17 Organizations

International Precedents Examined:

List of International Precedents:
Q Drum – Kevin
One Laptop per Child – Alex N
Embrace Infant Warmer – Alex P
Project M_ Frog – Tommy
Paso Pacifico – Liz
Toms Shoes – Pierre
Made By Survivors – Sue
Vision Spring – Ji Youn
Root Cause – Angela
Design Ignites Change / World Studio – David
The Reboot – Leah
Project H – Tess
Barefoot College – Sarah
Rural Studio – Stephanie
Catch a Fire – Natalie
Root Capitol/Acumen Fund – Deesha
Kiva.org – Gabriella



Innovative Enterprises: 3 Ways

Commentary in response to…

The Power of Unreasonable People

by John Elkington

Sometimes, it takes a bit of thinking outside of the box to shift the current paradigm. When things are done differently – and successfully – people take notice. Once change in thinking becomes more established, previously unreasonable people may come to be seen as reasonable people, and the anomaly may integrate into the norm, and thus be an anomaly no longer. But for now, these models for innovation are unusual, inspiring, and worthy of careful consideration. We may all learn a great deal about possibility and opportunity by understanding how unreasonable people have found unusual means to solve formidable problems.

All three versions of innovative enterprises, as described by Elkington, hone in on social or environmental causes that market has not adequately addressed. The way in which they structure their organization or business around these causes varies, as described below:

1: Leveraged nonprofit

This innovative enterprise is supported by outside sources and aids those most in need, driving change that is geared toward creating longer term sustainability, rather than providing a temporary solution. The financial sustainability of these entities is largely dependent upon the contributions of other organizations. This category never moves into profit-making. Once it does, it becomes another type of innovative enterprise, as described below.

2. Hybrid nonprofit

Some nonprofits become integrated into the for profit system over time, as investors and movers and shakers become involved. For these entities, making a profit is not out of the question, and although they receive aid from outside sources, they evolve to create their own financial sustenance. These entities are better able to ensure their continuation because they are not entirely dependent upon the giving of others. They have options that enable them to cycle financial benefit back to themselves, and to the people they serve through their own efforts. These organizations are in a strong position, as they have the option of financial support both from within, and from without.

3: Social business

Social businesses, unlike the previous two, are designed and intended to be for profit from the outset. They create a business model that enables them to investing profit back into the causes they support. Rather than depending upon others for financial support, they manifest themselves as a sustainable, independent business entity. They partner with others in the business world who are, like them, interested in combining financial and social returns. These businesses never operate to create profit for the sake of wealth or decadence. They operate to create a powerful independent force for change that is not subject to the generosity of others. This type of innovative business is generally easier for mainstream people to understand, as it fits into what people know. Because this model is one that businesspeople all over the world are familiar with and comfortable with, they are more likely to become integrated into the dominant, more accepted system through partnerships and collaborations with other for profit businesses.

These three models for innovative conscious enterprises are not static, in that a business or organization can morph from one to another, and skate the areas in between. The common thread between all of these, however is their focus on social or ecological betterment, and the necessity to raise the funding and access the resources required for their basic function, and hopefully, furthermore, for their growth and ultimate success.

No Waste Brewing

Commentary in response to…

Brewing a future: Zero Emissions in Namibia

A southern African brewery spawns a chicken farm, a fish farm, a mushroom plantation, a Spirulina plantation, an earthworm farm, jobs, and hope

by Keto Mshigeni & Gunter Pauli

“In natural systems, there is no such thing as waste. Everything that’s excreted, exhaled, or exhausted from one organism is used by another. Some of the most innovative industrial designers are following nature’s model and turning waste into valuable by-products.”

All over the world, physical products are being created. Resources are being altered, shifted into another form, and sold. Processes are chosen for the creation of these valuable products. Cycling the biproducts of production back into a useful form or role is rarely integrated into planning as a priority. Gradually, examples all over the globe are showing that production can be undertaken without creation of harmful or useless waste. There is almost always a better way, and a viable option, for recycling waste – literally.

Recycling isn’t just for plastic bottles or aluminum cans. There are many natural substances that are created during the brewing process, for example, can create opportunity rather than inconvenience after the actual  product – beer – has been made.

In Namibia, Namibia Breweries has accomplished the creation of a fantastically productive ecosystem, entirely inspired by the particular waste elements yielded by the brewing process. Rather than seeing these biproducts as waste, George Chan, a civil engineer from Mauritius, saw them as chances to support processes that would produce food for the Namibian people.

Now, due to a powerful change in perspective, rather than having a great mass of materials that create a problem, Namibia now has a course of valuable raw materials that are perfectly tailored to provide protein rich and valuable foods. A great deal of time and energy can be invested in waste removal. May all people, businesses, an countries take Namibia Breweries as an example: question what it means to be waste. What is really waste? Is it truly useless, or is it a valuable resource that might simply be overlooked because of circumstance and perspective?

Spirulina, mushrooms, chicken, and fish are much more valuable than alkaline water and spent grain. Is the creative channeling of resources the alchemy of our day? Perhaps so. All it takes is a little dreaming, creativity, and the will to believe that we might be able to turn a mundane item into gold.

Precedent: Paso Pacifico

Over the past week, the studio as a collective has investigated 17 organizations that fit into the social entrepreneurship category.

My investigation focused primarily on Paso Pacifico. Paso Pacifico is a nonprofit based in California, but primarily active on the southwestern coast of Nicaragua. The following infographics both describe some of their more notable activities and accomplishments – and compare Paso Pacifico to another similar nonprofit in Madagascar: Ho Avy.




Paso Pacifico is a 401(c)3 nonprofit focused on reinstating the ecological integrity of the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, namely, the Paso del Istmo, a narrow ribbon of land between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean. Paso Pacifico relies on the generosity of donors and donor organizations to provide the support it needs to revitalize and bring integrity back into the Paso del Istmo’s economy and natural environment – both marine and terrestrial. Research, species protection, education, and reforestation are primary to this venture and its purpose.

Comparison to Other Organizations

Compared to the other 17 organizations and businesses explored by the studio, Paso Pacifico is heavily driven by environmental protection and species preservation. No other organization has as pronounced and diverse activity in these areas.

Paso Pacifico is a leveraged nonprofit. Its funding comes from the generosity of outside sources. It does not create profit on its own, although it does train and empower women to run their own ecotourism businesses as “enviro-preneurs”. Some indirect profit comes from this sector, although that profit is isolated within particular seed businesses that resulted from Paso Pacifico’s efforts to support local environmentally friendly businesses that both support the local people and exposes locals – and tourists – to experiences that encourage them to understand, protect, and value their natural surroundings.

Paso Pacifico, in my opinion, is most like Barefoot College, another leveraged nonprofit. Via education and financial support, Barefoot College, based in India, educates impoverished populations so that they may empower themselves. They provide education, skill development, health, drinking water, electricity, and empower women through a model based largely on solar power as a foundation. Paso Pacifico also uplifts poorer populations also in many ways, via incentive programs, education, etc. Barefoot College has created a productive, lively, and capable workforce out of a population that many in the elite in India previously viewed as incapable and unremarkable. Yet via the support and opportunities provided by Barefoot College, some of the poorest people in India have accomplished some of the most amazing things, even those thought previously impossible, like installing the first hand pumps in a village 14,000 feet high in the Himalayas. Barefoot College students were able to accomplish this feat, although established engineers had previously described it as impossible. Similar things are happening via Paso Pacifico. In both cases, populations that were previously distrusted by the government or undervalued are now not only more productive and self-supporting… they are also creating better living conditions and supporting healthier, increasingly revitalized ecosystems.

Soc/Ent: A Definition

By recognizing seeds of opportunity in the deficiencies of the current system, social entrepreneurs strive to create positive and enduring social and/or environmental changes via the birthing and implementation of an economically and socially sustainable approach, by which an individual or group is empowered to address significant problems in bold and potentially revolutionary ways.

4 Articles: Reflection / Response

The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur  

by David Borenstein

This article reflects upon a widespread shift that has been happening gradually over the past decade. Social structures are very different from what they were several decades ago, and along with innovations and political shifts, a grand opportunity has arisen for the everyday person to make creative and effective social change when faced with urgent problems. Rather than political and financial leaders heading up change, the everyday person is now more and more frequently using creative means to solve problems by bringing people together in the name of a common and worthy goal. I agree wholeheartedly with the message of this article. It encapsulates beautifully a movement that has been birthed by a world with higher speed information sharing, larger population than ever, and bigger, more complex social environmental problems than ever before. As the article says, “…how do we find, elicit, nurture, and harness the talents of millions of potential change-makers for the greatest good?” There is power in numbers, and many people coming together to solve a problem that is truly important, and for which they feel passion, is likely to effect change more powerfully than one politician making a choice in relative isolation. We need to encourage and support change makers at every level of society. Sometimes, the person who was elected, or who has the most money, doesn’t have the perspective and drive needed to truly address important social problems… and sometimes, a mother of two living on a meager salary might have exactly what it takes.

Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition

by Roger L. Martin and Sally Osberg

Social entrepreneurship is closely akin to other practices – namely, entrepreneurship, social service, and social activism. This article argues that the definition and role of social entrepreneurship in particular should not be diluted, so that it can be taken seriously and so that it stands strong on its own, as a unique category of practice and action. I agree that it would muddy the waters to blur the boundaries of what the term means, and that it is most useful to maintain a clear delineation between social entrepreneurship and other practices. As the article states, entrepreneurship is a noun that is modified by the descriptor, “social”. If social entrepreneurship is going to be talked about, if it is going to happen, and if it is going to lead to major changes in our society and the way humanity functions – which is already the case – then it is certainly, in my opinion, highly preferable that it be maintained as a unique and strong term, representing a unique and strong way of addressing pressing social issues.

Reshaping Social Entrepreneurship

by Paul Light

The message of this article, in a nutshell, is that social entrepreneurship has been too narrowly defined, and that this narrow definition is limiting potential in the field. Rather than including a variety of types of manifestation, the current definition, according to the author, has focused on the type of manifestation that involves one charismatic individual with a revolutionary idea that yields significant positive social change. The author argues that support, training, and recognition for not only these individuals, but for groups and organizations, is preferred. I have to agree. My previous understanding of social entrepreneurship was not limited to the idea of one exceptional person who makes change, but included an exceptional group, going through an exceptional and innovative process, to make change. I see no use in narrowly defining what social entrepreneurship is. In my opinion, it is the process, the potential, the intention, and the struggle toward an honorable outcome that should be focused upon. Often, as the saying goes, two heads are better than one. It is a tendency of our culture to focus on individual stars, but when it comes to making revolutionary change, it happens just as often within a group or organizations, as it does via one individual with an incredible idea. I also echo what this article says about the idea versus its success or failure. A good idea may fail several times before it takes off – and cutting out the idea and the origin of that idea because the initial result was not great success – is unfortunate. We should value the process and the ideas, catalogue them, honor them, and build upon all we have to make positive change, and to honor those who are a part of that process, in whatever form.

The Meaning of “Social Entrepreneurship”

by J. Gregory Dees

This article explores the very basic definition of entrepreneurship, then explores various theories from various sources regarding proposed definitions for social entrepreneurship in particular. After a discussion of important delineations between business and social entrepreneurship, among other things, a complex definition is offered, which is then analyzed part-by-part. Bold action, bravery, and personal drive are highlighted as key qualities possessed by a social entrepreneur. Motivation connection to creating permanent or lasting social change is also key, along with pushing boundaries both in relation to financial practices and potential failures / successes. I feel the information provided here is very high quality, gives a good foundation and offers some great options for definitions from different sources. I resonate with the definition offered. I feel that the bravado and the forging forward despite financial limitations may be slightly overdone or overemphasized, but perhaps not. It does take a brave and persistent soul to make real change happen. This article focuses on the idea of an individual social entrepreneur for the most part, and does not go into the idea of social entrepreneurship within a larger framework, or that may occur as a result of group thinking. But this was written in 1998, and social entrepreneurship and the discussion around its definition and its boundaries has evolved quite a bit since then.