Weekend Briefing No. 59

Welcome to the weekend. I’m fresh off 10 days of trekking in Patagonia and hanging out in Buenos Aires this week before heading back to New York. It was great to take some time to unplug and enjoy nature, but I missed you guys and am happy to be back to writing the weekend briefing.






Family & poverty. “Fifty years ago this month, Democrats made a historic mistake,” said Nicholas Kristof. They savagely attacked a report by federal official Daniel Patrick Moynihan that warned that the breakdown of the African-American family would make poverty more intractable. Moynihan wrote that “from the wild Irish slums of the 19th-century Eastern Seaboard to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles,” history had shown that communities in which the family breaks down end up in chaos, with fatherless young men caught up in lives of crime, substance abuse, and reckless sexual behavior. Liberals dismissed the future senator’s report as “racist” and said Moynihan had no right to assume that “middle-class American values are the correct values for everyone in America.” But, hard experience has proven Moynihan right. Today, 71% of African-American children are born to single mothers, as are 53% of Hispanic kids, and 36% of white kids. Children with unmarried moms are five times more likely to live in poverty, and are 40% less likely to graduate from high school. So let’s learn from 50 years of mistakes. It’s not being a moral scold “to acknowledge the role of families in fighting poverty. Read more in Kristoff’s New York Times column.


Entrepreneurship & education. Beyond family, education is essential to breaking the cycle of poverty. BUILD, founded by my good friend / Ashoka Fellow Suzanne McKechnie Klahr, is a social enterprise that is taking a novel approach to educating at-risk students. They work with kids that are on the track to drop out of school and keep them engaged through experiential learning in entrepreneurship. This unique approach seems to be working. When students are given chances to take learning into their own hands, the results can be impressive. Last year, 84% of their students were admitted to a four-year college. Research on education points to the power of resilience and grit, and entrepreneurship might just be the most powerful way to develop those attributes. Learn more about BUILD in their feature in the New York Times, and be on the lookout for their upcoming launch in New York!


6 questions to ask before you launch your social enterprise. Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, created a simple list of 6 questions to consider before launching a social enterprise. They are: 1. What is the problem you are trying to solve? 2. What is your business model 3. How will you measure your impact? 4. What is your plan for capital and growth? 5. How will you tell your story? 6. What corporate form should you take? Learn more in this Fast Company article.


Millennials and women are leading the way on socially responsible investing. Morgan Stanley recently conducted a survey on sustainable / socially responsible investing. The survey finds Millennials and women at the front edge of sustainable investing and sustainability. Millennials are the most open to the idea of sustainable investing (84%) as compared to Gen X (79%) and Baby Boomers (66%). Millennials are twice as likely to both, invest in companies or funds that target specific social / environmental outcomes and divest because of objectionable corporate activity. Women are also leading the way, with 76% of surveyed investors showing interest in sustainable investing, compared to 62% of men. Female investors are nearly twice as likely as male investors to consider rate of return, as well as the impact of their investment when making an investment decision (40% vs. 23%). Additionally, three out of four active individual investors (72%) believe that companies with good Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) practices can achieve higher profitability and are better long-term investments. Individual investors say that on average 46% of their total portfolio should be invested sustainably. At the same time, investors are divided over the perception of sustainability and financial gains as being a trade-off (54% yes vs. 46% no). Dive deeper into the survey here.


Bootstrapping is the new seed. I truly believe that outside funding is plan Z. So, I love this piece because it lays out the power of bootstrapping. When you build your startup without other people’s money, you make the decision to take control. First, you don’t dilute yourself right out of the gate. Second, by not taking someone else’s money, you’re able to prove your business model and paid channels before really putting gas on the fire. Third, when you’ve decided to embrace the little cash you initially have, it forces you to make better decisions and to stay disciplined. And finally, without investors, you can craft your company culture the way you intended. Learn more in this TechCrunch article.






The best Bible app. Let’s be honest, most Bible apps are pretty bad from a user experience and design perspective. My friend Kory Westerhold (previously on the design team at Apple and now at Twitter) has been working on solving that problem by creating a well-designed Bible app called NeuBible. I’ve been beta testing it for a while now and absolutely love it! If you are a Bible reader, this is a must have. Check out the video and go to iTunes to purchase it now.


Choreplay. Research has already shown that when men split the housework, a couple’s risk of divorce is lower. But if that isn’t enough to make men grab for the Hoover, a recent study provides an even more exciting rationale: Do your share of household chores, say researchers from Montclair and Arizona State Universities, and you’ll have more sex in return. “Choreplay” can really spice up a marriage.


Exploring Seoul’s “improvement quarter.” The New Yorker’s Patricia Marx spent two weeks immersed in the epicenter of South Korea’s plastic surgery obsession, where between 400 and 500 clinics and hospitals are packed into a single square mile. Marx consulted surgeons, students, academics, a reality show producer, and a “face reader” about the paramount importance of a “perfect” appearance and just how far people go to attain it.






Most innovative companies of 2015. Fast Company just released the Most Innovative Companies of 2015. For the second year in a row, a client and friend of mine was on the cover; a big congrats to Neil Blumenthal and Warby Parker. I love to see companies that are blending profit & purpose continue to succeed. Once, the B Corporation certification was viewed by hard-core business­people as a laudable (or laugh­able) designation. Not anymore. Now, high-growth, socially conscious companies such as InVenture (No. 13), Revolution Foods (No. 39), and Kickstarter prove that B Corporations can be A-list. You may also be interested in the Most Innovative Companies in Africa or 20 lessons of innovation for 2015.


Getting your passion project off the ground without quitting your day job. You’ve finally figured out what you want to do with your life — start a company, launch a website, design an app, or found a nonprofit. The only problem is that you can’t afford to quit your job (and lose your benefits) in order to pursue it full time. So, where should you start? What’s the best way to get your passion project moving? And how can you tell when you’re ready to strike out on your own? Read this Harvard Business Review article to learn what the experts say.


A job or a higher calling? Can a job be just a job anymore or do we need to find our higher purpose in our work? Firms from motorcycle manufacturers to accounting firms are touting how they “change the world”. The words “mission,” “higher purpose,” “change the world” or “changing the world” were mentioned on earnings calls, in investor meetings and industry conferences 3,243 times in 2014, up from 2,318 five years ago. The question is, how does the lofty rhetoric align with day-to-day activities? Only about one-third of individuals feel their work is a calling. Those who can connect their work to a higher purpose—whether they are a janitor or a banker—tend to be more satisfied with their jobs, put in longer hours and rack up fewer absences. But for the two-thirds who view their job as a paycheck or a necessary rung on the corporate ladder, campaigns around meaning can highlight the fact that those workers don’t derive deep meaning from work. Learn more in this Wall Street Journal article.Thanks to Brooke Hames for sending this my way.


What is the long-term impact of microfinance? This policy brief on microfinance is a summary of seven randomized control trials on four continents, from the research organization Innovations for Poverty Action and the Poverty Action Lab. Some key findings are: (1) Only about one in four or five households wanted a small loan. (2) Some of them used the money to grow their very small businesses, but this rarely led to higher profits. (3) None of the seven studies found a significant impact on household income. (4) And there’s no evidence it empowered women or led more children to go to school. But the loans give a little freedom. People make the same money as before, but in different activities that they chose. Learn more in this Washington Post article.






The Weekend Briefing is a selection of the best stories from around the web about innovation and society curated by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway & Co.


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