Getting In the Arena: The Entrepreneurial Spirit

As we announced in January, the Case Foundation is committing its 20th Anniversary year to calling on all to “Get In The Arena.” And, while most of our efforts focus on how each and every one of us can take action on the issues and challenges that matter the most to us in 2017, we also are highlighting lessons we have learned from Getting in the Arena over the past two decades.  Our hope is future endeavors of others are informed by the sharing of past learnings.

It should come as no surprise that among the most important lessons we’ve learned is the power of the entrepreneurial spirit in driving innovation and impact across the social sector.

Of course, the entrepreneurial spirit has been central to the American Experience since our earliest days as a young nation. In his book Empire on the Edge, Nick Bunker writes the following on the founding of America: “It was always eccentric, the British Empire on the mainland of America. From the time of Jamestown and the Mayflower, almost every colony came into being by means of private enterprise. They were small, experimental ventures in search of profit, in search of God. Each one was a painful exercise in trial and error, with seldom a firm guiding hand from London.”  In other words, America was born of the entrepreneurial spirit.  And it is a common belief even today, that this has been the secret sauce that has powered our economy, built innovations to improve lives and forged new political and cultural systems and frameworks that have enabled the American people to thrive in what has become the longest-established democracy in the history of the world.

Too often, the entrepreneurial spirit is perceived to be of relevance exclusively in the business sector.  And yet, as my own career has taken me from the public sector, to a career in technology in the private sector, to my current roles in the philanthropic/nonprofit sector as CEO of the Case Foundation and Chairman of the National Geographic Society, I have come to recognize the critical importance of entrepreneurial approaches across all sectors.  Indeed, given that these sectors outside of business are usually focused on the human condition or more broadly on the needs of our planet, the challenges they face can be daunting. Perhaps there is no greater need for fresh approaches, risk taking and an eye toward innovation than in those sectors.

And, over the past 20 years, we have seen the entrepreneurial spirit thrive in non-traditional settings — across sectors, across our nation and around the globe. For example:

Launching Challenge.gov: Working with the White House as our partner, we co-hosted the White House Summit on Innovation that brought together 35 U.S. government agencies using contests and grand challenges to tap “the wisdom of the crowds” across the nation in finding solutions to major challenges faced by government agencies. We partnered with experts in prizes and challenges, such as the X-Prize, and used the Summit as training ground to encourage agencies to put forth challenges to drive innovation.  Some of our favorite outcomes of this work include:

An enduring outcome of this work is Challenge.gov, a site that anyone can access to find out what contests and challenges are active.  Since its launch in 2010, 740 challenges have been run on Challenge.gov, eliciting entries from 250,000+ citizens from all 50 states and a number of foreign countries. By challenging the status quo, leveraging the creativity and innovation of new audiences and tapping the entrepreneurial spirit of the American people, the U.S. government’s work was improved at a much lower than expected cost and more citizens than ever have been engaged.

Connecting frontier communities in Africa: Internet connectivity remains a major challenge throughout Africa. Yet companies like Facebook, Google and startups like BRCK* have developed non-traditional solutions to connect schools and villages that are on the edge, and past, the traditional internet and electric infrastructure. Overcoming the traditional mindset that pipes must be built and that wires must be strung to deliver access, and working around many of the government procurement barriers that have stunted growth in the past, BRCK has developed a connectivity device that can jump from Ethernet, to WiFi, to 3G seamlessly with an 8-hour battery life when the power is out.  This is why, a recent article in Forbes referred to BRCK’s innovation as a “clever confluence of technology and entrepreneurial spirit.” To overcome the connectivity problems, Facebook announced plans to lay over 500 miles of fiber cable in Uganda this year and has even experimented with drones to provide internet access to remote locations. And Google is stringing over 1,000 kilometers of fiber cable in two of Ghana’s largest cities to serve the growing number of internet provider companies in these cities. Thanks to private sector actors like Facebook, BRCK and Google, internet access can be found in hospitals, community centers, libraries, barbershops, even on buses, where it was never available before. These entrepreneurs have solved a long-standing problem by embracing the entrepreneurial spirit.

Democratizing access to information: In the past, access to complex data was often restricted to those in government or at major research universities. These restrictions were not based on national security needs, but by historical tendencies and entrenched interests. Today, across many platforms, we are seeing visionaries, using open source and crowd sourcing models to leverage wider communities to advance science, innovation and exploration.  For example, Sarah Parcak, an associate professor of Anthropology and director of the Laboratory for Global Observation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has broken down the wall between academia and citizens, by sharing infra-red satellite imaging from commercial and NASA satellites with citizens so they can help identify potential archeological sites for further exploration. Her work in places like Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula has been groundbreaking, but her commitment to locating and protecting hundreds of thousands — even millions — of still undiscovered ancient sites that remain buried all over the world pushes the impact of her work to the next level.

Sarah’s launch of GlobalXplorer.org on January 30 embodies the entrepreneurial spirit in non-traditional areas that is so inspiring to us. This unique platform enlists a global community and enables anyone with an internet connection to discover the next hidden burial site or community using satellite technology. The platform uses satellite imagery provided by DigitalGlobe, and highlights content from National Geographic and taps the public’s time, brainpower and inquisitive nature, to map Peru in search of archeological sites hidden due to modern human activity.

And Sarah is not the only explorer and innovator working this way. We see numerous examples in the open source world where entrepreneurs and innovators are creating new and innovative platforms that are improved and updated by the wider community.

This isn’t a new idea. Every major advancement or breakthrough across society came from someone trying something that seemed a little crazy.  Long before President Kennedy ushered in an era of entrepreneurial efforts to get us first to the moon and then beyond, major leaps benefiting mankind had been the result of someone, somewhere making a commitment to #GetInTheArena with new ideas for solving old, daunting problems.  In fact, the Challenge.gov website proudly notes that similar challenges aided Charles Lindbergh’s famous transatlantic flight and the design for the U.S. Capitol building. Risk taking, a sense of urgency, a willingness to fail and a dogged perseverance are part of the formula that has defined the entrepreneurial spirit and brought us breakthroughs.  From where we sit, we are encouraged by the growing recognition and application of these tenets across the social sector, and around the world, and believe it bodes well for the future of innovation.

 

*Disclosure: Jean and Steve Case are investors in BRCK.

Making The Most of Your Time At SXSW: 20 Can’t Miss SXSW Sessions

The Case Foundation is heading to SXSW this month for five days of Interactive programming and events. While there, we will certainly dine on breakfast tacos and good ole’ Texas barbecue, but most importantly we will participate in and host a series of engaging can’t miss SXSW sessions and activations onsite designed to turn interest in to action.

In particular, the Case Foundation is excited to interact with SXSW participants at one of our sessions featuring our own Jean Case, Steve Case, Emily Yu, Sarah Koch as well as to debut our first-ever #GetInTheArena Lounge, in partnership with Oculus (at the JW Marriott from March 11th to March 15th). There, we invite you to “Get In The Arena” and share how you will turn intention into action on the causes you care about, learn about the future of social good and hear more about the important work the Foundation is leading throughout the year. A few highlights:

  • Record a short film in our 360-degree video OrcaVue that will capture your very own “Get in the Arena” video moment;
  • Check out the virtual reality videos courtesy of Oculus for Good;
  • Donate to a charity of your choice with GoodWorld as they bring the #donate phenomenon to attendees live on site;
  • Demo our soon-to-be-released Impact Investing Network Map;
  • Test your knowledge of the inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem;
  • Share what you are going to do to “Get in the Arena” in 2017.

Veterans of SXSW will tell you there are countless sessions and meet-ups on just about every issue you care about—from ocean exploration, to inclusive entrepreneurship, to tech for good platforms that are changing the way we champion causes. To make the best use of your time at SXSW, here are 20 sessions that we think you shouldn’t miss:

MARCH 10th


1. The Rise of Academic Incubators
11:00am – 12:00pm
Hotel Van Zand, Lady Bird Ballroom

Join Texas A&M, Harvard University and more as they share how universities are responding with pathways, such as curriculum enhancements, mentorship programs, and physical incubator space, to facilitate connections to students, potential investors and industry leaders

2. Funding Our Future: Investing in Diverse Startups 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Hilton Room 400-402

Valmo Ventures, Base Ventures and Connectivity Capital Partners share why the growing trend of more tech startups being founded by Women, Latino, Black and Asian founders, greater investment in these ventures is needed to ensure the innovation and economic growth across all communities that these founders represent as the global population becomes more diverse.

3. Convergence Keynote Photographer Cory Richards 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 pm
Convention Center Ballroom D

A climber and visual storyteller, Richards was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year (2012) and a National Geographic Fellow (2015). His photography has appeared in National Geographic Magazine, Outside Magazine, Man of the World, and The New York Times.

MARCH 11th


4. Navigating a Rapidly Changing and Connected World Steve Case and Beth Comstock 9:30am – 10:30am
Convention Center Ballroom EFG

Sensors that track a food’s temperature from source to store. Hospitals designed to avoid misdiagnosis. Traffic lights that actually respond to traffic. These are the changes we are likely to witness in the Third Wave: a period in which entrepreneurs will use technology to revolutionize major sectors—healthcare, manufacturing, education and food—and transform the way we live. Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and CEO of Revolution and Chairman of the Case Foundation, and Beth Comstock, Vice Chairman at GE, discuss how to adapt to the changes coming our way.

5. Changing the Face of Entrepreneurship with Jean Case 11:00am – 12:00pm
Hilton Salon C

Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. Tech pioneer and investor Jean Case explores the journey of fearless entrepreneurs who are changing the way business is done. She sits down with Reena Ninan of CBS News to discover the wide range of dynamic pioneering founders who are closing the opportunity gap and scaling creative solutions to persistent global problems. Challenge the traditional notions that entrepreneurs are exclusively wealthy, Ivy League educated white men in this conversation on how a new breed of entrepreneurs from all walks of life are fueling economic growth and shattering the status quo.

6. How Elections Change Next Gen Cause Engagement 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Hilton Salon F

Fact: Millennials value cause engagement. But what happens during an election year? Could politics influence how this generation participates in social causes? Achieve, in partnership with the Case Foundation, conducted a multi-stage research study on the millennial generation’s cause engagement as related to their political ideologies. The study measured how the 2016 U.S. presidential election affected how Millennials across the country engaged with social causes. The final 2016 Millennial Impact Report identified what, if any, demographic factors are connected to engagement trends. The final report will be debuted exclusively at SXSW and reveal key shifts that will alter how we think about this generation of changemakers. Speakers include Emily Yu of the Case Foundation, Abby Philip of the Washington Post, Carolyn DeWitt of Rock the Vote and Amy Thayer of Achieve.

7. Payments Gone Viral: The Rise of Social Commerce 3:30pm – 4:30pm
JW Marriot Salon D

Augmented reality. Hashtag payments. Messenger bots. The payments space is fundamentally changing: cash and checks gave way to credit and debit cards, which are now being replaced by apps. In an era where social proof reigns supreme, how is social media shaping the future of commerce. Meet a diverse cross-section of companies pioneering social payments: the ability to buy, pay and give on social media. Moderated by finance veteran Hans Morris (Visa, Citigroup, Nyca Partners), this session shows how the latest technologies enable people to pay where they play. Speakers include Dale Nirvani Pfeifer of GoodWorld, Kahina Van Dyke of Faecbook, Hans Morris of Nyca Partners and Ambarish Mitra of Blippar.

8. Harlem: The New Tech Frontier 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Hilton Salon E

Join Jessica O. Matthews of Uncharted Play as she explores how the startup is democratizing energy access worldwide, and changing the face of innovation. With its core technology MORE, (Motion-Based, Off-Grid, Renewable Energy) – a scalable system of micro-generators that can sustainably power cities – the company is eyeing infrastructure opportunities in emerging markets.

MARCH 12th 


9. Keynote with Lee Daniels
11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Convention Center room 18ABCD

Lee Daniels is a widely recognized director, writer, producer, and philanthropist in both the film and television space. He is perhaps best known for the 2013 critically acclaimed box office smash Lee Daniels’ The Butler, in addition to his 2009 feature Precious: Based on the Novel by Sapphire, which was nominated for six Academy Awards including “Best Motion Picture of the Year” and “Best Achievement in Directing.” The film also made history as Daniels became the first African-American to be nominated for the DGA’s Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film Award.

10. Humanitarian Design In Action 11:00am – 2:00pm
Hilton Salon D

In recent years, universities across the country have been increasingly engaging with the entrepreneurial ecosystem, developing programming internally to cultivate entrepreneurial activities and working to bring entrepreneurs into the university. Join MIT, Rice Univesity, StartX and the University of Chicago as they explore what bridges are currently being built to facilitate flows of information and people between universities and the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

11. Tech for Good: Solutions for the Refugee Crisis 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Westin Continental 2

When lives are at stake, it can be difficult to figure out how we can make a real difference. The Humanitarian Design Summit with Google, Facebook and Crack + Cider is about meeting the people who are using everyday design practices to prevent suffering and save lives. This workshop will task participants with rapidly designing responses to a real world crisis scenario. The goal isn’t to solve a difficult humanitarian problem, instead it’s an opportunity to test out the principles of Humanitarian Design in a risk-free environment with world-class designers.

* This session requires RSVP, and access will only be available to badge types listed under “Primary Access.” RSVP HERE.

MARCH 13th


12. How Tech Companies Can Give Back to Communities
12:30pm – 1:30pm
JW Marriot Salon D

Join Andrew Keen, Elaine Weidman-Grunewalk from Ericsson, Gary Shapiro of Consumer Technology Association and John Donovan from AT&T as they explore game-changing technologies and disruptive innovations and the sharing economy bring the power to improve our lives and what are the best practices that allow “Technology for Good” to authentically come into play with both the bottom line and corporate responsibility and community engagement.

13. Turning Inspiration Into Action on Instagram 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Hyatt Regency Ballroom 1

With over 600 million users, Instagram is the 2nd largest platform behind Facebook. From curated content to real life moments, Instagram is a place for inspiration and discovery. But how can marketers move inspiration and discovery to action? In this session, Instagram’s Michael Hondorp, the retail lead for the brand, will discuss the most innovative ways brands are driving impact with Instagram. From using ad formats in unexpected ways, to developing ideas customized for the feed, attendees will leave inspired to think differently about creating for the platform.

14. Interactive Keynote: Adam Grant 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Convention Center Ballroom D

Wharton’s top-rated professor, a New York Times writer on work and psychology, and author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Rule the World and Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. Grant has been recognized as one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers, and Fortune’s 40 under 40.

15. Kimbal Musk on Trust: The Currency of Our Generation 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Convention Center Ballroom EFG

Musk sits down with Fast Company magazine’s Amy Farley exploring the ability of consumers to uncover truth and authenticity in seconds with the help of the Internet is creating incredible opportunities in the food industry. As cofounder of The Kitchen, a family of businesses working in tandem to bring #realfood to everyone, he will discuss how farmers, consumers, and companies are demanding and delivering trust back to the table.

MARCH 14th


16. Investing to Change The World
9:30am – 10:30am
Convention Center Ballroom EFG

This panel will offer practical and powerful solutions for people who want to generate positive impact on society through their investments. Join Ben Jealous and Karina Funk of Kapor Capital, with Dune Thorne from the Brown Advisory and Victoria Fram of Village Capital as they explore the forefront of impact investing and will explore opportunities that range from green bonds to public equities to private equity investments. You can generate profits AND progress by investing in companies with cutting-edge environmental strategies, in bonds that fund clean energy or support low-income communities, and in innovative private investments that seek to drive social change.

17. National Geographic Explorers Changing the World 11:00am – 12:00pm
JW Marriott Room 203-204

National Geographic pushes the boundaries of exploration to further our understanding of the planet and empower us all to generate solutions for a healthier and more sustainable future. Meet the Emerging Explorers—fearless young scientists, conservationists, storytellers, and innovators who are harnessing technology to expand the frontiers of exploration. Join a discussion about taking risks, being bold and failing forward to change the world through technology for good with National Geographic Explorers Topher White and Erika Bergman and CEO Gary Knell.

18. How to Fundraise Without Silicon Valley 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Hilton Salon C

We 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. Join Earl Robinson of Consequent Capital, Sarah Koch of the Case Foundation, Nicole Sanchez of eCreditHero and Carolyn Rodz of Circular Board for this engaging discussion.

MARCH 15th


19. Nonprofits Get the Keys to the VR Kingdom
12:30pm – 1:30pm
JW Marriot Salon 3-4

Virtual Reality has been touted as the ultimate empathy engine, immersing viewers in experiences that can open their eyes and create personalized memories for important causes. To widen the reach of this unique immersive technology to deserving nonprofits, Oculus has created the “VR for Good” workshop that pairs budding filmmakers with veteran VR talent to craft powerful storytelling pieces for a variety of featured charities and causes. Participants in the inaugural launch of this program will discuss their process in collaborating with these nonprofits and how the program combats the pitfalls that worthy causes often face with innovative marketing approaches.

20. How Brands Do Well By Doing Good 3:30pm – 4:30pm
JW Marriot Salon D

Cynics believe a marketer’s biggest goal is to get a consumer to click on an ad and purchase a product. This is especially true when it comes to digital advertising, which is immediately measurable, both in its success and failure. That’s what we call short-term thinking. The best brands think about themselves—and their stories—in the long term. They consider how to connect with consumers in a way that feels authentic, and that communicates something about what the brand stands for, something that goes far beyond whichever product they’re currently peddling. Upworthy presents the brands that do well by doing good.

Have a session or event that the team shouldn’t miss? Tweet us @CaseFoundation. We look forward to seeing you there!

Biggest Trend in Social Good? Women in the Driver’s Seat!

I was recently asked to open up a dinner conversation with a room full of social innovators—a mix of foundations, entrepreneurs, impact investors and companies—by laying out what I saw as the top three trends in social good. These trends are important in that they inform our arenas for action and the clarion call we, at the Case Foundation, are making to all citizens to “Get in the Arena.” That night, I picked three distinct trends because I felt it opened up more conversation. In hindsight, I wish I’d gone with my original three: women, women and women. 

Trend 1: Women as Investors

You may recall an earlier blog I wrote about Trailblazing Women in Impact Investing where I talked about women emerging as a driving force behind the growth of the Impact Investing industry. From founding firms focused on impact investors, to creating tools and products to catalyze capital, to leading nonprofits and foundations focused on educating and activating a host of actors, women are spearheading and populating this sector more so than any other financial services sector.

A recent Calvert Investments report asserts that women, along with younger investors, will indeed drive the growth of the broader responsible investment industry. In a study of affluent women, 95 percent ranked “helping others” and 90 percent ranked “environmental responsibility” as important. And beyond driving the growth of Impact Investing, woman may be our greatest hope to unlocking the kinds of game-changing innovations required to solve the most persistent problems. Turns out that women wealth holders exhibit more risk tolerance toward new and innovative solutions, once they have met the financial security needs of themselves and their families. As Sallie Krawcheck wrote in her thought-provoking piece, women investors exhibit a slightly different values-based perspective. More women want their investments to not just generate excellent returns, but also have a positive impact on the world they live in. And they’re willing to make some big bets to deliver on that perspective.

This data reinforces the importance of ensuring that women continue to be aware of the momentum in the Impact Investing space. Remember, their purchasing power and, therefore, their potential social impact power is enormous—women control 39 percent of investible assets in the U.S. today. That number will continue to rise; women currently control 51 percent, or $14 trillion, of personal wealth in the U.S. and are expected to control $22 trillion by 2020.

Trend 2: Women as Consumers

Women represent the largest market opportunity in the world. Globally, they control $20 trillion in annual consumer spending. In the next five years, it is expected that this number will rise to nearly $30 trillion. For context, that is more than the two largest growth markets typically identified—China and India—combined! In the U.S., women control somewhere between $5-15 trillion, with estimates that they will control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the U.S. over the next 10 years.

Women handle the bulk of purchasing decisions for everyday items like groceries and clothing and are also heading up and/or highly influential in large ticket purchases like cars, homes and appliances. Here’s another kicker—they even purchase 50 percent of the products marketed to men!

Why is this a trend worth watching in social good? Because women often make purchasing decisions based on their personal and social values. The HBR piece on the “Female Economy” is a must-read on the role women will play as consumers, members of the workforce, productivity drivers and caregivers. On the women as consumers front, my favorite quote:

“Once companies wake up to the potential of the female economy, they will find a whole new range of commercial opportunities in women’s social concerns. Women seek to buy products and services from companies that do good for the world, especially for other women. Brands that—directly or indirectly—promote physical and emotional well-being, protect and preserve the environment, provide education and care for the needy, and encourage love and connection will benefit. And women are the customer. There’s no reason they should settle for products that ignore or fail to fully meet their needs, or that do so cynically or superficially. Women will increasingly resist being stereotyped, segmented only by age or income, lumped together into an “all women” characterization, or, worse, undifferentiated from men.”

Given the forthcoming wealth transfer predicted, many of these upwardly mobile consumers and asset owners are Millennial women. Millennial customers, employees and importantly—entrepreneurs—lead their lives and make choices with a more holistic worldview. They contribute to and support the things they believe in and they use their dollars to exercise those views and beliefs.

Trend 3: Women as Entrepreneurs

And perhaps the greatest trend of all to watch in terms of opportunity to drive social good is the rise of women in entrepreneurship.

American Express OPEN’s 2016 State of Women-Owned Business report is a must-read. The number of women owned firms and their economic contributions continue to rise at rates higher than the national average. As of 2016, this data shows 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., employing nearly 9 million people and generating over $1.6 trillion in revenues.

The report show that between 2007 and 2016:

  • The number of women-owned firms increased by 45 percent, compared to just a 9 percent increase among all businesses. That’s five times faster than the national average.
  • Their employment growth increased by 18 percent, compared to a 1 percent decline among all businesses.
  • Their business revenues increased by 35 percent, compared to 27 percent among all U.S. firms. That’s 30 percent higher than the national average.

And check out the growth of firms owned by women of color! Their numbers have more than doubled since 2007, increasing by 126 percent.

Now, let’s turn our attention to venture-backed companies in particular, given their potential for high growth. Less than 10 percent of venture-backed companies have female founders, despite the evidence that gender-diverse companies drive greater market returns and innovation; that VC portfolios show women-founded companies outperform those founded by men; and that funds declaring gender diversity an “investing factor” give higher returns with women at the leadership level.

I think we are going to see these dreadful statistics change over the next couple of years. Increased attention being paid to these numbers, including by our own #FacesofFounders campaign and others (UBS, Blackstone Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs, Kapor Center, 500 Startups, JumpStart, to name just a few) will help. Why is this a social trend worth accelerating? To put this into perspective, according the Economist, if women entrepreneurs in the U.S. started with the same capital as men, they would add 6 million jobs to the economy in five years—2 million of those in the first year alone.

As we ring in 2017, with all of its uncertainties, I for one commit to getting in the arena of investing in women with intention. For one thing appears pretty certain—our economy, as well as our social fabric, depends on them.

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.

Charitable Giving 3.0: Tech is Changing the Way We Give and Give Back

We have long been enthusiastic champions of democratizing philanthropy at the Case Foundation. In the same way that technology has leveled the playing field to allow all voices to be heard, we believe technology has proven its potential to empower anyone to become a philanthropist. Indeed, as the nation sets its sights on another #GivingTuesday, it is important to remember that online giving was just a nascent movement not that long ago.

Our early work in experimentation with social media platforms included America’s Giving Challenge (AGC), dating back to nearly a decade ago. At the time, we were concerned that both donors and nonprofits weren’t fully prepared for the potential of the brand new world of social media, and we knew we needed a bold step to move people toward the online tools we knew could transform the future of online giving.

AGC called on citizens everywhere to use emerging social media platforms to get engaged and give to causes they cared about. Incentives were established to encourage the greatest number of donations, not necessarily the largest, and donations of all sizes were welcomed. As part of the campaign, our “Gear Up for Giving” helped train thousands of individuals and nonprofits so that they could best leverage social media to reach their networks. We also invited people everywhere to be champions for their own causes, instead of curating a list that were our favorites.

Back then, online philanthropic competitions of this kind were relatively unheard of, and I’ll admit that we weren’t sure what to expect at first. There were so many unknowns. Would the big organizations dwarf the little guys? How would social media be activated to spread the word and reach new audiences? Would organizations be nimble enough to effectively mobilize their networks? To our surprise it was the small organizations that had the most success, and taken together, microdonations from across the nation represented significant sums for the winning causes.

Along with partners like Causes on Facebook, PARADE Magazine, Network for Good, and GlobalGiving, over the course of these two Giving Challenges we were able to mobilize nearly 200,000 people and nearly $4 million was raised for thousands of causes. Both Challenges were effective in helping the nonprofit sector become more skilled in its use of social media and they inspired other corporations and foundations to launch similar online contests. Following this work, the Case Foundation published findings and lessons learned, and worked closely with follow-on campaigns such as the Pepsi Challenge and days of giving that were popping up across the nation.

Ever since those early pioneering efforts, we have remained captivated by the idea that emerging technologies and tools can be leveraged to democratize philanthropy and provide new significance to the individual donor.

Over the years, both through the Case Foundation and through individual investments, we have encouraged “good” giving and have supported different ways to leverage technology to drive a social mission—including the very first DC Give to the Max Day, Causes on Facebook, Network for Good and MissionFish. Combined, Causes, Network for Good, and MissionFish alone represent more than $2 billion in crowdsourced contributions to the nonprofit sector.

These early online platforms and technologies provided a new way to increase opportunities to give by uniting people around causes that were close to their hearts and deepening their civic engagement. This was game-changing and has led to many innovations that have changed the way we give and give back.

In a few short years, online platforms like Network for GoodCrowdriseIndiegogoRazoo, Classy, and GlobalGiving have gained in popularity and have been instrumental in raising billions of dollars. Through these platforms and others like them, individuals could fund all kinds of inspiring causes and needs and, perhaps most importantly, catalyze civic action one donor at a time.

This is why we were intrigued to answer the question, “what’s next in online giving?”

At its Social Good Forum just a couple weeks ago, Facebook announced that users can now build their own fundraising pages that link the donate button to Facebook Live videos. Imagine being able to show, via live stream, your support for a cause while viewers donate in real time. The possibilities seem almost limitless. What’s nearly as exciting to us is that Facebook collaborated with our longstanding partner, Network for Good, to make this happen. It stands to reason that we will soon see fundraising on other social media platforms like Snapchat, which recently introduced Snapcash, and Twitter, which already allows for direct payments using $Cashtags.

And there may be no better example of the growing and transformative power of social media and the spirit of collaboration in philanthropy than #GivingTuesday. In 2015 alone 698,961 online donors raised $116.7m on #GivingTuesday, and #GivingTuesday continues to grow in size with a 52 percent year-over-year increase in online donations.

We’ve had the pleasure of being involved with #GivingTuesday from when it was just a concept being formulated by our friends at 92 Street Y and the United Nations Foundation. Since its inaugural year in 2012, we have been vocal supporters of the #GivingTuesday movement because it reflects our long-held belief in the importance of collective action.

While many look towards foundations, corporations and the government for resources, they often forget that 72 percent of giving in this country comes from individuals—and, if we’re ever going to see tipping points in addressing chronic and significant social problems it will require mobilization of the masses.

The good news is that online giving grew 9.2 percent in 2015 compared to 2014—we are seeing growing momentum in the mobilization of online donors. But I believe we have only scratched the surface. Just 7.1 percent of overall fundraising dollars are raised online. And when looking at the next generation of 80 million Millennials, we know that they primarily use digital technology such as websites, social media and mobile platforms to access information about and donate to causes and nonprofits, and that each platform plays a distinct role. And while giving offline will likely remain an important way to give for some time to come, we also must continue to leverage new technologies and data to make the process of giving even more convenient and rewarding.

If the past is any indication, we have an extraordinary opportunity ahead of us to further connect the passion of individuals ready to make a difference with new platforms, technologies and innovations that can help them do just that. This #GivingTuesday, each and every one of us has the opportunity to donate to the causes that matter most to us. Our hope is that the democratization of giving will be further strengthened in the days ahead and our communities made stronger as a result.

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.