January 22, 2016

AT&T Aspire opens applications for ed-tech accelerator

For-profit and non-profit organizations focused on social impact can apply; relocation not required.

AT&T is looking for local companies working on a product or service that uses technology to support students’ educational and career success.

The company announced it has opened the application process for its AT&T Aspire Accelerator program. The program works with organizations that use technology to help students succeed, strengthen schools and communities, or prepare learners for employment.

Potential areas of focus include mobile applications that drive education outcomes; platforms for teachers, students and/or parents; learning and curriculum management tools; assessment and outcome tracking platforms; and increased access for existing best practices.

Solutions for students at-risk of dropping out of school will receive special consideration.

Aspire Accelerator is part of AT&T’s $350 million commitment to empower students to reach their full potential.

The customized 6-month program includes:

* Aspire Investment – $100,000 AT&T investment and an additional $25,000 for each venture to cover costs of the program. For non-profit companies, the investment will be a general contribution. They receive this in exchange for participating in the Aspire Accelerator and meeting certain requirements, including submitting impact measurements.

* Mentorship – Access to AT&T and external mentors from education and technology.

* National Platform – Inclusion in the broader AT&T Aspire initiative, which is committed to driving innovation in education.

* Flexible Location – Organizations can participate from where they are, without relocating.

Both non-profits and for-profit companies of any size are eligible to apply at aspireaccelerator.fluidreview.com.

Applications will be accepted through February 5. The Aspire Accelerator program will begin in May.

-submitted by AT&T

January 12, 2016

16 concepts from South Florida advance to Knight Cities Challenge finals

An app that allows Miami residents to discuss and vote on actions taken by local government, a culinary incubator in Opa-Locka, a reimagined "Domino Park" and a kayak-sharing program were among 12 concepts chosen as finalists from Miami in the second annual Knight Cities Challenge. Four finalists were also selected from Palm Beach County.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation on Tuesday announced 158 finalists on Tuesday as part of its national call for ideas to make the 26 communities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work. More than 4.500 applicants from across the country entered.

"The finalists reflect what the Knight Cities Challenge is about: uncovering new civic innovators and motivating people to realize ideas big and small that can contribute to the success of their cities," said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives, in announcing the finalists.

Winners, who will receive a share of $5 million to fund their projects, will be announced in the spring. The Miami Science Barge, a floating education center for learning about sustainability and marine life now under construction and aiming to open this year, was one of the 32 winners in the inaugural challenge.

The finalists from Miami, which include one with a concept for multiple cities, are:

Thrive Kitchen by Opa-locka Community Development Corp. (submitted by Aileen Alon): Creating a shared commercial kitchen and business incubator to stimulate Miami's food entrepreneurs in South Florida's underserved communities.

First Taste: Little River by First Taste (submitted by Amy Rosenberg): Enabling food entrepreneurs at a regular food flea market in Little River to showcase their products to the public and grow their businesses.

Orange Blossom Parkway Bicycle and Pedestrian Trail for Proposed Hialeah MarketDistrict by city of Hialeah (submitted by Annette Quintana): Creating an urban linear park connecting Hialeah Market Station and Hialeah Drive to provide residents with a space to walk, bike, play and connect.

Community Asset Platform by Center for Applied Transect Studies (submitted by Hank Dittmar): Creating an online platform that will map neighborhood assets and underused public areas (vacant lots, empty storefronts) and engage residents in redevelopment efforts.

DomiNest by IoCI (submitted by Malik Benjamin): Transforming Miami's iconic “Domino Park” to bring people from diverse backgrounds and ages together for a game of dominos.

Living with Water: Miami Beach Blueways Connector by city of Miami Beach (submitted by Judy Hoanshelt): Creating a kayak-sharing program that will build on Miami's transportation network and introduce people to the city's waterways and unique aquatic ecosystems.

The Underline: Brickell Backyard Outdoor Gym/Sports Field by Friends of The Underline (submitted by Meg Daly): Creating a sports field and gym as part of The Underline, a proposed 10-mile linear park underneath the Miami-Dade Metrorail, to provide quality of life incentives to talented young adults.

BlockWork Miami (submitted by Nassar Farid Mufdi Ruiz): Providing an annual incentive for residents to transform their neighborhoods; residents would nominate a block for revitalization and would restore it if it's chosen to receive funding.

Open Source Democracy by Engage Miami (submitted by Gabriel Pendas): Creating an app that provides information on issues that the Miami-Dade County Commission and other municipalities are voting on, and allows residents to discuss and cast their own vote on how they feel.

Miami Civic User Testing Group by Code for Miami (submitted by Rebekah Monson): Ensuring that people building local government technology use real-world feedback throughout the development process by creating a user testing group that will identify user experience issues more quickly, while making websites and apps more accessible.

Biscayne Green: Pop-Up Park by Miami Downtown Development Authority (submitted by Fabian de la Espriella): Creating a pop-up park and urban forest along Biscayne Boulevard to drive momentum for Biscayne Green, a proposal to redesign Biscayne Boulevard to include a pedestrian promenade.

This Is Home (finalist in category for Multiple Cities) by Global Ties Miami (submitted by Annette G. Alvarez): Welcoming refugee and immigrant families and connecting them with their neighbors and neighborhoods through shared community dinners and cultural experiences.

In Palm Beach County, the finalists are:

Friends of the Quadrille Linear Park (submitted by Aaron Wormus): Taking advantage of the construction around the All Aboard Florida rail service to create a friends' group to work towards a new linear park for downtown West Palm Beach.

Art Avenida by Lake Worth Community Redevelopment Agency (submitted by Joan Olliva): Improving public space in Lake Worth by transforming four downtown intersections with art, light, plantings and structures that celebrate diverse cultures.

A People First Design Criteria for Streets in the City of West Palm Beach by city of West Palm Beach (submitted by Chris Roog): Improving streets and public rights of way by developing design standards that prioritize people over cars.

The Sunset Rises Again! by the City of West Palm Beach (submitted by Jon Ward): Creating a new cultural hub in the Northwest Historic District on the site of a former jazz club and surrounding land.

Find the full list of finalists here.

December 22, 2015

Urban.Us public benefit update: Portfolio startups are reimagining cities, making them better

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Stonly Baptiste, right, with Shaun Abrahamson. Together they founded Urban.Us. Photo by Carl Juste 

By Stonly Baptiste

Cities today create 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and urban populations are set to double by 2050, making climate change a city problem. At the same time, policy, technology, and business interests have aligned uniquely to enable a new generation of entrepreneurs to reimagine cities.

In late 2013, we created Urban.Us to find, fund, and de-risk early-stage startups that make city life (and cities) better.

We are launching the next stage of our efforts in 2016 and now count nineteen companies in the portfolio, with a few more companies to be announced in the coming months.

Looking at our investments so far, they include some of the most promising startups in areas ranging from water and energy conservation to construction automation and law enforcement. We’re usually one of the first investors to work with a founding team and have developed a unique approach to find and support our companies.

We work with a community of investors, experts, governments, and corporations (now more than 850 people) to improve their chances of moving from concept to growth-stage funding (series A). We’ve been fortunate to enjoy support from organizations like the Knight Foundation, the Miami Foundation, and Direct Energy, which helped us organize a summit and showcase in Miami in 2015.

In fact, Miami-Dade County is already seeing some of the benefits from our portfolio companies.

Rachio makes a smart irrigation controller that dramatically reduces water usage (as much as fifty percent of water used outdoors right now is being wasted). In addition to saving money, the aggregate water savings of Rachio customers represent a significant shift in the demand on municipal water supplies. To date, 440,225,274 gallons of water have been saved thanks to Rachio, which is now at the top of Amazon and Home Depot product rankings in its category.

Miami-Dade's Urban Conservation Unit recently announced that Coral Gables is upgrading its potable system to Rachio Iro units.

Skycatch is leading the way in autonomous commercial data acquisition using drones. Skycatch has increased its focus on construction thanks to customers like Komatsu and partners like Autodesk, but it also has customers in areas like disaster response and mining. It has also worked with the FAA and NASA to shape commercial-drone policy and regulations.

In May, the Miami Herald interviewed Trevor Duke, a South Florida-based drone pilot for SkyCatch, about his work using drones to automate processes at construction sites. Bouygues, the French construction and energy conglomerate, has been testing Skycatch’s autonomous system at building sites in Miami since 2014.

Beyond Miami, our portfolio is creating public benefits nationally and even internationally.

HandUp is a platform that allows you to donate directly to a homeless neighbor in need.

They have helped match almost $1 million to over 3,000 specific needs through the platform. The team has begun expanding beyond San Francisco by partnering with community organizations in cities like Denver and Miami.

Dash creates software that help make driving smarter, safer, greener, and more affordable. Downloads of the dash mobile app have topped 250,000 users in 100+ countries—more than all the players in the emerging Connected Car space. It also recently launched a program with Allstate Insurance and the NY Department of Transportation to promote better driving through rewards and incentives.

BlocPower is automating sourcing, energy auditing, retrofit engineering, procurement, and financing processes to bring the best existing tech to low-income neighborhoods, where significant energy savings result in reduced CO2 footprints as well as less stress on community budgets. The team is now serving more than 300 small and medium-sized buildings in Metro New York City and are contracted to retrofit 1,000 to 2,000 buildings over the next three years, a $200 million project financing opportunity.

A few companies we work with are still too early in their development to be reporting public benefits but are showing great progress and promise.

OneConcern is a disaster-solutions company that provides rapid damage estimates across all natural disasters using artificial intelligence on natural phenomena sciences. We’re hoping to count the number of lives saved thanks to OneConcern’s focus on being at the forefront of every emergency.

Mark43 is a cloud-based records management system (RMS) and analysis tool built for and in collaboration with police. The early reports from its first deployment in Washington, DC have been encouraging, and we hope to share data about police hours saved and more as the company deploys to cities around the country.

RadiatorLabs converts old cast-iron radiators into precision heating machines. Its first product, “The Cozy,” is expected to save building owners up to forty percent annually in heating costs. Early deployments will soon be able to share data regarding the operational efficiency and safety the device has produced.

Flair is working on a complete lineup of next-generation heating and cooling products. Its first product is expected to produce huge energy and cost savings for people who want to stay comfortable in their homes and offices.

Our primary focus for our portfolio companies is that they make it through the “valley of death” where they are discovering their product offering, business model and customers. At this point we don’t worry much about impact, only potential impact. As they enter the growth stage, typically around series A funding, the impact begins to scale, too. Our portfolio of investments are on average less than two years old, so we hope to report even more progress next December.

Stonly Baptiste co-founded  Urban.Us with Shaun Abrahamson to fund early-stage companies that make cities better in 2013. He has co-founded or helped run a number of tech companies.

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A panel of experts discusses urban mobility at the Smart City Startups conference in Miami in April, produced and hosted by Urban.Us.

See Miami Herald cover story about Urban.Us published in 2014.

 

August 25, 2015

Green product businesses get help at EcoTech Visions

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BY NANCY DAHLBERG / ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

Everything was humming along for Barbara Jacques (pictured above), who followed her passion and started Jacq’s Organics at her kitchen table. She was selling her all-natural skin, bath and body care products online, at farmers’ markets and charity events, and received favorable reviews and press. Then:

“Six months after I quit my day job and was all in, I got calls from huge companies and we couldn’t fulfill the orders.”

Pandwe Gibson, founder of the incubator EcoTech Visions, doesn’t want cash flow to be an insurmountable hurdle for Jacques or other entrepreneurs. That’s why a big focus of her new program is helping early-stage companies with raising capital and managing manfacturing processes.

Seeing local manufacturing as a job generator and believing local product entrepreneurs were underserved, Gibson opened EcoTech in west MiamiShores to serve green businesses. The current 20 member businesses include Aeolus, an electric motorcycle company; Earthware, a sustainable cutlery maker; Culito de Rana, creator of all-natural topical applications to soothe sunburns and prevent mosquito bites; Precision Barber Club, which makes skin-care products; and Fruit of Life Organics, builder of aquaponic systems.

EcoTech offers coworking space, workshops and mentorship and helps raise capital. Gibson is raising funds herself to add a manufacturing area so that incubator companies can make products onsite. She’s already been granted $450,000 from Miami-DadeCounty; much of that money she makes available to the member companies in the form of $25,000 loans. EcoTech also helped seven of its companies win $10,000 CRA grants to help fund their prototypes.

Gibson is helping three South Florida companies — Earthware, D Squared Engineering and Konie Cups — to pursue a joint school board contract. Developers do that all the time, so why not other companies? she thought. Earthware offers sustainable cutlery, Coney offers cups, and D Squared offers containers.

“Who wouldn’t want a sustainable fork if it costs the same as a plastic fork?” asked Gibson. But a big challenge for these companies is securing large enough contracts to get the manufacturing costs down.

EcoTech also helps entrepreneurs with their investor presentations and encourages them to join pitch competitions. Seven of them will be pitching at the upcoming Thrive Seminar with Daymond John on Thursday.

The incubator also is helping Jacq’s Organics with a business plan, pitch deck, human resources needs, and connections, Jacques said.

Jacq’s Organics curently works out of a 600-square-foot studio in DaniaBeach certified for light manufacturing. Raising capital investment and applying for grants has been a big challenge; investors and granting organizations don’t work on a startup schedule and “you jump through a lot of hoops just to be told no,” she said.

Jacques is now working with a couple of large companies to break up the big orders into more manageable shipments. In one case, she’s filling an order for 200,000 pieces in 60,000 increments, while continuing to service smaller orders from boutique businesses, a never-ending challenge for a small business, she said. “I’m looking at 600 bars of soap right now that I need to get out tonight.” But there are worse problems to have.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

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Michael Caballero, CEO of Earthware, left, and Pandwe A. Gibson, CEO/executive director at EcoTech Visions are photographed at the incubator helping 25 green product companies in the Miami-Dade area. Earthware makes sustainable cutlery. Carl Juste MIAMI HERALD STAFF

 

August 14, 2015

Miami Dade College designated as 1st Ashoka U Changemaker Campus in Southeast

Miami Dade College  has been designated as an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus for being a leader in social innovation education and is the first and only public institution of higher education in the Southeastern United States, joining the world’s largest network of universities focused on social innovation education - the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus network.

Building on Ashoka’s vision for a world where Everyone is a Changemaker, Ashoka U takes an institutional change approach to impact the education of millions of students, including the 165,000 at MDC.

“We are humbled to receive this distinction from such a renowned organization and it affirms the diligent work we have been doing for so many years to provide our students the comprehensive tools for lifelong success and to serve as catalysts for change in our community,” said José A. Vicente, president of the Wolfson Campus at MDC and Ashoka Institutional Champion. “We take the responsibility of being ‘changemakers’ very seriously and look forward to reporting on our progress.” 

As an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, MDC will advance educational pathways that develop interdisciplinary, entrepreneurial and solutions-oriented skills for students. It will launch a college-wide initiative to infuse social innovation into the fabric of the college and create a defined path for all students to become changemakers.

MDC’s Changemaker Campus plan has three key objectives: (1) provide an applied learning environment that will allow students to find their passion while giving meaning to their education; (2) equip students with changemaking skills that are highly valued workforce readiness skills; and (3) design a mechanism to measure impact and success of MDC changemakers. 

This summer, the College launched the “It Takes One” campaign to empower and challenge students, faculty, staff and other members of the community to become changemakers. Campaign activities and events will be announced at various MDC campuses.  

 Ashoka U is regarded for catalyzing social innovation in higher education through a global network of entrepreneurial students, faculty, administrators, staff, and community leaders. Ashoka U Changemaker Campuses include Brown, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Mason, Johns Hopkins, Middlebury, and Tulane, among other top institutions worldwide. 

- submitted by Miami Dade College

 

August 02, 2015

Q&A with Robert Hacker: On scaling social entrepreneurship, finding partners, thinking big

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Hacker picRobert H. Hacker often advises entrepreneurs to go after the “big opportunity.” The same advice holds true for social ventures, and he’s written a new book on it, Scaling Social Entrepreneurship: Lessons Learned from One Laptop per Child, available in  paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.

Hacker, who teaches social entrepreneurship courses at FIU’s Honors College and MIT’s Sloan School, spent 3 1/2 years as CFO of One Laptop Per Child, an organization with a mission to provide every child in the developing world with a connected laptop. Big opportunity, scaled globally. How did the organization do it? One key was by successfully creating the worldwide 1:1 computing for children movement early on, Hacker says.

While improved education worldwide and corporations committing a sliver of their profits would go a long way toward solving the world’s biggest humanitarian problems, Hacker says, the for-profit entrepreneurship model is built for scaling social ventures. Just as with entrepreneurship without the “social” modifier, tackling large, worldwide problems is more effective than tackling smaller problems and you can achieve efficiencies of scale.

Final Cover SSEHow big is the opportunity? The population of the developing world will reach 4 billion by start of the 22nd century and the population of the world’s least developed countries will total another 3 billion people –- a nearly three-fold increase from this century, Hacker writes in the book.  In the book that is well-researched and rich in examples, Hacker, who spent 20 years working in Asia and Latin America and is also the author of Billion Dollar Company, explains ways to scale social entrepreneurial ventures in light of their unique challenges such as lower operating returns and less startup capital.

Hacker, who also manages the GH Capital consultancy and writes the Sophisticated Finance blog, talked with the Miami Herald about his views and work in social entrepreneurship.

Q. Why do you think the private sector can do a better job on social problems than government and non-profits?

A. The private sector represents a better option to solve social problems because they have better access to capital and a history of innovating to solve customer problems. However, now customers expect their brands to be genuinely involved in solving social problems. The private sector now finds it to be in their self-interest to solve the problems if they want to maintain their customer loyalty.

Q. Why do you think that the morality (or lack thereof) of capitalism is a theme that never goes away?

A. The question never goes away because the critics make their case better than the capitalists. But as I quote in the book, The Economist estimates that approximately one billion people escaped poverty in the twenty-year period ending in 2010 through the benefits of capitalism. That fact, and the progress it represents, is hard to legitimately challenge.

Q. Who do you think is the best example of social entrepreneurship today?

A. Toms Shoes. Toms Shoes  has successfully grown a company that is committed to both shareholder returns and social engagement at scale. Its recent private equity investment demonstrates that professional investors see no conflict between the social mission and future financial returns. 

Q. What is the key to scaling social entrepreneurship?

 A. The most important key to scaling social entrepreneurship is not capital or partners but rather to plan from the very beginning to achieve scale.

 Social entrepreneurship by definition has lower financial returns, which means such organizations generate less cash internally. Therefore, these organizations have less ability to iterate on business model due to lower cash reserves. They need to execute well right from the beginning, which requires very careful business model development and planning.

Q. What was the key to OLPC's early success?

A. OLPC's early success is attributable to its achieving the status of a movement, a worldwide movement. Nicholas Negroponte created a learning movement for 1:1 computing for children worldwide. While it might appear a daunting task, I would point out that a young girl from Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai was also able to create a worldwide movement. 

Q. What are three takeaways from your book?

A. Choose for-profit status for a social entrepreneurship project because it gives you better access to capital.

Partner with the private sector because they have the resources and can be motivated to support social projects.

Solve one social problem well and let others solve the myriad of other problems.

Q. Where do you see social entrepreneurship in South Florida?

A. Social entrepreneurship is in its infancy in South Florida but also worldwide. Many people are still not familiar with the concept despite the example of Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank and the teachings of CK Prahalad who coined the phrase "the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid." However, the Honors College at FIU and the University of Miami Business School have active programs to introduce and facilitate student involvement in social entrepreneurship. These efforts, combined with community support from Knight Foundation, the Center for Social Change and EcoTech Vision to name a few, will increase awareness of social entrepreneurship and generate positive results in the community.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

July 21, 2015

National Urban League 'hacking' a path to social justice in Fort Lauderdale

Some of the nation’s brightest minds in tech will be working around the clock at the National Urban League 2015 Conference, designing original applications to alleviate the most pressing social issues of our day.

“More and more, the fight for social justice is being waged online,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “The new face of civil rights is young, educated and tech-savvy. And these 21st-Century civil rights defenders are developing the 21st-Century tools they need.”

Hosted by the National Urban League in partnership with Digital Grass, the two-day “TechConnect: Hack-A-Thon for Social Justice,” presented by Comcast NBCUniversal, will take place from 5 pm Thursday, July 30, to 6:30 pm Friday, July 31.

 "Digital Grass is honored to help with civic hacking in our community" Digital Grass Founder and CEO Michael Hall said.  "It's important to not just develop social apps but software and applications that can help with civic innovation and improve the quality of life for our core urban community. This event is the right step in that direction."

TechConnect provides a space for innovators to design original social justice applications, specifically those in tune with this year's Conference theme, “Save Our Cities: Education, Jobs, and Justice.” At least one of the top resulting application/software will be implemented by the Urban League to enhance civic engagement, voting, education equity, housing, health, justice and job creation in urban communities

Developers, designers, civic leaders and creative thinkers are all invited to be among the first to create solutions to Save Our Cities and compete for $2,500 in cash and $25,000 in prizes.

WHAT: “TechConnect: Hack-A-Thon for Social Justice,” to develop innovative and impactful tech solutions to address some of the nation's biggest problems in the areas of public safety, voting, education, jobs, housing or health. 

WHERE: Greater Fort Lauderdale / Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd. • Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316

WHEN: Intro and Information will take place July 30; the Hackathon will take place July 31.

COST: Free Entry Fee for Competitors

TO REGISTER:  nultechconnect.digigrass.com

Press release supplied by Digital Grass

 

 

July 08, 2015

South Florida natives start New Story to crowdfund homes for Haiti

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The New Story co-founders: from left: Mike Arrieta, Matthew Marshall, Alexandria Lafci and Brett Hagler in front of one of the tents in Lévêque, Haiti.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Brett Hagler saw the squalid and unsafe conditions that Haitians live in every day in vast tent cities. And now with the power of the crowd, his tech startup is moving the families one by one into homes of their own.

Hagler, who grew up in Coral Springs, started New Story, a nonprofit crowdfunding site in which 100 percent of donations go to building small, hurricane-resistant concrete houses in Haiti. Seven months ago, he and his small team quickly built a website, newstorycharity.org, and tested the model with one family and one home. That worked and New Story kept going.

Now in San Francisco and part of the summer class of the well-regarded Silicon Valley accelerator Y-Combinator, Hagler and the team have finished 62 homes and are scaling up with an ambitious summer goal: 100 homes in 100 days. Right now, New Story is focused on a large tent slum in Lévêque, Haiti, 40 minutes from Port-au-Prince.

“We are moving the families from the tent slum to a new community nearby,” said Hagler, New Story’s CEO. “We have 152 to go. Our goal is to deplete that as soon as possible, and when we’ve done that we are starting a new story for these families.”

New Story works like this. A family needing a home is featured on newstorycharity.org. For example in one current campaign, you could meet melon farmer Marie Odette, who has been living in a tent and separated from her children because of the tent city’s unsafe conditions. Once the family is funded — when it reaches $6,000 in donations for a 388-square foot, three-room concrete home built to Miami-Dade County building standards, Hagler says — Haitian construction workers get to work and a home with a front porch and garden for the family goes up within about two months. Funders, whether they donated $5 or $6,000, see the progress of their project every step of the way, and are sent a video on move-in day. New Story partners with Mission of Hope, a local organization that has been building homes in Haiti for 16 years.

 

Hagler started New Story with his best friend since middle school, Mike Arrieta. Both went to high school at Coral Springs Christian Academy, graduated in 2008 and then went off to different colleges (Hagler to Florida State and Arrieta to Alabama). Arrieta is also living in San Francisco and is on the board of New Story. Also on the team: Matthew Marshall and Alexandria Lafci.

Hagler and Arrieta visited a tent city as part of a personal trip in the summer of 2013, three years after the devastating earthquake that killed more than 300,000 and left 1.5 million homeless. “You don’t have a safe home in this environment — theft, child abduction, rape. Kids couldn’t go to school. Parents couldn’t work a full day because their kids weren’t safe,” said Hagler. “That broke my heart.”

Their solution: to give the Haitians new homes and change their life trajectory. “The best way people can help is to fund a home,” Hagler said.

New Story is focusing first on Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Building permanent houses has been the biggest challenge in Haiti since the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, and problems with housing and fund-raising efforts have been well documented, including a recent report by ProPublica and NPR that the Red Cross had raised $500 million but only built six homes. Not surprisingly, people may be wary of fundraising efforts in Haiti, even though about 60,000 are still living in tents five years after the disaster. New Story attempts to make the process as transparent as possible, not only with frequent updates to donors but a cost breakdown on the website. Said Hagler: “Don’t let headlines deter you from giving because these people still need homes, and we are going to do it with full transparency and accountability and show it to you.”

New Story says 100 percent of donations ($372,000 so far) go to the projects; New Story also has raised money from its “investors” — so far it has raised $140,000 for operations and administrative costs, most of that from Y-Combinator.

New Story was set up as a nonprofit, but Hagler says it operates no differently than any of the high-growth for-profits in the Y-Combinator accelerator or elsewhere. The goal is revenues, lots of them, and rapid expansion to other areas of the world. The only difference is that all the revenues are going to the families and New Story’s investors are getting a social ROI, he said.

New Story plans to expand to help other areas in the future but that summer trip to Haiti in 2013 left a lasting impression on Hagler: “New Story will always be in Haiti.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

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One of the small homes funded by New Story's crowdfunding platform, above. New homes mean income opportunities for Melicia, who sells food and sweets at her stand, below. 

 

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FIND OUT MORE

To fund a family: newstorycharity.org

More info: Reach Brett Hagler at brett@newstorycharity.org

 

June 07, 2015

Miami joins global event focused on government innovation

 

By Ezequiel Williams

 This year Miami will join the Global GovJam, a global workshop focused on making government more innovative and user-friendly, for the first time. On June 10 - 11 Miami GovJam participants will join people in 37 other cities around the world in a global event aimed at teaching and practicing innovation techniques to government workers and people passionate about civic life.

The GovJam movement started in Canberra, Australia in 2012 with a group of 80 people. In the months that followed the same people were inspired to scope or launch over a dozen innovative public projects as a result of the event. In 2013 innovation consultants Markus Hormess and Adam Lawrence of WorkPlayExperience took the event global, bringing close to 30 cities on board. The Global GovJam is now a growing, volunteer-run event aimed at bringing together people around the world to learn innovative problem-solving skills and techniques aimed at making government services more responsive and user-friendly.

In the past two years the the GovJam has attracted several senior civil servants, city mayors, the head of the UK’s Cabinet Office Policy Lab, and the Australian Federal Minister (assisting) for industry, innovation and tertiary education. The Australian government has since used the event format for training and policy development. The 2013 Paris GovJam took place in the office of the Prime Minister of France.

The Miami GovJam offers local government workers and other professionals the opportunity to learn and practice design thinking techniques applicable to government in a hands-on, project-driven workshop. Participants, also known as GovJammers, will work in small teams around a common design theme for the purpose of conceiving, designing, and prototyping a new public service that is responsive and user-friendly. Jammers will publish short videos of their prototypes on the Global GovJam website under a Creative Commons license to widely share their projects.

Design thinking is a method of creative problem solving that focuses on creating innovative solutions that are user-friendly, efficient, and responsive to people’s real needs. This approach has gained significant traction in the private, public, and education sectors in the last decade. The government in the United Kingdom routinely uses design thinking for problem-solving, and Australia's Taxation Office, their equivalent to the IRS, has successfully employed design thinking to maker their services more accessible and user-friendly for its constituents. Several U.S. Federal Government agencies have begun to incorporate design thinking in their work in the past five years, including the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, FEMA, and Veterans Affairs.

Far from being a novelty, organizations that are serious about employing design thinking at the core of their operations show substantial positive results. The Design Management Institute, with funding from Microsoft, is tracking the performance of U.S. companies that employ design thinking at the core of their business strategy. Results show that companies like Apple, Target, IBM, Coca-Cola and other design-centric companies have outperformed the S&P 500 by as much as 219% in the last 10 years.   

Employing design thinking practices in local government in Miami could yield tangible results in terms of cost reduction, increased customer satisfaction and revenues. The Miami GovJam will offer Miamians a chance to get connected with a global community, learn design thinking tools and methods, build their creative confidence, network with colleagues from other governments and agencies, and sharpen their ability to innovate and make a measurable difference in the public sector.  

The Miami GovJam volunteer hosts are Siggi Bachmann, Creative Director of the New World Symphony, Vassoula Vassiliou, branding consultant and President of the AIGA, and Ezequiel Williams, co-founder and Chief Insights Officer of Contexto, a service design and innovation consultancy.

The Miami GovJam starts at 8:00 AM on June 10th at the Wynwood Warehouse Project. To learn more about or register for the event, visit www.miamigovjam.com or follow it on Twitter @MiamiJams #GGovJam.

Ezequiel Williams is an entrepreneur, business designer, and co-founder of Contexto. You can connect with him on Twitter @ContextoTweets.

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L.A. GovJammers testing prototypes with citizens on the street. Photo courtesy of Global GovJam

 

June 06, 2015

Fla. CFO Atwater, other government leaders join #HackforChange

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 Florida CFO Jeff Atwater talks with developers and designers at the LAB Miami.

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater spent his Saturday morning with a Miami coworking space full of young hackers. “I'm normally in a coat and tie -- this is dress down day for me -– but I see I have something to learn,” he joked.

The occasion was #HackforChange, part of the National Day of Civic Hacking in which technologists, designers, entrepreneurs and  nonprofit and government leaders come together to hack technological solutions to community problems by using using open government data. South Florida’s event at The LAB Miami in Wynwood, put on by Code for Miami, attracted about 100 participants. Also onhand were Mike Sarasti, program manager with Miami-Dade County, and Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso.  Miami-Dade County also recently partnered with Code for America, and a trio of fellows is working on civic projects for a year.

Hackers with two all-volunteer groups, Code for Miami and Code for Fort Lauderdale, meet about one evening a week to work on civic projects, such as an inexpensive bus traffic application that was developed recently. For this full day event, teams were working on challenges such as climate change, transportation and disaster relief -– all hot-button issues in Miami. They will likely continue working on their projects in the weekly gatherings.

But the state challenge put forth by Atwater on Saturday was the first time state data has been used in a hacking challenge. Six years of state vendor payment data was made available to civic hackers to come up with solutions on how to best use the data to result in improved services. "Imagine if we could turn loose on the state of Florida an understanding of how this all works?," Atwater said in opening remarks to the event participants. "You are going to give us a chance to open a new window to get better at what we do, to service Floridians better, to make us better."

Atwater explained that $50  billion of the $80 billion state budget goes to vendors to provide services  and it would be useful to have a better way to read and understand the vendor payment data in order to help a variety of constituencies, including the press, determine whether the public’s money is being used optimally.

 “The data will help present the questions that need to be asked,” Atwater explained to a group of hackers who were brainstorming solutions. "There will be no place to hide."

The hackers will work on the their challenges all day and then present them to the group in the early evening. Organizations in  Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville as well as around the nation are also working on challenges. Unlike other hackathons, there are no prizes, no winners. "We are about collaboratiion, not competition," said Code for Miami co-captain Cristina Solana.

“You are putting your skills into action to help your neighbors and that means a lot,” Code for Miami co-captain Rebekah Monson told the crowd to kick off #HackforChange. “You want Miami to change, you want Florida to change, … and you are the people make it happen.”

After the event, Solana said there were two concepts developing using the state vendor data that would help visualize department spending. Other concepts included an application for mapping chemicals in water, another for helping you find a safe place during a natural disaster via text or online, and several ideas aimed at improving mass-transit usage or efficiency.
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 Another group at The LAB Miami brainstorms disaster relief applications. Photos by Nancy Dahlberg