Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Rubicon National Wins Social Impact Exchange Business Plan Competition

By Rick Aubry, CEO and Founder

Greg Dees, Ed Skloot and their colleagues from Duke University as well as the folks at the Growth Philanthropy Network pulled together an impressive group of conference attendees to focus on the question of how philanthropy can scale the impact of social innovation at the Social Impact Exchange’s Inaugural Conference on Scaling. Over 450 people gathered in NYC June 17-18 to look at the challenges involved in moving to scaled solutions and look at examples of some of the best solutions available for creating this scaled change. Philanthropists, academics, practitioners and financiers spent two days hearing about the latest thinking on how to take big ideas and bring them to scale. Given Rubicon National’s mission to serve as a laboratory for scaling social impact, it was a timely conference for us to attend; and we also had a dog in the hunt at the conference.

The central part of the conference is a social business competition featuring leading new innovations ready to scale. One of Rubicon’s social businesses, Emerge, was competing in the early-stage growth category. Our venture was created as an alternative for working folks who have had no choices when they need small, short-term loans in emergencies than to go to the predatory lenders. Over 200 organizations submitted plans and 8 finalists were selected to present. Jonathan Harrison and I pitched our presentation on Emerge for 10 minutes on Friday afternoon and later that day we found out we won! In addition to $25,000 in cash, we also will receive six months of pro bono consultation from Public/Private Ventures to help us achieve the scaled impact we all are interested in. (See the press release we published on the win.)

So of course, we are jazzed and excited that we received such a prestigious recognition (and the cash could not have come at a better time for our start-up venture). We have spent nearly two years dealing with all the behind-the-scenes steps necessary to create a system-changing business—one that provides working folks access to fair credit, connections to financial services and asset building programs, and a pathway out of the debt traps that payday lenders and other predatory financial services help create. It’s satisfying to know we won because we created this solution within the construct of a market-based business that is designed to grow to scale and be sustainable. This is what Rubicon National set out to do from the beginning.

NPR Fresh Air Interview with Gary Rivlin Highlights Need for Payday Lending Alternative

NPR’s Fresh Air recently invited Gary Rivlin to share his research on predatory lending in the United States. Rivlin’s work is particularly pertinent at a time when Americans are strapped for cash and stretching their dollars, especially at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid. His work is not only pertinent to the current economic climate, but to the initiative that Rubicon National Social Innovations is launching through our new social business, Emerge.

Payday lending accentuates the problems people who live paycheck to paycheck face, putting them at odds with making ends meet as roll-overs lead them to face nearly 400%+ APR while paying back their advance. Rivlin makes it clear that the same payday lenders that many might see as exploiting the poor working class see themselves as nobly extending services that would otherwise not be available to a large population of people. At the same time, he tells a very clear story of how the flight of traditional banks combined with the much-higher-than-average profit margins to be made by serving the working poor lead to the abundance of payday lenders in poor, urban areas.

Our alternative business model, Emerge, is positioned to fill the gap left by the imbalance in the marketplace. Seeking to systematically bring about a more equitable society through its employer-based credit offerings, Emerge aims to migrate the underbanked from predatory high-profit payday lenders toward mainstream financial services. -Josh Engel, Summer Associate

Listen to the full NPR interview with Gary Rivlin.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Welcome New Summer Associates

With summer, comes summer interns, and at Rubicon National Social Innovations we're excited to welcome our outstanding group of summer associates this month. We have a diverse group of MBAs and undergrads from top-notch schools, including Northwestern University, University of Pennsylvania, and Wake Forest University. To kickoff their time with us, and to thank many of the volunteers who have generously given their time this year moving our mission forward, we took everyone to AT&T ballpark to soak in a beautiful San Francisco day and watch the Giants beat the Orioles (6-3). Check out photos from our outing.

Lucky Sharma, Josh Engel, Jonathan Harrison, Bernard Geiger, Brendan Pierpont, Andrew Kintner, Melissa Foley, and Mark Ding

Jade Rex, Bernard Geiger, Brendan Pierpont, and Andrew Kintner

Lucky Sharma, Josh Engel, and Jonathan Harrison

Bernard Geiger, Brendan Pierpont, Andrew Kintner, Melissa Foley, Mark Ding, Ashima Sukhdev, Kathy Liu, and Sandie Taylor