What is a Very Impactful Person?

On the morning April 8, 2014, Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Very Impactful People course had an emergency:  A scheduled speaker had come down with the flu and had to cancel her talk.  Shortly, an “Urgent” flagged email arrived, asking for Urban Logic’s founder to substitute for a class two hours later.

This talk, to Stanford undergraduates and others, tried to explain how a social entrepreneur comes to be so.  What life paths take anyone into the field of social entrepreneurship from the standard professional or academic fields?  What life lessons does working as a social entrepreneur teach?  What humility is learned as a social entrepreneur?

Today, most MBA programs offer courses in social entrepreneurship.

Like cooking, photography or pottery, some skills are best learned by doing, in the field, with all of the uncertainty of outcomes and certainty of technique one can glue together.

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Consulting Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979), and is licensed as a lawyer in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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Funding Changemakers as if Change Matters
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Funding Changemakers as if Change Matters

Social Entrepreneurs to the Rescue

In our time of transition, moving to the Digital Era connecting us globally, storytelling has reemerged as the way to sell consumer products, to gather investors in startup companies, to change government policy, and to address long unmet environmental and social conditions.

Social entrepreneurs are among the best of these storytellers, speaking often from the first person singular as to how a person in need or a legacy process for daily activity was the catalyst for seeing the challenge as solvable, and the solution as worthwhile for doing well by doing good.

Media forums such as the TED and TEDx Conferences attract vast global audiences to hear this good news, and to delight in the craft of a founder story told with full passion for moving to a previously unachieved outcome.

Yet, it would be naive to think that “social entrepreneurs” singlehandedly solve the insolvable.  Many social entrepreneurs succeed through building enormous networks of likeminded and complementary actors scattered in industry, government, stakeholder communities and the media.

Watch the successful social entrepreneur on a TED stage, well-dressed and well-spoken, connecting with the audience authentically.  It would be easy to believe that foundations or investors fully or even partially funded the work that got them onstage.  In a survey of Ashoka Fellows in North America during the height of the Great Recession’s impact on philanthropy (2010), Urban Logic found that  social entrepreneurs personally sacrifice much to commit to and pursue their missions:

  • credit scores and personal net worth drop while salaries are deferred, and funding ebbs and flows into their organizations,
  • relationships with family and friends ebb and flow producing stress and anxiety, and
  • upon successfully championing their change in the broken paradigm, the market expands to take over and build on the first social entrepreneur’s vision, often without recalling how the vision emerged from sweat equity.

For university undergraduates and those with advanced degrees entering an economy with massive student debt and paltry job prospects, pursuing the passion to change broken paradigms is quite appealing.

Funding Changemakers as if Change Matters

Three decades ago, a McKinsey partner, Bill Drayton, coined the phrase “social entrepreneur.”  Later, empowering “everyone is a changemaker” became the bedrock of Ashoka’s mission.  Bill acted out of concern for the changemaker’s lifestyle, wanting to fund and mentor health in that.  Plenty of foundations fund “programs” and “projects.”  Bill Drayton cherished care-taking the human visionary – similar to Steve Jobs’ iconoclastic call to arms “Here’s to the crazy ones…

Yet today, as brand buffing or examples of corporate social responsibility for market segments of customers, corporate priorities seem to be calling the shots on which social entrepreneurs get funded to promote what changes in the world.  The categories chosen for corporate challenges or foundation grants are often too faddish or rigid to define the multi-layered stories of benefits to be achieved and resources to be tapped more effectively.

Would other types of funding lead to more diversity and continuity in change-making, and thereby improve the lives and careers of changemakers?  We think so…

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Consulting Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979), and is licensed as a lawyer in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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Monoculture Thinking is Unnatural & Unhealthy
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Monoculture Thinking is Unnatural & Unhealthy

Biomimicry pioneer Janine Benyus has wisely observed that Nature is a design studio, where optimizing sustainability (of planetary lifeforms) and resiliency (navigating climate, species and extraterrestrial impacts) comes through millions of years of adaptability experiments.

Nature Values Diversity

Nature relies on multiple species to sequester carbon and improve nutrients for soils in vastly different climates and geographies.  Nature relies on regular seismic, forest fire, flood and migration patterns to disseminate species diversity, and to capitalize on the extreme events as fortuitous opportunities for establishing new homes for life and species’ advantage.

Our species acts constantly to master Nature, to overcome its unpredictability.  In doing so, we seem increasingly to favor the politics of monocultures – where one “go right” thinker group tries to outshout the “go left” thinker group, setting in motion a battle of monocultural belief as the supreme goal, regardless of its impacts on people, their neighborhoods and the planet.

Natural human rights to a home, healthcare, a job, retirement and other refined benefits of modernity in the “Developed World” are  Nature’s goals for other species in repurposing their ecosystems and behavioral economics.  On the one hand, “survival of the fittest” rules the animal and plant kingdoms providing nutrition, shelter and reuse of organic waste.  On the other hand, each species’ grazing in close proximity and instincts for social response can assure more of a given species survive, especially when threatened from internal and external predators and hazardous conditions.

Monoculture Politics

While Nature cherishes diversity of adaptive response, as humans, our political dialogue seems often to steer by which monologue of belief system is being reinforced by bludgeoning the perceived “other side.”  Instead of “human rights,” champions of one demographic’s rights shrilly and gleefully can ignore other’s rights.  For example, opponents of universal health care seem perfectly happy to ignore the biological and economic pandemic effects of letting the sick remain in suffering, dragging down urban economic vitality and intergenerational family survival.  Likewise, champions of women’s rights go silent when it comes to supporting the equal parenting and economic survival rights of men.  These tugs of war set up and maintain monoculture beliefs.  They create tribes to in-fight ideals.  They consume vast bandwidth on social and mainstream media.  They obscure the basic human dignity that all demographies, geographies and contexts for human quality of life demand, with equal concern, just in their right to speak for consequential Natural good.

Nature, the Design Coach for Leveraging Diversity

It is time to shed monoculture politics as social ideal.  Where Natural Rights could life all boats, the results of letting everyone fend for themselves – for finding a good education, job, home, honorable work, healthcare, nutrition – pulls us downward.

To justify monoculture politics, certain actors in each expert community get funded to build standalone White Ivory Towers, replete with algorithmic math that “assumes away” most other real world constraints and interdependencies with other aspects of quality of life, in order to reach  their funder’s ideal optimization or preferred solution or pre-ordained status quo.

Big Data springs from Big Models.  It is time to begin linking the languages of Big Models so as to build more adaptation from the limited resources each expert group (community of practice) is likely to receive through the political reality of annual budget cycles and recurring recessions.

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Consulting Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979), and is licensed as a lawyer in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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Vatican, Banking, Ethics & Money

Vatican, Banking, Ethics & Money

The Vatican has been a bell-weather of human rights concerns and research for centuries. His Holiness Pope Francis’ personal commitment to put actions in front of the Holy See’s words are having a profound effect in Vatican City and globally.

The Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, led by His Eminence Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson from Ghana, is responsible for developing policy and nudging its implementation on issues that include business ethics, and the conduct of business leaders and their bankers.  The Vocation of a Business Leader captures recent policy research and thought.

Initially in October 2012, and then as part of the Pontifical Council’s Colloquium  on the theme Banking on the Common Good, Finance for the Common Good on May 13, 2013,Urban Logic has brought forward our design work on high-transparency, impacts aware banking and related research to inform the Vatican’s (and our own) interfaith dialogue on creating banks and training bankers to handle money that is authentic in achieving its intent and impact, ethically.  From little acorns, giant chestnut trees grow!

For more on the May event, Cardinal Turkson’s interview and the Pontifical Council’s press release are here, and Vatican Radio’s coverage here.

Practicing What is Preached...As importantly, informal conversations with the new head of the IOR (Vatican Bank) on that Monday May 13th, were prelude to the Bank agreeing om May 22nd for the first time to release its financial monitor’s reports – Transparency momentum in action is good to see!

By September (2013), the Pope was speaking out regularly, decrying the idolatry of seeking money as an end goal or end game, and urging the globalized economy to return to the core functions of providing meaningful employment, and the honorable reality of a job creating meaningful lives.

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Consulting Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979), and is licensed as a lawyer in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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Banking on Altruism

Banking on Altruism

Fear is Fake Collateral, Rugged Individualism is Bankers’ Mythology

In his May 2013 TEDxHayward Talk entitled Adjacencies Revealed, Urban Logic’s founder shared thinking that developed in dialogue with Dr. James Doty and Dr. Daniel Martin of Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research (C-CARE) that could build stronger banks and bank customer user experiences.

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Consulting Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979), and is licensed as a lawyer in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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Why Sustainable Banking Matters at Stanford

Why Sustainable Banking Matters at Stanford

At Stanford University, in the Engineering School, and in the d.school (Design School), and in the Law School’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy & Finance, in the Graduate School of Business, and nearly all parts of the campus, sustainability matters.

Stanford is buzzing with students and faculty creating next-generation energy, construction, transportation, food, housing and other solutions that extend the lifecycle of resources used by our generation, and steward resources for future generations.

Designing solutions that repurpose the built environment and respect Nature’s own design quest to add resiliency that mitigates climate and other conditions is admirable.  In their own expert and innovative ways, biomimicry writ large.

Whither the bankers?  Where liveth they?  Harken the bankers back to a world underwriting to profit capital by destroying human or natural capital?  Is the legacy of un-sustainability banking – even digitized to nanosecond trading efficiency – the best that can be innovated?

In order to redesign sustainable cities and businesses, the banks that hold our deposits and create the rules for lending capital must understand sustainability, and must evolve to create Sustainable Banking that keeps the bank safe as an institution, keeps the customer of the bank safe throughout their personal or business lifecycle, and keeps the regions impacted and their quality of life safe.

When the Stanford graduates with sustainability ideas and business plans tucked into their gaps and gowns can show up in a bank and have a banker reward the startup business for adding sustainability, the banks will be safer, and make regional  of life safer, for all.

Through an active collaboration with Stanford, Urban Logic is pushing forward a Sustainable Banking Affiliates Program, and more:  Check out – SustainableBanking.Stanford.edu.

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Consulting Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979), and is licensed as a lawyer in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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Commercial Property investors start tracking sustainability

Commercial Property investors start tracking sustainability

U.S. Green Building Council LEED Certifications, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Energy Star Certifications have been in development for nearly twenty years.

Forward-looking real estate investment trusts (REITs) are beginning to promote that their portfolios include LEED or Energy Star certified commercial and industrial properties (for example, without endorsement, Wells REIT II’s LEED Portfolio Grows to 25 and Health Care REIT’s Green Arrow Program).

The major institutional investors in commercial real property are beginning to take notice of sustainability. National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries, best known for its benchmark Property Index Returns, is now collecting Energy Star and LEED information for properties owned by its investor/members.

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Consulting Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979), and is licensed as a lawyer in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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Istanbul: before the next earthquake
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Istanbul: before the next earthquake

Istanbul sits smack on top of some of the Earth’s most active seismic faults.  A city of nearly 14 million, the risks of repeating past earthquakes exceeding 7 in magnitude, threatens rich and poor alike.  Current USGS projections, show the vulnerability maps, with devastating clarity.IstanbulEarthquamap

The geology of how this region formed explains what is happening now:

Turkey geologically is part of the great Alpine belt that extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Himalaya Mountains. This belt was formed during the Tertiary Period (about 65 million to 1.6 million B.C.), as the Arabian, African, and Indian continental plates began to collide with the Eurasian plate, and the sedimentary layers laid down by the prehistoric Tethyan Sea buckled, folded, and contorted. The intensive folding and uplifting of this mountain belt was accompanied by strong volcanic activity and intrusions of igneous rock material, followed by extensive faulting during the Quaternary Period, which began about 1.6. million B.C. This folding and faulting process is still at work, as the Turkish and Aegean plates, moving south and southwest, respectively, continue to collide. As a result, Turkey is one of the world’s more active earthquake and volcano regions. Helen Chapin Metz, Turkey: A Country Study (1995).

IstanbulEarthquakeRegionalmap

We know an earthquake of magnitude 7.2 or greater is likely for Istanbul in the next 30 years.  We know that the immigrant poor in Istanbul live  in squalor, in make-shift shacks connected as shanty-towns (“informal settlements” seems to be the polite term) built on the most seismically active areas of the City.  We know that Istanbul’s city government derives nearly 50% of its non-tax income (“government sponsored enterprises”) from a gas pipeline some of which runs near or would be threatened by the collapse of structures underneath the shanty-towns.  And we know that 40% of Turkey’s sovereign debt rating is attributable to Istanbul’s municipal credit rating, because 40% of Turkey’s economic activity occurs in the Istanbul Metropolitan Region.

Thus, it seems that the economic, humanitarian and foreign aid contexts for addressing the shanty-towns of Istanbul need not wait for the next earthquake.  Community land grants, housing revitalization and retrofits and a culture of job creation and entrepreneurship would be worthwhile strategies for improving the survivability and quality of life in Istanbul’s poorest neighborhoods, mitigating pandemic risks post-earthquake, and reducing the chance that slums gestate homeland security risks there or elsewhere.

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Consulting Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979), and is licensed as a lawyer in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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State-Owned Banks: why just after a crisis?
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State-Owned Banks: why just after a crisis?

In Colonial America, states issued their local currency so as to achieve independence from the banking and bankers of the Old World in Great Britain and Europe.  Today, the Bank of North Dakota formed in 1919  is all that remains of the state-owned bank tradition.

In response to 2008’s Credit Crisis, U.S. taxpayers pumped $608 billion into the banking system (of which $367 billion has been repaid as of August 2013).  An immense DC-Wall Street-Main Street public debate followed, along with passage of The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform And Consumer Protection Act (echoing reform measures passed after every previous domestic banking crisis), and the lobbyists on Capitol Hill carving the reforms into shards and loopholes without sufficient enforcement budget or the will to prosecute offenders at “too big to fail” banks.

Two options for public investment remain relatively unexplored:

  • Reviving State-owned banks who, by reason of being government-owned, would be subject to higher public purpose accountability, conflict of interest and transparency rules
  • Investing in a national program of banking services innovation and redesign, through smaller new banks and non-bank organizations

Urban Logic has surveyed global state-owned banking history, and posted it online at StateOwnedBanks.com (as a Wikimedia research site and to reduce spam, please create an account to access our work there).  For an illustrated timeline of multiple banking crises, recessions and other developments in the U.S., and legislative responses to them, download this PDF, and because it is 600 years wide, zoom in 12 times (12x).

 

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Consulting Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979), and is licensed as a lawyer in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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Jerusalem, Middle East Peace & Money

Jerusalem, Middle East Peace & Money

October 26, 2010 at the Koret-Milken Institute in Jerusalem offered Urban Logic the opportunity to present research on using using interfaith ethics to tag money, and in that way bring greater understanding and tolerance to the various religious groups in and surrounding Israel.

The Koret-Milken Fellows are impressive, and go on to occupy major leadership positions in government and industry in Israel.  The Institute, through Glenn Yago‘s leadership, conducts ground-breaking research on infrastructure, capital finance, legislation and other challenges facing the Israeli Government, business sector and society.koret milken institute

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Consulting Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979), and is licensed as a lawyer in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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Google Tech Talk on Conscious Consumerism
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Google Tech Talk on Conscious Consumerism

Why is it that shopping is what powers the Internet?

So many new products struggle to find an audience, create a following, define a market, be the next Google, Apple or Facebook.

Google’s Campus – the sprawling Googleplex in Mountain View California – is like a graduate engineering school, most employees wear tee shirts identifying their Google product line, their 20% Personal Project or just the fashionably disruptive startup of the week.

In February 2008, Urban Logic’s founder presented an early peek at the ways that products sold on the Internet could tell consumers a more meaningful story, and how people could be defined more by what they do than what they buy.  Bruce Cahan’s Talk is on Google’s Tech Talk YouTube Channel.

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Consulting Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979), and is licensed as a lawyer in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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