Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011
Whirlwind Wheelchair International has been awarded a $1.7 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for a 2 1/2-year project to set up 7 sustainable Wheelchair Provision and Assembly Centers (WPAC) in developing countries around the world. Whirlwind is a non-profit social business based at San Francisco State University. Whirlwind was a Tech Museum Laureate in 2004 and Whirlwind’s Executive Director Marc Krizack was a member of the 2006 Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI) class.
The USAID award is significant in two respects. First, it gives Whirlwind the capital to expand its franchise network of wheelchair manufacturers to include distributors. By combining the benefits of large scale manufacturing with local provision, Whirlwind ensures high volumes of high quality, low cost wheelchairs that can be properly provided to the beneficiaries in accordance with World Health Organization guidelines. In many locations, the WPACs are expected to become the nucleus of a permanent rehabilitation infrastructure around which other services and programs can be built and monitored.
Second, the grant represents a milestone in Whirlwind’s own organizational development. Most non-profits are forced to shape their activities in accordance with the funder’s goals. Given the limited funding for international disability projects, for example, many organizations have to shoehorn disability projects into programs that have other goals such as development of civil society, promotion of democracy, rule of law, and conflict resolution, to name just a few. Since adopting a social entrepreneurial model in 2006, this is the first grant that Whirlwind has sought in which what Whirlwind proposed to do was exactly what Whirlwind wanted to do and had already started to do. As such, it represents a significant maturation in the organization’s journey from traditional non-profit to innovative social business.
The WPACs will result in increased sales and income for Whirlwind as well as extending the benefits of Whirlwind’s unique and in-demand active use RoughRider® wheelchair to many more people around the world. Each WPAC will make it possible to fill orders of less than a full container of wheelchairs, which is too expensive when fully assembled chairs are shipped from a distant factory. Each WPAC will be able to develop its own local market, especially in advocating for and competing for government tender offers. And many WPACs will have their own international donors and supporters who Whirlwind could not approach but from whom they can request funding to purchase the Whirlwind chairs they assemble and provide.
The USAID award dovetails nicely with Whirlwind’s other income generation effort to sell its flagship product, the RoughRider® wheelchair, in the United States, for which Whirlwind received FDA approval this past January. The wheelchairs will be sold as part of a Buy One/Give One program. For each wheelchair purchased for $800, Whirlwind will donate an identical chair to someone in the developing world. Through this program, Whirlwind hopes to attract and recruit brand advocates among wheelchair riders in the U.S. and Canada who can extend Whirlwind’s reach into every state and province, raising awareness of Whirlwind’s program. All funds generated from the sale of wheelchairs will be used to promote Whirlwind’s non-profit mission in the developing world.
The USAID grant will also allow Whirlwind to set up a U.S. Distribution Center in the San Francisco Bay Area, which will start by providing 3 jobs. The Center will serve U.S. purchasers and provide a reshipment point for nonprofits that ship chairs directly from the U.S. to other countries, and for individual travelers from the U.S. wishing to take a wheelchair to someone in the developing world.
Whirlwind is setting up a business advisory committee (BAC) to help review business plans submitted by applicants seeking to host a WPAC. Anyone interested in volunteering to sit on the BAC should contact Whirlwind Marketing Director Keoke King at email@example.com.
Marc Krizack is the Executive Director of Whirlwind Wheelchair, a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities in the developing world while also promoting sustainable local development.
Posted by Guest Blog: Marc Krizack |
Monday, Dec. 5, 2011
Your social enterprises are doing great work all over the world and more than likely you could use a little help reaching more people. The Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI) at Santa Clara University provides that support to anybody who submits an application. That’s right. Come one, come all (social entrepreneurs) to apply to the GSBI and your organization will benefit. Even better, it is free of charge!
What is the one thing you are wishing for your social business this year? Let me guess, funding. Well, the GSBI won’t fund you (sorry), but we will tell you what funders want to know and how to give them the answers they are looking for.
To apply for the GSBI, you must complete three exercises about your venture and plans to scale. Don’t be scared! While this resembles homework in almost every way, trust me, it is good for you, and more importantly, it’s good for your social business. The exercises are designed to cut through the “fluff” and get to the meat of your organization. Every applicant will receive feedback and mentoring from a graduate business student at Santa Clara University who has studied critical success factors for social enterprises.
The first exercise asks you to articulate your value proposition and provide evidence of that value proposition. The question aims to allow the reader to understand what your enterprise is all about, whom you are serving, how far along you are in achieving your mission, and your unique advantages. It can be difficult to succinctly capture why your target customer would choose to buy or use your product or service over the alternatives; however, it is important to be able to do so for many reasons. One reason is funding! Your potential investor will use this as a first filter when deciding whether your venture is of interest.
The purpose of the second exercise is to help the reader understand who your target market is and what your potential impact could be. Understanding your customers is critical to any business, social or not, and identifying the attributes of your beneficiaries will help you understand your enterprise better. The characteristics of your target market also indicate how scalable or replicable your business is, and seeing the potential for growth is critical to any investor.
Exercise three asks you to elaborate on your business model. Investors look for firms that are sustainable, meaning they have positive cash flow, with the potential to be scalable (income growing faster than expenses). Whether your organization is for-profit, non-profit, or a hybrid, a scalable business model will show a credible income model. In social ventures, income can be earned or contributed. Showing at least partial earned income model reveals some dependence from contributed income (donations and grants), which means that a funder has a much better chance of recovering their investment. It also shows that there is actual demand for your product or service.
Your potential investors and partners are looking for insights into your value proposition, target market and business model, and our ten years of experience has taught us how to help you think through these issues. Skills are built through repetition, and if anything, applying for the GSBI is good practice in answering tough questions that aim to get to the root of what your business is all about. By dedicating some of your time and brainpower this winter to completing all three exercises (heck, even if you only complete one) at the very least you will get honest, constructive feedback from an MBA student or graduate with practical business knowledge, and you will have refined your understanding of and pitch for your own organization. At best, you will be selected as a part of the GSBI Class of 2012 and join the ranks of the 139 alumni who have come through the GSBI since it’s inception in 2003 and who have collectively impacted more than 70 million people.
Learn more about the GSBI by visiting our website, download the application beginning December 6th, and be sure to apply starting January 3, 2012.
Cassandra Thomassin is the Manager of the Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI) at Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS). She graduated from Menlo College magna cum laude with a degree in business management and from Santa Clara University's MBA program with concentrations in Entrepreneurship and Leading People and Organizations. Prior to becoming the program manager, Cassandra worked as as a research analyst for CSTS while pursuing her graduate studies.
Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011
Our featured guest blogger is Eliza Gonzalez, a sophomore in the Leavey school of business at Santa Clara University and student assistant for CSTS.
In late October the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship was generous enough to sponsor Santa Clara University’s Entrepreneur Organization to attend the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Conference in Ft. Worth Texas. The conference consisted of several days of motivational speakers and amazing networking opportunities.
On the first day of the conference there I heard keynote speaker Dr. Gene Landrum, the originator of the concept of Chuck E. Cheese’s. He was the most motivational speaker I have ever heard. So much about his speech has resonated with me. This is an event I will never forget. His main point was: we need to chase our dreams and make them a reality. Clearly we must use our intelligence to guide our journey, but there is nothing that should be holding us back from pursuing exactly what we want to do in life. His speech sparked some ideas that have been brewing in the back of my head for sometime. I want to explore and pursue these ideas because, if anything, I will gain experience. In order for me to take on the risks of starting a company, I need to start in a safe environment, like here at Santa Clara. My goal is to do an independent study with faculty guiding me through starting my own business in my senior year. I want to conduct research about the market and what is feasibly possible to start in this economy. My interest in sustainability is sparking many business ideas that I want to go after.
The conference provided amazing mentors that I am still in contact with and who will hopefully help me down the road when I start moving forward with my ideas. I also heard about other students’ business ideas and how they have developed their dreams into realities. For example, I met Daniel Gomez Iniguez
one of the founders Solben
of a biodiesel company that serves Mexico, South America, and now India. He is only 21 years old and already owns a multi-national company! Overall, this was one of the most stimulating days of my life, and one that I will never forget.
I also met Salah Boukadoum
, the founder of SoapHope
, a new microfinance company, similar to KIVA
that is fighting to end poverty around the world. The company is giving women around the world opportunities they never thought were possible without putting lenders at financial risk. I talked to Mr. Boukadoum about The Tech Awards
and he knew all about the program. He thought that it was a great program and he hopes to participate in it in the near future. I feel honored to work at the Center of Science, Technology, and Society
because I think the mission of the Center is on that more places should promote.
Conclusively, the workshops were all very helpful and fun to attend, and the networking was amazing. I hope to participate again next year, and I felt that I was able to see the conference through a different lens because of all the exposure I have received through CSTS
and The Tech Awards
Monday, Nov. 21, 2011
Two former American presidents, Bill Clinton and Martin Sheen (President Josiah Bartlett in the television series “The West Wing”), were featured at an October 5, 2011 fund raiser in New York City to benefit the Walkabout Foundation. The Walkabout Foundation purchases Whirlwind RoughRider® wheelchairs for distribution in developing countries around the world.
The Fundraising event was the New York City premier of the new Emilio Estevez film “The Way,” starring Estevez’s father, Martin Sheen. The cost of admission was the purchase of one Whirlwind RoughRider® wheelchair. The event raised enough money to purchase about 1400 RoughRiders.
Whirlwind’s executive director, Marc Krizack, is a 2006 graduate of the Global Social Benefit Incubator. Although bringing your mission to scale takes a lot of planning, luck can also play a big part and explains how it is that President Clinton, Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez came to associate themselves with the RoughRider®, as can be seen in the accompanying photos. This is the story of how it happened.
The Walkabout Foundation raises money for research into a cure for paralysis and to purchase and properly distribute wheelchairs to people in developing countries. Walkabout was founded in 2009 by sister and brother Carolina and Luis Gonzalez-Bunster. Luis is a paraplegic from an auto accident. Their first fundraiser was a hundreds of kilometers walk on the El Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James. The Way of St. James has been a much travelled Catholic pilgrimage route from southern France through the French Pyrenees and across northwest Spain since the Middle Ages.
After the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Walkabout sprang into action and purchased a few hundred standard wheelchairs. A Whirlwind colleague in another organization saw a video about Walkabout in Haiti, sent them a link to a video of the RoughRider® in action, and said that the RoughRider was the chair to buy. Since Luis is a wheelchair rider himself, he immediately recognized the RoughRider’s superiority over standard chairs. That was how Walkabout found Whirlwind. You can see a video of the Whirlwind-Walkabout collaboration in Haiti here.
In late Spring 2011, father Rolando Gonzalez-Bunster had a serendipitous meeting with actor and director Emilio Estevez on a flight between London and New York. Emilio told Rolando about a nearly completed movie he had written and directed about a father walking the Camino de Santiago and spreading his son’s ashes along the way. Rolando told Emilio about the Walkabout Foundation and its first fundraiser on the Camino, and they agreed to make the New York City premier of “The Way” a benefit for the Walkabout Foundation.
It was also fortuitous that Rolando and Bill Clinton had been good friends since 1965, and so when Rolando asked President Clinton to appear at the event, he agreed to do so without hesitation. President Clinton described to the attendees the importance of providing RoughRiders: “Until you have seen somebody hauled around in a wheel barrel, until you have see a person, a human being like you stuck in a shopping cart, until you have seen someone trying to maintain dignity crawling along on the ground by his or her knuckles, you can’t imagine what this little chair will do,” Clinton said.
“For $300, it’s very sturdy, and I think of practical things. In a poor place without a lot of sophisticated repair shops you need something that will last and that can be easily repaired. This is the best bargain you will ever have if you help one or more people to get one of these,” Clinton added.
See the full 7-minute video of President Clinton’s speech.
Also at the event were celebrities Chelsea Clinton, fashion designer Donna Karan, and Haitian musician Wyclef Jean, among others.
Good planning and hard work are essential to successfully going to scale, but a little luck never hurts.
Posted by Guest Blog: Marc Krizack |
Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011
In spring 2011 I designed and conducted a short “auto-ethnography” project in rural Kenya. I put digital cameras in the hands of six high-school students, and taught them the basics of photography and cultural anthropology. I wondered; if we could place ethnography in the hands of those being studied, would we get a different representation of their culture? It is clear that anthropologists travelling to different parts of the world bring with them practices, behaviors, and expectations that may alter their interpretation and subsequent presentation of a culture. Perhaps the students’ auto-ethnography research, their photos, interviews, and notes could create a representation of their culture that is less influenced by outsiders.
The students I interacted with lived in Ganze, one of the poorest rural districts in Kenya. The majority of the population are subsistence farmers, however the land is dry and hard to farm. The district is a member of a large ‘drylands’ agro-ecological zone- 1.2 billion people around the world live on lands like Ganze. People living in these zones have the lowest personal GDP, highest birth rate, and highest infant mortality rate of any area. The Giriama tribe comprises most of Ganze’s population. Giriama is one of 24 major Kenyan tribal groups, and while it represents a rather small percentage of the entire Kenyan population, the group is common throughout coastal southeast Kenya, especially in inland districts like Ganze. Today, this region is more and more connected by dirt one road leading from Ganze to the town of Kilifi, and eventually to Mombasa, the 2nd largest city in Kenya. Many of the younger generations are attending school, learning Swahili and English, and less Giriama language. They speak English all day in large concrete buildings and pressed school uniforms, and return at night to mud huts and firelight to speak Giriama with their parents.
I taught and learned from six of these students from Ganze Secondary School, four young men and two young women between the ages of 16-20. They spoke good English, were very well educated, and camera use came quickly to them. Besides teaching photography, I tried to communicate to them the goals of ethnography and cultural anthropology- that is, how they should guide their own thinking about the project. Instead of telling them what photos to take, I would brainstorm with them, asking questions like, “what would you show an outsider to explain your culture?” and “what would you most like to remember in photos?” I gave the students entry and exit interviews, and suggested that they interview their families in a similar fashion. They were given two weeks off school to work with me, and I asked them to each take at least 50 photos per day of anything they liked, and to write in the journals I gave them to describe their photos and experiences.
I came away from Kenya with over 3,000 photos taken by the students, several hours of interview footage, and the students’ photo descriptions and notes. I received photos that I could not have taken, photos of loving family members, of private events, etc. I collected so many interesting and informative experiences over the mere 2 weeks I had to execute the project- many thought it would be difficult for me to do much of anything in this time. Analyzing and presenting the photos has been time-consuming, but I have started a photo-journal describing our work.
In my next posts, I plan to share more photos with students’ descriptions and comments to present the Giriama people from Ganze, Kenya. For now, here are some photos that might give a good idea of what went on. All are photos taken by the students, and each has a story.
Kieran Howard is a recent graduate of University of California, Berkeley, with an interdisciplinary BA in anthropology. Since high school, Kieran has lived in Spain, Kenya, and Brazil, to study language, literature, and guitar. In Kenya, 2005, Kieran worked for the NGO Komaza exploring and developing an inexpensive home water purifier made of clay painted with colloidal silver. He has recently conducted a short ethnography project in rural Kenya teaching high school students digital photography.
Posted by Guest Blog: Kieran Howard |