Posts Tagged ‘Mal Warwick’

An Open Letter to Larry Page

Posted on: March 28th, 2014 by social venture network No Comments

Guest post from SVN member Mal Warwick, Business Solution to Poverty, @MalWarwick

Dear Larry,

Paul Polak speaks about commercialization and scale at Cornell University

In your recent conversation with Charlie Rose at TED, you said you’d rather hand over your cash to Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, Solar City) instead of donating it to a philanthropic organization. I understand the sentiment. The nonprofit sphere has generally proved itself incapable of solving many of society’s most intractable problems. In particular, 2.7 billion people left behind in the most extreme poverty—40% of the world’s population, living on $2 per day or less—while global wealth concentrates in fewer and fewer hands, putting humanity on an unsustainable course.

But for all of us, it’s a practical challenge, not just a guilt trip. The poor drive the population explosion with high birth rates; they represent a catastrophic waste of human talent; they contribute to global warming through deforestation, habitat destruction, and systemically wasteful use of the planet’s resources. Meanwhile the poor partake only minimally in the market economy that enriches the rest of us.

Poverty’s persistence, despite hundreds of billions in nonprofit and NGO resources vaporized trying to “solve” it, remains one of humanity’s greatest failures.

But poverty can be ended—in precisely the way you suggest—by designing and deploying a new breed of for-profit business that address critical human needs while making a profit.

downloadI offer Google an audacious challenge: select a region or a country with a population of, say, 100 million, which has a huge endemic poverty rate—perhaps in South Asia or sub-Saharan Africa—and bring Google’s resources to bear on a project to end poverty decisively in that region in 15 years. And you wouldn’t have to give away a dime, just invest. The result? A model for ending poverty planet-wide.

I’d like to suggest a framework for deploying a set of these new breed businesses based on my thirty years of work using market mechanisms in some of the world’s poorest countries to launch 20 million people permanently out of poverty.

The key to meeting this challenge is to build businesses in the target region around a common core of enabling technologies you already have at hand, including:

  • Low-cost or no-cost ubiquitous wireless connectivity in the region (Project Loon, etc.)
  • A set of relatively low-tech Android devices, emphasizing text-to-speech and speech-to-text alternatives, to create digital access for the illiterate
  • A generation of ultra-low cost digital devices emphasizing ruggedness, replaceable batteries, and low power consumption
  • A fair, secure, and very low-cost ubiquitous micro-payment system

Carried by that core, incubate a suite of rapidly scalable businesses that address critical needs of the ultra-poor, including:

  • Distributed healthcare, including low-cost diagnostics and treatment of curable diseases at the village level
  • A village “power station” driven by radically affordable solar, which provides low carbon-emission energy to recharge batteries, pump irrigation water, power post-harvest processing, and support LED-based home electricity
  • A high-quality pay-as-you-go childhood education system, drawing on digital resources such as Khan Academy and priced at $4 to $6 per month per child
  • Agricultural information services delivered digitally which are proven to raise incomes and nutrition levels dramatically among small-hold farmers
  • Companies to distribute safe drinking water, upgrade and build new housing, rationalize food distribution, provide insurance and financial services, and possibly many others: the opportunities seem endless.

Designing businesses that address the critical needs of poor populations while turning a profit has been the focus of my life for the last 30 years. There are numerous examples of this type of initiative, some of which I have started personally. They all treat the poor as partners and customers, rather than victims and helpless consumers of charity

I would be very happy to sit down with you personally to explore these ideas. In 30 minutes I can explain to you simply and directly how you could make this vision work.  Bringing it about would be a strategic accomplishment for Google, and it would put the world on a steady upward path much more surely than hoping we can colonize Mars. Google could pioneer this effort and make a profit by doing so.


Paul R. Polak

Author, The Business Solution to Poverty: Designing Products and Services for Three Billion New Customers

A Litmus Test for Entrepreneurs: Social Venture Network Continues to Inspire

Posted on: May 14th, 2013 by social venture network No Comments

Guest post by Joe Sibilia, CEO of CSRwire

The Social Venture Network [SVN] is one of the most underrated value propositions operating in the new economy. SVN has spawned so many organizations that trying to identify and qualify all the Network’s contributions to the movement toward a more economically just and environmentally sustainable society almost always leads to immense debate.

The number of enterprises that have germinated at SVN – and scaled their missions successfully since – would certainly qualify for a textbook. But, they don’t serve fools lightly.

An Innovation Hub for Startups

At one time, I was the longest serving Board member of SVN (before term limits and accountable bylaws). Before Mal Warwick and many others formalized and created the infrastructure for capacity building, SVN was spawning organizations through the intensity of their members’ interests. If there was energy and enthusiasm, a new organization, NGO or company was founded. Some of the organizations incubated at SVN include BSR, Net ImpactBALLE, and Investors Circle. Startups funded at SVN would certainly fill another volume.

Despite its contributions though, SVN has not received the credit it deserves. Over the years, as companies dithered on where they stood with corporate social responsibility and sustainability, SVN grew as the litmus test for innovative ideas. People with the most interesting, provocative, ‘outside Social venture networkthe box’ thinking, creative and courageous propositions had a voice at SVN. Many of these voices found comfort, confidence and camaraderie during an SVN conference.

Often, SVN was described as the ‘vanguard,’ facilitating the voices of the voiceless.

In the beginning, there was a consistent  ‘spiritual’ component to SVN led by Ram Dass, an American contemporary spiritual teacher and the author of Be Here Now.  Following Ram Dass’ stroke, the 2008 financial crisis and changes among the Board, the organization drifted away from its roots. For a while, the concept of integrating business, spirituality and community was lost as a focus.

However, as the economy gets back on surer footing and there is a renewed focus across businesses about their social and environmental footprints, it seems, spirituality, in the name of mindfulness and meditation, is back at SVN.

Albeit, this time it is being supported by scientific evidence and research, suggesting that a more conscious, mindful, and reflective business environment actually makes an organization better and more efficient.

Connecting Spirituality With Business and Community

Today, science is suggesting that we can actually change our minds to reflect a more positive outcome. The brain is elastic and will respond to positive and negative emotions. Once we are conscious that we can change for the better – we can and do change.

At this year’s conference, Mark Lesser and other executives from Google shared that the most popular Google internal course is not Search Engine Optimization or Engineering In An Era of Social Media but one quirkily titled ‘Search Inside Yourself’: a course that teaches Google employees how to meditate, Social venture networkclear their head, be conscious and ultimately realize that we are all connected and everything they or their company does, affects us all.

We’re on a spinning ball of energy temporarily disconnected by our own ignorance.  And, when we realize we are all related, we will begin to make decisions that affect the entire planet and not just our little world of consciousness. The lines between spirituality, business and community will be blurred.  Feeding our pockets, our soul and our community will be the combined focus.

Even though SVN lacks a spiritual compass today, it continues to lead the way in innovative thinking and must reestablish the connection between business, spirit and community on a consistent basis. I’m hopeful.

Finally, a word to all the other conferences.

The Hospitality Suite

The soul of SVN manifests itself in a place called the Hospitality Suite, run by Rob Thomas of Social(k) and Scott Leonard and Matt Reynolds, founders of clothier Indigenous Designs. The Suite is a place open 24 hours during the conference, supported by SVN members, and provides a safe space for conversations between attendees. In fact, many members have told me that the four hours between midnight and 4am are the best times to forge new relationships. Think of the Hospitality Suite as SVN’s version of the four-hour golf game.

Have you considered hosting a Hospitality Suite? If you are creating a community at your event, consider a non-judgmental place where new, controversial, provocative and innovative expressions are met with acceptance and love. You might meet a new friend, an instigator, an investor, a collaborator or just hear some interesting music or poetry.

It’s a good vibe that inspires.

View the original article on CSRwire

Guest Blogger Mal Warwick Offers a Resource for Social Entrepreneurs

Posted on: June 29th, 2012 by social venture network No Comments

Written By Mal Warwick, One World Futbol Project

Here are the books, periodicals, blogs, websites, and organizations I’ve come across in exploring the field of social enterprise. This is by no means a comprehensive list (although, so far as I can tell, it’s longer than any other I’ve found). And I haven’t read everything here or engaged with all the websites or organizations in the list — though I’m working on it.

I’ve boldfaced those items with which I am personally familiar and recommend as good sources of information and insight about social entrepreneurship. The books I’ve reviewed in this blog are linked to their reviews.


Bryan Bell, Editor, Good Deeds, Good Design: Community Service Through Architecture (2004)

David Bornstein, How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, Updated Edition (2007)

The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank (1997, 2005)

— and Susan Davis, Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know (2010)

Ben Cohen and Mal Warwick, Values-Driven Business: How to Change the World, Make Money, and Have Fun (2006)

Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven,Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day (2009)

Jim Collins, Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great (2005)

Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant, Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits, 2nd Edition (2008, 2012)

J. Gregory Dees, Jed Emerson, and Peter Economy, Strategic Tools for Social Entrepreneurs: Enhancing the Performance of Your Enterprising Nonprofit (2002)

Cheryl L. Dorsey and Lara Galinsky, Be Bold (2006)

John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan, The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World (2008)

Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, Reverse Innovation: Create Far From Home, Win Everywhere (2012)

Adam Hochschild, Bury The Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves (2006)

Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World (2003)

Paul Charles Light, The Search for Social Entrepreneurship (2008)

Kevin Lynch and Julius Walls, Jr., Mission, Inc.: The Practitioner’s Guide to Social Enterprise (2008)

Pavithra Mehta, Infinite Vision: How Aravind Became the World’s Greatest Business Case for Compassion (2011)

Jacqueline Novogratz, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World (2009)

Paul Polak, Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail (2009)

C. K. Prahalad, Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, Revised and Updated(2004, 2009)

Beverly Schwartz, Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World (2012)

Rupert Scofield, The Social Entrepreneur’s Handbook: How to Start, Build, and Run a Business That Improves the World (2011)

Cynthia E. Smith, Design for the Other 90% (2009)

Social Enterprise Alliance, Succeeding at Social Enterprise: Hard-Won Lessons for Nonprofits and Social Entrepreneurs (2010)

Wilford Welch, Tactics of Hope: How Social Entrepreneurs Are Changing Our World (2008)

Muhammad Yunus, Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism (2008)


Stanford Social Innovation Review (Stanford University),

Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization (MIT),


Evan Carmichael’s Top 30 Social Entrepreneurship Blogs to Watch in 2012,

Skoll Foundation Social Edge,


World Resource Institute’s,


Alltop’s Social Entrepreneurship Coverage,

Catalyst Fund’s Social Business blog,,

E-180′s Top  25 Social Entrepreneurship Websites,


Institute for Social Entrepreneurs,

Ashoka: Innovators for the Public,

Echoing Green,

Skoll Center for Social Entrepreneurship (Oxford University),

Social Venture Network

Social Enterprise Alliance,

Net Impact

University Network for Social Entrepreneurship,


Bainbridge Graduate Institute,

Center for Responsible Business, Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley,

Center for Social Innovation, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University,

Presidio School of Management,

Babson College, MBA in Entrepreneurship,

Marlboro College Graduate School, MBA in Sustainability,

Also see Aspen Institute rating of top 30 SUStainable MBA programs,

Deconstructing The Self-Made Myth

Posted on: May 15th, 2012 by social venture network No Comments

Written by Evan Coller, Social Venture Network

A paneled discussion transformed into a plan for rightful action Saturday April 21 at the SVN 2012 Annual Member Gathering. The focal point of the discussion was Mike Lapham‘s new book The Self-Made Myth, co-authored by Brian Miller, which deconstructs the valued Conservative ideal that success is self-made.

Mal Warwick, a panelist for the discussion, describes The Self-Made Myth as a narrative for people who appreciate the services of government. This downward spiral of low taxes and little growth shows that the marketplace may be essential, but it is not perfect.

During the discussion Mike literally deconstructed the myth, using his display to illustrate the fallacy of the self-made man.

Each box revealed a factor that contributes to success. The first three show the power of the individual. Hard Work,is at the core of every success story, and is usually the one people are comfortable boasting about.Privilege and Head Starts are equally important, but the power relationship between the corporate community, political leaders and the social upper-class is rarely mentioned by the priveledged. And Luck and Timing is, well, luck and timing. Yet the relevance and importance of the rest: Contributions of Others, Public Education(public libraries, schools, grants and loans), Investments and Opportunity (Pell Grants, GI Bill, state universities, Peace Corps), Publically Funded Research (DARPA, Internet, Teflon, Human Genome Project), Infrastructure & Transportation (roads, bridges, planes), Regulations (such as in the food industry) and Courts, Laws, Patents are often forgotten. Mike successfully makes his point that the importance of the government is overlooked.

An honest presentation, it was quickly received. With the collective intelligence and competency that commonly fills the room at SVN gatherings, it was easy for the discussion to shift from an insightful lecture to a rally for action.  As the man with the microphone, Mike asked attendees to take a pledge for tax fairness. Other guides for action were also brought to the table by those in attendance. For example the Smart Strategy Initiative, provoking new discourse for the 21st century, and the National Priorities Project, offering a new perspective on our national budget and the tax structure.

For more insight on Mike’s work, and ideas on how to take action on tax reform visit his webpage Responsible Wealth.

SVN 2012 Annual Member Gathering Discussion: Deconstructing the “Self-Made” Myth: How Wealth is Really Created, and Why it Matters