Social change work is hard and frustrating and wonderful and terrible; it is also, at times, funny, quirky and just plain fascinating. With this blog we hope to capture all that goes into what we do at Capital Good Fund, and we invite you to join the conversation!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pragmatic Idealism

A central aspect of my job and life as a social entrepreneur, social crusader and poet is to inspire and empower others to follow their dreams and, in turn, better the world.  Indeed, one of my favorite sayings is that there is nothing more beautiful than a life well-lived.  Unfortunately, there are so many obstacles to living the lives we wish to lead: societal and parental pressure, the imperative to earn money to pay off student loans, a lack of supports and examples for those seeking to do bold things, and so on.  

As a result, far too few people do what it is they truly want to do, and this has horrible consequences for the individual and for society as a whole.  After all, in the year 2013 we can no longer justify social or environmental injustice with the argument that we don’t have the capacity to solve them: we have all the technology, the money, the wealth, the examples and the business models needed to eradicate poverty, avoid climate change, and so on.  What’s lacking, then, is the will to do so. And as I often argue, there is a significant disconnect between our will and our desire--for how many of us want to see a better world?  I’d venture that the vast majority of us long for that.  So what’s the problem? Simply put, because we feel incapable of living up to our ideals we often pursue careers that, at best, are neutral and, at worst, negatively impact the world.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

McDonalds, Apple and Capital Good Fund

I recently wrote in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) about the importance of considering competitive advantage in the non-profit space.  My argument there was that, unlike conventional wisdom, non-profits do compete: for funding, for clients, for partnerships and for the tone of public discourse.   That line of thinking has been transformational for Capital Good Fund (CGF), both in terms of the products and services we offer, as well as how we offer them.  For instance, we now market our one-on-one Financial Coaching service as a benefit that employers can offer to employees and schools can provide to parents; in so doing, we are able to secure fee-for-service contracts that are significant sources of revenue for the organization.

Yet for all the good stuff going on at CGF, as well as in the social sector as a whole, we still have a fundamental problem: 1 out of 3 Americans is either in poverty or perilously close to it (there are numerous other social and environmental challenges, of course).  This is despite the fact that there are over 1.5 million nonprofits in the US (including charities, foundations, chambers of commerce, etc.).  Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a relation between the growth in the number of charitable organizations and a decrease in the social/environmental problems they seek to alleviate.