Friday, October 17, 2008

Guest Spot- A Quick Q &A with Allison Kelly

Allison Kelly is the Statewide Director for Employee Onramp Initiatives at Pacific Community Ventures based in San Francisco. We asked a few pointed questions of Allison recently about her sector switching, why she works in the social change movement and the results her program is having in the workplace.


We understand you recently left the for profit world to enter the nonprofit world. Please describe your path to getting here and what motivated you to do change sectors?

I started my career with a tour in the Peace Corps. I served in Mauritania, West Africa from 1996-1998. When I was there, I realized that if I could figure out how to equip people with assets, the power to make their own decisions about health care, education, food choices, etc., that would be the most meaningful work I could do. So I returned from the Peace Corps and worked in the private sector for 2 ½ years to get the necessary experience to get into business school. I graduated from Thunderbird in 2002 and took a job back in the non-profit sector with Population Services International (PSI). This was my first foray into health, by way of marketing. At PSI, we did social marketing for public health products in developing economies all over the world. The behavior change communication we were involved with was really impactful and interesting. I ultimately decided to move back to the West Coast, however, to be closer to family. Upon my move back to San Francisco, I took a job back in the private sector doing product marketing for a biotech company in South San Francisco that had a product which did HIV resistance testing. I ultimately stayed in pharmaceuticals and biotech for about 4 years doing product marketing and strategic planning. Although I enjoyed the work and my colleagues, I felt I had more to give and wanted to get involved in a social enterprise. When Pacific Community Ventures called me to see if I’d be interested in taking on the leadership of our Employee OnRamp initiatives, I couldn’t refuse. This is a very smart, driven and innovative organization and I couldn’t be happier to me here.

Describe the products/services you are working at PCV. How are they helping to change the workplace?

My responsibilities at Pacific Community Ventures include overseeing our health policy work, our economic self-sufficiency initiatives and launching VidaCard, our first healthcare product. PCVs work in health policy is to help engage the companies in our network in the policy debate. There are many organizations advocating for companies larger than the ones we serve, and many for smaller sole proprietorships, but our networks’ voice has been under represented. We hope to bring our perspective to the policy debate and contribute towards favorable policy for our network of companies. With regards to economic self-sufficiency, we engage our companies to offer financial literacy trainings at their work place during business hours. Additionally, we partner with sister organizations (such as TaxAID) to help promote the services available to the low/moderate income workforce that we aim to serve. Finally, our work launching the VidaCard has been really exciting! We have a health care product that operates like and HRA whereby an employer who can’t afford to insure their workers, or can’t insure part-time workers can offer a health benefit in the VidaCard. VidaCard can be used anywhere MasterCard is accepted to access health care. Additionally, we have a partnership with the only licensed discount dental network in the state of California to offer reduced rates for dental care. We are in the pilot phase of our roll out right now but will be launching to the market Jan 1, 2009. It’s a very exciting time.

How do you measure success within your organization for your particular area of focus?

We measure success in a variety of different ways. There are very quantifiable measures that we track as a company such as annual budget and headcount. Then we have more specific measurements for each of our lines of business. For example, for our Social Evaluation Consulting arm, we measure # of clients and earned income. For my line of business, Employee OnRamp, we measure # of employees accessed and # of VidaCards sold, for example. From a qualitative perspective, we measure levels of engagement at events that we host. We keep track of testimonials that we get from folks who benefit from our products and services. For example, I was at Farmacia Remedios in the Mission District a couple of weeks ago as they received their VidaCards and the gratitude and pride that was demonstrated both from the employees receiving the health benefit and the employers who were able to give it to them, was an incredible measure of success.

What are you looking forward to in this field?

I’m looking forward to continue to track and contribute to the innovation that’s going on within a lot of organizations right now to help bring economic self-sufficiency, of which I see healthcare being a big part, to low/moderate income people. I think the industry is getting smarter and more efficient about our work and it’s really rewarding to be part of it.

What do you do when you are not working to change the world?

Lately I haven’t done much but work! However, I am a member of Net Impact, which is a great organization of business leaders who want to use business to change the world. I have volunteered for their Service Corps program which provides pro bono consulting to non-profits in our community. I’ve found my involvement in that to be quite rewarding. I also try to ride my bike to work whenever possible!

Monday, September 29, 2008

If it’s Thursday, it must be Dubai?

In order to get the word out about RNSI to potential funders, partners and others, we have adopted a very active public speaking schedule. We will be talking about Rubicon and scaling of social enterprise at a variety of venues and conferences over at conferences all around the world in the next 60 days.

  • Social Capital Conference in San Francisco – “Future of Social Enterprise” (Jonathan) – This is a gathering of 100’s of social investors who we hope will be interested in our work.
  • World Knowledge Forum Korea (Rick) – We have been invited to present the RNSI work at an international gathering of business and government leaders interested in the model that we have created at Rubicon.
  • World Economic Forum Conference Dubai (Rick) – WEF has selected from amongst Schwab Fellows a “social entrepreneur’s council” of the leading social entrepreneurs and Rick has been asked to serve as the Chair of this Council. The first meeting is being hosted jointly by the WEF in Dubai; the goal of the council is to present a proposal to the WEF in Davos in January of a more substantive way for the work of social entrepreneurs to be supported by the business community.
  • Net Impact Conference, Philadelphia – “Scaling of Social Enterprise” (Jonathan) – As reported above, we are co-sponsoring a major national competition with Net Impact and we will be featured at their annual conference in November.
  • Social Entrepreneur Conference France (Rick) – The President of France is sponsoring a gathering of the 50 world leading social entrepreneurs in Evian and we will be presenting our work to the business community interested in ways to scale impact.
  • The Economist Magazine business summit San Francisco (Rick) – We have been asked to be a principal presenter on a panel on social innovation at t he Economist Magazine conference in San Francisco.
  • Time-Fortune Magazine’s CNN conference of “The Principal Voices”: NYC – (Rick) Last year, Time-Fortune and CNN did a special article and show about our work as part of their “Principal Voices” series focusing on new models to end poverty in the world. The magazines are sponsoring a one day gathering of all the selected “principal voices” in New York

Collaboration and Partnerships:

RNSI has been busy on the phone crises-crossing the nation formalizing our local collaborative partnership agreements, including on-site visits to Philadelphia, Newark, and Baltimore to develop local collaborative partnerships throughout the country. We now have commitments from 18 organizations in 14 U.S. Cities to review business ideas with RNSI for potential fit. We are focused on both social enterprise employment models (supportive employment) and social franchise models with these partners.

Rubicon RNSI Open House:

People keep asking us where we are located, and now we have a productive answer – come visit us—October 2nd 4-7 pm We have sent out invitations and are looking forward to seeing friends and Rubicon board and staff members at the October 2nd Open House to share in person an update on the latest RNSI happenings.

Social Enterprise needed more than ever?

Unscathed by the declaration by the Wall Street Journal and Republican pundits of the failure of social enterprise and social mandates (in response to the demise of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), we’ve just been keeping our heads down and aggressively pursuing our work to create nationally scaled social enterprises that we will be able to bring to market and pilot within the next year.

Here is some of our progress over the past three months on the development process:

  • Evaluated eight new “phase I” businesses that entered our pipeline for compatibility and fit with our social enterprise feasibility criteria for phase II. Two of these businesses passed through for phase II analysis and are being evaluated in our pipeline.

  • Completed two complete feasibility analyses for a mattress/bulk item recycling business and a payroll advance business.

  • Developed significant relationships with waste haulers, recyclers, mattress and carpet retailers and other key partners to create competitive advantage within the mattress business

  • Conducted numerous interviews with necessary business partners for the alternative to pay day lending program
  • Leveraging Volunteer Resources To Make Our Workplan Possible:

    We have leveraged a significant amount of pro bono resources in support of our work. We’ve creating four critical partnerships with organizations that believe in our work and which have contributed significant amounts of resources to support our team. Our four key partners are Bain & Co, Net Impact, the design firm IDEO, and our co-tenants in San Francisco, Architecture for Humanity.

    • Managed 3 Net Impact teams: The first phase of our Net Impact partnership is their working with us to find 9 Net Impact business management volunteers to work with us on three critical teams. We focused the three teams on mattress recycling, employer based payroll advances, and deconstruction/waste management services.
    • Bain and Company Brainstorming Sessions: We have had two high engagement meetings with potential partners, industry experts and philanthropic partners facilitated by Bain & Co. Travis Pearson, a partner at the SF Bain office, has been an invaluable and hard working additional member of our team. In preparation for, and at these meetings, Travis brought in other Bain associates and partners with content knowledge in the industries we are examining. This week, we received an additional commitment from the firm of a “virtual team” of Bain associates to work with us.

    Idea Generation Competitions and Gatherings:

    • Architecture for Humanity and our Mattress Recycling Design Competition – We are currently running a national competition online in partnership with Architecture for Humanity to encourage product designers, students, and others interested in innovative ways to improve the environment through finding a re-use of the stuff inside mattresses we all throw away.

    • Discarded Dreams Mattress Competition - Lead Mattress Sponsor: Keetsa Eco Friendly Mattresses - Lead Sponsor: ISPA - Hosted by Rubicon National Social Innovations and Architecture for Humanity

    • IDEO, the award winning national design and planning firm, has been brought on board to facilitate a pro bono brainstorming session focused on “the next big social enterprise” and we’ve invited 50 folks from the social entrepreneurial and business community to help us think through some new ideas.

    • The Net Impact/Rubicon “Next Big Social Enterprise” Challenge invited 10,000 Net Impact members to submit their ideas and expand on others in an online competition focused on RNSI’s national scaling strategy. Results and further brainstorming will be reported out at the Net Impact National Conference in Philadelphia by RNSI staff.

    Friday, September 19, 2008

    Interview with Joe Alexander from Keetsa Mattress

    Joe Alexander is Director of Sales and Marketing for Keetsa Mattress here in San Francisco. Keetsa is a leading manufacturer of green mattress and bedding products, using recycled and sustainable materials to produce high quality bedding for its customers. Keetsa is the bedding sponsor for the Discarded Dreams Mattress Recycling Competition, cohosted by RNSI. Jonathan Harrison, Director of RNSI, posed the following questions to Joe:

    1. The mattress industry has a bad reputation for confusing pricing structures, deceptive sales tactics, and renovated product that is sometimes passed off as new. Is that reputation deserved?
    I would have to say, in my experience, it is an earned reputation. Before the advent and accessibility of the internet, customers were subject to the marketing of the mattress giants. Shopping for a mattress was similar to the process of buying a car. In the "old days", you would go from dealership to dealership, listening to salespeople, collecting brochures and getting pressured to buy now. When the internet gave customers the ability to research, price and compare, it changed the landscape. The same thing is now happening for mattresses. Customers are now coming into the market informed, asking the right questions. Because of this, the old sales tactics many companies rely on are now accounting for a rise of alternative bedding companies. It's why you see so many of the major mattress manufacturers suffering in this economy and many alternative companies thriving. Mattresses are a perceived need. Good or bad economy, people still need mattresses. And if you give the consumer respect for being intelligent and savvy, if you give them value, they will buy.

    2. Your company is pretty green in the scheme of things? But what are you doing that is different from other mattress companies?
    What we are doing is pretty radical from most mattress stores. We do not spend tons of money on radio and TV. We don't blanket newspapers with ads. We live off word of mouth and the internet. This helps us keep our pricing affordable. In respect to being green, we are constantly challenging ourselves by searching for new innovations. We have lots of customers who cannot afford latex or are allergic to it. We make a healthy version of memory foam. In fact, we just pioneered the world's first castor oil foam. We replace over 10% of the oil with castor oil, a natural plant oil, for lower dependency and reduced VOC. We are also about to unveil our first natural latex mattress with organic cotton and wool. By packaging our mattresses in boxes that can fit in your car, we are able to send customers home in their car, taxi or BART with a new mattress.

    3. Keetsa is growing fast. This might present a few challenges in your day . . . what keeps you up at night?
    First, I am daily innundated with emails from customers, potential customers and inquiries from media. It amazes me how passionate people are about their mattress! But the one thing that keeps me up at night are the people who attack us. When you are on the forefront of change you are a target. I work very hard with our staff to educate customers about how our mattresses are different from other mattresses. And yet, to some people, it is not enough. Fortunately though, you are right, we are growing very fast. We make a great mattress for a great price.

    4. What is Keetsa going to look like in 10 years?
    In the year 2019 we will have flying mattresses! No, just kidding. Actually, if all goes according to plan, Keetsa will be a household name in ten years. I personally would like to see us making 100% biodegradable mattresses that last 25-50 years. That way waste and disposal are things of the past when it comes to mattresses. These are some of our goals.

    5. Tell us the story about a customer experience that made you proud?
    Our staff works tirelessly to make our customers happy. I try to remind them all the time that you never know the circumstances of why someone is shopping for a mattress. A young lady came into the store the other day and fell in love with our mattresses. She was distraught because she had been to some big retailers and could not afford a mattress. Her family came back an hour later and bought the mattress for her. It seems her husband of 5 months had run off with another woman and took all the furniture. She was so grateful for her new mattress!

    6. Why is reducing your companies' carbon footprint so personally important to you as an manager?
    As an avid surfer and runner, I enjoy the outdoors. Before Keetsa I had lived in Hawaii for two years and Tahoe for a winter. We have such an amazing planet! I want my three kids to be able to enjoy this place long after I am gone. With Keetsa, I get to contribute on a daily basis.

    Thursday, August 28, 2008

    Discarded Dreams . . . Coming Soon

    In our journey to find a scalable social enterprise, we've been looking long and hard at the potential of mattress recycling. Hmm, you've probably never thought of it. Neither had we, but it is starting to make sense. We've just finished a feasibility study complete with location analysis on the potential for co-locating pilot facilities with local collaborative partners with strong social service delivery models for the "hard to employ" target clients that we seek to help most. Things look promising. During the pilot phase,the business looks marginally profitable as a single stream bulk item facility that brings mattresses in the front door and breaks them down to their commodity parts (cotton, wood, steel, shoddy, etc.) and tries to find markets for these core components.

    Even at large volumes, the markets for mattress parts are not very financially attractive. So we got to thinking . . . what if we created a line of products developed from 100% reclaimed materials, in large part from the mattresses we are breaking down. This was the question that we asked the creative folks at Architecture for Humanity who, among many other things, run international design competitions on their Open Architecture Network. After a few conversations with Director Kate Stohr, we were slated to run a mattress competition that will ask the best and brightest product designers that age old question- "When a mattress falls in the dumpster, does anyone hear it fall?" That is, what are we going to do with all these mattresses besides pulverize them and re-landfill the resultant waste?
    Thanks to help from Kate and lead sponsors at the International Sleep Products Association, we may have an answer to that question.

    On September 1st, the Discarded Dreams Mattress Recycling Competition will officially open and we'll invite entrants to create innovative ways of converting used mattresses into useful products (which are 75%+ mattress components.) The competition aims to encourage entrants to form groups capable of creating a consumer product, instructions detailing how to make the product, and a plan for production on a larger scale. Entrants must create designs that take into account the volume of mattress waste generated each year. Groups are encouraged to utilize local resources, including existing manufacturing facilities and other waste products.

    We know the problem. Without a line of commercially viable products to develop at the end of the life cycle for so many products including computers, hair dryers, carpet, Styrofoam, etc, the business of recycling them is a marginally profitable one, especially give the nature and construction of products like mattresses. They often end up in landfills because they cannot be broken down and their component parts are hard to utilize.

    Until now.

    Wednesday, July 2, 2008

    Rubicon in the News - SmartMoney

    Read about Rubicon and Rick Aubry in this month's issue of Smart Money - Small Business . . .

    Starting Up: Nonprofits Launch Social Sidelines

    by Diana Ransom

    WANT TO KNOW how to start up a nonprofit with deep pockets? Here's a hint: Make sure it's also a multimillion-dollar business.

    Consider Rubicon Programs, a Richmond, Calif., nonprofit that provides jobs, housing, and life skills to poverty-stricken, formerly incarcerated and disabled individuals. The organization, which was founded in 1973, has started two businesses and helped more than 40,000 individuals find jobs and live independently.

    However, even after Rubicon started its first enterprise, Rubicon Landscape Services, 25 years ago, the idea of using earned income to support the organization didn't exactly register . . . read more

    Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    RNSI Adventures - San Patrignano

    The following entries are from a trip our Director, Jonathan Harrison, took on behalf of Rubicon Bakery to San Patrignano, a social enterprise bar none outside of Rimini, in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. San Patrignano is so large; it is really a small town as well as an tremendously successful residential drug recovery program and community. The over 1000 people in recovery work are not charged for room, board and intensive therapies including free health care, but rather work in community-owned businesses including about a thousand of acres of vineyards, a world-class winery, high end Italian furniture, cheesemaking, and all of the operating principles of a sustainably managed farm system. The average “stay” at San Patrignano is 4 years, with a minimum of 3.5 years in residence. Their success is over 80% who do not relapse after leaving the program, (tracked at 1, 2, 3, and 5 years intervals). This is compared to shorter programs of 30-90 days where success rates hover in the 10-15% percentage rates.

    Jonathan was joined on this journey by Jaime Cunningham, training manager of the Rubicon Bakery. The two of them were invited to participate in a trade pavilion at the San Patrignano Food and Wine festival called “Squisito” (Exquisite). Squisito was created five years ago as an event dedicated to the culture of good taste, good food, and to those who never tire of trying new flavor combinations and sampling long forgotten culinary traditions. Michelin starred chefs, experts, journalists and gourmets meet each year to redefine contemporary cuisine, creating an itinerary of taste that goes beyond our nation's borders. This 4 day event brought the best of Italian artisan meats, cheeses, breads, and wines and a little bit of everything (over 200 vendors in all) complete with all the culture and charm that is Italy and the Italian people. It was a very difficult assignment, but Jaime and Jonathan were willing to sacrifice their precious time for this great cause.

    RNSI Adventures - San Patrignano Day One

    I am looking out my window in Rimini at my hotel balcony and can see and smell the Adriatic a block away. I am here finally, it is nearly 24 hours in real time since I left the offices of Rubicon. There is a Pizzeria tipico near here with good margherita pizza so I hear; I will follow my nose. Tomorrow we set up our booth for the Festival, where we will be sampling bakery confections including gourmet marshmallows and Rubicon’s new product—Cocoaberries, a lower calorie dark chocolate covered berry meringue.

    We were invited to participate in the Good Food Pavilion, where organizations from around the globe gather to display the results of social enterprises including those produced at places like Fifteen (Jaime Oliver’s social enterprise which trains at-risk youth in culinary arts in an on-the-job restaurant) and organizations looking for alternatives to drug crops in Afghanistan (from poppy to Saffron and teas), Columbia (from coca to cacao), Thailand (from marijuana to macadamia nuts) and even Roots of Peace, a US nonprofit dedicated to eradicating landmines worldwide and rehabilitating the land to make it productive once more. Rubicon was in good company.

    RNSI Adventures - San Patrignano Day Two

    It is quite an experience in so many ways here at San Patrignano, which is a virtual gastronomic overload. In many ways this is one of the most impressive social enterprise in the world, as far as I can tell. Where else can you spend between 3.5-5 years in recovery from drugs? The Italians are smart; they combine the best in all the worldly arts - cheese, wine, and smoked meats - and help 1000 people in their community build skills and craftsmanship that can take them places in the outside world. It is really a small city complete with hospital, kitchens that feed hundreds, horses, kennels with breeding facilities , artisan pigs (which become high end prosciutto and other hams) and a dairy. Perhaps it was just that they were on their best behavior with so much company visiting, but San Patrignano runs like a well oiled machine. The people are what make the place. Although they are struggling, they are compassionate, tender, and always ready for a joke.

    Our booth in the Good Food Pavilion was right inside the front door, and we had thousands (some say 40,000 total over 4 days) and it was great to test market the marshmallows and Cocoaberries.
    The reactions were wonderful, although the Italians don’t eat marshmallow (an American phenomenon) and it was hilarious to watch them try one. Of course, the children all loved them and said that they saw them on “Charlie Brown”. The parents were skeptical, even when touching them, most were shocked that they were soft (morbido in Italian). I don’t think they will be a big hit in the Italian market, but who knows, it just might be strange enough. The Cocoaberries were a hit, but not when we told people that they were low calorie (“light” as they say in Italian). Most people said diet foods are for Americans and were a bit superior sounding if you ask me. Many, many people wanted to buy the products – mostly the marshmallows, but definitely a strong demand given that most were on vacation and ready to spend.

    RNSI Adventures - San Patrignano Day Three

    Wandering around the festival a bit it is clear. Even compared to the sizable movements afoot in Northern California to bring artisanship and slow food back to America, I was struck immediately about how authentic and grounded everything was. Okay, it was my first time in Italy and all, I know I am stating the obvious! But artisanal everything!? Beer, cheeses, meats capo and prosciutto, Pizzeria and Barbecue. I am getting tips on how to roast a pig from a family member who has been curing meats for hundreds of years. Of course not just any pig, but a local heritage breed, a free range breed: mora Romagnala.

    San Patrignano has social enterprises within its community. For example, the Neapolitan pizzeria (open to the public) that recently won 5th place in the world competition, is extremely authentic and uses world class ingredients that are "confirmed" by Naples.

    RNSI Adventures - San Patrignano Day Four

    I attended the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (based in Vienna) seminar today to learn about the trials and tribulations of turning drug crops in developing countries into "alternative agriculture" crops to drug crops. Ironically to Americans mainly, San Patrignano operates a vineyard and a winery and other social enterprises (for at risk youth) operate breweries. The relationship to wine and beer is a culinary and cultural one that does not force an “abstinence only” ideology for well-being. On a lighter note, San Patrignano has just introduced cheese wrapped and and aged in a tobacco leaf that when swallowed leaves a delicious burn in the throat that tingles like you just smoked a cigarette - really strange but delicious.

    I will just leave you with a few of the more mouthwatering delicious culinary offerings that our hosts forced us to try:

    - Bombanella sandwich (From Puglia)- pork sausage wrapped in bacon and then shish kabobed and put into a sandwich cone
    - Tripe Sandwich – this was the Tuscan version from Florence, never thought I liked tripe until I ate this!
    - Fried tiny fish - don’t know the names, tasted like the sea
    - Asti Champagne and a Canoli - a peak eating experience
    - Gelato – one with Pistachios from Lebanon, one with saffron and mint from Afghanistan and one with mangos from Columbia.
    - “Caramela” - handmade pasta by Fifteen that looks like shape of caramel, stuffed with cheeses
    - Olives stuffed with beef and pork, breaded and deep fried
    - Copa di Parma, and the Culatello di Zibello courtesy of the ancient local breed of pig, mora Romagnola

    RNSI Adventures - San Patrignano Day Five

    Back to the airport . . . Driving back to Bologna it was a regular UN. I got background information from my two new Afghani friends from Hirat (this is the relatively “safe” place in the Western part of Afghanistan which borders Turkmenistan and Iran) on the ever worsening conditions in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s hold on the region of the country that they are trying to convert from poppy but can’t safely enter to even speak to farmers. Also on the bus were a Colombian woman, a Chinese woman from Myanmar, a few folks from Thailand and the Italian driver. I am looking forward to being forced to go again next year.

    Friday, March 21, 2008

    A Message From Rick Aubry

    Bold. Audacious. Risky. Essential. Foolish. Critical. Necessary. Quixotic. Impracticable. Romantic. Impossible. Unrealistic. Finally . . .

    These are just some of the adjectives friends of Rubicon use as I describe our new vision for social enterprise in the United States. Our vision is now embodied by our new Rubicon National Social Innovation team. Many of you know Rubicon Programs. For 35 years we have created jobs, housing, services and hope for people and communities left out of the mainstream, including homeless people, residents of neglected communities, people in the mental health system, formerly incarcerated people, young fathers wanting to re-engage with their families and many other marginalized communities. We have built social enterprises, worked with employers to create pathways into the mainstream, taken vacant land and turned it into affordable housing and created innovative programs which have become models for others. Our work has been focused in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we have served over 50,000 people the last 20 years.

    Most notably, we are seen as a leader in the field of social enterprise in the United States. Rubicon Landscape and Rubicon Bakery are oft sited examples to define social enterprise in the United States. With our roots in Richmond, one of California's most economically disadvantaged communities, our entrepreneurship was born out of necessity. We have had to rely on innovation, bold ideas, and scrappiness to survive and build an organization which has a direct impact on the people we serve and on helping build and define the field of social entrepreneurship.

    We are proud that our positive social impact has been recognized with accolades such as the Fast Company Magazine's "Social Capitalist of the Year" five years running, Time Magazine/CNN's "Principal Voices" on social entrepreneurship, and our selection to be a part of the yearly World Economic Forum's "Schwab Foundation of Social Entrepreneurs" since 2001.

    However, we have always tried to rely not on past successes, our own press releases, or to drink our own kool-aid as we contemplate our future. During a comprehensive strategic planning process, we concluded that amongst the variety of integrated solutions we offer to create paths out of poverty for people and communities, our best chance to dramatically change the system is to more than just improve our performance within that system as a great but local non profit. We must re-imagine the scale, scope and impact of social enterprise in the United States, and build a game shifting national social enterprise. To do so, we have created a "laboratory for scaling social enterprise" which we hope will bring social enterprise to a national level in the United States.

    We believe that for social enterprise to have a significant impact on poverty and employment opportunities in America, it must be re-imagined on a much greater scale with the focus on a national business model of greater social impact and public presence then is widely seen today. We believe social enterprise as non profit poverty alleviation strategy has been important but limited in its impact, even for field leaders such as Rubicon. Rubicon currently runs small to mid-size businesses in a local market, similar to virtually all the other social enterprises which have been created during the past 20+ years of the social enterprise movement. Aside from the national thrift shop models created by St Vincent De Paul, Goodwill Industries and others, social enterprise remains predominantly local.

    For us to move from a regional to national platform we have committed to a significant organizational re-structure to maximize the likelihood of success in creating a national social enterprise. We are leveraging our experience, relationships, and reputation to create a special "National Social Innovation Team". We set out to bring on new project staff to develop a new Social Enterprise business model. From a 35 year old success story, this small "start up team" will focus on developing business models that fit within a national social enterprise model.

    We brought on an amazing dream team of folks with deep experience in the social enterprise, corporate and marketing worlds and launched November 2007. Our team is building partnerships with individuals and organizations around the country with aligned interests to broaden our intellectual capital.

    At the heart of our exploration is the recognition that for social enterprise to be a powerful tool of social change, we must imagine and develop a greater scale and a national platform. We are finding that when we consider opportunities from this radically different perspective, there are exciting new ways to fundamentally re-structure the way social enterprise can address poverty in the United States. I invite all of you to stay tuned for what's coming and to actively join us as a business idea submitter, advisor, and financial supporter of our start up work.

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    Welcome To Our Blog!

    Hello Everyone!

    Welcome to the Rubicon National Social Innovations blog.

    Below you will find articles we are reading, updated daily.