Social Capitalists: Profiles

Accion International

  • Entrepreneurship: A-
  • Innovation: A
  • Social Impact: A+
  • Aspiration: B+
  • Sustainability: B+

Boston, Massachusetts
Maria Otero, President and CEO
www.accion.org

"We have taken traditional banking and turned it inside out," says Maria Otero, president and CEO of ACCION International. ACCION has pioneered microfinance--small loans used strategically to seed tiny businesses. Among its successes: Teresa, a Bolivian woman whom ACCION helped secure a loan for $100. Teresa started a business making bread using the mud oven in her one-room house. Six years and several loans later, Teresa has borrowed again--now for $2,800--to expand to five mud ovens and a backyard storefront. By forging partnerships with existing banks or creating new banks, ACCION helps lenders turn a profit while financing the most humble businesses. In three decades, it has distributed or enabled more than $5 billion in loans to more than 3 million people. And 97% have been paid back.

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Benetech

  • Entrepreneurship: A
  • Innovation: A-
  • Social Impact: B+
  • Aspiration: A-
  • Sustainability: B+

Palo Alto, California
Jim Fruchterman, Chief Executive
www.benetech.org

"Our common belief is that information is powerful," says Jim Fruchterman. "And we try to put information tools into the hands of people who really need them." Fruchterman started Benetech in 2000 to focus on new ventures with a socially conscious bent. The result is an eclectic technology conglomerate catering to the disadvantaged. Among its newest projects is Martus, a software program that helps human-rights workers document abuses using encrypted technology. Bookshare.org allows the visually impaired to download and listen to 15,000 books in six languages. In the works: a program that will help teens with disabilities learn to read, land-mine detectors for civilians, and wireless devices for the disabled.

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Benhaven

  • Entrepreneurship: B+
  • Innovation: A-
  • Social Impact: A
  • Aspiration: B-
  • Sustainability: B+

North Haven, Connecticut
Larry Wood, Executive Director

Through its unique Learning Network, Benhaven has created a model program to put kids with autism in regular classrooms. Benhaven's staff works with teachers, parents, peers, and autistic kids themselves to design a vision for a child's life one year out, and to identify steps necessary to make that real. The team approach has allowed Benhaven to expand tenfold the number of clients it touches. That's part of what differentiates it from other mainstreaming efforts, say experts. For autistic adults, meanwhile, Benhaven's Real Lives employment program aims to make quality of life a target outcome--something the rest of the field has yet to embrace.

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Citizen Schools

  • Entrepreneurship: B+
  • Innovation: A
  • Social Impact: A
  • Aspiration: B+
  • Sustainability: B

Boston, Massachusetts
Eric Schwarz, President and Cofounder
www.citizenschools.org

After school, kids can go home and play video games until they can no longer blink, or they can cruise the streets aimlessly. Or, in nine cities, they can hang at Citizen Schools, an after-school program designed to teach children skills that aren't part of their regular curriculum. In two-hour classes taught by volunteer teacher apprentices, kids study every subject from law and architecture to cooking and art. Since 1995, Citizen Schools has expanded to 20 schools across the country and now serves more than 2,000 children. The kids have produced 50 Web sites, written nine children's books, and designed public spaces and architec-tural designs. "The teaching apprentices work with kids to make an amazing change," says cofounder Eric Schwarz. "For the adult, it's a chance to connect with the energy that kids have, and for the kids, it makes learning real."

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City Year

  • Entrepreneurship: B+
  • Innovation: A
  • Social Impact: A+
  • Aspiration: A-
  • Sustainability: A-

Boston, Massachusetts
Alan Khazei and Michael Brown, Cofounders
www.cityyear.org

Alan Khazei and Michael Brown had a powerful idea while roommates at Harvard Law School: Recruit diverse young people to devote a year to community service in exchange for an educational stipend. In 1988, the two launched a 50-person pilot in Boston. Since then, City Year has grown to 14 sites nationwide, and 6,000 17- to 24-year-olds have logged nearly 11 million hours of service. Now, City Year faces its biggest challenge yet: a surprise 45% cut in funding, the result of last year's decimation of AmeriCorps. In response, City Year has limited enrollment to 750 kids, down from 1,000, for the 2003-2004 program--and, as of early November, it had only enough money for 550 of them. The setback seems temporary, though; Congress reinstated funding to support 1,000 corps members next year.

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College Summit

  • Entrepreneurship: B+
  • Innovation: A-
  • Social Impact: A-
  • Aspiration: B+
  • Sustainability: B+

Washington, DC
J.B. Schramm, CEO and Founder
www.collegesummit.org

Each year, an estimated 200,000 American high school seniors are ready to go to college but don't. Enter College Summit, which works with schools and colleges to help low-income students make the leap. In the spring, partner schools appoint and train influential juniors as peer leaders to work with teachers to help other students complete college applications. Schools then share student data with colleges seeking more diverse classes. Now, says founder J.B. Schramm, 79% of College Summit's participants have enrolled in college--nearly double the national rate of seniors at the same income level--and 80% of them have graduated or are still enrolled within six years. "The young man who is the first in his family to go to college ends poverty in his family line forever," Schramm says. "It is irreversible progress."

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First Book

  • Entrepreneurship: A
  • Innovation: A-
  • Social Impact: A-
  • Aspiration: A
  • Sustainability: A-

Washington, DC
Kyle Zimmer, President and Cofounder
www.firstbook.org

"The only difference between First Book and business is what we do with the product," says Kyle Zimmer, a former corporate lawyer and now president of the organization, which enables disadvantaged children to own their first book. "The laws of economics are not suspended when you step into the nonprofit world." To that end, First Book has developed partnerships with companies such as Walt Disney and Lincoln Mercury. First Book gets money; the companies get publicity. The results: a "pipeline" that supplies books to after-school programs at poor schools, and the National Book Bank, which distributes publishers' surplus books through literacy-building programs. In the past two years, First Book has provided 15 million books in more than 800 communities.

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Jumpstart

  • Entrepreneurship: B+
  • Innovation: B+
  • Social Impact: B+
  • Aspiration: B+
  • Sustainability: A-

Boston, Massachusetts
Rob Waldron, President and CEO
www.jstart.org

How do you solve a national teaching shortage and help disadvantaged preschoolers at the same time? Try a Jumpstart. Jumpstart pairs college students with 3- to 5-year-olds who need help with reading and social skills. Its strategy: Give tots one-on-one mentoring, encourage college students to become teachers, and involve families in their kids' education. Jumpstart's 1,600-plus student teachers now work with more than 6,000 children in 44 communities. And Jumpstart kids show an average 20% improvement in reading and social skills. President and CEO Rob Waldron aims to have 25,000 kids in the program by 2006. "I hope that in 20 years," he says, "people will look at Jumpstart as they look at Habitat for Humanity and the Girl Scouts today."

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KaBOOM!

  • Entrepreneurship: A-
  • Innovation: B+
  • Social Impact: A-
  • Aspiration: A-
  • Sustainability: B

Washington, DC
Darell Hammond, Founder
www.kaboom.org

When he was young, Darell Hammond lived in a Chicago orphanage with seven brothers and sisters. Now, he's giving kids in hundreds of "playground-poor" communities a place to play. KaBOOM! works in low-income neighborhoods to create common space for children and adults. Its projects start with a design day, when children map out their dream playground. A neighborhood group spends four months planning construction. Then in a single, explosive day, residents join with corporate volunteers to build the new facility. So far, KaBOOM! has completed 576 playgrounds, 6 skate parks, and 1,300 neighborhood-restoration and park clean-up projects in 43 states.

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MicroBusiness Development Corp.

  • Entrepreneurship: B+
  • Innovation: B+
  • Social Impact: A
  • Aspiration: B
  • Sustainability: A-

Denver, Colorado
Kersten Hostetter, Executive Director
www.microbusiness.org

Soon after Kersten Hostetter became executive director of the MicroBusiness Development Corp., a teen named Lizard approached her. "I can make $1,200 a week selling drugs," he said. "What can you offer me?" A lot, as it turned out. Lizard joined MBD's staff and now mentors other teens. In addition to helping youths, MBD provides loans and training to minority and low-income Denver entrepreneurs. Since 1994, it has helped create 3,278 jobs and disbursed more than $2 million in loans to 550 entrepreneurs. It says 96% of its loans have been repaid, and 464 of its 550 borrowers are still in business. Most important, Hostetter says, MBD seeds self-sufficiency. "Our job is, the next time they need a loan, they don't need us," she says. "That's creating opportunity, not charity."

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New Leaders for New Schools

  • Entrepreneurship: A-
  • Innovation: A-
  • Social Impact: A+
  • Aspiration: B+
  • Sustainability: B+

New York, New York
Jon Schnur, Cofounder and CEO
www.nlns.org

In his six years working on education for the Clinton administration, Jon Schnur learned this: Great principals make great schools. So his New Leaders for New Schools recruits would-be principals to undergo intensive leadership training, a yearlong residency, and on-site coaching. By the end of next school year, NLNS will have placed more than 200 principals in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, affecting the education of almost 100,000 kids in urban areas. By 2012, NLNS hopes to have 2,000 principals and 1 million children nationwide. Says Schnur: "One day, adults will look at schools that aren't performing and instead of saying what's wrong with these kids, they'll ask what's wrong with us."

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NewSchools Venture Fund

  • Entrepreneurship: B+
  • Innovation: B+
  • Social Impact: A
  • Aspiration: B
  • Sustainability: B

Venture Fund
San Francisco, California
Kim Smith, Cofounder and CEO
www.newschools.org

Kim Smith, a Stanford MBA and CEO of the NewSchools Venture Fund, is determined to make private-public partnerships work for America's sagging education system. Her model? Venture capital. NewSchools has started two investment funds, totaling about $65 million, which focus on charter schools and performance. It has committed $22 million to 11 for-profit and nonprofit ventures--from GreatSchools.net, an online service offering performance data to parents, to Teach for America, the well-known nonprofit that places talented college graduates as teachers in needy schools. To win investments, groups must show that their projects will have not just immediate impact, but also longer-term systemic effects. They also have to prove a viable bottom line.

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Room to Read

  • Entrepreneurship: A-
  • Innovation: B
  • Social Impact: A-
  • Aspiration: A-
  • Sustainability: B+

San Francisco, California
John Wood, Founder and CEO
www.roomtoread.org

In 1998, Microsoft executive John Wood, trekking through Nepal, was dismayed to find a 45 % literacy rate, few schools, and barren libraries. Two years later, he returned, this time as founder of Room to Read. Since then, his group has helped build 700 libraries, 63 schools, and 20 computer and language labs. The organization has donated more than 300,000 books to villages in Nepal, India, Cambodia, and Vietnam. And it has given 412 scholarships to girls who otherwise couldn't afford to go to school. Participating villages become co-owners of projects, often providing up to half the resources. "My personal goal," Wood says, "is to help 10 million children to gain an education. I don't see any reason why we need to think small about this."

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Share Our Strength

  • Entrepreneurship: A-
  • Innovation: B
  • Social Impact: B+
  • Aspiration: B+
  • Sustainability: A-

Washington, DC
Bill Shore, Founder
www.strength.org

If you don't recognize the name Share Our Strength, you'll certainly remember its most successful campaign: Charge Against Hunger, wherein a portion of your restaurant tab went to hunger-fighting causes. With such campaigns, Share Our Strength has distributed more than $70 million to more than 1,000 programs in 20 years. Bill Shore, a former staffer for Senators Gary Hart and Robert Kerrey, founded and still runs SOS. Shore says his organization creates its own wealth. In other words, he has mastered the art of partnering for serious profit. Now, with partners ranging from Evian to Yahoo! (and American Express, which backed Charge Against Hunger), Shore says he doesn't have to compete with other nonprofits for a share of the philanthropy pie. Rather, his organization works to expand it.

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Working Today

  • Entrepreneurship: A-
  • Innovation: A
  • Social Impact: B+
  • Aspiration: B
  • Sustainability: B+

Brooklyn, New York
Sara Horowitz, Founder
www.workingtoday.org

Working Today acts as an insurance- benefits manager for people who don't have one. Since 2002, about 4,000 freelancers, part-time employees, and contractors in New York have tapped into its Portable Benefits Network to pay insurance rates similar to what full-time employees at big companies do. Sara Horowitz, Working Today's founder and executive director, says that as America's employees grow more mobile, their safety nets have become more porous. Working Today establishes logical groupings of mobile workers--by geography, industry, or both--to advocate on behalf of members. It's the next union--and, some argue, the future of the labor market.

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