Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Double Bottom Line

livestock-power-mill.jpg

Over the past few weeks there's been a fly buzzing around my head — not a literal fly, although there are some of those too — but rather the pesky question of why most of the ventures that come through PresenTense are fundamentally limited in terms of their financial scalability. Over the course of our entrepreneurship training fellowship program we try to develop additional angles to the ventures, and help grow the earned-income side of the operations. But for the most part the primary challenge of our ventures are that they are originally conceived as traditional nonprofits in so far as they expect donors to pay for the benefit of a third-party participant. 

And then I come across a blog post like this one, on how Cows on Treadmills Could Produce Six Percent of World's Power. What a brilliant idea: take a resource that is currently under-utilized, frame it in a new way, and address two pressing challenges at once: energy-production and raising healthy cattle. Notice, the value proposition at this point has nothing to do with the positive externality (reduction of green house gas) and also notice that the second-order benefit of collecting cattle dung for additional energy and heating benefit isn't mentioned.

This might seem like a far-off analogy to the work social entrepreneurs in the Jewish Community could be doing, but I think it's more than proper. We have a small but powerful community, which is used to doing one thing at a time (either producing energy or raising cattle, for example). Bringing some of those things together in interesting ways can not only save in operations cost, but also create additional positive externalities. And this is all under the frame of a business, for-profit, with strong internal incentives for success. 

In other words, while we have some brilliant fellows who are doing some world changing things (and who are getting recognized for doing so, as Eli Winkelman recently did by Joshua Venture), I'd like to see more social businesses come through PresenTense which recognize currently underutilized resources within our community, combine them with profit-making impulse, and produce social good. Anyone out there with ideas of how to attract these folks to a program rooted and devoted to the Jewish community? 

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The Double Bottom Line

livestock-power-mill.jpg

Over the past few weeks there's been a fly buzzing around my head — not a literal fly, although there are some of those too — but rather the pesky question of why most of the ventures that come through PresenTense are fundamentally limited in terms of their financial scalability. Over the course of our entrepreneurship training fellowship program we try to develop additional angles to the ventures, and help grow the earned-income side of the operations. But for the most part the primary challenge of our ventures are that they are originally conceived as traditional nonprofits in so far as they expect donors to pay for the benefit of a third-party participant. 

And then I come across a blog post like this one, on how Cows on Treadmills Could Produce Six Percent of World's Power. What a brilliant idea: take a resource that is currently under-utilized, frame it in a new way, and address two pressing challenges at once: energy-production and raising healthy cattle. Notice, the value proposition at this point has nothing to do with the positive externality (reduction of green house gas) and also notice that the second-order benefit of collecting cattle dung for additional energy and heating benefit isn't mentioned.

This might seem like a far-off analogy to the work social entrepreneurs in the Jewish Community could be doing, but I think it's more than proper. We have a small but powerful community, which is used to doing one thing at a time (either producing energy or raising cattle, for example). Bringing some of those things together in interesting ways can not only save in operations cost, but also create additional positive externalities. And this is all under the frame of a business, for-profit, with strong internal incentives for success. 

In other words, while we have some brilliant fellows who are doing some world changing things (and who are getting recognized for doing so, as Eli Winkelman recently did by Joshua Venture), I'd like to see more social businesses come through PresenTense which recognize currently underutilized resources within our community, combine them with profit-making impulse, and produce social good. Anyone out there with ideas of how to attract these folks to a program rooted and devoted to the Jewish community? 

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@simihinden presenting at the @presentense quarterly reports

One a quarter, @presentense gets staff together to learn what happened in the last quarter, and what we can learn from our metrics. Here’s Simi, presenting on the technical sides of our online work.

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How PresenTense Prepares Coaches to Work with Fellows

In order to unleash the creative energies of Jews 22-40 and direct them towards the important work of communities across the Jewish world, PresenTense has developed the Community Entrepreneur Partnership — piloting in a partnership with the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston. And it's been a wonderful learning experience.

One thing we learned is that mixing audio with visual is crucial in conveying information — and here is an example, below, a video prepared to train the coaches (volunteers in the Boston community now working with the local Federation) to work with the local fellows:

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