Being Effective in Achieving Your Goals

The challenges of operating in a changing world

The ‘old school’ as some would say with regards to being in business, has a lot to do with hierarchy. Domination of a sector ensures success and how much money you have enables that to happen even faster. Business owners sell most of their business to investors in order to bring life to their dreams, politicians kowtow to backers losing their morals and their concern for citizens in the process, and people sell their future earnings to companies for the privilege of taking care of their basic needs from day-to-day. As I was watching Les Miserables last night I thought of how people in the future would look to our current situation in disbelief and grief in the same way I viewed Jean Valjean. How could that possibly be ok that someone went to prison for stealing the bread to eat? Can easily turn into today’s predicament → How could someone not have a place to live when there are empty houses? Or → How could the government let that happen? Continue reading “Being Effective in Achieving Your Goals”

Evolving Consciousness as a Human Right

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” So begins the United Nations document The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Twenty two years ago I was faced with sexual slavery for the first time.  It was on a water testing trip with my high school to the Amazon basin and we were passed on the river by barges heading to supply the people looking for gold.  One of the supplies that barges carried were girls my age.  I was 14 at the time and that event made an impression on me.  One of my goals in life would become to create a world in which slavery couldn’t couldn’t exist. (Not to mention the practice of dumping mercury into the water to retrieve gold isn’t the best idea for the environment.)

Continue reading “Evolving Consciousness as a Human Right”

Micro Finance in California

When you think of micro finance you’re likely to envision Kiva or the Grameen Bank making tiny loans to poor people on the other side of the world so that they can create a small business and lift themselves out of poverty. But micro finance is helping to empower entrepreneurs closer to home as well and this panel highlighted the successes of micro finance enterprises right here in California.

Claudia Veik of CAMEO (California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity) guided this intimate breakout session. With the current financial slump, many small businesses are having an even harder time qualifying for loans from traditional banks, Claudia explained, which is driving demand for alternative funding. It is estimated that 5% of the unemployed are entrepreneurial, and with the necessary loans some of those unemployed could begin to build the economy is a more sustainable manner, Claudia said. Claudia suggests that we “call on the entrepreneurial energy of the unemployed” to help revitalize our economy.

Elizabeth Makee of ACCION San Diego serves low and moderate income business owners. Instead of basing loans solely on credit scores or debit to credit, ACCION San Diego checks references from suppliers, family, neighbors and measures the experience of the applicant when making a decision. Applicants that have had past credit challenges could potentially become successful. Along with getting to know their clients well, the organization matches borrowers needs with skill workshops to help the success rates.

Faith Bautista’s work at the Mabuhay Alliance has helped ‘empower minority communities’ as well as challenge big businesses to see the value in those communities. Mabuhay is a voice for the Phillipino and PanAsian activists in the Unites States. 260 business owners have graduated from this organization’s training. Similar to ACCION’s model, Mabuhay helps to connect its borrowers with technical assistance that they need to thrive in the marketplace.

Participants also had the honor to meet Mario Lewis, a business owner who has received two loans from ACCION. His bad credit stemmed from an attempt at restaurant ownership which he felt failed due to a lack of knowledge of marketing and advertising. Mario had used those two loans to first build and then expand his barber shop. Imperial Barber Shop is a tremendous success and has grown to now employ nine people. His success is in part due to his vision of the ‘old school’ barber shop which serves as a community meeting place.

For his accomplishments, Mario has received an award for being a community resource, as well as a letter of recognition from his congressman. Mario’s future plans include opening another shop and expanding into a line of hair care products as well as raising money in the community to send a second member of the community to Barber school.

Mario’s story and the great work being done by CAMEO, ACCION San Diego, and the Mabuhay Alliance are a reminder of just how well micro enterprise can work within our country to strengthen and build communities.

Diversity for Sustainability Sake

Evan Shapiro, president of IFC tv and the Sundance Channel, kicked off the Fall 2009 Social Ventures Network Conference with an entertaining, insightful and frequently funny talk on the challenges and necessity of building a diverse business.

Evan likened the strengths of a diverse culture and workforce to the importance of planting a diversity of crops in agriculture. By encouraging diversity within our ranks and rows we will be able to reap a far richer crop. Throughout his talk, Evan wove statistics and anecdotes together to illustrate the concept of how diversity is necessary in order to achieve success.

Evan stressed that in order to find that “qualified, diverse candidate” we need to start looking long before we post a job opening. Business must provide opportunities to access so that both the employer and potential employee gain exposure. These opportunities can simply be inviting students in to see how an office environment operates or setting up an internship program. Success in piercing the glass ceiling hinges upon such interactions.

Evan is working with educational institutions in order to reach a more diverse population before that population is out of the running. Building that “pipeline” early is critical for both the future job seeker and the business. Returning to his farming analogy, Evan said “when you are hungry you can’t go plant a seed.” The key is to make the connection before a job is needed.

Evan points out that although “we are a more diverse culture every single day” we are still likely to look within our own social circles to fill positions. We’ve got to break these walls down when we endeavor to create and encourage diversity within the sustainability movement.

**Check out Brick City on Sundance, the five part documentary trailer Evan mentioned

***One resource suggested by a participant regarding diversity and providing the necessary education to break through the glass ceiling was the The Providence Effect

Board diversity – easy? I hope not!

The final section of the Harvard article stated that “a very diverse board is much more difficult to lead than a homogeneous one.”

Diverse people have diverse backgrounds, lifestyles, cultures, experiences that they bring to the table. On the other hand, a homogeneous group is more likely to have the same backgrounds, lifestyles, cultures, and experiences. Assuming that the board is representative of the community, a homogeneous board is not a problem. In the case that the board does not represent the diversity of the community that it seeks to represent, then the organization is operating without a true perspective of the missing part of its community. I would expect and welcome the challenges of a diverse group since that would more realistically represent all possible opinions.

Right now while building a board for EarthThrives I am seeking a representation of the community so that all voices are heard. In this I am thinking about asking for board nominations from the community so that my choice is not ‘hand-picked.’ Will this work?

For another time:
– the challenges of diversity for diversity sake
– perspectives on social identity and why diversity matters for environmental justice

Gender or common sense?

Recently while reading The Harvard Business Review blog I came across a post on the influence of women in Norwegian boardrooms. I found the blog interesting, however, I feel that there are some important points and distinctions that were overly generalized or not quite fully thought out.

First, I feel that when talking about a situation it is too generalized to say ‘women’ or ‘men’. More appropriately this gender barrier can show challenges that we all go through. So instead of looking at how ‘women’ handle a situation such as entering a board, can’t we identify certain leadership styles or approaches and how they are best worked with? I say this because there are men that embody characteristics that are traditionally thought to be feminine and vice versa.

Considering the section that begins “most women need support to enter the board successfully…” Does that mean that women need support but men don’t? Shouldn’t most people get support when entering a board. I remember from my studies that a common cause of problems within boards was that they weren’t made fully aware of their duties or expectations beforehand. To me this indicates that all board members should be supported when they join in any effort regardless of gender.

How do you feel about gender generalization? What I mean is making broad statements that apply to all women or men.