One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for June 2016

Social Enterprise Pitch Night on June 30th

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Chicago is leading the way in driving socially-minded businesses and other social enterprises. On June 30th, social change advocates are invited to attend Social Enterprise Pitch Night hosted by Social Enterprise Alliance-Chicago and Net Impact Chicago. If you’ve ever watched “Shark Tank”, you’ll understand the format: five social entrepreneur finalists will present their business concepts to judges for prizes (including $1,000 to the winner and a $1,000 audience award)  as well as complimentary expert business advice.

Events like this have a nomination process, and Social Enterprise Pitch Night has five primary competitors, including:

  • Edova, a Chicago-based education technology social enterprise that brings tablet education into correctional facilities nationwide
  • Lihtec, a Chicago-based marketplace platform that facilitates the development of affordable housing by connecting developers with socially minded investors.
  • The MetroAlliance, an south-suburban organization that gathers funds to buy underutilized and undervalued housing, commercial and retail properties that are underappreciated due to racial and socioeconomic factors.
  • Docademia, a video on demand service offering best in social documentary files packaged for educators.
  • MemoryWell, a network of journalists that write life stories for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia who otherwise cannot tell their own stories.

Judges for the event are

The event will be held at Coalition:Impact, a co-working space for social enterprise businesses and entrepreneurs seeking to drive change, from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm. (Coalition: Impact is also holding a happy hour on July 12 focused on the social impact/social enterprise community ). Tickets (which include beer and wine) are $15, and can be purchased via Eventbrite at

These are interesting times for social enterprise in Chicago, as more businesses are focusing on making a social impact while many nonprofits are becoming more business-like in their efforts to drive change. Social Enterprise Pitch Night is a great opportunity to get onto the ground floor of a burgeoning movement.

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Please  share them in the comments section below. Please join the conversation on our Facebook page. (. If you want to reach me directly, simply use this “Contact Me” form or use this blog’s About page)

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Meet Your Neighbor: IssueLab

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(Special thanks to Gordon Mayer for the heads-up!)

Driving social change in Chicago means meeting a variety of really great like-minded people, but it also means learning about great resources for nonprofits. Recently, I had the opportunity to learn about IssueLab, an online initiative that seeks to help nonprofits by centralizing research.

Although affiliated with the Foundation Center in New York, IssueLab is a Chicago tech story – founders Gabriela Fitz and Lisa Brooks started out by building the Community Media Workshop’s (now better known as Public Narrative) first web site in the 1990s, and later expanded to building sites as part of New Media for Nonprofits. As they helped nonprofits build and develop sites, both realized that the sites they built for nonprofits contained research that needed to be integrated into a central location, rather than just “thrown out” when a site was developed or abandoned. Fitz and Brooks realized what was needed – a centralized resources where reports, case studies, evaluations, and other knowledge created by nonprofits, foundations, and other related organizations could be accessed and shared.

As part of the Foundation Center, IssueLab provides an easily accessible medium where users can upload, discover, and freely share research. Features of the site include an easy-to-use interface allowing users to upload and share items; filtered search and curation capabilities; identify resources that could be useful long-term; and metadata that allows for searching and browsing across 38 different categories focusing on key issues.

IssueLab also provides some custom services for nonprofits, foundations, and university-based research centers, including synthesis reports, knowledge centers (like this site focusing on freshwater issues). Although partwith the Foundation Center, IssueLab’s focus is on outreach to nonprofits, making sorely-needed research accessible for nonprofits with a less pandering and more practical approach. (For example, IssueLab has approximately 1,000 annual reports, and they are actively seeking and engaging nonprofits to help foster resources and collaboration). IssueLab is also engaging nonprofits around perceiving IssueLab as a knowledge resource. Quoting from IssueLab’s recent press release, Lisa Brooks, Director of Knowledge Management Systems, states that

“Our sector tends to under-value the knowledge we generate or treat research as much as they would communications and outreach efforts….Open knowledge and publishing our research will bring all of us closer to why we invest in social sector research to begin with – to better understand and raise awareness about pressing social problems, and to deepen the impact of the work we do to solve them.

Hosting more than 20,000 pieces of research published and/or funded by over 7,000 organizations from around the world, IssueLab is a Chicago initiative that seeks to make greater impact upon nonprofits and other mission-driven organizations. IssueLab is free for everyone and is licensed via Creative Commons. If knowledge is power, then IssueLab provides a method for nonprofits to contribute resources as well as generate power.

Please share any thoughts, comments, or questions below or on our Facebook page. (Comments on both the blog and Facebook page will be moderated). If you want to reach me directly, simply use this “Contact Me” form)

And as always, thanks for reading!

Want to receive updates via e-mail? Just type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

Written by gordondym

June 22, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Freelancers Union Chicago: Resources for Nonprofit Solopreneurs

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As an active freelancer, I attend various networking and professional events to find resources, and have become very enamored of great resources for fellow Chicago nonprofit/social enterprise freelancers. Fortunately, last night I attended Freelancers Union Spark Chicago’s Summertime Bash.  If you’re a nonprofit/social enterprise freelancer or “solopreneur”, Freelancers Union Chicago is an extremely valuable professional resource.

Freelancers Union is a nonprofit whose mission centers around providing advocacy, resources, and thought leadership for independent workers. With several chapters throughout the country (including Chicago), Freelancers Union provides opportunities for freelancers to connect, develop skills and knowledge in related areas (like contract law or developing a client pipeline), and learn about and advocate for their professional rights.. (One of the Freelancers Union’s best-known campaigns is #FreelanceIsn’tFree, focused on insuring that independent workers are paid in a timely manner. Too frequently, many freelancers end up with “deadbeat” clients, and I can personally attest that this does happen to many freelancers…and has happened to me thanks to a downstate startup.)

Freelancer’s Union Chicago hold their events on the first Wednesday of the month at the Grind’s downtown coworking space. It’s a nice, wide-open space that feels warm and welcoming. It’s a bi-level area that provides numerous amenities – including private officers – for freelancers and solopreneurs. I have been to several events and meetups held at the Grind (including the Work from Homies Meetup), and has a casual, friendly atmosphere that’s conducive to collaboration. Don’t believe me – check out this gallery of photos (with thanks to Susan Barahia & Trisha Diamond for their permission):


One of the great advantages to Freelancers Union Chicago for nonprofit/social enterprise freelancers is access to a diverse range of peers and organizations. Startups, authors, publishers, marketing professionals – Freelancers Union Chicago has a very active, passionate community. Monthly events – like membership in the Freelancers Union – are free, providing a low barrier of entry. Last night’s event was not only well attended, but contained a wide variety of people. For many independent workers in the nonprofit/social enterprise field, finding opportunities to connect and learn can be a challenge….but Freelancers Union Spark in Chicago provides ample opportunities.

July’s event will focus on developing a successful pitch for clients….but don’t wait. Consider joining in order to keep up with news and updates. It’s a resource that’s sorely needed….and very appreciated.

Have any insights or resources into nonprofit/social enterprise freelancing? Know of other great events happening in the Chicago area? Please share any thoughts, comments, or questions below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. (Comments on both the blog and Facebook page will be moderated). If you want to reach me directly, simply use this “Contact Me” form)

And as always, thanks for reading!

Want to receive updates via e-mail? Just type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.