Have you heard of FeelGood? It’s an innovative nonprofit social enterprise, based on 27 college campuses, that offers a new way to make a difference in the fight against hunger.
The program transforms students social entrepreneurs and responsible global citizens. Its goal is simple: End world hunger in our lifetime. They do it one grilled cheese sandwich at a time. Founded in 2005, FeelGood empowers college students to run nonprofit delis on their campuses, specializing in grilled cheese sandwiches that are given away for a voluntary donation. At the delis, students develop business skills, launch effective educational campaigns and initiate dialogues about the root causes of and solutions to poverty.
Fully 100 percent of the profits the students raise are invested in organizations with a track record of eradicating extreme poverty and empowering self-reliance. And here’s a remarkable stat: Every $100 invested in FeelGood yields $120 for certified organizations working to end global hunger.
I ran into FeelGood’s founders, Kristin Walter and Talis Apud-Martinez, at the last Social Capital Markets conference. (The next one will be Oct. 4-6 in San Francisco).
Laren Poole came about his cause, Invisible Children, completely by accident. He and two friends were documenting the refugee situation in Sudan six years ago when they crossed the border into northern Uganda and came upon a completely different conflict they didn’t know about: kids who were being abducted by the thousands and forced to fight in the bush as child soldiers.
The makeshift filmmaking crew stayed for two months and released the documentary Invisible Children. From there, the movie evolved into a global movement and nonprofit organization that is using the transformative power of story to change lives.
In this short video interview, conducted at Social Capital Markets 2009 in San Francisco, Poole talks about the organization’s effort to get governments around the world to stop Joseph Kony, leader of the rebel movement in Uganda and “the world’s worst criminal,” in Poole’s words, from forcing thousands of children into armed conflict.
Toward that end, Invisible Children has held a series of large rallies nationwide, organized a march on Washington, DC, and raised funds to build 10 high schools in Uganda. Throughout it all, they’ve used the tools of the Internet and social media to rally attention to the cause. “We’ve unleashed this young generation on this problem and documented what they’ve done about it,” he says.
One highlight of the awareness campaign came this past spring when Invisible Children staged a weeklong series of rescue events in 100 cities around the world. The crowds of mostly young people included 80,000 people in Chicago who stayed until, at the end, 500 hard-core supporters managed to earn Oprah Winfrey’s attention by camping outside her office building. “We held Oprah hostage,” Poole says, tongue in cheek, until she finally put them on her show on May 1.
One of the most impressive people I met at the recent Social Capital Markets conference in San Francisco was Kjersten Erickson, executive director of Forge, who founded the international NGO six years ago when she was a junior at Stanford University. Forge works with refugees and war-affected populations in Africa to bring some stability to their lives.
“We provide a support system to allow refugees and post-conflict communities to rebuild and revitalize themselves,” Kjersten says in this 4-minute video interview. Forge helps about 60,000 refugees a year by offering locally tailored solutions to help them achieve self-sufficiency. The Forge team helps runs libraries, solar-powered computer training centers, agricultural loan programs and income-generating activities that “contribute to a level of economic independence that has proven to be critical to break the cycle of war and poverty in Africa,” she says.
The Forge site lets you engage with specific refugee projects pr social entrepreneurs and lets you chart their progress with blog updates directly from the field or with unfiltered monthly progress reports. FORGE primarily targets assistance to youths, preschool students, women, the elderly and vulnerable in such countries as Zambia, Botswana, the Congo, Rwanda, Angola, Burundi, Sudan and elsewhere.
Today the Jenzabar Foundation announced it was recognizing FORGE as the inaugural winner of the Social Media Leadership Award “due to their exceptional understanding and utilization of social media technologies to support their organization’s current and future endeavors.” Continue reading →
At the Social Capital Markets conference this week, one highlight came in the opening keynote and panel discussion with Sonal Shah, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, who spoke about the federal government’s support for innovative, bottom-up social and community programs. Above is a 2 1/2-minute snippet. Some highlights of her talk:
• She talked about allocating resources toward high-impact models through the Social Innovation Fund that was part of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. The Foundation Center has the details.
• She underscored the need for working across sectors, with the federal government playing a role to bring together nonprofits, the private sector and government agencies.
• Shah also pointed to the need to identify tools to help foster a culture of social innovation. (Perhaps Socialbrite can play a role here.)
I had my hand raised throughout the Q&A session but wasn’t called on. I would have said: Many people in the audience no doubt have some ideas on how to move this agenda of social innovation forward. Aside from the handful of foundations and nonprofits in contact with your office, how can we do so? What’s the best public forum? Where should these conversations be taking place?
I was fortunate to have a press pass to SoCap09 this week, which got me a front row seat for the keynote address by Sonal Shah and panel discussion with Andrew Wolk, Root Cause; Vanessa Kirsch, New Profit; and Carla Javits, REDF, moderated by Jeff Bradach, Bridgespan Group.
Sonal Shah gave an overview of the goals and strategies for the Office of Social Innovation. Nathaniel Whittemore of Change.org, who was sitting next to me, has a great write up of the keynote. Marco Puccia has notes here as well.
If you’re not familiar with the Hub, you should be. In places like Toronto, London, Sao Paulo, Johannesburg, Cairo, Madrid, Stockholm, Bombay and elsewhere, social entrepreneurs, nonprofits and innovators have come together in 18 cities on five continents to collaborate and share resources. (Kevin Jones, who ran this week’s SoCap09 conference and is on the Hub Bay Area’s executive board, invited me to hold the Traveling Geeks’ tweetup at the Hub in London, but it was a bit too small for the gathering.)
The Bay Area has long had the venerable Citizen Space in San Francisco’s SOMA as well as Berkeley Coworking. Now the Hub brings coworking to another level. It’s located at the David Brower Center at 2150 Allston Way near the Downtown Berkeley BART station and across the street from UC Berkeley. The brand new building is one the Bay Area’s most advanced green building, exceeding LEED Platinum certification standards. The building also houses many local social and environmental change organizations. Continue reading →
Last October, 630 people interested in advancing the social good through social entrepreurship flocked to San Francisco for the first Social Capital Markets conference (@socap09 on Twitter).
envisionGood.tv caught up with Kevin Jones, co-founder of the conference (and @kevindoylejones on Twitter) at The Hub in Berkeley, Calif., to get the lowdown on this year’s SoCap, which will bring together leading catalysts of positive social change for a day of learning, knowledge exchange, and connecting in San Francisco on Sept. 1–3.