Time to Tap All of America’s Entrepreneurship Potential

Entrepreneurs have been at the center of our American story for centuries. Indeed, entrepreneurs have powered our economy, fueled job growth and introduced innovations that have contributed to the quality of life we enjoy today. In fact, you could say that the American Experience is built on the backs of entrepreneurs who took risks because they believed that in America, anyone from anywhere could bring the next big idea to life.

While as a nation we celebrate our startup and innovation culture, any telling of this American story would not be complete without noting that a fundamental shift has taken place in recent decades in the funding of entrepreneurs and the new companies they build: venture capital. Venture capital is known for its role in funding select firms that have high growth potential. Indeed, many of the most celebrated American brands and businesses were fueled by an infusion of early venture capital into the companies, including Google, Airbnb, Whole Foods, Starbucks and Tesla. And the role of venture capital goes far beyond funding – it often brings with it strategic guidance for young entrepreneurs, access to an elite network of other successful business leaders and often serves as a magnet for follow-on funding by others. The economic impact of venture capital cannot be overstated. A 2015 study by Stanford School of Business on the subject had this to say: “Venture capital has profoundly changed the U.S. economy. It has become a dominant force in the financing of innovative American companies.”

Think of venture capital as the “secret sauce” of investments and resources that often make the difference as to whether a young entrepreneur breaks out with great success, or withers on the vine. But a growing body of data highlights a sobering fact: we aren’t tapping the full potential for innovation and ingenuity in this great nation because venture capital has favored a limited few – most of them men; most of them white. Indeed, research into where the venture capital is going reveals that only 10% of venture-backed companies had a female founder; only 1% had an African American founder. And 78% of all venture capital went to just 3 states: California, New York and Massachusetts, leaving the other 47 states to share just a quarter of the pie. Imagine the potential economic upside if more segments of society could compete for venture capital for their firms.

And the data shows the sectors being overlooked by venture capital are strong, vibrant and perform well.

Consider the data:

When it comes to performance in business, data suggests these groups can outperform the norms. For instance, Fortune reported that women-led companies perform three times better than the S&P 500. First Round Capital looked at their portfolio of investments and found that companies with a female founder performed 60% better than those with all-male founded teams. A McKinsey study reported that racially diverse companies outperform industry norms by 35%. And those other 47 states? They are the home of three-quarters of all Fortune 500 companies. There is a deep and rich history of innovation and business success between the coasts in America.

At the Case Foundation, we believe that this data, while arresting, represents a powerful economic opportunity to seize, simply by taking steps to be intentional in reaching out to find and fund new, high growth and innovative startups from broader segments of society. By building onramps to funding, networking and mentoring for all sectors of society, we can expand economic opportunities more broadly and tap markets that have been underserved. We know that investors and, frankly most of us, connect to people with similar experiences. As 93 percent of investing partners at the top 100 venture firms are men, they will need to consciously step outside their comfort zones. But the data and the opportunity outlined here speaks directly to why many joined the venture capital field in the first place. We think funding entrepreneurs who see things a little differently and who develop innovations that tap new markets is at the center of the venture capital world and those who open doors to a more diverse pool of innovators will be pleased with what they find.

And we are not alone in our excitement for the opportunities that will come from infusing new energy and new perspectives into the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Our partners in this work, the Kauffman Foundation, have championed initiatives to expand entrepreneurial growth and just this month launched a campaign to lower barriers to entry for new businesses and to “develop solutions and empower more entrepreneurs to pursue their ambitions.”

As part of this movement, we have launched the Medium publication #FacesofFounders, designed to elevate a discussion of entrepreneurship, race, place and gender. We welcome you to engage with this conversation, share your story and hear from founders of all backgrounds, at all stages in their startup journey, to highlight how entrepreneurs with groundbreaking ideas come from all backgrounds and are poised to play a key role in America’s innovation economy.

To start the conversation about identifying the next generation of innovators, #FaceofFounders on Medium will be focusing on three opportunities for you to take action to support entrepreneurs nationwide.

Opportunity 1: Champion All Entrepreneurs

There are diverse entrepreneurs out there already starting, growing and successfully exiting their ventures, across sectors of society and across the nation. We will showcase the incredible pipeline of entrepreneurs already calling themselves “Founders” and embracing the entrepreneurial spirit. And we urge you to join us in celebrating this universe of inclusive entrepreneurs.

Opportunity 2: Challenge Unconscious Bias

We also must open the door to more people by acknowledging that unconscious bias is real. By acknowledging that unconscious bias is real, we can begin to create systems that source entrepreneurs beyond existing bubbles and influence the standard criteria used by investors as they assess potential investments.

Opportunity 3: Extend Privilege—Get in the Arena

Investors, ecosystem builders, mentors, advocates, connectors, board members. No matter who you are, there’s a role you can play to extend opportunities to all entrepreneurs. #GetInTheArena and help champion the possibility of entrepreneurship for all.

The Path Forward

To educate and inspire you to take action, we will feature stories of diverse entrepreneurs who are dreaming, building and scaling successful businesses. These founders come from all backgrounds—women, men, Latinx, African Americans, B Corps, students, immigrants, moms, engineers, artists—but have a common vision that their idea holds great promise. Each week, we will profile an innovator that you may or may not have heard of, but whose story will hopefully inspire you or someone you know to say “I can do it. I can be an entrepreneur.” If we seize this opportunity to democratize entrepreneurship, we will not only support new innovators, we will strengthen innovation and redouble our commitment that anyone from anywhere has a fair shot at the American Dream.

Join the conversation on entrepreneurship, race, place and gender at FacesofFounders.org.

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!

Jean Case at TEDxMidAtlantic: Unlocking the American Dream

Case Foundation CEO Jean Case took the stage at TEDxMidAtlantic: New Rules—a gathering of 45 prestigious leaders who came together to discuss and think about what kind of society and future we want to build, and how we get there. Jean’s talk noted the importance innovators have played in the history of the United States, examined the state of entrepreneurship today and promoted a series of changes we could make to open the doors of entrepreneurship to everyone.

Jean shared the true but often surprising statistics that show that women and entrepreneurs of color are too-often being left on the sidelines, but contrasted them with her vision of a world where all innovators and change makers were on a level playing field. While she recognized that there are still many challenges facing women and entrepreneurs of color involving unconscious bias, she called on investors to take a hard look at their portfolios and the opportunities they were missing by not tapping into the rich talent of diverse entrepreneurs. Standing on the iconic red TED carpet, Jean set forward a clarion call for all to join in on building an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem that would give everyone an equal chance at unlocking the American Dream.

Watch Jean’s TEDx talk below to learn more about the realities for women and entrepreneurs of color today, and how we can help change the face of who is and can be an entrepreneur.

 

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.  

Confronting Risk in Today’s Nonprofit

Over the last four years, the Case Foundation has been actively sharing and championing a framework of principles under the title, Be Fearless. Based on research highlighting key factors that often lead to transformative social change, it calls on individuals and organizations to Be Fearless in their vision, efforts and commitment to their cause. Throughout this period, I’ve met thousands of changemakers from across the country who have embraced the concept and are actively creating change in their communities on everything from poverty and education to climate change and impact investing.

Today, I am delighted to announce that we are debuting a redesigned Be Fearless Hub to enhance the user experience and make more accessible the free tools and resources that our community has requested. The new Hub includes a step-by-step guide to help your organization assess and navigate change, and a set of case studies that showcase some best-in-class changemakers putting the Be Fearless principles into practice—including three exclusive new case studies featuring:

  • Community Voices Heard – empowering New York City’s poorest residents through a radical, strategic coalition.
  • Propeller – restructuring its core program to more quickly move the needle on outcomes for food, water, health and education in New Orleans.
  • Sanergy – developing a new model for addressing a global health challenge that would transform the lives and livelihoods of millions in Africa’s slums.

As I reflect on our own efforts to Be Fearless, I have come to realize that even with resources like the Framework for Action, the case studies and hands-on training through workshops, the idea of risk, and the act of risk taking, remains a paralyzing factor for many. I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The word itself is such a loaded one, often filled with negative or dangerous connotation—“risk-taker,” “risky business,” “credit risk” and “risqué” (the French origin). But the research that led to the Be Fearless principles suggests another perspective when measuring and embracing risk, and that is one of: “no risk, no reward.” In other words, innovations and breakthroughs usually require taking a risk. So given this, is there a way to de-risk, risk?

One way to approach this concept is similar to how private companies view research and development. The goal of R&D in this context is to experiment and identify potential new products in a safe space—despite the fact that the return on investment is uncertain. Suddenly, experimenting, piloting and producing a minimum viable product don’t seem so daunting. It is the cost of doing good business. And what once was a disappointing failure now becomes an opportunity to learn. Expenses to cover costs on the development of products that never make it to market are now seen as an investment where the organization can apply its learnings and ultimately save costs in the long run.

Indeed, there are many different ways to look at risk and R&D from an organizational structure. At the Case Foundation, we’re embracing risk in pursuit of catalyzing our two major movements—inclusive entrepreneurship and impact investing. As we seek to increase the number of women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color, we know that access to social networks is a key ingredient to success. What we don’t know, because of limited data, is whether these entrepreneurs have higher success rates as cohorts of exclusively dedicated accelerators (women-only or of-color-only) or not. While we consider commissioning research, we decided to “be the data” by partnering with a young start-up PowerMoves, an accelerator for entrepreneurs of color, and test our theory of change to see what works.

Similarly, on the impact investing front, we are embracing risk in pursuit of a big bet regarding what’s needed to tip more investors from good intent to action. Coming this fall, we will launch in beta form a data visualization tool that maps the connections between investors, companies and funds in the impact investing ecosystem. Nothing like it exists in the market yet, but our work to date (research, interviews, partner collaboration) and that from the sector suggests there is a need for it. But who knows—the feedback and iteration stage could reveal some real surprises, surprises that we value as opportunities (not risks!) of doing our business better.

Risk, in these two contexts, is elevated into a purposeful strategy and opportunity to innovate and try new things, without the assurance of a positive outcome. Imagine what could be possible if the social sector invested in a continuous cycle of R&D? What if you got regular feedback on your programs, could test new ideas with your target audience before implementing them at full scale or allowed for iterations of your product over time in order to deliver the best version possible? What kind of impact could you help create?

So I ask you now, what are you doing within your own organization? Have you developed your own form of R&D or institutionalized processes for innovation? Or are you perhaps just getting started and looking for ways to take the first step? If you are ready to embrace risk and reach the next level of changemaking, then I encourage you to check out the Framework for Action, case studies and other free resources on the Be Fearless Hub. It is incumbent upon all of us empowered changemakers to take risks, be bold and fail forward, so let’s take the next step together, now.

Don’t forget to share your experiences with us via Twitter using @CaseFoundation and #BeFearless. We hope you’ll join us!

Jean Case on Forbes: There are No Limits to Innovation in the Steel City

Today, our CEO Jean Case is in Pittsburgh—a city with a long and storied tradition of innovation. And fortuitously, today is also the first day of Pittsburgh’s first-ever Inclusive Innovation Week.

Throughout the day, Jean will have the chance to tour the ALMONO site in Hazelwood, new home to Uber’s self-driving cars testing facility, meet with students at the University of Pittsburgh, join innovators and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto at AlphaLab Gear and more. Through all of this, the message is clear: There are no limits to innovation in the Steel City.

In her piece on Forbes this morning, Jean shares how innovators in Pittsburgh are reinventing their city, helping this steel town experience a resurgence in the form of a technology boom, and how innovation can come from people and places that might surprise you. Read the full Forbes piece, here.

Photo Credit: “Always Shooting” on Flickr.

Be Fearless Spotlight: Barbara Van Dahlen

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Barbara Van Dahlen for over a decade, so it came as no surprise to me when she was named to TIME’s 2012 list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Her energy and enthusiasm for her work are contagious, but perhaps the thing I admire most about Barbara is how she and the organizations she leads embody the Be Fearless principles we champion here at the Case Foundation. Her work with Give an Hour and Campaign to Change Direction aims to change the culture in America around mental health—a bold and audacious goal to be sure.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Barbara and ask her a few questions about her groundbreaking work. Below, she shares how the Be Fearless principles are influencing the efforts of both Given an Hour and the Campaign to Change Direction.

Jean: How do you and the team you work with view Being Fearless? 

Barbara: For us, Being Fearless means taking on whatever challenge is necessary in order to ensure that those who serve our country—and their families—have the mental health support and care they deserve. It means being bold in our decision to take on the heavy lift of changing the culture of mental health in America through our new collective impact effort, the Campaign to Change Direction, so that all Americans are free to value their emotional well-being just as they do their physical well-being.

Being fearless means looking beyond what is safe and easy to what is necessary—it means using our skills, expertise and creativity to find solutions and reduce suffering in our world.

Jean: One of the Be Fearless principles is to “Make Big Bets and Make History.” What “big bets” have you and your team made, and how have they paid off?

Barbara: Three years ago, after the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut, I was asked to take a look at how we might address the mental health needs in our country. After pulling together a group of trusted colleagues to study the issue, we came to the conclusion that the greatest barrier to mental health care in America is our culture. We just don’t value emotional well-being in this country—not the way we do physical well-being. As a result, people who are suffering from emotional pain, trauma or mental health conditions often feel weak or broken—they feel shame and guilt and they don’t seek care. More people die by suicide than in car accidents—we can do better.

Give an Hour has accepted the challenge, and the privilege, of leading a national collective impact effort to change the culture of mental health in America. The Campaign to Change Direction launched last March. I was thrilled to have you, Jean, join us for the launch and set the stage with an inspiring speech about the power of collective impact efforts, and to have First Lady Michelle Obama close our event with a call to action to all Americans to join this movement.

Our “big bet” that the country is ready for this type of cultural shift is paying off. Thanks to the generous support of our Founding Members, including the Case Foundation, we have already far surpassed our initial goals. We began with 50 partners and a plan to reach 30 million Americans in five years. We have already introduced the campaign to 176 million Americans and now have over 180 partners with communities stepping up to help all over the country. Culture change takes time, but we are on our way!

Jean: Can you tell us about a time when you let a sense of urgency drive your objectives? 

Barbara: That is a very interesting question. I felt a sense of urgency about addressing the unmet mental health needs in our society long before I made the decision to walk away from my successful clinical practice to launch Give an Hour. I have seen the impact of mental health challenges, substance abuse and trauma on adults, on children and on families. I have also seen so many success stories—people who were struggling emotionally and found healing, health and support.

We don’t have all of the answers in the mental health arena—any more than we have the answers to cure all of the physical diseases and conditions in the world. But if we break through the cultural barriers that leave people feeling ashamed or embarrassed about their emotional functioning and mental health needs, and if we encourage everyone to pay attention to and value their emotional well-being, we will reduce suffering, save relationships and save resources. Here in America and globally, the human cost and the economic impact of unaddressed mental health care is massive.

I don’t mind feeling this sense of urgency. It keeps me focused and it fuels my passion.

Jean: You told us a bit about the bold goal that you are working toward—to change the culture of mental health in America. Can you share more about that and how developing it changed your team’s approach to changemaking, if at all? 

Barbara: Our goal, to change the culture of mental health in America, is bold, and the challenge is huge. It actually took some time for some of our staff members to get comfortable with the concept. I think some were concerned that taking on such an audacious goal might take away from our focus on providing free mental health care to those who serve in the military and their families. Our staff members—many of whom have a connection to the military themselves—are incredibly dedicated to our focus on those who serve and their families. I understand why they were a bit reluctant. And some staff members were worried about our ability to staff and manage such a large undertaking, which is another understandable reaction.

Over time, however, our staff has coalesced around the power of this opportunity. They understand that culture change is absolutely necessary if we want to prevent suffering and improve well-being. They understand that we can’t ensure that those in need, military or civilian, receive the mental health care that they deserve if they are reluctant, unwilling or afraid to acknowledge or seek that help. Changing our culture—so that we all value our emotional well-being, so that we all talk comfortably about our emotional challenges—is the only way to succeed with our lofty mission.

And in terms of taking on something this massive… if not us, who? We will move forward aggressively, smartly and with as many partners as we can engage to make this heavy lift possible.

Jean: I love that you mentioned partnerships there. Are you engaging in any unlikely partnerships in an effort to reach beyond your bubble? 

Barbara: There is a wise psychiatrist from India, Vikram Patel, who talks about “mental health for all by involving all.” We are building a very big tent to drive and support the culture change we seek to achieve.

We have always been an organization that grows organically. By that I mean that we tend to focus on building strong relationships first, with organizations in our own backyard, and across sectors. We develop partnerships with individuals and organizations that share our passion and our vision—even if they might not appear to be an obvious partner. Sometimes the relationship is mutually beneficial, and sometimes we partner to assist others in their efforts, even if it might appear that they have nothing to contribute immediately to our work. Partnering, collaborating, assisting, sharing: it all comes back in the end and is part of a collective effort to improve the health and well-being of all people.

Since launching the Campaign to Change Direction, we have had the honor of engaging a number of public figures and celebrities. In addition to First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, we have been fortunate to receive help from Brian Wilson, Richard Gere, John Cusak, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Dano, Ben Foster and Margarita Levieva. Each stepped in to assist in our efforts to raise awareness. Each contributed to the movement we are building.

Most recently, country music star Chris Stapleton released his first music video, Fire Away, which addresses the issue of suicide in an artistically beautiful and emotionally painful film that features The Campaign to Change Direction. We received over 125,000 visits to our site in less than four weeks following the release of this powerful video.

We are proud of the community we are building, but not surprised by the support we are receiving. Mental health is part of the human condition. It’s time we recognize how important our emotional well-being is for all of us.

20 Best Quotes From SXSW Interactive

The Case Foundation team is back from whirlwind week at SXSW Interactive where we hosted a series of events and panels. Our time there was filled with dynamic sessions, learning from people who are truly changing the world.

From the opening day fireside chat with our founders Jean and Steve Case, who shared their roadmap for innovators and entrepreneurs in the rapidly evolving, “internet of everything” economy, to President Barack Obama’s conversation with Texas Tribune’s Editor Evan Smith on civic engagement in the 21st century, there was no shortage of inspiring and moving words spoken on SXSW stages. We heard narratives on the future of entrepreneurship that explored how we can cultivate more inclusive ecosystems, how news platforms are coping and capitalizing in the advent of social media, why the intersection between policy and technology is important and so much more.

While it’s impossible to capture everything that we heard in one blog post, we have pulled together a collection of tweets chronicling the best quotes from some of our favorite sessions at the conference.

And so, here are our top 20 quotes from SXSW, in tweet form and in chronological order.

From Jean and Steve Case: A Roadmap for Innovators:

1. “Startups are the seed corn of the future.” – Steve Case, Chairman of the Case Foundation

2. “Performance is higher when teams are diverse. Bring people into the mix who have been left out.” – Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation

3. “The intersection between policy and technology are increasingly important.” – Steve Case, Chairman of the Case Foundation

4. “Transformational breakthrough requires confronting fear of failure.” – Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation


5. “If you never fail, you’re doing it wrong. Missteps help your progress, and those who come after.” – Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation

5. “Revolutions happen in evolutionary ways.” – Steve Case, Chairman of the Case Foundation

 

From President Barack Obama’s discussion with Evan Smith:

7. “We are at a moment in history where technology and globalization, our economy is changing so fast and this gathering brings together people at the cutting edge of these changes. These changes offer us a lot of opportunities, but are also very unsettling.” – President Barack Obama

8. “It’s not enough to focus on what’s the cool new thing…we need to focus more on solving big challenges.” – President Barack Obama

9. “Using big data, tech, analytics to find new ways to solve old problems and build stronger citizen participation.” – President Barack Obama

 

From Inclusive Entrepreneurship Panel at SoFin @ SXSW:

10. “Inclusive entrepreneurship is an imperative for our economy to work.” – Ross Baird, Executive Director of Village Capital

11. “When diversity is baked in its easier to make a core part of your brand.” – Justin Davis, Program Manager at Kapor Center

12. “We are putting our money where our mouth is investing in rise of the rest communities across the US.” – Allyson Burns, SVP of Communications and Marketing at the Case Foundation

 

From #Movements: When a Hashtag Breaks the News:

13. “Breaking of news is now a commodity, contextualizing is the key for differentiation.” – Jean Ellen Cowgill, President of Atlantic Media Strategies

14. “Skilled organizers on the ground just as much – or more – important than a hashtag in raising awareness in Ferguson.” – Shadi Rahimi, Acting Executive Producer of Al Jazeera’s AJ+

 

From the Case Foundation’s SXgood sessions, SXgood Stories: Myth of the Entrepreneur and SXgood Lab: The Future of Entrepreneurship presented by the Case Foundation

15. “At their core, an entrepreneur is a problem solver, and we need people solving more diverse problems.” – Sheila Herrling, SVP of Social Innovation at the Case Foundation

16. “I’m optimistic about the power of leaders making better choices and prioritizing diversity.” – Casey Gerald, Co-founder and CEO of MBA’s Across America

17. “Only 11 African American women have raised more than $1M in venture funding.” – Earl Robinson, President of PowerMoves sharing data from the Project Diane study

18. “We believe in leveling the playing field for all entrepreneurs.” – Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation

19. “Talent is evenly distributed opportunity is not.” – Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation

 

From USAID’s Global Innovation Challenge: Lifting 1 billion people out of poverty:

20. “People with the best ideas come from unexpected places.” – Ann Mei Chang, Chief Innovation Officer and the Executive Director of the U.S. Global Development Lab at USAID

Forward Thinking Podcast with Jean Case

Our CEO Jean Case recently sat down with Dori Kreiger of Foundation Source for her podcast, Forward Thinking, which explores the future of philanthropy through conversations with creative minds transforming the sector.

In this podcast segment, Jean explains her entrepreneurial approach to philanthropy and how the Be Fearless principles have guided the work of the Case Foundation. “I don’t know anyone working in philanthropy that says, ‘you know what, we’ve got it; it’s perfect, we are having exactly the impact we set out to want to have,’” says Jean. “I think it is a journey and we are all trying to become as good as we can be, and have as much impact as we can.” As she talks with Dori, Jean shares her own journey as a philanthropist and how she hopes to inspire other practitioners and changemakers to take risks, be bold and fail forward in pursuit of greater impact.

To listen to the full podcast on the Foundation Source website, click here.

UPDATED: 12 Can’t Miss Sessions at SXSW Interactive 2016

It’s that time of year again: We’re less than a month away from SXSW Interactive—a five-day festival that showcases a mix of digital creativity, emerging technology and unique networking events. With nearly 34,000 participants and countless panels, workshops and sessions, narrowing down your schedule can be a little overwhelming, but our staff of SXSW veterans have put together a list of 12 sessions you can’t miss.

From March 11 through 15, members of the Case Foundation team will be on-site learning about new trends in social good, philanthropy and technology from thought leaders in the sector and leading eight sessions on social good issues, inclusive entrepreneurship, philanthropy, innovation and more that we hope you will join us for:

FRIDAY, MARCH 11

11:00 am: Jean and Steve Case: A Roadmap for Innovators
Austin Convention Center, Room 18ABCD
Join our CEO Jean Case and Chairman Steve Case, two of the world’s most prominent technology pioneers, investors and philanthropists, as they talk with Ben Johnson of Marketplace Tech and share a roadmap for innovators and entrepreneurs who want to change the world.

2:30 pm: Inclusive Entrepreneurship Panel at SoFin @ SXSW
Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, 217 Congress Ave.
Case Foundation SVP of Communications, Allie Burns, joins a panel at SoFin @ SXSW to explore the subject of inclusive entrepreneurship and why supporting entrepreneurs from under-represented backgrounds is the key to building a stronger future.

SATURDAY, MARCH 12

11:00 am: #Movements: When a Hashtag Breaks the News
W Marriott, Salon C
Our Senior Director of Communications, Jade Floyd, leads a discussion with researchers and journalists on how, in an age where more than half of all Facebook and Twitter users get their news from these sites, powerful hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter, #BringBackOurGirls, #GivingTuesday and more, are able to take over social media and momentous moments in time.

3:00 pm: Village Capital 2016 FinTech Showcase
Maggie Mae’s, 323 E 6th St
Our CEO Jean Case joins our friends at Village Capital as a judge for their pitch competition focused on supporting financial inclusion entrepreneurs from around the US, particularly entrepreneurs from under-represented backgrounds in technology.

SUNDAY, MARCH 13

4:00 pm: #WhatsGoodMixer at SXSW 2016
The Connected Yard, 83 Rainey Street
Hosted by our CEO Jean Case, join CauseMedia Group and What’s Trending for a social good mixer, bringing together nonprofit leaders, social activists, technologists and corporate partners for a look at innovations in social good. You must RSVP for this event. Click here and use password whatsgood to RSVP today.

MONDAY, MARCH 14

1:15 pm: SXgood Stories: Myth of the Entrepreneur
Palm Door on Sixth
The Case Foundation hosts an entertaining and eye opening storytelling session featuring four entrepreneurial thought leaders. These dynamic individuals will each share a brief story about the challenges and opportunities they face as entrepreneurs… but only two will be true, while the other two are false. Will you be able to tell fact from fiction?

2:30 pm: SXgood Lab: The Future of Entrepreneurship presented by the Case Foundation
Palm Door on Sixth Patio
Join the our SVP of Social Innovation, Sheila Herrling, and the Case Foundation for a lively group discussion to inspire ideas for how we can create a new narrative for the future of entrepreneurship together. This session is aimed at crafting actionable concepts for how we can create a more diverse and inclusive reality for our entrepreneurial community. Following the session, join us for a networking happy hour.

3:45 pm: Global Innovation Challenge: Lifting 1 billion people out of poverty presented by USAID
Palm Door on Sixth
USAID is calling on innovators everywhere to help end extreme poverty. Three social entrepreneurs will pitch their ideas to solve global development challenges in an interactive competition, and our CEO Jean Case will be one of the pitch competition judges.

We’re also excited to take part in the many sessions that promise to stretch our minds, inspire our creativity and just have fun, like the three sessions below. Have another can’t miss SXSW session we should know about? Tweet us the details using @CaseFoundation so we can share it with our community.

FRIDAY, MARCH 11

11:00 am: New World of Photography and Visual Storytelling
Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon F
Seasoned National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore has put the reach of modern media platforms to work through Photo Ark, using the power of both traditional and social media on National Geographic’s many publishing platforms to create a connection between animals and the people who can help protect them. Share in this panel’s lessons of making media meaningful, while enjoying amazing photos and videos.

12:30 pm: Social Activism: How to Ignite a Movement
JW Marriot, Salon C
What does it take to transform an idea into a viral movement for social good? Author and researcher Derrick Feldmann has spent the past two years talking with the people behind the biggest social movements of our time. He’ll share their stories and some of their secrets and what you can do to make your cause go viral.

MONDAY, MARCH 14

9:30 am: Tech at Issue in 2016 Election
JW Marriott, Salon 5
With the 2016 presidential campaigns in full swing, we will take a deep dive into how issues around technology and entrepreneurship will impact politics and the presidential election.

TUESDAY, MARCH 15

12:30 pm: Swipe Left or Right: The Latino Millennial Vote
Austin Convention Center, Ballroom EFG
Join Maria Teresa Kumar for a deep dive into the mind of a Latino millennial: why and how they vote and how they’ll shape our political landscape for years to come.

Not headed to SXSW this year? Follow along with the Case Foundation team members on Twitter at @CaseFoundation, @JeanCase, @Sherrling, @AllieB, @JadeFloydDC, and our chairman at @SteveCase.

Photo credit: shelbysdrummond.