Posts Tagged ‘Spring Conference’

4 Ways We Can Catalyze Positive Change

Posted on: May 2nd, 2014 by social venture network No Comments

Written by Kasey Kissick, Social Venture Network, @SVNetwork

Addressing climate change. Confronting malnutrition. Helping veterans heal. Building an equitable workforce. At the 2014 SVN Spring Conference, a speaker series titled “Catalyzing Positive Change” brought together four unique social and environmental issues presented by four fearless leaders: Amy Larkin, Neil Grimmer, Lee Klinger Lesser and Konda Mason. While the topics were diverse, the speakers each shared in their determination to create a more just, humane and sustainable world. Each asked us to think and act in a new way, and each challenged us to stretch ourselves to do more. Taken together, these four speakers left conference attendees inspired and ready to join them in catalyzing positive change.


The Rules of Business and the Laws of Nature

“Nothing except for nature can transform the world as swiftly as can business – for better or for worse.”

The series was kicked off by Amy Larkin, award-winning environmental activist and author of Environmental Debt: The Hidden Costs of a Changing Global Economy. Hailing financial accountants as her biggest heroes, Amy argued for the economic benefits of green business. She reminded us of the financial impacts of recent extreme weather events and also of the sad truth that today’s biggest polluters also make the biggest profits. She made a simple plea: pollution can no longer be free. It can’t be subsidized. From an economic standpoint, it makes no sense. Through working with Greenpeace Solutions, Amy is chipping away at this ‘environmental debt,’ getting 400 of the world’s largest brands to eliminate HFCs from new equipment by 2015 – a move that will reduce 1-2% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. She is also pushing for the use of accelerated depreciation for green infrastructure to promote investments in environmentally friendly business. Amy left us with an excerpt from her book: “Nothing except for nature can transform the world as swiftly as can business – for better or for worse.” She urged us to use it for the greater good.

The Full Effect

10155901_10152265458629733_3789047919441958500_n“Starvation in America isn’t about calories, it’s about nutrition.”

Continuing the series was Neil Grimmer, co-founder and president of Plum Organics, a leading organic kids nutrition company. Since becoming a father, Neil has been on a mission to provide healthy food to his kids and to kids across the nation. Neil explained that the first 36 months of life determine a child’s ability to reach his or her full potential – and nutritious food is a big part of the equation. In the US, 1 in 5 children are hungry. They’re not hungry for calories – but for nutrition. They’re hungry for healthy, nutritious food. Enter Plum Organics – a certified B Corp that produces nutritious organic food for babies and toddlers and also donates to underserved communities across the nation through The Full Effect program. Plum Organics has donated more than ½ million smoothies and 3.5 million snacks to kids in need across the nation, but that’s just scratching the surface. He estimated that 17 billion meals are needed per year, and he challenged the audience to consider day-to-day changes that might bring this number down to create a truly healthy and thriving nation.

Commitment to Self, Commitment to Service: A Healing Path for Veterans

10001356_10152265458804733_4420698937877051990_n“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or even the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around”

The next presentation was lead by Lee Klinger Lesser, co-founder and executive director of Honoring the Path of the Warrior (HPW), a program that helps veterans make positive transitions from military to civilian life. Lee was joined on stage by veteran marine, Megan Lowry, who began her service in 2005 and became an elite guard for president George W. Bush. In a gesture of true strength and perseverance, she spoke despite finding out just days prior that her father, also a veteran, had committed suicide. Megan bravely recounted her story – of being raped by a superior during service, ostracized for reporting the incident, and told that rape and sexual assault are occupational hazards for women in the military. Before finding a supportive community in HPW, she’d struggled with PTSD and attempted suicide four times. Megan told the audience the reason she shares her story is because so many share in her struggle. Twenty-two veterans commit suicide each and every day, and she is determined to change that figure. Lee founded HPW knowing very little about military culture, but recognizing the unique challenges faced by veterans and seeing an area in which she could have true impact through teaching meditation and mindfulness. She’s been leading retreats with HPW since 2007, finding that teaching the veteran community not only provides them with solace, but also saves lives. “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or even the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around” – an anonymous quote shared by Megan on the power of love, support and HPW.

Peak Inequity

1486879_10152265458984733_4834831799801696847_n“Your zip code has more to do with your life expectancy than your genetic code.”

Konda Mason, co-founder and CEO of Impact Hub Oakland, finished the series with a discussion on social equity. She opened with a picture of her 21-year-old godson, Trevor, whose life was cut short by a drive-by shooting on the front porch of his mother’s home in Watts, Los Angeles. In Watts, less than 3% of residents have a 4-year college degree, and it claims the lowest median income and the highest density in all of Los Angeles. So despite Trevor having no involvement in gangs, and being smart, driven, and on the path to success, his life was cut short – just because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Konda told the audience that zip code determines life expectancy more than genetic code, concluding quite simply that “place matters.” While 78% of white males in the US will graduate from high school, only 58% of Latinos and only 52% of black males will do the same. So, “race also matters.” Konda told us that today in the US, most babies are born of color, and in 30 years, the US will be a majority people of color nation. In order to build a future workforce that is educated and equipped to lead the nation, these discrepancies need to be understood, quantified, studied and addressed. And in doing so, we’ll get closer to creating a more just, thriving and sustainable world for generations to come.

The Case for Renewable Energy Simplified into Two Pieces: Oil and Electricity

Posted on: April 30th, 2014 by social venture network No Comments

Written by Kasey Kissick, Social Venture Network, @SVNetwork

“Would you rather die of oil well fires, climate change, nuclear holocaust, or all of the above?” asked a wry Amory Lovins, an internationally acclaimed physicist and co-founder, Chief Scientist and Chairman Emeritis of the Rocky Mountain Institute. At the 2014 SVN Spring Conference, Amory gave his take on the current state of renewable energy in a session titled Reinventing Fire. Prompting both surprise and laughter amongst the crowd with his opening line, he then proceeded to offer the audience another option: “What about none of the above?” What if we could stop using fossil fuels and do away with all the dangers they pose to both humans and the earth? While 90% of America’s energy currently comes from fossil fuels, Amory is confident that we can successfully transition to renewables, we can do it today, and it’s economically sound. According to Amory, switching from coal, oil, and gas to renewables like wind and solar power would save the US $5 trillion. How’s that possible? He broke the argument down into two pieces: oil and electricity.

Amory Lovins 
Oil & Autos

75% of the world’s oil goes to transportation – cars, trucks, buses, ships and planes. The biggest oil sink by far is the automobile industry. Amory methodically walked us through a number of innovations in automobile manufacturing, from design to materials to production processes. He proclaimed the need to “take obesity out of cars,” explaining that most of the energy required to move a car is due to its weight. The introduction of light carbon-fiber materials has made a big difference. The reduction of car parts in the most efficient models to a total of 14 is also a big improvement compared to a normal steel SUV which would use up to 20 times more parts. He hailed the development of electric autos as “game-changing” and likened their invention to the shift from typewriters to computers—highlighting leading manufacturers and models available on the market like Prius, Tesla,Volkswagon and BMW.

Electricity & Efficiency

Just as the bulk of oil fuels transportation, 75% of electricity goes to buildings. In the case of electricity, Amory explained that the biggest problem is waste. Efficiency technologies are actually advancing faster than we can apply them. If we were to implement modern energy-saving technologies across the world, we could quadruple efficiency in buildings and double it in industry. The key is disruptive building design. Amory gave us a glimpse into his ultra efficient home in Snowmass, Colorado, which uses an integrative design that virtually eliminates the need for heating even during the coldest winters. He explained that simply rearranging pumps and motors, insulating walls, swapping out windows, and choosing energy efficient LED light bulbs – a process called retrofitting – can save up to 60% of energy costs. And designing brand new buildings with efficiency in mind can save even more.

What’s Ahead

Amory closed the session by discussing global trends in renewable energy use. Long story short, costs to produce renewables are plummeting and demand to use renewables is rising. He said that by next year, the electricity generated by solar and wind power will exceed that of nuclear power. He also noted China’s rapidly increasing renewable production; in 2012, China generated more wind than nuclear power, and in 2013, the country produced more solar power than the US for the first time. He mentioned the trend toward decentralized energy sources like home solar panels, and he noted that today, a handful of European countries already get up to half of their power from renewable sources. In Amory’s mind, it’s clear that we’ve already reinvented fire. And it’s a fire that’s permanent, plentiful, and inexpensive. The real challenge is and will continue to be working with government and industry to implement these changes. Fortunately, with a ‘carrot’ of trillions of saved dollars, Amory is optimistic people will transition to renewable energy sooner rather than later.

Getting SIYLI: A Compelling Call for a Peaceful World

Posted on: April 28th, 2013 by social venture network No Comments

Guest post by Mike Rowlands, Principal at Junxion Strategy@mrowlands

“Hi. I’m calling from Google. We have a project we’d like you to work on, and we haven’t capped the budget.”

Not a bad way for Marc Lesser, long-time Social Venture Network member, and well-loved resident mindfulness trainer to be launched into his newest venture. Along with his colleague Rich Fernandez, a Senior People Development Lead at Google, Marc shared with SVN’s Spring Conference, gathered this year at Paradise Point resort in San Diego, insights into the content and program that resulted from that amazing phone call a few years ago.

For over three decades, Marc has practiced mindfulness, as steward of a Buddhist monastery who observed that running a business could be a part of his spiritual practice. “Naturally,” he says, “my next step after running a monastery for 10 years was to go and get my MBA.” As a serial entrepreneur, and then a consultant to social ventures, Marc connected to Google through SVN, and it was Chade Meng-Tan, Google’s 107th employee, who called Marc to talk about bringing mindfulness into Google’s employee development programming.

Meng had been fortunate to share in Google’s initial public offering, and looking about at his life, quickly realizing that he no longer needed to worry about money, decided to focus his work and efforts on spreading mindfulness as far and wide as possible, setting his sites on the aspiration to achieve world peace in his lifetime. He and his colleague, Rich, quickly became clear on the starting point: “We can’t create world peace, unless we start with inner peace.” And so began the program that has become the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute.

Designed initially as a seven-week training program for Google employees, SIY draws on the sciences of psychology and brain physiology to each five distinct domains of knowledge: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and leadership. The ultimate goal is to expand the personal capacity of each program participant, along three core practices:

  • Attention-training, which aims to help people find the space between stimulus and emotional response, and notice their capacity to control their responses.
  • Self-mastery, which affords people the opportunity to separate their reactions from their natural response.
  • Changing mental habits, which creates the potential for more considerate, open, and compassionate people.

Fundamental to the program’s design is the science of neuroplasticity—or our own ability to shape the structure of our brain by focusing our attention. Marc cited the famous example of London taxi drivers who must learn ‘The Knowledge’ in order to earn their license to drive London’s iconic black taxis. The knowledge consists of some 25,000 street and location names that must be memorized. On average, each applicant takes four years to learn the material, and twelve tries to pass the exam. Remarkably, MRI exams have recorded significant changes in brain physiology among those who have passed The Knowledge, and the change—growth in particular brain regions—continues as the cabbies work and continue learning more about the city.

Rich explained that through development of higher brain function and mindfulness, we can learn to override the instinctive responses of the amygdala, that portion of the brain responsible for ‘the four Fs’—”fight, flight, feed and f… reproduce.” By learning to calm the mind during moments of perceived (or real) threat, we can learn to create space for productive responses to even the most challenging of situations. This in turn of course gives us opportunity to consider and communicate mutually valuable solutions to our challenges.

After proving the program within Google, a new non-profit, Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute has been formed to disseminate the program more widely, starting with training of individuals inside companies, then moving to teams, and ultimately to a train-the-trainer model.

Many of us were inspired and impressed by how quickly we were able to move from consideration of our own breath, to the confidence-inspiring aspiration to find world peace. Naturally, what is simple in conversation is not at all easy in the real world. But isn’t that the way all great and valuable change happens?… One small breath at a time?

SVN Leaders Explore Future

Posted on: May 11th, 2012 by social venture network No Comments

Members call for global movement, boldness and conviction

Wednesday April 25, 2012 — Camille Jensen

STEVENSON, Wash. – A recent panel conversation celebrating Social Venture Network’s (SVN) 25-year anniversary asked its emerging and founding leaders what their ideal future looks like. Leading the Way: An Intergenerational Conversation about SVN’s Past, Present and Future was part of the network’s spring conference April 19-22 that convened 250 social entrepreneurs, investors, and change-makers in Stevenson, Wash. to connect, learn and collaborate on how to build a just and sustainable economy for the next 25 years.

Moderated by award-winning journalist Laura Flanders, the wide-ranging conversation carried participants on a journey from the founding of SVN to present-day challenges facing the socially responsible business movement and its ideal future.

“If we woke up tomorrow and we won, what would that look like,” Flanders asked the two male and female speakers on stage. Wayne Silby, who helped found SVN 25 years ago, says a new reality needs to start with articulating a bold vision.

According to Silby, the public good has been robbed not only by Wall Street but ideologues who control the conversation. He remembers recently sitting down to dinner with Bill Gates Sr., father of Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who said his son wouldn’t be the richest man in the world if he was born in Ethiopia.

Part of a forward-looking vision could be reinterpreting the role of people who have wealth beyond their means as stewards and trustees of a public good. “We need to be more bold in putting out concepts that help create the new stories, the new tales and the new mythologies,” said Silby.

Green For All CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins agreed with Silby, adding she’s ready to be bold. She says boldness comes from a conviction that change is possible in our lifetime. To give an example of how fast things can change, Ellis-Lamkins points to the stark contrast in political debates now and during the last United States presidential election.

“Four years ago we were in a debate between presidential candidates who said ‘Who could create the most green jobs?’ and four years later they’re having a debate about whether global warming is actually real,” says Ellis-Lamkins. “That just shows you that shift is fundamentally possible if you believe it.”

Fellow SVN founder Josh Mailman called on progressive movements to leave their silos in order to create massive change. “We need a global movement and I think we need to feel ourselves as part of a global movement,” said Mailman, adding that’s the reason many people join SVN. “It’s up to everyone to do their part, and invite more people into their circles” said Mailman.

Executive director of YES! Shilpa Jain was able to share what she’s seeing from her work engaging dozens of communities around the world in visualizing their future. “The most amazing thing is that despite the diversity, despite the differences between all these different people, people say more or less the same thing,” she says. “We see green, we see abundance, we see people living more slowly, more leisurely. We see more play, we see more joy, we see more connections. “We see being to learn and contribute in ways that are meaningful to us. We see an economy that is feeding us on all levels, spiritually, emotionally as well as economically and financially.”