For Profit, For Good

At Open Forum for Inhabitat:

For Profit, For Good

For Profit, For Good

Socially-minded venture entrepreneurs want a new kind of company. Choose for-profit, and you are unable to receive grants from foundations looking to fund the very social benefit you are aiming to provide. Choose not-for-profit, and you kill the entrepreneurial spirit, as you are limited from offering stock options, owning the company, or rewarding top employees when the organization is successful. 
What is a burgeoning social innovator to do? Established social entrepreneurs are starting to demand a new type of company structure, for-profit with the benefits provided to charitable organizations. Andreas Heinecke, founder of Dialogue in the Dark, and the first Senior Fellow at Ashoka, argues for a hybrid organization. “What I’m looking for is some way to combine the best parts of both for-profit and non-profit groups.”  Dialogue in the Dark employs blind guides to lead sighted visitors through awareness workshops, and has been presented in over 30 countries. Structured as a for-profit, the company cannot receive grants from foundations who would normally donate to this specific social need.

Clay Christiansen, author of Innovators Dilemma, argued that the Obama administration’s Social Innovation Fund be opened up to benefit for-profit companies as well as charities. “We urge the White House to embrace this perspective and use its convening power to lift up social innovation without regard to tax status,” Christinasen penned in the Huffington Post. Dan Pallotta who writes a blog on non-profits for Harvard Business takes it a step further, stating that the tax code should be amended to address this challenge. “Give consumers tax-deductibility on products and services they buy from for-profit companies whose work have embedded social good. This would break the 501 (c) 3 monopoly on “charity” and allow a host of financially incentivized, for-profit players to enter the game.”

What do you think? Should socially innovative for-profit companies be given tax benefits? Should Obama’s Social Innovation Fund be extended to for-profit companies? And, should consumers be rewarded for purchasing socially good products and services?

5 Tips for a Green Staycation

First attempt at a “five” themed article at Open Forum for Inhabitat:

Are you one of 48% of Americans looking to vacation closer to home this year? According to a Harris Interactive Poll, almost half of the country is planning on staying put for their vacation. The good news for those choosing to vacation locally is that you are about to embark on your greenest vacation yet. Here are 5 tips to make your staycation even greener.
1.     Stay. Get a Green Star.
First tip – you’re already greener. Airline travel, long road trips, and gas-guzzling caravans account for a significant chunk of a family’s environmental footprint each year. The most eco-friendly exotic resort in far away island still requires you to burn significant air miles or cruise ship miles just to get there. Even though you might be choosing a staycation for money reasons, you should also get a giant green gold star for your wise choice.

2. Rediscover Local Nature.
Time spent outside improves the health of kids and adults. Studies show that more time in nature improves our weight, improves our vision, lowers our stress levels, and even increases our social skills, and confidence levels. Fight nature deficit disorder by giving your family eco-literacy the fun way by finding local parks and reserves to explore. Nature Rocks, an organization founded btheChildren & Nature Network and ecoAmerica, will help you find a local destination.

3. Eat Locally
If you’re going to splurge on food during your staycation, take the time to get to know your local farmer’s market, community supported agriculture, or farm-to-table restaurant. You might even want to visit the farm where you food comes from. For example, August is blueberry-picking season in the Northeast.

4. Go By Foot.
We spend so much time in planes, trains, and cars, we forget to truly notice our local surroundings when we travel by foot. Time to get out your local map and your best walking shoes, or better yet, Walking directions from Google Maps makes foot travel easier, no matter the difference, and avoids areas typically restricted to foot traffic such as interstates and other highways. How far can you go in a day?

5. Turn off Technology.
The most controversial tip of all (I can’t get my family to agree to this one). Try turning off your email, smart phone, and even Twitter and Facebook feeds(!). This will help you set boundaries with work colleagues, who may view your staycation as a work-from-home week. It’s proven that truly relaxing vacations are good for your heart. Whether you’re planning a staycation or vacation, are you considering a tech-free vacation?

Collecting Manifestos

Collecting Manifestos

I’m collecting my favorite design (and other) manifestos via Social Text and others.

Here are some to start.

1776   The United States Declaration of Independence

1789   The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen French Revolution

1812   The Cartagena Manifesto Simón Bolívar

1848   The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

1919   Bauhaus Manifesto Walter Gropius

1924   Surrealist Manifesto André Breton

1964   First Things First

1967   The Society of the Spectacle Guy Debord

1987   Ten Rules of Good Design Dieter Rams

1998   An Incomplete Manifeseto for Growth Bruce Mau

1999   Minnesota Declaration Werner Herzog

1999   The Cluetrain Manifesto by Rick LevineChristopher LockeDoc Searls, and David Weinberger

2007   The Designer’s Dilemma and subsequent Designers Accord Valerie Casey

2007   1000 Words: A Manifesto for Sustainability in Design Allan Chochinov

2008   Project H Design (Anti)Manifesto: A Call To Action For Humanitarian (Product) Design Emily Pilloton

2009   This is Not Manifesto — towards an alternative design practice

2009   Generation M Umair Haque

Follow me on Twitter hashtag #manifestowatch for more

The Great Dot Eco Domain Debate

At Open Forum for Inhabitat:

Two sides are emerging in an effort to create the.ECO top level domain early in 2010. One side (headed by Canada-based Big Room, and backed by World Wildlife Federation and Mikhail Gorbachev’s Green Cross)  sees .ECO as a labeling program, where companies earn the right to the domain in exchange for transparent display of environmental impact information. The other side (lead by a group called Dot Ecoand backed by Al Gore and thee Sierra Club) argues that .ECO be used as a large scale fundraising tool, with organizations agreeing to share 57% of their profits from registration fees to support environmental causes.

For both consortiums, a significant prize is at stake if the .ECO domain takes hold. In their bid to ICANN, the winner will have the rights to sell domain names according to their own parameters. The debate follows a long trend in the environmental movement about what is needed more, transparency to reveal the real impacts, or money to spend on the next green challenges.

Yet neither side address the long-held hope of the green movement of becoming mainstream, an established part of how we behave as non profits, for profits, not a niche subsection of our culture that is specialized and considered as an alternative. By segmenting off a section of the web for .ECO-only domains, are we forever relegating the efforts of smart green entrepreneurs and social ventures to a side show, or segment of our culture? Brian Clark Howard at The Daily Green asks a similar question, arguing that .ECO creates a green ghetto, and received this response from a commenter named Jacob Malthouse from Big Room: “There is no reason that Dot Eco has to be a ghetto. Right now, it’s just an idea for a neighborhood. With the right community, cohesion, policies, and creativity, it can be a shining example of what an eco-neighborhood can be.”

Meanwhile, the Dot Eco group sees the value in serving as a mass fundraising vehicle, as stated in a greenpaper, “our goal is to make .ECO a ubiquitous and recognizable web address, much like .ORG, that provides a steady and growing source of funding for leading environmental organizations.” Triple Pundit points out that Dot Eco was founded by internet entrepreneurs Fred Krueger and Clark Landry, as well as Minor Childers, a Hollywood creative executive and film producer (Davis Guggenheim, the director of the documentaryAn Inconvenient Truth, sits on the company’s advisory board). Dot Eco plans to invest in a marketing campaign to push adoption of the .ECO domain. Companies would not be held to environmental performance standards, but if widely popular Dot Eco would generate significant funds for green causes.

So is .ECO an inevitability, and if so should it become a credentialing system or fundraising arm for green causes?