In this week's Innovation,
we recognize the Acara Institute
Social entrepreneurs are defined by Ashoka as "ambitious and persistent," by Nicholas Kristof as "the 21st-century answer to the student protesters of the 1960s." They are known for tackling major social issues and then organizing and managing ventures that create wide-scale social change.
With a background in technology and business development, and a dedication to exploration and collaboration, Fred Rose co-founded the Acara Institute – now part of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment – to create business models that address our pressing global challenges.
"I wanted to work with social entrepreneurs and I wanted to work with universities," said Rose, "so Acara brings together diverse minds in academia and industry to explore social issues with an end goal of implementing sustainable business solutions."
Acara designed a curriculum for universities that encourages collaboration, entrepreneurship and sustainable design for social change. Acara provides students with access to a network of mentors, online lectures, successful business plans, and most importantly, connects each college classroom with a partner university overseas.
One major component of the curriculum is the Acara Challenge -- a competition to develop the most usable, sustainable business plan for a given topic. The 2009 Acara Challenge urged students to design a way to provide clean water to the slums of Mumbai. Students based abroad engaged in on-the-ground research to understand community issues while looking for economic value propositions and solutions while American students, with the help of corporate business developers and designers, helped apply theory to the problem-solving process. The winning proposal combined source water storage with UV water treatment and a distribution system to supply clean, low-cost water to community participants.
According to Rose, "One of the unique challenges has been the cross cultural communication. Students use Google talk and Skype, but there is a big difference between chatting about music and chatting about society’s greatest needs."
This same challenge also represents one of the most innovative aspects of Acara: perspective. "We are combining many ideas from vastly different cultures and backgrounds to find solutions to social challenges. Across cultures, we look at problems very differently," said Rose.
The 2010 Challenge engaged eight American universities and six Indian universities. Winners were partners University of Illinois-Chicago and Vellore Institute of Technology for their JAL Water for Life program; and partners India Institute of Technology-Roorkee and University of Minnesota for their Bioserv program.
The Acara Challenge concludes with the Summer Institute: the winning teams spend 3-4 weeks immersed in the community to validate or invalidate assumptions of their business plan.
"By providing students with an insight into global problems and exposing them to various collaboration methods, students have used real world tools to package products in a deliverable system to impact change," said Rose. A new generation of global leaders, or social entrepreneurs, is being formed.
This year Acara worked together with 3M and developed Sales for Social Impact (SSI), which is a program like the Acara Challenge but rather than a business plan, SSI teams deliver a a formal sales plan that addresses social venture sales efforts. Acara found that many social ventures have an existing product or service to serve their market, but struggle to sell it.
SSI launched this month and includes Baylor, DePaul, Indiana, Houston, North Carolina A&T, Southern and St. Catherine University. By the end of the course, students will have formulated original research questions and generated new market research to create a sales plan for a real product. During this process, students will also gain holistic and empathetic views of their customers.
According to Rose, "The success of this experience has been convening people who want to do the right thing and who know how to do the right thing."
For more information on Acara Institute, please contact:
CEO and Co-Founder
The Tasks of Effective Collaborative Leaders: Leader to Leader Journal Excerpt
by Russ Linden
If you're representing your organization in a partnership or alliance -- within or across organizational boundaries -- and you want to exert positive leadership for the group, your (unwritten) job description includes the following tasks:
- Articulate the project's purpose in a way that excites others.
- Be an effective convener: get the appropriate people to the table and keep them there.
- Help the participants see their common interests, and the benefits possible through joint effort.
- Generate trust.
- Help the participants design a transparent, credible process.
- Assist the participants in win-win negotiations to meet three related interests.
- Make relationship building a priority for the group.
- See that there's a senior champion for the effort.
- Help everyone engage in collaborative problem solving, and make creative use of their diverse viewpoints when differences arise.
- Celebrate small successes, share credit widely.
- Provide confidence, hope, resilience.
Read full article
The Leader to Leader Institute, established in 1990 as the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management, furthers its mission by providing social sector leaders with the essential leadership wisdom, inspiration and resources to lead for innovation and to build vibrant social sector nonprofit organizations.
It is this essential social sector, in collaboration with its partners in the private and public sectors, that changes lives and builds a society of healthy children, strong families, decent housing, good schools, work that dignifies, all embraced by the diverse, inclusive, cohesive community that cares about all of its people.
September 16, 2010
Mission: To strengthen the leadership of the social sector
The award-winning journal, Leader to Leader, offers cutting edge thinking on leadership, management and strategy with contributions by today’s top thought leaders.