Over the last 2 months I have been taking my first online education class via Coursera. The course is on Gamification and is taught by Kevin Werbach at the Wharton Business School. It has been an overall positive experience. I encourage others who are interested to check out the course options. Truly Coursera, EdX, Khan Academy and others like them are transforming education. But that is a topic for another time. One of the gamification course segments was on the use of gamification in social impact settings. It was through this section I came to learn about Practically Green. Practically Green is an online platform which is adopts gamification tactics to inspire people to embrace healthy and more sustainable choices at home, at work at in their communities. It is a cool company, that recently was named as a finalist at the Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange (MITX) Innovation Awards. Read on to find out more.
A few weeks back I wrote about Cuyana an interesting social impact business model with a Quechua name. I recently came across another such company listening to a Good Life podcast. This one is called Runa which means “human being” in the native language of the Andes. It is a perfect name since Runa, is a Brooklyn, New York based agribusiness with a grounded human-centered approach to profitably and sustainably make a difference in the world. It does this by providing alternative livelihoods for indigenous Kichwa people in the Ecuadorian Amazon while at the same time providing the US market with a healthy new caffeinated beverage alternative called Guayusa. Runa has grown quickly from its small beginnings of importing the tree-leaf using personal luggage and doing homemade packaging and distribution to family and friends. Today it can now be found across the United States, most notably in the popular Whole Foods supermarket chain. In doing so its approach of bringing business ethic to social work has been praised by Richard Branson’s in his book Screw Business as Usual and its founders have even made their way onto Bloomberg TV. Read on to find out more.
Yesterday I heard a talk from Hult Business School on Greenovations or examples of companies innovating to create a more sustainable world. It profiled various initiatives from the large to the small. It was an interesting talk with many good examples of businesses sustainably incorporating green agenda into their business models. One of the ones which most struck me was a company called BigBelly Solar – a company focused on using big data and machine to machine (M2M) communication to improve our waste management systems. It is a very innovative company which has been featured in the BBC and Forbes Magazine and won accolades such as the World Smart Cities award. Even cooler is when I found out its system has been launched in more than 30 cities worldwide including helping my hometown Philadelphia, PA to save more than $1 million annually and was recently launched in NYC in a big event hosted by Mayor Bloomberg. Read on to find out more.
This week I want to profile a social venture which was shared with me by a reader. Thanks for sharing. I hope more of you will by filling out this online form. The idea is one which was started by a couple who both had a passion for something different – one for women empowerment and the other for clean technologies. But together they shared a passion for making the world a better place and decided to merge their ideas into one common cause. The result was Empower Generation, a non-profit which is spreading clean energy in Nepal one woman at a time. They are still small but growing, to date they have sold 825 solar lights reaching more than 4000 homes in Nepal. They have also been featured in Scientific American and other blogs.
I recently joined The Hub Sao Paulo chapter and in that process I have started to learn about some of the interesting entrepreneurial activity in Brazil. One of the first businesses I came across was Aoka. Aoka is a small eco-tourism company that works at the nexus of intercultural exchange, community development, education and travel. With the central philosophy that people can enjoy and will pay to see the world through different eyes achieving social consciousness and environmental awareness through responsible interactions with other cultures. In addition, it is one of the first Brazilian tour operators with an operational model to effectively measure and neutralize the CO2 emissions produced by its trips. Aoka was also a Ashoka Changemaker awardee in 2009. All good reasons to learn more. Continue reading
I have recently been on a reading kick after adding myself and exploring friends book preferences on Goodreads. So I thought it would be appropriate to profile an interesting American social business venture called Better World Books that focuses on selling recycled books in a responsible way and making enough money to be able to contribute to environmental and social causes. This triple bottom line company is a well-known story having been named by Fast Company as one of the 45 social enterprises that was changing the world and been the subject of a recent Harvard Business School Case Study. So read on to learn more.
A few months ago I had lunch with a few friends at a former classmates new franchise restaurant; Triple O’s in Singapore. The purpose of the lunch – besides eating some delicious burgers – was to meet a visiting entrepreneur from South Africa who was staying with another friend via the couchsurfing community. I was feeling tired that day and almost didn’t make it. But I am glad I did because I got to learn about a wonderful new venture based in Cape Town, South Africa called TrashBack.