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Social Entrepreneurship

This category includes articles about social entrepreneurs, typically about businesses with a for-profit model with a social mission embedded into the fabric of the business.

Baker-Polito Administration Launches Workforce Development Pay for Success Project

Program will address barriers to employment for limited English speakers

Press Release – BOSTON – Today, the Baker-Polito Administration, along with Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), and Social Finance, a Boston-based non-profit, launched the Massachusetts Pathways to Economic Advancement Project, a Pay for Success (PFS) initiative that will help limited English speakers in Greater Boston make successful transitions to employment, higher wage jobs, and higher education.

“One of our administration’s top priorities has been to expand workforce development opportunities for everyone in the Commonwealth and to help individuals obtain the skills needed to participate in Massachusetts’ nation-leading innovation economy,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The Pathways to Economic Advancement Project is a forward-thinking public-private partnership that will help match employers with potential employees, and employees with the skills employers need, strengthening the Commonwealth’s workforce.”

“Providing critical English-language skills and vocational training limited English speakers will bolster our workforce and increase economic development opportunities across the Commonwealth,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “We are excited for this collaborative program to launch, and look forward to working with our project partners.”

Shortly after taking office, the Baker-Polito Administration created the cross-secretariat Massachusetts Workforce Skills Cabinet (WSC) to align education, economic development and workforce issues, and to strategize around how to meet employers’ demand for skilled workers in each region of the state. Through the WSC and initiatives like the Pathways to Economic Advancement Project, the administration has worked to advance economic opportunities for all in Massachusetts.

“This is another example of our administration’s investments to address workforce skills needs across the Commonwealth,” said Administration and Finance Secretary Kristen Lepore. “The project’s funding model is an innovative way to address the workforce skills gap in Massachusetts, and with the results based payment structure, we are ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent in a responsible way.”

“This is a great example of how a public-private partnership can help close the workforce skills gap using outcome oriented approaches,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald L. Walker II.

“We’re proud to be the home of the first PFS project dedicated to workforce development,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “As a leader in innovation, the Commonwealth understands how important workforce investments are to build a strong, talented workforce and remain competitive. This program will provide limited English speakers with new opportunities to succeed.”

This innovative program will combine nonprofit expertise, private funding, and independent evaluation to increase access to workforce development services, including vocational training, English language classes, job search assistance, and college-transitioning programming for approximately 2,000 adults over three years.

The project is being carried out by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, represented by the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, and the Executive Office of Education, in conjunction with partners including JVS, Social Finance, the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab (GPL), Economic Mobility Corporation, and Jobs for the Future.

PFS provides a tool for results-based government financing, leveraging private capital to fund experienced service providers and enable government to respond to identified needs. Investors are repaid based on the level of measurable success of the program. This data-intensive approach helps governments target funding towards approaches that work, while limiting risk on new policy programs.

This is the third PFS initiative launched in Massachusetts, and the first PFS project in the nation to focus exclusively on workforce development.

JVS, one of Greater Boston’s largest community-based workforce development and adult education providers, will offer four distinct program tracks that draw on its expertise integrating adult education with job readiness and employer relationships. Each program track will accommodate varying language levels, personal resources, employment objectives, and educational goals among program participants.

“This innovative source of private and public capital, where government pays only for what works, enables JVS to scale our proven workforce development model, reduce waiting lists, and prepare thousands of talented immigrant workers to meet the demands of our booming economy. We are thrilled to be part of the Commonwealth’s groundbreaking effort to creatively expand funding for high-quality human service delivery, and look forward to successfully delivering great results for our clients, investors, and partners,” said Jerry Rubin, President & CEO of JVS.

Social Finance raised $12.43 million from 40 investors including financial institutions, donor advised funds, individuals, and foundations, to fund JVS services.

“Social Finance is proud to be a part of the nation’s first Pay for Success project to focus exclusively on workforce development,” said Tracy Palandjian, Social Finance co-founder and CEO. “This public private partnership would not have been possible without the support of impact investors committed to using their capital to advance the core values of our country, including Prudential Financial, Maycomb Capital, CJP, Living Cities, and others. This initiative will contribute to the economic mobility of immigrants and refugees and to the vitality of the Massachusetts economy for years to come.”

Since 2011, GPL has provided technical assistance to the Commonwealth in developing and launching three of the nation’s 17 Pay for Success projects.

“The Massachusetts Pay for Success project not only allows the Commonwealth to expand important services for English language learners, it will serve as a model for other jurisdictions seeking innovative solutions to developing their workforce,” said Professor Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and GPL Director.

For more information on the Massachusetts Pathways to Economic Advancement Pay for Success Project, please visit: http://socialfinance.org/content/uploads/MAPathways_FactSheet.pdf

For additional quotes from project partners, please visit: http://socialfinance.org/content/uploads/MAPathways_QuoteSheet.pdf

Protix Receives 45M€ in Funding to Scale Production of Insect Proteins

Press Release – Dongen, The Netherlands (June 13, 2017) – Today, the insect supply industry reached a significant milestone with Netherlands-based Protix, the leading insect company, closing 45M€ in funding-delivered by Aqua-Spark, the first investment company focused on sustainable aquaculture, Rabobank, BOM and various private investors.

Protix breeds insects for animal feed, as insects offer a low-impact protein alternative that can be cultivated on a variety of food scraps. This is of the utmost importance as global populations continue to grow and the demand for meat, fish and dairy surges. Food production is increasingly under pressure, with added challenges of deforestation and over-fishing.

Protix is a highly technological and data driven insect producer, regarded for its automated breeding and rearing process. The company has turned insect production into a commercial success by serving the animal feed industry, while also developing food applications for consumers. Their products are used in over 12 countries to date – in feed applications ranging from pig and poultry to pet food specialties.

The driver behind Aqua-Spark’s interest is Protix promising uses for aquaculture. Fish raised using sustainable aquaculture methods offer a solution to the global food crisis because they have the least environmental impact of any animal protein. However, as the industry continues to improve overall, feed is still a key concern. 33% of all wild caught fish is processed into animal feed, and alternatives like soy contribute to deforestation and do not reflect a natural diet. Protix has the potential to further elevate aquaculture, while solving feed challenges across multiple industries at a large scale and sustainably disposing of food scraps.

The Potential for Insects

Protix was founded in 2009 by two former McKinsey & Company colleagues, Kees Aarts and Tarique Arsiwalla. “Due to increasing demand from our loyal and valuable customers, we’re ready for the upcoming acceleration made possible by investments and our partners. With 45M€ in funding, we plan to expand Protix’s production capacity, especially within the aquaculture industry where the main challenge is creating a sustainable, healthy feed. Protix will also deepen its biological and technical R&D and diversify to other markets like food. We are very excited to serve our existing and new customers and we will be seeking great M&A opportunities, work with great organizations and hire the best people,” said Protix CEO Kees Aarts.

Aqua-Spark

Mike Velings and Amy Novogratz, founders of Aqua-Spark have a clear reason for investing. “We’ve been researching the insect industry for many years, and Protix stands out because of its potential to be pivotal in the development of a sustainable aqua-feed solution. We’re selective about the companies we invest in; and Protix fits well with Aqua-Spark’s portfolio and aligns with our mission and values. Combined with excellent potential returns and through its partnership with Buhler, Protix is expected to enable industry acceleration globally. We’re thrilled to be the lead investor in this latest round of funding, which will contribute to the company’s continued growth.”

Rabobank

Rabobank has been involved with Protix from its start, and continues to support the insect company today as the core bank in its latest round of funding. The bank was introduced to Protix through the Dutch Green Tech Fund (currently Shift Invest). As the leading Food & Agribusiness Bank worldwide, with Banking for Food as its core-strategy, Rabobank is concerned with future challenges surrounding world food production.

 

Leonhardt Adds HIF-1 Alpha To Estate of Bioelectric Controlled Release Regenerative Proteins

Press Release – Salt Lake City, Utah and Santa Monica, CA – June 8th, 2017 (PRBUZZ) — Leonhardt’s Launchpads, an organ regeneration and recovery focused innovation/startup accelerator today announced that it has filed a new patent application claim for the controlled expression of Hypoxia Inducible Factor 1 (HIF 1 Alpha). HIF 1 Alpha is a powerful organ regeneration protein. This patent will be sub-licensed exclusively organ by organ to 26 unique organ regeneration focused startups within the Leonhardt led innovation accelerators in Utah and California including BioLeonhardt heart, AortaCell aorta, RegenaLung lung regeneration, CerebraCell brain, EyeCell eye, Stem Cell Bra breast and PancreaCell for pancreas regeneration.

In recent studies at Leonhardt’s own research lab space at BioInnovations Gateway in Utah the team achieved more than 286% increase of HIF-1 Alpha on demand in test article tissues with a specific bioelectric signal.

“We targeted the discovery search for the precise bioelectric signal for triggering HIF-1 alpha expression from tissues more than 4 years ago and were delighted to finally hit on it with a highly substantial expression increase with our optimized signal. This adds to our building library of over fifteen bioelectric stimulation signals for promoting organ regeneration. We believe this combined with our programmable micro-infusion pump and fifteen component organ regeneration composition puts our team in a leadership position to in the near future help patients with degenerating and diseased organs to recover.” Dr. Jorge Genovese co-Inventor, VP of Bioelectric Regeneration Research, BioLeonhardt LTP, Leonhardt’s Launchpads by Cal-X Stars Business Accelerator, Inc. and Leonhardt’s Launchpads Utah, Inc.

The Leonhardt-Genovese team working in collaboration with component suppliers has developed both wireless non-invasive and implantable wire lead based means to get their regeneration and healing promoting bioelectric signals to target organs.

Hypoxia has been proven as a critical element in the organ regeneration process. Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF-1a) is a master regulator of the adaptative response to hypoxia. HIF-1a over expression in cells mimics the mechanisms triggered by hypoxia in injured or diseased tissues and increases their therapeutic potential without direct hypoxia stimulation.

HIF-1 Alpha Potential Useful Properties for Organ Regeneration:
HIF 1a signaling promotes heart regeneration.
HIF 1a signaling reduces infarction size and attenuates cardiac dysfunction.
HIF 1a induces coronary collateral vessel formation.
HIF 1a is a tumor suppressor.
HIF 1a has been reported a gateway controller of cancer.
HIF 1a promotes liver regeneration.
HIF 1a promotes lung regeneration via aveolar development.
HIF 1a promotes brain saving following traumatic brain injury or stroke.
HIF 1a promotes retinal eye regeneration.
HIF 1a management seems to be important to healthy kidney function and can protect against kidney injury.
HIF 1a helps promote muscle regeneration.
HIF 1a helps promote wound healing.
HIF 1a has a supportive role in hair regeneration.
HIF 1a promotes extracellular matrix.
HIF 1a has a critical role in bone development and healing.
HIF 1a may be important to stabilize teeth positions after accelerated tooth movement.
HIF 1a is an essential regulator of inflammation.

Note – All above safety and efficacy claims, if any, mentioned above are yet to be be confirmed in randomized, placebo controlled clinical studies.

“HIF 1 Alpha is one of the most potent growth factors in promoting cell, tissue and organ repair applicable to a wide variety of uses. It has been demonstrated to be especially useful in heart regeneration. We are proud to have extended our portfolio of bioelectrical stimulation signals to include HIF 1 Alpha. We are embarking upon well controlled translation research studies to prove our combination therapy out for regenerative repair of a number of organs.” states Dr. Leslie Miller, Chief Medical Officer of Leonhardt’s Launchpads, Second Heart Assist, Inc. and BioLeonhardt.

About Leonhardt’s Launchpads:

Operated by Cal-X Stars Business Accelerator, Inc. Leonhardt’s Launchpads was founded in Santa Monica in 2013. The five year accelerator is incubating 26 regenerative medtech and 4 regenerative economy startups and licensable technology platforms (LTPs). Leonhardt’s Launchpads also manages a smaller incubator/accelerator at the University of Northern California Science and Technology Innovation Center (UNC STIC) in Petaluma, CA since 2008.

About Leonhardt’s Launchpads Utah, Inc.:

Founded in November 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah, just off the campus of the University of Utah, is the World’s First Organ Regeneration Focused Innovation/Startup Accelerator. The company has lab space with a staffed research team at the USTAR BioInnovations Gateway Utah facility at 2500 S. State Street, Salt Lake City, Utah. The accelerator is currently incubating more than a dozen organ regeneration and recovery focused startups at this time.

About Leonhardt Ventures (Leonhardt Vineyards LLC DBA Leonhardt Ventures):

Founded in 1982 is the patent holding vehicle and venture capital arm of inventor Howard J. Leonhardt. In the 1980’s Leonhardt developed a market leading cardiovascular balloon catheter, in the 1990’s the leading stent graft system for aortic aneurysm repair and one of the first percutaneous heart valves and biological pacemakers. Since 2000 the focus has been on organ regeneration technologies with a combination of bioelectric signaling and repeat delivery of mixed stem cell + growth factor based compositions. Leonhardt has over 21 U.S. Patents with over 100 issued patent claims and dozens more pending.

About BioLeonhardt:

BioLeonhardt LTP founded in 2013 is the flagship technology platform of Leonhardt Ventures and Leonhardt’s Launchpads Utah, Inc. focused on heart regeneration. BioLeonhardt developed a combination three component system for heart regeneration comprised of (1) a bioelectric stimulator controlling release of regenerating promoting proteins including a stem cell homing factor, (2) an implantable, programmable and re-fillable micro infusion pump and (3) a fifteen component stem cell based heart regeneration composition.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements:

Statements in this press release regarding the efficacy, safety, and intended utilization of Capricor’s product candidates; the conduct, size, timing and results of discovery efforts and clinical trials; scope, duration, validity and enforceability of intellectual property rights; plans regarding regulatory filings, future research and clinical trials; plans regarding current and future collaborative activities and the ownership of commercial rights; future royalty streams, and any other statements about Cal-X Stars Business Accelerator, Inc, Leonhardt Vineyards LLC DBA Leonhardt Ventures, or Leonhardt’s Launchpads Utah, Inc. management team’s future expectations, beliefs, goals, plans or prospects constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Any statements that are not statements of historical fact (including statements containing the words “believes,” “plans,” “could,” “anticipates,” “expects,” “estimates,” “should,” “target,” “will,” “would” and similar expressions) should also be considered to be forward-looking statements. There are a number of important factors that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements. More information about these and other risks that may impact our business are set forth in our 506D part C Cal-X Stars Businesss Accelerator, Inc. private placement memorandum originally filed in 2013 and updated via our Annual Reports. All forward-looking statements in this press release are based on information available to us as of the date hereof, and we assume no obligation to update these forward-looking statements.

Note – Each organ specific web site linked via Leonhardt Ventures www.leonhardtventures.com has at the bottom or the tope of its landing page a link to supporting scientific articles.

Web Sites:

Leonhardt Ventures www.leonhardtventures.com – this site includes links to all portfolio startups.
BioLeonhardt LTP www.bioleonhardt.com
Cal-X Stars Businesss Accelerator, Inc http://calxstars.com/what-we-do/ includes links to videos of platform innovations.
Leonhardt’s Launchpads Utah, Inc. http://leonhardtventures.com/leonhardts-launchpads-utah/

Leonhardt’s Launchpads by Cal-X Stars, 2000 Main Street, Unit 333, Santa Monica, CA 90405 – www.leonhardtventures.com + www.calxstars.com

Kathy Ko Chin and Cecilia Muñoz Appointed to Kresge Foundation Board of Trustees

Irene Hirano Inouye, Lee Bollinger complete board service after 16 years

Press Release – June 8, 2017 (Detroit) – The Kresge Foundation Board of Trustees has appointed Kathy Ko Chin and Cecilia Muñoz to serve as trustees on the 12-member governing body for the private, national foundation that works to expand opportunity for people living in America’s cities.

“Both Kathy and Cecilia have made it their life’s work to find solutions to the most pressing challenges affecting our democracy and the people most impacted,” said Elaine D. Rosen, Kresge board chair. “Their unwavering commitment to these issues is uniquely aligned with the strategic direction of the foundation and we look forward to their added perspective and contribution to Kresge’s work.”

Kathy Ko Chin
Photo Credit: http://kresge.org

Kathy Ko Chin is president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, which influences policy, mobilizes communities and strengthens organizations to improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. The daughter of immigrants from China, Ko Chin’s 40-year career has been committed to building community institutions that contribute to a just and multiracial society. Recognized as an authority on national health policy, she is a renowned voice for the Asian American community and served on President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. She has served on the boards of many nonprofit organizations, as well as leading and participating in the investment and financing committees for Blue Cross of California’s Investment in a Healthy California Program, the Cal-Mortgage program and Catholic Healthcare West. Ko Chin, a native of Cleveland, earned a master’s degree in health policy and management from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford University.

“I am honored and excited to join Cecilia Muñoz, whom I worked closely with when she was at the White House, on the Board of Trustees of The Kresge Foundation, an organization widely recognized for its keen insight into the complex issues facing low-income and minority communities,” Ko Chin said. “As communities grow and change, the Foundation’s efforts are even more relevant, and the road forward will require us all to be strategic, dynamic, and compassionate. I look forward to working with the entire board to expand opportunities for all individuals, families, and communities.”

Cecilia Muñoz
Photo Credit: http://kresge.org

Cecilia Muñoz is vice president of policy and technology and director of the national network at New America, a think tank and civic enterprise committed to renewing American politics, prosperity and purpose in the Digital Age. Previously she was the director of the Domestic Policy Council under President Obama from 2012 until 2017, and also served as the White House director of Intergovernmental Affairs. Muñoz is the daughter of immigrants from Bolivia. Prior to her work in government, she was senior vice president for the Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation at the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Hispanic policy and advocacy organization. Muñoz was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2000 for her work on immigration and civil rights, and has served on the boards of the National Immigration Forum, the Open Society Institute and the Atlantic Philanthropies. A native of Detroit, she earned bachelor’s degrees in Latin American studies and English from the University of Michigan and earned a master’s degree in Latin American studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

“During my three decades of policymaking, I have learned to value The Kresge Foundation for its thoughtful investments, its focus on results, and its leadership in the philanthropic world; it gives me great pride to join the foundation’s board at this important moment,” Muñoz said.

Ko Chin and Muñoz will each serve a 4-year term, at which time, per the foundation’s governance rules, their board service may be extended to a maximum of 16 years. Cynthia Kresge, a trustee and the great-granddaughter of founder Sebastian S. Kresge, led the trustee search process and evaluated dozens of individuals before successfully recommending Ko Chin and Muñoz to the full board for approval.

In addition, two longtime trustees, Irene Hirano Inouye and Lee Bollinger, have stepped down from their Kresge trustee positions after 16 years on the board. Hirano Inouye, president of the U.S.-Japan Council, joined the Kresge board in 2001 and served as board chair from 2004 through 2006. Bollinger, president of Columbia University, also was appointed as a trustee in June 2001. During his service, he co-chaired the 2006 search committee that led to the hiring of Kresge President and CEO, Rip Rapson.

“It is hard to consider our board without Irene and Lee,” said Rosen. “Irene’s knowledge has brought Kresge to the forefront of good governance, and her grace and leadership has raised our board discourse to a superior level. Lee is an inspirational thought leader who has helped us realize the true breadth of the foundation’s philanthropic potential,” she said.

About The Kresge Foundation

The Kresge Foundation is a $3.5 billion private, national foundation that works to expand opportunities in America’s cities through grantmaking and social investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services, and community development in Detroit. In 2016, the Board of Trustees approved 474 grants totaling $141.5 million, and made 14 social investment commitments totaling $50.8 million. For more information, visit www.kresge.org.

Echoing Green Announces ‘the Talent to Change the World’ with Its 2017 Fellowship Awards

36 transformational leaders represent trends and cutting-edge innovations in the social good sector

Press Release – New York, NY – June 8, 2017

  • Turning chicken feathers into sustainable home insulation…
  • Bringing racial equity to cannabis by creating pathways for underground distributors to enter the legal cannabis industry…
  • Equipping communities with comprehensive data on police violence…

These are some of the organizations led by Echoing Green’s newest class of 36 emerging leaders. Echoing Green is a global organization that spots social entrepreneurs with the greatest potential and invests deeply in their success. The organization accelerates tomorrow’s transformational leaders today.

View the full list of 2017 Fellows at EchoingGreen.org/2017-Fellows.

Every year, Echoing Green provides funding and leadership development to a new class of Fellows. The organization embraces “smart risks” by providing seed funding of up to $90,000 for two years to support the continued growth of leaders and organizations with tremendous potential. These individuals are also welcomed into a lifelong global network of philanthropists, investors, and entrepreneurs who help one another experiment with bold, new ideas.

This year’s Fellows include visionaries who are transforming economies, racial and gender equity, environmental sustainability and more. Fellows lead diverse organizations that mix for-profit and nonprofit elements. 57 percent of this year’s class has for-profit elements in their work.

Echoing Green is among the most highly selective fellowships for social entrepreneurs. This year, Echoing Green reviewed 2,879 applications from 164 countries. See additional statistics in the 2017 Applicant Snapshot.

“For the past 30 years Echoing Green has identified leaders with bold ideas that are important to the progress of the world,” says Echoing Green President Cheryl L. Dorsey. “In this year – Echoing Green’s 30th anniversary – we’re especially proud to continue to grow our community and welcome such a diverse group of innovators to our best-in-class network. We look forward to advancing their leadership journey.”

With the addition of this new class, Echoing Green will have invested more than $42.5 million in seed-stage funding and strategic assistance to over 760 best-in-class leaders driving positive social change in 86 countries. Echoing Green also supports the Fellow community long after their initial funding period through ongoing programs and opportunities at critical points in their careers.

Support of Echoing Green’s 2017 Fellowship class is made possible through private contributions and the generous support of funders, including the Jerome L. Greene Foundation and the ZOOM Foundation.

The Rainforest Alliance And UTZ To Merge, Forming New, Stronger Organization

The new organization will create a single agriculture sustainability standard, and will simplify the certification process and continue to improve livelihoods for farmers and forest communities.

Press Release – 7 JUNE 2017, AMSTERDAM AND NEW YORK — The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, two of the world’s leading sustainability certification organizations, have announced their intention to merge later this year.

The new organization, to be named the Rainforest Alliance, will tackle environmental and social issues around the world, including climate change, deforestation, poverty and unsustainable farming. It will create a single global certification standard that will simplify certification for farmers and empower companies to build more responsible supply chains, more efficiently. It will also work to expand advocacy efforts and through new partnerships ensure conservation of entire landscapes in priority regions from India to Indonesia, Guatemala to Ghana.

New organization, new certification standard

The future Rainforest Alliance will help ensure that more products are responsibly sourced, helping farmers and companies meet the growing demand for products with sustainable credentials.

The future sustainability standard, a single certification program known as the Rainforest Alliance standard, will utilize the respective strengths of the current Sustainable Agriculture Network and UTZ standards while creating a single auditing process for certificate holders.

As a result, it will be an easier path for companies to achieve proven sustainability certification, allowing them to drive innovation throughout their supply chains. Streamlining the certification process will also help the 182,000 cocoa, coffee and tea farmers currently certified under both standards and new farmers alike to invest more efficiently in sustainability, avoiding a double administrative load of working with two standards and certification systems.

Stronger together

Adopting the name ‘Rainforest Alliance’ helps retain well-established engagement with consumers. By combining forces, the two NGOs will provide a leading platform to help increase demand for responsibly sourced products.

Together, the new organization will act as an advocate for change, continuing to protect the natural environment and striving to make sustainable agriculture and forest management the norm by working side by side with communities, businesses and governments. This is an aim that is already at the core of the missions of UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance.

Once the two organizations have merged, Han de Groot, current executive director of UTZ, will be the CEO of the Rainforest Alliance. Nigel Sizer, current president of the Rainforest Alliance, will take on the role of Chief Program Officer, Advocacy, Landscapes and Livelihoods.

The future Rainforest Alliance will continue to be a member of the Sustainable Agriculture Network, working in partnership with other organizations to promote sustainable agriculture.

Quote: Han de Groot, Executive Director, UTZ

“The challenges we work on are more urgent than ever: climate change, deforestation, systemic poverty and inequality are increasingly intertwined with the way we manage land and produce food and forest products. The future Rainforest Alliance will have a bigger reach and stronger voice, allowing it to better protect the natural environment and allow farmers, businesses and consumers to be make even more responsible choices, more easily. We have a history of continuous growth and strong partnerships – this new venture will give us more influence to bring us closer to our mission: a world where sustainable farming will be the norm.”

Quote: Nigel Sizer, President of the Rainforest Alliance

“Our missions are very similar, to work with farmers and communities in an effort to protect the natural environment and help mitigate the effects of climate change on a global scale. By uniting with UTZ, and partnered with SAN, we will combine our strengths to expand our impact on improving the lives of farmers and forest communities, protecting biodiversity and championing companies that are on the path to sustainability.”

Quote: Daniel Katz, Founder and Chairman of the Board of the Rainforest Alliance

“Now, more than ever, stronger collaborations are needed to ensure we are doing the best we can to create a more sustainable planet. This new alliance moves us forward in that regard as it combines first-rate global conservation efforts with the gold standards of independent third-party certification. We believe that collectively the Rainforest Alliance, UTZ and the Sustainable Agriculture Network, working closer together, will benefit more farmers and more ecosystems worldwide.”

Quote: Roberto Vélez, CEO Colombian Coffee Growers Federation

“Thousands of Colombian coffee farmers who are certified by both UTZ and The Rainforest Alliance will benefit from this development. It should bring great benefits to them, such as being audited against one standard instead of two, thereby making major savings on auditing costs. This should allow coffee growers to invest more efficiently in sustainability and increase their income, hence contributing to their economic sustainability.” The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) represents more than half a million families dedicated to growing coffee in Colombia.

Quote: Jason Clay, WWF Senior Vice President, Markets and Food

“This shift offers an opportunity to help marginal producers in developing countries realize higher returns for their products through the harmonization and simplification of global certification programs. This should enable the adoption of better farming practices more quickly as well as continuous improvement in the production and sale of key commodities [such as coffee, cocoa, tea, and bananas]. I want to congratulate the leaders of both the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ for coming together in order to find a common good.”

Quote: Andre de Freitas, Executive Director of the Sustainable Agriculture Network

“The Sustainable Agriculture Network fully endorses the merger between the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ. As a key partner of the Rainforest Alliance for more than two decades, we will participate in the governance of the new organization and look forward to supporting it over the coming years.”

Quote: Pascal Baltussen, Vice President, Commercial, at Mars Chocolate

“For years Mars has supported certification with both Rainforest Alliance and UTZ as part of our commitment to certify our entire cocoa supply chain as produced in a sustainable manner. To achieve sustainability even greater impact and assurance is required, therefore we have high expectations that this merger will result in a positive transformation of farmer livelihoods and land use practices on a greater scale, which is urgently needed.”

About the Rainforest Alliance

The Rainforest Alliance is a global nonprofit that works with people whose livelihoods depend on the land, helping them transform the way they grow food, harvest wood and host travelers. From large multinational corporations to small, community-based cooperatives, businesses and consumers worldwide are involved in the Rainforest Alliance’s efforts to bring responsibly produced goods and services to a global marketplace where the demand for sustainability is growing steadily.

About UTZ

UTZ is a program and label for sustainable farming. Sustainable farming helps farmers, workers and their families to fulfill their ambitions and contributes to safeguarding the earth’s natural resources, now and in the future. The mission of UTZ is to create a world where sustainable farming is the norm; where farmers implement good agricultural practices and manage their farms profitably with respect for people and planet, industry invests in and rewards sustainable production and consumers can enjoy and trust the products they buy.

Texas Becomes First in Nation to Implement Comprehensive Rape Kit Reform

Press Release – NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation today announced that Texas has become the first state in the nation to implement comprehensive rape kit reform. With the passage of H.B. 281, which requires the Department of Public Safety to establish a comprehensive statewide tracking system to monitor rape kits from collection to analysis, Texas has now enacted all six pillars of reform recommended by Joyful Heart and leaders in this field.

“Joyful Heart is proud to stand with State Representative Donna Howard, former State Senator Wendy Davis, and our tireless advocacy partners, including the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, who have fought for years for comprehensive rape kit reform,” said Ilse Knecht, Joyful Heart’s Director of Policy and Advocacy. “With this passage, Texas has demonstrated its commitment to bringing justice to survivors, holding violent perpetrators accountable for their crimes, and promoting public safety for all residents.”

Ending the rape kit backlog requires a coordinated effort and deep commitment at all levels of our government and in communities across the United States. Joyful Heart has developed a national campaign that combines direct legislative efforts, press and media outreach, strategic partnerships, and survivor advocacy. The goal: pass comprehensive rape kit reform legislation in all 50 states by 2020.

Joyful Heart’s campaign was developed following a comprehensive review of rape kit reform efforts, as well as interviews with trusted experts across the country—advocates, survivors, prosecutors, investigators, and crime lab personnel—and local, state and national leaders. The assessment formalized six essential pillars for comprehensive rape kit reform:

  1. Annual statewide audit: Inventory all untested rape kits periodically to understand the scope of the problem and monitor progress.
  2. Mandatory testing of backlogged kits: Eliminate the existing backlog by requiring law enforcement agencies to submit all previously untested kits to the lab, and requiring that these kits be tested.
  3. Mandatory testing of new kits: Prevent future backlogs by requiring law enforcement agencies to promptly submit all newly collected kits to the lab, and mandating the lab test these kits within a specific timeframe.
  4. Tracking system: Ensure that hospitals, law enforcement, and labs are using the same system to track rape kits. Build in a way for survivors to check the status of their kits throughout the process, from collection to analysis.
  5. Victims’ right to notice: Grant victims the right to receive information about the status and location of their rape kits.
  6. Funding for reform: Appropriate state funding to address these issues.

“Since 2011, Texas legislators have worked to implement pieces of rape kit reform. Today, Texas becomes the first state to pass all key pillars necessary to truly address a state’s untested sexual assault kits,” said Knecht. “In particular, the tracking of rape kits mandated by H.B. 281 is critical. Only after law enforcement agencies track and account for the untested kits in their custody can communities begin to take steps to test those kits, hold offenders accountable, and bring justice to sexual assault survivors whose cases have languished, often for years—or even decades.”

Joyful Heart has created the premier national resource about the rape kit backlog, which includes an interactive map and resources for survivors, legislators, and the media. Learn more at: ENDTHEBACKLOG.org.

Artificial Intelligence For The Greater Good? USC Brings In Top AI And Social Work Scholars To Explore Solutions

USC Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society Hosts First AI and Social Work Fellows Program; Problems Studied to Include Suicide Prevention; Resettlement of Refugees; Wildlife Conservation

Press Release – LOS ANGELES – June 6, 2017 – The USC Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society (CAIS)—a joint venture of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and USC Viterbi School of Engineering—will host its first Visiting Fellows Program this summer focused on employing AI to help solve complex societal problems.

As part of the Fellows Program, visiting researchers from all over the world will come to USC this summer for up to three months to learn from a working model established by the Center’s co-founders, Eric Rice of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and Milind Tambe of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. The two had successfully collaborated by employing AI to ensure that homeless youth shared important public health information among peers in the youths’ own social networks.

“Using artificial intelligence to promote the greater good is an emerging area of study with huge potential,” said Eric Rice, co-director of CAIS and associate professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. “Our goal in establishing this fellowship is to bring together the best and brightest scholars in artificial intelligence and social work to explore breakthrough solutions to age-old problems plaguing many of our cities and communities.”

Topics to be studied by fellows this summer include suicide prevention among college students; social support for North Korean refugees to help their integration into South Korean society; wildlife conservation through poaching prevention in developing nations’ national parks; HIV and substance abuse prevention for homeless youth; and predicting and reducing gang violence in Los Angeles. On some projects, fellows will collaborate with non-government organizations (NGOs) currently executing similar “real world” experiments in these subject areas around the globe.

“Our hope is that by applying AI to the types of problems that cross disciplines and transcend borders, we can greatly improve or even save lives, as well as better allocate resources where they will have the most benefit and impact,” said Milind Tambe, co-director of CAIS, professor of computer science and the Helen N. and Emmett H. Jones Professor in Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

The 12 summer fellows were selected through a rigorous screening process this past year. The group includes doctoral students, post-doctoral students and assistant professors representing nine different universities including Harvard, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, University of Southampton, Trinity University, University of Denver, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and the University of Southern California.

USC Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society (CAIS)

The Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society (CAIS) is a joint venture between the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Founded in 2016, CAIS conduct research in artificial intelligence to help solve the most difficult social problems facing our world. The newly formed center has received accolades for its work to apply AI to address HIV prevention and to deter wildlife poaching. For more information, please visit cais.usc.edu.

USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

The University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work ranks among the nation’s top social work graduate programs. A recognized leader in academic innovation, experiential learning, online education and translational research, the school prepares students for leadership roles in public and private organizations that serve individuals, families and communities in need. Its Hamovitch Center for Science in the Human Services was the first endowed research institute for interdisciplinary social work research and remains a pioneer in translational science—the acceleration of research findings into practice settings.

USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Engineering Studies began at the University of Southern California in 1905. Nearly a century later, the Viterbi School of Engineering received a naming gift in 2004 from alumnus Andrew J. Viterbi, inventor of the Viterbi algorithm that is now key to cell phone technology and numerous data applications. One of the school’s guiding principles is engineering +, a term coined by current Dean Yannis C. Yortsos, to use the power of engineering to address the world’s greatest challenges. USC Viterbi is ranked among the top graduate programs in the world and enrolls more than 6,500 undergraduate and graduate students taught by 185 tenured and tenure-track faculty, with 73 endowed chairs and professorships. http://viterbi.usc.edu/

Leonhardt Team Launches PressureStim Bioelectric Treatment of High Blood Pressure

PressureStim is designed to lower high blood pressure by improving elastic compliance of the aorta and other arteries and bioelectric potentials balance management throughout the body.

Press Release – Santa Monica, CA and Salt Lake City, Utah (PRBUZZ) – Today the team at Leonhardt’s Launchpads announced the launch of a new startup PressureStim that will focus on the development of bioelectric treatments for lowering high blood pressure. The original prototype devices being built and tested have the below listed design features.

The original PressureStim device design has three primary components of blood pressure control therapy:

  1. Wireless bioelectric signals for increasing arterial compliance via controlled release of growth factors such as tropoelastin.
  2. Wireless bioelectric signals to manage the control of blood pressure between the brain and hormonal glands.
  3. Bioelectric signals delivered via the nervous and cardiovascular system to manage total body electrical potentials balance. 

The original prototype device is about the size of a quarter.

“When arteries get stiff and hardened the body loses its main natural blood pressure dampening system and high blood pressure sets in. Secondarily the bioelectric current potentials management between the brain, the hormonal glans of the body and arterial walls must be in balance for healthy blood pressure. The PressureStim device is being designed to be the first therapy to address multiple known root causes of hypertension. We look forward to soon be reporting to you initial test results.” states Dr. Leslie Miller, Chief Medical Officer.

More than 1 billion people suffer of high blood pressure worldwide. Blood pressure levels have been shown to be positively and continuously related to the risk for stroke and coronary heart disease. In some age groups, the risk of cardiovascular disease doubles for each increment of 20/10 mmHg of blood pressure, starting as low as 115/75 mmHg. In addition to coronary heart diseases and stroke, complications of raised blood pressure include heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, renal impairment, retinal hemorrhage and visual impairment. Treating systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure until they are less than 140/90 mmHg is associated with a reduction in cardiovascular complications.

It has been discovered by many leading scientists that there exists a close relationship between bioelectricity and hypertension. Bioelectric stimulation may address two known root causes of hypertension (1) loss or arterial compliance and (2) in-balance of electrical potentials within the body. The PressureStim is designed to reduce loss of arterial compliance by controlled release of a number of growth factors that promote increased elasticity in the arteries including tropoelastin, SDF-1, VEGF, IGF-1, PDGF and HGF. A number of scientists propose the theory that during the hypertension prophase episode, there may appear abnormal movement for cell membrane ions, the pathological electric potentials. This electrical abnormality of blood vessel signal controls may then be followed by the phenomena of slowed blood flow, small artery spasms, and increased blood vessel compliance resistance, finally leading to the rise of blood pressure. The PressureStim bioelectric signals sequence for lowering blood pressure is designed to be applied to the body with its transmitted bioelectric signals intended to activate the bioelectric circuits in the body changing abnormal current flow patterns back to normal. It is designed to directly adjust the pathological electrical ionic membrane potentials, arterial muscle cells, and relieve the small artery spasm. The intent is also to strengthen red blood cell surface repulsion to reduce blood magnetic viscosity, and thus lower vessel and blood stream flow resistance. PressureStim is designed to additionally then lead continued regulation and integration in attempting to clear and dissolve cholesterol and neutral fat deposited on the tunica intima of arteries to remove stasis in the blood vessels. Thus, PressureStim is not only designed for acute decreases in blood pressure, but also to maintain a continuous effect for long term action in attempting to address the root causes of hypertension and thus many secondary to hypertension related cardiovascular diseases.

About PressureStim: PressureStim is a startup incubating in the Leonhardt’s Launchpads innovation accelerators in Santa Monica, CA and Salt Lake City, Utah with assistiance from Leonhardt’s Launchpads NorCal in Petaluma, CA.

About Leonhardt’s Launchpads: Founded by Leonhardt Ventures in 2008 Leonhardt’s Launchpads focuses on launching startups focused on Regenerative Medtech and Regenerative Economy innovations. 31 startups currently are within the Leonhardt’s Launchpads accelerators at three locations in Santa Monica, California, Petaluma, California and Salt Lake City, Utah. Leonhardt’s Launchpads 26 of the 31 startups are all based on Leonhardt Ventures patented technology platform of bioelectric stimulation controlled release of 15+ organ regeneration promoting proteins, including stem cell homing, proliferation and differentiation controls signals + a micro infusion pump re-filled daily with a fifteen component mixed stem cell + growth factors composition. Leonhardt’s Launchpads locations in California are operated by Cal-X Stars Business Accelerator, Inc. a California C corporation www.calxstars.com majority owned by Leonhardt Ventures (Leonhardt Vineyards LLC DBA Leonhardt Ventures). Leonhardt’s Launchpads Utah, Inc. is a stand alone C corporation in Salt Lake City, Utah – http://leonhardtventures.com/leonhardts-launchpads-utah/ The business model of Leonhardt’s Launchpads is to advance startups through to first-in-man clinical data and then seek out a strategic specific organ focused partner.

About Leonhardt Ventures: Founded in 1982 by inventor Howard J. Leonhardt has led the development of a number of leading organ regeneration and recovery products including the world’s leading stent graft system for aortic aneurysm repair. Over 500,000 patients to date have been treated with Leonhardt inventions. See www.leonhardtventures.com for more information.

Cautionary Statement: Leonhardt’s Launchpads and Leonhardt Ventures specialize in early stage development of organ regeneration and recovery technologies with a very small staff and very small budget compared to competitors in the sector. The technologies are brand new and are unproven for safety and efficacy. By nature of this specialization the investment risk is very high and is not meant for “nest egg” savings and is reserved only for sophisticated accredited investors with experience in these type of investments. Some statements may be forward looking and information may change. Information on linked web sites may be outdated and is prone to errors to the small staff and budget to maintain their accuracy and updates. All of our patents are subject to upkeep with maintenance fees. All of our agreements with third parties are subject to conditions that must be met to keep them active and valid. If you have any questions requiring clarification of any information or updated information please contact us at the below email address or phone voice mail.

The Make Life Good Company Contributes to the Recently-Dedicated Station Nightclub Fire Memorial Park

Press Release – WEST WARWICK, R.I. (June 5, 2017) – The Make Life Good Company, a social good lifestyle products company, was one of many individual and corporate contributors to the construction of the Station Fire Memorial Park in West Warwick, R.I., which was dedicated recently (5/21/17) to honor the 100 music fans who perished in the Station Nightclub fire on February 20, 2003.

The Make Life Good Company donated one of hundreds of bricks used for pathways throughout the memorial park. It is inscribed with the words “The Make Life Good Company” with an emphasis on the words “Make Life Good.”

“The park is a lasting memorial to all those who were killed and injured as a result of the fire and we wanted to contribute in our own small way to all of those who were affected by the fire,” says David J. Wudyka, president of The Make Life Good Company. “Our contribution of a brick represents our hope that all of those who visit the memorial park in the decades to come will be always mindful of taking actions that do, in fact, Make Life Good for others, including protecting people from an event like this from ever happening again.”

The fire on Thursday evening, February 20, 2003, was caused by pyrotechnics set off by the tour manager of the band Great White, which ignited plastic foam used as sound insulation in the walls and ceilings surrounding the stage of the Station Nightclub. A fast-moving fire with intense black smoke engulfed the club in less than six minutes. Video footage of the fire shows its ignition, rapid growth, the billowing smoke that quickly made escape impossible, and the exit blockage that further hindered evacuation. The toxic smoke, heat and the stampede of people toward the exits killed 100; 230 were injured and another 132 escaped uninjured.

Photos by Steven F. Riggs

The dedication ceremony was attended by hundreds of family and friends of those who died and many of the more of the injured survivors of the fire, including Rhode Island native, recording artist and NBC “The Voice” season 11 runner-up in 2016, Billy Gilman, who performed his song “There’s A Hero” (written by Don Cook and John Jarvis) at the dedication ceremony. Rhode Island dignitaries also spoke at the ceremony, including Gina Russo, chairwoman of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation and a survivor of the fire, Rhode Island U.S. Senator Jack Reed, Congressman Jim Langevin, Governor Gina Raimondo, and former Governor Donald Carcieri, who was the governor of the state at the time of the fire and its aftermath.

The mission of The Make Life Good Company is to remind, encourage and inspire people to “Make Life Good!” for others through positive, pro-active messages on the products the company offers on its website (MakeLifeGood.co), The company is based in Wrentham Mass.

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