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5 Tips for Women Starting a Social Purpose Business

Heather_FranzeseThis post was written by guest blogger Heather Franzese, co-founder and executive director of Good World Solutions.

I spoke recently at the Lead On women’s leadership conference in Silicon Valley about how to build a successful social enterprise or social purpose business. The women I spoke with were working on diverse issues from elder care to human rights to breast cancer. But all wanted to achieve the maximum impact with their limited resources.

I’ve pulled together some tips from my experience over the last four years launching a social enterprise that leverages mobile technology to give voice to factory workers and improve their working conditions. No matter what issue you’re trying to tackle, these tips will get you closer to the impact you envision:

  1. Don’t try to do it alone. Assemble a team of advisors on key content areas. In the early days of Labor Link, I used BoardMatch, LinkedIn and my network to find individuals who were passionate about our mission and could advise on areas like talent development, pricing strategy, and ‘mobile for development.’
  2. Start small and iterate. We applied the principles of Lean Startup to Labor Link, starting with a ‘minimum viable product’ that we tested in Peru. Based on that learning and evidence of initial traction, we switched our technology approach from SMS to voice-response before expanding to India and China.
  3. Know yourself and find others who complement you. Going back to #1, build a team that brings diverse strengths to achieving your mission. Our team is using Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 tool to deepen our understanding of what we each do well so we can lean into our strengths.
  4. Place a few unlikely bets. In the beginning, you have nothing to lose so it pays to take chances. I attended a small conference in Switzerland where I was one of only two Americans in attendance, but I happened to sit next to the Head of Ethical Trading for Marks & Spencer. They were one of our first customers and have been a great partner for years.
  5. Once you have traction, focus focus focus! This is the hardest advice to follow. In the beginning, we tested Labor Link across different workplace types – rural farmers, factory workers, and home-based artisans. We found that the factory workers manufacturing our clothing and electronics are eager for their voices to be heard, and companies have an urgent need for real-time data from this workforce. So we put agriculture and artisan sector work on the back burner to dedicate all our energy to improve the lives of factory workers.

Whatever social issue you’re trying to address, take care of yourself. There’s no shame in getting lots of sleep. In fact, it’s coming back in style. You cannot achieving maximum impact if you or your team members are always on the verge of burnout.

A Purpose Economy 100 (PE100) global changemaker, Heather Franzese is the Executive Director of Good World Solutions and has been working for 15 years to improve the lives of vulnerable workers in global supply chains. Her award-winning social enterprise has leveraged mobile technology to give voice to factory workers and real-time data to leading clothing and electronics companies. Since 2010, the organization’s Labor Link platform has reached over 200,000 workers in 16 countries, including China, India, Bangladesh, and Brazil.

Heather brings together industry experience with Columbia Sportswear Company and field experience working with small-scale farmers in West Africa. She sits on Etsy’s Manufacturing Advisory Board and holds a master’s degree in economic development from Harvard Kennedy School.

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How Mobile Phones Are Driving Business and Social Impact

If you look around and think everyone has a mobile phone, you’re right. There are almost as many mobile subscriptions (6.8 billion) as there are people in the world (7.1 billion), according to the International Telecommunication Union.

Even in developing countries, the mobile penetration rate (the number of mobile phone numbers within a specific population) is 89 percent. Between 2011 to 2016, the number of mobile phones in Africa is expected to double from 500 million to 1 billion–nearly the entire population. But how are we all using our mobile phones?

What we’re learning is that a mobile phone can transform someone’s life, especially for underserved populations and/or those living in remote locations. They enable financial inclusion for the 1.8 billion people with access to a phone but not a bank. They provide farmers with information on market prices and weather reports, and they link micro and small entrepreneurs to markets and potential buyers. And, they provide mothers with important information to keep themselves and their children healthy. All this relevant and actionable information is getting to people who aren’t able to access this type of information via the Internet or in person.

Belinda and her child never fell sick during and after her pregnancy, thanks to messages that she received that told her about proper nutrition and exclusive breastfeeding. Photo courtesy Grameen Foundation

Belinda and her child never fell sick during and after her pregnancy, thanks to messages that she received that told her about proper nutrition and exclusive breastfeeding. Photo courtesy Grameen Foundation

But we’re also learning that organizations — large, for-profit corporations and small, nonprofit social enterprises alike — are using mobile technology to operate better and smarter. Organizations are using mobile phones to gather real-time data that help them make informed business decisions and that yield social impact.

Let me introduce you to two organizations that have developed innovative technology tools that are driving this double bottom line business and social impact.

Read More »

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Enterprise 2.0 — A Social Enterprise on Cloud Becomes Emergent Reality

In 2006, Professor Andrew McAfee coined the term ‘Enterprise 2.0′ and he described it as “the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers”. Due to the advent of social media in the corporate world, enterprises have started to become borderless. Delighting customers by knowing who they are and what they like is a key driver for many organizations to evolve into a social enterprise.

Fortunately, it is possible to deliver exceptional customer experience by leveraging social media and I practically witnessed it during Dreamforce, 2011. After attending more than a dozen breakout sessions and demos, I had a chance to review the underlying architecture, software, services, and mobile applications which can empower businesses to become more Social, Mobile and Local. The bottom line is that technology readiness is no longer an issue. An enterprise can now connect and collaborate with their partners as well as customers in a whole new way!

During the keynote presentations, numerous examples where shared showcasing how companies are using social CRM to delight their customers. I will share some of these examples later in this post. However, to deliver a personalized social experience companies will have to bridge the gap between data and people, which is possible by building a social profile for customers. Let’s look into a high level architecture used for delivering the above experience. Read More »

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