All posts by Tristan Pollock

Tristan Pollock is a writer and interactive do-gooder spreading the word of social enterprise and responsibility. Tristan also writes for TECHdotMN, SocialEarth and BestBuy.com.

Don’t Run or Walk, Sit for Something

When Jeremy Haberman left home to run a few errands with his family on another brisk Lake Nokomis morning, he wasn’t expecting another cause-related 5-kilometer walk and run to cross his path. His normal route was closed yet again. Frustrated, Haberman said to his wife, “You know what I’m going to do?  I’m going to get people to pledge money for me to just sit on our couch and watch movies.”

Months later, Haberman registered for Startup Weekend Twin Cities at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. “I completely forgot about my idea. It had been lying dormant and my tiny rant came back to mind when I was developing a pitch for Startup Weekend.” But sitting alone on a couch didn’t foster the sense of community you find at run- and walk-a-thons, and it wasn’t nearly as fun.  With help from family and friends, Haberman developed the idea of holding fundraisers at movie theaters, in essence, sitting for something.  He pitched the idea at Startup Weekend and, with help from a team of believers, it became a reality.

Together they founded Sit for Something, a social venture built to provide a fun alternative to boring, bland fundraisers. Sit for Something focused on one of the major issues of 2010: education. Haberman and his team thought about their experiences of parents and kids peddling candy bars and magazines and wanted to change the dynamic. “Kids don’t want to sell this junk,” said Haberman.  “Nobody wants to buy it, and parents are often left to foot the bill. Sit for Something had a better idea: using movie theaters to raise money for education.

Sit for Something’s first fundraiser will appeal to rock ‘n’ roll and education fans alike. On Tuesday, February 15 at 7 p.m. in the historic St. Anthony Main Theater, a showing of It Might Get Loud, a guitar documentary featuring Jack White, Jimmy Page and The Edge, will benefit the School of Rock Minnesota Scholarship Fund, allowing young low-income aspiring musicians to pursue their dreams. Tickets are $12 in advance, or $15 at the door. Spots are limited and can be reserved at sitforsomething.org/schoolofrock.

Sit for Something is now forming partnerships with Minnesota-based educational groups where they form a collaborative effort to advance learning opportunities for youth. For more information visit sitforsomething.org.

Hybrid Value Chain: Opening New Markets to For-Profits and Social Enterprises

The following is an excerpt from an article at SocialEarth.org, a social entrepreneurship and innovation blog.

When local citizen groups in Mexico convinced Amanco, a large producer of water-conveyance products, to team up and support under-served small farmers, they created a new irrigation technology market worth about $56 million a year and the farmers were able to double, or even triple their income — a win-win for profits and social responsibility. This is just one of many new examples of a “Hybrid Value Chain,” a newly functional  idea in business-operations framework profiled in a recent Harvard Business Review article.

“This wouldn’t have been possible ten years ago, because the citizen sector hadn’t developed yet,” says Bill Drayton, the Founder and CEO of Ashoka, a collaboration of almost 3,000 leading social entrepreneurs from every continent — half of which have changed public policy within five years of being chosen for an Ashoka fellowship.

The concept stems from the incredible reach and work of citizen-sector organizations (e.g. social enterprises and nonprofits) in communities across the globe and the technological efficiency of innovative for-profit companies. Combine the two and you create a value component that neither organization, nor company, can reach by themselves.

Read the rest at SocialEarth.org.

First North-Central Cleantech Open Attracts 55 Sustainability Innovators

On October 6, 2010, Cleantech and renewable energy entrepreneurs will meet at the North-Central Cleantech Open in Minneapolis, Minnesota to be judged on their solution to the green economy. “It’s like American Idol for clean technology companies,” says North Central Regional Director and Co-Founder Justin Kaster.

Applicants are accepted from across the Midwest, including Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. Other regions included in the competition are the Pacific-Northwest, Northeast, California (Silicon Valley) and Rocky Mountain. This is the first year to include a North-Central (or Midwest) region, but Minneapolis will submit more energy ideas this year second only to the founding region of California.

“The competition is very intense and hands on. Contestants receive senior-level mentoring from the minute they enter,” says Marketing and Social Media Co-Chair Kakie Fitzsimmons. Applicants will be scrutinized and judged by a collection of professional investors and technical experts.

The 55 original concepts have already been cut down to 16 semi-finalists, all of whom will be judged at the awards gala and expo on October 6. From there three regional finalists will be selected and one sustainability winner will be awarded $30,000 in investment funding and services and sent to Silicon Valley to compete for the top prize — a $250,000 investment in their concept. In kind, business services will also be provided to the regional and national winners.

The four-year-old nationwide competition is rivaled by none according to Kastner, “We are the world’s largest clean tech business competition and are planning even further expansion into national and global markets.” Over 2,000 clean energy jobs have already been created by the competition.

About the North-Central Cleantech Open
Date:
October 6, 2010

Location:
Nicollet Island Pavilion
40 Power Street
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Events:
5:15 p.m. — Trade show starts with exhibits from 2010 participant companies, partners and sponsors.
6:15 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. — Awards program, including announcement of 2010 regional winners and keynote and insights from prominent industry experts.

Finalists:
BioCee
Blue Planet Strategies
CORE
Direct Drive Energy
EarthClean
Easy Energy Systems, Inc.
Emission Control Solutions
Energy Control Technologies
Environmental Technologies
Grain Life Technologies
Graphene Solutions, Inc.
IrriGreen Technology
NewWater
PNR Greenhouses
Silicon Solar Solutions
SynGest

Cost:
Early register: $40
Regular: $55
Door: $55

Surf the Web, Better the World

You’re busy. You work for a living and when the 9-5 ends, you relax, have fun and do things that you care about (or, work more). You don’t always have time to give back as much as you want.

BetterTheWorld.com changes all that. It’s an online social change community that strives to make it easy and free for people to earn money for non-profit organizations they support. By creating an account on their site and downloading their browser add-on for Firefox, or Internet Explorer, you can start earning points that add up to cash for the organization of your choice.

BetterTheWorld even has monthly contests where you can earn extras for you and your cause — like an Apple Macbook. And all of this is while you do your daily web routine. Nothing changes except the sidebar on your browser, which shows socially conscious, non-intrusive advertisements and updates from the Better The World blog.

This is a perfect add-on for anyone like me who spends the majority of their days on a computer. I’ve racked up a considerable amount of points and after a few weeks I forgot the sidebar was even there. You can also shop online and if the company is supported by Better The World, a percentage of every dollar goes to your chosen cause.

No matter what your ideals, Better The World has nonprofit partners for every techie do-gooder. From getting kids specialized medical equipment to gifting clean water to the third world, they’ll be sure to have a project that you’ll be proud to support. Causes also organically evolve and organizations create new projects relative to current events. When the Haiti and Chile earthquakes struck, you could help give back almost immediately, even if you couldn’t be there in person. The same was so for the Gulf Oil Spill Disaster.

So before you Google, Bing, or Yahoo one more jQuery, MySQL, or CakePHP question (which you can probably find right here), give a little back and download this app.