Si-Kanda Vermiculture Center Oaxaca

So excited we supported Sikanda in the development of their new vermiculture training center in Oaxaca just launched!

Ecological leadership among students and awareness of the situation of trash pickers (pepenadores)

Economic diversification of trash pickers (production of organic compost and sale of other recyclable products)

Reduction of sanitary hazards (work supplies and equipment and improvement of homes)

and now...their vermiculture center in Tule Oaxaca trains Oaqueno communities how to take organic waste and turn it into fertilizer that can be sold to support their livelihood. 

                                          The Oaxaca dump where Si-Kanda works



none of us is as smart as all of us

The Right People are Showing Up for This Year’s SOCAP Barn Raising
Posted by Kevin Jones on March 28th, 2013

Somebody told me this morning that, though she’s fully engaged and willing to help raise more funds around the project we are working on together, she knew that I was trying to build something beyond just this project, that this project was just a part of something bigger. But she wasn’t sure of just what the whole picture looked like.

“If you get everything you want funded, what would that look like?” she asked. “If we get funding for everything I want to get funded, and people sign up,” I told her, “my five- and eight-year-old grandsons will live in a more connected but locally resilient world with better tools to adapt.”

As one aspect of that meta endeavor, teams are coming together to build various parts of the projects that will show up at SOCAP13, with the conference being kind of a milestone to show their progress and help motivate them to reach goals.
Joseph Steig, yesterday, signed up to lead the mobile, digital, and device portion of the content in the health track at SOCAP13. He’s the driving force that could result (pending board approval) in Village Capital launching a health-focused cohort of its seed-funding program. It would launch the first week of September in San Francisco during SOCAP13.
Also on board in that emerging collaborative are the women from RIVET – Amy Lockwood and Leslie Ziegler – who are focused on creating the first digital health accelerator that’s focused on the developing world.

They will have Indian-based entrepreneurs and American-based entrepreneurs focused on mobile, digital, and devices to serve the market of the poor in India, with the idea that some Jugaad innovation – some innovation created in the unique environments of India – will come to the west once they get it going. Ziegler was a co-founder and Creative Director at Rock Health, a San Francisco-based incubator for early-stage domestic digital health start-ups. So, though her new accelerator is internationally focused, we’re going to rely on her expertise and connections to guide us to the best Bay Area and Silicon Valley-based startups.

Our domain expert in health is Dr. Doug Jutte, a neonatologist and public health and population expert who leads a new research facility funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Jutte brings in the lens of housing and health now seen through a holistic lens by affordable housing and public health practitioners as a tool that is starting to transform the system, lowering costs while it improves health for individuals, families and communities. Up until a couple of years ago, people working on affordable housing did not talk or share notes with people working on health care, even though they often focused on the same people living in the same apartments. A holistic approach is proving to be the way to create healthy communities at lower cost.
One of our key design principles is that we at SOCAP create the intersections where you meet valuable strangers. To get the most out of that, you have to know how to partner quickly, flexibly, and understand the rapid math of give and get as those partnerships emerge.

Amy Lockwood, of RIVET, does that well. RIVET is in partnership talks with Dasra, the India-based accelerator, and will be part of the Sankalp event, and plans to be involved at other venues as well. It’s easier to partner with people who have a clear partnership strategy and know how to make projects come together, and Amy Lockwood seems to be particularly good at those aspects. I’m glad to be part of helping her and her team reach their goals, using our convening platform as a way to coalesce resources toward a timeline where things show up at SOCAP13, then using the conference and the people gathered to add momentum.

For the Village Capital / RIVET working sessions at SOCAP, which will be open to the public, we are going to use the Good Pitch format that my business partner, Tim Freundlich, has used well before. The format allows alphas for a project to get to show their generativity instead of their teeth, by either a) offering an idea, b) offering a referral or c) offering a follow-up meeting. Compared with other similar set-ups, the Good Pitch format is more a porpoise pool than a shark tank.
If you want to learn how to be an effective investor or mentor to a fast-moving startup in a hot sector where there is deep mission insurance; where the technologies are targeting diseases that mostly afflict poor people, for example, these Good Pitch sessions with VilCap and RIVET – assuming we pull them off – should be ideal.

If we don’t achieve that jointly timed launch, we can talk about the process of moving together toward that goal and where we each are heading, and how we are collaborating; the organizational and scheduling and curriculum overlap ties might need to be looser than we imagine at first; we don’t know yet.

In the meantime, VilCap has signed up to help RIVET figure out a lot of the elements of their launch, answering questions and providing guidance. They’ve been doing that for other accelerators for a while now, some not at all focused in the innovation space.
We’re also glad to see our own HUB Ventures “spin out” from the HUB and SOCAP “incubator” and go out on its own. Wes Selke and Rick Moss have done a great job with it: some graduating companies have been invested in by top-tier firms like Andreessen Horowitz, some have raised multiple millions in follow-on rounds, and one has sold for $15 million, looking just at the financial side of their success. And many of the surviving companies are doing really good and increasingly big and important things in the world, in the United States, and some locally in San Francisco on the impact side. We look forward to continuing to work with them and continuing to make the HUB platform a core of what HUB Ventures offers.

A SOCAP conference is a circus led by volunteer teams like the ones I’ve written about here. The goal is that they show up as real, and moving toward solid achievements by September, but they are usually just in active formation at this time of the year. It’s like a collectively-built barn-raising version of Cirque du Soleil to save the world. It’s kind of a wild ride.

We have discovered that our platform helps people be a little more daring, a little braver, together, than they would otherwise be, to tell a little bit bigger story, about where they want to go, and that somehow, doing that helps them get a little farther than if our platform didn’t exist. We enable a kind of emergent innovation and daring for people who want to redesign our economic system on the fly. People are bringing their A-game this year. It should be fun.

We are also finalizing plans to have Ben Metz run the panel picker tool and process, so that 20% or so of the content at the conference is crowdsourced, with the community coming up with the content and voting it in. We don’t have all the answers. So, we are building in collective intelligence tool methodology at every point in the process that we can, thus creating a wider diversity of input as we start to build a networked system.
The overall conceit, the dream of the conference is that we are building an operating system to accelerate the good economy, using a phrase that our producer and my wife, Rosa Lee Harden, borrowed with permission from Colin Mutchler of Louder. We borrow from everybody.

Mark Beam, a SOCAP co-founder now with Halloran Philanthropies, provided a lot of the ethos behind our collaborative approach. We just want to assemble the smartest tables; we don’t have to be the smartest people at the table. SOCAP is a collective intelligence product.



Why Oaxaca is the perfect place for a retreat

Republished from

We had the chance to spend most of February in Oaxaca, Mexico. It was an incredible time and something every company should consider doing (here are the reasons why).

But we also were very fortunate in our choice of location. I personally could not imagine a better work environment that was both relaxed and productive, challenging and beautiful. Every Mexican’s eyes seem to light up when they heard the name “Oaxaca.” Here are some reasons why you should consider Oaxaca for your next retreat:

A place to be productive.

We looked into several different places with warm climates. In most of these places, however, the whole team would have had to work from home or in cafés. But not in Oaxaca. The Hub Oaxaca is part of a worldwide network of co-working spaces and provides an amazing oasis of creativity and collaboration in the midst of Oaxaca’s old city. We rented a dedicated office space, but also really enjoyed working from the many spacious common areas (both inside and outdoors).

We were worried about internet speeds. Holstee can’t do much without fast, reliable wifi. And despite warning stories that we would regularly face 56kbit/s modems in Mexico, we often found very fast connections within the Hub and our temporary home.

There are also lots of beautiful cafés to work from in Oaxaca if you want a change of scenery. We were surprised by how many of them offered fast wifi options as well. Our favorite café to work from was clearly Cafe Brujula, with its beautiful courtyard and fantastic cappuccinos. 

A place to be inspired and learn from others.

There is an extremely entrepreneurial community in Oaxaca and the Hub Oaxaca is at the very heart of it. Through the guidance of Mark Beam, founder of the Hub, we learned that Oaxaca was not just a beautiful colonial city, but also home to many amazing social entrepreneurs. Meeting folks like the founders of Colectivo 1050, the organizers of the Catapulta Innovation Festival and some of the other amazing artisans and manufacturers in the area, opened our eyes to totally new ways of doing things in the startup space.

Mexico, as said in this New York Times article, is so much more than a fast developing country: it just might become one of the strongest economic forces worldwide within the coming decade. And in Oaxaca you can be sure to meet some of the people who will make that happen.

An amazing place to visit.

Contrary to most foreigners’ assumptions, Mexico is not a war zone area dominated by drug gangs, fighting and other danger. Actually, quite the opposite is true for the Oaxaca region. It is a very safe area, and walking around late at night I felt safer than I would in NYC. 

Oaxaca is a great size; it’s small enough to feel cozy, but still big enough to have a lot to offer: the food options are incredible and many of the restaurants serve delicious, local, fresh food. From Biznaga to Los Danzantes, the range goes from local stand to five-star fancy.

An accessible and affordable place.

Even though Oaxaca sounds like it’s far away, the flight is just a couple of hours from most US cities. The city even has its own small airport with direct to both Mexico City and Houston.

It also doesn’t hurt that, compared to places in the US or Europe, spending a whole month in Oaxaca is very affordable. 

How did we do it?

- Accommodation: we rented this beautiful big house on AirBnB and this amazing beach house just outside Puerto Escondido.
- Office: we worked from the Hub Oaxaca and rented a dedicated office within this space. They have fast, reliable internet, meeting space, a kitchen, printers, anything you might need.
- Flights: we flew with United Airlines to Houston with a direct connection into Oaxaca’s airport, just a 20 minute taxi ride outside of town. 
- Transportation: there was no need to rent a car; we just grabbed taxis or busses as needed, which worked out great.
- Communication: there are plenty of places with fast and reliable internet. We also brought an old phone and got a local sim card, which was handy to call taxis and communicate.

If you want help with planning send an email to the folks at Catapulta:



Take Five

Mr. Brubeck once explained succinctly what jazz meant to him. “One of the reasons I believe in jazz,” he said, “is that the oneness of man can come through the rhythm of your heart. It’s the same anyplace in the world, that heartbeat. It’s the first thing you hear when you’re born — or before you’re born — and it’s the last thing you hear.”



act like a buddha until you become one

Simple but deep TED talk on body language and how it shapes who you are. Starting with recognition or awareness that you are encountering a situation you want to transform, then an intention to change your body language (standing in a position of power for example for 2 minutes) that leads to chemical changes in your body (higher testosterone, lower cortisone for example), that allows your body to transform your mind and thus your reality. So awareness to intention through body language to transformation.

This seems like scientific backing for a practice Diamond Way Buddhist Lama Ole recommends: "behave like a Buddha until you become a Buddha. Be the best you can until it's second nature, and then act from there." 



10 Occupy Wall Street poster designs I think are super cool, followed by some personal observations about how the visual language of Occupy has evolved.



Giving Pledge Billionaires Discuss Impact Investing

More evidence the Impact Investing movement is accelerating is the discussion Giving Pledge billionaires had at a second meeting in Santa Barbara...Impact Investing a hot topic..

"The Santa Barbara gathering was evidence of a rapid evolution of the Giving Pledge from a collection of individual promises into a movement focused on collectively achieving results. Whereas last year's meeting was largely a “get to know you”, according to its host, Mr Case, this year's was a “serious conversation about lessons learned.” It included a discussion on the role of philanthropy in society, led by David Rubenstein, a private-equity tycoon, which stressed the growing need for public-private partnerships to solve society's toughest problems. There were also sessions on reforming education, medical research, tackling poverty, giving outside America and how philanthropists can better collaborate with each other."

"The hottest topic, says Mr Case, was “impact investing”, a phrase describing how to invest money to make profits and do good at the same time. Although Mr Buffett is sceptical about the idea, many of the other attendees were so gripped that they plan to convene a follow-up discussion on it. This focus on being an effective philanthropist addresses one of the many criticisms of the Giving Pledge, namely that it emphasised how much a person gives rather than how much difference their giving makes."

Full article here.