Global Social Venture

Yesterday, Cynthia and I enjoyed a day in Berkeley at 2007 Global Social Venture Symposium – an exploration of business enterprise that drives meaningful social change. The discussions focused on a diverse collection of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists successfully leveraging capital and commerce to effect social good.

MBA schools are realizing a need to augment the traditional “bottom-line” approach to business. Some have dubbed this emerging model the “double bottom line” – with profits benefiting both investors and the common good. The GSV Symposium shows that DBL economics is not only working, but thriving.

GSV included a competition in which 157 entrepreneurs from 20 countries presented business plans which promote profitable social ventures. Entrants are judged on their venture’s DBL impact. One winner is a start-up called Dlight – a maker of LED lighting resources for rural families still using candles and kerosene lamps (over 2 billion people). D-light will cut rural lighting costs by nearly 80% while greatly improving family health and safety.

Another competition winner, Revolution Foods, has already launched their venture of providing healthy meals and nutritional education to lower income public school children. As I know from my son’s experience, K-12 nutrition is somewhat of an oxymoron. Revolution’s private-sector model delivers far healthier foods at competitive costs – with resultant drops in nutrition-related health care costs.

Entrepreneurs were everywhere at this conference, and the creative energy was electric. Keynote speaker Majora Carter (who will also be at the Q Conference in two weeks) got us started by showing how one person with vision can impact an entire city (NYC) for the common good. If you click on any link on this post, make it Majora’s TED talk. You will be deeply moved.

Magatte Wade-Marchand described her life growing up in Senegal where each morning her family would share a cup of tea made from local herbs, followed by lunch with a tall beverage made from Hibiscus flowers. Magatte went off to school in Europe and returned to Senegal some years later. Upon her return, she found that the traditional beverages had been replaced with corporate products such as Nescafe, Coke, and Fanta, and that many of the rural farmers growing herbs and flowers for traditional beverages had been displaced.

Saddened and motivated by this cultural shift, Magatte started a company called Adina which sustains traditional regional farming and foods. Her business is now thriving and positively impacting hundreds of small farmers in the poorest regions of the planet.

So much more to say, but I’ll end here with some links to other inspiring stories of successful social ventures from GSV:

World of Good

RecycleBank

Living Goods

Another great resource providing a virtual-visionary approach to social capitalism can be found at XIGI founded by Kevin Jones and Mark Beam. Kevin moderated one of our discussions at GVC and it was great to meet him there.


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