A Theory of Scalability

One of the hidden themes of The Feast this past week has been how to scale successful social ventures.  This has been on my mind a lot recently as I have been working informally with both Self Enhancement, Inc. (SEI) and Decision Education Foundation (DEF) on this puzzle.  SEI is extremely successful in the Portland locale where they began 25+ years ago, achieving 98% high school graduation rate (working against hard socioeconomic realities).  Like with many models that are very successful “in the small”, the biggest challenge is to translate that same success to larger scales (e.g. all across America, or all around the world).  DEF is attempting to build scalability into its model from the start, and has found that this is extremely challenging.

In thinking about this I am reminded about a duet of innovators who spoke at the Pop!Tech conference last year about scaling.  Both Bunker Roy and Paul Polack have some profound lessons to teach us about scalability.  You will …

If You Had A Billion Dollars…

If you had a billion dollars to make the world a better place, how would you spend it?…

Robin Hood Foreclosure Fund, part II

Pursuant to my earlier post, it turns out there already is such a group:

Foreclosure Angel Foundation

Thanks to Marissa Chien who found it and pointed me to it.  She also suggests that people who are having trouble with their mortgage should seek advise from HUD.  Information is power and many people (I’ve learned) are irrationally scared of approaching their lender and negotiating.  More and more lenders are willing to cut deals to avoid foreclosures.…

Is Hunger Really a Problem in U.S.?

Given everything I hear about obesity stats in the U.S. and malnutrition in the developing world, the last thing I was expecting to find in my inbox this morning was a plea to join a Facebook cause to help end hunger in America.  Really?

I’m usually not skeptical in this way, and I’m loath to focus on the negative when it comes to philanthropy, but I can’t get these thoughts out of my head and I’d like some perspective from those who are better informed about the alleged U.S. hunger crisis.  In the mean time, here’s my food for thought:…

Eben Pagan’s Birthday Webinar

This year for his birthday, Eben decided to host this webinar and invited all his contacts to join him online in lieu of a party and gifts.  What a brilliant concept and even more brilliant execution.  Eben (and Scott Brandon Hoffman, founder of truly epitomize the new philanthropy.  Watch the video here.…

Charity + Prediction Markets

A new prediction market site with a twist: your profits in the market get donated to the charity of your choice.

I was concerned that it may look noble but that they might be profiting from the bid/ask spread, so I wrote and asked them.  Here is their response:

No fees, except the 5% on top of any funds put into your account. That fee does little more than cover the credit card processing charge. For example, if you want to put $5 into your account, you will be charged $5.25, and you will have $5 in your account to trade with. After a while, maybe you’ll have grown your account to $50, all of which you can ask us to give away to the charity of your choice. No fees on donations. Another way of saying it is that 100% of the funds that are in trading accounts will eventually be given away to charities chosen by the winners.

Very cool, I hope …

X Prize Annuity Funds

In the March 9, 2008 Sunday Magazine section of the NY Times, Freakonomics authors, Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt wrote about an idea I shared with them (with my permission of course). Given all of the interest and critique that’s resulted, I am posting the original conception below and encourage you to express your thoughts about the project either in the comments here or on the Freakonomics blog. If you are interested in becoming involved beyond just providing public input, just say so in your comment and I will contact you directly.

The New Philanthropy

What I mean by “the New Philanthropy” is the cultural change afoot that is leading more and more of us to believe and act on the belief that we can make a big impact, in our lifetime, with or without large amounts of capital. The New Philanthropy has three classes of people.

Independently Wealthy

John Wood is a model example of someone who had accumulated massive resources and lived a full and busy life, but had some experiences that shifted his perspective to the point where he could no longer continue on his previous path. In the old days, independently wealthy philanthropists like Rockefeller saw their role as to “make as much money as possible, and then use it wisely to improve the lot of mankind.” John Wood and his ilk believe “what kind of man am I if I don’t go face this challenge directly”, and to their peers who say they are crazy or having a midlife crisis they respond “wouldn’t it be

The Eight Most Powerful People on the Planet

…but weak, indecisive and utterly incapable of true world leadership
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