Elevating Impact Summit 2014 & Finding your Social Innovation Path

On 5/9/14, I conducted an interview with Abby Chroman. She works with Impact Entrepreneurs helping to communicate great ideas, launch PSU’s online certificate in The Business of Social Innovation, and design the 2014 Elevating Impact Summit happening in Portland on 6/20/14.  Before joining PSU Abby worked for five years with Ashoka, where she helped select and connect leading social entrepreneurs in the US, and created an online space for social entrepreneurs to collaborate around the world.

Picture from EIS 2013

Tell us about EIS 2014

Around the world pragmatic, creative innovators are designing unprecedented solutions to pressing social and environmental issues and creating value for their companies, communities, and society at large. The Elevating Impact Summit is put on by Portland State University’s Impact Entrepreneurs and celebrates these new approaches to generating social and environmental impact across business, social, public, and academic sectors.

This year’s Elevating Impact program includes keynote addresses from globally renowned social entrepreneurs Kat Taylor, Founder of One PacificCoast Bank, Marc Freedman, Founder of Encore.org, and Victoria Hale, Founder of Medicines 360, along with lively panel discussions on impact funding, encore careers, and communities in transition. The event also hosts pitches from the region’s rising social innovators, the annual Impact Awards, and authentic first-person stories of resilience. The one-day gathering in beautiful Portland, OR attracts around 400 participants each year.

What is a social innovation?

Social innovations are creative new ideas and approaches to solving social and environmental challenges around the world – from maternal health to disaster preparedness and from financial systems reform to international conflict resolution. Social innovation takes place in and across traditional sectors and both within existing institutions and by entrepreneurial change leaders forging brand new systems and organizations.

Why are you interested in social innovation?

This is kind of new as a “field”. It’s not business, non-profit, or public sector, and it’s not limited to people with a certain skill set. I think I’m attracted to social innovation because in it there are pathways for anyone to participate in positive social change. Almost everyone I know has an issue they care about. What if they could create a life where they contributed to improving the world by addressing the issue they care most about?  I know business executives who are applying their acumen and expertise to help grow social enterprises (Look at Ashoka’s ASN program), young people who are taking charge and solving problems around them (see Peace First) and older people who are giving back with amazing new ideas (Elevating Impact keynote speaker Marc Freedman is pioneering this idea). Systems are emerging in which everyone has something to offer. Ecoapprentice, for example, matches crowdsourced knowledge with businesses looking for sustainable solutions. I’m optimistic. Creative individuals and teams are transforming industries around the world, and systems as we know them. It makes me excited for our future.

Impact Entrepreneurs is the program hosting EIS 2014; what is Impact Entrepreneurs?

Impact Entrepreneurs is a program of Portland State University (PSU) that was founded in 2010 in the PSU School of Business Administration. We are committed to fostering economic, social, and ecological prosperity through entrepreneurial action. We work with partners locally and globally to deliver initiatives that strengthen organizations, build entrepreneurial impact-focused leaders, and catalyze social innovation. Along with a group of cross-campus collaborators, we are also a part of the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus consortium, a select group of institutions of higher education that demonstrate commitment and cutting-edge approaches to galvanizing solutions to major human and environmental challenges.

DISCOUNT! Want to attend EIS 2014? The full day event, including lunch and reception, is just $50 if you register before 5/20 with the discount code: CC_ECOA.

Interested in becoming a social entrepreneur? Start by proposing an EcoSolution to any of our challenges. Membership to EcoApprentice is free. We look forward to attending EIS 2014!


EcoInterview ~ Lucy Vallejo-Anderson on Oregon Unlimited’s new EcoCommunity

Today is the roll out of the new EcoCommunity Hub on Oregon Unlimited!

Oregon Unlimited is a Meyer Memorial Trust funded platform where Oregonians can connect and share ideas on creating change that’s good for Oregon. EcoApprentice has been invited to serve as the EcoCommunity Ambassadors for OU’s newest knowledge hub. We are excited about working with OU and look forward to connecting and creating “sustainable” change.  
Lucy Vallejo-Anderson is the Community Manager for Oregon Unlimited.  Lucy is a native Oregonian, born and raised in Portland. Having lived in Los Angeles during her college years, she is happy to be back in the Pacific Northwest. She loves being able to meet new people and become exposed to the inspiring work that people are doing in their communities. 
Tell us about Oregon Unlimited
Lucy: Oregon Unlimited is an online community designed for Oregonians to connect and collaborate in order to work together to make our communities and state better. The idea came about during the Meyer Memorial Trust’s Ideas 4 Oregon campaign in 2010, which was created in celebration of Meyer giving away $500 million in grants. Wanting to help make Oregon a state where ideas could develop and thrive, the foundation pledged $1 million to help bring the winning submission to life. What emerged was a request for a virtual town hall where folks could be productive, share best practices, and get things done. Basically, Oregon Unlimited is part project management and part social network – helping you get things done but with the added bonus of getting the chance to learn new things and meeting like-minded people!

What inspired the launching of the EcoCommunity Sustainability Hub?

Lucy: I think it can be agreed upon that Oregonians care about their environment, so when Richard Halpern from EcoApprentice posted something on OU and I checked out the work that he does and the innovative business model they use, it made sense to start up a conversation about how his network of eco-warriors and problem solvers should connect with the OU community’s passion.  After brainstorming together we came up with the EcoCommunity Hub idea. We like the name because it’s inclusive of all things ecological and economical. This encompasses both the values of OU and the great work that EcoApprentice is doing.

Is OU for businesses and non-profit organizations?  How might each entity use the site?

Lucy: OU is for both! Organizations, businesses, individuals – there’s something for everyone here.  Because the tool is so flexible, it has the ability to be customized to a variety of needs. We’ve seen individuals hop on OU with nothing more than an idea and get support and answers from other OU members.  Non-profits and other organizations have been able to create partnerships, share best practices, exchange knowledge, and spread the word about the work they do. Not to mention this will give them a place to engage with their communities! In addition, OU has an amazing project management tool, which makes it easy to collect resources, assign tasks, and make sure that goals are achieved!

Do you have long term goals for OU?
Lucy: Our goals are pretty simple: to create a space where Oregonians can collaborate and move forward with their initiatives. We hope that Oregon Unlimited will become the go-to place to create positive change in Oregon.

What do you enjoy most about your work at OU?

Lucy: I love the people I work with and being able to help facilitate conversations that haven’t had the opportunity to happen yet. Getting to meet individuals that are doing such wonderful things in their communities is always inspiring. I can only hope that OU can support them so they can continue to do what they do!

We would love to hear your innovative solution ideas as we post more EcoChallenges (with cash EcoBounty awards for solutions). To get notified of new opportunities, become a member at EcoApprentice here.

EcoInterview – John Metta

John Metta

John Metta

John Metta is an EcoApprentice Advisory Board member as well as one of the programmers who helped with initial phases of EcoApprentice.  He is a hydrologist, a talented programmer and entrepreneur.  His scientific and business expertise have been greatly valued by the EcoApprentice team.


1)  Tell us a little about yourself?

That’s a crazy open question. I got two bachelor’s degrees in science, then two masters degrees in science and engineering, then after all that I decided that as long as I struggle, I’ll never stop being a programmer, so went back to programming backend systems, mostly for scientists. My hobbies are Irish Flute, cycling, archery, swimming, gardening, and, of course, programming.

2) What interested you about the EcoApprentice model/Why did you choose to serve on the EcoApprentice Advisory Board?

The EcoApprentice model was an interestingly new take on an old problem, and I like new views. I chose to serve on the board because I like the message and the meaning and thought it would be interesting to be a part of this great experiment.

3) How important is the sustainability issue to your clients?

Many of my clients are scientists, especially in the environmental sector, so they think about sustainability a great deal. However, I notice that many think about it in terms specific to their industry/field. For instance, a fisheries biologist may be concerned with river flows, but may not connect that high server usage means more power, which likely means more hydroelectric generation and decreased flows. I’d like to think that something like EcoApprentice will make broader, if somewhat hidden, sustainability issues more visible.

4) How do you think EcoApprentice can benefit businesses?

I haven’t thought about this question much beyond connecting people with good ideas to the business. The history of entrepreneurial development in this country is defined by people with good ideas being able to implement those good ideas, this places much of the benefit on the users of EcoApprentice, more than the businesses. However, partnerships between users with good ideas and businesses will only benefit both parties.

EcoInterview-Keely Killpack, PhD

EcoApprentice has a talented Advisory Board that has helped guide us during our entrepreneurial venture. We’d like you to meet Advisory Board Chair, Keely Killpack, and learn about her involvement with EcoApprentice. Keely Killpack PhD is the Owner and CEO of Killpack Group. Killpack Group offers management consulting services. They focus on change strategy & management, performance management systems, process improvement, work motivation, organizational design, culture change, team development, coaching, training & learning systems. They specialize in transforming a company’s human capital toward sustainability practices and increasing shareholder value through an integrated bottom line. They offer a full spectrum of services from diagnostics through implementation and beyond. Visit Killpack Group.

1) Tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a change management consultant with more than a decade of diverse client experiences in transforming human behavior at work and influencing leadership talent strategies. I’ve worked across many industries helping companies realize the value and impact of its employees and have seen amazing opportunities for change toward more sustainable operations in many places we all work.

2) What interested you about the EcoApprentice model/Why did you choose to serve on the EcoApprentice Advisory Board?
Everything I do is driven by my passions: authenticity, the environment, and making the world a better place to work are my top 3. When I met Richard and we talked about EcoApprentice, I felt a real connection: to his passion around the model, to the impact it will have on the students and the businesses and most of all, his authentic approach to the business, operations, web design and its users. I am so excited to be a part of the EcoApprentice team and to have been invited along on this journey!

3) How important is the sustainability issue to your clients?
Many of my clients have sustainability efforts in progress and recognize the importance of changing many ways their business interacts with and impacts the world. That said, I see much more focus on products, innovation and technology than on changing employee behavior or work environments to reduce energy consumption and waste. My hope is that EcoApprentice will foster solutions in all these realms, including how we change ourselves to improve sustainability and positively influence climate change.

4) How do you think EcoApprentice can benefit businesses?

Beyond the business benefit of the EcoSolutions a company will get from using the site; EcoApprentice is also a great opportunity to increase marketing efforts & customer visibility in the sustainable space and to attract sustainable-focused talent. Being a business member of EcoApprentice can result in leaner operating costs AND innovative sustainable solutions!

Thank you Keely! Interested? Sign up to be a member free and get started on the path of being a more eco friendly business.

Three Questions

I love tough questions; in particular, those asked with skepticism. There are a few questions I’m asked over and over…

The third most asked question:Why are you for-profit when EcoApprentice looks so much like a non-profit? People wonder why, with our make-the-world-a better-place mission, we’ve chosen not to go the nonprofit route.

Answer: We believe that it’s possible to be pro-business and pro-environment at the same time. As much as we are seeking to save the planet, we are also mindful that making it cash positive as a business can be tough as hell, particularly in today’s economy. Sustainable best practices lead to a more efficient business, and being more efficient saves money and makes money. Really? Yes, and how better to prove it than by walking the talk! There are many outstanding nonprofit organizations that do a great job for the environment and local economies. This is not a profit vs nonprofit question, as one is not better than the other. We have chosen to go for it as a business because you can be pro-business and pro-environment. We aim to make it work as entrepreneurs while  promoting sustainability.  Great examples of other businesses that are already doing this are found at 1% for the Planet.

The second most asked question:
What if (insert big industrial polluting company) wants to join EcoApprentice? Would you let those (bleeping bleeps) join?

Answer: Yes. There is no green litmus test for joining EcoApprentice. Our view is if a company that has a poor history of caring about environmental policies suddenly has an epiphany and decides to join – then it’s for the good. At least it’s a step in the right direction. Any EcoSolution has to be agreed upon as “completed” by the respondents who worked on it, so we have a built in greenwashing check.

And the number one question I am asked is….

How is EcoApprentice going to make money?

Answer: We have a few different revenue models we are exploring, depending on what happens down the trail.  Our focus is to take a product to businesses and corporations that is worth paying for. While EcoApprentice 1.0 is more a prototype than a product,  we are receiving lots of great feedback and adapting accordingly. Our goal is to show the value in eco-efficiency; and that by becoming a member, EcoApprentice will save a business money and drive customers their direction.  For anyone that remembers the movie Field of Dreams – you could say EcoApprentice is building something we believe has value, even before we have earned a penny.  The worth is in the great ideas that happen when people come together to innovate.
We do know two things for sure:

1. There will never be a charge for students, schools, and nonprofit organizations to become members.

2. We need to earn a living to maintain a business that will make a difference and continue to grow.

EcoApprentice is FREE for all users, check it out. Check back often to see what we come up with! We welcome any suggestions, business propositions, strategic partnerships, or tough new questions!

EcoInterview with Michael Barthmus of Doppio

EcoApprentice interviewed Doppio Coffee + Lounge proprietor Michael Barthmus of Hood River to learn more about his business and his EcoChallenge.

1) Define steps you’re taking to make Doppio more eco-friendly?

“One of the most important things is localizing the product mix.” Michael provides local products when possible.  Cost and ecological impact for transporting products is high.  Switching from water from a Norwegian company to a local Hood River, Oregon resource was far more eco-friendly and helps support the local economy (a value important to Michael, he is very involved in GOI, or Gorge Owned Business Network GorgeOwned.org, an organization whose mission is to encourage supporting local business, as well as helping businesses to be more green and sustainable. “Almost all of the to-go packaging is made from compostable materials, and we are working with a start-up composter called Dirt Hugger to complete the cycle of returning natural products back to the soil, and staying out of the landfull…the every-elusive win-win.”

Localizing product mix isn’t always an easy fix, according to Michael.  Red Bull is produced out of the country, but replacing it with a similar energy drink produced locally is challenging. It’s hard to get away from the brand because of the marketing cache of “Red Bull”. 

Michael works with local resources to compost coffee grounds and any by-product of his business that can be composted.

2) How would having solutions to your EcoChallenges impact your business?

Working towards EcoSolutions for EcoChallenges for Doppio may not always be about making or saving money, at least from a pure bottom line standpoint. Yet Michael believes businesses could impact profitability positively by speaking to the consumers that really care about patronizing businesses who make effort towards green and sustainable solutions. “Though all our efforts aren’t money-making or money-saving, I believe we get more of the customer base who care about these issues.”

3) Some businesses are concerned about sharing with the world that they have an EcoChallenge. How can EcoApprentice help them overcome this concern?

Being transparent about your green efforts let’s your customers know you’re making effort in becoming ecofriendly. “I don’t believe anyone thinks that you have to be 100% ecofriendly to care about making that a business priority.”

Read about Doppio’s EcoChallenge “Closing the loop on compostable packaging” or Become a Member and post an EcoChallenge today.  

EcoInterview PSU MBA Students

EcoApprentice interviewed Kara Sigua, lead for the MBA student team from Portland State University. Kara and her team worked on our first EcoSolution with wine tour company Grand Cru Wine Tours in Monmouth, Oregon.
1) How can EcoApprentice help students get real-world experience? 
The only way to get real-world experience is to work on real-world problems. Students will only benefit if they are challenged to solve real problems that may require some outside the box ways of thinking. EcoApprentice can provide the bridge between these problems and the innovative minds of students.
By partnering students with businesses they’re able to see the application of what they’re learning in the classroom applied to real life situations.
EcoApprentice provides a knowledge sharing platform that networks students with businesses in need.  By working with businesses to solve EcoChallenges, students get a feel for what it takes to tackle age-old problems with a new “eco” lens.
2) Why do you consider eco issues to be a priority?
We have managed to exploit every part of this world we live in and if we don’t change our way of thinking regarding the way we operate there won’t be much of a future. We need to consider long term consequences when making decisions not just in our day to day lives but more importantly in the decisions we make in our work-places that can have a much grander impact.
There are so many unsustainable things about the way we live our lives today – from fuel for our cars to the sourcing of our food.  I think if we don’t pay attention to these issues we’re going to really start to see the consequences in our lifetimes.  It is no longer a problem for the future; at the rate we’re exploiting our planet and competing for resources, if we don’t come up with alternative ways to do things, I think it will be devastating to our planet very soon.
I believe that humans make an impact on the global ecosystem and that it has been a negative impact for the last couple hundred years.  So, I believe it is important to change the way that we think about and conduct business.  In doing so, we will teach future generations to view the earth as an invaluable asset.
3) What are your individual goals? 
I am really concerned about energy usage and fuels in our world. There is a big push for renewable resources, but this is not coming fast enough and there are not enough incentives to push big industries to make a conscientious change towards renewable sources for fuels.
I am most passionate about food sourcing because I think the way we subsidize food is atrocious.  The absolute worst things for our health are also the “tastiest” and the cheapest.  The health costs associated with our eating habits continues to rise. I think there needs to be more education about where our food comes from and then people can start to think about how to make healthy, sustainable foods more affordable.
I am interested in getting consumers to choose “green” products and services.  Our current economy is based on the idea of profit and loss and doesn’t leave room for social or environmental responsibility.  However, if consumers demand and select socially and environmentally responsible products, then those are the companies that will become most profitable.  In the meantime, I am interested in convincing consumers and investors that value is not solely monetary and that businesses can be a force for change in the world.
4) What was something surprising you learned about working with Grand Cru on getting their sustainability certification? 
Sustainable Travel International has done such a great job of laying out the groundwork for a company to become eco certified. I was surprised to discover how detailed and vast the process is. Every single component of your business is evaluated and not just your actions but the actions of other entities you interact with must also be sustainable. This creates a chain of accountability which our world really needs.
I was impressed by the diversity in the sustainability requirements.  Beyond tracking carbon off-sets and recycling efforts, STI is really focusing on cultural and economic sustainability as well.  I think this is very important because it reminds people of the importance of locally sourcing and giving back to the local economy, so they can continue to support business as customers.
I was surprised to find out that Grand Cru is the first wine tour company in Oregon to get sustainably certified.  This certification will create lasting competitive advantage for Grand Cru because they are paving the way for sustainability in their industry. Read more about Grand Cru’s EcoChallenge and EcoSolution.

EcoInterview with Lisa Williams of MEDIA forte marketing

1) Tell us about why you choose to work with EcoApprentice as a Marketing Consultant.

I met EcoApprentice’s Founder, Richard Halpern, a little more than a year ago.  I received a call for a meeting in my home town of Hood River.  I’m blessed to have a number of local clients, but often times requests from leads who find me in Google’s Local search are small businesses which aren’t a good match for our service offerings, but having a passion for search marketing I can often recommend resources.

I listened to Richard’s business idea, reviewed the initial design work, and explored online marketing needs and wasn’t sure if it was a good fit. MEDIA forte marketing has a focus on Ecommerce Retail or Lead Development and though EcoApprentice had been well-planned, a general marketing plan was just the beginning of Richard’s needs.  We had a full production schedule at the time and I would normally have provided some  resources and passed on the meeting, but the combination of it being Dec 13th (I love the holidays;)  and Richard’s passionate insistence prompted our first meeting and a great desire to be involved in such a killer concept.
Two hours later I had committed to breaking down the multitude of start up marketing needs into manageable smaller pieces and create a project plan that would be a combination of discounted fees and a percentage of the business for 2 years since budget was minimal. Richard, like many start up businesses entrpreneurs, was learning on-the-job the many nuances of what it takes to be successful. He had the commitment and passion, but lacked formalized business training. I knew the ride ahead may be filled with surprises and detours.

I love online marketing because it’s so very measurable, Paid Search and Natural Search Marketing in particular are enormously measurable and justifying a marketing budget is fairly easy since we provide a high level of return on investment for our Ecommerce retail clients.

This project was anything but easily measurable.  EcoApprentice needed to create awareness among investors and its’ target markets as well as help with content, site development recommendations, businesses to test the process and implementation of the idea, creation of an advisory board to help guide us in areas of expertise that weren’t represented in our small team and many, many other projects that required goals, strategies and tactics. The Founder already had another full-time job in Education, so making it work would reuire lots of over time and boot strapping!

So why after 4 days and the promise of a great deal of work and little pay after my first meeting with Richard was I so thrilled to be involved with EcoApprentice?

First, it’s an amazing idea that connects the world’s business sustainability issues (EcoChallanges) with bright, innovative people to solve those issues (EcoSolutions). Businesses can make money, save money and be more ecofriendly (which appeals to customers), it’s truly a win for any participating business and there’s no fee for becoming a member or posting EcoChallenges.

Second, Richard is charismatic in such an honest, compassionate and passionate way that I have seen the most in-demand business people including CEO’s, investors and sustainability experts share time and expertise towards EcoApprentice because they become passionate about the business and just want to contribute to its’ purpose.

Third, having embarked on a journey to write a book about “Sustainable Online Marketing”, I knew this was the perfect opportunity for me to implement what I was learning from the best online marketers and the most successful businesses.  Great clients and great relationships make great projects. Having had both wonderful and terrible experiences during my 12 years in business has convinced me that having a relationship centered approach is the key to sustainable online marketing. Technology, expertise and process matter, but the truly great, sustainable online  businesses invest in their relationships in order to succeed. Richard’s life and work philosophies embody this concept.

Richard’s successes as he has created, developed, grown and nurtured EcoApprentice are due in part to his ability to engage people towards a lofty and worthwhile goal of helping save the planet while understanding that businesses must also be compelled by revenue generation and cost savings.

One online marketer I admire (Jeffrey Hayzlett, past marketing genius for Kodak and Celebrity CMO) gives a piece of advice all business owners should heed, “Passion is no substitute for planning.”

As a member of the EcoApprentice team, I am honored to participate on a project that embodies great passion AND great planning. We hope you’ll join us.

Want to learn more about EcoApprentice?

Lisa Williams is president of MEDIA forte marketing, a 12-year old Online Marketing Agency located in Hood River, Oregon.  She is on the board of directors of SEMpdx (Search Engine Marketing Professionals of Portland) as their Membership Chair. She speaks at numerous search engine marketing conferences including SMX, SMX Advanced, SearchFest, InnoTech, Online Marketing Summit and others.  Williams is EcoApprentice Marketing Consultant and on the EcoApprentice Advisory Board.