Author Archives: reynoldscohort

How Games Can Influence Learning

By Nathan Maton

What do games have anything to do with learning? We spoke to
nationally recognized researchers, teachers, game-based schools and
companies that develop educational games and asked how they see games
fitting into the education landscape.

of the day, a game is successful only if each individual gamer has an
interaction with it that makes him or her want to come back for more,”
says Nt Etuk, CEO of Dimension U, an educational games company.  “Even
the massively multi-player games [such as World of Warcaft] are
successful only because they have tapped into a million individual need
to interact, or to compete, or to form groups.”

GAMES CAN HELP STRUGGLING STUDENTS.  “[Games] don’t cause behavior problems but eliminate them,” Ananth Pai says. Pai teaches students from second to fifth grade in Parkview/Center Point Elementary school in Maplewood, Minnesota. Pai
took the time to develop a game-based curricula, and says he’s seen the
rewards of his efforts.

In his gamified classroom, students who performed below proficiency
contributed the most to the double-digit growth in achievement. “These
are the students that make up the whole education reform debate.
Gamification helps them from falling through the ever widening
achievement gap as they move forward from third grade,” he said.

IT’S HIGHLY PERSONALIZED. With the best games, the
player is challenged at exactly the right level and in the right way to
keep the player playing. “Maybe the question we need to ask is what
about games causes youth to engage that our traditional approach to
education lacks,” says Brian Alspach, Executive Vice President of E-Line
Media, an educational games publisher well known for their game Gamestar Mechanic. “Perhaps applying games to classes is hard because they work on a
different educational philosophy than our current education system.
Classes are designed to get the lowest common denominator engaged, while
games are an interactive, ‘lean-forward’ medium in which players can
progress at their own pace while trying and failing in a safe
environment. A well-designed game offers an intricate balance of
challenges and rewards that continually pushes players to, and then
beyond, the limits of their knowledge and skill.”

a school led by renowned game designer Katie Salen that integrates
games across all classes and subjects, is one of the leading examples of
how games fit into schools. Yet even there, according to Rebecca
Rufo-Tepper, Director of Integrated Learning, none of their teachers
teach exclusively through games.  Even when they do use games, they’re
frequently not what you’d imagine.

“Games are very flexible and can be used in different ways,”
Rufo-Tepper says. “It’s not like they’re in the classroom playing a
video game or playing cards everyday but there is this larger contextual
experience that is game like. We use the word ‘game-like’ a lot instead
of ‘game.'”

She gives an example of how the school’s seventh-grade literacy class, in which they read a book called Chains
by Laurie Halse Anderson, about New York City during the American
Revolution. Students are asked to write about the different types of
power represented in the book, to give literary examples, and to write a
literary essay with multiple drafts. Sounds like a typical English
class, except the small twist here is that Oprah Winfrey has “visited”
them in a video created by game designers and the teacher, and asked
them to join her book club. “There’s a fictionalized game-like
experience and the kids know that it isn’t really Oprah but it is all
couched in this game like experience,” she said.

fact is, many of the games out there suck,” said Ralph Vacca, a
doctoral student at New York University’s Educational Communications and
Technology Program. “They don’t tackle genuine learning needs as
teachers see them, they don’t address practical limitations, as teachers
see them, and they don’t live up to the hype around them, as teachers
see them.” Those who design games need to recognize the “logistical,
organizational, and cultural obstacles teachers have to deal with that
underlie lots of perceived ‘resistance’ to innovations in the
classroom.” For busy teachers, spending days or weeks prepping to use a
game in just one or two classes is not the best use of time, he said.

Even Quest To Learn, which hopes to be a leading example in
implementing games in schools in game design, admits to the challenge of
developing useful games. They’ve pulled together the best and brightest
of both the teaching and game-design worlds and carefully thought
through their plan. Even so, some of their games, particularly in their
first year, were frequently over-designed and over-complicated.

“We’ll have designed a board game where we realize that it has taken
45 minutes of class for the kids just to understand how to play it,”
Rebecca says.  “And we’ll have said we’ll take 15 minutes to explain it
and then they’ll play around and then we’re in a classroom. Forty-five
minutes have gone by and the kids are still trying to figure out how to
play it.” Add to that the fact that it was a Friday, by the time student
return on Monday, “they’ve forgotten everything that you’ve talked

The Case against Corporate Social Responsibility: Where It’s Right and Where It’s Wrong

By Keren G. Raz, NYU Law Social Enterprise Fellow and Apollo Management’s Socially Responsible Investing Associate

Last week Aneel
Karnani, Professor of Strategy at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross
School of Business, made the case against corporate social responsibility (CSR)
in the Wall Street Journal
. Hundreds
of comments flowed in arguing the case for CSR. Having spent the past few
months deeply immersed in the CSR world as Apollo Management’s Socially
Responsible Investing Associate, I thought I would weigh in on where Karnani is right in his case against CSR and what he gets wrong.


TRUE: In practice,
business goals do conflict with CSR program goals, and where they do, business
goals trump.


Karnani wrote, “In circumstances in
which profits and social welfare are in direct opposition, an appeal to
corporate social responsibility will almost always be ineffective, because executives
are unlikely to act voluntarily in the public interest and against shareholder
interests.” Karnani’s statement that profits and social welfare at times
conflict has been criticized as outdated. One person wrote in response, “We see
from experience that profit and public interest are interdependent.” This
critic’s comment through is an oversimplification.

Generally, the two may be
interdependent, but Karnani is looking at the situations where the two
conflict. He is right: business and CSR goals will experience conflict at some
point in time for any given company. A hypothetical illustrates this point. Company
A has hired a manager to oversee its operations. The manager now has a choice
to make as he/she puts together a budget. He/she can retrofit all of the
company’s smokestacks with new and expensive carbon-reducing technology that
the company can barely afford, or the manager can leave the current smokestacks
alone. Regardless of your opinion on what the outcome ought to be, it is
crucial to see that there is a conflict here between business goals and social
welfare goals. An acknowledgement of this conflict arms us with additional
information and provides us with a good starting point as we determine the root
causes and most appropriate solutions to a problem.


ERROR: Karnani leaves stakeholders out of his analysis


In discussing how we might arrive at a solution to social problems, Karnani lists government regulation, citizen activism, and corporate self-regulation as the main players. Crucially, in this statement, Karnani leaves out the stakeholders who also play a role, constituencies including consumers, employees,
suppliers, and others who are necessary for a business to succeed. Employee
strikes in China make poor working conditions unprofitable for corporations.
Consumer preferences for organic foods make putting organic food on the shelves
a smart decision for Wal-Mart. Cheaper energy saving technologies, provided by
suppliers, motivate companies to buy them and save on costs. In other words,
where profits and social welfare conflict, stakeholders may hold the answer to
realigning incentives such that the two no longer oppose each other.

Stakeholders are not only
noticeably absent in Karnani’s piece, but also detrimentally so, for the
absence affects his analysis. Where a corporation is vigilant about its
consumer CSR interests and desires that affect long-term demand for its
products, the corporation designs a good CSR program to anticipate these needs.
In this way, a good CSR program identifies strategic social and business
opportunities. While there may not be a perfect match at times between business
interests and public interests, a CSR officer can find the synergies that
continue to ensure alignment. Thus, for consumers and other stakeholders who
want to see companies act as good corporate citizens and for companies that
want to stay relevant, a CSR program is now vital. Stakeholders and CSR programs also hold the keys to solving problems.

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Motivations, Suicide and the Myth of Sisyphus: Existential Social Entrepreneurship

By Alexandre Carvalho

176-jesterlute.bmpThe Jester. Weird and fascinating invention of Middle Age courts: a tradition that in some places lasted as late as the 19th century, and with some incredible stories behind it. For instance, there are references indicating that Queen Elizabeth I reprimanded her official court jester for not being severe enough with her on his ridicule. Jesters were irreverent and did not spare anyone in their jokes and crass. Even though the role had no credibility for “serious matters”, there are accounts of court jesters that were advisers to the monarchs in affairs of state – after all, no euphemisms, omissions, silence or half truths were necessary.


       The jester was in a privileged position: due to his discredit and lack of reputation, he was the only one in the court who could freely speak truth to power and don’t be beheaded in the process. To this day in power circles or wherever there is substantial accumulation of power, the presence of an official or natural jester is not uncommonly noted. Someone has to cry out that the king is nude.


       But ‘what the j’ has to do with Social Entrepreneurship, motivations, or whatever else that was up there in the title? Well, lots. First, sometimes he appears randomly in society and inappropriately writes about things uncalled for, in a manner that is also uncalled for; so the buffoon kind of asked this humble writer to give out the disclaimer. On his words, “give this son of Dionysus a break, for freaksake!”.


 Second, the jokester said that it has nothing to do with the individual that impersonates the fool: he is poetically taken by the zeitgeist and has to write out stuff under strict disorders of Puck. Yeah, Puck – our building mascot (Puck is a jester too, by the way: make a prayer-joke when entering 295 Lafayette). 177-PuckCover.jpg


       Ok. Now that a ridiculous sound case was made for starting this essay talking about jesters, let’s move to what moves you. Why we do what we do? Why we say we want to change the world and obsessively chase after dreams, sometimes at the cost of our health, romantic relationships, and even lives? Who do you serve? yourself or others (or a blended value of both)? What do you seek? fame, glory, recognition? did vanity or ambition took the best of you or is it perfectly human to have them inside? what you search in the night is purpose, meaning, significance?… – is it about legacy, a footprint that enables you to feel special? you know, so later you have the legitimacy and authenticity to tell your children that you indeed lived the ideals that you now preach them?


       The question is sharp as a blunt knife. Why do you do the things you do? Moving beyond motivations, why do the things we do if in the end death takes you into dissolution? It feels as if life is about pushing a huge rock high up a steep mountain so to see it roll back again (and again) to the valley. 178-481_sisyphus-297x300.jpg


       Albert Camus, the French existentialist writer, wrote and discoursed about this human condition on a book called “The Myth of Sisyphus” where he asks if suicide was a logical answer to this trickster riddle (and the Jester is back). To this humble non-depressed/non-famous writer, suicide is not a logical option. Though everything is apparently meaningless, each time we push the rock we change and change everything and everyone around us in the process.

       Change is the giver of sense. Change is possible and happens at every breath. It hurts but if your social entrepreneurial project received a deathblow or had a huge setback taking you to the startup line, remember: when you forced that boulder uphill, you may have influenced a whole lot of people and definitely changed zillions of chaotic initial conditions that will reverberate. So dear jester, change is what gives meaning to life – social change then, even better.



 “The struggle itself… is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” 

Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors

by Eliana Godoy and Nathaniel Curtis

Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors, the latest installment from the Ping Chong and Co. theater company, is a stunning exploration of childhood sexual abuse and its lifelong effects. Written and directed by Ping Chong & Co.s Associate Director, Sara Zatz, it depicts the personal experiences of five child sexual abuse survivors who share their stories in their entirety for the first time. In a question-and-answer session following a reading of this work in New York City in May, Project Coordinator and creator Amita Swadhin explained that, although sexual abuse is an epidemic problem in the US, most mass media representations of abuse deal with the issue at a safely fictional remove. Amita wanted to bring the intensity, diversity and prevalence of the problem directly to audiences while creating a space for other survivors to share their stories.

Secret Survivors, then, is a theatrical performance about sexual abuse told by the survivors themselves. A childrens song sets the stage, transporting the audience back to their own playground years. As childhood permeates this adult theater, the long talons of abuse are slowly revealed. Like a quilt, the monologue fragments are stitched together across the stage, cuttings of personal history sewn together by the chorus and the poignant music of one of the survivors.

A woman tells about the romance of her parents, both immigrants from India, in Ohio, hoping to build upon their dreams with their two daughters. At age four, the father would become her abuser. Her mother dismissed her story. The little girl blocked the abuse by creating her own world outside her home. Though she has struggled through it all, she excelled in her education. She shares, “I carry with me only one physical scar. Here on my lip, where he once bit me.”

Another shares, “I will never have any children.” Her well-to-do parents loved her, but their careers always demanded their full attention. Not until her childcare provider was arrested did they recognize the behavioral changes that accompanied her enrollment in the town daycare. Years of therapy could not unleash her deep-seated memories.

One man explains how he devoted his life to social justice issues because of his loving familys influence. Later in life he realized that he was losing jobs and friends because of his promiscuity with women. Exerting his masculinity, the way society showed him, was his own form of resistance. This is how he responded to the abuse he endured from a friend of the older son of his babysitter. He kept this a secret until a friend told him about her rape by an older boyfriend.

Next, a survivor shares how she found acceptance of her adopted family in Queens by making everyone laugh. Her older adopted brother abused her almost immediately upon her arrival to her new home. She found a voice in her music and poetry. Her life changed after being asked to become a part of an artists collective. This is how she finally healed. Midway through the performance, she sings a song to her adoptive mother, who had refused to confront the abuse by her birth son. The experience is gut-wrenching for the audience.

It is hard to describe the cumulative power of these stories. They thread through the surrounding contexts of structural violence, economic strata, racial tensions, sexual orientation and the intersections of the storytellers numerous identities. In fact, it inevitably speaks to the audiences numerous identities. Specific moments awake a different part of oneself – the instincts of a mother, a sister, a member of a family, the duty of a public servant, the experiences of a woman or person of color, the vulnerability and resilience of a child, the role of a friend, a teacher, a social worker. One will find themselves in deep reflection about broken systems and structures just as much as remember ones own closeness to sexual abuse or its prospects.

The stories serve as a reminder that child abuse can happen to anyone. One will walk away feeling like taking action so that it does NOT happen to another child. Yet one is struck, as the narratives pass, by an overwhelming truth. Despite the early trauma, despite the long and bitter influence these episodes of abuse can inflict on its victims, these survivors who are sharing before you have survived, have mastered the forces of destruction that might have overcome them, are, in the very moment of the performance, embodying hope, asserting with each utterance their liberation from the experiences that might have chained them.

Many artistic attempts to scale the cliffs of abuse, like other social justice motivated work, can feel like the art has taken a back seat to the message. This is not the case in Secret Survivors, partly because it falls under the Undesirable Elements umbrella of projects, which has since 1992 put on productions that deal with a wide range of oral histories. Secret Survivors has taken full advantage of the template developed in the Undesirable Elements series. Each survivor tells his or her own story in a series of linked monologues, and is bolstered in his or her telling by the choral participation of fellow actors. The choral element, a throwback to the Greek dramas, is particularly effective in at once highlighting these moments of high trauma even as it reveals the community of support these survivors have later carved out for themselves.

The power of an open conversation about such a taboo topic can often feel like a blow to the stomach. But, this unique performance has many layers. Though at times it leaves you hopeless, each narrative evokes a variety of feelings and emotions, for these survivors are real. They candidly share their multiple identities by voicing small vignettes of their lifetime journeys. “What is justice?” they ask — each one gives their definition. The audience is left to ponder on this question too; days, even months after experiencing the performance.
Secret Survivors is a wake-up call about an issue that is too often kept hidden, a cancerous monster that needs to be addressed. It is a remarkable work that must be experienced by everyone, because 1 in 4 female-bodied and 1 in 6 male-bodied people are currently victimized. It is an epidemic problem that survivor Amita Swadhin is committed to solving. The performance is only the beginning of what has turned into her life-long journey.

For more information on Secret Survivors, visit

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Social Entrepreneurship and Non-Linear Dynamics: Chaos Theory in Service of Social Change

 By Ale Carvalho

174-holmes.jpgSocial Entrepreneurship and Non-Linear Dynamics: Chaos Theory in Service of Social Change

(and while at it, let’s borrow Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty too)

Main thesis –   Powerful ideas implemented in the simplest form and in the smallest contexts possible have the potential to produce butterfly effects either by themselves or with the aid of a minimum set of enablers.

Today I was at the United Nations Development Programme talking amenities to Charles, a senior staff member from the Environment and Energy Group. Very cool guy. The topic of my upcoming Haiti trip came about, and we started discussing innovative approaches to care after a harsh disaster. Our conversation revolved around the care for the soul, care for the heart, and care for the spirit – not only the body as mainstream efforts so narrowly focus on. Music popped up as a venue, and we exchanged ideas for at least 20 minutes.

Charles then mentioned a small grassroots group in Kenya that started a soccer league and was using soccer as a way to bring self-esteem and life guidance to underprivileged kids. And he went on to say that they eventually became something big, with recognition and reach outside of the borders of Kenya.

That thought amazed me. How can such a tiny little effort, in such a tiny little place in Kenya, somehow reached the voices of two people at the United Nations in New York? and suddenly their work was being cherished and discussed by two people miles and miles away?

Eureka. That’s the Butterfly Effect through a lens of Social Change. When powerful ideas with sufficient key enablers grow and reach the Tipping Point of Social Breakthrough (TPSB), oh my! they spread like wildfire around the community, city and sometimes world, changing mindsets and influencing new initiatives that will further positive impact.

Good ideas are highly contagious, resilient, and only perish when one stops believing on them, either because they weren’t successful in producing the desired measurable effects or simply because the brain that generated the thought stop believing in it. And quit honestly, inventors of new things – be them prototypes or new ideas – are well known for being very stubborn to accept that the numbers were fair and clean when assessing their inventions and tend to continue spending time and even money on a condemned project. So in the end, as Plato would love to hear, ideas – like gods or deities – only die if you stop believing them.

So we should have a beautiful incubator of butterflies. Released around the globe with the minimum necessary, in the form of proof-of-concepts that may eventually become full-fledged projects or organizations, and who knows? Wingflaps in Cambodia, Kenya, Chad, Rio de Janeiro, Cuba, Mexico, Prague, Australia, and many other places in the world – and so sorry conventional wisdom: we have a big hurricane of change coming from all sides and been picked up by many different entrepreneurs that will advance, refine, and make the thought more elegant by adding new lessons learned.

 How many of them ideas will generate hurricanes? How many of them will die? Impossible to know beforehand. Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty. But do we have any choice but to have faith and launch?… see what happens? That’s the thrill of Social Entrepreneurship. Ultimately a Leap of Faith into the unknown.  That’s the thrill of life. That’s something worth living for.




Eat So They Can

Courtney Montague

There seems to
be one phrase that unites every Reynolds Fellow, Scholar and Alum- “I am not ok
with this.”

Reynolds Alum
Amita Swadhin is not ok with child abuse and the exploitation of power.
Magogodi Makhene is not ok with the lack of financial resources available to
medium sized businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ben
is not ok with corruption in corporations, especially
organizations in Latin America.

172-children busy in paiting and drawing in AN's care centre-thumb-200x135-170.jpg

For me that
phrase popped up when I walked into a filthy, poor orphanage in Kathmandu, Nepal
about five years ago.  I met ill children
covered in sores and drinking green water from a nearby well. I’m not ok with
that, children have no business living in filth; children shouldn’t be
suffering in abject poverty.

That is why I
co-founded Global Volunteer Network Foundation (GVN Foundation), an
organization that raises money for community based organizations around the
world. The bulk of our partners and programs focus on projects that serve to
assist children living in poverty.

I also believe
that there are a lot of people around the world who honestly don’t realize that
abject poverty affects most of the world’s population. Therefore, to raise
awareness, and funds for our work throughout Africa, Asia and South America GVN
Foundation started the fundraiser ‘Eat So They Can.’ We ‘Eat So They (the
children we serve) Can’… receive medical care, an education, immunizations or
access to clean water.

This is the
fourth annual Eat So They Can and it will take place October 16-17, 2010.
People around the world will host a dinner party, invite their friends, discuss
issues surrounding poverty, and ask their friends to donate. Because we believe
that people should see for themselves what we are doing around the world, any
host that raises $500 or more will be entered into a drawing to win an expense
paid trip to join us as we distribute Eat So They Can funds to projects in
either Haiti, Vietnam, Peru or Kenya.

Our goal is to
raise half a million dollars this year for women, children, anti-trafficking
efforts, and emergency relief projects we are working with in Kenya, Uganda,
Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Africa, Rwanda, Nepal, Vietnam, Peru and Haiti.

Please consider
joining us at:

And here’s to
all the people who say ‘that is not ok,’ and get to work changing the system!



When Football Can Change Your Life

By Kate Otto

Greetings from Bandung, Indonesia, where this Reynolds
Scholar has been working as a Program Consultant for grassroots HIV/AIDS
organization “Rumah Cemara” over the past year.

I am writing today to announce with pride that Rumah Cemara
has been named a Finalist in the “Changing Lives Through Football”
Ashoka Changemakers Competition!
For a grassroots community still new to the term “social
entrepreneurship”, it is a huge thrill for them to see their work
recognized by such a prestigious institution as Ashoka for its value and

Why is Rumah Cemara’s Football Program so impressive, you
might ask?  Start with the facts
that Indonesia already has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia, and
because of  burdensome social
stigma towards people living with HIV, it difficult for the estimated
333,200 Indonesians with HIV to open their status.  If HIV/AIDS is stigmatized further, the disease will surely
continue to spread, not only within the still concentrated populations of drug
users and sex workers, but into the general population as well.

The Rumah Cemara Football Program was created to break this
cycle of stigma, and stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in Indonesia by hosting weekly
football matches that engage both HIV-positive and HIV-negative players.

The Program’s impact on people already living with HIV has
been significant: Over the past two years, 100 people living with HIV have
played regularly on the Rumah Cemara team and on the five additional teams they
have helped to form across West Java, including two teams based at provincial
prisons. Playing with Rumah Cemara increases the players’ confidence,
motivation, and ability to live a healthy life with HIV.

169-Picture 2.pngAdit Taslim (pictured right), who serves Rumah Cemara as Keeper on the
field, and Grants Manager off the field, explains, “Rather than approach the
public with the controversial language of HIV/AIDS, we use a universal language
that is accepted around the world. It is the language of football.”

Rumah Cemara was selected as a Finalist from nearly 300
organizations across 60 nations worldwide who use football for social change,
and is the only Finalist from the Asian region. 

If selected as a Winner, Rumah Cemara will use the prize of
up to $30,000 to increase the number of teams and number of weekly players in
the Program, from HIV positive and HIV negative communities, as well as from
professional football teams.  By
2012, Rumah Cemara aims to have transformed the Program into a formal,
recognized Provincial Football League of people living with HIV, also serving
as a forum for HIV/AIDS education. 
Rumah Cemara also hopes to add at least four female teams to its
currently all-male roster.

In order to win the monetary prize, Rumah Cemara must
receive the most online votes of all 12 Finalists. 

The voting deadline is August 18, 2010, and as a Reynolds
Scholar who deems this organization and their program as a highly effective
mechanism of social entrepreneurship, I urge you to vote for Rumah Cemara
Football Program here:

Thank You / Terima Kasih!



Kate Otto

Reynolds Scholar 2006

*More About Rumah Cemara: Rumah Cemara is the largest
network of people living with HIV and people who use drugs in West Java.  By December 2009, Rumah Cemara’s
membership includes 4,317 people with HIV/AIDS and drug users, and 1,276 people
affected by HIV/AIDS within 61 peer support groups, including 3 office
locations in Bandung, Sukabumi, and Cianjur.  Additionally, the Rumah Cemara Treatment Center has already
treated 200 people who use drugs since it’s founding in 2003. www.rumahcemara.or

** Photography by Reynolds 2006 Scholar Bobby Sukrachand

Hooked on Gadgets

By Alexandre Carvalho, 2009 Fellow

Yesterday morning i
was surprised by synchronicity. Let me explain the threads first, so
you can see and maybe agree with me that the universe does conspire
serendipities here and there. Lately I’ve been reading and reflecting
about McLuhan’s work on media and how it encompasses us, particularly
how all media works us over completely, how it becomes an extension of
human physical or mental faculties. Computers and the internet,
iPhone, Twitter, email, teamworks, Facebook, iPads, laptops – or even
more ancient inventions such as the radio or the wheel – oh my! they
all become embedded in the fabric of who we are collectively and

You may protest. You
may deny this. But let’s be frank and do some recollecting: remember
that day when you left home and forgot your cell phone, or when the
battery went dead and you suddenly realized the preposterous crime
you’ve made, forgetting your life behind, or omitting on the
duty to bring along the charger, the feeder and nurturer of modern
existence? How could you? And how helpless did you, dear homo sapiens contemporaneus, feel? 

Our stuff becomes part
of ourselves. This is no new thought. It can be seen in proverbs that
say that if you want to know someone, just look at his or her books,
music LPs (LP’s, my god), or paintings in the wall. And if you want to
know human history, dear curious reader, just peep at the stuff or as
McLuhan would put it, the media that walked by the monkey’s side. The
history of human evolution is a history of media.

Dear reader, when the email was
invented, no one could do a business case for it, people complained,
tried to keep things as they were, but two decades later it is
impossible to live in our current world without it. Below is a curve
that shows this “innovation adoption pattern”, and this can be applied
to all human innovations in fields as far ranging as management,
sciences and the arts. 


At the same time, no
innovation is free of compromises and trade-offs. And some of those can
take tolls in our families or personal lives. A recent article in the
revealed some of the
pathological symptoms that we face as a result of the excess dependence
on devices. Since i’m a physician, i’ll take the liberty to tag – i
mean, name – the condition as “virtualosis”, or the temporary
withdrawal to an abstract virtual world of information, a plugged-in
state, that once on takes a while to break off from, even after you
turned the gadgets off or stopped briefly using them (to have a
conversation with someone, for example). And this does not relate to
facebook or other singular platform per se but to the whole lot of our gizmos that we are dependent upon to work, relate, or even feel.

The question then
becomes, do we have a choice? Is this under our control or are we
immersed in a new era of media that is extending our faculties and
freedoms but paradoxically restraining our ability to live without it?
What a disconnected life means? How strange it appears to be, when we
observe that the world’s never being so connected but so detached at
the same time?

Well, gotta’ go. Sorry
to keep you for so long; see you around, have to check my email, my
tweeter, my iPhone, facebook, my online newspaper, my…     

Ask the Reynolds Experts – Bornstein and Davis Take Questions on the Eve of Their Book Launch

By Madeline Kane


The NYU Reynolds Program is fortunate to draw on the expert guidance of program coach Susan Davis, President of BRAC USA, and the keen insight of Reynolds judge David Bornstein, founder and editor of Dowser.

Now, Bornstein and Davis have teamed up to publish Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know. With this new release, the team shares their wisdom based on Susan’s extraordinary work in international development in Southeast Asia and Africa and David’s extensive writing on social entrepreneurs around the world. Today, they answer a few questions from Reynolds fellows and scholars based on their research from the book. 
1. Social entrepreneurs are looked to as the people with the vision. But they cannot succeed without a team of people supporting their vision. What are the characteristics of these team players that are necessary for early success? 
David Bornstein: It’s not so much that the team ‘supports’ the SE’s vision, but that the team embraces, shapes and eventually takes full ownership for the vision as the organization grows. The SE gets the ball rolling and plays a key navigating role, but the whole team makes the vision come to life. Each team member should ideally be a changemaker in his or her own right. The paradox is something like this: Every person is 100% responsible for the organization’s success. And at the same time nothing happens without the whole team — which is also 100% responsible. So, aside from specific skills and knowledge, the key questions are: Do all the team members share values? Are they trustworthy? Do they fit the culture necessary for the organization to thrive? And of course, at an interpersonal level, do they each have the empathy and leadership necessary to be both creative actors in their own right and creative collaborators with everyone else.
2. Does impact evaluation of “social entrepreneurship” require an assessment of whether power imbalances have been altered? Is there a difference between a social entrepreneurship venture that involves, say, a tea company making a profit and donating that profit to charity, versus one that involves grassroots organizing to mobilize vulnerable populations to challenge current social/political structures?
Susan Davis: Yes, there is a great difference between the missions of the two ventures that you describe and a need to go deeper into the purpose and strategy to determine whether we’d define either as examples of social entrepreneurship.  Companies that make a profit and donate some or all of that profit to charity are not necessarily unique or trying to solve a social problem.  The venture could be part of a wider strategy but we don’t know.  The venture that involves grassroots organizing to challenge current social and political structures may or may not be a good example of social entrepreneurship.  We’d want to ask a lot more about how they plan to accomplish this and what the precise structures are that they are trying to change.  Impact evaluation of any idea or venture needs to relate to the overall mission and objectives.  If you are trying to change power imbalances, then the evaluation most certainly would need to try to assess to what extent your strategy and actions led to any change.   Capturing relative power changes will be methodologically challenging but necessary if that is the goal.  Usually you will need to identify proxies for expressions of ‘power.’
3 The current state of the field relies on tax-exempt status, pro bono work from accountants and law firms and other specialists, is this going to be the norm for the future?
D.B.: Almost surely not in the current form. This is a holdover from the past in which the business and social sectors evolved separately, with very different cultures, incentives, opportunities, legal structures, capacities, and connecting bridges, etc. In the future, to begin with, it won’t make sense to have stark divisions between for- and non-profit. The partnering will be much more direct and strategic at every level. The old legal structures are already proving to be inadequate, which is why people are creating workarounds, like the B-Corp or L3C. We’ll see far more robust social -business collaborations beyond the simple pro-bono or CSR models we have seen in the past, which are essentially an extension of marketing and old fashioned charity. There will be hybrid business models better suited to solving certain kinds of problems. The financing of social organizations, which is so capricious and fragmented today, will also be more rational. We see creative experiments occurring around the world in all these areas today. More talent will probably flow back and forth across sectors and cross sectoral careers will be common. No one knows where it will bring us all. But as my mentor Jane Jacobs has written: “For people who want to project trends, the one trend you know won’t happen is a continuation of what is happening now.” And for those interested in social change, that’s probably good news.
4. Why, if at all, should a social entrepreneur understand power and privilege, both as it applies to themselves, and as it applies to their target population?
S.D.: As part of one’s own self-awareness and growth as a person, we think that everyone should understand power and privilege and how these feelings and concepts play out in one’s life.  If a person is attempting to create societal change, then it becomes crucial to one’s diagnosis of the problem as well as for identification of possible strategies and solutions.  We recommend that social entrepreneurs understand the history of the problem that s/he wishes to address as well as the many ways people have tried to address that problem before plunging into one’s own idea on how to tackle it.  The forces that keep some more powerful and privileged and others more marginalized and vulnerable has to do with the intersections of multiple factors including race, class, sexuality, gender, age, and abilities.  
You can join Susan Davis and David Bornstein for the launch of their book tomorrow from 6pm to 8pm at NYU’s Puck Building. Click here for more information and to RSVP.

Power at its Best

By Eliana Godoy, 2009 Reynolds fellow

Recently I had the privilege of attending the first Social Entrepreneurship Summit of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation, held in Washington D.C.. 

Acumen CEO Jacqueline Novogratz set the tone for the conference by highlighting the importance of addressing issues of power dynamics and analyzing the structural systems that are preventing development in the most marginalized communities and populations.  Mrs. Novogratz alerted us to the fact that our efforts to alleviate poverty will not be significant unless we also address the roots of the problems.   She concluded her presentation by reminding us of Dr. Martin Luther King’s words: 

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.  Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” 

Standing in Washington, amid people who, on a daily basis, make decisions that affect the nation and even the world,  was itself an introduction to the display of power, which I hope led me to question in the way that Dr. King intended. 

135-colin powell-thumb-300x200-134.jpgGeneral Colin Powell focused a great deal on the wealth generation as the means and end to addressing our world’s most pressing problems.   After sharing his own story, from his roots in the South Bronx to reaching the highest ranks in the Reagan and Bush administrations, he concluded that all the answers lie in market-based solutions, citing the success of globalization and industrialization as prime examples.  He further advised us to go out there and make money, while creating jobs, because we too, one day, can become philanthropists.  

I found his lack of systemic analysis extremely dangerous.  As I gathered the strength to address General Powell in a polite and coherent manner, I was proud to hear the words of one of my peers as she challenged his glorification of globalization by sharing the story of someone she had met in Chiapas, who has a different take on globalization because of his community’s struggles.  

In Washington power is present in all its attributes, with its virtues and flaws, with the positive, the negative and the in between.  But, one thing is certain: there is a place in politics for those who want to give voice to the voiceless and to employ the power that Dr. King admired and advocated for – the power full of love

133-john lewis-thumb-300x200-132.jpgAs U.S. congressman and long time civil rights hero John Lewis told me that evening, “The work of public service must be guided by hope.  Keeping the hope alive is what inspires you to continue defending people’s rights.” It is certainly hope that inspires me but what really drives me full force are the people in the communities I represent, those affected by the very broken and oppressive structures that often limit them from realizing their own visions of growth.

See Eliana’s full post here.