June: Turning Interest Into Action

Awareness raising. Relationship building. Network development. Experimentation. Tipping point. Sustained action. That is the anatomy of a movement. At the Case Foundation, we aim to be movement catalyzers around social innovation. Right now we are focused on driving two major movements—impact investing and inclusive entrepreneurship. And we are intent on bringing a Be Fearless approach tipping the scales from good intention to meaningful action that can change the world. Over the next several months, we are going to highlight the key phases of movement catalyzing and our associated work in those areas. This month we are highlighting the importance of turning interest into action and recognizing the need to be intentional about doing so in our own programs.

Over the next few weeks, Jean and Steve Case and members of the team will be traveling from coast to coast and participating in various events that demonstrate the power and potential of turning interest into action. In some cases, we will be the ones encouraging and educating others in service of catalyzing our core movement areas, while in other cases we will be the ones learning and open to taking action ourselves.

Here are some of the action-oriented events we are participating in this month:

National Geographic Explorers Week, June 13-17
National Geographic was one of America’s earliest social enterprises, established in 1888 with the mission to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge. During this year’s National Geographic Explorers Week, we’ll have the opportunity to hear some of the world’s leading scientists, conservationists and explorers as they come together to connect and share the ways they are disrupting the status quo and using storytelling as a vehicle for turning interest into action that changes, maybe even saves, the world as we know it.

Forward Cities, June 14-17
Entrepreneurs, at their core, are problem solvers. And we believe that the most powerful entrepreneurs work to solve problems they’re personally connected to. That’s just one of the reasons we need a diverse set of voices and entrepreneurs at the table if we want to solve today’s most pressing social challenges. We’ll be on the ground in Cleveland, OH, at the final city convening of Forward Cities, hearing directly from local entrepreneurs who are helping to revitalize their city—one startup at a time. In so doing, they are part of a four-city cohort that aims to identify innovative solutions and share them as part of a larger effort to develop local leadership and foster a network of inclusive entrepreneurship.

MCON/The Millennial Impact Project, June 21-23
Over the past six years, our investment in the Millennial Impact Project has resulted in one of the largest bodies of research on the Millennial generation to date and one of the nation’s leading convenings on next gen engagement called MCON (also known as the Millennial Engagement Conference). Each year, the report and convening have revealed powerful insights into how this generation gives, gets engaged and connects with social causes. Later this month, we’ll be releasing preliminary findings from this year’s research and hosting MCON in our own backyard at the National Geographic campus in Washington, DC. Speakers including Chef José Andrés, DeRay Mckesson, Jay Newton-Small and our very own Jean Case will take the stage with a focus on turning that interest into action and finding creative solutions for social issues. There’s still time to get your ticket and join us!

Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) 2016, June 22-24
At the Case Foundation, we believe in the power of entrepreneurship to tackle global challenges. For this reason, we are so excited to take part in GES 2016, a convening of the world’s most inspiring entrepreneurs, investors and policymakers who are putting their belief that business and innovation will drive economic growth and social well-being into action. Our CEO Jean Case and our Chairman Steve Case will both take the stage, celebrating the role that entrepreneurs around the globe (and the investors who believe in them) play in creating real, transformative impact, in driving innovation and in solving some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Aspen Ideas Festival, June 23-July 2
From innovations in science and technology to new models in early childhood education, many great ideas have been hatched and grown at the Aspen Ideas Festival throughout the years. This year, we’re excited to have our CEO Jean Case take part in a session on courageous philanthropy. She’ll be joined by Carrie Penner of the Walton Foundation and Ann Limberg of Bank of America, sharing opportunities to apply the Be Fearless principles to move interest in risk-taking, experimentation and making big bets to action in the philanthropic sector.

In addition to sharing highlights from these events, throughout the month of June we’ll be showcasing organizations and leaders who exemplify the ideals of turning interest into action for our community. We see this as a great learning opportunity and hope you will share your own experiences or best practices around the conversion of interest into action. Join us in person at one of these events, or share your thoughts with us via social media using @CaseFoundation and #Interest2Action on Twitter.

The Myth of Combat

The Myth of Combat is the third post in the Case Foundation’s Myth of the Entrepreneur series. This series is intended to intentionally examine, and change, the stories our culture tells about entrepreneurship. For more information on the Case Foundation’s approach to the Myth series and Inclusive Entrepreneurship, please check out our introductory piece. We encourage you to join the conversation using #Ent4All on Twitter.

The Myth of the Entrepreneur series is based on research conducted by Michael Chodos, former fellow with the Case Foundation and currently at the Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation at Georgetown University, with contributions from Aaron Coleman, former Case Foundation intern.

There’s no denying the natural draw of drama that comes from a good battle, whether in a sport arena, a courtroom or a theatrical stage — we love to see truth, virtue and value emerge from a defining moment of clash and competition. Think: Monday Night Football, Law & Order, Game of Thrones, The Voice, Hamilton.

So, it’s not entirely surprising that the act of proving worth through this type of “trial by combat” has also become prevalent in the entrepreneurial narrative — largely in the form of the ubiquitous pitch competition. Whether part of mainstream pop culture or down the street at our local accelerator, the dozens of pitch competitions that take place every day deliver one clear message: an entrepreneur’s true worth — and a venture’s true likelihood of success — is proven by how they perform at the pitch competition.

The ultimate example of this narrative plays out on the ever-popular reality TV show, Shark Tank. Contestant entrepreneurs appear in front of world-famous investors who hold the promise of tens of thousands or even a couple million in start-up money. They get the added benefit of face time in front of an at-home audience of nearly 10 million, and if your business and pitch sound right — and you can handle the volley of difficult “gotcha” questions from the investors — you can close a deal right then and there and the audience is left thinking your success is guaranteed.

But in reality, “winning” a pitch competition itself is a small and rare moment in most entrepreneurs’ journeys, and an over-celebration of pitch events runs the risk of perpetuating the myth that it is the only pathway to building a successful, sustainable business. Stories of winning pitch competitions do not ground the success narratives of Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Lucy Peng or Steve Jobs. In fact, many of today’s most celebrated entrepreneurs would probably tell you that they would likely have lost a pitch competition in the earliest days of their companies (check out Brian Chesky’s Medium post on the many rejections he received on early pitches to raise money for AirBnB).

Building, scaling and sustaining a new business requires more than a “winning” pitch. It requires an entire support system — founders, investors, policymakers, consumers and many others — who can offer the long-term support of the entrepreneur’s dogged pursuit to solve the one problem identified as worthy of immense investments of their own time and treasure. Ecosystem builders like Mara Mentors, Forward Cities, PowerMoves and 1776 understand this; they see the pitch and everything else. For those who have concerns that the pitch competition — and the myth that it is the only path to successfully starting a business — may be disadvantaging women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color, innovations on the model are cropping up. Village Capital has introduced a “peer selection model,” and Springboard Enterprises has its “Dolphin Tank” which, in their words “isn’t… a competition for the best idea, it’s about channeling the expertise of the people in the room to provide connections and advice to help entrepreneurs take the next step.” And crowdfunding platforms are proving to be a more successful onramp for women and minority entrepreneurs. Groups and models like these provide entrepreneurs with access to the collaborative networks and connections they’ll need to scale and solve meaningful problems.

Wins and losses, and the learning that comes from both, are inevitable in entrepreneurship. No doubt pitch competitions can be great forums for showcasing entrepreneurial talent, surfacing new ideas, helping entrepreneurs hone in on their value proposition and generating feedback critical to the constant iteration that is part of building a business — and platforms like Shark Tank are tremendously helpful in raising the profile of entrepreneurs and innovators. My colleague Sheila Herrling and I also recently defended the role of pitch competitions in the nonprofit sector.

But as we seek to broaden the narrative around entrepreneurship it is important that we see beyond the excitement and drama that comes from a no holds barred “business death-match,” to the full scope of developing, nurturing and growing a diverse set of entrepreneurs leading sustainable businesses.

Join the conversation on Twitter at #Ent4All and be sure to check out the full Myth of the Entrepreneur series!

The Myth of the Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is the bedrock of our country’s economy. In the US, fast-growing, innovation-driven startups represent only two to three percent of all businesses, but they create almost all of the revenue growth in our economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over a recent three-year period 34 percent of all private sector jobs were created by 80,000 high-growth businesses. Beyond the creation of jobs and wealth, entrepreneurship serves perhaps an even more essential function to Americans—it embodies our shared belief in limitless individual opportunity. Our Chairman, Steve Case, often reminds us that America itself represents one of the greatest startup ventures ever. Deeply ingrained in America’s startup business proposition was the belief that any individual—no matter their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, economic background or geographic location—could bring their entrepreneurial talents to building the kinds of strong and diverse businesses and communities we need to keep our nation prosperous.

Yet today the American dream that any individual has the power to change his or her own trajectory, and in doing so be a part of driving our nation’s entrepreneurship and innovation legacy forward, is fading. The vast majority of today’s celebrated startups continue to be founded and funded by white, well-educated, well-networked males. Women are at the helm of 30 percent of all businesses in the US, and these businesses are leading the way in terms of hiring and growth. However, startups with women CEOs still receive only three percent of venture capital funding. Minority-owned businesses are growing at a faster clip than non-minority owned businesses, but are receiving an even smaller fraction of investments.

Why is that? It’s not that high-potential, high-performance companies founded by women and entrepreneurs of color don’t exist—check out the amazing talent featured at the first ever White House Demo Day this summer. It’s not that performance data isn’t on their side—women-founded ventures are outperforming their male counterparts and companies with diverse executive teams (gender and race) are more likely to have higher financial returns. It might be that unconscious bias permeates—bosses tend to hire people that look like they do, think like they do and come from similar experiences that they do. Investors tend to do the same. Sadly, it might be that men are perceived as “more persuasive” pitchers. Whatever the reasons, it can’t be that leaving half the team on the sidelines is a winning game plan.

In an effort to level the playing field and leverage the maximum potential of America’s entrepreneurial talent, earlier this year the Case Foundation launched a new effort to catalyze a movement around Inclusive Entrepreneurship. We have been inspired by the data that suggest diversifying our entrepreneurial ecosystem is good for business and good for the world. We have been inspired by early pioneers like Forward Cities, PowerMoves and JumpStart, Inc., who have been leading the way in engaging, networking and financing diverse entrepreneurs in their communities. And we have been exceedingly curious about the extent to which the American culture and mythology surrounding entrepreneurship, perpetuated by the media, may be impeding the success of women and entrepreneurs of color.

Unbundling The Myth of the Entrepreneur

Today, when you look at the most highly celebrated entrepreneurs—or look at how entrepreneurs are depicted in pop culture—it’s not exactly a picture of diversity. And typically the story of the entrepreneur casts main characters that appear to be singularly heroic, toiling away in garages and labs until, suddenly, a Eureka Moment! Culture begets behavior, and behavior creates outcomes. So if we want to change outcomes by expanding access to entrepreneurship, we must start with what informs our culture of entrepreneurship: We must very intentionally examine, and change, the stories we tell.

In conjunction with National Entrepreneurship Month and Global Entrepreneurship Week, we are doing our small part to start changing the narrative by launching a new blog series called The Myth of the Entrepreneur. Through this series we will take a critical look at the common stories told in startup culture. We want to distinguish between what stories should be embraced and what stories are holding us back. And to suggest it’s time to reboot and re-focus the narrative on entrepreneurship, and create a message of inspiration and aspiration grounded in inclusivity. The next era of entrepreneurship is about leveling the playing field, expanding participation and scaling the networks of social, financial and inspirational capital that provide the foundation for successful startups and scalable business. The new paradigm of entrepreneurship will replace the myth of isolated geniuses with teams of diverse problem-solvers working hard and collectively to build and scale businesses that make life better for all, not just more convenient for an elite few.

If we can debunk these long-standing and highly influential myths, perhaps we can, together, put a new “face” on today’s entrepreneur. We hope you will join us on this journey—offer up your thoughts, inspiration and new era entrepreneurs you admire on twitter using the hashtag #Ent4All. Check back here next week to learn the truth about one of the most infamous myths of entrepreneurship today—The Myth of Isolation.

Powering Entrepreneurship with Inclusion

At the Case Foundation, we believe that entrepreneurship is powerful driver of innovation, economic growth, job creation, and solutions to big, intractable problems at a global and local scale. But as we look at the increasing inequality – economic and digital divides – we have begun to explore how to tap into the fuller entrepreneurial potential of communities and countries – all backgrounds and all locations. We’ve also begun to explore the notion of catalyzing a movement in inclusive entrepreneurship built upon the theory of change that diversity breeds innovation and innovation breeds business (financial and social) success. There are a lot of ways to define “inclusive” entrepreneurship. To us, it means getting beyond those who traditionally have easier access to entrepreneurship and thinking about how to lift up—women- and minority-owned businesses, businesses that are funding good jobs for the community, and social enterprises that are committed to financial and social returns.

As part of our exploration phase, the Case Foundation team, led by our CEO Jean Case, returned to New Orleans to dive deeper into the entrepreneurship ecosystem there. Through our work with the collective impact organization, Forward Cities, we have been fortunate enough to meet entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders in New Orleans, Durham, Detroit and Cleveland who are committed to utilizing entrepreneurship to build their economies. Our team has spent the past six months listening and learning about the concept of Inclusive Entrepreneurship and we have emerged from this period of exploration even more convinced of the power of inclusion.

Our time in New Orleans was spent learning about the rebuilding of the city as we approach the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and meeting with on-the-ground ecosystem builders who are using the power of inclusivity to create thriving entrepreneurship communities.

We want to extend a warm thank you to our partners on the ground in New Orleans who shared their approaches to inclusive entrepreneurship and walked us through their city and their work while we were there. Accelerators like PowerMoves and Propeller, along with ecosystem builders like Greater New Orleans, Inc., and advocates like former New Orleans Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer have seen the value in democratizing entrepreneurship and are actively creating a more inclusive New Orleans.Photo May 08, 11 09 39 AM

And we ended our visit with a full house at NoBic, as part of the Rise of the Rest road trip, featuring the importance of diversity and inclusion in rebuilding and growing New Orleans through entrepreneurship. Jean Case led a dynamic conversation with star innovator Beth Galante and ecosystem builders Earl Robinson and Tim Williamson. It is leaders like these who are breaking down barriers and bringing the power of inclusivity to the forefront of the New Orleans entrepreneurship landscape.

And how wonderful to see the power of inclusive entrepreneurship pay off, with PowerMoves-backed entrepreneur Crystal McDonald and her company GoToInterview, win the Rise of the Rest pitch competition and a $100,000 investment.

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The conversation on diversity and inclusion continues to grow. It is clear that if we want to build up our cities and grow our economies, we need to follow in New Orleans’ footsteps and level the playing field to bring more people to the table and maximize the full potential of local, national and global talent to building the companies that are going to change the world.

2015 Conferences On Our Radar

This post was written by Jade Floyd and Anna Windsor on behalf of the Case Foundation:

Networking with people we admire, making new connections, and learning from organizations that inspire us: those are just a few reasons we love attending conferences and convenings in the social sector and beyond that help us advance our efforts to revolutionize philanthropy, unleash entrepreneurship and ignite civic engagement. While we wish we could find a way to easily clone ourselves and make it to all of the incredible gatherings there are to choose from, here are the few we’ll be attending (and in some cases hosting panels, dinners and other discussions) in 2015:

Opportunity Nation Summit, February 25 – 26, Washington, D.C.

The National Opportunity Summit unites a bipartisan, cross-sector group of business leaders, nonprofits, elected officials and young people working together to address the crisis of youth unemployment and its impact on opportunity in America. Join the Case Foundation for a panel on the “Power of Entrepreneurship on Youth Unemployment.” More details HERE.

Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTEN), March 4 – 6, Austin, TX

The Nonprofit Technology Conference highlights the latest technologies and best strategies to address pressing issues in the nonprofit sectors. Be sure to check out our own Elyse Greenberg on March 6th as she joins a panel of social media professionals for a lively conversation around engagement. They will explore how better engagement can lead to stronger programs, higher returns and greater impact for you and your initiatives. More details HERE.

SXSW Interactive, March 13 – 17, Austin, TX

The SXSW Interactive Festival is an incubator for cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity that tens of thousands flock to each year in Austin. Be sure to pop over to the many events hosted by the Case Foundation, including:

  • Our CEO, Jean Case will lead a lively “Impact Investing Rumble,” where champions of impact investing will take on the nay sayers in a tag-team style debate to fight it out over whether or not one can really invest and receive financial returns. More details HERE.
  • A Be Fearless Breakout Session where you can explore how you and your organization can integrate strategies and tactics to create greater impact and more meaningful social change. More details HERE.
  • A session on How Potato Salad Killed/Saved Crowdfunding moderated by our own Allyson Burns with Gary Wohlfeill from Crowdrise; Ryan Grepper who created the Coolest Cooler which was one of the most popular campaigns on Kickstarter; and Zack Brown, the “potato salad guy” from from Kickstarter. Together they will explore the future of crowdfunding for nonprofits, for-profits and individuals and what this shift in crowdfunding means for the future of the sector. More details HERE.
  • Join us in the convention center for a featured presentation on the future of entrepreneurship by our Chairman, Steve Case, including a fireside chat Catherine Rampell from the Washington Post. More details HERE.
  • Later, Steve will join fellow judges Troy Carter and Sallie Krawcheck for the Rise of the Rest pitch competition. Join us as they showcase emerging startup ecosystems across the U.S. Five companies will have five minutes to pitch and the winning startup will receive a $100,000 investment. More details HERE.
  • Pop over to the “Startup Oasis” produced by UP Global and the Kauffman Foundation from March 14-16th. Steve will join other entrepreneurs and startups at sessions and happy hours focused on women, fintech and education. Sign up HERE.

Skoll World Forum, April 15-17, Oxford, England

Every year in Oxford more than 1,000 thought leaders from the social, financial, private and public sectors convene to innovate, accelerate and scale solutions to the world’s greatest social issues. More details HERE. Council on Foundations Annual Meeting, April 26 – 28, San Francisco, CA The Council on Foundations’ Annual Meeting brings together global leaders from across philanthropy to develop the ideas and strategies that will shape the future. More details HERE.

Milken Institute Global Conference, April 26 – 29, Los Angeles, CA

The four-day conference in Los Angeles unites attendees as they devise solutions to today’s most pressing challenges. Stay tuned for more on events hosted by the Case Foundation to be announced in the coming weeks. More details HERE. Do Good Data, April 30 – May 1, Chicago, IL Do Good Data features innovative leaders who weigh in on how data is creating a more effective and efficient sector. More details HERE.

Forward Cities, date TBD

Forward Cities is a multi-city, national learning collaborative between New Orleans, Detroit, Cleveland and Durham. Over the next two years, leaders and local innovators from each of these cities are convening to connect with one another as they work to increase entrepreneurial activity and connectivity in disconnected communities. The Case Foundation is looking forward to supporting several of their upcoming meetings in Detroit and Cleveland this year so stay tuned for more!

EPIP National Conference, May 12 – 14, New Orleans, LA

The Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy National Conference aims to develop leaders who are better equipped to advance social change. The theme for this year’s conference is “Emerging Voices, Empowering Communities” and will unite attendees as they address social disparities and discuss best practices to advance social change. More details HERE.

The Millennial Impact – MCON 2015, June 24-25, Chicago, IL

Each year the Case Foundation hosts MCON, a two-day experience for corporate, nonprofit and public leaders who create and build movements for causes by engaging the Millennial generation. MCON will be an especially enriching experience for cause marketers, and cause enthusiasts and cause leaders seeking to change the culture of their organizations. More details HERE.

Mashable Social Good Summit, September 27 th- 28th, New York, NY

The Mashable Social Good Summit is a conference examining the impact of technology and new media on social good initiates around the world. The summit is held during UN Week in New York City and unites a community of global leaders and grassroots activists. This year’s theme will be #2030NOW, asking the question, “What type of world do I want to live in by the year 2030?” More details HERE.

SOCAP, October 6 – 9, San Francisco, CA

SOCAP 15 (Social Capital Markets) will unite innovators in business, tech, the sharing economy, health and philanthropy to advance environmental and social causes through impact investing and social enterprise. More details HERE.

Independent Sector, October 27 – 29, Miami, FL

The Independent Sector Conference uses innovative formats to share the expertise of staff and board members from nonprofits, foundations and corporate philanthropy programs. The conference also features special programs including like NGen: Moving Nonprofit Leaders from Next to Now, as well as the Public Policy Action Institute. More details HERE.

2015 BoardSource Leadership Forum, November 9 – 10, New Orleans, LA

The BoardSource Leadership Forum is one of the largest annual gatherings of nonprofit board leaders. At this convening, attendees will discuss the latest trends and best practices in nonprofit governance to help guide their organizations toward greater impact. More details HERE.

We hope to see you at one or more of these gatherings, and look forward to sharing more about our learnings. We’ll check in later this year with an update on new gatherings that we’ve added to our calendar.

Have a conference not listed here that should be on our radar? Tweet us @CaseFoundation to share with #CFBlog.

Entrepreneurship and Inclusive Economics: Two Forces of Good

Four years ago, Gallup Chairman Jim Clifton declared, “the world will be led with economic force – a force that is primarily driven by job creation and quality GDP growth….the coming world war is an all-out global war for good jobs.” Today, economists and politicians alike generally agree that job creation and inclusive growth (growth that is shared across income groups) is the #1 issue to resolve – not only to restore America’s global economic standing but also to restore the American Dream of equal opportunity. Inclusive economics and entrepreneurship were central themes in President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, and top Republicans are increasingly talking about issues of inequality and wealth gap.

We have work to do to restore the American dream and to restore America’s standing in the world. Pew research shows median household wealth declined 39.4% from 2007 to 2010. Median net worth of American families has held stable through 2013, but we can’t be satisfied with this as the new normal. How can we move towards an increase? And how, particularly, can we make that growth inclusive by closing the current gap between whites earning 17 times more than blacks, the lowest point since 1989?

I spent the last 20 years working on issues of global poverty and international development. I sat on many panels that ended with this question: what is the most important thing the U.S. can do to reduce global poverty? And my answer was and remains the same: First, fix and grow our own country’s economy by driving new business, unlock capital and create new and lasting jobs; support and reward R&D and innovators and experimenters in every field coming up with new and bold ways of tackling the world’s most pressing challenges. Second, make sure the American dream – equality of opportunity – remains real. It is universal value that inspires all people everywhere.

This year, our Case Foundation team, is building up a pillar of work we call “Unleashing Entrepreneurship.” At the root of that pillar is a belief in the power of entrepreneurship to transform lives, create good jobs, rebuild the middle class, uplift struggling communities and close the opportunity gap that exists for too many. And that belief holds whether we are talking about New Orleans, Detroit or Nairobi – creating enduring jobs is perhaps the greatest antidote to poverty and hopelessness which erodes the very fabric of the tightly-knit communities the world needs to prosper.

As I’ve been trying to put words to my own beliefs in this space, I have found a kindred spirit in Jim Clifton who said: “If you were to ask me, from all the world polling Gallup has done for more than 75 years, what would fix the world – what would suddenly create worldwide peace, global wellbeing, and the next extraordinary advancements in human development, I would say the immediate appearance of $1.8 billion formal jobs. Nothing would change the current state of humankind more.” I encourage folks to read his book The War for Good Jobs, or at least this excerpt, and his thoughts on how to tackle this one city at a time.

Others have explored how we can clear the path to entrepreneurship for not only our generation, but for those to come. Here are some other pieces that have inspired me. I hope they do the same for you as we work to create more vibrant communities, a stronger America and a more prosperous global economy.

While we are in explorer mode finding a Case Foundation niche in this space, I invite you to share your thoughts – what inspires you? Tell us on Twitter by tagging @CaseFoundation and using the hashtag #CFblog or send me an email SheilaH@casefoundation.org.