Jonathan Golden Finding Impact

FIP 024: Finding Your Calling, with Jonathan Golden

Jonathan setup a coffee company with a conscience – called Land of a 1000 Hills – which provides employment and community investments to over 2,500 Rwandan farmers and their families. He’s also a business coach, a priest and a public speaker, and a true adventurer in social enterprise. In his book Be You. Do Good: Having the Guts to Pursue What Makes You Come Alive, Jonathan gives plenty of advice on how to find your calling. We dig into that process, which he also uses in his coaching sessions, and we talk about his journey as a social entrepreneur.

On this episode, we discussed:

  • Taking action: the balance of just getting things done versus time for strategic analysis.
  • Jonathan’s journey as a social entrepreneur, which started with an idea and he gathered a few people together, but hit a brick wall when no one did anything.
  • So he took the action himself and made the first step.
  • Acting on an inkling, or “your gut”, which was the element of risk, matched with a little bit of research. That was the beginning of his business, which is now selling coffee in shops across America.
  • An idea is no good, unless you can take a step today. Don’t put it off.
  • The importance of listening and getting the market’s feedback.
  • The method of finding your calling: the 7 principles of life’s calling which Jonathan explains in his book: Be You. Do Good.
  • When figuring out your purpose and clarifying what’s important to you, it’s useful to think what you would do if you only had one year to live.
  • On finding your passion, find out what gets your blood boiling or makes your heart sing.
  • When looking for your calling, finding out who are the people groups that you’re most compelled to serve. Who do you want to help the most?
  • On where to direct your work, identify the places that you relate with and the places that resonate with you.
  • Understand the concept of “A provision for living” i.e. not how much you want, but how much you need.
  • Discover your proficiency – look at your talents, your knowledge area, your skills. Look at what you can do, to help you discover your life’s calling.
  • Finally, all the above is tied together with a plan – a plan to implement.
  • Our calling, or life’s work, should be very close to the way we played as kids – don’t overthink it. Do what comes natural, and makes you come alive.
  • We all need mentors and guides to help us follow our life’s calling – just like our community provided in years gone by. This is why coaching is so important in our professional lives.


Connect with Jonathan:


Xavier Helgesen Finding Impact

FIP 023: Local Talent and Learning to be a CEO, with Xavier Helgesen

Xavier is a veteran entrepreneur, having founded two million-dollar businesses in his 20’s, including Better World Books – a profitable social venture with $60M in revenue selling books online to fund literacy. In 2011 he received a Skoll scholarship to study an MBA at Oxford Saïd Business School, and it was there that he became obsessed with energy access. So in 2012, after Oxford, he landed in Tanzania with just a business plan and some seed funding to kick off Off Grid Electric, the world’s first distributed clean energy utility, providing affordable, solar energy to households that struggle with spotty or nonexistent grid access. They sell solar energy systems on a pay-as-you-go, lease-to-own model – costing some homes as little as $7 a month.
There he started everything from scratch, building the hardware side, the sales & distribution component, the consumer finance piece, and finally the software to track and monitor the hardware.

On this show, you’ll hear:

  • Why Xavier went after energy as his problem to solve.
  • How they made the decision of which country to expand to and the strategy they employed for expansion, including setting up dedicated expansion team.
  • The practical approach to discovering their expansion market.
  • The kinds of talents the expansion team need to have.
  • What their first milestone of customer sales were, that proved the broader market to their investors.
  • Why local staff and not expats are key to embedding faster and achieving sales, and who deeply know the local market.
  • Some of Xavier’s hard won lessons, that he’d definitely try to avoid next time.
  • What Xavier had to learn and get good at as the company grew, and how he thinks about talent and building a team.
  • About the role of a CEO and some tips for how entrepreneurs can grow into the role.
  • The role of mentors and peer relationships, in terms of their skills and expertise that you can specifically learn from.


Contact Xavier

Carne Ross Finding Impact

FIP 022: Creating Your Own Political Strategy, with Carne Ross

Carne Ross is a Skoll Awardee and TED speaker. He’s a principled man, having walked away from his diplomatic career in the British Government in protest over the Iraq war. The non-profit he founded, called Independent Diplomat, is geared towards tackling the imbalance between the diplomatic processes and those affected by the decisions made in diplomatic processes.

In this episode, Carne talks us through nine principles for action that changemakers can use to create their own political strategy.

Some of the things you’ll learn on this podcast include:

  • The three creative tools of diplomacy, including public relations, international law, and political strategy.
  • Political strategy is where you try to understand who are the political decision makers and why they are making those decisions, and then think up ways to shift the outcomes towards your desired goal.
  • Excavate your convictions is about defining the thing you care most about and making that your calling. Focus on what makes you angry.
  • Who’s got the money, who’s got the gun? is about finding out who’s got the power so you can be most efficient in your actions.
  • Demonizing the person sitting on the other side of the table in government is not the most effective way to influence them. Far better by being respectful to them and having a conversation to find out their reasons for their course of action, and then offering an alternative route forward after thorough analysis.
  • The best piece of advice from Carne, on utter determination.


Connect with Carne:


Jonathan_Lewis Finding Impact Podcast

FIP 021: A Fireside Chat with Jonathan Lewis

Jonathan is a social entrepreneur and social justice advocate, as can be seen from his illustrious career in a life of purpose. He’s started a fund to invest in micro-finance funds, he setup one of the leading social sector conferences – Opportunity Collaboration, he’s an impact investor, co-founder of a social enterprise in Nairobi called Copia Global and now, a published author. His new book, The Unfinished Social Entrepreneur is out now – check out the links below. Jonathan has so much to share, it’s difficult to know where to start. He is often called upon by others to help people get through tough times of doubt and low points in their social impact journeys. He said he recommends people start by reconfirming their values – when you choose not to quit, that’s when you become a social entrepreneur.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Thoughts on how to pick yourself from hard times when we get beaten down by the challenges confronting us.
  • Having a sense of urgency versus taking the long view, because change takes time.
  • How we define social entrepreneurship and how that term could be limiting, and in fact, the term should be extended to encompass any social sector worker who is fighting against injustice anywhere.
  • The best conference advice you can get ever 😂
  • Civic entrepreneurship, recognising that government is scale, and it should be a privilege to work at scale for government – something that perhaps is missing from sector rhetoric.
  • Advice to “go all in” for those starting out in their social enterprise careers, and also to get some basic skills under your belt – which will stand you in good stead to make the most impact in your careers.
  • The importance of having fun and enjoying ourselves, as is brings so much benefits to our lives, personally and ultimately in the pursuit of our goals.
  • The importance of focus, something that Jonathan learned (again) recently when one of his social enterprises failed and he wasn’t tuned in to the challenges he was facing.
  • We do a little dissection on Jonathan’s Cafe Impact idea, on why it failed and some things to learn from it – most of which boils down to not listening enough.
  • Knowing what you don’t know is one of the best ways to succeed.
  • We discuss the lack of racial diversity in social entrepreneurship.
  • We talk about the democratic infamy of the current president of the United States and the risk it poses to the progress made in social justice over recent years – and what we should all be doing about it.


  • “Many of the folks in our space are feeling very bruised. And I think there’s a moment when you decide not to quit and when you make that decision, that’s when you become a social entrepreneur.”
  • “It’s tough work because we upset the status quo – we make enemies”
  • “The day to day of any social enterprise uses the same skill sets as any business entrepreneur. The big difference is whose side you’re on. In social entrepreneurship, you’re on the side of the under dog.”
  • “I’m little in comparison to the parents of nelson Mandela who raised one awesome dude, who changed a nation and the world.”
  • “There is no idea I’ve had, that looks anything like the original idea when it’s done”
  • “There’s a difference between identifying a real need for something and identifying market demand.”
  • “The keyword in social entrepreneurship is not entrepreneurship. It’s social. This is a collaborative, team game.”
  • “If we talk about scaling up our social justice solutions, scale starts with having a United States government with some measure of concern for the global issues that we all care about.”
  • “Social entrepreneurs need to become civic entrepreneurs and get politically active.”
  • “Anger is power!”
  • “The people and the causes you care about are effected by government institutions.. so you don’t get a pass.”
  • “I’m happy to be wrong. I’m not happy to not keep moving”


Connect with Jonathan:


Jordan Kassalow Finding Impact Podcast

FIP 020: Systems Entrepreneurship with Jordan Kassalow

Why do so many problems in the world persist? Could it be that our individual actions don’t make up to the sum of the potential whole? Do we need to focus our attention on the system level and take coordinated collective action to really move the needle on these problems? This is the topic we discuss with Jordan Kassalow today.

Jordan is the founder of Vision Spring and Co-Founder of Eyelliance – a multi-sector coalition of actors pursuing the same goal: to unlock human potential, one pair of eyeglasses at a time.

Jordan worked for 15 years in the eyeglasses sector before taking the initiative to found VisionSpring. To date, they have over 20,000 vision entrepreneurs selling eyeglasses around the world. Collectively they are reaching about 1 million people per year through a range of different channels. Vision Spring realised that they needed to move to the ecosystem level to get eyeglasses to the people who need them. That’s when Eyelliance was formed.

Some of the things you’ll learn on this podcast include:

  • Examples of ecosystem barriers to demand include things like cultural challenges, regulatory challenges like who can prescribe them, supply chain challenges, and customs and duties challenges.
  • Trust is one of the central ingredients of working in an alliance, which was a key reason why they decided to create a separate organisation.
  • There isn’t one roadmap for setting up a collective impact alliance, but some pointers include:
    • (a) take the pulse of the community you’re trying to coalesces before you start, to see if there’s an appetite for this collective work;
    • (b) you need very senior people within these organisations, so try to find well-respected, international organisations and individuals to convene the key players;
    • (c) ensure the alliance isn’t duplicative of the organisations’ work,
    • (d) convene a steering group of strategically selected organization and individuals,
    • (e) map out the ecosystem to ensure it wasn’t duplicating things and came up with three strategic initiatives of the alliance.
  • We unpack the differences between the labels of social entrepreneur and systems entrepreneur.
  • Some tips on how to confront an instance when a member of the alliance is reluctant to hand over a part of their strategy to the alliance, or when they’re not structured as an organization to support the alliance.
  • Some of the differences in metrics that an alliance would include, compared to a social enterprise
  • We talk about different funding strategies for alliances, from top down when donors come together to create a pooled fund, as opposed to bottom, when organizations form the alliance and go out to coral funders.
  • Too much money too early can pickle the brain. Be careful with what you ask for! Follow the developing country taxi approach, whereby you get in the taxi and then you head to the gas station to get some fuel for the immediate journey.
  • We discuss the pros and cons of creating separate entities versus creating a more adhoc initiative by organizations.
  • It’s all about the idea, the people and the money. Idea: get the strategy right before making a big strategy. People: get the right like-minded people, with low ego and mission focused; money: they’re critical but need to be timed right. Get potential funders engaged early and often.


Connect with Jordan

What other examples are there of collective impact alliances? Please share below.

Colin McElwee Finding Impact Podcast

FIP 019: Scaling People Reading with Colin McElwee

Worldreader focuses on getting people reading, whatever form and whatever content. In this episode, Colin talks us through Worldreader and the injustice that he’s fighting for, which is the unequal distribution of books and information around the world. They’re reaching 25 million people per month, most of which via their mobile phone, and then of that, about 20% convert to actually start reading on the platform. Colin has been Director of Marketing at ESADE Business School in Barcelona and worked in global marketing in the consumer beverages sector. He is an invited member of the Global Agenda Council on Africa of the World Economic Forum.

Some of the things you’ll learn on this podcast include:

  • Design and build systems big enough for the next level of scale, then grow to that level, and once reached, upgrade those systems, and repeat.
  • Colin’s biggest surprise was realizing that education at scale is the change-maker for many oppressed people around the world, especially the education of girls.
  • Their biggest lesson is to be device agnostic, as opposed to building for the kindle, which is what they set out to do.
  • Social entrepreneurs need to respect the market, and undertake constant learning to localise the enterprise for the market you’re serving.
  • We talk about the danger of congratulatory talk for social entrepreneurs simply because of a social enterprise efforts to do good in the world. This is deadly for achieving final impact, and should be avoided at all costs.


Connect with Colin:


Yasmina Zaidman Finding Impact Podcast

FIP 018: Welding Corporate Partnerships with Yasmina Zaidman

Yasmina Zaidman is Chief Partnerships Officer at Acumen, who has been working with social entrepreneurs to see how solving problems of poverty might align with the activities of large global corporations. As of 2017, Yasmina has been with Acumen for almost 14 years, working with them to continually challenge itself to grow and evolve. Acumen uses business to solve problems of poverty, and has been doing so since its founder, Jacqueline Novogratz, began in 2001. Since then, Acumen has invested more than $103 million in 96 companies across Africa, Latin America and South Asia.

Some of the insights I drew from this podcast include:

  • Great partnerships come from two organizations wanting the same thing.
  • Choose the right corporate to invest time into, by first finding out if they have the technical capabilities you need, ensure their geographical footprint overlaps with yours, and try to figure out what their interests might be.
  • Corporates may seek partnerships with social enterprises to give their employees opportunities to work on social problems, or it may be because they are seeking to grow in the geographies you operate.
  • Be ready for lots of conversation to figure out what value the corporate is seeking in the relationship, knowing that there’s normally an official driver, but quite often, there will be secondary, less spoken of, drivers.
  • Check out the Skoll-Acumen report (link below) which breaks down the three main types of partnership, which can help to know when going into conversations with corporates
  • It is appropriate for the CEO of the social enterprise to be involved, as this is similar to sourcing capital, but within the team, people need good business development skills, such as relationship building and negotiation, and able to build broader relationships within a corporate to mitigate against individual staff turnover.
  • Timescales can be issue in these partnerships, and its important to be clear about tlimelines and what happens in times of delay – because they’re all working in a very dynamic, complex environment.
  • Bringing in an intermediary, like an investor, is a great way to support the process.
  • A skills partnership, when a corporate gives some short term input, is perhaps more appropriate for small, earlier stage enterprises.
  • Why energy and agriculture are two sectors that Acumen thinks is ripe for collaboration and ecosystem engagement.
  • Some strategies to address the power imbalance when partnering with corporates.


Connect with Yasmina

Roshan Paul Finding Impact Podcast

FIP 017: Teaching the Skills to Make a Difference with Roshan Paul

Roshan talks us through his journey to create Amani Institute – an organization educating professionals with the skills needed to make a difference. Previously, Roshan spent five years with Ashoka working with over 100 enterprises to help them scale up. He is a TEDx speaker and author, and currently lives in Nairobi.

Some of the things you’ll learn on this podcast include:

  • Amani was built on the insight that the biggest challenge to scale claimed by many social enterprises is finding the right talent.
  • Amani provides people with 21st century skills that are increasingly in demand by social sector organizations, including innovation, leadership, communication and entrepreneurial skills.
  • A few stories of students who’ve been through the Amani Institute program and the transformation they’ve seen, including a Masai couple from Kenya who are creating enormous change in their community.
  • How Amani offer scholarships for students from low income backgrounds.
  • Creating change is hard, so it’s important for any changemaker to look after body and mind. Amani’s ‘Inner Journey’ app will soon be launched that helps the individual manage themselves through a career in social impact.
  • On Roshan’s early journey in his career of social impact, he experimented by taking a job in Delhi that paid him next to nothing so he could understand what it’s like to live with very little – which is an interesting idea that other’s might adopt as an unbeatable learning experience before launching into a career of social impact.
  • If you’re reaching a low in your social impact journey, make sure you stop to ask what is your purpose in doing this work. ‘Doing good in the world’ is probably not enough to get you through those moments of discouragement. Instead you might identify what sector you care about or what injustice resonates with you, and connects with your inner purpose.
  • Applications are open until June 15th, 2017 for the current cohort in Social Innovation Management.
  • Application for the next cohort in Social Innovation Management will open in September 2017 for starting February 2018.


Connect with Roshan:

Nicole Van Der Tuin Finding Impact Podcast

FIP 016: Credit Scoring for Under-Served Populations with Nicole Van Der Tuin

For nearly ten years, Nicole has been working to get capital to places where it is scarce. She believes the cost of capital is central barrier to economic growth and development and she’s been focusing on ways to bring that cost down. In 2010 she set up First Access, a business that offers a credit scoring platform for lending institutions in emerging markets. In this episode, Nicole talks us through credit scoring for under-served populations and how this applies to any social entrepreneur taking on some level of risk with a lending product, such as asset financing or loans to customers.

Some of the things you’ll learn on this podcast include:

  • Ways to build up the “record of proof” for customers living in the informal economy, such as what you have earned, owned, spent.
  • How the emergence of mobile phones and the requirement to link SIM cards to people through some form of ID, has created the first mass of data, recording formal transactions for the majority of the world’s population.
  • How micro-finance institutions have been using a very labor intensive process for so long to offer small loans for people, creating a high cost per loan.
  • Also, how micro-finance institutions for too long have been non-digital and so leveraging the data they have on their customers has been hard.
  • The First Access analytics platform enables staff to act on patterns they’re seeing in the data of their customers.
  • The platform eliminates bias and ensures their decisions are made on the context of their country or region.
  • How using data analytics can reduce average customer acquisition costs dramatically, just by, for example, instantly approving any customer whose credit score comes within the top 5% of loan applicants.
  • Hiring a credit analyst would be a good move for any enterprise taking on some form of risk with a lending product.
  • A good first step for any social enterprise could be to simply start building up their data set to enable credit scoring faster at a later time. First Access can help organizations do this through a simpler, entry-level subscription which excludes the data analytics but ensures robust data collection using best practices.
  • We discuss distinctions between the lending products out there. One is small business micro-enterprise loans done through a customer evaluation process where you collect info about the customer before you lend them the money. This category is where you’re giving a borrower an asset that requires a down payment to ensure buy-in from that customer which predicts how likely they will pay and use the product.
  • Collecting data at the point of sale is good for your business, not just for potential credit scoring applications and assessing risk, but to know more about your customers which will make your sales and marketing more effective.
  • Email to request more info about credit scoring algorithms and other basic information to help improve your learning about this area.


Connect with Nicole:


FIP 015: Pro-bono Data science with Jake Porway

In this episode, Jake Porway talks us through DataKind, the organization he founded that helps connect data scientists with non-profits. He was previously with the New York Times as a data scientist so is a great person to have on the show to unpack how data can help non-profits make better decisions on the allocation of resources.

Some of the things you’ll learn on this podcast include:

  • A quick overview of data science and how big data, statistical modelling, machine learning, and artificial intelligence all fit together.
  • How DataKind brings together data scientists with social organizations to work on projects together, and how they facilitate developing the scope of the project, the design and the process of working together.
  • How to start right, which means coming up with the question to answer, rather than the data to use.
  • How the Red Cross worked with data scientists to to predict where fires were more likely to happen across a city.
  • How the Gates Foundation worked with data scientists and satellite imagery to help prevent the spread of wheat crop disease affecting subsistence farmers.
  • How more and more Corporates are sharing their data of human interactions to help with social problems, like a financial transactions of refugees or social media activity.
  • The six components that DataKind brings together for a successful project: a smart problem statement, data sets, data scientists, funders, subject matter experts, and the social actor who will use it at the end of the day.
  • How a crisis textline organization connecting teens in crisis with councilors, used data science to predict which texts were the most urgent, so resources could be allocated more effectively and lives saved.
  • How 14,000 data scientists are standing by with DataKind to help tackle social problems around the world and how you can take advantage of this incredible resource.


Connect with Jake