helps clients track and reduce carbon emissions. The CRM giant has already planted 43.5 million trees with a commitment to reach 100 million by 2030. The company’s environmental philanthropic efforts are the furthest thing from greenwashing.Around the world, just in recent memory, we’ve seen a measurable shift in so-called “natural” disasters. Naomi notes that what were once seasonal threats are becoming constant worries. “Over the last few years, the intensity, the velocity, the just frankly, the sort of onslaught of these climate-exacerbated disasters continued to pummel our community,” Naomi says. “When we were talking to our community partners, when we were talking to organizations like the Red Cross or Latino Community Foundation, they were saying, we need you in the climate fight.”“We have to move upstream; we have to get ahead of this as much as we can,” she adds.When Salesforce launched the new fund, it focused on three areas. Naomi enumerated them:First is just around climate and thinking about nature-based solutions, particularly what we call blue and green carbon sinks as a way to capture that carbon emission, making sure that we stay below that 1.5-degree tipping point. The second piece was around biodiversity, making sure that the systems in which these trees are being planted or restored are kept healthy as part of that strategy. The third pillar, which was important, was where this climate justice piece comes into play, is around livelihoods, making sure that we were supporting adaptation measures that were going to promote the economic climate and the climate resilience and community resilience side of this transition.Naomi shared some examples of the projects the fund is supporting with an eye toward ensuring that communities that grantors have often left out of these conversations have a seat at the table.One is our partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. We've been supporting a project that they have in Port Arthur, and this is a community that historically has just been pummeled during hurricane season. During Hurricane Harvey, 70 percent of the houses there flooded. This is also a predominantly black community.This was a community that had been left out of a lot of these conversations, but they were feeling the impacts. So what we did with them is support a project that is a multi-stakeholder project where they're bringing the community voice into the conversation to co-develop solutions around restoration of the coastal lands. This is going to have a lot of different positive impacts. You're going to both be restoring the ecosystems so that you have that biodiversity regeneration. You're going to be creating jobs through that process and you're going to be making sure you're elevating the community voice in those solutions. The net impact really is that when that next hurricane comes through, you're going to be able to slow down the impacts of it. You're going to be building more environmental and community resilience into that system there.Naomi shared the story of another project the fund supported:Another great example organization that we're giving to is the World Resource Institute. We're supporting their land accelerator program in Brazil. This is really about training, technical assistance and mentorships for entrepreneurs who are going to be doing reforestation and restoration work on degraded lands in both Brazil and India. What I love about this project is it's really thinking about how you support livelihood, entrepreneurship.They help them figure out how to do pitch decks. How do you make sure that you can attract new funding from other investors, from impact investors? How do you get ready to be able to get a project into the carbon market so that you can be able to take advantage of the growth in that carbon credits?Here’s a third story she shared:Another great example is in an organization called Restor, and we're supporting a technical platform where they're using satellite imagery so that anywhere in the world you can go in and you can click in and say, “Okay, I live in Oregon. I want to know what projects are happening around reforestation in Oregon.”We, in fact, get hit all the time by wildfires. It's really bad during the summers in particular. You can go in, you can zoom in on a particular project. You can click in and say, “hey, do they need funding? Do they need volunteers? How far along is the project? Is the project doing what it said it was going to do?”So you have that verification opportunity and it's available really anywhere in the world.“We’re trying to think about a lot of different ways and interventions that we can be investing because frankly, it’s going to take everything,” Naomi says. “It takes all of us in this fight to advance that action.”“I think philanthropy has to be both the best and boldest risk-tolerant capital out there,” she says. “And it also has to be the patient capital.” In the climate space, corporations have invested billions and will invest trillions, but philanthropy will have to lead.“When I think about risk tolerance, you know, with an angel investor, I did some research once, and I think they expect like 5 to 10 percent of their portfolio in angel investing to hit,” Naomi says. “We expect way more out of our philanthropic portfolios. We expect results. You know, we fund programs, we fund outcomes, but we’re not always investing in the innovation, and we’re not always investing in the capacity building that’s needed.”Salesforce is working to change that dynamic.In this massive effort, Naomi draws on her superpower, which I’ll call leading collaboration.How to Develop Leading Collaboration As a SuperpowerNaomi used to think of her superpower as being able to bring order to chaos, but recently she’s begun to appreciate the way that could limit outcomes. She now sees herself bringing flow to the chaos that comes from having lots of people at the table.“I love a messy, chaotic situation, the energy, sort of the creativity that comes out of there,” she says.Today, she sees the power of collaboration. “It’s really about thinking about how might we take all of this energy, all of this creativity, all of these great ideas and get them to get together and get it all in a single path, driving towards a single outcome where we can have incredible impact.”She strengthened her superpower in 2020 by helping organize and implement Salesforce’s racial equality and justice commitment that came out of a company task force. “We thought about all the different parts of our business that needed to come together to think about how do we support racial equity? How do we support racial justice?” Naomi says, “We made bold commitments across our people, our philanthropy, our policy positions and our purchasing.”“That was a hard moment,” She says. “I’m going to be honest, like the emotions that I felt, the emotions our community was feeling, that sense of the magnitude of this reckoning was so big. How are we ever going to do enough?”The task force was deliberate about setting bold goals. The company published them on the website and is tracking its progress publicly.This project was a big win for Naomi, and she credits her ability to lead collaboration for getting it done.She offers some advice for leading collaboration effectively.“The approach that Salesforce comes from, when we think particularly about our community impact work, starts with listening like we don’t have all of the answers,” she says.“We have to listen to those who have the expertise,” Naomi says. “We have to listen to those with lived experiences. We have to listen to those who are closest to the challenge because honestly, they usually have the best solutions.”She offered a compelling example of listening and learning. In the reforestation effort around the world, one of the significant challenges is around seeds—collection, storage, and then getting saplings out of them. “But what’s not clear is exactly the right intervention.”After listening to the experts, Naomi and the team identified a pivotal spot to invest some philanthropic capital. “We funded in Hawaii a technician who’s going to sit down with the expert in that area around a particular tree that’s critical to that ecosystem. And we’re going to support that training and the passing down of that knowledge.”She also said the fund would try several things and recognize that some would fail. “Let’s learn from it. Let’s learn from where we failed.”By following Naomi’s example and her advice, you can make leading collaboration a superpower that will enable you to do more good in the world. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    Developer Becomes a Tech Entrepreneur to Help Community-Focused Peers

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 9, 2022 30:25

    Devin: What do you think of as your superpower? Eve: My superpower is when someone says “no” to me, that just makes me go harder. Seriously, I have incredible stick-to-it-iveness. My superpower is endurance.Eve Picker’s extraordinary career has evolved from a Columbia-trained architect to a community-focused developer to a tech entrepreneur who helps developers who share her passion. Her company, Small Change, is a FINRA-registered crowdfunding portal that helps people raise money for real estate projects with a social impact.Eve will be speaking at SuperCrowd22 in September. The event is for anyone interested in building stronger communities or solving social problems. Participants will learn how to raise money from the crowd or invest for impact and a financial return. Eve will speak on how to invest in real estate for community impact.Creating Small ChangeRaised in Australia, Eve studied architecture at the University of New South Wales and later earned a master’s degree in urban design from Columbia University. She loves cities.She “unexpectedly” found herself moving to Pittsburgh a few decades ago and describes it as “transformational.”Her experience growing up in Australia with its large, cosmopolitan cities differed dramatically from rust-belt Pittsburgh. Since its peak, the city’s population has roughly halved.“Downtown Pittsburgh is one of the most beautiful little downtowns you’ve ever seen,” Eve says of her adopted home. “Really stunning, gorgeous architecture. And yet the remainder of the city was half empty.”“I moved into a neighborhood that was right next to one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Pittsburgh,” she says. “On the other side of it was one of the poorest and most racially divided.”That was the context that helped motivate her choice to start making a difference. “I became involved in founding a community development corporation and started doing real estate development in the nonprofit realm as a volunteer, and just fell in love with it.”She became enthralled by the process of turning vacant ground into something tangible with real benefit for the community. “I quit architecture, actually, and I became a developer.”She focused on building projects that others often said couldn’t be done. “I just wanted to make a difference.”When she was working on what was ultimately a profitable loft project downtown, someone said to her, “Oh, honey, no one’s going to live downtown.”Eve credits two women bankers for her success as a developer.Leading up to the Great Recession, two things changed. Bank consolidation reduced the number of banks with an appetite for community development. The Bush Administration reduced funding for community development block grants, the source of critical funding for her projects.She decided to wrap up her development business.Before long, however, a builder tipped her off to the JOBS Act, which authorized Regulation Crowdfunding, making Small Change possible.Eve immediately saw the potential. “I thought, well, maybe I wouldn’t have had to shut down my business if my neighbors could have been my investors.”With that clarity, she founded Small Change and figured out how to become a tech entrepreneur.Never miss an episode. Subscribe!Defining Community ImpactOne of the critical challenges for Eve when she launched Small Change was how to define the idea of social impact. She wants to have only projects with a social benefit on the site.First, she looked for a standard she could borrow from the ESG (environmental, social and governance-screened securities) investing community. She couldn’t find one she liked, so she created her own change index.“That index really looks at everyday things that everyone understands,” Eve says. She listed some of the measures the index includes:WalkabilityBikeabilityAccess to transitProximity to shops, especially grocery storesSustainabilitySmall Change scores every project on the site. “Some people are focused on environmental impact, but I think there’s community and other impact—and they’re all intertwined,” Eve says.In addition to questions about the projects, there are important considerations in who leads them. “The thing I’m most proud about is that at this point, 54 percent of the developers who have listed offerings on our site are either minority and/or women, which is—considering the state of the industry—a remarkable statistic,” Eve says.Over the years, a wide range of projects, from nonprofit housing for low-income BIPOC people to rural redevelopment projects for which traditional financing is limited. Everything offered on the site meets Eve’s test for impact.Eve thinks of her endurance and stick-to-itiveness—her ability to be fired up by a challenge—as her superpower.How to Develop Endurance As a SuperpowerEverything Eve has accomplished is a testament to her endurance, her unstoppable nature and her stick-to-itiveness. She sees the 8-unit loft development early in her career as a developer as an early manifestation. Small Change is echoing evidence of her superpower.“When I started down this path, I honestly didn’t even know what a security was,” she says of the experience of launching the securities portal. “I had to educate myself. And then I had to read the 650 pages of Regulation Crowdfunding when they came out.”Then she had to figure out how to apply the rules in a technology business and build it. “And, by the way, I had never built a technology platform before!”She is unstoppable.She sees learning to “chunk things” in her training to become an architect as key to learning endurance.First, you start with a vision that you polish and refine. Second, you start figuring out how to implement your vision. She notes that it is iterative, meaning that the vision may get tweaked as you learn more about implementation.With each iteration, you get a bit more detailed. Draft and redraft. Eventually, you operate at a level of detail that allows you to begin taking action, moving forward and making progress. Then, you are unstoppable like Eve.If you follow Eve’s example and advice, you can make endurance a superpower that will make you unstoppable. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    Rotary Plays Peacebuilding Roles Locally and Globally

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 7, 2022 37:08

    Devin: Julia, what’s your superpower?Julia: Oh, what is my superpower? Right now, I feel like my superpower is just embracing complexity.Julia Roig is a professional peacebuilder. Today, she leads The Horizons Project, which is working toward connecting and organizing advocates for peace and democracy in the United States. She and her team work with people and organizations across a broad political spectrum.She sees a real crisis threatening America. “We quite honestly need to face up to the level of threat.”“We really do have a faction in the United States right now that is trying to subvert democracy,” Julia says. “It’s not one person. It’s not one politician. It is a system that right now happens to be a faction within the Republican Party.”She notes that during the Jim Crow era, that same faction found a home in the Democratic party.Julia and I recorded this conversation about a month ago, but I’m sharing this while attending the Rotary International Convention in Houston, Texas.Service Clubs Like Rotary Are Part of the SolutionIn this divisive context we find ourselves today, different people of good character may be on one side appalled by the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, while others remain deeply sympathetic to the message and mission of the perpetrators. Julia notes that service organizations like Rotary International provide a context for people who may not see that event through the same lens to see each other as fully human.By working shoulder to shoulder on community and global service projects, people who see the world differently see each other more fully. “Part of the answer is to not necessarily talk about January 6th, quite honestly, to find each other’s humanity again.”The Horizons Project works with Rotary formally on peacebuilding, one of Rotary’s core missions. The project is looking at “the difference between good polarization and toxic polarization and how that shows up in the life of Rotary.”“Part of being a service organization, part of being a member of the community is very local level stitching together those relationships because you want to be able to see that humanity in who you consider the other side,” Julia says. An example of good polarization is Rotarians or community members coming together to work at a food pantry. “We want to raise the heat so that complacency about food insecurity isn’t tolerated anymore in your small community,” she says.On the other hand, toxic polarization threatens Rotary Clubs and communities. “That’s when you see othering and dehumanizing language,” she says, offering some common examples, some of which can be heard even in Rotary Club meetings in some places.“All those liberals, they’re all communists.”“All those Trump lovers, they’re all fascists; they’re Nazis.”That sort of language lumps people, including some who may be close to us, people in our families or Rotary Clubs or otherwise part of our communities, into categories that make them different from us. The implication is that they are inferior, less human, by virtue of their ideas. That is toxic.Members of Rotary identify themselves as Rotarians. When Rotarians place value on this “superordinate identity,” it helps de-emphasize the divisions resulting from thinking of their fellow club members as part of a political in or out-group based on their party.The result is that Rotarians have conversations with greater empathy and love. They begin to see the complexity in the human beings in the community.Never miss an episode. Subscribe!Moderating Extreme Voices in Politics“I do think that there is a higher level of accountability for leaders,” Julia says. We can and should expect more. Political rhetoric from today’s leaders too often falls into the traps of toxic polarization.“One of the things that we’re working on at the Horizons Project is a strategy around what is this vision that we want in our democracy, where we trust our institutions, that we are going to make sure that we won’t stand for leaders who are othering and dehumanizing,” she says.Julia says, “It’s also up to us to say and to organize to say, we don’t like this. We don’t want this language.” She asserts that leaders will respond to followers.Firing up the base doesn’t require toxic negativity. “You can fire up your base voice based on a future vision of what you’re for and not necessarily what you’re against,” she says. “And there is research that that works.”We didn’t get to this point where so much political talk is demeaning because it doesn’t work, Julia says. “There’s an incentive structure right now because we’re all marinating in this outrage,” she says. “Feels very good, by the way. You know that, right?”“We’re all flooded with the kind of love hormone that makes us feel closer to our in-group when we feel outraged together; we are more together when we’re outraged,” Julia says. “So, we really need to disenthrall ourselves from the outrage, and we need to find that kind of common cause.”We come together without demonizing people who disagree with us by finding and working toward a shared vision of the future.One of the keys to Julia’s work is her ability to use her superpower: embracing complexity.How to Develop Embracing Complexity As a SuperpowerOne of the challenges we all face is that often there is good reason to be both happy and sad, discouraged and hopeful. Julia advocates “sitting with uncertainty, sitting with ambiguity, recognizing how complex the world is and letting it be both.”“You can be both traumatized and exhausted, and you can feel hope in the future that you see your 21-year-old daughter and how engaged she is. And you can feel worried, and you still have agency to make a difference,” she says. “So, I think the superpower we need right now is to sit with complexity and still act.”Julia recently brought two groups of people together to have a difficult conversation. The groups shared a sense of social justice objectives but approached the problem differently. On one side, she had a “group of social justice activists, people who are really on the kind of, let’s say, radical side of the spectrum.” On the other side, she had a “group of peacebuilders who may say, ‘We want to dial down the tension.’”The issues on the table were intense: Black Lives Matter, police reform, Supreme Court nominees. Imagine the passion in the room.Julia’s goal was to build a bridge between the organizations. The social justice advocates were not excited to hear about wanting to engage constructively with moderates on the other side, much less the extreme voices. At the same time, the peacebuilders who were trying to build relationships with those groups to make progress expressed their frustration at having setbacks when the activists fanned the flames.Julia helped both sides see the other’s perspectives. “both of your strategies can be true; both of your feelings can be true. And we and we need both,” she says. “We need the bridge builders to maintain that link.” She helped the two sides work together a bit more harmoniously.Julia offers four tactics for leaning into complexity:Listen to podcasts from multiple communities.Take time to hear your own thoughts on a complex topicRemember relationships: “we can only make sense of the world with other people.”Forgive each other; “we do the best we can with the information we have.”If you follow Julia’s example and her four tips, you can strengthen your ability to embrace complexity; perhaps you can even make it a superpower that enables you to do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    This Fund Amplifies Voices of People Working to Improve Food Access and Sustainability

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 2, 2022 30:53

    Devin: What do you see as your superpower?Esperanza: My superpower? Well, I think there are two that I would credit myself with. One is probably what boils down to being shrewdly pragmatic. I can both envision and implement. And then I would say the other is not losing focus on my own voice.Newly appointed executive director of the Food and Farm Communication Fund, Esperanza Pallana, explains her work:At FFCF, we believe that in order to create food and farm systems that foster racial equity, social and economic justice, and environmental stewardship, we must advance a public narrative that investigates and reveals the true costs of corporate consolidation and the global industrial model, showcases the centrality of agroecology and regenerative systems, and amplifies the voice, experience, and power of those most impacted by our food and farm systems and on the frontlines of transforming them.“I’ve been working in food and farm systems change for a good portion of my career,” Esperanza says. “I have done that work through community organizing, through policy, through civic engagement, and then through community development finance, and now philanthropy.”FFCF makes grants to nonprofits around the country working to amplify the voices of people working to improve America’s food system, working primarily in social justice but also to address environmental sustainability and climate change.Over the decade of its existence, FFCF has made 90 grants. In 2021 alone, it made more than 20. Here are some of the highlights:The Center Pole: This Native American nonprofit in Montana received an FFCF grant to conduct a feasibility study to increase the power and reach of Crow Voices, The Center Pole’s reservation-based low power radio station.The Farmworker Association of Florida: Founded after experiencing several crop-devastating freezes in the mid-1980s, the nonprofit works to improve farm labor conditions in the Sunshine State. The FFCF grant will support a new communications database, website updates and staff communications trainings.I-Collective: This nonprofit is a group of Indigenous chefs, activists, herbalists, and seed and knowledge keepers. The FFCF grant will help produce an interactive indigenous cookbook and webinar series.Indigenous Environmental Network: This nonprofit led by Native Americans actively opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline. The FFCF grant helps fund a project to weave the wealth of grassroots stories within the IEN network into an overarching narrative that will build collective power towards an Indigenous Just Transition away from the dominant, colonial, extractive economy and towards a regenerative vision for sustainable communities rooted in traditional knowledge, tribal self-determination, and the inherent rights of indigenous peoples.National Black Food and Justice Alliance: This nonprofit protects Black land ownership and works toward food sovereignty for the Black community nationwide. The FFCF grant will fund the development of an Afro-Ecology Archive and a digital communications workshop series to help build the communications capacities of its members.You can see that FFCF builds on the understanding that, as Esperanza explains, “Food system workers are one of the most exploited workers in the United States, and that’s across from production all the way through.”Esperanza’s work is enabled by her superpowers, shrewd pragmatism and her authentic voice. She and I focused our conversation on her ability to use her distinctive voice to support her work.Never miss another episode. Subscribe!How to Develop Your Authentic Voice As a Superpower“I try to be true to myself. I try to be authentic. I try to be direct and candid in who I am,” Esperanza says.In our conversation, Esperanza was able to speak confidently about her work, opinions and experience. She has developed some deliberate practices to maintain a strong voice.Fundamentally, she says, “speak from your true self.”Tactically, she suggests developing talking points. “It is actually a great practice to have talking points so that we know the pieces of information about this particular topic that we want to make sure to impart.”“When we really provide our most authentic voice, we’re not having to try to memorize things,” Esperanza says. She suggests you prepare thoughtful answers to questions like the following:Why are you there?How is this personal for you?Why do you care?Where is this personally affecting you?By following her example and her guidance, you can make your authentic voice a superpower that will enable you to do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    How 'Zebras Fix What Unicorns Break' Created a Global Movement

    Play Episode Listen Later May 31, 2022

    Today, May 31, 2022, is the last day to register for SuperCrowd22 to receive a free copy of Crowdfunding for Social Good. U.S. registrants receive an autographed copy; international registrants receive a digital copy.Devin: What do you see as your superpower that’s enabling you to do all this?Mara: I think the superpower that I guess I call on the most is probably listening.What is Zebras Unite?Mara Zepeda, one of the four co-founders of Zebras Unite, describes the business as “an international cooperative that is creating the capital, culture and community for the next economy.” [I recently joined the co-op.]One dynamic that makes the organization highly effective is connecting with both sides of the marketplace, entrepreneurs and investors.“You have the demand of entrepreneurs,” Mara says. “They are looking for other companies to do business with. They’re looking for service providers; they’re looking for vendors. They’re looking to sell their products or services. They are looking for best practices. They’re looking for education.”Mara explains how engagement with investors completes the picture:On the other hand, you have the supply of capital. And that's been the part that's been really interesting and exciting to us is there are capital providers that have come to us really from the beginning of the movement saying, look, we want to invest in zebra companies, but we need you to help us create the do the financial engineering to help to create capital products that meet the demand of the marketplace.The complete ecosystem makes membership valuable for everyone involved. “you have this incredibly mutualistic cycle of constant learning to be able to inform, creating new corporate structures, capital instruments, governance protocols and processes,” Mara says.Zebras Unite is achieving scale, with about 300 members and 30 chapters worldwide. It is structured as a multi-stakeholder cooperative, allowing for different rights and shares of profits and ownership. “The founders have put blood, sweat and tears into it. They can now receive more of an upside,” Mara says. Zebras.org, an affiliated nonprofit, has a 5 percent ownership stake and special rights for protecting the Zebras Unite mission.“Anyone who wishes to be a member-owner now can become a member-owner of the cooperative,” Mara says. Zebras have a different way of thinking. “The folks that we serve and the members we have are coming from an abundance mindset. It’s like power is infinite, and we’re interested in building power with our members and with the economy,” she says. “We’re not interested in this kind of scarcity winner takes all mindset.”That mindset is the essential element in founding Zebras Unite.Don’t miss another episode. Subscribe!Founding Zebras UniteMara grew up in Sedona, Arizona and Santa Fe, New Mexico, communities built around art and creativity. “I’m an artist myself,” Mara says. “But the medium that was most interesting to me has always been collective potential.”She has always thought deeply about the power of a group. “How do we work together to unleash creative, collective potential? How can we learn, learn from one another? How can we develop deep, authentic relationships? How can that work? Be in service to larger things, larger than ourselves?”Her insatiable appetite for knowledge helped her develop a career in journalism. “I was a reporter for National Public Radio, where I was focusing mostly on the economy.”She also founded venture-backed Switchboard, which later merged with Hearken, launched by Jennifer Brandel, another of the Zebras Unite founders who also had a background in journalism.Four women founded Zebras Unite. Mara says, “We wanted to grow our companies in a different way. We were interested in mutualism, cooperation, and shared prosperity.”In addition to Jen and Mara, the four included Aniyia Williams and Astrid Scholz.“We weren’t interested in the extractive growth-at-all-cost Silicon Valley model we see with billion-dollar unicorn companies,” Mara says.“That led us down this path of articulating what it was that we wanted to be and our manifesto in 2017: “Zebras Fix What Unicorns Break,” she says, describing a catalyzing event in the formation of Zebras Unite.“We began to sketch out this dichotomy between who benefits from unicorn companies and who benefits from zebra companies, which we were building,” Mara says. “Tens of thousands of people got back to us, and they said, what you’re describing is exactly what I’m building, and I’m facing the same challenges.”In all her work as a journalist, entrepreneur and leader, Mara uses her highly-honed listening skill, her superpower.How to Develop Listening As a Superpower“You could just spend years understanding listening,” Mara says. To make the point, she lists different applications of the skill. Consider listening:To yourselfTo othersTo the cultural momentTo one’s bodyThe four founders come from different backgrounds. “To build this organization over five years, we’ve had to go through a crucible of communication,” Mara says. “We’ve had times when the organization is practically fallen apart.”“We’ve had times when some of us have had to step back,” she continues. “We’ve had times where we’ve had to navigate conflict, and that requires actually learning, up-leveling your communication skill set. It requires everybody being committed to continuing to be in relationship.”For her part, Mara says, “As a child of divorce, like my first instinct is always just to like peace out. My instinct is I just want to leave.”Mara and her colleagues understood that too much was at stake to let conflicts ruin what they are doing. “The stakes are so high, and our dream is so shared and so beautiful,” she says.The team has created communication norms that have become vital as the team has grown to 12 on six different continents. They have made these communication norms a foundational part of the business.Mara provided some guidance for developing listening skills.Mirroring is a start. She says, “So you just asked me what are some tools that you would recommend to others about communication? It’s quite extraordinary. The delta between what just came out of your mouth and what I heard and how infrequent it is that we take the time to make sure that what we heard is actually what was said.”The Zebras Unite team also employs a tool that facilitates vulnerable conversations. They use the preamble “the story I’m telling myself is” when sharing difficult thoughts and feelings. For instance, “the story I’m telling myself is that you don’t appreciate anything that I’ve done, and you want me out of here, and you hate everything that I’ve ever contributed to this organization.”“We’ve also instituted safe words,” Mara says. “So when things get a little bit too heated, we’ll introduce safe words.”Another active tool she says the team uses is to employ a facilitator. “In my experience, it’s very difficult to be able to facilitate a difficult conversation.”Finally, Mara says, the team has created accountability pods so you can define your goals. “Then the accountability pod system makes it possible for you to constantly revisit what that plan is and talk out with your colleagues.” Then, you can talk about your progress, failure and adjustments with trusted advisors.By following Mara’s example and counsel, you can make listening a superpower that allows you to do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    This Investor Measures ROI in Terms of Megatons of Carbon Removed From the Atmosphere

    Play Episode Listen Later May 26, 2022 26:42

    Devin: Look at that skill set that you’ve got. What do you see as your superpower within that skill set that will allow you to make this happen?Peet: I haven’t been looking forward to that question. It’s difficult to introspect, and, well, it’s bold and brave to say this is my superpower. So, I asked around and, you know, my friends and family, ‘What would you say to this?” I recognize what they said, which is I’m an evangelist. One of them said storytelling; another one said optimism. And I think those two things come together to be evangelism.”Peet Denny didn’t always focus on the environment. As a tech entrepreneur, he had a successful career. When in 2019, he became convinced that climate change was a real threat to humanity, “I decided to throw myself into it and devote the rest of my life to it.”Peet has no delusions that this will be easy. “Climate change is a natural consequence of the human condition of who we are as human beings.”His conclusion: “If we’re going to tackle climate change, then almost everything about the way that we live our lives needs to change.”Never mind the difficulty, “I’m an optimist,” Peet says. “I think we’ve got a good chance of pulling this off.”He compares the system and economic changes we’re beginning to the changes experienced during the Renaissance or the industrial revolution.His optimism shows in his thinking about the future:If we do pull it off, then the world that we will create will be a much more fun place to live. It'll be a place with way more equality. It'll be a place with more prosperity for for all, where we understand better how to live in harmony with with our surroundings, where we get the best out of it and it gets the best out of us.Never miss an episode. Subscribe!Climate VCTo go after his vision for the future, Peet raised a venture fund to deploy in climate change reversing enterprises. The fund is called Climate VC.“Almost everything needs to change. So the problem space is very large. That means that the solution space is also really large,” he says, explaining the firm’s wide lens looking across sectors.To make the point of breadth, he rattles off a wide range of examples:Transports, like how we move around, how we how we feed ourselves, how we make things out of out of steel, out of concrete, our plastic, how we generate energy, how we how we circularize our economy, how we how we grow food. All of those things. How we how we educate ourselves, how we how we redistribute wealth across the across the planet. All of those things kind of need to change. And so those those are kind of the verticals that we look at.One of the critical points of reference he uses is the work of Project Drawdown, a nonprofit that published one of the bestselling books on climate change, called Drawdown. Project Drawdown maintains a list of the top 100 climate interventions based on existing and implemented technology, things that simply need scale.Peet is excited about using the tools of venture capital applied in a new way. Traditionally, VCs use their tools to identify entrepreneurs capable of growing a billion-dollar enterprise, a “unicorn,” as such companies are known. “We try and use those tools to find companies that could become gig-icorns, companies that could have a 1 billion ton impact.”“The way to do that is to find people who are extraordinary and see what we can do to help out,” he says.Peet summarizes the plan for reaching the gigaton goal: If we invest in 120 startups over the next three years, and if ten of them get to where they want to get—most companies in early stage venture don't. But if ten of them get to where they want to get and they're each having a ten megaton scale impact a year for ten years, then ten by ten by ten, that's our gigaton.Peet shared a story to help us understand where he gets the optimism that he can lead a gigaton effort and that the world can reverse climate change before it’s too late:I started doing triathlons like all—like many—middle aged men do. And I worked towards this long term goal of doing an Ironman like a full, full distance triathlon.That just kept knocking me back time and again, time and again. I remember like being at training camps where I was, you know, cycling next to a 60 year old woman. And I was like early thirties, dude. And I just couldn't keep up with it. And I'd fall off the back of the pack and it just it just kept kicking me in the pants the whole time for years. Eventually just through bone headedness, I managed to train for and do a full Ironman. And the whole time I was doing it, I wanted to quit—the whole time. But I didn't. I finished it.I think psychologically that that changed something in me. It made me realize maybe anything is possible. Maybe, maybe I need to raise my ambitions.Screening OpportunitiesFinding and investing in 120 companies over the next three years will take a new strategy for screening opportunities.“We, first of all, challenged the founders to show us a plan that will get you to ten megatons a year,” Peet says.Then, he has scientists review the plans to determine if the founders really can achieve that scale of impact. If they pass, he scrutinizes the team. More conventional commercial due diligence follows. Finally, he looks for the “unknown unknowns” to avoid traps.“We’re not just looking for deals that have already been pre-approved by others,” Peet says, to emphasize his goal to help people do what others aren’t already doing. “the reason I got into this game in the first place is to try and make things happen that wouldn’t otherwise have happened.”Part of that process is to have a more comprehensive deal funnel. “We’re trying to listen to people that other people aren’t listening to,” he says.To be successful with his gigaton goal by attracting 120 entrepreneurs to back, he’ll use his evangelism superpower.How to Develop Evangelism As a SuperpowerEvangelism can be powerful. Consider what Peet did.“Well, I mean, I raised a venture capital fund. I went from being a complete noob in this space to raising some money, hiring some people, bringing in an amazing board. I mean, I’ve got directors from Google and Greenpeace and Nature on my board. That’s incredible.”It is an extraordinary accomplishment.Peet sees optimism and storytelling as component skills of evangelism. Especially for his work. If his pitch were that the world is ending, who would invest? Optimism is essential. His ability to tell a story, as he did with the Iron Man story, to make a powerful point about our ability to do virtually anything complements his natural optimism.He offers some more straightforward and profound advice. “Just just be yourself, man.”Acknowledging that it could be considered cliche, he encourages others not to be afraid to be enthusiastic. Similarly, he advises people not to be ashamed of their roots. Be who you are.He acknowledges that some people may be put off but says it will create a genuine connection with others. Therein lies the power of evangelism built on authenticity.If you strive to follow his example and heed his advice, you can make evangelism your superpower for good.In this article, we have used affiliate links, which may generate commissions if you make a purchase but that do not increase your cost. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    7 Principles to Empower Yourself by Aligning Your Life With Your Values

    Play Episode Listen Later May 24, 2022 26:50

    Devin: What do you see as your standout superpower?Sharon: I’m very good at that big picture at the vision and then getting people feeling motivated by that vision rather than demotivated by the problems of the world.Sharon Schneider, the founder of Integrated Capital Strategies, helps uber-wealthy families and successful entrepreneurs align their lives more fully with their values. She paints a picture to allow them to see that their charitable giving is a small part of their social impact.Sharon came to see that the same principle could apply to everyone. In part, it was a journey of discovering her own power that she shared on her blog. “I was missing out, frankly, and I was misaligned in many ways.”Finally, she has put the words to work in her book, Handbook for an Integrated Life. The insights are helpful to anyone who has ever donated even the smallest amount to a cause. The book will help you align your life more fully with your values.The book includes a discussion of seven principles for an integrated life. Sharon and I discussed each one.1. See the CurrentBefore you can find that perfect harmony in your life, you need to see the corporate context in which we all live. “Western culture has normalized a lot of behaviors,” Sharon says of the marketing messages that engulf us. “You see things like the ten pieces you must-have for spring.”“Marketing power is the current,” she says.“If your fundamental value is wanting other people to be healthy and happy as much as you want to be healthy and happy yourself, you want the people that grow your food, teach your kids, work in stores, all of those things to be healthy and happy, too,” she says. “Step one is just to be aware of the ways that our mainstream culture is pushing you in a different direction.”Never miss an episode. Subscribe!2. Embrace “Yes, and” to Keep Making ProgressDrawing on the “yes, and” rule of improv, Sharon learned from Tina Fey’s book Bossypants, she suggests acknowledging what you’re doing and adding to it.In an improv context, the actors agree to accept whatever premise their partners bring to a skit and add to it. Yes, and.For a life lived more in harmony with your values, Sharon says, “start with small actions, start with what you can do today or maybe what you’re already doing and celebrate that.”“But that doesn’t mean you’re done,” she adds. Keep going.By way of example, she says, “If you take your reusable bags to the grocery store, yes, that’s hard. It’s hard to remember until you get in the habit. And what can you do next? For example, I now have mesh produce bags.”Ask yourself this question, “What’s the next step I can take?”3. Don’t Give Back; Just Give.“I have always hated the term ‘giving back,’” Sharon says. “It’s very individualistic. I’ll get mine first, and then maybe I’ll help some other people.”We can give along the way in many ways, from how we invest our money to how generously we tip and how often we shop in locally-owned establishments.“All those choices that we make that may not maximize the benefit to ourselves in the short term, but help everybody win along the way is really what ‘just give’ is about,” she says.4. Be Brave. “I have had moments in my life, and maybe you have too, where there’s something kind of sitting back here that you’re not really living in [line with] your values the way you’d like to, but you’d rather not look at that and think about it,” Sharon says, highlighting the context in which you may need to be brave.She used the current war in Ukraine as an example:A great example of this is Russia invading Ukraine and how it forced us to look head on into the bargain we had made around oil and that it wasn't just environmental impact, it was also human rights—that we had willingly made this bargain with the devil, if you will.That was like, we want that oil, so we'll keep allowing you to to make those trade offs. I can't personally affect the war in Russia, but I can make choices by being brave and saying, okay, this is something I’ve got to turn and face. I can make choices in my own life about my dependance on fossil fuels versus clean energy sources, right? So, maybe I can insulate my house. If I have the option to have an electric car or drive less, bike more, or put on a sweater instead of turning on the heat or like many, many choices that I can take.It does take an extra measure of courage to challenge your own behavior. “Step one is you’ve got to acknowledge that the cognitive dissonance that’s maybe been bothering you and make the commitment to do something about it,” Sharon says. “I think that does take bravery.”5. Resist the Allure of Convenience.We live in an Amazon Prime world. “In Western culture, we’ve been convinced, through many billions of dollars of marketing, that our own convenience is the most important benefit that a product can have,” Sharon says.That convenience comes at a price paid by workers incentivized to skip bathroom stops and the environment cluttered with plastic that will last thousands of years.She says, “Sometimes you pay a little bit of a convenience tax by going the extra mile” to shop at a small business. Giving up convenience can have positive impact on people and the planet.“If we continue to encourage each other and normalize [extra effort], we will get there,” Sharon says.6. Walk Lightly in the World“In Western cultures, we consume way more than the earth can reproduce in terms of raw resources in a year; we’re just literally using up the planet,” Sharon says.She proposes asking a series of questions before every purchase.Do you really need it? You’ve probably purchased a few things that you don’t need. Make a point to ponder the question of need before every purchase. If you do need it, move to the next question.Do you have to own it? It may not make sense to rent or borrow a coat if you live in a place with long, cold winters. On the other hand, if you want to power wash your house every other year, perhaps you can borrow or rent the equipment. If you decide you need to own it, move to the next question.Does it have to be new? There are many ways to buy used things, from thrift stores to eBay and even Amazon. You can reduce your impact on the Earth by buying something someone else no longer uses.If you decide you need to buy something new, you can look for something that producers grew organically, produced under a fair-trade arrangement or otherwise made sustainably. 7. Know Your Power“What is our power?” Sharon asks. “It is immense.”She explains:I realized, you know, I'm no billionaire, but there is still tens of thousands of dollars passing through my household every year, if you count my all of my consumption. So whether it's food, clothing, all of my financial products, my mortgage, my insurance, my cell phone, all the money I spend on entertainment, on travel, on maintaining my household, I have all this consumer power.Plus I have social networks. Right. I'm a sister and a mother and a daughter and a friend. My kids—I have schools that they go to. I have my professional skills and networks. I'm also a voter. I'm a voter and I'm an active volunteer in my community. If I only think of the 5 percent or 10 percent of my budget is what I have to spend to make the world [better]. That's like using 5 percent of your brain. It's like, how do we activate the other 95 percent? That's really the message of an integrated life. The more of those assets you can bring into alignment with your values, the more powerful that you will be.In her work, Sharon uses her superpower, helping people feel motivated by the big picture.How to Develop Helping People Feel Motivated by the Big Picture As a SuperpowerSharon sees her life’s purpose as helping people achieve an integrated life. “By focusing on what you can do and painting a picture for what our world could be,” she helps people overcome the sense that today’s problems are insurmountable. She helps people overcome the temptation to quit.She helps wealthy families and founders increase their social impact. Traditionally, foundations are required to give away 5 percent of their assets each year. Most ignored the social impact of how they invested the other 95 percent. Over the past 20 years, Sharon has been part of a movement working to change that.Over the years, I like to think that I've successfully counseled any number of families and foundation boards and endowment holders, nonprofit endowments, to to spend more of their focus on what the investments are doing as opposed to just treating them as a black box that generates cash that we can give away. And so really giving them the vision of giving 100 percent of the foundation working towards their mission.That is a significant achievement resulting from, she says, using her superpower. By following her example, you can develop this skill into a superpower that will help you do more good.SuperCrowd22Sharon will be presenting at SuperCrowd22 on September 15 and 16. “I love what you’re doing,” she says. “You’re getting people to expand their aperture. I’m just thrilled to be able to be a small part of it.”Her voice will be critically important; I’m excited to have her on the program. Remember, our free subscribers can register at half-price. Paid subscribers can register for free! Subscribe today. The conference will feature a variety of ways for interaction with the presenters and other attendees. Just as happens with in-person events, you’ll return with a collection of contacts to go with the information and insights you get. Because it is virtual, the conference is affordable with a light carbon footprint.In this article, we have used affiliate links, which may generate commissions if you make a purchase but that do not increase your cost. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    This Social Entrepreneur May Appear Scattered But She's Laser Focused

    Play Episode Listen Later May 19, 2022 33:14

    Devin: What do you think of within that skill set as being your superpower?Michelle: I am a very practical problem solver. The analytical thinking from the legal training side is something that definitely helps evaluate things. I’m a practical problem solver. I believe there are solutions to all problems. So for me, it’s about communication, openness and problem-solving. I guess that’s multiple superpowers, but I see it under the umbrella of communication.You could be forgiven for thinking Michelle Thimesch is a bit scattered. She is working on several major projects right now, but they are all closely aligned in solving a single problem. She’s no more scattered than a laser-guided missile.She is the CEO of Crowdfund Mainstreet, which she founded with Jenny Kassan. She also organized an investor network called Angels of Mainstreet. Most recently, she raised a fund to create Opportunity Mainstreet in Baltimore. With Jenny, she hosts a podcast called Capital Insight.Her goal is to fix capitalism to better serve people.Launching Crowdfund MainstreetA decade ago, Michelle was practicing law in California. “Most of my clients were closely held businesses. A lot of the focus of my work was transitioning businesses from one generation to the next or selling them to key employees,” Michelle says.As a result, she began to focus on finance and capital, looking for more creative ways to help clients. When the 2012 JOBS Act passed, allowing ordinary investors to buy shares in startups and small businesses, she thought, “This is so game-changing.”It took four long years for the SEC to implement the law signed by President Obama. Michelle, like many others, anticipated that implementation would bring a fundamental shift in the capital markets toward greater inclusion and equity.When the SEC issued the effective rules in 2016, and the market opened, “I was mortified,” Michelle says. “It was all business as usual.”“A lot of the hype and the early commentary around the platforms that existed and that were out of the gates starting was focused on really helping people to invest alongside venture capital,” she says. “While there’s nothing wrong with that ecosystem for the individuals that it is a fit for, the vast majority are not a fit for that type of capital.”About this time, Michelle connected with like-minded lawyer Jenny Kassan. They began dreaming about what a more values-aligned crowdfunding site would look like. With Jenny’s encouragement and partnership, Michelle led the launch of Crowdfund Mainstreet in 2018.Michelle’s parents and grandparents were entrepreneurs. Raised in the middle class, she’s always seen entrepreneurship as “a path towards self-sufficiency, self-determination.” But the closer she looked, the more she saw that this was becoming less and less true—and crowdfunding was a way to fix it.There is growing evidence that it’s working. “Women and people of color are doing better on investment crowdfunding platforms than in any other finance ecosystem,” Michelle says. “About 70% of the time, a woman or a person of color will reach their minimum investment.”Still, women raise only a third, on average, of their male counterparts. There is still work to do.Never miss an episode. Subscribe.Building Angels of MainstreetAbout six months after launching Crowdfund Mainstreet, Michelle and Jenny began to appreciate that the role of a portal was that of an intermediary. To help their entrepreneurs raise money on the platform, they needed to cultivate a community of investors.“The lifetime membership for Angels of Main Street costs $100, so anybody can join for $100 and be a member for life,” Michelle says. “We ask that people commit to investing a minimum of $500 a year directly in a company.”“We have people who are very seasoned professional investors who are working toward divesting out of the public markets, in some cases 100% divested out of the public markets,” she says.Other members are newer to investing and may not think of themselves as investors. Together, they are learning how to effectively deploy capital in private markets with real impact as well as financial returns.“Because we are business and corporate and securities attorneys, we like the idea of helping people craft an offering that’s unique to them, and that makes sense for their business based on how they want to exit their investors,” Michelle says.The Angels of Mainstreet serves that purpose, allowing entrepreneurs to learn from a dialog with investors.Creating Opportunity Mainstreet“Opportunity Mainstreet is an economic development fund that currently has a project in downtown Baltimore,” Michelle says. “The idea behind the project is to bring together an entrepreneur hub and investor hub.”“When we used to do events for entrepreneurs, we would always have one evening at least where investors would join the entrepreneurs and try to create connections and conversation between the two groups and realized that that was just not enough, that there still was kind of an awkwardness, a shyness,” she says, explaining the need for the project.With that in mind, Michelle acquired an 8500-square-foot, four-story building. The ground floor will feature a commercial kitchen operated as a co-op. “There’s a big farm-to-table movement here,” Michelle says. “Even in Maryland, you can get 50 weeks of fresh produce a year.”At the same time, she is partnering with an organization in Baltimore called Wealth Builders, led by Stephanie Geller, who, Michelle says, “is very focused on activating retail investors, teaching people what it would be like to invest directly in their communities.”SuperCrowd22Michelle and Jenny will both be speaking at SuperCrowd22. Crowdfund Mainstreet is also serving as a co-host for the event.The event will be held virtually on September 15 and 16, 2022 and will feature dozens of speakers, including entrepreneurs, investors, portal leaders and ecosystem experts.“This is one of the most compelling events since this began about five years ago,” Michelle says. “I think the industry is old enough now that you’ve been able to work on identifying who are all the players, all the different nuances, all the different kinds of offerings and platforms.”“You won’t want to miss this showcase if you have any interest in the small business finance world,” she says.Michelle authorized me to share the Crowdfund Mainstreet discount code for the event. Using the code MAINSTREET, you can get tickets at 50 percent off the $199 regular price.We’ll record the program, so even if you can’t attend every hour of the event, you can catch up on it later. The total content will approach 100 hours of invaluable information.Most importantly, you’ll have opportunities to interact directly with Michelle and Jenny and others like them.In all her work, Michelle relies on her communication superpower.How to Develop Communication As a SuperpowerMichelle honed her communication superpower in the practice of law. She learned to see communication as a tool for solving problems and a vehicle for change.She is most proud of having used that superpower to create Crowdfund Mainstreet. Raising the money from a group of patient, values-aligned investors was essential for achieving the goal. Seeing that there is still work to do, she notes that she is grateful for the investors’ continued patience.Michelle coaches female entrepreneurs, helping them to realize their full potential. One of the key principles she teaches them is essential to understanding how to make communication a superpower.Her guidance will surprise you. “One of the things that is the most compelling is teaching people to do the opposite of what we’re inclined to do.”She explains why this is true. “When we run into challenges and problems, we tend to step back away from those challenges and problems.” Hiding from problems doesn’t make them go away.Michelle says:The power comes from standing in that place of discomfort. That's probably the single most important step. Any transformation takes work. But the very first thing that has to happen before you can transform is a commitment to change. So that commitment to change is probably the first step. If you can get there, you can get the rest of the way with the right tools.If you follow Michelle’s example and advice, you can make practical, solution-oriented communication a superpower that enables you to do more good in the world. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    This Changemaker Now Runs the Nonprofit That Helped Her Gain Admission to Smith College

    Play Episode Listen Later May 17, 2022 23:05

    Devin: What do you see as the personal strength that has most enabled you to be successful?Nolvia: That's a really good question, I think for me. Throughout my life, there's always been this desire to help others, and I always knew that that's what I wanted to do. I just didn't know how.Thirteen years ago, Nolvia Delgado was a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College. She completed a rigorous application to the Kaplan Educational Foundation for support transferring to a selective four-year college. She won the Kaplan Leadership Scholar award, and with the foundation’s help, she earned admission to Smith College’s class of 2011.After graduating, she pursued a career around education and the Foundation that helped launch her career recently appointed her to serve as the Executive Director. “The Kaplan Leadership program changed my life and gave me the opportunity to transfer to Smith College,” Nolvia says.Born in the Dominican Republic, Nolvia credits her mother, who didn’t complete high school, with instilling in her the value of education. “She would always say, ‘Education will open doors. Education is the way out.’”“I understood it. And that's why I worked so hard,” Nolvia says. “But I could have never imagined where an education would take me and that it would open so many doors—literally—for me.  It's a dream come true for both of us.”Nolvia says Kaplan guided her in choosing a four-year college. She was considering both Vassar and Smith, which she says “was just the perfect place for me.”Nolvia’s first job after graduation was with the Foundation—the first Scholar hired full-time. She left to continue building her career, staying close to the field of supporting opportunities for education among underserved communities. Earlier this year, she took the top job at the Foundation.Never miss another empowering episode!Nolvia is a model Scholar. She epitomizes the program. The Kaplan Educational Foundation helps community college students from underserved communities find selective colleges where they can finish their undergraduate education. The Foundation provides help to its Scholars with much more than financial aid, helping students complete their community college education and prepare for the rigors of competitive four-year schools. They cover the fees for the transfer applications and even help with living expenses at the community college.The Foundation helps the students find schools where they will receive sufficient financial support to graduate without student loans. The program also provides students with emergency funding during their junior and senior years. The scholars also receive career training.“The mission of the Kaplan Educational Foundation is to identify high achieving, underrepresented community college students and help them transfer to selective four-year institutions,” Nolvia says. “The work doesn't stop when the scholar transfers to a four-year institution. It's then making sure that they graduate.”The result is that over 84 percent of the Scholars who transfer graduate from their chosen four-year schools.“Part of our mission is to ensure that our Scholars, once they graduate, are taking leadership positions in their respective fields and that they're able to work on improving outcomes for all of us,” she says. “We make it a point to expose students to different leadership opportunities and ensure that they have the tools to be agents of change.”Underlying Nolvia’s success is her superpower, a desire to help others.How to Develop a Desire to Help Others As a Superpower“I come from a family of women who are all giving back to their communities in different ways,” Nolvia says. “I think it's the desire to help others that was instilled in me by the women in my family.”Nolvia shared a story of her early career as an example of her deploying her superpower successfully:When I was working at the Community Schools Initiative in Brooklyn, there was a lifeguarding program [that] would train students to be certified lifeguards. They would get a job. It was a very it was every Saturday. I knew that that program would keep students off the streets. It would provide them with an opportunity to obtain a certification, to have money in their pocket. And my desire to help others, I think, helped so many students stay off the streets. I know that for some of them, it changed their lives. And what that meant was pushing to make sure that we had the program on the campus, that it was available, that I was there every Saturday to make sure that the program was running smoothly. The outcome is that some students—a lot of students—were kept off the streets and now are working full time as lifeguards. So it was a life-changing opportunity for students.That desire to help others is flourishing in her new role as well. Nolvia offers some profound counsel for strengthening your desire to help others.Honestly, it's doing everything in an arm's reach. If there's something that you can easily do, if there's an introduction you can make, if there's somebody resume you can review—whatever it is that is that you have the capacity to do. Then do that. Sometimes people get consumed with the idea that they have to go out and just change the world. That can be that can be daunting. Just do whatever's in an arm's reach, whatever expertize you have, share it. You'll be you'll be surprised at the impact that you have just by doing things that might seem small to you. But for someone, it could be life changing.By following Nolvia’s example and her advice, you can strengthen your desire to serve other people and make it a superpower that will help you do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    'Ethical Alternative to Eventbrite' Aims to Make Events More Accessible

    Play Episode Listen Later May 12, 2022 28:00

    Devin: What do you see as your superpower?Josh: My superpower is my friendship with Adam. So Adam's been my best mate pretty much since university days, and I would never have been able to do this without him.Humanitix co-founder and co-CEO Josh Ross says, “Humanitix is a ticketing platform for events. Think of it like an ethical alternative to an Eventbrite. We exist to solve social problems.”After recording this interview last month, we swapped out our ticketing host for SuperCrowd22 to use Humanitix. When you finish reading, watching or listening, I hope you’ll agree we made a good call.The Story of HumanitixJosh and his co-CEO Adam McCurdie built Humanitix from the ground up as a nonprofit. “We had this vision of how amazing would the world be if we had technology charities at scale that could use that force purely for good.”The nonprofit tech company is now the go-to ticketing platform in Australia and New Zealand. As a nonprofit, mission gets prioritized above profits. The profits the nonprofit tech company generates are committed to causes, Josh says:All the profits we make from our booking fees go into different education programs. Globally, we focus on young girls literacy programs. In America, we partner with Code.org, and we fund computer science and STEM programs for disadvantaged kids from low-income backgrounds.In addition to that use of funds, Josh sees Humanitix playing a pivotal role in making events more accessible. He notes that many people with significant disabilities have simply given up on attending events.Josh and Adam don’t own shares in Humanitix. No one does. As a nonprofit designed to serve the community, the entity in effect belongs to the community. While the founders could merge the business into another, they couldn’t benefit directly from such a transaction. They can make a living from Humanitix, but it will never make them wealthy.Josh explains that this is possible because before launching Humanitix, they spent six years in the corporate world “where we were doing well.” He adds that they come from “decent families” that have been supportive. “So, we don't need to make tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars personally,” Josh says. “So, as long as we can earn an honest living, this is a way more exciting thing to do with our time.”Josh adds that having pledged the profits to education programs, having traditional investors would create tension between them and the mission.To finance the launch of a business that would never distribute profits to shareholders seems daunting. “We found philanthropists that understand the power of what we're doing,” Josh says, noting that they appreciate the fact that in the long run, the nonprofit would become self-funding. “We've become a self-funding charity in Australia, New Zealand, so we didn't need [philanthropic] investors for long,” he says.The structure also makes the business and mission transparent. Josh explains:We can't give a tokenistic amount to our projects and then sell this to a big tech company in five years’ time. Because even if there was a sale, the money is not ours. And there's a constitution and a registered charity there where we'd go to prison if we started pocketing that money. It's got to go towards benevolent purposes. So, it gives comfort to us, to all the people that have helped us get here, but also our clients who believe in our mission, that we're not going to sell out.Given that the founders want to change the world rather than create wealth, the nonprofit structure has aligned the interests of everyone else involved.Josh’s lack of greed does not translate into a lack of vision. He sees big things ahead.If we can scale to a similar size as Eventbrite in America, which we've achieved, we think in Australia, New Zealand, we should be spitting out roughly $20 to $30 million a year to our education programs, and we’ll be a lot more advanced in improving accessibility at live events. We also save nonprofits money when they ticket through us because we let them use our platform at a sustainable price, which should keep coming down over time.It is exciting to imagine.To support this vital work, subscribe.Making Events AccessibleAccessibility is a big challenge for event organizers as well as for those with disabilities. “People don't realize a lot of events break even at best,” Josh says. The implication is that they don’t have big budgets for accomodating disabled participants.Josh adds, “Event organizers are under pressure. They don't necessarily have the time or knowledge to address this problem.”For example, a big challenge is facilitating the participation of people who are blind or visually impaired.“If you're blind, you probably use a screen reader device on your iPhone or whatever you use, and that reads to you what's on the website and helps you navigate it,” Josh says. “But it needs the website to play ball. It needs that behind images there are text descriptions of what that image is.”That’s just the beginning. Now imagine attending a conference at a major convention center in a large city. The facility may occupy a square mile in the city center and have a dozen different entrances. Josh says, “Now if the event organizers just told you the International Convention Center, great. You get in your Uber, and you tell them International Convention Center, and it's going to be a nightmare trying to find.”I know I’ve personally struggled to find a venue within a major event center without the challenge of a disability. I can only imagine how frustrating it would be with those added difficulties.“We've done a range of design workshops with people with varying disabilities, not just visual impairments, to understand what information you really need,” Josh says. “Knowing that a venue is wheelchair accessible is not necessarily enough,” Josh says. “If you speak to guest speakers who are in wheelchairs, most of them have experiences of ‘Yeah, I was told the venue was wheelchair accessible, but the stage wasn't.’”Josh shares the report of one such speaker, “So I'm sitting near the stage at a gala dinner. I get called up to give the keynote. I roll up to the front of the room, but I can't get on the stage. It's incredibly embarrassing. I'm in front of 500 people.”To help event organizers both make their events more accessible and help them make their participants who need accommodation aware of them, Humanitix offers eight modules that guide and assess accessibility. The responses are available to interested participants, who can then decide if they are able to attend comfortably.Humanitix also provides online training resources for event organizers so they can make events accessible.“We've only been around for six years. So, you know, we have not solved event accessibility. I'd never want to say that,” Josh says. “But we believe we're the market leaders in it. Even the [Australian] Government's Royal Commission on Disability Services, [when] they run events, they use us.”In all this success and impact, Josh sees his superpower playing a critical role. His superpower is friendship.How to Develop Friendship As a SuperpowerAfter asking this superpower question close to 500 times, I’m rarely surprised anymore. Josh’s answer about friendship surprised me. He acknowledged that it sounds “corny,” but the more he talked, the more I believed in its power.In fairness, it takes two people committed to a friendship to make it work. Josh says that starting Humanitix with Adam, his friend, was premised on a critical understanding. Adam might have joined us for this interview but was on his honeymoon with his new bride when we recorded it.“We were quite intentional about this when starting Humanitix because we actually said to each other, if this starts to eat away at our friendship, we'll both quit and stop it because our friendship matters more to us,” Josh says. That is a powerful commitment to the friendship.Over the years, there have been challenges that the pair of friends have overcome. “We shared a bedroom for three months when we were launching it,” Josh says.There is power in friendship. “When you've got someone you implicitly trust and love that has your back, it allows you to be a better version of yourself,” he says.The friendship also provides courage. “Mentally, I think, would have been too lonely to step out of a comfortable job, to take a risk like this,” Josh says.The simple observation that two heads are better than one also plays a part in their success. “His skill set is so complementary to mine,” he says of Adam.To make the friendship/partnership work, Josh and Adam established some rules. Josh reviewed two primary examples.No Resentment:The first thing we identified as something that could become a problem is resentment. Nothing in life is ever fair. He had a technology background. In the first few years, you’ve got two major problems. One is you've got to build a platform. The other is you've got to fund it. Now, at times, funding is more of the pressure. At other times the product is more the pressure. So, at times, he’s working until 2:00 in the morning. I had a finance background. At times, I'm working till 2:00 in the morning. But imagine you're sitting there not getting paid, you're not building equity in anything and you're working your ass off to try and make this work. And your co-founder, who has a different skill set, who isn't at that point—is still working hard but is having some quality of life. It would be pretty easy to be sitting there [feeling] resentment. '“I might not raise this, but [I’m feeling] resentment.” And that seed of resentment is the future downfall of your friendship.Raise Things Early.The other is to raise things early. So, you know, we all get on each other's nerves. It might be that you're not cleaning the coffee machine now. It sounds like a petty, small thing, but if you sit on that, then 99 percent of the time, in my experience, you blow up at them about something else after a while because it eats away at you.We've become more radically honest. And the rule is, if you raise something, Devin, from three months ago that I did that pissed you off, it's your problem because we're three months later now. If you raise it at the time, great. I have to thank you for raising it because I realize it's awkward and tough to raise things.Employing the rules works, Josh says. “We haven't had any serious fights. So, there are a couple of rules there that are really, really important.”By following the example of Josh and Adam and by employing their rules, you could make friendship a superpower that would allow you to do more good.SuperCrowd22Now that we’re using Humanitix for SuperCrowd22, I want to reiterate the invitation to attend. Social entrepreneurs are working effectively to solve social problems in exciting ways, like:Fighting climate change with batteries for music festivals, replacing polluting generatorsImproving global health with solar-powered oxygen concentrators ruggedized for use in remote villages Eradicating poverty by employing women in Afghanistan to make snacks for sale in the U.S.The examples are endless. Learning to invest wisely to maximize impact and return can allow you to change the world while you invest for your future.Free Superpowers for Good readers can attend for half price, saving almost $100! Register here. Paying subscribers can register absolutely free! Subscribe today (after subscribing, you’ll receive an email with a link for free SuperCrowd22 registration). Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    How One Person's Cancer Journey Could Help Ease Those of Others

    Play Episode Listen Later May 10, 2022 23:55

    Devin: What do you see as your superpower?Paoola: I think my superpower has always been I have felt this need to use my skills and experience in service to others.Paoola Sefair is a cancer survivor who used her experience to build an app to make the cancer journey a bit more tolerable, enabling patients and caregivers to coordinate support more effectively. She calls her app and her enterprise My CareCrew.Paoola’s Cancer Journey“My cancer journey started out as a simple, “‘Oh, I can't swallow,’” Paoola says. When the problem recurred, she decided to get checked out. On New Year’s Eve, she saw a doctor who performed an ultrasound. She returned on her birthday, January 4th, to get the results. “I remember I had my son with me at the time,” She says. “He was a year and a half old at the time. He was sitting on my lap. The doctor comes in. No, ‘Hello.’ Nothing. He's like, ‘Oh, kiddo, it's cancer.’”“I remember, after that moment, I just—I didn't even hear whatever else the doctor said,” Paoola says. “I just remember holding my son and thinking, like, ‘Am I going to see him grow up? Am I going to be around to see him get married or go to school and all these things?’”“That turned into a five-year ordeal of surgeries and radiation and more surgeries,” she says. “Luckily, now I'm doing much better.”In some ways, however, the cancer journey is neverending. “You still have—every six months, every nine months or every year—checkups,” Paoola says. “It's like that constant reminder. Is this year going to be the year they're going to tell me it's back?”To support this vital work, subscribe.My CareCrew’s DevelopmentPaoola had a friend, Agnieszka, from work at Cisco who had cancer recur just before COVID struck. By virtue of her experience with cancer, their mutual friends designated Paoola as the care coordinator, saying, “Okay, you know what she's going through. So you tell us what to do and how do we be there? How do we [help]? What do we do? What do we say? When do we say it? How do we say it? What do we send?”Paoola did her best.When Anushka recovered enough to have this conversation, Paoola broached the subject. “I said, ‘You know, I have to tell you that I don't know if I was a good friend to you during your treatment,’” she said to Anusha. “‘I thought that I would do a good job because I was also a cancer patient. And then I realized how this experience is so personal to each person, and we all react and cope so differently.’”Not only did they have a thoughtful discussion, but they began to have these difficult conversations with other cancer survivors. “One day, we were talking, it's like, ‘What if we do something about this. What if we figure out a way to make it easier for patients to get a little bit more control over their experience during this treatment process and to give them a little bit more control of who comes into that inner bubble and how much they come into that bubble,’” Paoola says.From that genesis, Paoola led the development of the My CareCrew app.The Power of My CareCrewThe power of My CareCrew is found in the understanding that for patients, it is difficult to say, “This is what I need. I don't need what you're offering me, but this is what I would need instead.”She designed the app to make difficult conversations easier so that patients get the help they really need and friends have meaningful opportunities to provide needed support.“There are two sides to the app. One is the patient or a caregiver side, and then one is the friend and the family side,” Paoola says. The friends and family become the CareCrew.“What we found with patients was that they would say, ‘I just wish people would tell me how they can help me but be specific,’” she says. A friend who offers to help via the app can be more precise. For instance, they can offer to do grocery shopping on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday or to babysit at specific times on specific days.The app also helps with a wishlist. Paoola recalls one patient saying, “I don’t need flowers. I just need a walker.”Another said, “I didn't need things, but I wanted somebody to take me for a walk because I couldn't go on walks by myself anymore. And I really miss my walks.”Many cancer patients can quickly return to work but may not be able to engage at the level they could before cancer. Paoola created the app to coordinate with friends from the workplace as well, allowing them to help pick up any slack.The cancer journey doesn’t end with the final treatment. “The hard part of cancer is actually after you're done with the surgeries and the treatment, and then you're coming back to life,” Paoola says. “When you start to deal with all the PTSD and all the trauma and all the emotional aspects of cancer, and people don't see that.”Paoola created My CareCrew to provide that needed emotional support after treatment ends.Throughout this effort, Paoola leverages her superpower, a fundamental desire to help others.Thank you for reading Superpowers for Good. If you know anyone facing cancer now, please share this with them!How to Develop a Desire to Serve Others As a SuperpowerIt may be tempting to assume that a genuine desire to serve others is a natural gift that can’t be learned or acquired. Paoola thinks otherwise. Choosing to gain a global perspective can help.She explains how she strengthened her desire to serve others and how it may help others do the same.I've been very fortunate with my career that it took me to places that I could only dream of. We we spent time in South Africa. We spent time in countries that you have an opportunity to go to the parts of the world that are underdeveloped, that are in need of a lot of help. I think once you get to see that firsthand and you get to experience what life is for somebody else, then you get to walk in their shoes.She adds, “If I could, I would take everybody around the world and show them like, this is what life is for other people.”“I plan to do that with my son once he gets a little older,” Paoola says. Thinking of what she’ll tell him then, she says. “This is reality for that child every day. Compare that to your reality. What are you going to do about it?”By accepting Paoola’s challenge to meaningfully observe the life experience of people who may be less fortunate, you can develop empathy and compassion. Channel them into making the desire to serve others a superpower that will enable you to do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    Discover the Power of Community Capital

    Play Episode Listen Later May 5, 2022 41:00

    Devin: What do you see as your superpower?Chris: There are a couple of things, and I hesitate to label them superpowers because that doesn't feel right.Chris: What I've recognized, and it's been by happenstance, [is] that for some reason people will listen when I say stuff, and if I say it well, they might think about doing it…One of the things that I have, I think, has been helpful for me in this movement is I've been able to envision what this looks like when we have much more democratic economies and have much more equitable access to capital...A fundamental desire to do things which benefit others, I think that's a piece of it.Christopher D. Miller has spent decades focused on strengthening his community. Along the way, he identified a lack of workable capital structures as a difficult problem. Finding like-minded peers led him to create the nonprofit National Coalition for Community Capital (NC3).A crowdfunding community leader, Chris will be speaking at SuperCrowd22, and NC3 is serving as a co-host for the event.Chris recently took a new position at Plane Wave Instruments; he remains actively involved as a board member at NC3.Founding NC3Chris served as both an appointed and as an elected city official in his Michigan hometown of Adrian before becoming its economic development officer. He took that last position at the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008.Chris shared the challenge involved in his new role—for which he acknowledges he had no formal training:I had heard this steady drumbeat in conferences and workshops. Nobody is coming to rescue you. You're going to have to do this on your own. Even existing businesses in my community that had longstanding relationships with banks were having trouble, trouble accessing capital.When the JOBS Act passed in 2012, he started reading up on it. He read Locavesting by Amy Cortese. Inspired by her book, he convinced her to visit Adrian to speak to a group of local business leaders.Her message resonated and led to significant outcomes. First, a group of local leaders who had been talking about buying a struggling downtown building came together, raised money from two dozen investors and bought it. “It immediately started cash flowing,” Chris says.Having saved the building from foreclosure and the tenants from eviction, they raised more money to improve it further, first upgrading the facade and then adding apartments. Then, they bought a second building, followed by a third, repeating the process in each case. The result was “a huge impact in downtown,” Chris says.The second thing that came from Amy’s presentation was to grow Chris’s network in the investment crowdfunding community. While the JOBS Act was law, The SEC had not implemented it. Georgia began work on a state law to allow a more straightforward process for investment crowdfunding.After connecting with the leaders in Georgia, Chris began advocating for a similar law in Michigan, which he quickly got passed—even before the Georgia bill became law. Dozens of states now have similar laws.As Chris’s network grew, he continued finding people from communities like Adrian around the country with similar challenges around capital formation. In 2016, after connecting with a group of peers at a conference in Oregon, he led the formation of NC3.Chris shared his vision for NC3:We want to be a big tent organization. You know, there's a lot of folks from a lot of different philosophical perspectives that are interested in the movement. It gained a lot of traction in COVID because the long-standing hurts that have been done to a lot of communities became painfully clear to a lot more folks, and the income disparity became painfully clear to a lot more folks. The real inefficiencies in that system became clear to folks. So, we've tried to partner very broadly, both with traditional sources of capital and with friends on the other side that want to get rid of capital altogether. It's a really interesting mix.“We're looking to build individual wealth and community wealth, in particular in those communities and individuals that have not been well served by the existing system,” Chris says of NC3’s mission.To support this vital work, subscribe.The Power and Impact of Investment CrowdfundingNow a decade into the community capital movement, Chris is familiar with countless examples of companies raising money with significant impact on their communities. He shared a few examples with me.Chris connected with some entrepreneurs in the nearby town of Tecumseh who were looking to launch a micro-brewery. He explained the new state law about crowdfunding and suggested they could be the first to raise money under the new rules. That’s what happened.The group raised $175,000 from 23 investors, most from within the small community. That enabled them to purchase a building adjacent to the one they already owned.They used a “revenue share” model for the deal, promising a 10 percent annual return with the money to be repaid over five years. The company repaid the debt in just three and a half years.The success allowed them to go back to their investor group and raise more money for further expansion. When COVID struck, they went back again to raise $90,000 for a food truck. It has become a “significant employer” in downtown Tecumseh, Chris says.Chris also highlighted the story of a semi-pro soccer team called the Detroit City Football Club. They found a field owned by a school district that had been unused. They raised $775,000 from people around the state. “They launched the football club, and it's been gangbusters since then,” he says.A little closer to home, Chris notes that his wife, a lifelong educator, retired from the university to open a downtown cafe and candy shop. They raised $120,000 from 47 investors from seven states. The business is thriving 18 months after its launch in downtown Adrian.Chris, NC3 and SuperCrowd22As the organizer of SuperCrowd22, I am thrilled to have Chris on the program for the event and am extremely grateful to have NC3 as a co-host.Chris says, “It feels a lot to us like you're throwing a really cool party, and you've invited us to it.”A loose network of people from around the country, led by Chris, formed NC3; Chris knows well the power of networking. He says, “We're grateful for the opportunity and the connections” that SuperCrowd22 can provide. “So much of what we're all doing in this space is finding strategically aligned and mission-aligned partners who want to do it.”Because NC3 is a co-host for the event, NC3 members will receive a special low price for admission. Members are encouraged to reach out to NC3 for those details.Chris will be delivering a keynote address during the opening session of SuperCrowd22 on Thursday, September 15 at 11:00 AM Eastern. The title of his speech is “How to Save The World Using Community Capital.”Remember, Superpowers for Good free subscribers get 50 percent off the $199 conference ticket price here. Paid subscribers may attend for free! Subscribe today for just $5.95 per month.Chris has developed two superpowers, communication and vision, that he has used in his work.How to Develop Communication and Vision As SuperpowersAs Chris thinks about his superpower, his mind goes first to its foundation. As a child, when he went out door-to-door on Halloween for treats, his parents taught him to also take a milk carton to collect pennies for UNICEF. Fundamentally, Chris desires to help other people.For him, that desire is a vital part of developing his superpowers of communication and vision. When people hear him speak, they feel his passion for service.Developing the ability to envision something that isn’t there is more challenging, so we dug a bit deeper into that.He credits his reading of fiction, especially science fiction, for helping him acquire the ability to imagine solutions that don’t yet exist. That helped him form a habit of getting into a creative frame of mind.Chris confessed to something of a pet peeve. “Let's not reinvent the wheel.” That phrase is one he frequently rails against. “I have heard that thousands of times, and during the recession, I heard it 1,000 times, and I said, “No, if the people that had sledges said, ‘Let's not reinvent the sledge,’ we wouldn't have the wheel,” he says. “So, we definitely need to say, ‘Let's reinvent the wheel.’”Wisely, Chris adds that one failure doesn’t prove much. “We tried it once when it didn't work. Does that mean it's a bad idea?” No, he says. It could have been poorly executed or might have been bad timing. Creativity needs time, space and patience.As an aside, Chris offered some counsel he often shares with young people. “Find something you love right now. You've got incredible opportunities. You know, 100 years ago, you had six jobs you could have picked from. Now, you can do anything in the world.”By following Chris’s example and his advice, you can make communication and vision superpowers that will enable you to do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    This New Giving Platform Makes Having Impact Easier for You

    Play Episode Listen Later May 3, 2022 20:59

    Devin: What do you see as your superpower?Andi: I think my superpower is a bias towards action. And what I mean by that is I'm willing to take a leap before I feel completely ready. I'm okay with being uncomfortable and getting outside of my comfort zone. And maybe I would state that I'm more afraid of never trying than failing at something. So I'm willing to take kind of that first step.Have you ever given up donating to a cause because it became too difficult to choose the right nonprofit? Andi Thieman did. So she decided to create PennyLoafer, a platform to allow interested donors to select a cause and let Andi and her team do the rest.“The idea actually came in in the summer of 2020, in the midst of a pandemic and a reinvigorated racial justice movement,” Andi says. “It felt like a lot of people were scrambling to help, but they weren't really sure where or how.”The idea grew out of her self-awareness and recognition that her experience may mimic others’ experiences.When I looked at my giving as a whole, it just felt very disjointed. There are these big things like climate change and the mental health crisis and racial justice that I really care about. But when I reflected on what I am actually doing on an ongoing basis and strategically to help organizations that are addressing these things, I didn't have a great answer for that. I wanted to build something that would help me but also people like me who want to be doing more and know they should be doing more, but maybe just don't really know where to start or don't have time to do that research.So, Andi created PennyLoafer, where you can sign up to donate as little as $5 per month to one of four causes. Andi pools all the donations for the chosen cause and donates the money to one or more nonprofits doing great work in that space.The four causes featured on PennyLoafer today are:Climate ChangeMental HealthRacial JusticeQuality EducationEach month, donors receive a newsletter describing the work of the nonprofits receiving the donations. “We're already thinking about causes to add,” Andi says. Still, she never wants donors to feel overwhelmed by that decision, so the list will not likely include every possible cause. She focuses on making giving simple and effective.Early signs are good; the model is working. “We launched in September, and it's been growing each month, which is awesome to see,” she says. “In our first six months, we've given over $10,000 to nonprofits and we've supported 28 nonprofits at this point.”The task that Andi tackles is daunting. There are about 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States alone. Today, she’s using four criteria to guide her when choosing nonprofits:Impact trajectory: What has the nonprofit done? What does it plan to do in the future?Homegrown: How representative of the community they serve are the people running the nonprofit?Capacity: Does the leadership team have the ability to effectively utilize additional funding?Transparency: Looking at the IRS filings (990s), year-end reports, and communication strategies, she looks for clear, effective accountability.Andi focuses on finding impactful, less well-known nonprofits. “I'm trying to highlight smaller, more grassroots nonprofits, things that people wouldn't necessarily find with a couple of quick Google searches or that they haven't heard of right off the bat.”Andi sees additional social benefits coming from supporting grassroots organizations. “What you often see, especially with some of the smaller community-based organizations that are more grassroots, is that it's the people who are most impacted by environmental injustices or racial injustices, things like that, that are trained up to eventually work at and lead some of these organizations.”She anticipates growth will enable new processes. “I do plan as we grow to shift to a guest expert model and using expert broadly to be it could be foundation staff at national foundations, it could be changemakers, policy experts, even community organizers, just people who are really close to these issues, who are on the ground, who understand them.”PennyLoafer is a manifestation of Andi’s superpower: a bias toward action.To support this vital work, subscribe.How to Develop a Bias Toward Action As a Superpower:“PennyLoafer is a testament to my ability to take a leap and to channel my energy into building something from an idea to an actual breathing, functioning thing and putting it out there to the world,” Andi says.Success and impact are driven more by action than planning. Developing a bias toward action can help you do more good in the world.Part of the process for gaining this strength is to be more self-aware. You’ll want to recognize when you allow your nerves or other excuses to slow you down.A key aspect of building your bias toward action is shifting your thinking about failure to a growth mindset, Andi says. Look at failure “as an opportunity to grow and learn.”Don’t beat yourself up over failures. Value them as learning opportunities.A former improv performer, Andi adds, “I'd also try improv. It's a scary thing to try.” The “yes, and” thinking required in improv focuses on accepting things as they are and pushes you to move forward with creativity in mind and a smile in your heart.By following Andi’s example and insights, you can develop a bias toward action as a superpower that will help you do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    One Leader Splits His Time to Unify More of the World

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 28, 2022

    Devin: What is your superpower?Joseph: I believe that first and foremost, my superpower is my understanding that I am a reflection of the divine in my full uniqueness and within the full mysterious nature of how, in fact, all of us are individually, but yet collectively, a reflection of who the divine is, whether you call God, God, whether it's divine intelligence, the energy or the force, whatever your understanding of that idea and sense of divinity. What my superpower is, is that I have come to embrace, respect, honor and cherish that I am a full imprint of the design of the divine, and that my design as a human being is divine. It is unique, and that my imprint is distilled from the mind of God.Bishop Joseph W. Tolton is leading two substantial efforts, working to unify a global community of people of African descent and helping people worldwide within the LGBTQ community. Unifying a Global Community“Interconnected Justice is a youth-powered network connecting people of African descent on the continent of Africa with those of us of African descent throughout the diaspora for the purpose of really reunifying people of African descent because we have so very much in common, and we are stronger together,” Joseph says.Joseph almost always refers to the organization by its abbreviation, IC Justice. That when pronounced, people hear “I see justice” is no coincidence.He is working to prepare the next generation of Pan-African activists. “We have 24 ambassadors from eight different countries around the world,” he says.“Our young people from Haiti, Brazil, the United States and Congo and Uganda work together to identify what they have in common, understanding what we don't have in common, but mining those things that connect us and creating potential solutions that can be implemented from a local perspective,” he says.One of the tools he uses is IC Justice TV, taking advantage of internet streaming technology. “We need a media ecosystem that mobilizes and engages people of African descent in this great project of reunification,” he says.Amidst the tragic war in Ukraine, reports of gatekeepers treating people of African descent poorly when trying to leave Ukraine or enter a neighboring country demonstrate the nearly universal problem of bias. “No matter where you are as a person of African descent, based on your epidermis, there are some social challenges that you are going to face,” Joseph says.Joseph sees a clear role for IC Justice growing over time. While a number of organizations exist to unify Africans in Africa or other geographies, they are all limited by their tethers to place. “There is a need for a body like interconnected justice, which would be an intervening body in a crisis that allows the resources of the diaspora and the continent to converge in helping to bring aid,” he says.The Power of HaitiJoseph shared a fresh perspective on Haiti.I had the pleasure of interviewing the former minister of justice of Haiti. His name is the Honorable Bernard Gousse. We were talking about matters of Black liberation and Black justice. He said, “Bishop, you know, it's important that I remind you that the Black Lives Matter movement actually started in Haiti. And we started that movement in 1806 when we overthrew the French colonizers who were not only colonizers, but they were our slave masters, and we became the first independent black republic in in the world.”Haiti has paid a literal price for its liberation for more than two centuries. Depriving France of its unpaid labor force in the Caribbean caused the powerful European nation to impose a debt equivalent to more than $20 billion today on the tiny country. “The truth is that because Haiti did what they did then, they have paid the social, economic and spiritual price for embodying the spirit of black liberation and defiance and self-determination and self-empowerment,” Joseph says.Arguing for more Pan-African support for Haiti, Joseph says, “Haiti should be the Black Singapore of the world. It should be the place where we make tremendous economic and social investments and where we return as a bit of a mecca of liberation.”A historical twist often unappreciated by Americans who take for granted that their country has two coasts is that Haiti’s successful revolt resulted in the French devaluation of their claim to a vast swath of what is now the United States. The Louisiana Purchase is the result.Many people, not just those of African descent, have benefited tremendously from Haiti’s history.“There are many reasons that Haiti is the country that it is today, but it must become a country that embodies the glory of the African American, the African spirit of liberation,” Joseph says.LGBTQ AdvocacyJoseph explains how he pairs his advocacy for African empowerment with his work in the global LGBTQ community:In the House of Social Justice, I believe that LGBTQ dignity is a division, and that racial justice for people of African descent is a division. Gender justice is a division. Fighting antisemitism is a division. But the holding company that we are all working for is a common vision of the world in which all people are free to be who they are and that their destiny will not be bound up by any God-given attribute that someone else deems as making them less viable of a human being.Putting it another way, he says, “The deep connection between the work that I do as an LGBTQ advocate and a racial justice advocate is that we're really deconstructing patriarchy, we're deconstructing white supremacy.”For those of us who are cis-gendered, middle-aged white men (I’m looking in the mirror here), it is sometimes difficult to see into the corners of intersectional diversity. We too often lump people into big groups, gays and Blacks, for instance, ignoring the experience of gay Black men and how it differs from the broader Black or broader gay communities.Joseph patiently educated me:The texture of homophobia or resistance to queer love within black communities, particularly black American communities, is very, very, very distinct and unique. I think it really goes back to the transatlantic slave trade and slavery and the ways in which black men and their bodies were treated and abused. Whenever someone would try to actually revolt or push back or to assert oneself physically, one of the things that we don't talk enough about is that oftentimes black men were taken out into public spaces and they were literally raped by a white man to demean them, to degrade them, to put them back into their place. That kind of degradation of the physical body seeps into the heart and mind of a people and is passed down from one generation to the next. So the fear and the shame that we have as people of African descent in our institutional and historical memory is very specific in terms of what it brings up when we're dealing with or confronting a sexuality that is not heteronormative. So our experience very much impacts the ways in which and the whys and the rationales for homophobia in our community.Again, so many of our women were consistently raped during slavery. Can you imagine being a man in bed with your wife and the master calls her or drags her out to his bedroom in the middle of the night and you can do nothing to prevent it?Your sense of manhood, your sense of your ability to protect your wife and your family is trampled upon. And so that pain has to go somewhere. And so you then define yourself and define your masculinity and your manhood in a very particular way. So, the idea of being a man in a real man and a viable man and being heteronormative have been conflated in a particular way in our community, which causes our sense of manhood to be so defined by external characteristics of how many children can I have or how masculine am I, or how strong and virile am I in my physiology and in my physical presentation? So, black men who are considered effeminate or weak or lovers of the same sex are often branded as traitors of real black masculine identity. And that makes our experience very, very, very unique, both in the world and within our own communities.It was helpful to me to understand the nuances associated with the experience of a gay Black man.In all his work, Joseph has relied upon a special superpower, his faith in his divine design.How to Develop Faith in Your Divine Design As a SuperpowerThe Bishop accepts that humans have a wide variety of perceptions about deities and encourages people to find theirs, connecting to a sense of their divine nature. That sense of divine endowment builds confidence that allows people to do more good.“I deeply believe that our God view informs our worldview,” Joseph says. “We have it when we have a particular God view that allows it to mirror who we are as human beings. It creates a certain sense of self-esteem, and it allows you to believe in your own viability, even when the world challenges that on a daily basis.”Understanding his superpower requires us to understand his own story of coming out within a religious community that did not welcome it. He shared that story with me:I was born and raised in Harlem in the very late 60s and raised in the early 70s. I was raised in the cradle of the Pentecostal church, and as a child born four months before Dr. King was killed. Ketanji Brown Jackson talked about the fact that she saw herself as being the promise of the civil rights movement. I myself also am a peer of hers, in that regard. I was raised with my parents believing that I could emerge as the promise of all the work and all the accomplishments of the civil rights movement. I say that just to lift up the degree to which I loved my community. The church was an epicenter of social change and social justice. Where growing up as a being who understood that I was different, but also a being who understood that I had this capacity to minister. I had this capacity for social justice. There was, if I can use the spiritual term, oil on my head from the time that I was a child that was recognized and honored by my community. But because I was different, it challenged my ability to actually ultimately thrive in my community.When I was in my early twenties after college, returning back to my church as a minister, my very best friend in the church was getting married and he asked me to be his best man. Of course I said yes, but I was really wrestling with this process of coming out. My friends were mostly secular and they were standing on the sidelines rooting for me to come out, come out. We're here for you. I was trying to deal with. But what does that mean? I'll lose my place in line. I'm set up to possibly be a prince of the church. You want me to give that up and forfeit that and lay that down? But through therapy and prayer and just my personal desire to live the truth, I came out to my best friend. I did it in love and in honesty. I said, “I don't want to stand next to you and next to your bride—you're both very dear to me—and not tell you the truth. They went to our pastor and they outed me. And they told him that I had come and made this confession. And then they asked me to not be in the wedding. It broke my heart. It was the beginning of the end. This was the church that had informed, cradled and loved me and molded me to be on many levels who I was. That was a defining moment for me, where I had to reach for a new understanding of who I was as an expression of the divine. And if I weren't able to find, hold and grasp and be anchored in that, I would have fallen and I would have slid. But thank God that was the a key and critical moment in time in my life in which this understanding of my being a divine design really manifested in my heart, mind and soul. That knowledge became embodied in me, giving me the strength to really stand, make a sharp turn in my life that completely transformed my life and set me on a path establishing my feet to walk and do the work that my hands do today. What a critical time in my life. And I'm so very grateful that I was able to not only see the insight and hear it, but internalize it and act on it.That experience forced him, in effect, to create a new understanding of his divine design and enabled him to help others do the same.He often works with people who are developing a path to come out. “One of the first things that I try to do with people is really assess what is the truth of your lived reality,” he says. He consciously guides people to work not only on the spiritual but also on the practical, building a solid social and financial base “so that as they exit, they are able to do so in a way where their life is not going to fall apart.”“There are so many different influences that cause us to think that we're othered or less than,” he says. By preparing the practical foundation, you enable the spiritual development. Then, Joseph says, “We can then embark on a great spiritual journey and look at spiritual writings and spiritual practices and ideals and meditations and other kinds of spiritual work that one can do to really heal one's spirit.”By learning from Joseph’s experience, you can discover the divine design in yourself, enabling you to develop confidence that empowers more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    What You Missed at the Academy Awards

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 26, 2022 30:56

    Devin: How would you describe your superpower? Lisette: I would say it's two things, but those two things have to be combined. It's determination making the impossible possible. It's about progress, not about perfection. And you mentioned progress before. And I think that so many people sometimes are scared of not getting it right that they don't move forward. So it's about progress, not perfection. And I think that that determination gets you one step further every day. But it's also about empathy, and it's putting yourself in the shoes of another person.Founding AIMMLisette Arsuaga has worked for more than a decade to help companies increase their marketing inclusion and diversity. Five years ago, after repeatedly experiencing setbacks, she and her business partners helped the Association of National Advertisers launch the Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing or AIMM.She had been seeing that changes in leadership within a company often led organizations to abandon efforts at multicultural marketing, leaving the people involved frustrated and discouraged. She described it as “two steps forward, three steps back.”“We realized that we were never going to be able to move the industry and, for that matter, our members and companies that we were doing work for unless the industry was moving forward exponentially faster,” Lisette says.To get the ball rolling, Lisette and her partners organized 36 corporations to join the membership organization. Today, AIMM has 200 members.The effort is paying off. “We have changed the direction of the industry,” Lisette says. “We have been able to prioritize multicultural, inclusive marketing to the point that today it is an important topic and it is a priority for many, if not most companies out there.”“We certainly have a lot more to do,” she adds. “Our research shows that 60 percent of individuals still feel invisible or ill-represented when they're multicultural versus white non-Hispanics who are very pleased with the way that they're being represented.”Furthermore, Lisette says, “Sixty percent of our population believes that there are stereotypes still happening in our advertising today.”The Academy AwardsLisette was frustrated by the slap heard ‘round the world. Will Smith’s behavior toward Chris Rock at the academy awards distracted from the story that should have made headlines. The academy chose remarkably diverse and multicultural winners.The slate of nominees was, on balance, not impressive according to the Cultural Insights Impact Measure or CIIM, a proprietary algorithm used by AIMM to measure audience reactions to ads, television and movies.“We had we tested 33 Oscar-nominated movies, out of which only five of those resonated strongly with five or more diverse segments,” Lisette says. “Our screens are not reflective of the streets and the society in which we live, whether it's advertising, whether it's programming or whether it's film.”While the nominated films were not notably diverse in their representation, the winners selected from that group were. “That was the best Oscar as far as diversity that we've seen.”Lisette uses a social media story that went viral to make a point.We saw that in the movie Encanto, where the little boy that went viral was so excited to see himself. He's like, ‘Oh my gosh, that's me.’ It's sad that that would create such excitement for a little boy because for white little boys and girls, they see that every day and they don't need to get excited about finally seeing themselves on screen portrayed accurately because they see that every day.Accurate, thoughtful representation is essential.The CIIM tool AIMM uses to measure resonance is impressive.“We have done over 500,000 ad evaluations of spots for the last two years,” Lisette says. AIMM runs every spot by 450 people. “We give companies scores, individual scores for how that spot did with Black, Hispanic, Asian, LGBTQ and people with disabilities,” she says. “And then in the total group, we also have indigenous populations and others counted. It's the first time that there is an industry metric that can tell marketers how well they're doing with each segment.”Lisette attributes her success in part to her twin superpowers: empathy and determination.To support this vital work, subscribe.How to Develop Empathy and Determination As Superpowers:Lisette explains the power of empathy:Empathy has to be present because you have to get yourself out of your own place, out of your own shoes, and be able to see the world from a different perspective and realize that, yes, there are challenges that are affecting the segment that I represent as a Hispanic woman. But there are also many challenges that are as important, that are affecting other segments that we have to work together on. And we're going to get there faster if we do it together rather than in silos, each one working on our own.She adds, “I am a Hispanic woman who is an ally to the LGBTQ segment and every other human being who's out there. At the end of the day, we are all human.”Lisette shared a fresh example of how she used determination with her empathy to make a difference following the Academy Awards. We recorded our conversation just a few days after the awards.This week, we saw that the conversation was centered around the slap and not centered around the diversity and the highlight and of diversity and consideration of what that meant. Right? By not talking about it, it means that we don't give the individuals the opportunity to process how that was different from any other year. So, day before yesterday, within 24 hours, we had a conversation internally and said, what if we put out a message and send a message that '“let's switch the conversation around.” The AIMM team got together. We called a publicist, who's one of our AIMM members and a great partner, and said to them, “Can you can you find us a spot so we can do a one-page ad in a Variety magazine?”Variety did an amazing thing for us. They gave us an incredibly discounted rate so that we could do that. And we focused and we sent a message saying, you know, let's focus on what's important. Let's talk about this.From the moment the team had the idea to the ad running was less than 24 hours. Moving fast helped shift the dialog away from the slap to something more substantial.Lisette offered some advice for developing empathy. Education is important. She says, “It's reading about the circumstances that other people face, not from a judgmental position when you're looking at it, but understanding what that means and placing yourself in a different situation.”She then suggests applying determination to your empathy. “Believe that you're able to change no matter how old you are, what race you are, what religion you are. Believe that the impossible is possible and that you are able to see people from an understanding perspective.”By following Lisette’s example and advice, you can develop determination and empathy as superpowers that will enable you to do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    How One Organization Is Revitalizing 'Keeping the Peace' As Model Police Work

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 21, 2022 29:21

    Police reform is one of the significant challenges facing us in the United States. Lisa Broderick, founder and executive director of Police2Peace, notes that one of the fundamental difficulties is that there are 18,000 police agencies in the United States. They are all locally funded and operated and are subject to relatively little Federal control.“It's not a political issue. It's really a practical issue,” Lisa says.Engaging the African American CommunityAs Lisa and I chatted about police reform, it was important to cover the fact that the need for police reform grows out of stress and conflicts between the police and the African American community and other communities of color. Neither of us is Black. Police2Peace works to understand and incorporate community perspectives, including members of the African American and other minority communities.Lisa started her work in Jacksonville, Florida, a community that is 21 percent African American.Police2Peace starts its work with communication. “The first thing we might do is a survey which gauges perceptions of the police citywide,” Lisa says.“Number two, then we would convene community listening sessions, very small listening sessions from five to maybe 15 people, of all people from all over the community,” she says.“Once we've done that for a while, we bring the groups together,” Lisa says. “We bring in policing leaders; we bring in police officers into these conversations, and Devin, the things that people say break your heart both with joy and with sorrow at the state of our society and our interaction.”Lisa suggests this work is an essential part of restoring peace to a community. “When we speak as people, those barriers fall away, and that is never forgotten by the people.”This communication helps to overcome bias. “First of all, bias exists. We all have biases,” Lisa says. “There's bias in policing because police are human beings.”She offers a thought question to frame her approach. “If an individual might have had a bias against someone who was black running in their neighborhood and then they may have called someone, the question is, is the police response just? Is it empathetic? Is it effective?”“Justice isn't justice unless it's applied equally to everyone,” Lisa says. Restoring public trust is essential. “As we're seeing today, when there's not a belief in public institutions, there can be no public safety,” she says.Engaging everyone within the community is required. “We want to hear all the voices and then create community safety that works for everyone,” Lisa says.Police2Peace ProgramsA big part of the Police2Peace agenda is to teach genuine community policing. “A police officer riding on a bicycle is not community policing,” Lisa says. “Community policing is an attitude.”The effort begins with a simple social hack. “The social hack is something that's clever and wonderful and changes huge swaths of society really very easily,” she says.The hack is to simply put the words “Peace Officer” on vehicles and uniforms to frame the cops’ attitude toward their work.The work that Police2Peace does for police agencies includes “technical assistance” to help reinvigorate community policing. Lisa believes that the police are not only a part of the community but that the community must also be part of policing.“A second part of our work is community-based, where we go into a community often after a tragedy, terrible violence or a police-involved shooting and help the community understand, come to a place where they can join with the police and the police can join with the community to truly heal,” Lisa says.Additional programs for police agencies include the “Peace Officer Promise.” Police2Peace encourages agencies to take this Hippocratic oath for policing publicly:“We, [insert department name], promise that while doing our best to control crime, we will do everything in our power to do no harm to the communities we serve and protect.”“When community members hear that, decades of difficulty and suspicion and challenges begin to melt away,” Lisa says.Police2Peace also provides de-escalation training. As we chatted about the militarization of local policing, Lisa noted that recruiting and training the right people is essential. “It’s who we hire. So what are the images on the website that attract [candidate officers]? What does the website say? What are the press releases? What’s the recruitment like? What is the promotion like? How are we rewarding these people?”She says, “It all has to be changed, and our program does that from beginning to end because we are creating a framework that's an attitude that fundamentally changes the DNA of policing, so they don't get the armored carrier in the first place.”Another program called “Talk with the Cops” teaches empathic listening so they hear people and can respond appropriately. Another, “Cops and Collars,” pairs police and leaders from the faith community to walk and talk.Lisa deploys a superpower she developed as a young child in this work. She translates messages among communities, helping them understand one another, build bridges and strengthen communities.How to Develop Translating Among Communities a SuperpowerThroughout her life, Lisa has been using and developing her superpower. Starting as a child, she helped her peers understand the “old people” she loved and vice versa. She deployed that ability as a tech CEO, working between customers and the geeks who created the products to serve them.She points out that policing has different roots around the country. “In the South, it was slave patrols, but in the north, it wasn't slave patrols; it had more to do with the industrial revolution. In the West, it was peace officers and Wyatt Earp and sheriffs.”She’s learned to understand and speak effectively with all these groups—in addition to their communities.Empathy and compassion are the underlying skills that enable her to translate among disparate communities. Lisa gave an example:A simple question that comes out a lot, and that is community members are very upset about police brutality, as they call it. And I remind them that if they were the police, would they think that their job was brutal? Or is it something that's actually in the law that is police use of force? And is there an appropriate use of force? Is there excessive use of force? The simple turn of a phrase, the simple word can create understanding.“I see two sides of things. I tend not to judge,” Lisa says. “My mother was an economist by training. And what do economists do? They study the behavior of people in order to predict outcomes and know why things happened. I followed in her footsteps. I studied economics at Stanford.”Her studies enabled her to focus on root causes without applying judgment to what she learns, allowing her to translate between groups.Building on the foundation of empathy and compassion, Lisa suggests that active listening and empathic listening are vital tools for learning to translate as she does.If you follow her example and her recommendations, you can learn to translate, too, perhaps making it a superpower that will enable you to do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    Global Hemp Association Leader Says Sustainability Is the Reason to Scale

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 19, 2022 18:00

    Devin: What do you see as your superpower?Mandi: I'm passionate about connecting people. I'm good at connecting people. I've been able to open doors and create this network of people for others to build relationships, especially during a time of COVID. When we switched to being so disconnected, I brought our industry together.What’s the Deal With Hemp?The word hemp means a lot of different things to folks. Mandi Kerr, founder and CEO of the Global Hemp Association, deals with it all the time:Whenever I tell everybody what I'm doing and I mention the word hemp, they immediately say, “Oh, CBD,” or “Oh, you smoke?” “You consume a tincture or gummy?” No, hemp is carbon sequestration. It's a new crop. It's revenue for our farmers. It's regenerative agriculture. It's increased yields on rotation crops. It's more insulated hempcrete walls for our building materials, safer, cleaner products. And it allows us to shrink our supply chain and bring manufacturing and supply chain back to localized economies and provide economic development and growth. And so really, hemp is the medicine piece that we all know is 2 percent of what this plant has to offer.Mandi, a professional networker, attended a cannabis networking event in Colorado on behalf of a client. Mandi realized that hemp could have become the primary source for plastic instead of fossil fuels. She learned that industry could have used hemp to produce plastic, but just when plastic became mainstream, hemp was marginalized as a crop legally and politically.“It kind of infuriated me to think that we've had a solution this whole time,” she says. She was also disappointed that at this cannabis event, there wasn’t enough discussion of sustainability. She then decided to create an organization focused on hemp to help make sustainability a greater focus.Native American Uses of HempMandi sees tremendous opportunity for hemp to benefit indigenous communities more than it already does. Hemp can play various roles in building housing, including hempcrete, which they can use for the structure. The hemp can be grown in many climates, including places where Native Americans live, allowing them to grow the primary material for housing. Converting the raw materials into construction-ready components could provide employment as well. Hemp-based materials have a lower carbon footprint, Mandi says, than traditional building materials. In addition, people can eat hemp in various forms. Hemp hearts are rich in protein and omega fatty acids. Mandi notes that studies are now being conducted to identify benefits for indigenous communities.To support this vital work, subscribe.Industrial Uses of HempThere are a surprising number of hemp-based industrial uses:Auto industry: hemp-based plastics and sealants are early candidates for use in the auto industry.Biomedical: One company is developing skin using hemp, replacing soy as a source.Biofuels: Refiners can use hemp as a feedstock in the production of biofuels, including biobutanol.Textiles: Patagonia and Levi’s are both beginning to use hemp in some of their products.Mandi says, “A lifecycle analysis was done on hemp fiber by Patagonia, and it far outweighs other materials on its carbon footprint.” There is an exciting potential for large-scale industrial use.One of the challenges Mandi is actively working to overcome with the Global Hemp Association is stabilizing formal supply chains so tier one manufacturers can count on a ready supply.In creating the Association, Mandi used her superpower, connecting people.How to Develop Connecting People As a SuperpowerSometimes it feels like connecting people as a superpower is a bit difficult to measure. Mandi has put her superpower to work creating a global association as the first layer of evidence for her success.She shared an example of what has come of that association as tangible evidence of real impact:Yesterday we had a networking call and a young lady stood up and said, “I want to give credit back to what has happened.” She said, “I've been looking for six months for an auditor to help me in my project. And on your call, I was connected to one which allowed me to secure my funding immediately.”Given the evidence that her superpower makes a difference for people, I asked her how to develop that superpower.Her advice: “Focus on what other people are looking for, trying to figure out what it is that will help move them from point A to point B.” She notes that people may not always know what they need, so thoughtfully exploring their situations with them can help you identify how you can make connections that will help.She reminded us, too, that when you add someone new to your network, you don’t just add one person, you add their entire network. The key is to add value to earn their trust to gain access to their network.If you follow Mandi’s example and advice, you can improve your ability to make valuable connections for other people, perhaps making it a superpower for good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    Diversity Requires Avoiding the Easy 'Yes'

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 14, 2022 33:23

    Devin: What is your superpower?Jess: First thing that came to mind was ruining food. I’m not a cook. That is probably my strongest superpower—not delivering a very easy recipe, especially if it says like easy or like one-pot dinner. Yeah, I will screw that up. That’s my biggest superpower. But you probably meant something positive. So I would say finding a space to equalize the tension in the room through humor. And burning dinner.The Story of Jess PettittJess Pettitt worked in diversity at New York University for 20 years. “At the time, I was also a raging alcoholic,” she says. She needed another outlet and did comedy on the side. “I was actually the first out lesbian emcee of a lesbian show in New York.”Now sober for 18 years, Jess has learned that she enjoys supporting a wider variety of systems than just education. Working with associations and corporations as a speaker and consultant on diversity, she has found her bliss.Avoiding the Easy ‘Yes’Often, an organization lacking diversity will point to an open door as an adequate invitation to diverse members. She suggests a process she calls “avoiding the easy ‘yes’” to progress toward greater inclusivity.Using her work with educational institutions, she sees a clear example. If the scholarship recipients are not as diverse as hoped, she suggests looking first at the applicants. If the pool isn’t as inclusive as expected, the description of the scholarship or the process for disseminating the information may be misaligned.If the selected scholarship recipients aren’t as diverse as the pool of applicants, “then you can look at the rubric of qualifications or the bias of the process in which the winner is being chosen,” Jess says.“Every system is exquisitely designed to produce the results it gets,” she says, quoting Frances Kendall.Diversity requires effort. Avoiding the easy ‘yes’ is about designing processes to recruit candidates for a job or membership in new, more diverse places. Continuing what you’ve been doing will likely yield more of the same.Understanding Our Own Implicit Bias“A key piece to understand when we start talking about implicit bias is most of us are not 100% conscious of everything about ourselves,” Jess says. Harvard provides a free online self-assessment of implicit bias you can take in just a few minutes.Choosing to examine your own bias is tough but foundational for eliminating or reducing our own bias. Jess explains, “We are working towards becoming more conscious of what we are currently subconscious of.”“To become more conscious of the subconscious, you have to provide a space to be like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that about myself.’ And then you can decide to keep it, change it, or get rid of it,” she says. “But until you provide that space, you’re not actually engaging in the work of becoming conscious of the subconscious.”“We make judgments and assumptions to feel safe and prepared,” Jess says. “That doesn’t mean that we’re correct, which is where stereotypes or mistakes can often be made.”Jess presents a thought-provoking question for introspection: “What about the scenario that I have now written in my head through judgments and assumptions is making me feel safe and prepared, even though it is inaccurate?”One application of her thinking is within corporations. “Most businesses are about profits and efficiency, and so there’s no room for failure,” she says. “So what that means is that you’re actually stifling the talent of your employees because they become terrified to fail. But your employees are supposed to be innovative and creative, and you’re not encouraging that atmosphere.”To support this vital work, subscribe.‘The White-Guy Whisperer’“They don’t call me the white guy whisperer for nothing,” Jess says. “that is 100% my comfort zone. And it seems to be the group of people that most respond to my humor and my style of blending humor with really challenging self-work.”Her work is challenging, but she works to make it as comfortable as possible. “I can’t convince anybody to do anything. But I can showcase that it’s safe to do this work with me and that I’m expecting it to be safe for me to be doing this work with you.”For some white men, Jess thinks genuine introspection about diversity is an adventure:I've never been a white man, but I think that it's the first time that they have been invited to an adventure. So they're not in charge of the adventure. They're not leading the adventure. They're just on the ride. And that invitation seems to be pretty quickly contagious because it provides a space. I'm not going to say it's a safe space or a brave space, but it provides a space for the obligations that specifically white men either are afforded, given or taken on themselves to kind of get off the white savior horse and do their own work from a place of humility and ego so that they can be responsible for who and how they are. Good Enough NowJess is the author of Good Enough Now. She describes it as, “Good enough now. Doing the best you can with what you’ve got some of the time because it’s better than nothing, never.”Company culture can be a conduit for inclusion or exclusion. “Culture happens whether you’re paying attention to it or not,” she says. “It doesn’t need its own section in your strategic plan in order to exist. It exists.”“Trying is exhausting,” Jess says. “How does one try to try when I’m already turned off, or kind of not excited, and I’m kind of backing away from a conversation or a relationship or an opportunity? How do I begin the momentum forward?”Her book and her training help people and organizations to identify and take critical next steps.In all her work, Jess uses her humor superpower.How to Develop Humor As a SuperpowerJess shared a specific example of how she once used her humor superpower to defuse a tense situation:I was at a conference in New Mexico and I was keynoting… '[for] an organization that had something to do with education. I don't remember the specifics. A young man from the Department of Education was giving a presentation in the morning, and then there was a woman comedian who was kind of emceeing the day. So, this man did the presentation about education to test statistics in New Mexico. Then the emcee came up to do kind of an icebreaker and warm up the ballroom. This is pre COVID when people still sat shoulder to shoulder. And the emcee came up and her intro comedy skit was basically sexually objectifying the Department of Education guy who had just done the presentation to the point that she was quoting, like divorce rates, gave out her room number, offered him her room key. He is now at the back of the room at the breakfast buffet beat red, like super embarrassed. This is not good. So I'm up next as the keynoter. The emcee is just going on and on and on and I'm noticing the electricity in the room. This is super awkward. This was an elected official that everyone in the audience really looked up to and really appreciated all the information. The board of directors are in the room and they are freaking out about the connection between this conference, their work and the Department of Education. It's not good. I think I've painted the picture. It's not good. Yeah. So my job is not to fix that. I don't know anything about the Department of Education in New Mexico. Right? Like, that's not why I'm in the space, but there's no way I was going to let that moment go because of my superpower. So I have a keynote that I need to do and keep the conference on time. It's the opening keynote, but I'm starting off in a place that I have the ability to fix in a sentence, right? So not everybody can do that. So evidently some people can cook. So I'll take this skill. So I got on stage and the first thing I said was, in light of MeToo sexual harassment, a culture that is based on sexualized violence, it is important to name that regardless of the gender of the receiver or the target or the sender. That kind of behavior is not appropriate. It's not tolerated. And I understand that it might be seen as funny, especially across power dynamics, but that's not really what we're here to talk about today. What we're here to talk about today is how hard it is to be a schoolteacher. Right? Or something to that effect. It was just a punchline that instantly brought everybody back into the room. It broke the tension. Everyone laughed, including the Department of Ed guy at the back, at the potatoes, turning red. The emcee who didn't realize like she just as a comic, like you're just starting and you don't know the crowd, right? This isn't a bar, so you're going to have to monitor what you say and what you do. It's a different context. The board relaxed and then I just went into my keynote.“I have the ability to feel that tension and like running towards it instead of getting nervous, using only the weapon of equalizing humor. Nobody felt bad, and it was fixed in 30 seconds,” Jess concludes.Jess sees her superpower as having two sides. First, she discerns what is going on. Then, using humor, she creates a space for discussion.Learning to be funny is challenging, but Jess says you aren’t born with the ability to be funny. You learn it.“Most truly funny people have really dark experiences, have experienced a lot of pain and suffering,” she says, reflecting on her own experience with alcoholism. “Those dark experiences kind of come together to create a light space, and the freedom to experience humor means that you are welcoming a joke to bomb.”That’s the key, having a willingness to fail. Many people who have experienced terrible pain can see a joke fail and be okay with it. “Are you willing to fail, and are you willing to notice you failed?” she asks. “You become funnier because you’re more willing to take risks.”By following Jess’s counsel, you can add humor to your quiver of superpowers, enhancing the rest and enabling you to do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    How Defining Mission Became One Person's Purpose

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 12, 2022 18:17

    Devin: What do you see as your superpower?Garrett: I love that question. You always ask this in your interviews. I think my superpower power is finding what matters for that person, finding and creating a purpose for other people, a purpose bigger than themselves.Garrett Underwood is a social entrepreneur and nonprofit leader who focuses his energy on helping people find their path out of homelessness.Garrett’s Story“I started way, way back in 2012, started a faith-based clothing company where what we did is for every purchase, we gave away a hygiene package to someone in need on Skid Row or different homeless shelters,” Garrett begins.He continues, “It kind of evolved into an employment program where I started Save a Penny, which is a way for individuals to share their story through jewelry making and employment at the same time.”“We provide housing for youth that are experiencing homelessness, and we also provide the employment piece to Under One Roof,” Garrett says.That employment comes from helping youth tell their story to help sell products and even create nonprofits to help others.Why pennies?Once with a young person experiencing homelessness, “we picked up a penny,” Garrett says. They noted that many people had walked by it and ignored it, believing it wasn’t even worth the effort to pick up.“I’m basically the same thing as that penny,” the youth said to Garrett. Making pennies valuable became a powerful metaphor for helping humans discover and experience their intrinsic value.So, the products are built around pennies, as Garrett explains:“We go to different programs, different shelters, and have each youth engrave their name inside the penny. But along with that, the necklace is attached with a story, so they have a little story that they share on the necklace. We also have candles that they make, so they make candles and they put the penny at the bottom of the candle. So when you finish the candle, you can find out who made the penny along with their story. They also go through this extensive entrepreneurship program to teach them how to really build out their story and turn it into a nonprofit that helps other people.The story and the mission of a new nonprofit connect a young person to a sense of mission or purpose that help to define who they are.Defining a Mission—Building a NonprofitAn early-career experience drove home the importance of living with authenticity.“I went to school for kinesiology. Graduated. Was not what I wanted to do at all. But everyone was saying, hey, go for this job because you’re going to make a certain amount of money,” Garrett says.With that foundational experience, he has developed a process to help young people find and define themselves, create a sense of mission or purpose and build that into a social enterprise or nonprofit. His tools are available publicly here.“So, a part of my curriculum with the program that I have, which is a 90-day program to transition your story into a nonprofit or a social cause, is really digging deep into finding out what your truth is,” he says. “So we go through so many different assessments from Myers-Briggs to creative expression to even your flow state chart, your human design, all these different things to really break out what you are actually like.”Next, Garrett helps people find and define their story, breaking it down into key components to create a compelling narrative.Another piece is assessing the need for a nonprofit or social enterprise to fill. Garrett says, “Looking at all the other organizations and different programs, what is out there? Are you creating something that’s already there, or are you creating something new?”The last part of Garrett’s program is helping them develop a funding strategy. “We have a whole roadmap map of the funding map of how to fund your actual program and get things started.”This process for helping other people define their mission has become Garrett’s superpower. How to Develop Helping People Define Their Mission As a Superpower“When you dive into something bigger than yourself, you’re tapping into a mission,” Garrett says. “And my goal is to teach others to find their mission because I think that’s what brings longevity as a person.”He notes that emotions can become a distraction, especially when that emotion is fear. “If [your mission is] something bigger than you, you’re willing to conquer those fears. And so my goal and my superpower is helping people to find that mission for themselves.”Following the model above is key to creating authentically aligned mission statements. “When you do something that’s bigger than you, it’s very scary,” he says. And sometimes you need somebody in your ear telling you you’re the perfect person to do this because you had the story, you have the experience to do it.”Garrett shared the story of how he found and developed his personal sense of mission and purpose:When I first started the faith-based clothing company and started working out in Skid Row and going to these different places, I'd never experienced, communicating as much with people that are experiencing homelessness. Someone invited me out there to give food out and talk to people and pray for them. And that was really uncomfortable for me at the beginning because I'd never done that. But I will say that when we put ourselves in those uncomfortable situations, it sparked something that's kind of magical where you feel a little bit different and a connection with the cause or purpose. And I felt this connection with that person. Following your joy is really following those connections where you feel excited about doing something for someone. My biggest thing in life is that we need to focus on how we can help others and not ourselves.Let me encourage you to take the time to write down the source of your sense of purpose. What were the experiences that helped you define your mission?If you pair your experience with Garrett’s process for defining mission, you can make it a superpower that will help you help others. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    Matt Damon and Gary White Accelerate Water Philanthropy With Investments

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 7, 2022 27:22

    Gary: I think if I can be permitted to talk about what might be another superpower, is that what I’ve discovered over the years is it’s about channeling.Gary White has been among the most frequent guests on my show. He’s one of the most down-to-earth guys I know. With his Water.org partner and co-author megastar Matt Damon, Gary is accelerating water and sanitation access with impact investments.Matt Damon Is Not Just Reading LinesGary is a big deal. Before partnering with Matt, he was already leading a nonprofit called Water Partners and was invited to the 2008 Clinton Global Initiative to speak. So, I was reluctant to ask Gary about Matt.I first connected with Gary at Sundance at a Water.org event hosted by long-time supporter Stella Artois almost a decade ago. Matt was expected but didn’t show. A year later, Matt appeared at the reprised event and spoke to a crowd of reporters and influencers. I began to appreciate that Matt was serious about water.Finally, in this podcast, I asked Gary about Matt.Gary and Matt share the story of joining forces in their outstanding new book, The Worth of Water. Already aware of one another as each led a water-focused nonprofit, the meeting was strategic. Matt’s H2O Africa got him an invitation to CGI in 2008 as well. Conference organizers helped arrange the meeting. Matt and Gary attended CGI the following year and announced the merger of the two organizations and the formation of Water.org.“Matt has completely leaned into it,” Gary says. “We do some things in collaboration with [Stella Artois], and then he donates all of his fees from that back to Water.org.”Gary illustrated Matt’s level of expertise and enthusiasm for the work with this story:To give you an example of Matt as a business partner, it was during a field visit in India probably seven years ago where we were talking to our partners who offer these microloans for water sanitation improvements. What is slowing you down, what could allow you guys to make even more of these loans and scale faster? And every one of those financial institutions said we need more consistent access to affordable capital. And so we're in the jeep digesting all these meetings that we had. It's like, well, we should be able to tap into people in the US and Europe who want to invest in things like this and get a financial return, even if it's modest. And that was like the brainstorm and Matt's like, “Let's do this. I'll be the first investor.” Not only does he see, like, the strategic importance of doing a spin-off like WaterEquity, but he'll put his own skin in the game to back it as any good entrepreneur would. That's what it's like to work with Matt on these issues.Using Impact Investing to Accelerate Water AccessIt took a while for Gary to see the potential for charging people for water. The idea almost seems repugnant. To raise money from rich people to make loans to people to buy water access or toilets seems mercenary. Gary shared the story of his “aha moment”:This woman I met in India, for instance—this is what was my aha moment. She had taken out a loan from a loan shark in order to build a toilet. This woman was probably in her seventies or eighties, and she was poor, but she still wanted that toilet so bad because she was too old to climb down this rocky hillside to go to the railroad tracks in the middle of the night to relieve herself. Right. And so this is what she invested in. She went to a loan shark and took out a loan for 125% interest on that loan. She didn't realize that necessarily, but she knew how much she was paying. I did the math and it's just like, oh, my gosh, this woman! And her experience is what is informing how we design water credit and how we see the potential for that to work.The fundamental fact often lost on water philanthropists is that most low-income people already pay for water and sanitation, sometimes as much as 25 percent of their income. Furthermore, the need is vast. The total cost of getting water and sanitation to all who need it is in the trillions of dollars. Gary and Matt saw that charging people low-interest rates on small loans that allowed them to save time and money would let Water.org help many more people.Gary and Matt used Water.org to set up an affiliated money management firm, WaterEquity, that gathers impact investments and loans them to microlender partners who, in turn, make loans to people like the woman Gary met in India.The repayment rate is 99 percent. WaterEquity funds target market rates of return to the investors, like Matt, who fund WaterEquity.The success of WaterEquity requires Water.org to use a venture philanthropy approach. By using charitable funds to reduce the risk and operating cost of microloan programs, interest rates charged to customers can be lower and still yield a modest return to investors.“We’ve raised about $250 Million in philanthropy over the course of Water.org that’s now unleashed $3.5 billion in microloans that have gone out into the world,” Gary says. “So, you can see the leverage that venture philanthropy can get you with the capital markets.”To support this vital work, subscribe.Climate Change and Water AccessOnly water nerds like Gary and Matt appreciate how climate change and water are inextricably interrelated.“You take California, for example; 25% of all of the electricity that’s used in California is used to pump water, to move it to where people are, to treat the water and distribute it,” Gary says.That energy has a huge carbon footprint, even with California’s growing reliance on renewable energy. Of course, the numbers are different around the world, but water distribution is inherently expensive in terms of both money and carbon.“Across the emerging markets, it’s not atypical for a water system to lose 50 percent of the water that gets put into it because of antiquated infrastructure, broken pipes, poor billing, etc.,” Gary says. “So then you say, oh my gosh, this carbon footprint is massive.”Gary and Matt and working now on how they can provide affordable loans to water utilities in the developing world to reduce water loss and energy waste.But that’s only half the problem. Climate change is also threatening water supplies. Water.org will increasingly focus on climate adaptation strategies and mitigation efforts to ensure that people who have access to clean water now don’t lose it.How to Make Channeling the Focus on Those You Serve As a SuperpowerGary was featured in my book Superpowers for Good for his superpower, tenacity.In writing the book about these issues, Gary discovered a new superpower he calls “channeling.” He’s talking about keeping the focus on the people Water.org serves. “What we try to do in The Worth of Water, the book, is to just be narrators of their stories.”To illustrate the art of channeling, Gary shared a story:Just one story of those heroics that I would like to pass on and channel is a woman I met in Uganda a few years ago. She introduced herself as Mama Florence. That was the name she gave me. She's a grandmother, actually, and she would spend hours every day on her bicycle searching for water for her children and some of her grandchildren. She took out a loan of about $275 from one of our partners. And she installed a pump at her home and a water storage tank. And she now is using that water, obviously, to improve the health of her family. But she also was growing a garden with the water and using the vegetables for better nutrition. Some of those she was feeding to pigs that she was now raising and selling. And then she started making bricks from the clay soil around her because she had water now to do that with. And so she was selling the bricks and then she built some small rooms near her house so that she could then rent those out. Now she has water. Plus she has this incredibly unleashed entrepreneurial spirit that is allowing her to pay for her grandchildren to go to school. So this is like “why water,” right? It's not just the downside, but it's the upside potential. And we don't realize how much it unleashed all of this global economic engine that we are. But it did. No city ever started or grew up without having access to water, and no family can realize their potential until they have access to water.Channeling certainly includes the ability to tell stories like this, a skill Gary learns from Matt, which he acknowledges in the book. It is more than that, I think. It isn’t just about seeing the people you serve and helping others see them; it is also about keeping the focus on them.From reading the book, it is clear that Matt is self-aware enough to recognize the outsized role plays in this work because of his global celebrity. He repeatedly brings the focus of his stories in The Worth of Water to the people they serve.Matt and Gary use this technique not only to keep donors and readers focused on the people benefitting from their work but also to keep themselves grounded.By following their example, you can make channeling the focus on those you serve a superpower that will allow you to do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    Having Risen From Extreme Poverty, She Now Leads the Way for Others

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 5, 2022 42:47

    For 30 years, Village Enterprise has been working to help people at the bottom of the pyramid lift themselves out of poverty. A randomized control trial begun in 2014 demonstrated that its programs worked. That evidence led to the nonprofit serving as the first recipient of a development impact bond (DIB). Winnie Babra Auma, vice president of programs for the growing international organization, was raised in poverty and has risen from volunteer to executive leadership, helping to accelerate its growth and impact. She joined me for this inspiring episode.Village Capital’s Unique ProgramSome NGOs find working with the poorest of the poor to be too difficult, leaving them to their own limited resources. Not so with Village Enterprise.“We use what we call the Poverty Probability Index Survey to ensure that we’re reaching the very bottom of the pyramid,” Winnie says, noting that the nonprofit excludes households earning more than $1.90 per person per day.She describes four key steps, after the screening, for the Village Enterprise program:Training. Village Enterprise provides training to people who have never operated a business, helping them learn skills that enable them to earn more money. The program also includes mentoring for the first year after launching a business (see step three below).Micro-Grants. Rather than make a microloan of $180, the organization makes grants, typically in two rounds. An initial $120 is followed by another $60 if the business is going well. This grant approach allows nervous first-time entrepreneurs to move forward without fearing what happens if they can’t repay a loan.Business Formation. Three households, having each designated a representative (most often a woman), join together to form a “small business group” and launch a business with their grant money.Savings Groups. Ten participants form a “savings group” to serve as a small village bank. They collect savings from the members and make loans available to group members when it makes economic sense, creating a small financing mechanism for the businesses.Given that households at the bottom of the pyramid are severely resource constrained, one goal of the program is to increase spending. To middle-income ears, this sounds wrong. Savings and investments should be the goal, we think. That ignores that the family was going without food, clothing or education. Increasing consumption improves their lives.Increasing assets, including not only financial assets but productive ones—including better housing—is a second goal.The randomized control trial that spanned several years beginning in 2014 demonstrated that the program works to achieve these two objectives.To support this vital work, subscribe.The Development Impact BondBecause of its success, Village Enterprise was selected as a recipient for the first development impact bond in Africa focused on poverty alleviation.These financial structures radically change international development finance by putting results squarely at the center of decisions.Nine lenders funded the bond with a total of $4.32 million, allowing Village Enterprise to implement its program as a service provider. The lenders made the loans with the understanding that they would be repaid only if Village Enterprise reached the required performance targets.Three “outcome payers” agreed to set money aside to repay the loans if the program reached those performance targets. If Village Enterprise’s program had not achieved the objectives, the intermediary holding the funds would have returned the money to the outcome payers to use for something else—something that does work.Village Enterprise achieved the targets. See the third-party report verifying it here. As a result, the outcome payers’ funding went to repay the lenders. The three outcome payers are happy because their money drove the impact they wanted. The nine lenders are happy because they got their money back with interest and can make new loans to do more good. Village Enterprise is happy because they got paid to deliver an effective service.Most importantly, the people served are happy because they got help that enabled them to increase their consumption and assets.Winnie provided a summary of the results:4,766 businesses started14,100 first-time entrepreneurs trained95,000 lives impacted“We were able to increase spending on food, on health, on education by 6.3 percent. We were able to increase assets such as livestock, housing saving and other business supplies within the households by 5.8 percent,” Winnie says. “And to put this in context, this was during the pandemic.”“Moving towards outcome-based or results-based funding is going to be an important path if we’re really serious about ending extreme poverty,” Winnie adds.Winnie’s Story“The work that I do at Village Enterprise is very close to my heart because I have also come from very humble backgrounds,” Winnie says. “I have experienced extreme poverty myself.”“I have watched my mother make tough decisions. I’ve watched women make tough decisions around what you prioritize. Is it food, education or health?” Winnie says.She also saw the painful sexism forced on parents who see boys as having greater economic potential. “Sometimes, as a girl growing up, I actually got to be on the other side of life where… a boy child was prioritized over me.”Looking back, she sees how people and organizations helped her rise. “I’ve been a dreamer,” she says. “And, you know, along the path of my life, I felt like there were helping hands put along my journey.”One of the big ones was a scholarship from the Carnegie Corporation of New York that funded her college education, qualifying her to become a teacher.Winnie acknowledges, however, that she didn’t have the patience required of a teacher whose impact may not be visible for a decade or more. “I wanted to change the world,” she says. “I wanted to do something so that girls would not have to go through what I have gone through, so that mothers would not go have to go through what my mother went through, so that mothers could have options and really meet their needs and provide for their families.”When Village Enterprise was working in the area where Winnie grew up, she paid close attention, focusing on opportunities to get involved.When the nonprofit posted a volunteer position, she jumped at the chance, quitting her full-time teaching job.She has risen from volunteer to country director for Uganda, where she grew the organization and its impact about tenfold, to her current executive role heading programs.She has seen how using her voice to spread optimism and positivity has become her superpower in this work.How to Develop Your Voice to Spread Optimism and Positivity As a SuperpowerWinnie related a story that illustrated the power of her voice. She visited a small business group where the husband of one of the participating women had taken her grant money, leaving the other participants frustrated and ready to quit.“We went into this group, we listened, and I started to probe and ask questions,” Winnie says. “And then I got up and shared my personal story.”“You see, you look at me,” She says. “I am the woman today because my mother made sacrifices. My community members made sacrifices. People in the world, the Carnegie Corporation, gave resources to support me.”Then she delivered her brand of positivity and optimism:You are part of the Village Enterprise Program today because there are so many people outside in the world that are believing in you. They want you to invest these resources into a business that generates profits so that you can support your own family. They don't want this money back. The only thing they want from you is that you're using it in ways that are profitable to generate more income that supports you and your entire family.The speech worked. The man who took the money said, “I had never thought about it that way.”Winnie says, “I didn’t tell this man what to do. I only use my story and my experience to invite to inspire him to go do good for himself, his wife and his children.”Winnie says that to be effective in using your voice, you also have to develop empathy and listen as she did to the members of the group. Empathy is crucial for working among people challenged by poverty, she says, “because poverty is complex.”If you follow Winnie’s example, you can use your voice to share optimism that can become your superpower, allowing you to do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    'There's a Strong ROI for Diversity,' Expert Says

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 31, 2022 24:17

    Devin: What is your superpower?Arthur: I would say my superpower is having relentless focus and not really believing that any job is too small. Embracing Diversity Can Be a Competitive AdvantageArthur Woods, co-founder of Mathison and author of Hiring for Diversity, says, “The great news in our space is that the last ten years, 15 years, if anything, has led us to many more conclusions about the fact that there's a strong ROI for diversity.”He lists the key points:Businesses that are representative outperform others in terms of business performance and revenue.They're more likely to retain their team members.Organizations that are more diverse are more likely to innovate.Arthur goes on to say that organizations that fully embrace diversity don’t just improve their performance, they make an inclusive culture into a competitive advantage.That level of adoption requires deliberate work. Arthur notes that more than three-quarters of companies don’t set diversity goals. “We can’t manage what we can’t measure,” he adds.So, the first thing to do is to start measuring. Once a company reaches the conclusion that it has a diversity issue, the next step is to identify measurable tactics to address it. “Every quarter, let's set a couple of intentions for what we will improve,” Arthur suggests.Those changes could include things as simple yet important as building a more equitable interview process, changing the way the company sources candidates or improving training to address unconscious bias in job descriptions.Job Descriptions and InterviewsArthur highlights two areas for focus: job descriptions and candidate interviews.“We should be really intentional about how we actually define our job requirements,” he says. “An underrepresented job seeker might not have been afforded the same opportunities as the next person, but could have all the right skills and experiences to be successful in the job.”Eliminating what Arthur calls “exorbitant requirements” and recognizing that many skills and experiences are transferrable, allows hiring managers to consider a more diverse set of candidates who have the same potential to succeed in the role.Interviews represent the second area of Arthur’s focus:A lot of leaders that have interviewed people for years and years and years; they have their system in their mind that has worked well for them. They make up their interviews as they go. They walk into an interview not even remembering maybe sometimes the role they're interviewing for, asking job seekers questions on the fly, and that experience can be very inconsistent and inequitable.Instead, Arthur suggests preparing for the interview in advance and having a consistent way of assessing the answers you hear. Having a deliberate process for evaluating interview answers is a vital step toward eliminating unconscious bias.Unconscious or Implicit Bias“The first thing to note is that we are all guilty of bias,” Arthur says. “It's pervasive in every decision we make.”Once we acknowledge that, we can more readily address the judgments and decisions we make to ensure they align with our stated intentions to eliminate them.Arthur shared an example:I heard an interviewer the other day who said a person was late to a job interview. Right. And they already docked the person points. Later on, they found out that the person had gotten in a car accident on the way to the job interview. Right. And already, again, they were starting to say this person is flaky, they're late, and they didn't hear the full story. And later on, they did, And it made a ton of sense.By formalizing and preparing for job interviews, managers can make better, less biased decisions, resulting in both better and more diverse teams.Universal AdoptionArthur looks at HelloFresh as a positive case study. The popular meal kit company has been a long-term client of Mathison. Over the years, it has sometimes doubled or tripled in size annually.“They came in and said, look, we want to build a [diversity] strategy from the ground up,” Arthur says.They used Mathison’s equity index to build their strategic framework. To cast an even wider net, they looked at new dimensions of diversity. (That work helped Arthur define twelve different dimensions of diversity in his book.) That step alone helped dramatically expand the sourcing pipeline for new candidates.Then, HelloFresh implemented training. The training included everyone, from the bottom of the organization to the top. It wasn’t just training for frontline employees. By including people at the top of the organization in the training, they modeled from the top what the implementation of better inclusion practices would be.Arthur describes the results as “transformational,” adding, “the organization has a lot to show for it years later.”Another client, Horizon Media, used a similar approach. He says, “They made this bold statement and they said, we have to basically tell our people that this work is not just the talent team. It's not just the diversity leadership. It's everyone.”Arthur notes that the impact on rank and file employees is significant. Speaking in their place, he says, “Not only am I aware that this is going on, but I feel part of it. I feel personally responsible for it.”When everyone feels like part of the process of building an inclusive culture, it is more readily achieved—along with all the benefits that result.As a social entrepreneur, Arthur recognizes that he’s been aided by his superpower, being willing to do the hard stuff. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    This Coffee Company Drives Impact for People With Special Abilities

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 29, 2022 15:18

    Devin: Gabi, what is your superpower.Gabi: Being a hugger.Devin: Mary, what’s your superpower?Mary: I’m good at going around and telling people our story. You know, getting the word out there that people with special abilities are worthy and good workers and awesome.Gabi’s Grounds and Gabi’s PALSGabi Angelini, the only girl in a home with five brothers, is different in another way. Her mom, Mary Angelini, says Gabi has special abilities. Over 80 percent of people like Gabi are unemployed. Gabi wanted to work. She also has an entrepreneurial spirit. When finding a job proved impossible, Gabi wanted to start a restaurant.Mary felt running a restaurant might be too big a challenge. After visiting a coffee shop that employed folks like Gabi, Mary suggested that as an alternative. Gabi said, “Let’s do it.”For several years, the pair began raising money, building a nonprofit coffee brand called Gabi’s Grounds, and holding pop-up coffee shops at events. Mary says, “We have a lot of merchandise, lots of shirts and stuff, and we do pop-ups. We’ll do hot coffee, we do...” “Iced coffee,” Gabi interjects. When prompted by her mom, she rattles off flavors, “caramel, vanilla, chocolate.”“Tiramisu and…” Mary adds before Gabi finishes with “Snickers.”Gabi’s Grounds often holds pop-ups at conferences where Gabi speaks. She’s nonchalant about public speaking. “I don’t mind it. It’s just fun.”Then covid. Gabi and Mary put plans for a coffee shop on hold.Another opportunity popped up. The company was offered a small warehouse space on a month-to-month basis where it could do its packaging and shipping. This move got them out of the family’s garage. It also created an opportunity for connecting with people in a new way.Quickly, Gabi and her friends found clients that wanted them to do similar packaging, assembly, labeling and shipping for businesses in their community in North Carolina. Gabi’s PALS, a new nonprofit, grew out of this opportunity.Mary reports on the nonprofit’s impact:“We're having a huge impact. One, we also pack at a warehouse that's about 30 minutes from here. We have 19 people working out there. [A client] said we've increased their productions by 60%. So we have a Raleigh location, we have a Creedmoor location. So our goal is to have many locations. Because I have people every single day emailing me, coming here, calling me, asking if their child can work with us because 82 percent of people of special abilities don't have a job. So we just want to employ as many people as possible.”Hiring people like Gabi can be a delicate matter. Mary says the process begins with a conventional job interview. Mary doesn’t just talk to loved ones.The next step is to have the candidate volunteer for an hour in the warehouse. Mary wants to see that they will enjoy the work, even though it is often difficult. “It’s dirty. Sometimes it’s hot. It’s not a posh environment.”Usually, the candidates are thrilled to have an opportunity to work. “And they work so hard to keep that opportunity because they know the alternative is just sitting at home and doing nothing,” Mary says.“We just need more clients, more work,” Mary says.“And more companies to work with,” Gabi adds.Mary and Gabi have superpowers that help them be effective in their work. Gabi is a hugger, and Mary is a storyteller.To support this vital work, subscribe.How to Develop Hugging As a SuperpowerHugging is, for Gabi, an on-the-field leadership tool. Mary describes for Gabi’s benefit and ours how that works, “You’re a good leader. You’re good. You turn the music on, you get people happy and laughing and dancing. You’re good. You’re inspirational.”Hugging is one aspect of building authentic relationships with teammates. While hugging is not appropriate in every workplace, you can achieve the impact it has on her work with other tactics. By showing optimism and positivity along with genuine moral support, you can learn from Gabi to make teamwork a superpower for good.How to Develop Storytelling As a SuperpowerMary says that telling their story is her superpower. She offers one central tenet for making this your superpower: “You’ve got to find your why.”That passion or reason for doing the difficult things you do is essential for motivating yourself. You’ve got to find yours, Mary says.To demonstrate, Mary recites what she describes as her why. “We do this so that we empower the people with special abilities so they can find fulfillment in everything they do.”If you can find your passion, you can make anything a superpower to enable you to do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    How to Raise $2 Million in 1 Hour

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 22, 2022 36:59

    I’m taking vacation this week. Despite best efforts, today’s post was the only one I was able to finish before leaving so it will be this week’s only one. Enjoy! We’ll see you next week.Devin: What is your superpower?Anca: I feel like I have a keen sense of knowing when things are about to go bad or go wrong, and I am one step ahead of that as well as with, I think that goes hand-in-hand with my attention to details.An Immigrant’s StoryNow a successful entrepreneur with her own event production company, Tree-Fan Events, Anca Trifan’s love of audio-visual production began in high school before she came to the United States. She started in radio.“I remember, like falling in love with this little mixer that all radio stations have that you run sound through to control your levels and your voice,” Anca says. She loved playing with it on air to change the sound of her voice.After coming to the U.S., she took a job at a production house in Los Angeles while going to school in the evenings to learn more about sound engineering, video production and lighting design.She quickly began to appreciate that she is a bit of a rarity in the field. She was almost always the only woman on the crew. “If you look back in the back of house where the AV techs are, you probably see only guys,” she says of the teams that support big events.As her career developed, she missed having a female role model. “I’ve only had, you know, the male mentorship versus a female mentorship.”In addition to running Tree-Fan Events, she also hosts a podcast and is developing an online community of women who work in the industry.“A lot of those relationships now that I’ve built are with very strong women that have raised themselves up because they come from an event planning background, and they had to switch roles,” she says. “They had to pivot.”She loves and enjoys the community she has created. “I feel like, Oh my gosh, there’s a tribe. And now I am so grateful to have found this tribe.”Sexual HarassmentAs the only woman on the team, Anca has experienced some sexism and sexual harassment. She’s also developed strategies to protect herself. I’m grateful that she was willing to share her perspective. It is enlightening to understand that women are routinely in situations where they need strategies to avoid sexual harassment. Wouldn’t the world be better if men more consistently conducted themselves so that women never felt that necessity?Anca has a gregarious personality and describes herself as a “banterer.” She likes to joke around with the crew. Still, she says, there are “boundaries that shall not be crossed, especially when it comes to professional relationships.”As the leader of her community, she hears stories. “Some of them are really traumatic and heartbreaking stories,” she says.Within her own experience, she recalls being on a big event crew as the only female where the accommodations included only a shared shower. She agonized over simple things like:finding a time when she could be confident of being alone in the showerhow to react if someone walked inwhere to run to escape in a worst-case scenarioMore routinely, she recalls men touching her inappropriately. She’s learned to challenge offenders who manage to “just happen” to end up with a hand on her bum with a stern joust, “How did you get there?”Anca also has clear plans for managing her risk when she goes out drinking with the team after a successful event. “I can have a drink and a half,” she says. “Then don’t go past that because I know if I hit that second drink and then that turns into a third, then I am no longer in control of what could happen to me, where I’m not as vigilant anymore.”She is also careful about relationships with colleagues. She recognizes that flirting can lead to other things. She thinks such things require deliberate planning and rejects the assumption that “We’re adults; we can deal with this; we’ll figure it out.”Furthermore, women face reputational risk. “You don’t want to have the reputation that you got there because you slept your way through it,” she says. “That’s one thing that, as a female in a male-dominated world, has been the first thing in my mind.”Hosting Cause-Oriented EventsAs Anca is an event professional, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask her for advice about organizing events for causes, social entrepreneurs and nonprofits. Her experience and advice were surprising.To begin, she asks her nonprofit clients, “Why do you have to have this event in the first place?” She only wants to go to next steps with clients who have a clear vision.The pandemic has taught her some important lessons. “I’ve had some excellent results with nonprofits fundraising virtually in a digital format, especially in 2020, when that was the only thing we could do,” she says. “I’ve had clients that have raised over $2 million just in one setting, in one event, one hour.”You can’t plan the event itself in isolation. Marketing is essential too. It takes a complete strategy to get people there and open their wallets.Anca is confident that in-person-only events are done. In the future, events will be virtual-only or hybrid with both in-person and virtual options.Virtual has clear benefits. It enables hosts to include people anywhere on the globe. Her clients have discovered supporters in places they didn’t know they had.She is currently working with a client who had an in-person event in 2019 and then hosted a virtual one in 2020 and raised much more money. As a result, the client plans to stick with virtual-only events in the future.In addition, she points out that virtual events allow hosts to gather more data more easily, giving you more insights into planning for next year. In all her work, Anca benefits from a well-honed sense of potential problems, enabling her to solve them before they cause problems. She thinks of it as her superpower.To support this vital work, subscribe.How to Develop the Ability to Foresee and Prevent Problems As a SuperpowerA client once hired Anca to run a two-day conference. Just six days before the event, she began to detect a potential problem with the team. She did some digging and discovered that one of the subcontractors had lost half its staff due to some internal drama. While the sub promised all would be well, she could see a disaster coming. If half the team had walked, she’d be lucky to lose only half at her event.She began calling in favors to line up backup staff, who would commit to being available at the last minute, even if it meant passing up other opportunities. Sure enough, on the day before the event, five people were missing, and she needed her people. Because she had planned for it, she had a complete crew. Anca says the only way to develop this skill is through experience. “You might have to put yourself in situations that are not always rosy and learn some of those mistakes in ways that are not necessarily happy.”Building resilience is key to adding the ability to prevent and not just foresee problems. Learning from your mistakes will help you do that, she adds.If you follow Anca’s example, over time, you can learn to foresee problems and prevent them. You could even make it your superpower for good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    She's Saving Tigers and Shaking Things Up In Science

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 17, 2022 24:18

    Devin: What do you see as your superpower?Sarika: I think my superpower is being a scientist but thinking beyond that label as a box.Sarika Khanwilkar is an evolutionary biologist working on her Ph.D. at Columbia University. Ph.D. students are almost all overworked. It is a high-stress job, much more so than the student life we experience in undergraduate studies.Starting a NonprofitThat pressure hasn’t stopped her from starting a nonprofit, Wild Tiger, to save the endangered cats in India.Sarika launched her nonprofit after starting research for graduate school in India. Sarika’s father was born in India and had taken her to visit the country before. Her first trip as a professional gave her a new perspective.“I went to rural India, and I saw tigers. But I also, most importantly, saw how people are living with tigers and the challenges that come along with that,” she says.The challenges of living among tigers lead too frequently to tragedy.“Those challenges had been missing from a lot of the narrative that we in the United States have about tiger conservation,” Sarika says. She also saw success. “What I was seeing on the ground when I went there was impactful work happening by locally-led small organizations.” Adding, “These locally-run organizations were doing amazing, amazing work with communities, with tigers, with wildlife.”Wild Tiger was Sarika’s way of helping these on-the-ground nonprofits fund their work. In addition to raising funds, she tries to help when her research takes her back to India. She provides scientific support, helps in data collection, data analysis and guidance on whether interventions are working.Stopping Human-Wildlife ConflictIn India, Sarika sees conflict less as an academic problem to be researched but as a crisis that requires immediate resources to end.“I visited this man whose wife had died, who had been mauled by a tiger while out collecting firewood,” she says, citing just one example of the human-tiger challenges Indians face.Still, Sarika approaches her work as a scientist. “We were finding that there were certain livelihood patterns, you could say, such as collecting firewood, which increases the risk of people getting attacked by tigers or leopards.”“It is mostly women and children who are burdened with collecting firewood and cooking at home,” she says. They are the ones at risk of encountering a tiger.The motivation for collecting firewood complicates the issues with addressing this pattern. It is used primarily as a cooking fuel, meaning that to tell them to stop would be as absurd as telling the tiger not to eat.The second pattern of human-tiger conflict involves toileting, or more correctly, defecating without the benefit of a toilet. If there isn’t a clean, accessible toilet in your home or village, finding a quiet place in the forest is your best bet.Bending over to collect firewood and crouching to do your business put you in a similar position—eye-level to a hungry tiger who now may see you as prey.“Tiger conservation is not just about saving tigers,” Sarika concludes. “It’s just not easy to live with tigers.”“One of the reasons tigers have been able to survive in India so long is because people have had a great tolerance for this conflict,” she says. “Part of that comes from the religious symbolism of animals and the tiger. The tiger is a God.”Sarika shared some of the work that the organizations her Wild Tiger nonprofit supports.Tiger Research and Conservation Trust has been working on several aspects, including educating people on avoiding interaction with tigers and monitoring village areas for tiger movements. Critically, the organization has been helping people access liquid propane as an alternative cooking fuel.Loss Wilderness Foundations works closely with indigenous communities to create livelihoods. They help villagers make and sell jewelry and serve as tour guides in the forest.In all this work, Sarika has been burnishing her superpower, an ability to think outside the box as a scientist.To support this vital work, subscribe.How to Develop Thinking Outside the Box As a Scientist As a SuperpowerSarika wants to shake things up in science.The public has defined scientists, she says, as being white men who publish in peer-reviewed journals. To make matters worse, she feels the public distrusts science. “As a scientist, that’s kind of a bummer.”She sees an opportunity for some changes. “I think having scientists communicate directly with the public and be more of public figures and public leaders in life, in general, would be would be nice.”She wants to see science contextualized and realized more fully:What I'm really passionate about is doing better science. What I mean by that is not only allowing more diverse perspectives to do science, that is to study and to pursue it as a career and actually become scientists but also like when we're doing science, I think we need to be a lot more cognizant of how, we're impacting the people that we're collecting data on or the people who own the land where we are collecting data—and then the impact of our data.When scientists’ work has policy implications, she’d like to see scientists take a more prominent role in advocating for the implied policy changes. Otherwise, she says, “they’re just empty words on paper.”She is hopeful that change can happen. She notes that despite public distrust of science, scientists are well regarded. “There’s a general trust overall of a person who is a scientist.”She has two specific points she hopes the scientific world will implement further. First, she encourages scientists to commit to a field and stay with it, allowing them time to advocate for and see change realized within their focus areas.Second, she wants to see scientists pause before jumping into fieldwork to take time to get to know the people in the impacted communities. “Making conversations and genuine collaboration a part of every work would be, I think, really great.”Even if you are not a scientist, there is value in committing to your work and looking for policies that leaders can implement to support your cause and then advocating for those policies. This approach can become a superpower you to use for good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    The Power of Soap to Shape the World

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 15, 2022 35:08

    Devin: As you think about how you got here, what do you think of as your superpower?Shawn: Having your passion of your mission, getting visuals of faces and people in areas that you are protecting and saving. That is really a driver for me. I’m not going to stop. I’m going to be relentless in our pursuit of helping and impacting and changing the world and saving lives because of the people that are on the other end of it.Clean the World recycles used soap from hotels and gets it into the hands of vulnerable people who need it. Clean the World has many impact products that offer sustainable, socially conscious solutions to the global marketplace, aiming to prevent the millions of deaths caused by hygiene-related illnesses each year. Since inception, the organization has served more than 15 million individuals, distributed 68 million bars of soap, provided 30,000 showers, distributed 5 million hygiene kits, and diverted over 23 million pounds of waste from landfills around the world.Shawn Seipler’s above introduction to his social enterprise Clean the World explains in simple terms what the business does and how it helps people.The Story of Clean the WorldLeading a global sales team for a tech company, Shawn found himself in hotel rooms about four nights per week. One night, out of curiosity, he called the front desk to ask what happened to the soap and shampoo he didn’t use. “They said it was thrown away.”He couldn’t have guessed then what would result.“In 2009, we figured out that if all hotels across the United States were throwing their soap away, we were throwing away a million bars of soap every day,” Shawn says. “And if all hotels across the globe were throwing their soap away, it was probably two or three million bars of soap a day.”That gave him a clear vision of the supply side of an economics equation.“We found in 2009 that there were nine thousand children under the age of five dying every single day to pneumonia and diarrheal disease, and number one and number two leading cause of death among children worldwide,” he said. “All these studies showed that if we just gave those children soap and taught them how and when to wash their hands, we could cut those deaths in half.”This second phase of research fixed the demand side of his economics equation.He remembers the first efforts to make soap from soap:I had to corral a bunch of family members to get into a single car garage in downtown Orlando, Florida, where we sat around on upside-down pickle buckets with potato peelers, scraping the outside of bars of soap that we were collecting from hotels across Orlando. We had a meat grinder where we grind it all up. We had cookers where we were cooking it into a paste and we had these big wood salt molds where we put wax paper down and put the soap paste on and more wax paper and we top it and clamp it. And it would dry overnight.I'm half German, half Puerto Rican, so it was my Puerto Rican family members that were the ones that were willing to come into this garage with it. The power would cut in the garage every 30 minutes or so, which was a really big issue because the salsa music would stop playing. And so the workforce would stop if there was no music playing.We had to figure out how many cookers and grinders and fans you could have on.Initially set up as a nonprofit, Shawn discovered a flaw. “I learned that in that nonprofit world of just asking people for money for your mission. I wasn’t very good at that.”Shawn recognized that he needed to create a different business model.He began to see that collecting waste from hotels was adding value for the hotel chains in several dimensions. By diverting waste from landfills, hotels could add to their sustainability efforts. Saving lives with soap also generated corporate social responsibility benefits. Additionally, many of the back-of-house staff members had roots in the countries Clean the World was supporting, helping the hotels build relationships with their essential staff. “So we kind of bundled all of that up, and we went to the hotel base, and we said, we think that you should pay for this program,” Shawn says. It took some time, but ultimately he succeeded after reminding clients repeatedly, “We are really protecting the planet. We are really saving lives.”He got real traction in 2010. “We just so happen to be in Haiti right after the earthquake, and CBS Evening News called me and said, ‘Hey, are you here?’ ‘I am, I’m handing soap out in a tent city,’” he says, noting that they came right down to film him in action. “They dubbed me the Pied Piper of soap.”The Power of SoapShawn remembers his first trip to deliver soap to a group in Haiti:We only had two thousand bars of soap for ten thousand people. And one by one, we had mothers that came down that said that they lost a child, they've lost another child. And they talked about in the past or taught them about the importance of soap and why and what it means and when. You should wash your hands before you eat, before you cook and after you go to the restroom and those types of things. I remember handing the soap out and that experience and everybody just dug into those boxes like it was food and they hadn't eaten for four weeks. It was just so heartbreaking. But it was also so motivating for me that we were going to come back and we were going to send as much soap as we possibly could to that region and to that country.Shawn has owned that commitment. “Since then have sent upwards of four or five million bars of soap to the country to that region.”The mission trips have evolved a bit. They feature “Super Soap” and “Super Water,” superheroes who fight germs onstage in skits. Having performed the program in many countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, the Dominican Republic and India, they measure consistent results. “We see 50 percent decreases in diarrheal disease. We see 50 percent increases in school attendance.”He notes that in a partnership with nonprofit giant World Vision, which added fresh water and toilets, there was a 98 percent reduction in diarrheal disease.Shawn works to make Clean the World’s work sustainable so that communities don’t quickly revert to past behavior after it’s gone. They organize soap-making and purchasing programs to enable people to affordably get the soap they need going forward.Shawn says that he is driven by his sense of purpose and mission and consciously maintains that orientation in his work.How to Develop a Purpose Orientation As a SuperpowerShawn reflects on the faces of the children he saw on his first trip to Haiti as he delivered soap. When things get difficult—and he acknowledges they do—he focuses on those faces and remembers the purpose of his work.When the pandemic shut down travel almost entirely in the spring of 2020, Clean the World’s supply of soap and primary revenue stream dried up. Tough times were in store for the enterprise.Shawn made the difficult decision to lay off a third of the staff and, weeks later, had to do it again. In that mode, he stayed focused on the mission and kept working. Before long, he got a request from shelters in Las Vegas for hygiene kits. Shawn and his team developed a covid-safe program for small family groups to assemble hygiene kits 100 at a time at home.Since then, he’s been able to bring back everyone who wanted to return to work and more. The company is thriving again. He credits his purpose orientation with helping the business through those difficult times.He notes that service doesn’t just help the people we serve, but it changes us:When you start looking at historical figures, you look at Princess Diana, you look at Mother Teresa, you look at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. You look at these people whose love in action, whose service was standing up for social justice, feeding the hungry, holding the babies, the AIDS babies, when no one else wanted to touch it, just living a life of service. With that service comes two awesome things. One serving and loving somebody else and helping that person in need. But the other big thing that also comes out of that is what it does to you internally—the thing that it turns on inside of you when you are helping and loving and serving others. It's proven scientifically, it's proven that the act of actually getting something for somebody else does more internally for you than actually buying something for yourself when you are helping and loving and giving.Shawn’s advice is to find your purpose and act on it. “We’re all charged with loving somebody with helping somebody.”The small things we do matter, too. Volunteering at the food pantry, sitting with a senior, and other simple acts are important. “That’s serving a major purpose,” he says.His final advice is, “Find out what your service is in the act of loving somebody; find anything and just start doing it.”By taking his advice, you can develop a purpose orientation as a superpower and do more good in the world. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    Walking May Be the First Step to Alcohol Addiction Recovery

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 10, 2022 28:05

    You will find a video of the podcast recording below.Devin: What do you see as your core strength, your inner superpower that will help you get this done successfully?Lindsay: I will answer that by saying the first day that I didn’t drink, something happened to me. I was down in my kitchen making a coffee, hungover, ashamed, the whole thing. And I could see for the first time—I don’t know why, because I was hungover—but it was like I could see everything in my kitchen clearly, for the first time. I recognized that everything in my kitchen I hated. The teacup. The coffee maker. The tea towel. I hated it all, but I put it there. And so it was in that moment that I realized, if I can put it there, I can unput it there. That began the awareness that I believe that our greatest superpowers are the things that we feared the most in addiction, and I was terrified of. I believed that my life wouldn’t mean anything, and I believed that I wouldn’t be able to make a meaningful connection. [I] had a lot of anxiety around that. And then as I got sober, went through my process though all the inner work—went for the walks, you know, did all the things, went to group meetings with other women, as we share our stuff. I learned that I didn’t have to work at connection. I didn’t have to work at the things that paralyzed me in addiction because they came naturally in recovery.After coming to terms with her alcohol addiction, Lindsay Sutherland Boal launched an effort to help other women in Canada “live alcohol-reduced or alcohol-free lives in an alcohol-drenched world.” She started She Walks Canada. Problematic DrinkingLindsay says there are 6 million women in North America who are dealing with problematic alcohol use. “It is not about how much we drink, but about the impact our drinking has on our lives and the people around us.”She notes that the stereotypical image of an alcoholic—a middle-aged guy who can no longer hold a job—isn’t relevant for many people with a problem. Signs of problem drinking are more subtle for some. She suggested the following are clues:If someone is embarrassed to take out the recyclingIf someone doesn’t want to go to the regular liquor store because they’re afraid the employees might recognize them.The drinking is getting earlier in the day.We change our schedule in our day to accommodate when we can have our next drink.For those wondering if they have a drinking problem, talking to someone who has had a drinking problem and is now in recovery can help.She Walks Canada“She Walks Canada is the national movement to empower and engage women in seeking recovery from alcohol use disorder,” Lindsay says. She emphasizes that women face a different set of issues in recovery than men. Coming together is an essential part of success.Some women, though certainly not all, associate drinking with an abusive man, boyfriend, spouse, boss or colleague. Group work with men is potentially triggering rather than helpful.Walking is a crucial part of recovery, Lindsay says. “Just the act of walking can prevent someone from drinking.” So, She Walks Canada organizes walking as a collective, tracking women as they walk across the country virtually.Recording this conversation in February, Lindsay says her limit for walking outdoors is 35 degrees below zero centigrade. (Trust me, that’s not warm on the Fahrenheit thermometer.) “It’s like a metaphor for life. You could go in the hot; you can go in the cold; you can do whatever, but you’ve just got to wear the right coat,” Lindsay says.In addition to walks, She Walks Canada offers facilitated group coaching sessions to help women in recovery. Lindsay says the sessions provide “a safe, private place where you can show up with your camera on, camera off, mic on, mic off, share whatever is you want to say to a bunch of strangers who get it.” Held virtually in French and English, she scheduled the meetings to be convenient across Canada’s time zones.Lindsay sees a silver lining in the pandemic. “One of the blessings of this whole COVID experience is that there has been a much greater conversation about mental health.” That is contributing to a growing recognition when drinking might be a problem.How to Develop Your Superpowers in RecoveryLindsay saw her superpowers develop naturally in recovery. The things she feared the most in addiction became strengths in recovery. For instance, while still in the grasp of her drinking problem, she felt unloved, unappreciated and unable to connect with other people. In recovery, she quickly found love and camaraderie with other people, sharing her journey with them.She explained that she never thought of herself as an athlete but has wholly reshaped her self-image.I always wanted to be an athlete. But I can't kick; I can't throw a ball, and I don't have an athletic bone in my body. I was also quite overweight, totally out of shape, with no sport skill set at all. But what ended up happening—And She Walks Canada was certainly part of this—is that I discovered my inner athlete. I had a vision for myself in January 2021 that I don't know what it was. I literally wanted a picture at the end of the year. I wanted a picture of me wearing a bunch of medals. I'm like, ‘What sport?’ ‘How am I going to do that?’ And I said, and there was a little voice inside my head that said, ‘Go the distance.’ My heart goes, ‘With what?’ So I just started walking anyways. Three hundred and sixty-five days later, I completed my 18th ultra-distance trek. The shortest was a 34 kilometer paddle, which is the distance of the English Channel, and I did that in eight hours. And then the longest was the the perimeter of Iceland, 9,333 kilometers!But that’s not all. She also got serious in the gym. She hired a personal trainer. “I said, ‘Johanna, your job—I’m going to pay you to teach me how to lift with big boys.’ And she said, ‘OK.’ And she did,” Lindsay says. “I go to the gym, and I lift with the big boys because I can hold my own, and I know what I’m doing.”She sees that as a metaphor for recovery. “When I look in the mirror at myself, at the gym, and I see my physical self getting stronger, it’s an absolute reflection of what’s going on on the inside, you know, and it’s is incredibly empowering.”Lindsay offers two critical lessons for recovery.“One of the biggest takeaways is that we are what we believe we are,” she says of the first one. “We are our inner narrative, and we’ve got to be really careful, really mindful about what we say because we’ll believe it.”Her second observation is that recovery is possible primarily because others have done it and led the way. She says, “What allows us to raise our hand and say me too, what allows us to click on a registration button to show up to a group meeting with a bunch of strangers you never met before and tell them you have a drinking problem is that there are the women that come before us that say, ‘You’re not alone. I was there too.’”Today, Lindsay is the one saying, “You’re not alone. I was there too.” Following her example and advice can help you find your superpowers in recovery. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    He Quit His Job As a Scientist to Be a Farmer

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 8, 2022 26:49

    Devin: Jonathan, what is your superpower?Jon: I guess I don’t know that I have any superpowers aside from just getting in there and doing it. I guess I’ve never been one that shied away from a challenge. I think we’re were put here for a reason. And I believe that you’re in your position, and I’m in my position in order to do something. Ok? And to me, that’s not a superpower that’s just doing your job.Making the Switch From Scientist to FarmerJonathan Lundgren was receiving an award from President Barack Obama when he decided he needed to leave his comfortable government research position to effect real change. He quit to become a farmer.“I just decided, if we’re going to use science to help fuel this movement, we’ve got to rethink how science is done,” Jonathan says.As an entomologist, he studied insects. He worked for the USDA Ag Research Service when he chose to make the switch so that he could speak with the voice of authority that comes only from walking your talk.“If you’re trying to give advice on how to run a person’s farm, you’d better have walked a mile in their shoes,” Jonathan says.To fund the purchase and support the operation of the farm in its struggling startup phase, Jonathan led a crowdfunding campaign. He was able to gather donations from around the world.Today, Jonathan leads Blue Dasher Farm and its nonprofit research arm, Ecdysis Foundation. The farm comprises 53 acres of land in South Dakota, near the Minnesota border. “Half of that is unbroken, prairie and wetlands,” he says.“The number one product of our farm is a balance of life,” Jonathan says before listing the products that generate its revenue. “In terms of products besides homeostasis, we produce honey; we produce lamb; we produce eggs for our local community; we produce poultry, turkeys; we have seeds that we produce like grassland seeds.”Regenerative Agriculture“What regenerative AG kind of promises is to reverse a lot of these planetary-scale problems that we’re facing right now as a society,” Jonathan says. He identifies four outputs of a regenerative farm:Soil healthBiodiversityNutritious foodProfitsThe follow-one effects of these fundamental outputs include:Soil carbon sequestrationReversing desertificationBalancing water relationshipsConserving threatened and endangered speciesEnhancing rural communitiesImproving public healthCalifornia’s Central Valley used to be a wetland, Jonathan says. Industrial agriculture is desertifying one of the nation’s most productive farm regions, threatening its ability to produce.Jonathan highlights a foundational principle for understanding how and why regenerative agriculture works. “The energy that comes into that system comes from the Sun. The only way you catch that is with plants’ photosynthesis. So step one in trying to reverse desertification and reset water balances is to get plants out there.”Almonds require lots of water. Jonathan shares an example of how regenerative agriculture practices reduce water requirements.I walked onto this one regenerative almond orchard and he had used some of his water to put in what's called a cover crop. All of this is just a bunch of flowering plant species that live out there. You don't harvest it for anything. You can graze it, maybe. But all walking into this orchard, normally you get out of the car and you're just like, Oh my gosh, I'm about to bake. And you could feel with every one of your senses that this was something different; using this approach to agriculture not only increases the bottom line of the farmer but can reverse climate change.The fact is, industrial agricultural practices consume vast amounts of fossil fuels and are depleting precious topsoil.“You can think of agriculture as the problem. Or you can think of it as the solution,” Jonathan says. “I prefer to think of our food system as the solution. That means that we do have to change the way that we produce food.”Some argue that animal agriculture is a fundamental part of the problem. Regenerative agriculture shows otherwise, Jonathan says.We're not going to be able to fight climate change without animals. Bottom line, we need these animals because of the many things that they do. Number one is they strengthen the resilience of a farming operation. It allows an additional revenue stream to come off of that piece of ground. Number two, these animals are a really critical tool for managing plant communities, and the only way to maximize carbon sequestration is by having animals on the land. The animals work with the plants to inspire plant diversification, as well as plant biomass production. You've got to have animals in there in order to maximize the productivity of a system.Jonathan has no cattle or cows on his farm. He says, “You need a diversity of animals out there to maximize the productivity of a system. And animals work together really well. And so a monoculture of cows is just as bad as a monoculture of anything else.”The Largest Agricultural Experiment Ever AttemptedThe Ecdysis Foundation recently launched the 1000 Farms Initiative, an effort to recruit 1,000 farmers around the world to adopt regenerative agricultural practices and subject them to scientific scrutiny. The goal is to see how to adapt the methods to the broadest range of possible climates and circumstances to accelerate a practical transition to their wider adoption.“This is the largest agricultural experiment that’s ever been attempted, and it’s the kind of bold experiment or science that is desperately needed,” Jonathan says.In all of his work, Jonathan sees his ability to get things done as his superpower—though he is reluctant to call it that.To support this vital work, subscribe.How to Develop the Ability to Get Things Done As a SuperpowerDoing what you feel is your mission or purpose in life is a superpower. Countless people wander where opportunity takes them or circumstances force them. Jonathan has made choices and taken actions consistent with them to make consequential things happen.Reflecting on a short term failure where early in his career he told farmers how to do their work as part of an experiment and didn’t get the results he needed, he said, “I asserted myself, and when I did that, I lost what was special about those farms.”“The next year, I said, ‘You know what? You guys are the experts. Show me the corn phase of your rotation.’ And they did, and then they showed me the conventional neighbor,” Jonathan says of the lesson learned. “And that study ended up revolutionizing all of the research that we’ve done ever since.”“I think sometimes a superpower is having confidence but also knowing when to be humble and listen,” Jonathan says of the experience. The willingness to listen and learn may be a more powerful strength than assertive confidence.Jonathan concluded with three principles to help you build your ability to get things done:Always have your eyes on the mission.Cultivate multiple options to skin that cat.Be ready to abandon the options that aren’t successful in order to focus on those things that are getting you where you have to be as quickly and efficiently as possible.If you use those three principles as Jonathan has, you too can make your ability to get things done a superpower that will enable you to do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    Report: Women Face Unending Sexist Comments

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 3, 2022 26:06

    Devin: What is your superpower?Susan: I think my superpower has got to be my passion about the topic of strengthening the impact of girls and women in Utah and also worldwide. I am deeply—my purpose is so strong. But I would add that I have a lot of stamina to do a lot of work. And I’m not afraid. So I think maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s—I don’t know what it is, but at this point in my life, I speak truth, and I base that on research.Dr. Susan R. Madsen was as surprised as anyone when she and her team put out a survey requesting feedback about sexist remarks women had experienced. When she described the number of women who responded, about 1,000, typically with more than one ready example of sexism, she said, “Isn’t that crazy!”Based on her prior research, she had expected only 100 to 200 women to respond.Susan is the founding director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project and an endowed professor of leadership at Utah State University. Her latest research is propelling her to new levels of international recognition.The final tally of sexist comments was over 1,700. Susan and her team are releasing the work in five separate briefs, the fourth of which was just published yesterday—after we recorded this podcast. The title for the series is “Sexist Comments and How to Respond to Them.”An initial brief provided context for what would follow. Susan and her team separated the comments into four areas, and they will produce a brief for each, with the last one expected early next month. The four briefs cover:Inequity and BiasObjectificationStereotypesUndervaluing WomenThe team further segmented each brief, grouping comments into common themes.Some of the comments the women reported were too upsetting to be included in the published reports, Susan says. “Some of the comments are just very disturbing.”About 85 percent of the comments were from men. Women made the vast majority of others. Women even reported a few sexist comments from children, presumably reflecting their parenting and socialization.Susan and I focused our discussion on the second report, Objectification, which was new when we spoke. The team further segmented those comments into seven sub-categories:Focus on Physical Appearance/BodiesSexual HarassmentSexualizing WomenUnwanted Sexual AdvancesIntersectional discriminationExcluded from work activitiesAccusations of using sex to get aheadThe comments in the report are often shocking. Too often for me, they felt familiar, reminding me of things I’ve regrettably said to women in the past, intended as compliments. I take modest comfort in not having uttered anything of the most egregious sort.ExamplesSusan shared examples, and I’ve pulled a few more from the brief. You’ll want to read all the briefs to get a clear sense of how bad it can be for women. Here are some examples of things said under the category of “Focus on Physical Appearance/Bodies”:“The first time we met, he said, ‘What a surprise. I thought you’d look a lot older than you do. You’ve still got a good ten years of sex kitten left in you!’”“A manager asked, ‘How do you keep that slim figure?’”“In a setting with friends and family, this man commented that women shouldn’t serve as president because ‘once every month, the country would be in deep trouble’ (referring to a woman’s monthly period), insinuating that a period and any moodiness associated with a period makes a woman unfit to hold the presidency.”Under the heading “Sexual Harassment,” a sampling includes:“While at a speaking event where I was about to present, the host was having issues with the mic, and I went to help fix it and had to have my head down under the podium, and he said, ‘While you’re down there, . . .’”“I worked in a congressional office, and my boss would make sexist and inappropriate comments frequently. I finally called and reported him but was told, ‘Unless he touches you, there’s really nothing we can do. Congress wrote themselves out of the sexual harassment laws.’”“A male superior suggested that I come to the office on Halloween in costume dressed as a sexy nurse.”From the section on “Sexualizing Women,” I found these examples:“He said, ‘Women shouldn’t work because that just creates more opportunities for extramarital affairs.’”“My husband’s co-worker said, ‘You know your wife is going to have an affair,’ as a response to my being in MBA school.”“He said, ‘If you dress in clothes that are tight, you are inhibiting the ability of our men to do their jobs. You are a distraction.’”From the category labeled “Unwanted Sexual Advances,” these pop up:“I was looking for a place to sit during a conference we were both attending. He and I were both members of a city council, though for different cities. He patted his lap and told me I could sit there.” “When I tried to extend my hand, he embraced me in a hug and said, ‘I’m a hugger.’ It was very unprofessional, especially since we didn’t know each other.” “A male colleague told me, ‘Those jeans look good. They’d look better draped over my dresser.’”Within the category labeled “Intersectional Discrimination,” I observed these comments:“A man serving a lesbian couple said, ‘So since there is no man here, who is supposed to pay me? Who’s in charge?’” “After removing a coffee mug from where it shouldn’t be, I heard one of the men say, ‘ornery old bag.’” “One of our board members asked me where I was from. I told him, Ogden. He then asked again, but this time asked the origins of my parents. When I replied that my father is American and my mother is Asian, he said to me that he thought Asian women were the most beautiful women in the world and then he touched my arm.”The section on “Excluded From Work Activities” yielded the following:“I was working towards becoming a partner in my company. One of my co-workers kept mentioning that the partner who was over both of us had been telling him what he needed to do to become a partner. I had never had this conversation. I asked to meet with this partner and said, ‘Is there a reason that you don’t tell me what I need to do to be a partner?’ and he said, ‘I only talk to him about that when we go to lunch, and it would be inappropriate for me to take you to lunch, so I can’t talk to you about it.’” “In discussing who should travel with a candidate I was representing, an off-hand comment was made, ‘Well, you can’t travel with him because that creates perception problems.’” “A male colleague told me, ‘My wife has to meet every woman I travel with.’”The final section on “Accusations of Using Sex to Get Ahead” includes:“A male superior said, ‘I don’t know what happens behind closed doors with you and him to have led you to receive more resources and support than other faculty receive.’” “I got the highest grade on a test in a computer science class. When I shared the good news, one of my male peers said, ‘I wish I could sleep with the professor so that I could get an A.’” “I had a co-worker tell me that the reason I got a promotion was because of my breast size.”This list is just a sampling, but it is indicative of what you’ll find in the briefs. Superpowers for Good is a reader-supported publication. To support this important work, become a subscriber.Goals of the ReportsSusan hopes the briefs will provide women with strategies for responding to these comments. Too often, women facing sexism from a boss are structurally discouraged or prevented from taking action.She also hopes men will learn from the briefs that some of what they think is benign or humorous isn’t either of those things. Susan offers an example of how to respond to a boss or peer with good intentions but poor behavior patterns.You know what? I know you really want to respect people, and I know you have a good heart. Let me tell you what that comment to me or my peer really felt like because I don't think you intended that.“I’ve had men tell me that that women have done that, and they’re like, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize that,’” Susan says.She offered another example: I don't know if you've read my Forbes piece on calling women girls and that with that whole thing. But I've been in meetings where more men are at the meetings and they'll say, well, the girls in the front office and I'll say. Well, are you boys going to, you know? Yeah, but and then I smirk, I like, Yeah, I want them to hear that. And then they smile, and it's not that I slap to their wrist, you know, or. But I made a point and with some humor to teach, that's my hope that it taught.In her work, Susan says her superpowers, a sense of purpose, stamina and fearlessness help her do more.How to Develop a Sense of Purpose, Stamina and Fearlessness as SuperpowersSusan connects her stamina and fearlessness to being driven by a deep sense of purpose.“What we know from the research is when women feel called or feel this purpose to lead, whether they want to or not, they’ll lean in, they’ll step forward, and they’ll use their voice and lead in ways that are not comfortable,” Susan says.“Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is power,” she adds.“I believe in God, and many people do,” Susan says of the process for finding or defining purpose. “But even if we don’t, I mean, we can feel that calling or purpose that we’re made to do certain things.”“And each of us is so unique. When you study neuroscience and the brain, we each have unique, distinct gifts and strengths and so many places to use those in this world for good,” she says.She offers this advice for finding your purpose: I really do encourage people to seek for purpose, and that takes some understanding our strengths, understanding our gifts, understanding what our heart tells us. The head, heart and hands, right? It makes our head like, what do we love thinking about first thing in the morning and what makes our heart leap? And what do we want to do? What does all that together make us want to do? Paying attention to that is key.Susan offers another bit of advice for discovering your purpose: journaling. She suggests writing by hand but, more importantly, that you write self-reflections on what you want your life to be. Write down how you can use your gifts, strengths and superpowers to make a difference in your workplace or community.By following Susan’s advice, you can make purpose, stamina and fearlessness superpowers to help you do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    A Night in Jail, Peace Corps Provided Formative Experiences for This Humanitarian

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 1, 2022 31:41

    This article is from the recording in the podcast player above and the video below.Devin: I wonder, Allan, if you would share with us what you see as your superpower.Allan: Well, that is really the magic question. I guess when it comes down to it, I’d have to say that I am always a glass-half-full kind of guy. I’d like to believe that my main superpower is an optimistic outlook on life. I do try to turn lemons into lemonade as the expression goes.Jail TimeIn his memoir, Andean Adventures, Allan J. “Alonzo” Wind shares a profound, if humorous, experience. I asked him to retell it:That's a good reminder of the foolishness of youth. I was in college at the University of Chicago freshman year, a bunch of friends and I all getting alcoholically impaired as the case may be, and somehow we got to the idea of prank phone calls and we made a phone call. I'm not sure I remember exactly where we were calling at this time, but I picked up the receiver and proceeded to try to put on some sort of horrible, phony East African accent, saying, This is Idi Amin and I come from Uganda, and I made some other comments along the lines of probably referring to an atomic bomb or something. But it was just foolishness, freshman year drunkenness. And then we all kind of drifted back to our rooms in Pierce Tower, the nonexistent, thank god, dorm that I was in at that time—they've since torn it down—and got a knock on the door from the resident assistant with the police who had come in and proceeded to march me off to the Cook County lockup for making a bomb threat. Scared the hell out of me. Spent the night in jail in the lockup until luckily I got off the next day with the help of the university lawyers with severe admonishment and really learning never to do that sort of thing again.Superpowers for Good is a reader-supported publication. To support this work, become a subscriber.Peace CorpsAfter palling around politically with Rahm Emanuel in college in the late 70s, Allan felt activated by the environmental movement.Allan says, “I always knew that I wanted to go into the Peace Corps, but my expectation was I would join the Peace Corps, serve two years as a Peace Corps volunteer after college, and then I would return to the United States.”It didn’t work out that way.I went to Peace Corps, and I found the experience of living poor, living with the campesinos, the farmer peasants in rural Ecuador, getting to know their daily routines, trying to help them address the sorts of health and nutrition challenges that came through their lives.Ultimate, he’d spend virtually his entire career in service abroad.While serving in Ecuador in his volunteer assignment, he became known to the Minister of Health of Ecuador. As Allan approached the end of his term, the Minister reached out to Allan’s boss at the Peace Corps to ask if he could extend Allan’s tenure for a year.Acknowledging that he had become a bit of a thorn in the side of his boss, the official response was, “NFW, if you get my drift,” Allan says. (If you don’t recognize that acronym, you likely don’t want to know what it means, so don’t google it.)So, the Health Minister connected Allan to Plan International (then called Foster Parents’ Plan), where he was hired as a local staffer, earning a modest salary that was still much more generous than his Peace Corps stipend. “Peace Corps is really what changed the direction of my life,” he says.Lessons LearnedAdmitting that he learned the critical lesson of his career through the “school of hard knocks,” Allan says it is “the importance of truly listening to people reflecting on what they’re saying and what they’re not saying, appreciating them for where life has taken them and their levels of understanding.”Allan takes some comfort in never having approached his international work in the model of a stereotypical “ugly American” behavior. Still, he admits, “I had probably more than my share of that sort of paternalistic, patronizing. ‘Oh, I’m an American. I know best,’ sort of thing.”“I came to a very different understanding, or at least a more sophisticated, more nuanced understanding, of the importance of really listening to people, joining with them on a journey of growth and development and empowerment,” he says.Even in emergency relief efforts that are sometimes vital for survival following a disaster, he sometimes sees adverse impacts from failing to listen. “Overly paternalistic approaches to addressing those kinds of emergencies can undermine the sorts of structures that you have in communities and delay a true recovery.”In contrast, NGOs can help close gaps that a low-income country doesn’t have the resources to fill by working closely with and listening to locals. These gaps show in infrastructure, systems, education, training, food production and security.Another lesson Allan observes from his career is that our country suffers from not having a national service obligation. Reflecting on the impact of the Peace Corps on his life, he says, “Nothing quite replaces the individual experience and growth from service.” Much of the value of such experiences comes from living, working and socializing with people from different cultural and economic backgrounds.Allan sees how his superpower, an optimistic outlook on life, has positively impacted his career.How to Develop an Optimistic Outlook on Life As a SuperpowerHaving been through various challenges, he says, “I realize that it’s not always easy” to have an optimistic outlook on life. His optimism enables perseverance, something he continues to leverage in volunteer work today.While serving in the Foreign Service at USAID in Iraq, he saw his optimism yield measurable benefits. After an administrative snafu, he found himself looking for a post in Iraq and found or created an opportunity in Tikrit.After some initial success, his military counterparts began to worry he was becoming a “bullet magnet.” A sniper began targeting them when he would visit the Tikrit University School of Medicine or the NGO Federation facility. Still, he was optimistic that if he continued his work, the positive results would combat the sniper. It worked. “We were able to reestablish for Tikrit and for that province a lot of key activities, particularly in the area of farming and food production, which was invaluable,” he says.Allan sees optimism as at least partially innate. Life experiences can help you develop it. The core of his advice is spiritual. I think it requires conscious efforts and a certain amount of internal bravery to open yourself up and to show your vulnerabilities and to try to call out on whatever sort of divine spirit, divine spirituality that you find yourself called to ask for that sort of help. I think that whatever your religious faith, that ability to open yourself up and either through prayer or meditation or other spiritual teachings is really a key towards changing our hearts and allowing ourselves to be able to operate under circumstances we might not easily be able to do otherwise.That thinking reflects in a small way another theme of his memoir, his conversion to the Baháʼí Faith.By following his example and his recommended strategy, you can make an optimistic outlook on life a superpower that will help you do more good. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe

    Wikitongues Fights Cultural Genocide By Revitalizing Threatened Languages

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 24, 2022

    Devin: Kristen, what is your superpower?Kristen: Daniel and I were, you know, marinating on this earlier today. I think my superpower is connecting with people.Devin: Daniel, what is your superpower?Daniel: Optimism. Language revitalization requires optimism. When you start a project to reawaken your language, you need to have a degree of faith that a generation from now you will have had success and that a new generation in your community will appreciate what you’ve done.“Seven thousand languages are spoken or signed today, but as many as 3,000 languages could disappear in a generation, erasing half of humanity’s cultural, historical and ecological knowledge,” explains Daniel Bögre Udell, executive director of Wikitongues. “Language loss impacts all facets of our lives,” notes Kristen Tcherneshoff, the programs director for Wikitongues. “It impacts not only our personal sense of self, our mental health but also access to education, quality of education, economics—GDP is impacted by it.”The implications of language loss are scary. “It’s important to take a moment and emphasize that languages don’t just die naturally,” Daniel says. “People abandon mother tongues because they’re forced to by economic exclusion, political oppression or violence.”As I let these ideas sink into my consciousness, I begin to see protecting and reviving languages as critical. I imagine the heartbreak of being unable to communicate effectively with my grandchildren.“Language extinction is not inevitable,” Daniel says. “Adults can learn ancestral languages and teach their children, raising new native speakers and breathing fresh life into their culture.”Wikitongues helps people keep their languages alive. “We safeguard endangered and at-risk languages,” Daniel says. “We expand access to critical mother tongue resources, and we directly support language revitalization.”The results of language loss can be dire, including death.“It’s not uncommon for communities that have recently experienced some form of genocide or violent oppression to have higher rates of suicide because of all of the mental health problems that come from experiencing those crimes,” Daniel says.“Language revitalization is an immediate redress to that,” he adds. “It’s a healing force.”Daniel sites a study of indigenous communities in North America and Australia who were subject to culturally devastating educational practices until the 1970s and 80s. Some students were beaten for speaking their native tongue. With language revitalization programs working over three or four decades, suicide rates have declined.Wikitongues’ latest effort is a grant-based accelerator program for 15 competitively chosen participants. Applications were due in January, and they will announce the winners in March. Daniel and Kristen hope to fund 15 language revitalization projects.As examples of the sorts of things that Wikitongues could fund, Kristen highlighted a board game in the native Mongolian language as an example. “Cherokee activists, about ten years ago, created a keyboard for the Cherokee language so that you could have, as opposed to using the Roman alphabet, the Latin alphabet for the Cherokee language and having to get creative with different commands and things like that, you now can have the Cherokee language keyboard,” Kristen said of another innovative project.“In addition to funding, we’re providing a year of training and in-kind support, so it will function very similarly to a startup accelerator or a research fellowship,” Daniel says.The two have deeply personal reasons for the work they do.Daniel shared his personal experiences:I was first exposed to a family language that isn't a globally dominant one at a very young age. My grandparents on my father's side were Yiddish speakers, and the language kind of stopped with him, although he definitely retained a lot of it in what a linguist might call a post vernacular since his mother tongue was English. But it was heavily peppered with Yiddish.[Dad] would use a lot of those Yiddish fragments with me, and I knew that they were Jewish words, and I knew that they were our words. But it wouldn't be for a while that I would come to realize that they were actually the remnants of a living family language that had been ours, you know, just two generations ago. It only takes a generation to forget.I spent two years in Spain where I learned to speak Spanish and then also Catalan, which was persecuted by the Spanish government during the Franco dictatorship in most of the 20th century, but has been successfully revitalized since the 1980s. And so living in a part of the world where a revitalized language was spoken and growing and culturally central to the lives of the people who use it, I think helped distill just how important language is. And it got me thinking about my own languages as well.Kristen shared hers, too:I had an interesting childhood in that my mom's best friend was from Ethiopia and was an Amharic speaker. Along with my dad's close friends—he works in the disability movement in the U.S. and so he has a lot of close friends who are deaf or either a child of deaf adults. So, both of my parents are fluent in American sign language. I grew up in Alabama, in a small town with Amharic regularly in my ears and learning American sign language.When we left Alabama and we moved to Florida when I was in elementary school, I was bullied a lot for how I spoke and how my variety of English was very different than everyone else.These experiences framed their lives linguistically, leading them both to begin pursuing this work independently—until Kristen found Daniel’s early-stage efforts on YouTube.He originally created Wikitongues as a YouTube channel where people submit videos of themselves or their community members speaking in their mother tongues. “Everything kind of snowballed from there,” he says.An effort in Texas to restore the Afro Seminole Creole language is inspiring to Daniel and others working in this field. “It’s code red for their language. There are only a few dozen native speakers,” he says. The only dictionary for the language contains just 1,000 words. Windy Goodloe started the effort. Taking the long view, she recognized that the priority would be to create a program for adult learners. She began with Zoom classes. Today, she measures her success in participation in the training. “When that community becomes more active, the next goal is going to be an actual level of fluency among them,” Daniel says.Another example of language revitalization is the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, “whose language originally went extinct or dormant (as the more preferred term) in 1948 when the last native speaker died,” he says. “In the 1980s, a member of the tribe named Donna Perry realized that they had a language and that she wanted to bring that language back.”She found and copied dictionaries and then began teaching her children, making it a family language. Her example became a movement. Ten percent of the community is enrolled in immersion classes, and 32 people are fluent speakers, some raising a new generation of fluent speakers.Daniel also reminded me of something I’d forgotten. “Of course, the first language that was ever revitalized was Hebrew, which went dormant as a mother tongue in the second century and was revitalized as a mother tongue in the 19th century, about sixteen hundred years later. And it’s now the mother tongue of five million Jewish people.”Wikitongues was a 2021 recipient of the JMK. Innovation Prizes.In their vitally important work, they draw upon different strengths. Kristen describes her superpower as connecting with people. Daniel sees optimism with a healthy dose of patience as his.Superpowers for Good is a reader-supported publication. To support this work, consider becoming a subscriber.How to Develop Connecting With People As a SuperpowerKristen describes how she developed her ability to connect with people: I've had a chance to really meet a lot of different people in different, different careers and different backgrounds and things like that. And just being someone who's a transplant and immigrating and immigrating also really makes you reach out to people and try to create a home wherever you are.She sees that her ability to connect is also essential to the work. “It’s difficult to revitalize a language. It’s a lot of hard work. It might not happen in your lifetime,” she says. As a result, discovering someone has your back the way Wikitongues does can empower those doing the work.She offers three tips for those looking to make deeper connections.Active Listening: it is important to use active listening skills, like paraphrasing, to ensure that you understand what people are trying to convey.Put your phone down: when you have a one-on-one conversation, it is crucial to put your phone away and focus on the moment.Take notes and follow up: Kristen suggests that when you visit with someone who mentions an upcoming event, especially something they worry about, you should make a note of it. Then, put a reminder in your calendar to check in with them immediately before or after, depending on the nature of the event. Following her tactical advice will help you connect with people and possibly make this a superpower that will enable you to do more good in the world.How to Develop Optimism As a SuperpowerDaniel shared an intriguing insight that merits a moment or two of thoughtful reflection. He says, “I would encourage you to understand possibility as limitless and not always achievable.”That insight defines his brand of optimism. He recognizes that the work he is undertaking will not be accomplished this year. Even on the projects he starts, they may not be finished in his lifetime. He relies on optimism that may not ever have the satisfaction of seeing dreams become full-fledged realities.He offers a simple reminder to motivate action in the face of daunting challenges. “Nothing will happen unless someone does it.”“You also kind of have to manage your own expectations and be kind to yourself when you don’t always live up to those goals,” he notes.He adds, “It’s really important to occasionally take stock of what you have been able to do.” Progress is best made when you can stand on the evidence of what you’ve already accomplished.Following his advice to build that patient optimism can enable you to push the boundaries of what you hope to do, making it a superpower in your life. Get full access to Superpowers for Good at devinthorpe.substack.com/subscribe