It’s Time to Get in the Arena

2017 is a special year for us at the Case Foundation. It marks the 20th anniversary of an idea that has continued to drive and inspire us in all that we do—investing in people and ideas that can change the world. Over the last two decades, with this vision, and in collaboration with a vast array of parties, we have been proud to contribute to, inspire and champion the incredible progress that has moved people and organizations from intention to action. From clean water and the digital divide, to increased opportunities for service and civic participation, to impact investing and inclusive entrepreneurship, we have worked with others to catalyze efforts to create transformative change. 

Over the past 20 years, philanthropy and the social sector has witnessed incredible progress. We believe that leveraging the power of the entrepreneurial spirit and technology to help solve the world’s most challenging problems is a key ingredient to this progress, and, as we kickoff our 20th year, we remain committed to ensuring this focus is at the center of all our work. At the same time, our experience over the past 20 years has taught us that addressing these challenges through true collaboration amongst diverse actors and smart partnerships is much more effective than fighting alone, and therefore we commit that collaboration will continue to be a hallmark of our work in the days ahead.

Through all of these experiences we have learned a great deal and recognize that the lessons learned will both inspire and inform our future. As we look back, it’s hard not to see that the common key to all of our efforts has been pushing ourselves and others to challenge assumptions and take risks. We have challenged ourselves and others to get off the sidelines and “get into the arena” to address our most pressing challenges.

This is not a new idea of course, but it resonates more in the context of today’s world than perhaps ever before. Citizen engagement has been a hallmark of successful democracies for centuries and is core to our mission. In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech known as, “The Man In The Arena” that captures this fundamental belief in citizen engagement: 

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

As we welcome 2017, Teddy Roosevelt’s words still ring true. And we can think of no better time than now for each of us to identify ways we, personally, can heed his call and “get in the arena” to make a positive impact in our communities. That is why we are dedicating our 20th Anniversary year to calling on all to “Get in the Arena.”

Throughout 2017, we will be bringing forward ideas, stories and events that highlight people and ideas that can change the world using the hashtag #GetInTheArena. We hope you will join us and share with us your own vision of what it means to take action on the issues and challenges that matter the most to you and your community. For those wondering when it is the right time to jump in, the answer is now. For those already in the arena, we hope you’ll engage in new ways and inspire others to jump in as well.  

Our Most Popular Blogs of 2016

As we kick off the new year, we are taking a look back at our most popular blogs from 2016 to revisit key moments that inspired us here at the Case Foundation. We’ve collected the 10 most popular pieces—as determined by our community of readers. These blogs represent our areas of work in catalyzing movements and inspiring ideas that can change the world. We hope thes will remind us all to be bold, take risks and fail forward together around the issues you care most about in the coming year!

  1. Our Fearless Journey From Mission to Movements, by Jean Case

2016 was a year of transition for many, and the Case Foundation was no different. In August, our CEO Jean Case wrote about the journey we have taken from mission to movements, and how—as we have taken a journey of self-exploration and come to better understand our work & DNA—the Case Foundation has reframed our work. We’ve always been in the business of transformative change, but have come to realize that our real “special sauce” is that we use a Be Fearless approach to catalyze movements around social innovation and tip the scales form intention to action.

  1. Words Matter: How Should We Talk About Impact Investing?, by Jean Case

In March, our CEO Jean Case joined partners from Omidyar Network, Ford Foundation and MacArthur Foundation, together with the Global Impact Investing Network and the Global Social Impact Investing Steering Group, to unveil research that tracked and analyzed coverage of the topic of impact investing in traditional and social media and shared insight into how the way we talk about impact investing can play a powerful role in informing, educating and activating people around the movement.

  1. Trailblazing Women in Impact Investing, by Sheila Herrling

2016 was a year of momentum for Impact Investing. From the Treasury Department and IRS’s release of new PRI regulations, to high profile new social impact funds like TPG’s $2 billion Rise fund, it’s evident that the movement is picking up steam. And another noticeable trend has stood out: women are emerging as a driving force behind its growth. In August, our SVP of Social Innovation, Sheila Herrling, wrote what would go on to become our second most popular blog post of the year, highlighting these trailblazing women in Impact Investing. We can’t wait to see the momentum continue in 2017.

  1. The 2016 Millennial Impact Report – Phase 1, by Emily Yu

One of the hottest topics of 2016 was the election, so it is not surprising that on of our top blog posts of the year was about our Millennial Impact Report, which looked at how Millennials were engaging with the election and how the election effected their cause engagement. Among our top blogs was also “Millennials Cast Their Vote For Cause Engagement,” another post on the Millennial Impact Report, this time about Phase 2.

  1. 2016 Conferences On Our Radar, by Jade Floyd

2016 was an action packed year for the Case Foundation, and much of the great momentum we saw this year was fueled by wonderful in-person interactions at conferences and convenings. From SXSW, to SOCAP, to crisscrossing the country for #FacesofFounders activations at the White House, the New York Stock Exchange, Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit, Google’s headquarters and more, we loved getting the chance to reach beyond our bubbles and meet so many changemakers face-to-face. Keep an eye out for our upcoming list of 2017 Conferences On Our Radar.

  1. Twitter Lists:

We’ve loved the conversations we have and information we learn from the engaged social impact communities on Twitter. In 2015 we started a series of Twitter lists to help people join in these conversations and better know who to follow to find out more about topics we care deeply about. Several of these lists made it into our top blog posts of 2016:

  1. The Myth of the E-Word, by Sheila Herrling

Our Myth of the Entrepreneur series was started in the fall of 2015 to take a critical look at the common stories and myths told in startup culture, and as it continued into 2016, it was clear that the myths were striking a chord with our readers. The Myth of the “E Word” post contemplated the term “entrepreneur” itself as a possible barrier to expanding and diversifying entrepreneurship. “The Myth of STEM; The Only Way,” and “The Myth of the Coasts” also found their way into our top blog posts this year. We look forward to busting more myths in 2017 that are holding us back and breaking down barriers to entrepreneurship faced by women and entrepreneurs of color.

  1. One Fearless Question that Paved the Way for Women in Government, by Jean Case

On International Women’s Day, our CEO Jean Case shared a story about the fearless trailblazers Vera Glaser and Barbara Hackman Franklin. Vera Glaser’s #BeFearless question to President Richard Nixon questioning why more women were not a part of his cabinet set off an effort, headed by Barbara Hackman Franklin, that changed women’s access to high-level appointments in federal government. Our readers also enjoyed other Be Fearless examples that made it into our top blog post lists, such as our spotlight on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Jean’s blog post “Confronting Risk in Today’s Nonprofits.” You can learn more about how to Be Fearless in your pursuit of social good on our Be Fearless Hub.

  1. What’s Trending—Using Your Business as a Force For Good, by Sheila Herrling and Hardik Savalia

We are proud to partner with B Lab and their ground breaking work to help businesses identify and measure their social impact, and through the popularity of this blog post, it is clear that our readers are also excited about the potential of the B Impact Assessment. We’re excited that the Assessment can help all businesses, not just certified B Corps, to join the movement to redefine success for business, and measure their ability to build stronger communities, create environmentally sustainable operations or cultivate empowering employment opportunities.

  1. Innovation Madness: Elite Eight, by Jessica Zetzman

In conjunction with the NCAA Tournament, the Case Foundation decided to put our own twist on March Madness and introduced Innovation Madness, a celebration of Women’s History Month and the women who have been influential innovators in exploration, business and the STEM fields—yet are not recognized as often as their male counterparts. Our whole staff got in on the fun, chosing their favorite innovators, and we loved that hundreds of people voted and participated in Innovation Madness on social media. Check out the original bracket, the Elite Eight, the Final Four and the Champion.

We are thrilled that these blog posts resonated with our readers in 2016, and look forward to continuing great conversations on and offline in 2017. Tell us what you want to read more about by using #CaseBlogs on Twitter.

Be Fearless Spotlight: A Bold Investment Strategy Allows For Fearless Risk-Taking at FHI 360

This Spotlight is a part of a special blog series curated by the Case Foundation featuring Be Fearless stories from the field. Follow along with us as we meet people and learn about organizations that are taking risks, being bold and failing forward in their efforts to create transformative change in the social sector. This Spotlight is authored by Patrick C. Fine, Chief Executive Officer of FHI 360.

Every day, bold actions—large and small—inspire and shape the future. Girls in northern Nigeria defy threats from violent extremists to go to school; transgender women in Cambodia stand together against intolerance and discrimination that fuel HIV; and young refugees struggle to build new lives in foreign lands. FHI 360—a nonprofit human development organization dedicated to improving lives by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions—takes its inspiration from such daily acts of bravery and strives to be bold and Be Fearless in addressing problems around the globe.

We learn from the examples we see of people facing unimaginable hardship and with courage, initiative and determination overcome the challenges in their path and create new opportunities for themselves and their communities. Their stories inspire us to tackle the toughest problems and to be bold in the solutions we try. The issues facing our global community can’t wait, and they aren’t getting easier. We need to leverage all possible solutions, however unconventional, to meet these challenges.

The FHI Foundation—the foundation arm which exclusively supports the vision, spirit and mission of FHI 360 through strategic investments—was built on a unique impact investment model that has enabled FHI 360 to expand beyond its early focus as a small family planning organization and become a global force in human development. Once an organization with an annual operating budget of less than $3 million, FHI 360 now has expanded into more than 70 countries and all U.S. states and territories, with more than $600 million in revenue, a $150 million Foundation endowment and more than 4,000 staff around the world.

This approach—a foundation incubating projects at a non-profit organization—allows us to experiment early and often, allowing for a more creative approach to address some of the world’s most complex human development challenges. Moreover, it has enhanced FHI 360’s stability, resiliency and relevance by placing it on the cutting edge of development trends and critical issues faced by underserved populations around the world.

For example, in 2001, the FHI Foundation invested US$1 million to demonstrate the viability of antiretroviral therapy (ART) programs in resource-constrained settings in Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda, providing critical evidence that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) needed to expand ART delivery to countries devastated by the epidemic. By 2006, FHI (now FHI 360) was implementing comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment programs in 40 countries. As of September 30, 2015, U.S. government funding through multiple partners and organizations was supporting life-saving ART for 9.5 million people.

Today, FHI 360 continues to stimulate new ideas and incentivize innovations. With its Catalyst Fund, the FHI Foundation provides annual grants totaling $500,000 to FHI 360 staff to develop approaches, tools or products that address human development challenges. The Catalyst Fund competition brings together FHI 360 staff from different regions, sectors and specialties, many of whom may not traditionally work together, to allow for a space for staff to reach beyond their bubble and develop forward-thinking approaches to promote the health and well-being of individuals and communities. Funded initiatives are delivering innovations such as the use of drone delivery to increase access to medical supplies in rural Kenya, the development of a mobile-based test-prep app to help students prepare for exams in Myanmar, and a web-based application to help monitor child learning and health progress in classrooms globally.

While some organizations allow risk to become paralyzing, even in the face of an immediate crisis, the FHI Foundation/FHI 360 relationship proves what can be accomplished when urgency drives the quest for solutions and when financial stability allows for the freedom to make bold moves with high stakes, even when the outcome is uncertain. A mixture of private and public funds, a strategic investment model and a commitment to tackle the world’s most challenging problems head on, ensure FHI 360’s continued success and the continued benefits to those we serve around the world.

We believe that the time for bold action is at hand. Yet, we will only succeed if we work together and if we push ourselves to ask the uncomfortable questions, to learn from failure and to dare to challenge the status quo. We must be willing to see and do things differently, to develop new skill sets, devise new structures and conceive new partnerships. We must anticipate, adapt and enthusiastically embrace change to maximize our impact in the world.

Feeling inspired? If you’re ready to begin your own Be Fearless journey start by downloading the Case Foundation’s free Be Fearless Action Guide and Case Studies.

Be Fearless Spotlight: Jay Newton-Small and the Story of Her Father

This Spotlight is a part of a special blog series curated by the Case Foundation featuring Be Fearless stories from the field. Follow along with us as we meet people and learn about organizations that are taking risks, being bold and failing forward in their efforts to create transformative change in the social sector. This Spotlight is authored by Jay Newton-Small (@JNSmall), Cofounder of MemoryWell, TIME magazine contributor and author of Broad Influence.

A few years ago, I put my father into a home for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It was the hardest decision of my life, but he was a wanderer and I couldn’t care for him on my own following the death of my mother. I didn’t know it at the time, but that decision would be the start of a long journey that would change both of our lives.

The home asked me to fill out a 20-page questionnaire about his life. This made no sense to me: who would remember 20 pages of hand-written data points for the 150+ residents there? Instead, I offered to write down his story. I’m a journalist after all, story telling comes naturally to me. They loved the story I wrote, it transformed his care; MemoryWell was born.

Over the next 2.5 years, I worked with a partner, Ilan Brat formerly of the Wall Street Journal, to write more life stories of people like my dad. We knew that this tool could help change the lives of the more than 44 million around the world currently living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia and the many who care for them. And so, we developed a website called MemoryWell to host the stories and allow family members to add their loved ones’ favorite photos, videos and music—so that when caregivers or family members sit with them they have a whole toolbox of things with which to engage them.

My firsthand experience with my father and Alzheimer’s helped me to identify a critical solution and develop MemoryWell in response. The leap from daughter to entrepreneur was a big one, but a necessary one as I realized what this tool could do for families like mine.

We got our first clients earlier this year and, less than two months later, I let urgency conquer fear and left TIME Magazine to work on MemoryWell full time. Our CTO Andrew Fribush joined our team this fall and we got accepted into Halcyon incubator in Washington, DC, in November.

While all this sounds easy: let me assure you it was not! We are journalists, not entrepreneurs. In our newsrooms, taking a stand is always discouraged: we are impartial observers of the events around us. Most journalists are given assignments instead of making them. We are naturally skeptical of salesmanship and marketing/PR puffery; we work well with structure and want steady jobs (although the upheaval in the industry is changing that). But, in short, journalism isn’t an industry predisposed to innovation and that’s why you see so few journalism startups. But as I saw the impact that storytelling could have in the lives of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, I knew that I had to take a risk in the face of these obstacles.

Certainly, our road hasn’t always been smooth and surely there will be many more bumps ahead. However, we have learned from every experience and failed forward to get to where we are today. We lost our first pitch contest to NewU, a group that gives grants to minority journalists, in September 2014, and then we lost three more Aging 2.0 pitch contests after than until Ilan finally won the Chicago Aging 2.0 contest in 2016—and still we didn’t make it to the national convention. The White House Summit on Aging loved our idea and approached us to participate in their 2015 summit only to cut us weeks later because we were too unproven. We’ve been blown off by investors and our bosses took extremely dim views of our extracurricular activities.

I’m taking a huge risk and it may well fail—indeed more startups do than succeed. But we feel passionately that stories can be used not just to inform the masses in a newspaper or magazine, but to affect change on a personal level, to build community where none exists. So instead of writing about the president-elect, I might be writing about your grandma, or your friend’s grandma, and nothing would make me happier.

Feeling inspired? If you’re ready to begin your own Be Fearless journey start by downloading the Case Foundation’s free Be Fearless Action Guide and Case Studies.

Be Fearless Spotlight: 3 Lessons Learned About Building A Kinder + Braver World

This Spotlight is a part of a special blog series curated by the Case Foundation featuring Be Fearless stories from the field. Follow along with us as we meet people and learn about organizations that are taking risks, being bold and failing forward in their efforts to create transformative change in the social sector. This Spotlight is authored by Maya Enista (@MEnista), Executive Director of the Born This Way Foundation.

Five years ago this month, Born This Way Foundation launched with the opening of a dialogue. At an event hosted at Harvard University, our co-founders Lady Gaga and her mom Cynthia Germanotta were joined by researchers, educators, experts, parents and—most importantly—young people. There, we unveiled our ambitious plans for an organization that would work online, in communities and in schools to harness and support the power of young people to build a kinder and braver world.

Four years ago last month, I first became a parent (a title I’ve earned twice over now) and in my role as a parent and as Executive Director of Born This Way Foundation, I am grateful for our commitment to building a kinder and braver world. I spend a lot of my time away from my children (as I am now, headed to Los Angeles for our first ever Kind Monsters EDU convening in partnership with Monster High) and I’m hopeful that in a few years they’ll be able to quote more than Lady Gaga lyrics when they are asked about the work that I do. I’ve learned some things about taking risks, being bold and failing forward—in parenting and at Born This Way Foundation—that I’m honored to share with the Be Fearless team, the young people that the foundation works with each day and my own children in the hope that these lessons learned will help others own their own fearless journey to create positive change in the world.

Lesson #1: Kindness Isn’t Just Nice, It’s Necessary

Kindness can seem like a quaint idea, but a growing body of research shows that it is fundamental to well-functioning communities and healthy, productive individuals. Acts of kindness are good for those performing them as well as those on the receiving end. And, in turn, encouraging stronger norms of kindness build the sorts of communities we all want to live and raise our children in.

This belief that kindness is not just “nice” but necessary has informed every aspect of our work. It’s why we’ve launched programs such as Channel Kindness, which is recruiting young people around the country to document acts of kindness in their communities. It is also why we’ve worked with our Research Advisory Board, chaired by Dr. Susan Swearer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, to develop metrics to measure kindness and bravery and incorporated those into the Foundation’s Born Brave Experience Studies.

Lesson #2: Dare To Be Honest—and Be Brave Enough To Be Vulnerable

 A core component of Born This Way Foundation’s work has always been encouraging young people (and everyone else!) to share their story. We know this isn’t always easy and often requires its own measure of fearlessness, but it can be a deeply powerful exercise. Our co-founder Cynthia saw this potential firsthand when her daughter began touring. On stage, Lady Gaga would share her story—speaking openly about her experiences with bullying, loneliness, anxiety and depression. This honesty was healing for her, but it left an impact on the young people listening… who began to share their own stories.

At Born This Way Foundation, we’ve seen the healing, comfort and inspiration that can take root when someone is brave enough to share their story. It can release pent up emotions that have been allowed to fester. It can foster connection—with close friends or complete strangers. It can change minds, tear down stigma and erase shame. And all it takes is being brave enough to be vulnerable.

Lesson #3: The Mind is as Important as the Body

Raising healthy kids can’t just mean protecting them from disease or physical harm. In order for children to flourish, they need resources to ensure their mental wellbeing and the development of strong social and emotional skills. These are the factors that will govern their ability to cope with adversity and interact productively with teachers, employers, friends and family members—ultimately shaping their long-term wellbeing and success.

That’s why Born This Way Foundation has made a point of reaching beyond our bubble and working with dozens of partner organizations to reshape the way we view of how to educate and raise healthy kids, advocating for a model that takes the whole child into account. This is no simple task, but it starts by putting resources behind their mental and emotional wellbeing and fostering positive school climates that serve as safe, welcoming places to learn.   

Feeling inspired? If you’re ready to begin your own Be Fearless journey start by downloading the Case Foundation’s free Be Fearless Action Guide and Case Studies.

Be Fearless Spotlight: Crossing the Canyon for Brain Cancer Research

This Spotlight is a part of a special blog series by the Case Foundation featuring Be Fearless stories from the field. Follow along with us as we meet people and learn about organizations that are taking risks, being bold and failing forward in their efforts to create transformative change in the social sector. This Spotlight is authored by Nicola (Nike) Beddow, Director of Communications and Partnerships at Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2). ABCis a current grantee of the Case Foundation and partners with leading entrepreneurs, scientists and researchers to drive cutting edge research and treatments to find a cure for brain cancer. On October 11, 2016, Beddow hiked the Grand Canyon, rim to rim, with the 3000 Miles To A Cure team. Her story below originally appeared on the ABC2 blog, and exemplifies the organization’s commitment to living the Be Fearless principles. 

The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Its breathtaking rock layers tell our planet’s history. Over five million people a year visit this spectacular and twisted carving in the earth. They come to the Canyon to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones in their lives. For a group of 18 hikers, including myself, we crossed the Canyon, rim to rim in one day, for brain cancer research. Some of us ran it, most of us hiked it, all of us successfully completed the crossing with a renewed sense of purpose and hope (despite a few blisters and varying levels of physical exhaustion!)

“We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore,” said John Wesley Powell, an American naturalist who led a geographic expedition to explore the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon in 1869.

Fortunately, we knew a lot more than Powell when we began our descent into darkness at 5 am from the North Rim. We all had trained for the 23.5 mile hike that crosses the Colorado River, but trust me, there were still a lot of unknowns. First and foremost: Would our group make it out unscathed? Trail signs warned us, “Down is optional; Up is Mandatory.” Over 250 people have to be rescued from the Canyon each year.

Crossing the Canyon for Brain Cancer Research team pose for a photo at 5 am before they start their descent into the Canyon from the North Rim.

I was eager to start this journey. I didn’t think about whether or not I could make it—I had to make it, there was no other option. I wanted to honor the tenacity and grit of my sister Dana who died of brain cancer at the age of 31. I wanted to share stories of Dana’s life and legacy with her daughter Kati. I wanted to dedicate stretches of my hike to friends in the brain tumor community who have faced this hideous disease and have inspired others. I wanted to raise critical research dollars to help 3000 Miles to a Cure and ABC2 (Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure) speed new treatments for brain cancer patients.

Crossing the Colorado River.

Twelve hours after we began hiking, the last few steps out of the Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail were exhilarating and bittersweet. Thirty years ago, when my sister Dana and I were in our early 20’s, we took a trip out West to visit the Grand Canyon. After a fun night of camping on the South Rim, the next morning we decided to just hike the Bright Angel Trail…no water, no preparation, nothing! The trek seemed easy for a while, until we got to Plateau Point and realized we had to climb all the way back up before sunset. I was on the verge of heatstroke and Dana was begging other hikers for water. Yes, we were idiots. We trudged our way back up in time and laughed at our foolish attempt to be cool hiker girls. We promised we would return to the Canyon one day. Sadly, that never happened. I miss my sister. I’m sure she was with me in spirit (and she probably made the last few miles even harder just to kick my behind!)

Nike with her sister Dana (left) and their friend Lee (right) at the Grand Canyon in 1986.

I am grateful to Maria and Lucia Parker from 3000 Miles to a Cure for leading this expedition and introducing me to so many passionate and committed individuals, including the amazing team at Primacy. Primacy is a digital agency that is developing an innovative virtual reality platform for cause-driven organizations like 3000 Miles to A Cure and ABC2 to share our missions and tell our real-life stories in more compelling ways. They shot 360 degree video in the Canyon and interviewed a number of us. As the project develops, I’ll be providing updates.

The Crossing the Canyon 2016 team.

I will forever carry street cred that I crossed the Grand Canyon, Rim to Rim! Most importantly, I’ll carry with me the conversations I had with my fellow hikers who had lost someone to this hideous disease or that had encountered other struggles in their lives, but found hope and healing through this communal experience.

Feeling inspired? If you’re ready to begin your own Be Fearless journey start by downloading our free Be Fearless Action Guide and Case Studies.

Be Fearless Spotlight: Ashoka

This Spotlight is a part of a special blog series by the Case Foundation featuring Be Fearless stories from the field. Follow along with us as we meet people and learn about organizations that are taking risks, being bold and failing forward in their efforts to create transformative change in the social sector. This Spotlight is authored by Laxmi Parthasarathy (@laxmisarathy), Director of Global Media and Framework Change Partnerships at Ashoka.

How does a 35-year-old organization stay nimble, innovate and create meaningful change? By setting out on an audacious journey to redefine leadership. Over the last three decades, Ashoka has sparked the dreams of entrepreneurs from around the world and today it continues to be a fearless trailblazer by making big bets focused on helping society see that the world has shifted from patterns of repetition to a world defined by change. The organization is currently advancing a new model for leadership in “framework change”—changing individual mindsets at a large scale and ultimately changing behaviors or norms across society as a whole. As our founder, Bill Drayton notes, Ashoka’s role is to ensure that this change is for the good of all.

From Fellows to Framework Change

In the early 1980s, Ashoka set out to ensure that social entrepreneurship would be studied in universities, would become a common model for philanthropy and would eventually become a new norm for the civil society sector. The program proved to be successful and Ashoka is well-known around the world for its robust Fellowship program that includes more than 3,000 Fellows from 89 countries. We could have stopped there—satisfied with the impact of this program, but we took pause to assess our potential for impact. We knew there was even more that we could do as an organization and network. Today, we are advancing a new framework change. We are helping society envision that more people than ever before can contribute to change. An integral part of this work is ensuring that generations of young people develop cognitive empathy-based ethics and practice the skills of leadership, teamwork and changemaking.

This shift, even for an organization that specializes in identifying, nurturing and supporting changemaking, was not easy, and we have learned a few lessons along the way.

Lesson #1: Building a decentralized, but integrated organization

Electing Fellows in 89 countries and operating offices in more than 30 cities required a shift in Ashoka’s own internal leadership and organizational structure from solo entrepreneurship to collaborative entrepreneurship. Driven by the urgency to ensure another generation of young people would not grow up without being prepared for the 21st century, my colleagues and I took a courageous step to shake things up and build what we called the “Ashoka hub structure.” Rather than opening more country offices and increasing operating costs, Ashoka began to hire framework change leaders in five regional hubs to ensure that our focus was on an integrated global goal. This shift in our structure caused some unease within the organization as it was different from anything we had done before, but ultimately, the organization’s leadership encouraged the urgency of our work to conquer the fear of something new.

Lesson #2: Leading from the middle

It was important to start implementing changes from the middle of the organization to ensure that our vision ‘Everyone a Changemaker’ was not just a slogan, but rather an ethos. Working with staff other than leadership was integral, as they would be the ones to experiment, implement and authentically lead the uptake of new ideas in the organization. Ashoka has always hired highly entrepreneurial staff—we ask tough questions, challenge the status quo and are keen to experiment—so trusting our colleagues to help guide this organizational shift was a natural progression for an organization of changemakers. For example, staff in various regions understood how to incorporate cultural context, local partnerships and leverage existing programs in their own unique ways.

Lesson #3: Team of teams collaboration

For many years, Ashoka’s focus was on supporting systems-changing social entrepreneurs (Ashoka Fellows). Thousands of Fellows later, the insights we have gained and the collaborations we have launched are what position our network to focus on framework change.

Ensuring that cognitive empathy-based ethics are recognized as critical for navigating today’s world defined by rapid change, we brought together a group of Ashoka Fellows who had this expertise and who had been working with children and young people for many years. We didn’t stop there; we began to find, elect and connect a new community of change leaders within primary and elementary schools around the world, branding them as Changemaker Schools. This was one of the most profound and significant changes to the core business of our organization. Along with natural self-doubt about whether we were on the right path, many would ask what business we had working in education. We knew, however, that our commitment to our big bet and the collaborators we were bringing together would propel us forward as we continued experimenting, learning from failure and refining our processes.

As our founder, Bill Drayton says, “a team is not a team unless everyone is an initiatory player.” We had a clear methodology for spreading the idea of social entrepreneurship and are applying this again. We are collaborating with Ashoka Fellows, corporations, media, entrepreneurs and a new community of educators as our “team of teams.” A team of teams structure meant breaking down silos between programs within Ashoka and recognizing that every new project ahead would require a new set of team members—staff and partners—with unique contributions to make along the way.

Managing to redefine an organization’s leadership in the social sector required creativity, an entrepreneurial spirit, empathy and distributed leadership; however, Ashoka’s methodology used to strategically tip the idea of social entrepreneurship provided the foundation and courage to Be Fearless.

Reaching Beyond Your Bubble to Forge Strong Partnerships

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
-African Proverb

At the Case Foundation we are big believers in reaching beyond our bubble to forge and foster partnerships—sometimes unlikely ones. Over the years we have seen time and again that by linking arms with new people from across sectors we can achieve far greater impact than what we could have accomplished on our own.

For example, on two America’s Giving Challenges, $900K in grants and partnerships with Network for Good, Global Giving, Causes and PARADE led to more than $4M in donations for worthwhile causes and helped to inspire the creation of similar initiatives like the $20M Pepsi Refresh Challenge and the $20M Chase Community Giving campaign.

And our investment of $1M in grants and in-kind support for the Startup America Partnership led to nearly $500M of in-kind commitments to support startups from companies like American Airlines, American Express, Microsoft, Google, and others. There are so many inspiring examples—and certainly not just our own—of successful partnerships between nonprofits, corporations and government that have unleashed billions of dollars and sparked innovation.

At events and convenings across the country this month, we will be looking for more ways to move beyond our bubble and start relationships with the potential to unlock new opportunities.

Best for the World, September 8

The Best for the World Gathering at the University of California, Berkeley, in partnership with the Haas School of Business and the Center for Responsible Business will lift up companies whose groundbreaking business models are best for workers, communities and the environment. The Case Foundation will join students and business leaders at Best for the World to build relationships and celebrate the positive impact business can have in the world.

2016 UBS Philanthropy Forum – Americas, September 12-13

I’m excited to sit down with Silvia Bastante de Unverhau the Head of Philanthropy Advisory at UBS at the UBS Philanthropy Forum to delve into innovative approaches to philanthropy. There, I will be sharing my perspectives on how financial capital can be put to work to create significant social change.

Social Capital Markets (SOCAP), September 13-16 

Being called the conference at the intersection of money and meaning, Social Capital Markets or #SOCAP16 promises to bring together more than 500 changemakers, social entrepreneurs and impact investors representing  foundations, corporations and global nonprofits. In addition to making new connections in San Francisco, members of the Case Foundation team will be leading an impact investing data session, hosting a story booth and, from the main stage, challenging common stereotypes about entrepreneurship.

Social Good Summit, September 18-19

Mashable’s Social Good Summit will examine the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives. Fully epitomizing the spirit of forging strong partnerships, the Social Good Summit brings together global leaders and grassroots activists to discuss solutions to our biggest challenges and tap the potential of technology to make the world a better place. I’m looking forward to to speaking at the Social Good Summit, helping to answer the question, “What type of world do I want to live in by the year 2030?” #2030NOW

ComNet, September 28-30

Later this month, Detroit hosts the Communications Network’s annual conference—known as the premier global leadership gathering for foundation and nonprofit leaders committed to building a better world through the smart use of strategic communications. The Case Foundation’s communications team will be there to share their own best practices and to learn, connect and collaborate.

Council on Foundations Endowments and Finance Summit, September 28-30  

I will take the stage with Vikki Spruill, President & CEO of the Council on Foundations, Dr. Jason Winged, Dean and Professor in the School of Professional Studies at Columbia University and Randall Lane, Editor of Forbes at the Council on Foundations Endowments and Finance Summit in New York City. During the session we will discuss the role of philanthropy in responding to growing community needs and for being effective catalysts for social change.

Even though it can be more comfortable to go it alone, partnerships with new players and across sectors should be embraced since more often than not, innovation happens at intersections and comes from new combinations.

If you plan on being at any of these events this month please introduce yourself. We are looking forward to reaching beyond our bubble in new and exciting ways this month.

SXSW 2017 PanelPicker – Vote Today

Every year the Case Foundation and our partners submit innovative and compelling panel ideas for consideration to be included at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW). Last year, we were excited to host or be a part of 12 amazing sessions at SXSW, ranging from inclusive entrepreneurship to online movement building through hashtags. All included incredible speakers, invaluable lessons and memorable quotes to walk away with.

This year, we’ve submitted 11 fantastic panel ideas for the SXSW PanelPicker process, and we need your help to vote to get them to SXSW 2017. Below are descriptions of each panel, along with the link that takes you directly to the page to vote for that session, and a tweet for you to share with your networks to help spread the word. Find your favorite panels below and be sure to vote by September 2, 2016!

Changing the Face of Entrepreneurship

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/67551

SXSWPanel_Ent4AllJeanHow can we level the playing field for all entrepreneurs—particularly women and people of color—in all places in order to create stronger communities, close the opportunity gap and scale creative solutions to persistent problems? Join tech pioneer and investor Jean Case as she challenges the traditional notions that entrepreneurs are wealthy, white men in this discussion on how women and entrepreneurs of color are fueling economic growth and creating scalable businesses. Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. Explore the journeys of fearless entrepreneurs of color and women who are changing what it means to be a startup founder.

Speakers:

Tweet this: Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. Vote for “Changing the Face of Entrepreneurship” in the #SXSWPanelPicker bit.ly/Ent4AllSXSWvote

 

Emerging Explorers Changing the World Through Tech

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/66014

SXSWPanel_ExplorersNational Geographic is one of the world’s largest scientific and education organizations working to turn interest into action—to inspire people to care about the planet and protect it through exploration. Through the Emerging Explorers program, they unite fearless young scientists, conservationists, storytellers, and innovators who are harnessing technology to expand the frontiers of exploration. Join Jean Case and Gary Knell of National Geographic as they highlight the next generation of explorers who are taking risks, being bold and failing forward to change the world through technology for good.

 

Speakers:

Tweet this: #SXSWPanelPicker Vote to hear how @NatGeoExplorers harness #tech to expand frontiers of exploration #BeFearless bit.ly/ExplorersTechSXSWvote

 

Using Data to Unlock Capital

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/66995

SXSWPanel_DataCapitalAcross the country, data scientists and developers are working alongside experts in the impact market to forge connections through data that can scale innovative social businesses. Sounds great! So what’s the problem? Data can be hard to come by and the path to connecting people to good data isn’t always clear. Luckily, a growing number of tools with innovative, data-powered interfaces are being developed right now that empower investors, consumers and entrepreneurs to make informed, socially responsible decisions with strong information. What’s ultimately decided around data transparency and reliability has the potential to change the future of how we invest in and grow transformative ideas.

Speakers:

Tweet this: How can data unlock capital for social impact? Vote to help this panel get to #SXSW #impinv bit.ly/UnlockCapitalSXSWvote

 

How to Fundraise Without Silicon Valley

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/67828

SXSWPanel_FundraiseSVWe are witnessing a new wave of investment and entrepreneurship in the United States. How can we level the playing field for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color to fund, grow and scale their thriving businesses? Learn both investor and entrepreneur perspectives on what it takes to build and back inspiring companies and bring the deal process to life for diverse founders.

 

 

Speakers:

Tweet this: How can we level the field for women & entrepreneurs of color to fund, grow & scale? Vote this panel to #SXSW bit.ly/FundraiseSXSWvote

 

Best of SXSW

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/68267

SXSWPanel_BLabBusinesses are the engine of economic growth, and B Lab believes that they are also an engine for good social and environmental outcomes. Best of SXSW invites business leaders at SXSW to measure, compare and improve their impact. Take the Quick Impact Assessment to see how your business stacks up, then learn how you can improve your score and your impact. Hear from the B Lab team and meet other local and global business leaders striving to improve the quality of life for their employees, customers and communities. B Lab is seeking to empower all businesses to be a force for good by measuring what matters, and now you can be a part of the movement.

Speakers:

Tweet this: Vote to hear @BCorporation & @CaseFoundation at #SXSW on how business can be a force for #good bit.ly/BestOfSXSWvote

 

Going Live With 2 Billion Of Your Closest Friends

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/66640

SXSWPanel_FBLiveTake a deep dive into Facebook Live with digital leaders from the Case Foundation, AJ+ and Facebook. Explore how brands are captivating audiences and using powerful, real-time storytelling through the largest social media platform in the world. From going live with refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, to bringing Broadway to the digital world, to activating the Millennial generation for good, learn from our panelists’ wealth of experience covering global events and high-profile influencers. This workshop will leave participants with tangible methods to experiment and expand their own Facebook Live activations. Leave with best practices on how to set up a quality broadcast on any budget.

Speakers:

Tweet this: Take a deep dive into #FacebookLive w/digital leaders @CaseFoundation @ajplus @Facebook. Vote for this #SXSW panel: bit.ly/FacebookLiveSXSWvote

 

Follow the Crowd—for Good

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/67780

SXSWPanel_GoodWorldCrowdfunding is changing the landscape for nonprofit fundraising online. Today there is a growing phenomenon, with dozens of platforms helping organizations using crowd-based tools to reach and exceed their fundraising goals. Join digital pioneers and fundraising champions from the Case Foundation, GoodWorld and more as we explore new and tested approaches to crowdfunding, the power of experimentation, how to tailor creative projects for your campaigns, and what’s new in rewards-based fundraising. Learn how to unlock the power of crowdfunding to drive new innovations, advance game-changing projects and ultimately harness energy and dollars to change the world.

Speakers:

Tweet this: Follow the Crowd — for Good! Vote on #SXSWPanelPicker to learn how crowdfunding is changing nonprofit fundraising: bit.ly/CrowdfundingSXSWvote

 

Virtual Reality—A New Lens for Social Change

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/66544

SXSWPanel_VR4GoodVirtual reality is taking the multimedia world by storm. Whether you’ve been transported to Pluto, melting glaciers, or the frontlines of the refugee crisis, immersive video experiences such as these are transforming how stories are being told and experiences are being shared. The ability to bring an issue to life such as hunger, poverty, climate change and countless other challenges is game changing for the social sector. Join us as we explore the new frontiers of virtual reality with leading technology developers and storytellers who are using VR for Good.

 

Speakers:

  • Emily Yu, The Case Foundation (@DCxchange)
  • Sally Smith, The Nexus Fund (@Smith_Sally)
  • Chris Milk  (@milk)

Tweet this: Vote to help the panel “Virtual Reality – A New Lens for Social Change” make it to #SXSW bit.ly/VR4GoodSXSWvote

 

How Elections Change Next Gen Cause Engagement

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/65678

SXSWPanel_10Fact: Millennials value cause engagement. But what happens during an election year? Could politics possibly influence how this generation participates in social causes? In November, we learn not only who the next President of the United States will be, but also, for the first time, we are able to track and document the impact of an election on the way in which Millennials engage with social causes. Through the 2016 Millennial Impact Report, Achieve and the Case Foundation identified what—if any—demographic factors are connected to engagement trends. Join us as we release the final wave of survey results exclusively at SXSW and share how organizations can motivate this generation.

Speakers:

Tweet this: Learn How Elections Change NextGen Cause Engagement – vote to see this panel at #SXSW: bit.ly/NextGenSXSWvote

 

Gaming for Good: Changemaking Becomes A Gamechanger

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/66435

SXSWPanel_Gaming4GoodIncentivizing people to do good is nothing new… but making it fun and entertaining, now that’s a more recent shift in how changemaking is conceived, thought of and done. Whether it is through raising money through crowdfunding platforms; offering prizes in exchange for actions taken; or watching your favorite gamer play a game and tipping them—knowing that a portion of the money will go to support a nonprofit. The increasing popularity of gamification for good online is helping to bring forth new models of engagement that are creating real world solutions to some of society’s most pressing challenges. Find out how games are fundamentally changing how change is made.

 Speakers:

Tweet this: How is #gaming fundamentally changing how change is made? Vote to see this panel @ #SXSW bit.ly/Gaming4GoodSXSWvote

 

How Media Brands Thrive 100+ Years Later

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/65479

SXSWPanel_Media100YrsMore than 200 years of content and rich history exists between the global media powerhouses of National Geographic and Atlantic Magazine. While new technology and changing business models usher in a steady stream of competition, these brands continue to thrive. So what sets them apart? Learn from the media platforms that have adapted over decades and are still publishing today reaching nearly 1 billion consumers across the globe. Explore the evolution of their digital platforms, the shifts in American news consumption, trends that are captivating the media industry, key findings on the habits of the modern news consumer, and the standout traits of the most enduring media brands.

Speakers:

Tweet this: 200+ yrs of experience exist btwn @NatGeo & @TheAtlantic —Vote 4 this #SXSW panel on how 100 yo media brands thrive bit.ly/100yrMediaSXSWvote