Recent Readings: “How to Change the World,” by David Bornstein

How to Change the World

David Bornstein chronicles social entrepreneurs around the world in efforts to capture the spirit of Ashoka’s galvanizing Innovators for the Public

“Changing a system means changing attitudes, expectations, and behaviors. It means overcoming disbelief, prejudice, and fear. Old systems do not readily embrace new ideas or information; defenders of the status quo can be stubbornly impervious to common sense.” (47) “There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.” (Niccoló Machiavelli as quoted in Bornstein, 47) “An idea will not move from the fringes to the mainstream simply because it is good; it must be skillfully marketed before it will actually shift people’s perceptions and behavior.” (93)

According to Ashoka, social entrepreneurs assume the same ambition, tenacity and a for-profit “regular” entrepreneur, but work toward within the citizen sector. Social entrepreneurs work to improve an entire system. So, what makes someone a social entrepreneur by Ashoka standards? The person’s visions, determination, and ethics. The candidate must also successfully address the “how-tos.” How to use local pressures to solve a problem? How to overcome cultural obstacles? How to train others to do work? (122). The key is that this all takes time, experience, and relentlessness. Some other considerations include:

  1. Creativity – does this person have a history of creatively setting goals and creatively problem solving?
  2. Entrepreneurial Quality – does this person have an obsession to understand and solve the problem?
  3. Social Impact of the Idea – how many people will this idea affect?
  4. Ethical Fiber – do you intrinsically trust the person?

Best Practices of a Social Entrepreneur

  1. Putting the Children in Charge. Just like teaching children is different than teaching children, it is important to understand the fundamental differences of the beneficiary. “Like so many other social entrepreneurs, [Tateni] found that youth tended to be overlooked when problems needed to be solved. [The NPO] found them to be competent, less judgmental than adults, and always eager to help.” (200)
  2. Enlisting “Barefoot” Professionals. Favor flexible models and commonsense citizens to reach the target under-served market and put knowledge immediately where it needs to be. An example of this: Grameen Bank.
  3. Designing New Legal Frameworks for Environmental Reform. A highlighted example from the book was Bill Drayton’s work with the EPA. Instead of forcing corporations to succumb to EPA regulations, he chose to “make it more attractive for business to fight pollution than to fight the EPA.” (56)
  4. Helping Small Producers Capture Greater Profits. The target group may not always be factory laborers, but rather rural farmers. This “informal” economy can be helped by changing the “value-added chain” through changes in capital or market relations. (156) An additional example of this: Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA).
  5. Linking Economic Development and Environmental Reform. “Social entrepreneurs typically find that they cannot address one problem without addressing the other.” Focusing on organic produce, for those that cannot afford high cost, chemically intensive competitors, farmers can take advantage of environmental and economic benefit. (158) An example of this: European Centre for Ecological Agriculture and Tourism (ECEAT).
  6. Unleashing Resources in the Community You Are Serving. An example of thisComitê para Democratização of Information Technology (CID), founded by Rodrigo Baggio in Brazil.
  7. Linking the Citizen, Government, and Business Sectors for Comprehensive Solutions. Cross-sectoral strategy can work wonders – just consider International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) that works like a nonprofit venture capital firm, investing in labs and providing scientific support but also requiring the vaccines created are made available at low cost in developing countries. 

Best Practices of Innovative Organizations

  1. Institutionalize Listening – make it mutually exclusive. Sharing the Things We Have (Poland) highlights how exchanging a farmer’s experience with an urban buyer can be mutually exclusive (farmers want a new market and urbanites are interested in a reprieve). (205)
  2. Pay Attention to the Exceptional – listen to unexpected information.
  3. Design Real Solutions for Real People – get people to actually use the product.
  4. Focus on the Human Qualities – hire the right people and manage them well. Grameen Bank does not screen based on academic majors or previous bank experience. In fact, the Bank looks for people without banking experience because it allows the new hires to see faults and improve systems based on functionality and rationality. (212)

Qualities of Successful Social Entrepreneurs

“The most successful entrepreneurs were not necessarily more confident, persistent, or knowledgeable. The key differences had more to do with the quality of their motivation. The most successful entrepreneurs were the ones most determined to achieve a long-term goal that was deeply meaningful to them. Accordingly, they tended to be more systematic in the way they searched for opportunities, anticipated obstacles, monitored results, and planned ahead. They were more concerned with quality and efficiency and more committed to the people they employed and engaged with in business or as partners. Finally, they valued long-term considerations over short-term gain.” (238) “[Bornstein] assumed that social entrepreneurs would be motivated by altruism. But social entrepreneurs are not selfless. If anything, they are self-more in the sense that they heed their instincts, follow their desires, and aggressively pursue their ambitions.” (287)

  1. Willingness to Self-Correct. “The inclination to self-correct stems from the attachment to a goal rather than to a particular approach or plan.” (238)
  2. Willingness to Share Credit.
  3. Willingness to Break Free of Established Structures.
  4. Willingness to Cross Disciplinary Boundaries. Breaking free of limiting structures and assumptions, social entrepreneurs can be flexible in order to maximize options and influence.
  5. Willingness to Work Quietly. Building baseline support and a grassroots network outside the realms of inherited or purchased influence yields a strong foundation.
  6. Strong Ethical Impetus. The “why” provides the motivation based on ethics.

Harnessing the Power and Keen Intellect of Social Entrepreneurs through Blueprint Copying and Ashoka’s Mosaic Initiatives

  1. Identify General Patterns that Explains Social Entrepreneurial Success
  2. Focus on Patterns that Open Doors for Worker in Similar Fields
  3. Spread Principles Across Field’s Practitioners via the Diamond Strategy

“The test in each case is: Do we have universally empowering principles that would open major new advances to all practitioners? Do we see the jujitsu point [the point of maximum leverage]?” (Bill Drayton as quoted in Bornstein, 265). “Social entrepreneurs who are obsessed with spreading their ideas are obliged over time to eliminate aspects of their work that depend on their personal involvement or are designed only for particular locations or situations. If an approach is too complicated to teach, too expensive to disseminate, too politically contentious, or too context-sensitive, it must be made simpler, cheaper, less partisan, and more generally applicable. Otherwise it will not change society. It is the entrepreneur’s need to achieve major impact that leads to the years of experimentation and adjustments that culminate in a blueprint.” (266)

Why the need for social entrepreneurs? “The social arena does not enjoy the easy market signals that a business does. Unlike businesses, unproductive citizen organizations don’t get forced into bankruptcy. If they continue to raise funds, they can plod along ineffectually for decades. [However,] because it is inherently difficult to measure social value creation, funders and practitioners in the citizen sector historically have shied away from any attempt to compare the performance of organizations. As a result… the sector suffers from a serious ‘capital allocation’ problem.” (277) Metrics should play a role, but we cannot forget that numbers can give inaccurate illusions of truth. Analysts must provide in-depth, qualitative assessment of the organization.

Here are the nonprofit organizations (NPOs) featured in this book:

  • Pro Lu (Rural Electrification in Brazil), Fábio Rosa

“‘Installment buying literally transforms economies,’ notes Peter Drucker. ‘Wherever introduced, it changes the economy of supply-driven to demand-driven, regardless of the productive level of the economy.’ Consider that 2 billion people… are currently without electricity and half of them could afford solar power at commercial prices today if they had the opportunity to rent it or pay it off in installments. Bringing electricity to remote rural areas around the globe would not only transform economies, it would transform education and healthcare. It would transform agriculture. Access to electricity is often a precondition for farmers… Global rural electrification also would relieve the population stress on the world’s megacities, reducing the urban discontent that is so easily exploited by advocates of violence.” (39)

  • Childline (Child Protection in India), Jeroo Billimoria

“The best thing is not to have a picture of what you want, but to have basic principles.” (39)

  • Alliance Industrial Union (Assisted Living for the Disabled in Hungary), Erzsébet Szekeres
  • Associação Saúde Criança Renascer (Reforming Healthcare in Brazil), Vera Cordeiro
  • College Summit (College Access in the United States), J.B. Schramm

“Teenagers are the single most influential group in a low-income community… if teens are well engaged, it shifts the dynamic neighborhood.” (Schramm as quoted in Bornstein, 181)

  • Tateni (Care for AIDS Patients in South Africa), Veronica Khosa

“Tateni’s strategy was grounded in four principles: (1) complement the formal healthcare system; (2) seek parternships with all organizations in the community; (3) enhance the home care skills of family members and neighbors, including schoolchildren; and (4) involve the community in all major decisions concerning Tateni’s activities.” (197) “After studying Tateni’s systems, provincial health officials identified four components to successful home care: 1. The work had to be run by people from the community to be both cost-effective and locally accepted; 2. It had to be professional; 3. Training had to be practice-based; 4. The program had to demonstrate that it could bring in young, unskilled people and turn out graduates with the ability and credentials to pursue careers in healthcare.” (200)

  • National Center for the Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (Disability Rights in India), Javed Abidi

Bornstein, David. How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print.

LA Times’ Article on Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs)


A philanthropic revolution

A LA Times Op-Ed on Donor-Advised Funds, by Jack Shakely

When I first starting working in the nonprofit world, despite having considered myself knowledgeable of the space, I had never heard of donor-advised funds, or what we call “DAFs.” I am happy to see that more articles are being written about this type of charitable giving, allowing DAFs and DAGs (Donor-Advised Gifts) to gain well-deserved notoriety. DAFs and DAGs provide a great platform for corporations and corporate foundations to fulfill domestic or global charitable objectives and to provide fringe benefits to local or worldwide employees without the additional administrative burden of operating a public charity of private foundation. DAF grantmakers, such as CAF America or Silicon Valley Community Foundation, usually specialize in either domestic or international grantmaking, but it is not unheard of organizations providing both services.

In a nutshell, DAFs allow US donors to give to domestic and foreign charities (non-501(c)3 organizations) while receiving maximum deductions because the 501(c)3 holding the DAF assumes the intricate reporting requirements necessary to be compliant with IRS restrictions.

A few things to consider when reading the article:

A donor-advised fund offered the wannabe philanthropist the same tax deductions as a foundation but without the red tape and with maximum donor control.

A key differentiation between a foundation and a DAF is grantor control. The grants made into the DAF are classified as a donation to the 501(c)3 supporting organization that manages the DAF. It mentioned in the article that “Mark Zuckerberg [gets] a tax deduction immediately.” Why? Because Mr. Zuckerberg donated money to a 501(c)3 charitable organization (Silicon Valley Community Foundation). Silicon Valley Community Foundation now manages and controls all of the funds donated. These donations into the DAF are under complete control of the 501(c)3 supporting organization; any grants made by the DAF are mere suggestions. Yes, the donor can recommend that those DAF funds be granted to any number of organizations, but the donor does not have complete control.

Donor-advised funds put a thumb on the scale of the always precarious balance of power between grant seeker and donor. They don’t publish mission statements or set up application procedures, which leaves nonprofits and individuals no easy way to target funding sources or make their appeal.

The author of the article states that one downfall of a DAF is that this type of set-up makes solicitation of funds more difficult for the nonprofits or individuals; however, most corporations or corporate foundations encourage grantseekers and willingly administer standard applications for inquiring nonprofits. Despite the fact that DAFs relieve some of the administrative burden associated with domestic and international grantmaking, these corporations and corporate foundations are sophisticated operations that actively seek new charities to achieve their CSR missions.

Shakely, Jack. “A Philanthropic Revolution.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 13 Mar. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.

Culture-Specific Words!

18 Beautiful Words The English Language Really Needs To Steal

As it relates to my love for language, I wanted to share this list of uniquely cultural words in various languages. Here are a few others that are unique to Southern Spain (Andalucia):

¡Qué guay! / Súper guay  – Cool

 ¡Venga! /  ¡Anda! – “C’mon” (disbelief) / No way

Vale Okay

Echar de menos – to miss someone

 ¡Ojalá – I hope!

Tía – chick

Wain, Alex. “18 Beautiful Words the English Language Really Needs to Steal.” So Bad So Good RSS. So Bad So Good, Mar. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.

Arthritis Foundation’s 2014 Legislative Priorities!


Here are the 2014 legislative priorities for the Arthritis Foundation. If I can provide any additional information, please feel free to reach out to me directly.
  • Passing the Patients’ Access to Treatments Act (HR 460)Learn more here.
  • Passing the Pediatric Subspecialty and Mental Health Workforce Reauthorization Act (HR 1827).Learn more here.
  • Continuing support for arthritis research funding at the Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health. Learn more here.
Click here to get involved with the Arthritis Foundation or click here if you are interested in acting as an Arthritis Ambassador!

Stratfor: Geopolitics of the Syrian Civil War

This article details not just the current situation, but chronicles the history of this fragile state. I recommend reading it now and keeping it as a refresher for later.

Syria has a torrid history of a fragmented, often volatile, state. Only twice in Syria’s history has this fragile state been a nation-state:

Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty, based out of Antioch (the city of Antakya in modern-day Turkey) from 301 to 141 B.C.

Umayyad Caliphate, based out of Damascus, from A.D. 661 to 749

The demographics of this land have fluctuated greatly, depending on the prevailing power of the time. Christians, mostly Eastern Orthodox, formed the majority in Byzantine Syria. The Muslim conquests that followed led to a more diverse blend of religious sects, including a substantial Shiite population. Over time, a series of Sunni dynasties emanating from Mesopotamia, the Nile Valley and Asia Minor made Syria the Sunni-majority region that it is today.

The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement (a British, French, and Russian agreement of influence and power in the Middle East after WWI). France was given control over Syria.

When the French mandate ended in 1943, the ingredients were already in place for major demographic and sectarian upheaval, culminating in the bloodless coup by Hafiz al Assad in 1970 that began the highly irregular Alawite reign over Syria. With the sectarian balance now tilting toward Iran and its sectarian allies, France’s current policy of supporting the Sunnis alongside Saudi Arabia against the mostly Alawite regime that the French helped create has a tinge of irony to it, but it fits within a classic balance-of-power mentality toward the region.

This history is crucial for understanding the turmoil in the region and for trying to establish security in the future.

The Syrian state will neither fragment and formalize into sectarian statelets nor reunify into a single nation under a political settlement imposed by a conference in Geneva. A mosaic of clan loyalties and the imperative to keep Damascus linked to its coastline and economic heartland — no matter what type of regime is in power in Syria — will hold this seething borderland together, however tenuously.

The Geopolitics of the Syrian Civil War is republished with permission of Stratfor.”
Read more: The Geopolitics of the Syrian Civil War | Stratfor
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D-Rev, NPO, Highlighted in NYT: Light-Bulb Moments for a Nonprofit

New York Times

Light-Bulb Moments for a Nonprofit

By Christine Larson

This article is particularly interesting to me because it provides an example of a form of a “social business” (Muhammad Yunus’ type 1 organization that focuses on maximizing social benefit). As a nonprofit organization, D-REV‘s mission is to, “improve the health and incomes of people living on less than $4 per day.” It seems like a broad mission, but they do so by designing and implementing various products that will provide high impact opportunities to those most in need. First, D-REV identifies a project that will improve the lives of 1 million +.  The NPO then designs and delivers the product, tailoring scaling, and adapting to local needs. Serious studies of both the users and local context plays a big role. The products range from light therapy, as mentioned int he NYT article, to solar panels, to the pasteurization of milk.

 So, after seven years of operations, what are the obstacles of this “social business?”

“D-Rev has had to become far more involved than it expected in financial models, licensing deals, consulting services and manufacturing arrangements. In essence, it is redesigning not only high-tech products but also supply chains and procurement systems.”

“To make sure that end prices remain low, D-Rev has needed to find manufacturing and distribution partners willing to cap prices and forgo substantial markups.”

“While the organization has learned much about [one product] in developing countries, specific experience with one condition may not apply to another.”

Regardless of persistent, complex problems, D-Rev is making serious strides in the nonprofit/social business sector. It has provided current donors with the education necessary to make the products successful; influenced and encouraged other NPO/social businesses; and emphasized collaboration between NPOs. Much will need to be done, but it appears that D-Rev is asking the right questions in the right context. I look forward to following D-Rev’s impact.


Larson, Christine. “Light-Bulb Moments for a Nonprofit.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 Jan. 2014. Web. 11 Jan. 2014. <;.



Foreign Affairs article on NPO Mission Creep

Foreign Affairs, published by Council on Foreign Relations, is a nonpartisan membership organization
Foreign Affairs, published by Council on Foreign Relations, is a nonpartisan membership organization

Development Bloat: How Mission Creep Harms the Poor

Marc F. Bellemare

It is always important to view supporters and pundits of various pro-poor programs. In this article, Marc Bellemare outlines why a rich country’s lack of focus is actually harming poverty alleviation. Here are is main points:

1. Between multinational, national, and nongovernmental agencies, and enormous philanthropies, the development space creates a scattered, ineffective approach. Further, these large, bureaucratic machines are slow and (usually) have conflicting priorities and incentives.

“When development agencies and nongovernmental organizations try to do too many different things, not only do they suffer from the policy equivalent of attention deficit disorder; they also spread their already scarce resources ever more thinly.”

2. Top priorities are vague across almost all large agencies  Poverty is a complicated, arduous system; an interrelated approach is necessary for success. Widespread, “silver bullets,” do not exist.

3. We must define what is and who are the poor (extreme poor versus merely poor across all countries) and make those in the very lowest bracket our top priority.

4. We must focus on programs that actually help people to achieve basic needs and services. We must refine our policy to be narrower.

“Mission creep ends up materially harming the very people it is intended to help: the extreme poor, or the roughly 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day.”

“Even from such a realpolitik perspective, development policy can become a much more effective instrument of foreign policy if it can focus once again on what really matters to the poor and deliver results.”

Bellemare, Marc F. “Development Bloat.” Foreign Affairs. Council on Foreign Relations, 05 Jan. 2014. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <;.