Saul Kaplan named Founding Member of The IEEE Fair Trade Data Initiative

The Business Innovation Factory (BIF) is pleased to announce that Founder and Chief Catalyst, Saul Kaplan has been named a Founding Member of The IEEE Fair Trade Data Initiative, a collaboration to develop a standards framework governing the fair trade of human and personal data.

IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. The Fair Trade Data Initiative is a working group of diverse stakeholders collaborating to create a recommendation for a standard to the IEEE Standards Association intending to help guide consumers, corporations and countries engage in the fair trade of inherent human data.

“It’s an honor and privilege to serve as a Founding Member of the IEEE Fair Trade Data Initiative. In developing global standards for the fair trade of human and personal data, we have the unique opportunity to ensure that the voice of the consumer is at the center of the framework.”  

Initiative Founding Team*:

  • Fahd Beg, Chief Investment Officer at Naspers
  • Dr. Christopher Boone, PhD, Vice President, Global Medical Epidemiology and Big Data Analysis Lead at Pfizer, Inc.
  • Krishna Cheriath, Chief Data Officer at Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Richie Etwaru, Chief Executive Officer at
  • Saul Kaplan, Founder and Chief Catalyst at Business Innovation Factory
  • Dr. Jennifer Miller, PhD, Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Medicine and Founder, Bioethics International
  • Keerthika M. Subramanian, Esq., Corporate and Securities Attorney at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.

*All founding team members are acting strictly as individuals and not as representatives of their respective organizations

IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) is a leading consensus building organization that nurtures, develops and advances global technologies, through IEEE. Bringing together a broad range of individuals and organizations from a wide range of technical and geographic points of origin to facilitate standards development and standards related collaboration.

To learn more about the initiative, including how to participate, visit:  Fair Trade Data Initiative


Revitalizing a Community through Citizens’ 100K Ideas

100K Ideas is not your average business incubator. In fact, they pride themselves on being different — on being accessible to all members of their community and welcoming to all who walk in their door. They like to describe what they do as “herding reindeers” rather than “chasing unicorns,” like most incubator and accelerator programs, because reindeer “are still mythical, but at least they exist.”

They also pride themselves on their mission to “relieve innovators of the entrepreneurial burden,” supporting community members from idea to concept in a pain-free process that leverages student talent, innovates education, and removes barriers to access.

This is our favorite type of model here at BIF because it taps into what we call “the gold in the grey space” — working across sectors and industries to meet true citizen needs while transforming each of the latter. When we heard what 100K Ideas was doing out in Flint, MI, we knew we had to go see it for ourselves. So Eli Maclaren, our Chief Market Maker, and I hopped on a plane this past month headed for Detroit and beelined it to Flint.

Flint, Vehicle City, Detroit, Michican

I had first heard of Flint from the headlines of its water crisis and had learned that it was the birthplace of GM. But despite economic hardship faced as a result of a declining auto industry and falling victim to the state’s criminal water management choices, Flint’s residents aren’t sitting around waiting for things to sort themselves out. In addition to the organizers and activists that contributed to getting the city’s crisis on the national radar, the Flint community members we met are committed to addressing some of the root causes (i.e. inequality) and systemic challenges (i.e. lack of opportunity) of which the water crisis is just one more symptom.

100K Ideas, Citizens First

When we arrived at the Dryden Building in the heart of downtown Flint, we were greeted with a banner proclaiming #FWDFlint. A quick walk around the block and we saw a shiny new Farmer’s Market, a spiffy transportation hub, a colorful childcare center, multiple churches, two university campuses, and a refurbished theater getting ready to open up. In the diner where we ate and even strangers on the street, folks were chatty, helpful and welcoming towards us New England gals — two outsiders in a new place. I realized immediately upon arrival that despite its national narrative and the assumptions it had created for me, Flint was full of treasures that I didn’t expect.

FostIr Coffee, Detroit, ME

When we entered the offices of SkyPoint Ventures, the parent company of 100K Ideas, we were personally welcomed and greeted by CEO Phil Hagerman, and were enamored when his Chief Innovation Officer David Olilla began to tell us their tales. Phil was born and raised in Flint and had helped grow his father’s family-run pharmacy into the multi-billion dollar Diplomat Pharmacy venture that it is today. David hails from Northern Michigan and is an inventor at heart — he created the first-ever helmet-camera, pre-Go Pro, and has several other products in the works. An innate problem-solver, he tinkers and toys with design challenges until he finds new ways to figure them out. Together, they are one dynamic duo that isn’t waiting for anyone’s permission to make an impact in their city and far beyond.

On its website, 100K Ideas explains itself as “community of student professionals [who] vet entrepreneurial ideas to provide a helping hand in business development to anyone regardless of their prior experience or background.” The concept is an answer to entrepreneurial elitism and the barriers that so often prevent people from getting their ideas off the ground. Rather than suffer through a grueling and exclusive application process, anyone can walk off South Saginaw Street in Flint and into 100K’s space in the city’s historic Ferris Wheel building, and be welcomed by the university students that staff much of the non-profit for a free consultation. The fact that their staff are students serves a double purpose — not only are they less intimidating to work with for your average budding innovator lacking a business or technical background, but the students themselves are also gaining real-world experience and learning through the shared process. The name of the organization comes from Flint’s 100,000 residents, fueling its social mission that “if we got one idea from every one person in Flint, we could change the world.”

The model not only democratizes entrepreneurship by making it more open, inclusive, and accessible, but it seeks to transform a city and its citizens as well. It not only provides a community and a validation system for budding entrepreneurs, but it leverages student power to create an expansive model that tackles multiple systemic issues: outdated higher education models, exclusive barriers to entrepreneurialism, inequality, and broader economic development challenges through new venture creation.

So what is 100k Ideas’ special sauce?

  • The model is open to all. Not only is it inclusive and accessible for those it serves, but the organization and its leaders are open to collaboration in all its forms: “This bus is for everyone,” David told us, “If you don’t want to get on now, it will come back around again and the doors will open back up…”
  • Dynamic leadership with an innovator’s heart: the 100K Ideas team is perpetually operating in beta, always open to improvement and iteratively working to get the model right. What they have now has been tested and tried, and David continues to tinker with the model every day.
  • The conditions are right: 100K Ideas serves a community where the need is great and there is a sense of urgency in their work. They firmly believe that “talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not,” and recognize that Flint is a community where more citizens should be enabled to act on their innate creativity and leverage their ingenuity to generate impact. 100K Ideas acts on their belief and is working to expand the opportunities for Flint’s citizens to do that.

Most business accelerators follow a single model, but 100K Ideas is not copying anything else. Phil, David, and their team learn every day from the entrepreneurs they seek to serve. They play with what works for them and what doesn’t, and have created something wholly new — at first, we weren’t sure if they were trying to disrupt higher education or economic development, but we quickly realized that the answer is both. This is just the type of citizen-centered innovation we seek to lift up — innovation that provides a public service, that unleashes citizen agency and contributes to revitalizing a community. Visiting 100K Ideas was my first of hopefully many trips to Flint, but I hope to see more models like 100K Ideas in places all over the nation so that I won’t have to fly halfway across the country to find community-centered innovation like that. Citizen-entrepreneurs in communities across the US deserve it.

Join us in transforming public services.

Co-Creating an Advocacy and Innovation Platform with the Kauffman Foundation

Our Citizen Experience Lab is pleased to announce that it will once again be partnering with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri, to work with a group of stakeholders to co-create a shared platform for advocacy around innovation and entrepreneurship in the state.

Together with the Kauffman Foundation, BioSTL, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and MOSourceLink, will form a statewide community of advocates who seek to enhance the impact of innovation and entrepreneurship across Missouri as well as elevate state support for these activities.

The goal of the of which is to build a sustainable advocacy platform that Missouri’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem will want to rally around so that innovators and entrepreneurs in all parts of the state, from rural to urban contexts, receive the support they need to bring their ideas to life. Like many states across the country, Missouri has dedicated time and resources to spearhead efforts in innovation and entrepreneurship, yet has faced key challenges in the process that BIF and the Kauffman Foundation partners are seeking to solve.

As the first step in this process, BIF’s Citizen’s Experience Lab will facilitate a one-day design studio slated to take place in late October in Kansas City, MO,  to create defined mechanisms and outcomes that enhance the community’s collective capacity to effectively advocate about the value of innovation and entrepreneurship in Missouri, during which participants identify key metrics that define the impact of innovation and entrepreneurship in the state, design persuasive messages for use in advocacy, and set both short and long-term goals for advocacy achievements.

Mr. Kauffman, founder of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, believed it was a fundamental right for anyone who had a big idea to be able to bring it to life. In preserving his legacy, the Kauffman Foundation focuses on empowering entrepreneurs and breaking down barriers that stand in the way of starting and growing their businesses.

BIF has partnered with the Kauffman Foundation in the past to contribute to their efforts to build entrepreneurial ecosystems, including facilitating the design process for creating a strategic roadmap for Kauffman’s Startup Champion Network, as well as a new education platform for its 1 Million Cups initiative.

BIF’s Citizen Experience Lab is honored to support this initiative and facilitate its design process.


The Affordable Housing Crisis

The United States is facing an affordable housing crisis in almost every county, and it is only getting worse. Attempts to remedy the problem are proving too narrow, which means it may be time to re-frame the issue. We believe it is critical that we seek more comprehensive solutions based on a systematic analysis of citizen experience, and to create new models for addressing this crisis better aligned to the realities and needs of those facing it.

As a recent CityLab article reports, “nationwide, only 21 units are available per 100 extremely low-income renter households (those earning below 30 percent of the area median income) without government assistance. With assistance, it’s 46.” The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reports that “families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care.” Prioritizing any of these other necessities over housing could then leave them at imminent risk for homelessness.

Currently, there are:

·       An estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households who spend more than 50% of their annual incomes on housing.

·       Over 1 million people served by HUD through emergency, transitional, and permanent housing programs a year.

·       About half a million citizens who experience homelessness in the US on any given night; a number that could rise as high as 2 million over the course of a year.

This is a crisis that directly impacts millions of US citizens, and indirectly affects millions more. But what is causing it?

A recent Urban Institute report attributes the affordable housing crisis to two factors — rising rent prices and rising demand for affordable housing since 2000, as a greater number of people seek to rent. The struggle to find an affordable place to live is gravest in urban areas, where levels of homelessness are consequently highest. In some cities, buildings offering affordable housing have waiting lists in the hundreds before construction is even complete.

There is a crisis to be found here, for sure, but are we framing its solution all wrong?

Many reports would lead us to believe that the housing crisis is merely a supply-side issue — that there is simply not enough affordable housing to go around. However, other statistics like rising rates of inequality and stagnant wages in the US suggest that there might be other factors at play. In forging solutions, it is vital to ask the individuals, couples and families affected by the crisis more about their experiences, as there is always more to their stories than siloed numbers and isolated stats. What institutional leaders aspiring to holistically address this crisis really need to do is to shift their perspectives for solving the problem, to view it not only through segmented data and reports, but across sectors and from the lens of those actually struggling to make ends meet and tasked with the ever-growing challenge of finding and maintaining a sustainably affordable place to live.

Here at the BIF, we work towards systems-level change because we know that point solutions, such as increasing the supply of housing, are not enough. Throwing more housing options at a low-income community facing an affordable housing shortage might seem like an easy fix, but it doesn’t get at the complexity of the problem — such as deeper-seeded factors that may limit income, to begin with, or pose barriers to access. It won’t tackle the root causes of the problem.

BIF's Design Methodology

In order to effect systems-level change, we need next practices and agile new business models that we can network together across silos and sectors in a way that can shift and adapt to ever-changing contexts. In our messy, volatile world, the conditions that lead to pressures on housing and other basic needs are ever evolving and we need networks of public service models that can also evolve and shift to continue meeting the changing needs of citizens, and the myriad challenges they face, over time.

We need flexibleadaptable, and agile public services, truly designed to meet citizens where they are and when they need them — whether confronting homelessness or any other calamity, ideally well before a crisis takes hold in a way similar to how the affordable housing shortage has imperiled American citizens nationwide.

Citizens in need are waiting, and we can surely do better if we take the time to co-create new models, based on human experience, together!

Transforming Communities from the Ground Up

“Everything grows from the ground up,” said Angela Blanchard, President and CEO of BakerRipley, in a recent Business Model Sandbox Podcast with our Chief Catalyst, Saul Kaplan.

As one of the largest community development corporations in Houston and the US, BakerRipley employs a human-centered approach to community transformation that today serves over half a million people. Angela emphasizes the need for “appreciative inquiry” and the holistic integration of services when it comes to community work, and isn’t going to wait until government figures out how to provide for communities before identifying what neighborhoods and their residents already have to work with.

BIF is delighted to welcome Angela to our Board of Directors, and thankful for the following insights shared during her recent interview with Saul. They resonate particularly well with us here in BIF’s Citizen Experience Lab, as they are truly demonstrative of what it means to be “citizen-centered” in the work that we do.

Everything Grows from the Ground Up

In the podcast, Angela revealed that she is an avid gardener and enjoys working in the soil. Like the plants she spends time cultivating, community work, she recognizes, won’t take off unless you start on the ground. You have to get to know the community with which you are working, the people that live there, and what their aspirations are before you can begin any sort of sustainable work in community transformation, and we feel similarly here at the BIF. That’s why the first stage of any human-centered work is the participatory analysis element, in which our designers, working with our clients, take some quality time to really get to know the users of the systems we seek to re-create. “Everything grows from the ground up” functions as an excellent reminder that our work must always be grounded in a strong intimacy with the community members, patients, students, and in the CXL, citizens that we seek to serve if we can reasonably expect those systems to grow and thrive.

Work with What You’ve Got – And Build

Angela recognizes that approaches to community development typically fixate on problems. Practitioners attempt to offer technical solutions to ‘broken neighborhoods,’ ‘broken communities,’ and ‘broken families’ that fall short of affecting any holistic change. This deficits approach to community development, she claims, is not working. Rather, BakerRipley engages communities through the lens of “appreciative inquiry” and “appreciative community building,” which draws upon existing community assets and provides for self-determined change. Here at BIF, we know it is important to consider and leverage the existing capabilities of any organization when seeking transformation through business model innovation — to identify and work with what you already have. Recognizing what you have to work with and moving forward with that is the first step towards change, and Angela is a person who doesn’t like to waste any time waiting around for government or “someone somewhere else to figure things out” to start making a difference. Like us, she operates with a bias for action.

Another good reminder from Angela is that you can’t help those who haven’t asked for help; this most often results in agenda-pushing, amounting to what she referred to as appropriation or even “colonization.” This is especially important when working with communities that have been marginalized or disenfranchised because otherwise, you’re just another group forcing your own agenda onto them. Angela recognizes that BakerRipley’s role in these neighborhoods is one of an ‘enabler.’ They enable change and transformation founded on the goals and aspirations they hear on the ground, using the strengths and assets of the community to build upon, and thus facilitate change by enabling the agency of the folks who have asked BakerRipley to assist them.

This is hugely important for not only community buy-in of projects, but to work on projects identified and driven by the very community they seek to help — because you can’t help people if you’re not giving them what they need or want. Only in this way can their work be truly community-centered, and the same is true of any work that aims to transform and improve the citizen experience in a genuinely human and user-centered way. The point could even be taken to considering our own BIF CXL clients — you can’t help a public service transform if its leaders aren’t open to trying a more human-centered approach. You can’t force innovation onto someone unless they’re already open to it.

Community First

By being rooted in the community experience, open to trying a variety of new and different models, and committed to community transformation that works for community members, BakerRipley is an example for what government social services could be. With a holistic, un-siloed approach to integrated services based upon what the communities in the neighborhoods where they work really want and need, BakerRipley delivers tremendous value to hundreds of thousands of people — succeeding at great scale. The work of the organization that Angela leads is rooted in the assets and aspirations of community members, which has proven extraordinarily effective. And its agile and bold ability to test, try, fail, and try again makes for ample learning and quicker success. The work of BakerRipley is truly a model for effective, human-centered transformation, and the organization has hundreds of thousands of success stories to share to back that up.