Ashindi Maxton - Democracy Reform and Social Justice

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Ashindi is an independent strategist and donor advisor in democracy reform, social and racial justice. She has developed funding strategies informing more than $100 million in investments from some of the largest foundations and individual donors in the United States  - including the Democracy Alliance, the Ford Foundation, The Women Donors Network, the Sandler Family Foundation, and PowerPAC.

Ashindi co-founded the Emergent Fund, a post 2016 election rapid response fund supporting organizing in the most impacted communities where Muslim, Black, immigrant, Latino, Asian, women, and LGBTQ leaders took the lead in decision-making and were the primary recipients of over $1 million raised in the first 100 days of the new Administration. In May of 2016 she also co-authored, with Urvashi Vaid, the first comprehensive report on high net worth donors of color titled, “The Apparitional Donor: Understanding and Engaging High Net Worth Donors of Color”.

She also piloted voter engagement projects geared at Asian American voting, voter registration in community health clinics and ran a witness search and data collection effort which proved to be pivotal in overturning the Pennsylvania voter ID law in 2012. 

Prior to all of this, Ashindi worked in education. She was the principal of an elementary arts charter school, a Spanish bilingual fifth grade teacher, and a policy fellow to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Education. She was also a Fulbright Scholar to the Dominican Republic where she published the first national study on race consciousness in Dominican children.

In addition to her work in philanthropy, Ashindi has served as the National Policy Director of the NAACP and the National Director of Political Partnerships for SEIU International. Ashindi serves on the boards of the Texas Organizing Project and Free Speech TV. She has been listed three times to Washington Magazine’s “Young and the Guest List” of forty and under geniuses, visionaries, crusaders and innovators shaping Washington's future” in addition to the “NAACP Power 40” list of most influential African-Americans under forty.

Ms. Maxton is a graduate of Vassar College and has a Masters degree in Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley. It's hard to think of someone more accomplished in her field.  So grateful that she carved out time for us today.  Enjoy the show!

Podcast Mashup - Between Two Millennials


This week we’re proud to bring you our first Podcast Mash-up.  Jonathan McClelland, recent Pepperdine Grad and the host of Between Two Millennials, and I - decided to co-host a show on the ways in which Millennials are approaching social innovation and social entrepreneurship.  We cover a broad range of topics from cultural influences to changing perspectives on traditional non-profit organizations.  We also talk about the role of the socially aware consumer and the steps Millenials, in particular, are taking to be more intentional about their social innovation efforts.

I had a great time recording the episode and hope you’ll check out Jonathan’s own Podcast for other interesting topics and discussions.  Enjoy the show!

Peachy Myers - Community Engagement, Foundation Communities

At some point in time, every social innovator faces the daunting task of growing beyond their initial customers and inspiring the larger community.  Questions quickly arise in response to the challenge: How can we connect in a meaningful way to more and more people? How can we leverage our existing supporters to get the word out?    What does it take to create raving fans and evangelists for our product or service? To help us explore these questions and talk through tangible strategies any social innovator can employ, we reached out to Peachy Myers - Director of Community Engagement at Foundation Communities in Austin, TX.

After joining the original field leadership team for then Senator Barack Obama in 2008 and going on to serve in the White House ( the story of which we’ll be exploring in another podcast with Peachy), Peachy returned to the non-profit sector to design and deploy new ways to organize and support communities of change.  In this episode , Peachy walks us through ways in which we can proactively build social and financial support for our initiatives.  Using tangible examples from her work with Foundation Communities, Peachy provides real strategies and tactics that can be used to grow a community of supporters and committed evangelists willing to support your efforts over the long run.  Enjoy this unique look into how community organizing meets fundraising, volunteerism, and social support.

Show Notes:

Learn more about Foundation Communities here.

Learn more about the story of Cabrini Green here and here.

Find out more about the Ingram Scholar Program here.

You can find Peachy's (nearly) 100 favorite children's books here.

Tools You Can Use - Getting Started, Getting Unstuck, and Becoming More Efficient

This week we’re switching things up and launching our first TOOLS, TIPS a and TRICKS episode. We’ve been trying to think of an efficient way to respond to the questions that have been coming in from listeners - and thought we would try this on for size.  

The most common question we’ve been asked is “how do you even get started?  I’m committed to a cause but not sure where to begin.” There are so many ways to begin, but here are three quick steps that come to mind:

Step 1: I’d read  “It’s not what you sell, it’s what you stand for” by Roy Spence.  

Roy does a great job of speaking to “how to fall in love with the problem” and letting that drive the arenas in which you innovate.  If you’re an organization that’s been around for awhile, it will help you return to that original problem and help inspire the next innovation.  If you’re a new organization, it will help you get off on the right foot.

Step 2:

Read “Jobs to be done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation” by Stephen Wunker, Jessica Wattman and David Farber.  This is a great tool and roadmap for understanding the jobs your customers need help with.  It’s outcome based innovation at its best and a staple on my bookshelf. 

If you want to start with the originator of this methodology, Read  “Jobs to be Done: Theory to Practice” by Anthony Ulwick.  If you want to read the person who popularized the movement, read “Competing Against Luck” by Clay Christiensen.  Christiansen’s Milkshake story remains one of my favorite.  Who would have thought that 40% of all Milkshakes are purchased in the early morning?  Why people purchase them is what’s totally fascinating.

Step 3:

Catch “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries.  Eric started the Minimally Viable Product movement and his book does a great job of how to test your ideas in the real world before leaving your day job.  It’s straight-forward, practical, and... a little in your face.  Super practical, however, and the final step to engage in after you’ve identified your problem and the jobs your customers want to be done.

Next question:  “If I wanted a sense of what a start-up might look like…and the things I might expect - what should I read?

We’ve got two books for you:

1) "The Hard Thing about Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz.  It reads like a compendium of blog posts, but Ben doesn’t pull any punches and talks about the stark world of leadership and what it can entail. Besides, any book that starts every chapter with quotes from 90s hip-hop has to be awesome.

2) “The Everything Store” by Brad Stone.  This is Amazon’s story and Brad does a great job of speaking truth about what it takes to succeed.  I think most social innovators believe that the reason for their existence should be enough for people to get excited about their product or service.  While Amazon may not be a social enterprise in the traditional sense, this story will give you a sense of what it takes to make a big impact.


Next Question: “Any recommendations on how to get “unstuck?”  I’m stuck in a job that I don’t find fulfilling and want to get started on something more meaningful.

Love this question, but I also understand the overwhelming feeling being stuck can create inside one’s self…. and the unshakable fear…. that the clouds of malaise may never lift.   I think my single favorite book on this subject is “Let Your Life Speak,” by Parker Palmer.  With a wisdom that can only come from experience, Palmer speaks with a raw authenticity that is rare and of profound service to its reader.  It’s a short book, but don’t let that fool you.  Hal Cato mentioned this on his episode - so we know it's a winner!

The other book that’s been helpful to me in this regard is “Pivot” by Jenny Blake.  Jenny started up Google’s internal global coaching practice and has a ton of very practical tips on how to make your next pivot.  Whether it's considering financial implications, honing your ideas, or teaming up with a mentor - Jenny does a good job of covering the bases.  She also has a great Podcast - with episodes you can pick and choose from based on your immediate questions.


Next Question:  What is your favorite tool these days?

SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM!  Lately, I've been really impressed with the suite of software that Adobe has been generating.  Right now I’m diving head first into Adobe Illustrator.  I always thought that the tool was too complicated for novices like myself, but my tip is to download the application - which you can get pretty reasonable on a subscription basis - and then head over to Adobe Stock where you can search for infographic templates.  When I’m pulling together presentations, I’ll purchase a template that is closest to what I’m trying to portray and then edit it directly in illustrator without having to start from scratch.  If I run into trouble, there are a ton of quality YouTube videos on any feature you want to learn more about.  There is a learning curve, but you’ll start to get professional-grade presentations which help set your story apart.

Final Question:  What’s one efficiency trick you can share?

In the end, life is all about prioritization...but if I have to pick an efficiency trick would be maximizing your audio time.  If I’m running, driving, or in an airport, I’m almost always listening to a book or podcast.  The combination of exercising and listening to a book always generates new ideas for me and helps produce practical improvements I can usually apply to what I’m working on.  Leveraging audiobooks in contexts where I’m waiting around for one reason or another helped me finish an extra five or six books last year.

The other two big life hacks I’m a fan of are sleep and meditation - but we can cover those on a future episode!

If you’d like more tips and tricks on a regular basis, join our email list at Just click on “Join The Tribe” when you hit the website.  We’ve got a pithy newsletter that goes out every two weeks and includes a number of things on what we’re reading, doing, and listening to. Be sure to check it out.

Lidija Sekaric - Sunshot Initiative

In this episode, we talk with Dr. Lidija Sekaric about ways to disrupt an industry and leveraging government resources.  Lydia has held a number of progressive positions within the Department of Energy over the last eight years.  As a Director, Deputy Director, and Group Manager in the SunShot Initiative, Lidija managed a portfolio of $1B in project funding in solar research and development. She helped drive the near and long-term solar program strategy, out-year budgets, and new initiatives. 

As a Senior Technical Advisor for the Under Secretary for Energy, Lidija oversaw strategic projects involving $4B in renewables, fossil, nuclear and grid technologies at the Department of Energy. 

In our discussion, we focus on the significant progress made under the SunShot Initiative. When SunShot was launched in 2011, it set a goal for solar energy to become cost-competitive with traditional forms of electricity by 2020 without subsidies. This goal set cost targets at $0.09 per kilowatt hour for residential photovoltaics (PV), $0.07 per kilowatt hour for commercial PV, and $0.06 per kilowatt hour for utility-scale PV. In May 2016, SunShot released a series of eight research papers that examined the progress made toward the SunShot’s goals. It found that, just five years into the initiative, the solar industry had already achieved 70% of the progress toward the 2020 goals, spurring the department to determine new targets beyond 2020.

We talk with Lidija about the innovations behind their success and where they had to pivot in order to hit their goals in an increasingly volatile political environment.


Show Notes:

Learn more about the Department of Energy's  Sunshot Initiative

Speaking of Home's Lydia's

Most Gifted Books:  Anything by Barbara Kingsolver

Hal Cato - CEO of Thistle Farms

Scaling the Social Enterprise

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There are generally three types of risk a social enterprise must manage as it grows and scales over time: concept risk, execution risk, and scale risk.  In this week's episode we talk with Hal Cato, CEO of Thistle Farms as he manages the execution risks of a growing social enterprise and lays the groundwork for a dramatic scaling effort that includes more than 450 Whole Foods stores, supply chain integration with other social enterprises across the globe, and deepening support for women surviving trafficking, prostitution and addiction.

Grounded in Hal's humility and intellectual honesty, we explore:

  • how to stay grounded in your core mission,
  • how to get the right folks on your tea,
  • how to think about governance, structure and capital raising, and 
  • ways in which to be intentional about each facet of your organization - creating value through process and structure.

Hal was the highlight of my week and hope that you'll take as much away from our conversation as I did.  Scaling remains one of the biggest challenges social enterprises face and leaders like Hal and Thistle Farms remain integral to showing that growth is both possible and sustainable for social enterprises writ large.

***Production Note***

It was only a matter of time, but the technology gremlins showed up for the first time on one of our podcasts.  Through some creative sound engineering we were able to restore our recording, but we apologize for the background noise around minute 14:00.  Hal's wisdom, was too good to pass up, so we decided to publish it anyway.  Apologies on the quality not being better - we'll be sure to do better next time.

About Thistle Farms: 

Thistle Farms' mission is to HEAL, EMPOWER, AND EMPLOY women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. We do this by providing safe and supportive housing, the opportunity for economic independence, and a strong community of advocates and partners.  Thistle Farms believes that in the end, love is the most powerful force for change in the world. 

The Thistle Farms Model:

Thistle Farms’ comprehensive model offers women hope and healing through a holistic residential program, employment with one of our social enterprises, and a growing national and global network dedicated to changing a culture that allows human beings to be bought and sold.


A two-year residential program based in Nashville, Tennessee, that provides housing, medical care, therapy, education, and job training free of charge for up to 32 women and serves hundreds more with advocacy and referral services.


Residents and graduates of the residential program are employed in one of the divisions of our diverse social enterprise, including a natural body and home product company, the Café at Thistle Farms, the Studios, and Thistle Farms Global. 


Includes a community of sister organizations utilizing Thistle Farms’ model in cities across the country, along with myriad other partners, advocates, and organizations united in the belief that love is the most powerful force for change in the world .


Thistle Farms Global connects women producers in 10 countries directly to customers by distributing and selling their handmade products. Our shared trade model increases their share of profit margin, creates economic opportunity, and builds community.

About Hal Cato:

In 2015, the Board of Directors hired Hal Cato as Thistle Farms first CEO. Hal is uniquely qualified to address both the mission and the business of Thistle Farms given his extensive experience in the nonprofit and private sector, which includes founding Hands on Nashville, The Youth Opportunity Center, The Bright Horizons Foundation for Children, and Zeumo, his latest technology company, as well as serving as CEO of Oasis Center from 2001–2011. Hal is known for his servant-style leadership and is equally compelled to chart new growth for the organization as to spend time one-on-one with residents or roll up his sleeves during a lunch rush at the Café.

Show Notes:

Learn more about Thistle Farms:

Picture of Bug Spray highlighted in podcast:

Warehouse and Production Facility under construction:


Favorite (Recent) Book: Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Ann Lamott

Most Gifted Book: Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer

Tala de los Santos - Global Program Leader, Diagnostics

Throughout the world, we can find instances where the market has failed to deliver sustainable solutions.  Whether addressing education, health, or energy, a market may not have the necessary capital, expertise, or free cash flow to design and create an adequate response to a community challenge.

In this week's episode, we explore how PATH is taking a proactive approach to commercializing health solutions in some of our most remote communities.  Tala de los Santos, Global Program Leader for Diagnostics, walks us through the core processes PATH uses to bring new products to market.  Along the way, she talks about her own professional journey, the importance of building an informal network, and challenges of last mile implementation.

Show Notes:

Path Website

Tala recognized by the Washington Global Health Alliance.

Photo of the Onchocerciasis Test Kit:



Tala de los Santos is the Diagnostics Global Program Leader at PATH, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and improving health, especially among women and children. PATH accelerates innovation across five platforms—vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, devices, and system and service innovations—that harnesses entrepreneurial insight, scientific and public health expertise, and passion for health equity.

At PATH, Tala oversees a team of scientists, public health specialists, and business strategists focused on making appropriate diagnostic technologies available, broadly accessible, and integrated within health systems in low-resource settings.

Tala has more than ten years of experience in managing product development and commercialization in both the public and private sector. Her experience spans the entire cradle-to-grave product life cycle: assessing user and market needs during early feasibility, collaborating with researchers and developers to ensure fidelity to the target product profile and timely product launch, and managing supply-chain logistics to support product introduction and implementation.

Tala earned her Master of Science degree from Stanford University and her Master of Business Administration degree at Seattle University. She completed her undergraduate degree at Mount Holyoke College.

Thinley Namgyel - Chief Environment Officer, Bhutan Climate Change Division

Climate change remains one of the biggest threats to humanity and will no doubt change the direction of our economies, cultures, and collective futures.  It can be hard, however, to determine the ways in which we can combat such changes given breadth and scale of the changes underway.

Thinley Namgyel serves as the Chief Environment Officer for the government of Bhutan and works on the front lines of our changing landscape.  Even though I've known Thinley for more than twenty years - I learned a great deal from our conversation:

  • Water conservation and water flows are one of the largest challenges to Bhutan's future,
  • Bilateral government funding remain crucial to supporting low-income countries and their work on behalf of the environment,
  • Least Developed Countries (LDC) are their own organizing entity and are helping inform some of the most dramatic environmental challenges around the world.

We also talked about the intersection of life and climate change - and what we can do to support the wider ecosystem.  Here we talked about Thinley's Grandmother's garden, the growing Mountain Biking scene and reclaiming of ancient trails, and the long-view it takes to make progress.  Whether you're focused on climate change directly - or another social challenge - Thinley's humble look at social innovation and its importance to our future is a powerful story we can all learn from.

Show Notes:

If you're looking to get oriented, here's where Bhutan's located.

Find out more about Bhutan's National Environment Commission here.

Learn more about the Paris Climate Agreement here.

Get up to speed on Bhutan's Mountain Biking scene here.

If you were like me...and wanted to get a sense of what Thinley's Grandmother's chilies might have looked like - here's a peak.

Thinley's Bio:

Thinley Namgyel is Chief Environment Officer, Climate Change Division of Bhutan’s National Environment Commission and oversees the coordination of climate change policies and programs in Bhutan. He initiated the preparation of Bhutan’s NAPA and coordinated the implementation of priority NAPA projects. He also led the preparation of the Bhutan’s Second National Communication to the UNFCCC and the National Strategy and Action Plan for Low Carbon Development and is currently overseeing the development of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions and Low Emission Development Strategies in Bhutan.

He chairs the Technical Advisory Panel to the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation and is a member of the Executive Committee of Tarayana Foundation, both based in Bhutan. He has been a member of the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) of the UNFCCC since 2011.

He has a M.Sc. in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development from the University of Maryland, and a B.Sc. in Natural Resources Management from the University of Wisconsin.

As a keen photographer and naturalist, he co-authored “A Photo Guide to the Flowers of Bhutan” published by WWF in 2009.

Michael MacHarg - MercyCorps Ventures


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There are very few social entrepreneurs with the breadth and depth of experience as Mike MacHarg.  Mike's career spans the areas of micro-finance, pharmaceutical development, sustainable energy through progressive purchasing, and now impact investing with Mercy Corps Ventures.  In this episode, we take a look at: 

  • the unique career path Mike has explored and developed
  • why he's chosen to pursue certain initiatives (and to walk away from others)
  • challenges he's faced over the years (and what advice he has to offer in return)
  • thoughts on the future of impact investing
  • the advice he has for social innovators just getting started.

Mike's self-effacing style is a pleasure to listen to and the show is chalk full of wisdom for new and experienced social entrepreneurs alike.

Show Notes:

Experiences Referenced:

The World Bank


Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship

Mercy Corps Ventures

Places Highlighted:

Petra, Jordan

Reading Referenced:

Thank You for Being Late by Thomas L. Friedman

Mike's Background:

Michael brings 20 years of experience applying entrepreneurial approaches to addressing global social challenges. Michael serves as Senior Advisor to the new Social Ventures team at Mercy Corps - leveraging his experience launching early stage enterprises to help Mercy Corps identify, incubate and grow impact-oriented, for-profit businesses. Prior to Mercy Corps, Michael was Co-Founder of Simpa Networks, a venture-backed energy services company with a bold mission: to make modern energy simple, affordable, and accessible for everyone. Simpa sells solar energy solutions on a pay-as-you-go (Progressive Purchase) basis to underserved consumers across rural India. Prior to Simpa, Michael led Arc Finance’s research into micropayment approaches for financing pro-poor clean energy and water enterprises in developing countries. Prior to Arc, Michael consulted to the social venture capital fund, Acumen Fund, mapping private sector investments across east Africa. Michael was on the founding team of the first nonprofit pharmaceutical company, the Institute for OneWorld Health, whose goal is clinical development and distribution of affordable new medicines for diseases of poverty in the developing world. Michael spent his early career with the Social Development Department of the World Bank. Michael holds degrees from Duke University (CASE Scholar) and Vanderbilt University (Ingram Scholar) and has studied at the Universidad de la Habana in Cuba.

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