CONVOSPARK BLOG

The Problem with Problem Solving

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

The formula is simple; identify an everyday life “problem” that impacts a large number of people.  Next step, create a product or service that solves the problem and deliver the solution (your product or service) to the people who have the problem.  This is entrepreneurship.  This is the formula that I was taught while starting companies in Silicon Valley, this is the formula being served up in incubators and accelerators across the globe, this is the formula used by social entrepreneurs to solve some of the world’s most pervasive problems.

You may have noticed that this formula is limited.  Yes, the summary above is dramatically simplified, however its limitations have more to do with the substance of the formula and less to do with its simplicity.

The problem with the “problem solution paradigm” is that it lives in a vacuum.  Solutions rarely target the root cause of an issue.  Instead, we live in a world of “fixes” and cover-ups which often augment the problem rather than providing a sustainable solution.  Thus what is a created is a problem-based economy that relies on the perpetuation of problems, so they can be solved by market based solutions.

Within this paradigm, we rarely take into account the entire scope of the problem, and the unlimited number of variables that give life to the problem.  We think small and create the insignificant.

Silicon Valley has been purveyors of this paradigm through the long tail of new startups  and investors.  Facebook and the mobile marketplace have created an ecosystem that supports an astonishing breadth of companies fueled by investors expecting many companies to fail but quick and ample returns from those who succeed (startup expert Steve Blank sums it this phenomenon here).

Lets admit it, small problems are easier to solve and therefore are more likely provide a financial return.  From this vantage point changing the world looks a whole lot less attractive.

If we as social entrepreneurs are committed to creating a better world above all else, it will take a paradigm shift, and a commitment to shifting paradigms.  It will require a departure from problem solving to becoming catalysts for true transformation.

It will take social entrepreneurs that have the vision and audacity to disrupt outdated systems, an unwavering commitment to people and the earth, and the ability to look beyond traditional theories of change.

It will take investors and networks like Omidyar Network with their priming the pump approach to sector driven impact investing.  Like Singularity University that asks their students to solve a problem that will positively impact a billion people.

It will take a new long tail that creates global change from the bottom up, using social enterprise and responsible business practices as its vehicle.

It is time to invest in a new formula.  A formula where positive social transformation is the output.  Think beyond the fixes and cover-ups, and to think about creating sustainable social change.

Prayer, Voice, Solution, Understanding

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

 

When I got the news yesterday, I reacted like  everyone else.  I was overwhelmed with sadness, anger, but most of all, a numbing feeling of “what the fuck!”.

I wanted to speak out, to do something, but given my emotional state, I didn’t join the discussion, as nothing productive would have came from it.  So I sat in prayer for the children, their families and for us as a society to seek reform at the root.

Much of the discussion seems to be about when to speak, and when not to.  The thing is, our voices are the most significant democratic tools we have.  To withhold thoughts, to avoid proposing solutions to an epidemic of this significance is to be sheep, it is to allow that feeling of numb I had pervade.

With that being said, it’s of extreme importance to acknowledge what our words and thoughts project into the world.  Anger is the protagonist of violence, blame creates further separation from what can be if we create collective understanding.  These tragedies are a product of this form of hate and misunderstanding.

I believe gun regulations should be extremely strict, I believe the treatment of mental illness should be integrative and holistic.  Above all, I believe in the need to create a more equitable world.  Media that glorifies  violence and status creates a separatist mentality, one of exclusion.  Watch Bravo for 2 minutes or our most recent machine gun heavy movie trailers and wonder why kids at school are excluded and young men are in a constant state of “proving themselves”.  How about the shrinking middle class and the starving poor.  The neo-liberal economic policies that keep the flow of money moving up with little to no trickle down.  These are all factors in the creation and conservation of inequity and therefore discontent in our country and the world.

We don’t know why this happened, we shouldn’t pretend to know.  However, we should be committed to understanding.  Understanding societal discontent, understanding these acts of violence, understanding the pain these families are going through.

All my love goes out to the family of those affected and the rest of the universe.

The Next Chapter: Massive Change with Change.org

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

The last two and a half years of my life started with one bizarre interaction.  An older gentleman walked into the office I was working at at the time and sat down across from me, a desk creating about 7 feet of distance between the two of us.  He reached into a manila folder pulled out a piece of paper.  He slid the paper across the desk, it appeared to be some type of flow chart that this man said was “the future”.  We talked about a crazy idea, putting a sales and marketing tool in the hands of the service providers of local businesses.  Giving servers, bartenders and baristas an opportunity to make more money, learn how to market themselves and most importantly, be empowered.

This conversation stuck with me for a long time after the meeting was over.  So much so, that I dedicated the next two and a half years of my life to executing this crazy idea that we call JoynIn.  The older gentleman (also the Founder) became a mentor and friend, we raised over a half a million dollars, we built a team that at one point was 10 people strong, and built a pretty freaking cool product.

A few months ago I hit wall.  I just couldn’t do the work with the same type of enthusiasm and pace as I was known for.  Something was different, and it was me.  It was my heart telling me that what I was doing was not right for me.  It was telling me that full and complete alignment with my life’s purpose was more important now than ever.  That validating my worth as an entrepreneur by building a successful startup was not important.

So a month I ago, I decided to leave JoynIn to write the next chapter.

Before “writing” it, I took time to think, feel and evaluate my values, skills, passions and vision.  A decompression process along with an intense personal audit gave me incredible clarity not just with my career, but with the values that guide my life.  I will make sure to outline the process in a future post.

A somewhat discouraging realization came when I discovered there were very few companies and organizations that really fit interest and impact profile I was looking for.  This was also illuminating, recognizing how embryonic the social change/ tech sector truly is.  Resisting my entrepreneurial tendency to build from here, I instead took the most non-scalable approach to the job search ever.  I built a short list, presented to key players at each company and started to interview.

Never going through a real job search process before I found it to be eye opening.  I found that most interviews are conversations, that you need to sell creatively from the jump, that high growth companies sometimes don’t even know how they got there, and to follow the most passionate people.

So after all this…where am I?

I am beyond excited to announce that I will be the Director of Channel Sales at Change.org, a company that is transforming how individuals and organizations spark massive social change.

What led to the decision?  Many factors, the main one simply being it was THE choice.  When I talk about complete alignment of purpose and passion, this is it.

It goes far beyond my own personal wants being met.  There is no other company that exists in this time and space that can create radical global shifts at the level Change can and potentially help shift collective human consciousness.

Sitting down with the CEO Ben Ratray for 30 minutes made that insanely clear.  That in the here and now, this is it.

A focused pivot

As I pivot in life, I naturally pivot in…blog.  Of course I will be chronicling my life experiences and repositioning those experiences so they can be of value to you.  I will also be taking a deep dive into the social change space, social business, leadership and other related fields.  This blog will be a dynamic resource for social entrepreneurs that define themselves by the social impact they create and for those who are looking to define themselves in similar ways.

Thanks for reading.  Hope you enjoy and then act!

 

Photo Credit: B Rosen

What 99% of the 99% Does Not Understand About #Occupy

Monday, November 28th, 2011

For those of you that are part of the movement, that hate the movement and even those that are apathetic…I encourage you to read this post.  This post is my humble attempt to bridge the gap between factions of the 99% that seems to be polarized based on social and political affiliation.  You should know that I am a firm supporter of  the purpose and message of the Occupy Movement, however I am not an active participant in the protests (as you can see in a previous post).  With that being states…here we go…


All discussions now involving social issues naturally gravitate towards the Occupy Movement.   So when a dinner conversation started to drift in the direction of social change…Occupy came up…again.

This time the discussion was less about the movement itself, but more about the disdain many people have for the movement and its participants.  From Facebook friends giving the “smelly hippy” jab, to Newt Gingrich saying “Go get a job after you take a bath” …there seems be some strong polarization forming between factions within the 99% (Newt Gingrich is not part of the 99).

For some, this noise is to be expected…for me…I can’t stand to hear it! It comes down to a fundamental lack of understanding…in some cases unwillingness to understand.  I am not trying to debate which stance is right or wrong…nor am I saying I am more informed then the rest (that would be completely untrue)…instead I want to help the people that are protesting the protest see that they too should be in support of such a movement…because it affects all of us!

The more momentum the movement gains, the more spinning the press does, the more the masses have an opinion.  We have been seeing the protesting, the camps, the unjust violence and now just about all of us have an opinion.

I understand the format in which this message is being proliferated can cause people to shake their heads and easily dismiss the message.  However, you need to consider a few very important points before you do so.  Read below..do not be impulsive and base your position on Occupy on your person life circumstance, political affiliation (this is a non-partisan movement), or media persuasion.

Here’s what 99% of the 99% does not understand about the Occupy Movement:

You are part of the 99% even if you have a job.

The vast majority of the middle class are slaves to wages (including myself).  The time we spend at our jobs is directly correlated with the money we earn and therefore are in servitude to money.  In some cases our wages does not match our cost of living and therefore we incur debt.  When you add interest into the mix matters get worse and wage slavery is perpetuated and proliferated even further.

Many people are unaware or in denial of this form of slavery…but it exists in this fiat money monetary system…and most likely it affects you.

Supply and demand of the job market is not in equilibrium

Get a job and take a shower?  Hmmm…

According to BusinessWeek over 200 million people worldwide are currently out of work. 2010 college graduates only reached a 50% employment rate a whole year after graduating.  Unemployment isn’t just staggering…it’s screaming to us that something is wrong.

We live life in America under the assumption that certain credentials and hard nosed perseverance guarantees us success.  So we look at homeless people like…”get a job”.  We now know this is not the case…that nothing is a guarantee and that even the most diligent people cannot find jobs or jobs good enough to match their credentials or lifestyle.

Many people of the Occupy movement have jobs…others believe that creating social change is their job.  The expression should be respected.

Millions of people are dying, staring and are homeless due to this inequity

It is true…the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  Even more grave…the poorer die, starve and kill on the basis of survival.

We are busy people, and live lives full of distractions therefore it’s sometimes difficult to notice.  But it’s true that for most of humanity, our very survival is dependent on the money we earn.  Under a more equitable system would industries like war (defense), sex, and organized crime even exists?

This movement is bigger than any one person’s life situation, judgement or  political persuasion.  This is a movement to help move humanity further whether you agree with the format of the movement or not.

Protesting, camping out, yelling…screaming for change may not be the way you would do it.  The people affiliated with the movement may not be the people you would get a drink with.  Once again…the format may be of nuisance to you but I believe it’s our responsibility to dive deeper into causes of this magnitude.  When it comes to Occupy, we must dive in deeper, because whether or not you believe so…this issue affects you!

An Inquiry Into the Occupy Movement

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

It’s been about two weeks since, Catherine and I went to join in on Occupy SF.  We were excited to join in on the movement that was shining the spotlight on the fundamental flaws in our monetary system and the people and institutions that exploit the people by using the system as a lever.

We were greeted by a charming girl who handed us an informational flyer and told us to “join in on the love”.  We liked that, smiled and began to observer.

As humans we naturally (based on conditioning) processed an analyzed the crowd around us.  Most seemed to poses the “anti-establishment” personas…raw, rough, conscious and uniquely fashionable.  These people represented the flint of the movement…the people that give light and spark to ideas.  However, we also observed that there was very little kindling.  The middle class, the cube jockey’s or however you want to label the bigger chunk of the 99% was no where to be found.

We grabbed some poster boards… signaled for cars to honk in front of the Federal Bank in San Francisco … conversed with a few people about why they were there…then went home.

We left Occupy that day feeling inspired and refreshed to know that there is a movement hovering above the distractions of our daily life…a movement that was focused on educating the blind.  However, we saw that even within a community built on positive change and love; that there was a distance between those who were the spark…and those that were needed to bring this to critical mass.

The movement since then has grown and I have thought more about its dynamics, purpose and effectiveness.  In New York they have reached a significant tipping point with all types of 99%ers participating.  In SF they have been growing relentlessly.

A Skype call with a friend that I made in Brazil (also the innovative ED of PCI Media Impact) Sean Southey made me think the Occupy Movement from a higher level.  I have begun to ask even more questions, thinking about the anatomy of the movement, the soul, and the calls to action.  Here are some of those questions that are arising: (more…)

Why Doesn’t Our World Work…What Can We Do?

Monday, September 26th, 2011

The human race is an egotistical bunch.  If you are trying to depute that…it’s not you…it’s your ego arguing with me.

I say this not to stir up dissent; I say this because our massive egos have been holding us back from creating a world that works everyone.

It’s really strange to think that we have been putting up with this bullshit for this long.  Living in an abundant world by its very nature, we still have managed to deplete the earth of many vital resources and uphold a separatist attitude which allows inequality and poverty to perpetuate.

When you put it like that, it’s a bit weird to think.

Even weirder is that we support this type of “weirdness” in all we do.  Just take me and my life for example:

  • I strive to be known be others (with only a few good reasons why).
  • Much of my attention is on myself rather than others.
  • A good amount of  my focus is put on making money.  I actually believe I am different from many people as my earnings has come as a product of creating valuable things that I am passionate about–which has not yet equated to much monetary success, instead a simple living.
  • I have no true need for about 50% of the things I buy.

Well…it looks like my life consists of a bunch of selfish wastefulness when you look at it in this context.

It’s easy to see that our priorities are completely out of wack.  Much of this is culturally and structurally embedded while being upheld by a lack of inquiry into these system flaws (I will not say apathy because I feel that people truly care…even if some don’t know it).  The media fuels massive distractions and an indoctrination of collective belief systems.

Before you see this as some crazy stuff I just decided to post on a random Monday…take a look at our lives:

We work to make a living (structural)…how important our work is to you is based on many cultural factors (as well as others).  Because we work 8-10 hours a day it’s hard to give much attention to anything else.  All else that falls within our small scope of attention typically relates to friends, family, entertainment and others interests that typically are a reflections of our friends, family, entertainment and work.

Therein lies the problem…the cultural and structural (social, political, monetary) forces help create our beliefs and actions.  Money and status are the drivers behind those forces.  Which brings us full circle back to our ego driven world.

Woahhh…what a rant.

Forget that…it would be denigrating to call this a rant.  This is a call for awareness and consciousness.  It’s a call to transcend the cultural and structural boundaries that are inflicted upon us.   It’s a call to put contribution before status.

It may be too overwhelming to take on the system flaws of this world…still…we can all do our part to collectively create social change.  Be aware, look beyond yourself, and start contributing to others!!

I would love to hear your thoughts on how we can collectively create a world that works for everyone.

If you are interested in joining a community that is looking to do just that…signup for early access to the Be Social Change website on besocialchange.com!

-Nothing but <3

Image Created By: workisnotajob.com

Fighting With Love

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Recently I had a discussion with my incredible girlfriend about my view of the media’s impact on our society.   As you may guess…I have my strong opinions on the topic…most of the time tearing into the destructive content that gets passed around as truth (here I go again).

Catherine, seeing this day to day struggle I go through with the media decided to bring me out of my normal realm of thinking.  She told me I constantly make them wrong and myself right.  She how can I expect to create significant change if I don’t come from a place of understanding.

This resonated with me.

I do believe you need to know what you stand for and what you will stand up against…however I do see you can still take a stand with compassion and understanding.

Below is a note I shared with a mastermind group I am part of…unedited and uninhibited I discuss the distinction of creating change through love and understanding; illustrated by some of the most impactful leaders of our time.

____________________________________________________________________________________

I’m gonna take the liberty to add to the free day Sunday!!!

First off…this group has been incredible so far…just in a few days I feel like we have all added so much to eachother!

I wanted to let you guys in on a discuss Cath and I had over dinner yesterday. I don’t know if you guys saw that video of the UCLA girl that was bashing on Asians in the library. I watched it…Cath watched it…her little brother watched it. He got really really angry…he felt that represented a portion of the folks at his school….couldn’t understand how people could be that disgusting…all that, and rightfully so.

However Cath and I tried to help him look at things in a different way…this “way” came to life when we discussed Nelson Mandela and MLK last night.

Cath said that hate perpetuates hate and by getting angry…you will never make real positive change bc you will cause an even bigger gap between these groups of people. That reminded me about MLK and Malcom X…both incredibly smart, passionate, leaders in the civil rights movement. The difference was one believed in an eye for a eye…while the other believed in love and that all eyes should be colored blind. Both are historical figures…but you can argue that only one will leave a long lasting positive impact on the world.

I believe the best example of love breaking barriers is the story of Nelson Mandela (maybe Gip and H know this story). A new friend of mine filled me in on his story I didn’t know. Nelson Mandela was a successful young lawyer with hate in his heart for whites. He did all he could to rid South Africa of the oppression brought on by the whites. He ultimately wound up in prison for acting on these beliefs. In jail he came to the realization that to fight the apartheid with hate would never create a flourishing country…instead the blacks and whites would need to come together under one union. He had an incredible vision…problem was…he was in a jail cell. So he inspired/ empowered everyone he could…he would share the vision with the meanest and the baddest cell guards the prison had. Each one seemed to come out of the discussions sharing the same vision. So the Warden sent tougher guards that wouldn’t budge…same successful results for Mandela. Incredible!!! He would later become the president and not only successfully end apartheid…but end it as a unified country. All done through love and understanding for all people.

This story makes me smile and makes you realize that the world that we all envision is possible…we just have to create it. I know really take a step back before I see true acts of hate…understanding that battling back with hate or angry will only further separate people. Instead it should be seen as an opportunity to rise above and contribute in a positive way.

How A 10 Year Old Inspired Everyone!

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Photo Credit: Our Covers

My girlfriend Catherine helps run an after school program in San Jose called Alma Verde.  The kids range from 5 to 12 which makes for some interesting dynamics between young and older kids.  One of the products of those dynamics are their strong opinions and inquisitive nature.  This naturally makes from great after work storytelling from Cath…

However last week’s story trumps all.  The Alma team ran a simple activity about the reuse of wasteful packaging…in this case gum was passed out to see if the kids can think of innovative ways to reuse the packaging.  This exercise was taken to a level no one anticipated as a 10 year old boy named Jorge spoke from his heart…about gum.  Yes a simple consumer product like gum fueled a fire under Jorge as he exclaimed his concerns he has for this earth and called everyone to action…check out the second hand synopsis below:

Disclaimer: I did not witness this …first hand, so I appologize in advance to Jorge and the Alma team for not doing the event justice.  From what I can judge, no text can embody the events of that day :)

Group:  Everyone passing around the gum packages.  Jorge abruptly stands in front of the entire group.

Jorge: “Why do we need gum?  Why do we spend our precious resources on producing such a pointless product?  Do we need gum to survive…no?  Why do we create something that does not add value to our lives or the earth?

How can we continue to degrade our earth for our simple pleasures?  Gum goes into the ground and adds to the waste of this earth…don’t get me started about the manufacturing and packaging.  We can’t continue to degrade our earth any longer!  We chew gum for what?  So we chew away and  have fresh breath?  Well mother earth is suffering for it!

We must remember…we are simply members of this earth…we don’t own it.

Thank You…”

Group: Cheeerrrrssss loader than I can imagine!

Jorge: “Lets write the President!”

Group: “Yayyyyhhhhh!!!”

A 10 year old boy has inspired his peers, his care providers, myself and hopefully you!  No constraints in his talk and his actions…there is no doubt he will do what it takes to make the world a better place…while bringing others along with him.

If Jorge is a reflection of the future of this world…I think we might actually be able to create a world that works :)

Thank you Jorge!!!!

The Power of the King…A Tale of Empowerment

Monday, January 17th, 2011

MLK

Few times in history has true good prevailed over all other forces.  Martin Luther King was able to invent a world of true good…free of judgement and prejudice while filling the newly empty space it with love and understanding.  Not everyone would subscribe to this new world, however this new world would change everyone’s world for ever!

We live in a cynical world…where it is easier to get caught up in bad then it is to believe in good.  Scarcity of resources and money play a large part in this which make people have to focus on their own self preservation.  Focusing outside oneself is impractical.  That’s why people tend to compare and contrast themselves with other rather than focusing on the affinity that might be there.  When you look beyond yourself true love for other people can be created.  Martin Luther King inspired people to look beyond themselves and brought people together on a human level.

He casted a dream over the nation.  A dream where good prevailed, where understanding and love was created.  He made people enroll themselves in a vision much larger than any one person, a vision that was beyond whites and blacks, it was a world vision where all people can be united regardless of background or circumstance.  He took action and had other take action with him, showing the world that the dream he described was very much a reality for some.

Dr. King empowered millions of people in the short time he had on this earth.  His legacy lives far beyond his life as today many people live in the world of the King.  His tale is beyond leadership, beyond courage…but of transforming a world.  I am not black, only part white…being mixed raced was most likely not even recognized during the civil rights movements; regardless he is a hero of mine.  Him being a hero to me shows that this his imprint on the world goes far beyond race, ethnicity and pigmentation of one’s skin. He empowers the world to think of what is possible and to think of others first.

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