Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Couple recent CharityFocus blogs

altThe first is on how communication could be viewed as an act of service (by all sides):


The second are some extemporanous thoughts on the ‘pay-what-you-want’ model vs. the ‘pay-it-forward’ model:


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Talking vs. Knowing


A visual representation of a comment I recently heard :)

I think I’m somewhere in the middle lol…

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two recent articles


I always thought of volunteering with CF as more about internal change than external, tried to articulate that thought.



Another discussion on internal change.


Keep trying, keep failing, repeat :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

‘Benefit’ Corporations, the Future of Business

I just had multiple conversations today with people who told me that business that cared about more than money would never account for more than 10% of the market.  I hope that’s wrong, let’s work to prove it wrong.



Friday, April 23, 2010

No such thing as an inconsequential act


After a wonderful week attending the Skoll World Forum and an impromptu TEDx session, I spent a week in limbo!  I was then stranded in London for a while, and just made it back to New York.  However, got to connect with wonderful folks so a blessing in many ways (and London wasn't bad either).


Wrote up a quick entry on CF blog about how amazing Paul Hawken’s talk was:


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Career transition

http://ecofrenzy.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/ethicalinvest-categories-image1.jpgAfter spending a few learning-filled years at McKinsey, I recently decided to move on.  Hard to put into words the gratefulness for the experience.  Of course, the rigor and difficulty that led to the crazy hours and intensity were there, but at the same time there was much to be learned and wonderful people all along the way.  Might share a longer post on my experiences at the organization, but more time needs to pass before I’d be able to have a holistic perspective.


I next will be joining Armonia, a venture capital firm in the nascent field of “impact investing.”  Impact investing is really interesting – it’s basically the idea that society can use capital markets to promote social & environmental benefit (in addition to financial benefit).  So, just like any VC firm, the job here is to look for great ideas that can generate financial returns, but that’s only 1 part of 3.  If you’ve heard the term “social entrepreneur", you’re familiar with impact investing, because those are the folks that are being invested in.  The Monitor Group put out a really great report on this a little while back.


Impact investing matters because it’s so needed right now.  There’s many ways service is provided in this world:

+ 100% For-profit (think about how valuable Google or AT&T has in many ways been for society all while purely seeking financial return)

+ Non-profit (Red Cross)

+ Gov’t organizations (United Nations, International Monetary Fund)

+ Philanthropic organizations (Gates Foundation, Robin Hood Foundation)

However, even with all of this, there’s a hole.  A lot of times, if someone has a great idea that serves people in a town or a few villages, it’s hard to get more money to do it in other places unless there’s some possibility of financial return for the people putting in the money.  That’s where social entrepreneurs come in.  They create businesses that generate financial return (above 0%) for at least a portion of their investors, thus keeping money coming in and quickly scaling the idea to reach more people in need.


This is why orgs such as Grameen Bank or Kiva thrive.  They seek to help people en masse, in fact, that is the reason for their existence, but they do it by attracting the money of the masses.  There are TONS of people who would give to a good cause if it actually generated money on top of it.  All of this has been in the public sphere since Bill Drayton started Ashoka in the early 80’s, but after Muhammed Yunus won the Nobel Prize a few years ago, it really got a boost.


One of the bigger reasons I’m grateful for joining Armonia specifically is its belief in the patient capital model.  Traditionally, investors come in, get their financial returns, then leave.  This doesn’t work well if you have an entrepreneur who has a really promising idea but would take a little while to develop it.  Investors don’t have the time, so they don’t bother investing.  If this is a social entrepreneur, the world has potentially lost out on a solution that could serve many people.  Patient capital recognizes this hole and solves it by not looking at financial returns in a short-term mindset (this is practiced famously by Acumen Fund).


Because this is a nascent field, it’s unknown what will happen over the next decade.  I believe it’ll become huge, but I also believe it doesn’t matter compared to the internal shift that happens in myself and others from taking on the challenge.  My friend, a successful social entrepreneur, once told me, “You know Birju, I don’t mind going down, but i’m not going to stop putting my full trust in people.  If I go down doing that, it’s not a bad way to go.”  Indeed :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Why do charitable works?


You see a man on the street.  He’s asking for change.  What do you do?


There’s many reasons to perform kind acts towards others.  Depending on the person you ask, you’ll get a laundry list of reasons.  Perhaps it’s because it makes you feel good, perhaps because you think it’ll help someone, perhaps because it’ll set a good example.


I believe all of these perspectives have merit, and would add one to the list: because I need to change.  I would like to be more connected to my fellow man, feel deeply and be able to serve compassionately no matter what the situation demands.  I’m not there, or even close.  By serving others, or even cultivating the intention to serve, I am systematically rewiring my brain to think in a different way.


After repeatedly building a behavioral habit to perform acts of giving rather than seeking to receive, there are plenty of examples of folks that no longer see the world as I do.  They help deeply, with compassion, almost by reflex.  Not only that, but their service ripples out, with many more impacted.


Where does it start?  I think it starts on the street with the man asking for change.  If you’re looking for the right answer externally, I can’t give you one.  But I do know, that if I look into the eyes of that person, even for a split-second, and cultivate an intention to be of service to him/her, it’s a step along the path to compassion and deep connection.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Thoughts after another meditation retreat

Example of a meditation hall in the middle of the woods

So last month, after taking a break from work, I went on another meditation retreat.  As I mentioned previously, the last time I went it was pretty much the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and this time, I’d say something similar but for different reasons :)


This iteration, the mental challenge was much more pronounced compared to the physical one.  One has plenty of time to wrestle with ones own demons over the course of nearly two weeks.  The main one on this occasion seemed to be my fear, and how many of my actions were (on a subtle level) driven by fear.  The most difficult part of this realization was recognizing it was there and yet the recognization not being enough to make it go away.  Seeing how deep the issue is, and how it’s something that will take vigilance on a moment-to-moment basis to change.  I did all I could do – attempt to maintain awareness and equanimity of what was happening as the feelings arose, and inevitably, passed away.


Few other random thoughts:

1) I’m quite amazed that in the world of meditation, these retreats are basically like kindergarten, while for myself and at least a few people I know, the rigor and discipline involved here is near unfathomable lol

2) Important distinction between swimming and ‘swim-ology’ – Swim-ology is studying about swimming in a book but never touching the water.  I spent many years approaching meditation like swim-ology, reading everything there was to read on the subject, but seldom actually sitting.  As I am in the process of switching course a bit, I’m noticing a massive difference between swimming and swim-ology in terms of how my day to day life is impacted :)


I’m still not sold on the concept of doing this in such an intensive manner and would not recommend it to everyone (in fact, every time I finish one, I have no idea if it’ll be my last).  However, I cannot stress enough the value silence and introspection (free from dogma, religion, etc) has had on my life, and would definitely recommend these elements to anyone. 

5 friends after a long period of silence

Monday, January 11, 2010

Enabling voluntary simplicity


Over the last several months, I’ve learned that not keeping a permanent residence is the fastest way to overtly reduce the number of possessions one has :)  It’s been a really helpful way to pare down the sheer number of things I own (which is now down to about a few suitcases), but also to realize that regardless of how little I have physically on me, the number of mental possessions I have remains countless lol.

Part of the reason I’ve been doing this for a while is to try and be a bit less materialistic.  It’s funny how I’ve been pretty much looking to give stuff away for a while now, and whenever people comment on it, my reaction is “oh, its not like i’m a saint or anything, I just hate moving with so much stuff!” lol  So a good excuse. 

That being said, it’s also really hit home that just because one doesn’t have physical possessions doesn’t mean he/she has done anything to actually be less attached to the external world.  My mental possessions form a laundry list that is too long to count! 

So if the goal is to be environmentally friendly, voluntary simplicity is, i’m sure, a good way to start.  However, if the idea is to not be so caught up in one’s life, I get the feeling that the internal battle is way larger than than any number of possessions externally :)