WHAT’S GOOD/WHAT’S ON: LAVCA Forum – Social Entrepreneurship Meets Venture Capital


I’d like to take this time to introduce my my new role and organization, NESsT, where I run global communications and marketing across Latin America, Europe, the UK and the United States. We develop sustainable social enterprises to solve critical social problems in emerging market economies.

We do this through short and long term consulting, connecting investments and venture philanthropy with our portfolio of social businesses, and also through cutting edge research to inform the industry. Image

For years now, Latin America has been a preferred target for investors due to existing economic opportunities and policies that favor foreign direct investment. Investors and companies have succeeded, profited and expanded their ventures in Latin America, but what if the ROI could be even greater than a sustainable financial return?

Making a triple-bottom-line impact is becoming more popular and now possible more than ever. Benefits from investing in international social challenges can bring more than just a good feeling, but often partnerships. Just as Latin America offers economic opportunity, it too provides investors and companies with an opportunity to solve environmental and social problems, if they are willing to invest in an already existing sector: social enterprises.

Social enterprises apply business principles and practices to achieve social good. They reinvest their financial returns into the community to further their social purpose, to create employment and/or other economic and social benefits for marginalized communities.

Today, companies, venture capital and private equity are forming alliances that lead to broader collaboration in this space. In May, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and companies like Citi, Microsoft and PepsiCo, among others, held special sessions in Quito, Ecuador, in an initiative called CSR Innolabs, which seeks to generate competitive and sustainable Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives that tackle climate change through social entrepreneurship.

Last week in Santiago, Chile, on June 4 and 5, the Latin American Venture Capital Association (LAVCA) held its annual forum. LAVCA´s mission is to spur regional economic growth by advancing venture capital and private equity investment. This is accomplished through programs of research, networking, investor education, the promotion of best investment practices, and the advocacy of sound public policy.

In light of this collaborative approach, LAVCA is partnering with NESsT. This event is just one example of how LAVCA is providing a venue for venture capital to learn about a portfolio of viable social enterprises in various Latin American countries that NESsT supports, such as Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Focusing on early stage enterprises, NESsT prepares them for scaling, a stage of business support that NESsT could not do without the partnership of LAVCA and its private equity and venture capital supporters. Many benefits come from these partnerships. One such success story comes out of Chile, and was showcased at the event.

NESsT supports UPASOL, an organization that runs a recycling social enterprise. The social enterprise recycles and sells these materials, generating enough revenue to support a rehabilitation center in the rural northern town of Vicuña. While the enterprise has reached 1,824 beneficiaries and generates annual revenues totaling US $62,000, its potential is evident as it is financially sustainable while tackling disability and environmental problems simultaneously. It is currently being considered for scaling.

For more information, please visit NESsT and the LAVCA forum.

WHAT’S ON: Partnering Technology Sector for Good


October brought me to an exciting conference called the Silicon Human Rights Valley Conference here. It brought Silicon Valley, government, with companies, and civil society to protect the internet and promote strategies to facilitate online openness, privacy, security and innovation to address key human rights issues.

World experts, practitioners, start-ups and activists from around the globe will be speaking over the two days.

The conference made history when we skyped in a young woman, a university student, from Yemen reading a public call to action. It was live and the first time media was able to publicize live coverage to our parts of the world. This was an exciting moment for all, calling attention to the need for support in the middle east in the name of human rights, free speech and more. The hope was this conference caught attention of those in policy and business that have more power to change the issues many non-profits support. This conference networked many public and private entities to bring new partnerships and resources to this space.

GOOD WORDS: Beyond the Classroom – American Dream


This team took chances. This team worked hard. This team fulfilled the American dream just a couple weeks ago. My friends at Versly have been non-stop for two years under the radar to create a product that could be more collaborative for windows products. Cisco, centering its business culture and model around collaboration to improve the way individuals and teams work, explains why this acquisition is a perfect fit:

“Collaboration is a top priority at Cisco. With this acquisition we’re enhancing our collaboration offerings and improving the user experience by integrating social technologies within the business applications individuals and teams use at work,” Murali Sitaram, VP and general manager, CSG, Cisco, pitches the acquisition.”

I’m excited to use this where I work at the Digital Learning Commons and try out their products as their plug-ins become integrated into WebEx and other document sharing tools such as powerpoint and email. There are many lessons learned in this story from networking, to smarts, to dreaming big and even believing in the American Dream that one hard-working newcomer to the United States, could ever get that far. He had a believe in the goal of the company, he believed he could leave his secure job, and jump into a fast-paced project like this, then come to find his citizenship as secure and rewarding as his career through diligence and the right amount of social luck. Do they regret anything? Did they make mistakes along the way? I’m sure it hasn’t been a perfect ride, but what is ever perfect? This is a story about following up and following through. It shows that taking risks and following your passion really can pay off, and even into the next paycheck, thank you very much, Cisco:-).

GOOD WORDS – Beyond the Classroom – Global guts and grace


 “All you need is guts and grace” is a fitting quote to anyone successful in the working world. In some fashion or another, from the business to the educational sector, from non-profit to simply networking after work, those who step out of their comfort zone more often than not– tactfully and graciously– will be rewarded generously. Time and time again I see start-ups crash and burn, students transfer after a non-adjusted semester, and non-profits unfortunately struggle to attract funds and volunteers to sustain their mission. The stars among the bunch are the innovative and persistent characters that inspire me not with the stuff they collect or retain, but with the smarts, creativity, boldness and outside of the box thinking they exhibit. These inspirational characters take matters into their own hands and live by the saying when faced with roadblocks, “there’s always another way to get where you’re going.”

The “Mariposas” shown above, whom I was first introduced to through my Latin American history books in College and then on the wall shown here outside my Bed and Breakfast in the capital of Dominican Republic, are a perfect example of exhibiting guts and grace. While researching in the Dominican Republic, I learned more about these inspiring and smart young women who risked their lives for change in their country, not just for their own right to fairly have the opportunity to develop academically and professionally, but for the greater good of their country under a smothering dictatorship.

Bringing it back to concerns for many in North America, for many who have the freedom to excel academically and (more so than other developing countries) fairly, it’s still not easy to reach out to someone you don’t know to ask for help for a school or professional opportunity. It’s hard to take a chance and apply to the program or company you don’t know much about, or travel to a country alone you’ve never been to for an opportunity of a lifetime. But if you don’t go, you won’t know, right?

I have a friend applying for jobs now, patiently waiting on HR reps and recruiters to call him back and provide him the answers or attention he is looking for. He’s got a great resume, but the data won’t walk the line like a phone call or a relationship will. People are busy. There are others, who I see climbing the ladder of success, that are patient and calculated, but never sit back on their heels. They seek out the opportunities and proactively connect the dots to create the connections needed to secure an interview or lead on a job opportunity, sometimes connecting dots that didn’t seem obvious at first. They are able to spin that patience into action and opportunities. This takes time and the unknown can be time consuming or frustrating. Sometimes the route to where you’re going is indirect and seems inefficient at the time.  But that first connection or bold move, can make all the difference.

In the country of Colombia, among celebrating vibrant art, complex history and a bounty of eco-trade and an organic product world of possibilities, they face a messy history of kidnapping, crime and cultural conflict. This is a dynamic environment that historically has not offered much consistency nor confidence to an investor or traveler. However times are changing and Colombians are working hard to adjust this reality. From another angle, someone is taking a chance in Colombia through sport, investing in and attracting positive attention through Golf. With a little guts and grace, this article about how golf in Colombia aims beyond tourism and drives change. It shows there are new stars who took a chance at one cross road or another they came to, to play a sport so unpopular and unsightly in a soccer-crazed culture.

Public and private relationships abound, Latin America also acknowledges and supports the need to step out of one’s comfort zone to learn and invest in education in a new way. The lesson? Studying abroad is important for learning not just inside the classroom, but beyond, and could have positive affects on their international relations and trade down the line. This recent article in the Chronicle about Latin American countries pushing more students to study abroad, discusses how from Brazil to Central America governments are investing more money toward scholarships to send their students abroad. Another organization I’ve been working with this summer, Connect-123, a global social enterprise that encourages students around the world to go beyond the study abroad experience, provides tailored intern opportunities with civil society organizations and local entrepreneurs and businesses to contribute to the local culture, economic development and social impact they’re living in. In return, the beyond the classroom reward is tenfold academically and personally, while  developing professionally.

From Latin America to Eastern Europe, the Non-profit Enterprise Self-Sustainability Team (NESsT) works tirelessly with social enterprises and businesses to sustain profit and marketable opportunities, while contributing to civil society. I’ve worked with their Latin American and Eastern Europe offices for the past 9 months. Boasting 13 different languages and almost 50 talented individuals who took a chance in their career to help the growing sector of social enterprise, they carve sustainable solutions out of international development opportunities daily. In doing so, they provide better livelihoods to hundreds of organizations and communities in emerging markets around the world. With a little guts and grace myself, I’ll be traveling over to Europe for work solo. During my trip I’ll get to work with colleagues from NESsT in Budapest hailing from Slovakia, Romania, Croatia and Hungary on global communications and management solutions online.

How are you exhibiting guts and grace in your professional and personal life? How do you see innovation playing a part in this? Do you have good stories to share about others sticking their neck out and making a difference in their own careers or for others?

I head off to an unknown land of Eastern Europe for me– taking boat, train, bus and plane to get me from Spain over to Budapest. I look forward to spotting some new gutsy confidence and innovation along the way, and sharing it with you all later. For now, the door is open. Stay bold and take hold of those opportunities. They’re out there, but they are not waiting on you, so why wait on them?

GOOD WORDS: Beyond the Classroom – Finding Innovation Around the World


I recently stumbled across a saying from a fortune cookie that’s a good way to start off this post – “A goal is a dream with a deadline.”

As I was leaving university, I remember dreaming of having an international job where I could fuse my passion for education and social impact with a corporate job. I hoped I could somehow integrate my love for public service and impacting social change with a fast-paced, challenging and intellectually stimulating atmosphere, surrounded by talented and creative colleagues and mentors.

The day has come when Corporate Social Responsibility is not just a business unit. Social impact investing, social entrepreneurship or social entrepreneurs as shared by Ashoka and other social enterprise industries, and elements as told by Social Edge from the Skoll Foundation and “B Corporations” are on the rise. These industries lie somewhere in between the philanthropy and the private, for profit sectors. These industries allow people to have a double bottom line (making a financial and social environmental impact) and sometimes triple bottom line (financial, social and environmental impact). I went into the international development world to get my hands dirty and see about public service on an international scale, then I went into the corporate sector to gain additional skills before going back to graduate school. This recent article in Degree Directory about me integrating my career goals with my personal passions and dedication to giving back tells a better story: “Finding Creativity Around the World – Degree Directory Speaks with Nelle Sacknoff.” As I researched across Latin America last winter, I uncovered incredible, motivating stories of triumph and challenge when working with technology and innovation. I listened through 40 management interviews and observed numerous organizations and was moved by the leadership, creativity and determination exhibited. A theme, a common thread that wove through most stories of success and progress was how the interviewees integrated their personal passions into their professional work. This has provided a larger impact in their work, and this is something that carried many of the people I spoke with through difficult challenges, time-sensitive problem solving and promotion of their work. I am currently working on a “Personalized Education Navigation Tool” with a colleague to help students and professionals set goals and integrate this three-prong approach (personal, professional, academic) to improve career development and professional motivation. I’d love to hear your ideas of how you combine your personal interests and passions in your work.

If a “goal is a dream with a deadline”, why not turn your dreams into your career goals and mix them in with a deadline to start incorporating them into your work? Why not start tomorrow? How do you combine your personal interests and passions with your professional path? How does it help motivate you and make your work (or less) efficient? How do you incorporate social impact into your work and everyday actions? What is going to be your next journey for personal self-discovery? Whether local or global – I’m sure it will be an exciting story to share. Please take me with you “virtually” (as I took 60 of my friends with me on mine last winter via Facebook through Latin America). Feel free to share here about your next journey, we’d like to go with you– and learn from you, too!

Célébronz la vie!!!


“Célébronz la vie!!”exclaims the invigorating painting my good friend Catalina Garreton commissioned for my mother recently.

This multi-colored, layered and storied piece walks through 30 years of our history together and integrates color and textures into family transitions, my mother’s passions and even family members. She used various memories and descriptions I provided for her such as my mom’s gardening, french markets, antique fabrics filled with memories and more.

Below you can see various visuals that inspired the patterns and colors here, as well as the flowers that stand for my mom’s six children and the bees that represent her two grandchildren (with lots more leaves to lacquer and fabric to make more she exclaimed!), as described further in Catalina’s blog post, a touching account of her experience and colorful perspective from the creator herself on her site, “Plate to Palette.”

Catalina's "Celebronz la Vie" against her other painting in the background.

Other than Catalina’s creativity and swift hands, she used images, textures and colors  influenced from her Flea Markets of France here:

Social Loco Conference 2011 – Where Local & Social Converged


I attended San Francisco’s Social Loco Conference looking to bring back cool technology tools and news back to the DMC and MIIS community.  This year’s conference was about convergence: between investors, brands, academics, and technology providers to explore what the latest social and location-based technologies and services are doing for brands, businesses, education, research and consumers. As DMC is always on a scavenger hunt for innovation – whether its ways to learn or utilize digital media to improve your work, this conference was good to see the cutting edge initiatives beyond the classroom. It was really neat to learn about the underscoring theme of this conference too – where the business of all of these innovation – start-ups, new products, and the new stars– leaders and products– in the space  lie.

Social Keynotes chatting locally

Keynotes by Google’s Marissa Mayer, Hearsay’s Clara Shih, and Microsoft’s, Dennis Glavin, addressed these business implications of the social and mobile web convergence. Investors, executives and agency professionals discussed branding, engaging consumers, doing deals with brands, how to use data in research and more panels throughout the day. Why is this topic important and are these solutions changing the way we live, work and communicate? People can be social and networked without even driving the process, nor hardly making any effort. The breadth of new opportunities these technologies present now and in the future are showcased at the conference through these various start-ups, products and panels:

The panel: Future of Geo-Social Apps: Its Ubiquitous, Now What? was about the proliferation of GPS-enabled devises, and how location is embedded in music, philanthropy, driving, medical and search. In 2010, check-ins and location based games rose to populatrity and helped generate new opportunities for research, business and collaboration online for location-data collection. But we still might question, sustainable impact will this have on our lives? How can this get better? Faster? What are the implications? Experts from (Neer), CEO from Loopt and Foodspotting, and director from Rackspace chimed in to discuss more.

Geo-spotting is where it’s at, and this is not just about food; CIA and other defense bodies are using ways to find people’s location for large-scale research, data-driven evidence and also collective intelligence to change history and predict things like where Osama Bid Laden was years ago.  The mobile conversation is changing marketing and the way we communicate in both the private and public sectors.  Revelation to revolution with networking was a topic of discussion. Mobile technologies mobilizing people that have been marginalized, especially recently in the Middle East.

In the “Big Bad Ass Data” session, Fortuis One, now rebranded as GeoIQ and the Co-founder of SimpleGeo, Factual and Urban Mappingwho discussed how advancements in technology and tools can capture disparate data streams and collaborate them so we can better research and understand data. 

  Data and Dating

Bringing data to the forefront, using data for meaning, prompts, localized, communication to change behavior–the ways we can integrate data are endless and can positively influence our personal and social realm in a new way. DMC chatted with a fellow who was the eight year brand manager at Match.com.  He described how they used data to change (and help, gosh darn it!) the way clients interacted with each other and courted one other online. They did this through technical and localized prompts and messages that popped up to guide the user based on feedback they got from the data they did on their research, thus better serving their client’s needs when improving the delivery of their business model/mission.  Chemistry.com was born out of Match.com to stop people from ruining the interaction process online, and data revealed that this needed to happen in order to preserve the Match.com brand. Changing the way people meet and greet on and offline, helping them be their best selves, giving advice through prompts– this all came from data collection and then using it to influence the way people interact with each other. This is behavior changing stuff that people in my graduate school program, MPA, and tools like logic frameworks aim to change, aiming to positively influence the International Development industry, and social enterprise world everyday. New solutions from Match.com to chemistry.com resulted in new customer segments, more successful dates and  match-making rates. It also took away the angst of online interaction and wasted emailing time that people loathe.

Whether we’re talking about the Development or dating industry, this example teaches us how much technology and data is helping us better interpret these elements, tailor data to our audience and needs, helping us socialize better, while improving communication online and offline, academically, professionally, and personally.

Where does mobile, social and technology converge in your life? Looking forward to pursuing more social, location-based digital media solutions with you soon. In the mean time, wherever you find yourself located and socially integrating your experience online or offline this summer – I hope you enjoy yourself as you are mobile and take some time away from work or school. I hope you check in with me online here and there. Because, as we learned at this conference — wherever you are this summer, your friends can go with you too. Let’s converge.

**Some content comes from original blog post on the Digital Media Commons Website here.

WHO’S GOOD: Who’s Adding Value? Roberts’ Pure Debut


Childhood friend and all-star athlete makes a star debut on the Morning Show in Boston,  sharing the joy of  doing something that you love, pure and simple.  Pure and simple is a good way to describe Rachel’s business (and life) move and Pure Barre’s approach too.  Rachel Roberts, moved back to Boston to work with people, help people, and integrate her passion for fitness into a challenging job by starting her own franchise. She’s getting Boston’s backsides in gear (literally) and waistlines firm as the first Pure Barre opens in the area. This new entrepreneur hails from a law background, and has traded a lifestyle in the office  for her brand new beautiful and inviting studio. This phenomenon called, Pure Barre,  a technique that combines ballet, pilates and yoga, has young professionals, new and older moms, grandmothers and gaggles of ladies leaveing classes smiling daily, gearing up for bathing suit season, or just the rest of the day. I look forward to visiting her new studio and trying a class out myself next week! How many people have heard of or experienced  Pure Barre, Bar Method or Daily Method?

GOOD WORDS: Transform Globally in Eight Different Languages!


Session 3: TRANSFORM from TEDx Monterey, April 15, 2011

For months my team at work and I have been preparing for the TEDx Monterey Conference 2011 in many different ways; it was a transformational experience. My colleague, Maureen, has enough ideas to hold hands around the world, so the event design scaled up and down purposefully to produce a fine-tuned product that flowed and built momentum until the last blast of the Taiko drum at the end. As the theme was “Cultivating Innovation”, Maureen, the queen and curator of the entire event – has also been creatively waving her magic wand to weave what the Monterey Institute community feels is innovation into the experience, and how that would look like in a networked, interactive day filled with inspirational and diverse speakers.  As an innovative management tool, she even had a glorious and large “motherboard,” various colored tape covering an entire wall in her office “mapping out” the flow and transformation of the event ahead of time.

I had the pleasure of being a part of this event in several different capacities, however among them was being a host for the third session.  And with this I thought I’d share the concluding words from the day, “Thank you Sensei Ikuyo and Shinsho Mugen Daiko drummers for taking the momentum and transformation of energy, ideas and networks we have built today and putting it into sound!

As we close…. Emerson once said, “Hitch your wagon to a star!” There is something so rural, and down to earth about that but also reflects the same process here – take a small, nuts and bolts cart of ideas, seeds and possibilities – and move it along with your own curiosity and creativity and FUN– as people could call here, riding an innovation “TRYcycle” — your wagon can go farther and pull more than expected.  At some point so much of that fun and creativity has to die down some.  In that stillness, a mind and body transformation can take place even in the quietest exchange of words and understanding. Let’s keep the conversation going – whether in 8 or more different languages, rhythms that get stuck or move through faster than others… and then there’s the person who hasn’t said anything at all yet. That person is still looking over their thoughts today to form an opinion. Whatever your role is in group-think and innovation, thank you for your contribution and good luck on whatever path you take from here.”

WHAT’S ON: DMC Spring Open House – “Cultivating Innovation”