5 Big Bets for Social Impact

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By Carol L. Cone

I recently attended a meeting of social entrepreneurs and other leaders from business, government, philanthropy, academia and the nonprofit sector at an event called the Gathering of Leaders, hosted by New Profit, a Boston-based national venture philanthropy fund.

New Profit’s mission is to harness America’s spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship to help solve our country’s most pressing social problems, and the Gathering’s goal was on point: to catalyze the development of new ideas, relationships and resources to scale social innovation and transform public problem-solving on a broad scale.

This year’s Gathering focused on a few critical questions for the social sector to address:

  • What does it mean to be on a path to opportunity in the U.S. today?
  • What are we learning about the ways that race and class wind through these pathways from people who have cracked the code themselves?
  • How is technology closing — and widening — gaps?

One of my favorite discussions was called “Big Bets,” featuring curated concepts from social entrepreneurs – ideas with the potential to make large-scale, transformative change in education, early childhood development, economic empowerment and public health. These ‘bets’ aim to provoke bold thinking and ultimately action to change the lives of millions of underserved individuals and families.

I trust they will inspire you as they did me.

1. Creating the next generation of peacemakers: Peace First

Eric
Eric Dawson, president of Peace First, speaks at the New Profit Gathering of Leaders conference.

Peace First, a New Profit grantee and partner in the Reimagine Learning Fund, exists to create the next generation of “peacemakers” — youth who are taking action in schools and communities to create greater understanding, cooperation and engagement for societal benefit.

“It’s not enough to teach a group of young people a set of skills, and then send them off into a world that doesn’t acknowledge them —and worse, actually undermines their ‘peacemaking’ efforts,” offered Peace First President Eric Dawson.

“We live in a culture of violence, hatred and intolerance. We need a compelling and competitive alternative — a cultural counterweight — that we can only create through a movement led by young people, who are powerful agents of social change.”

2. Revolutionizing pediatric medicine: Center for Youth Wellness

The Center for Youth Wellness is part of a national effort to revolutionize pediatric medicine and transform the way society responds to kids exposed to significant adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress. Founder and CEO Dr. Nadine Burke Harris was inspired by the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, which demonstrated the strong correlation between early childhood experiences of abuse, neglect and household dysfunction and poor adult health including asthma, heart disease and cancer.

“The medical community has not even begun to have a comprehensive response to this crisis,” she said. Her ‘big bet:’ to develop a system of comprehensive routine screening, early detection and effective intervention to reduce the morbidity and early mortality from ACEs and toxic stress.

3. A one-stop-shop for resources: Single Stop

Single Stop, a grantee in the New Profit Innovation Fund, provides coordinated access for underserved populations to resources related to higher education, jobs and financial self-sufficiency – all through a unique one-stop-shop.

Like Amazon or Walmart, Founder and CEO Elizabeth Mason wants to provide an online marketplace – a “single stop” for social services. Single Stop aggregates and simplifies social service information linking to nonprofit services and government benefits creating comprehensive resources reaching millions to significantly reduce poverty.

4. Micro-loans for individuals: Kiva Zip

Over 8,000 small business loan applications are rejected by banks in the U.S. every day. Renowned international micro-loan NGO Kiva asked: Why can’t this country provide micro-loans to individuals? And do it with a new type of repayment criteria?

That led to a new Kiva service, called social underwriting. Kiva Zip bases its lending decisions on a borrower character and trust network, re-inserting human relationships into the U.S. financial system.

5. Mobile solutions for low-income patients: CareMessage

founder
Vineet Singal, co-founder of CareMessage, speaks the Gathering of Leaders conference.

Inspired by his personal journey to lose 100 pounds and realizing that the medical system needed to follow up on patient care beyond the initial visit, Vineet Singal started CareMessage to offer underserved populations a way to receive feedback for personal healthcare needs through mobile technology.

“Being a low-income patient is a significant predictor of low health literacy and poor self-management skills in terms of health behaviors. Being connected to healthcare providers especially via text messaging can often alleviate and prevent many common ailments, as well as support post treatment compliance,” he said.

CareMessage has already established contractual relationships with nearly 100 healthcare organizations and social services agencies in 17 states across the country joined by a shared vision of improving clinical outcomes and reducing cost of care.

Big bets? You bet.

For me the Gathering was a unique experience: quirky, compelling and immensely energizing. I was exposed to terrific new ideas, I met individuals with deep appetites for powerful collaboration and gained wonderful inspiration for my ongoing work to create distinctive public-private partnerships for business and societal impacts.

Want to connect with any of these entrepreneurs? Email me at carol.cone@edelman.com.

Image credits: 1) New Profit 2) and 3) Carol L. Cone

Carol L. Cone is a Global Chief Strategist for Business + Social Purpose at Edelman.

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