Digesting and expanding on the learnings from Singularity U. We are just getting started….

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8 weeks have passed since the intense week at Singularity U, where 92 curious and fun minds were exposed to and learned from the awesome experts in the field of exponential technologies as well as from each other.
Some of the phrases that stuck and continue to sink in:

-unlearn, be bold
-be adaptable
-the biggest risk is not thinking big enough
-make a note to my future self
-ask good questions
-data integrity… screen for the truth
-machine learning, cloud robotics
-blockchain, a new way to consider trust
-abundance: rising income, lifespan, food and water availability
-massive cost reduction: energy, VR, human genome sequencing, in-vitro meat, 3D printing
-digital manufacturing in space
-XR (extended reality) will accelerate dematerialization (spaces & experience)
-inclusive abundance: imperative for human survival (is it possible?)
-longevity escape velocity
-nanobots in our brains in 2030?
-quantum/blockchain/solar/AI supremacy converging in 2025?
-reframe strategy: zoom in (6-12m) zoom out (10-20 years)
-technology will allow us to do everything… exciting and a bit scary if used badly
-importance of ethics and moral enhancement

We did learn a lot then, but now it feels that the executive program was just the beginning. We are sharing great stories and news, asking better questions, so we continue to accelerate our learning journey. We are also connecting people from our networks and aiming to scale the positive impact that we can create while finding solutions to the great challenges. How exciting it is imagining what we can achieve collectively over time! Thank you SU and SU colleagues!

Orb Media, a new kind of journalism that we truly need

Orb

OjY19iZt_400x400On June 26th, I was fortunate to attend an exclusive event where Molly Bingham, the founder of Orb Media, philanthropist, filmmaker, photographer and journalist, shared with us her amazing journey. This event was organized by Women and Philanthropy (thank you Kecia Barkawi!).

Molly is Founder and CEO of Orb Media, which produces a new kind of journalism that challenges the way we see our world and brings us together around the things we share. At a time when we most need to see the full picture of our planet, today’s journalism is showing us only fragments of it. As people, we have our differences, but we share a core that profoundly outweighs them.
Orb Media is a nonprofit journalism organization that reports on issues that matter to billions of people around the globe. Fusing original research, data analysis, on the ground reporting, and an engaged public, Orb Media produces agenda-setting stories about the challenges we face together as one world.
Rather than bombarding the public with breaking news while providing little in the way of context, Orb practices proactive journalism. Orb asks how events may (or may not) fit into a meaningful, global trend by covering 8 topics (linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals) that affect each of us every day: Food, Water, Energy, Health, Education, Environment, Trade and Governance. Orb produces professional and fact-based journalism exploring these topics that touch billions of people across national, cultural and linguistic differences. Orb delivers each story in four versions – text, audio, multimedia and data – in the world’s most widely spoken languages. The stories are designed to be accessible on any internet connected phone, tablet or computer. The stories are distributed through The Orb Media Network (OMN) which is composed of agenda-setting media brands from around the world who simultaneously publish stories researched and reported by Orb in order to present their audiences with fact-based, quality information on global issues. By working in this way Orb and the OMN catalyze global dialogue on critical issues, focusing the attention of government, industry, researchers, civil society, and the public. (source: orbmedia.org)

Some of their recent stories include Invisibles- The plastic inside us, a story revealing how plastic fibers have contaminated tap water around the world, this was followed by the alarming story Plus Plastic – Microplastics found in global bottled water and the most recent one is Age Well – attitudes matter in a graying world. All these stories are important to all of us in the interconnected world. Orb is remaking journalism to one that the world truly needs.

I was also hugely impressed and inspired by Molly, her courage, dedication, passion, and her journey. Molly comes from generations of pioneering journalists, in fact, she is the 4th generation. She is an award-winning journalist, photojournalist and filmmaker. In 1994 she started as a photographer traveling to Rwanda to cover events after the genocide she continued to cover war areas such as Burundi, Zaire, Chiapas, Russia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, the Gaza and Iraq. She has worked with Human Rights Watch for three projects and also worked as the official photographer of Vice President Al Gore at the White House. In 2003, she survived a 7-day captivity at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. As co-director of the documentary film “Meeting Resistance” she was awarded the “Golden Award” at the 2007 Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival. Her passion and commitment to journalism which was tested through her experience in the prison in Baghdad has lead her to remake journalism to catalyze global dialogue and create massive positive change. Thank you Molly! Watch her powerful TEDxtalk. Molly Bingham at TEDxSMU.

What does sustainable investments, ESGs, SDGs and impact investments mean?

Sustainable investing, SRI, impact investing, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria are words that we are exposed daily as it is used by investors, banks, asset managers, corporations, consultants as well as the media. It is great that this movement is mainstreaming, however, how can we make sense of figures like $23 trillion in SRI assets on one hand and a much smaller figure of $144bn in impact investment assets? It is important to understand the differences so that we can compare apples with apples and gain clarity on this growth area. This article uses the definitions by the two resources that are most established in this area; the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance (GSIA) and the Global Impact Investment Network(GIIN)

Sustainable investing is an approach to investment where environmental, social or governance (ESG) factors, in combination with financial considerations, guide the selection and management of investments.
Sustainable investing is the umbrella term that incorporates social responsible investing, SRI, impact investing and it encompasses the different strategies/activities. According to GSIA, global SRI assets in early 2016 reached $22.89 trillion, a growth of 25% compared to 2014. The strategies and activities under sustainable investments are shown below.

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THe top 3 strategies; negative and exclusionary screening (15 tn), ESG integration (10.3 tn) and corporate engagement/shareholder action (8.3 tn) are very large established strategies while impact/community investment (248 bn) and sustainability themed investing (331 bn) are growing fast but still very small.

ESG (Environmental, social and governance) refers to sustainable investment criteria used alongside traditional financial criteria in managing and selecting investments. ESG is a criterion, the word is also used as ESG factors, ESG metrics and ESG integration, which is one of the largest strategies within sustainable investments.
The use of ESG by institutional investors has been rising over the past 15 years as a result of increasing evidence that integrating ESG factors in the investment process can actually improve the risk/reward of investment portfolios.

Impact Investments – Investments made into companies, organizations and funds with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return (source: GIIN)
Impact investment is an approach to investments and is a fast growing but the smallest subset and strategy within sustainable investments. The differentiator of this approach is the intentionality to generate positive social and environmental impact and the commitment to measure it. In terms of market size there are two benchmarks: 1) GIIN’s $144bn based on their annual survey of assets aggregated by their respondents in 2017, and 2) GSIA 2016 Review which shows the assets of the category Impact and Community investments at $248bn.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The SDGs, a set of 17 goals was adopted in Sept 2015 by the UN “to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all “. The goals have specific targets to be achieved by 2030. The development of indicators and monitoring framework for the SDGs which followed has attracted many investors and asset managers to commit to invest in these goals. The SDGs are now being adopted as a framework in many of the sustainable investment strategies including impact investment funds.

Impact Investment update: GIIN’s annual survey 2017

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The key highlights of the GIIN’s 2017 Annual Impact Investor Survey are shown below;

• In aggregate, 205 respondents invested USD 22.1 billion into nearly 8,000 impact investments in 2016 and plan to increase capital invested by 17% to USD 25.9 billion in 2017.
• In total, 208 respondents currently manage USD 114 billion in impact investing assets.1
• Nearly universally, respondents measure their social and/or environmental performance, using a mix of proprietary metrics, qualitative information, and IRIS-aligned metrics.
• The overwhelming majority of respondents reported that their investments have either met or exceeded their expectations for both impact (98%) and financial performance (91%).
• While two out of three respondents principally target risk-adjusted, market rates of return, there is widespread acknowledgement of the important role played by below-market-rate-seeking capital in the market.

Barefoot College’s evolution and the launch of Bindi Solar, a commercial solar product line

25396224_10155848598355903_1266241389229821444_nBarefoot College (BC), a not for profit, social innovation organization announced in early November the launch of Bindi Solar, the first global line of solar home lighting products fabricated, distributed, sold, installed, maintained and repaired exclusively by women. Bindi Solar products include; low cost solar home lighting systems, portable lanterns, micro grids, DC TVs and fans as well as a range of handheld solar lighting devices. Starting in India, Bindi Solar will be distributed through BC’s ground breaking partnerships with Frontier Markets and GHE as well as the Barefoot Solar Mamas trained across 15 states. Development of the new products has been made possible through the CSR collaborations with Apple, Goldman Sachs, the Phillipps Foundation and working in partnership with The Frey Charitable Foundation and EROL Foundation.

Over the past 5 years there has been a powerful yet smooth transformation at this pioneering and innovative 45 year old organization that has been providing basic services and solutions to the challenges facing rural poor communities with the objective of making them self-sufficient and sustainable, valuing and respecting the knowledge and wisdom they already possess. BC was founded in 1972 by Sanjit “Bunker” Roy, following the life and work style of Mahatma Gandhi. Today, BC boasts a diverse and inclusive team of dedicated individuals from both formally educated and grass roots communities, working side by side towards impact of the critical issues facing rural poor communities in access to energy, water, sanitation, education and sustainable livelihood development. It is an exceptional example of decentralized management philosophy, capacity building from within to deliver what has become know globally as the “Barefoot Approach” to community development.

11427797_10153349217930903_5741614938980520567_n BC has been committed to empowering women as change agents, entrepreneurs and environmental stewards. Believing that placing women at the heart of the development process is the most reliable and effective way to pass on the wisdom, knowledge and skills that all rural poor communities already possess and which are so often undervalued and under utilized. BC engages in building confidence and competence in individuals and entire communities bringing about large-scale shifts in values and sustainable quality of life enhancement. BC is one of the few Indian organizations that has successfully exported its models for development across the Global South through a unique and visionary partnership with the Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs ITEC program. This partnership has resulted in true “Made in India” technology by and for the rural poor reaching 78 countries in the developing world.

Over the past few years this successful organization embarked to scale exponentially its operations in both depth and breadth. This launch of Bindi Solar is only one such example. The powerful yet smooth transformation seen so far is thanks to the amazing team work of Meagan Fallone, CEO together with Bunker and the awesome team of Barefoot College. BC is embracing the latest technologies and ways to work with it, embracing diversity and inclusion while maintaining the core values.

Disclaimer: source of the content of this article: press release by barefootcollege.org, photos from barefootcollege facebook page
the author is a board member of Barefoot College International as well as The Frey Charitable Foundation

Innovations in impact measurement

innovations-in-impact-measurement-coverLast November, I attended an inspiring presentation by Acumen where I heard for the first time about their Lean Data Initiative for impact measurement. The main advantages of this approach are: collecting meaningful data through lean surveys in less time and with less cost by using low cost mobile technology. In addition, it can be used as an interactive tool, to not only measure, but manage impact as key data is collected efficiently providing a fast and clear insight of the social performance achieved. This is quite a revolution from the traditional impact measurement that was designed primarily for the use of donors and investors. This puts the customer/beneficiary first and it becomes a management tool for the service/product providers to improve their ongoing operations in order to deliver even higher social impact. Another pioneering organization that has been developing new tools and methodologies leveraging technology for measuring social and environmental impact is Root Capital. Root Capital is an agricultural impact investor that grows rural prosperity in Africa and Latin America by providing loans and training to agricultural enterprises that are reaching small-scale farmers. Root Capital’s Client-Centric Mobile Measurement aims to generate the data needed about impact on small-scale farmers, while creating value both for the farmers and for the agricultural enterprises. These innovations are significant as it will improve and increase positive social and environmental impact and also accelerate and increase investments for impact.
Learn more.

Firdaus Kharas, a social entrepreneur using media to better human conditions around the world

Firdaus-Kharas-head-shotFirdaus contacted me that he was in Zurich so we had a spontaneous lunch this week (27.6.2017). He was in Italy shortly before and was planning to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but this trip was cancelled due to the unfavorable security situation. He recently completed three animated shorts to combat violence in DRC and Ecuador (tensions rising at the border as 600,000 Colombians have moved to Ecuador). If this is successful, it can be again replicated for use in other countries.
Firdaus founded Chocolate Moose Media in 1995 to produce animation, documentaries, videos and television series designed to educate, entertain, and change societal and individual behavior. The themes and campaigns range from HIV&AIDS prevention (The Three Amigos campaign), protection against malaria (Buzz and Bite), Ebola prevention, Zika virus, domestic violence (No Excuses), refugees, human rights, solar energy, and dementia. Over 3,500 animated videos in 188 language versions are available online at vimeo FOR FREE!
This is an immense rich resource available for governments, businesses, social enterprises, not-for-profit organizations, schools and individuals to use it to sensitize, educate or raise awareness on all these relevant issues. Needless to say, a short animated film or a short video that can communicate the core message of a complex issue is very effective and powerful. He mentioned the renewed interest in refugees, a topic very close to his heart, as prior to his media career, he worked for the Canadian government dealing with immigration and refugee policy.
We met 7 years ago as we both attended the Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford Graduate School of Business and we have kept in touch. It was the third time we met in Zurich. Everytime I am impressed of the positive impact he is creating. Thank you, my friend. I certainly hope that more people and organizations make a lot more use of his powerful videos.

1 Billion in change: Kiva life-changing loans crosses the 1 billion mark!

kiva_logo_tag_greenOn June 22, 2017 Kiva announced that their life-changing loans had reached 1 billion mark, an amazing accomplishment! Congratulations to the Kiva team especially Matt, Jessica and Premal! In this journal we covered Kiva 4 times since 2006. Soon after they started operation, when they reached 100 million, when they had growing pains and when they started student loans. It has been great to use Kiva in the classrooms to teach microfinance and to give Kiva cards to friends and family to discover their different interests and passions. Thank you Kiva and keep up the great work!

Skoll World Forum 2017 Fault Lines: Creating Common Ground


The 14th Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship took place on April 4-7. This year’s theme was Fault Lines: Creating Common Ground. As boldly described in their welcome message;

Globally, rifts are emerging along cultural, class, and political lines as globalization and the digital revolution have benefited some, and left some behind. The divide grows in how people perceive-and experience-the world which represents a threat to a peaceful and prosperous future. Can we design a world where our common humanity outshines our ideological, cultural, and political differences? Together we’ll rise to new ideas, new perspectives, and ultimately, new relationships built on trust and a mutual desire for human progress. We’ll highlight innovators around the world creating common ground through their drive, creativity and leadership.

It was not only an inspiring forum but a very rich and powerful gathering with bold and innovative ideas and exchanges happening, one of the best that I have attended in the past 11 years.
Highly recommended videos to watch… and if you would like to see more here is the entire playlist.
-Jeff Skoll talks with Jim Kim, President of World Bank Group (29min)

-Jess Search talks to Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEO of Chobani (22min)

-A chilling and fascinating analysis by Michael Porter of HBS on what is the problem in the USA: Porter on Populism (90min)

Meet the Skoll Awardees of 2017 (link includes a 5 min intro to all 4 Awardees)
-Kola Masha: Babban Gona is an investor-owned social enterprise serving networks of smallholder farmers in Nigeria with a model created specifically to attract youth. The first for-profit company to receive the Skoll Award
-Elizabeth Hauser: Build Change trains homeowners, local builders, engineers, and government officials to construct or retrofit disaster-resistant houses and schools in emerging nations vulnerable to earthquakes and typhoons.
-Rajesh Panjabi: Last Mile Health partners with government to deploy, support, and manage networks of community health professionals and to integrate them into the public health system. Working in Liberia.
-Bradley Myles: Polaris systematically disrupts human trafficking networks and restores freedom to survivors. With experience and expertise from direct victim services such as hotlines and resource centers, to policy advocacy, Polaris provides a data backbone for the sector.

A big thanks to Jeff Skoll, Sally Osberg, Stephan Chambers, the Skoll team and the Saiid Business School for their awesome work.

Takeaways from the seif Impact Investing Congress 2017

IMG_8675The 2nd Impact Investing Congress organized by seif took place in Zurich on Jan 24th.
Some takeaways and highlights
-The space continues to grow rapidly and somewhat chaotically as new players from all segments with different aspirations and products enter and push for mainstreaming impact investment. Growth is great and as a result you can’t avoid some growing pains. Some big banks such as BBVA and Barclays are becoming more active in this field.
-Rod Schwarz, CEO of ClearlySo introduced the recently launched ClearlySo Atlas, an impact assessment solution for private equity investors and venture capital investors. Atlas asseses the impact of portfolio holdings enabling investors to map, track and report on their impact and sustainability. What is great about this tool is that it targets the mainstream investments managers/portfolios (not only the impact investments) to improve on its impact. This goes along with Rod’s and ClearlySo’s belief that we are moving from the two dimensional investment criteria (return vs risk) towards a three dimensional one adding impact as a feature to all investments.
-Antoni Ballabriga , Global Head of Responsible Business at BBVA made an impressive presentation on how this large bank has recently gone through a transformation involving 28,000 of their employees around the globe to (re)define their purpose. The bank’s purpose is now “To bring the age of opportunity to everyone” and thus their new tagline is “Creating Opportunities”. With the WHY being cleared, the WHAT and HOW follows. These opportunities will be offered through: financial products that meet individual customer needs; financial education programs; transparent, clear and responsible communication; commitment with the environment; support to entrepreneurship; and promotion of culture and science, among other initiatives in favor of society. Let’s see how the initiatives of another large financial player reshape the universe – for the time being let’s give them the benefit of doubt.
-Phyllis Costanza, CEO of UBS Optimus Foundation updated us on the positive results so far of their first Development Impact Bond, an innovative instrument which brings in new money and cross sector partnerships for development. They are working on a new DIB and hopefully many other DIBs would be launched by other institutions in the future.
-The closing was a very interesting panel that debated on the now and future of impact investments in Switzerland which gave us much hope but equally cautions as the industry grows and mainstreams with differing views on the extent of the impact (improving some things vs solving the real problems) that the organizations would like to create.
Thanks seif for organizing this productive Congress.