Thoughts from the #BayEdSummit Panel

I was invited to speak on a panel at the Bay Ed Summit, a conference organized by Teach for America Bay Area for educators and current and aspiring leaders in the ed world. I realized how I miss the energy of educators!

The panel’s topic was “Harnessing our Collective Impact: Game-Changing Insights from Social Innovators.” Daniel Lurie, founder of Tipping Point, one of One Degree‘s funders, moderated the panel, and we were joined by Paul Perry, ED of Reset Foundation, Gerald Richards, CEO of 826 National, and Elissa Salas, CEO of College Track.

I spoke about One Degree’s Bay Area expansion into high need areas around the Bay Area (like Contra Costa!) and also our innovative approach to addressing the needs of the whole child. The panel got into policy, measuring impact, and also partnerships.

It was a fun event, and it’s always interesting to see what people pick up and talk about on Twitter (#BayEdSummit). Here are some of tweets and grams that highlight the event.

One Degree’s Reading List – February 2016

We talked about homelessness, education, and transportation at One Degree in February. Check out what we were reading and sharing!

One Degree featured at Super Bowl 50 last month:

SF’s got a problem tracking spending on homeless:

My old boss, Suzanne McKechnie Klahr, talks about BUILD and highlights Herbert, One Degree’s ops & dev associate:

Big changes are coming to Mission District transit (and hopefully for the better!):

There’s something happening in the Tenderloin (Tenderloin Health Improvement Project):

There are people who support the tech sector who feel like ‘second-class citizens’

It’s startling to see that the majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty, and highlights the need for a comprehensive set of services for youth:

Harvard selected Oakland for a new multi-year initiative aimed at developing comprehensive child well-being and education systems that help eliminate the link between children’s socioeconomic status and achievement.

Social Sector 2.0

This post was originally featured in the Huffington Post on April 1, 2013.

In the late 90’s, I had a friend named Natasha who knew all of the hippest restaurants and the coolest bars. Natasha was the archetypical maven, an expert in the tasteful social scene. Everyone knew you could go to her to get a recommendation for an exquisite date night spot.


Back a decade or two ago, we had Natashas for everything, like travel, dentists and contractors. We relied on experts — those men and women with critical knowledge about specific and narrow subjects — to lead us and guide us. They typically were the ones who had been there before; they navigated the system so we didn’t have to or because we couldn’t. But back then we also didn’t have widespread broadband internet access. No smartphone ubiquity. No “big data.”


As we have advanced technologically, we also evolved the way we think about our Natashas, our experts. We needed Natashas in a small town context, when people were concentrated within communities and people identified with each other geographically. Our concept of community has changed. Over the last two decades, technology, democratized information, and crowdsourced data has liberated that paradigm. The way we conceptualize our own “community” is no longer confined to our geographical location.


Rather than turning to experts, we turn to Yelp to find a date night spot, and we turn to Wikipedia for the right answer. The power dynamic has shifted, and everyone (with an internet connection) now has the tools to get the information they need because of the onslaught of data. You can be your own expert.


However, the social sector seems to be stuck in the internet dark age, 1.0. We still ascribe to the expert power dynamic — where a select few people hold the cards and the keys to the information — particularly when it comes to serving people in low-income communities.


The Social Sector Also Needs to Evolve

We have a good problem on our hands. In some cities across the country, we have an overwhelming abundance of services for low-income families.


But why can’t everyone be the expert of these community resources? Navigating the social safety net is notoriously difficult even for professionals like social workers, counselors and case managers. How can we expect people to do this on their own when the current system isn’t even easy or accessible for the professionals?


We launched One Degree to shift this paradigm. One Degree is a nonprofit tech company that is building a Yelp-like platform for nonprofit and social services, so that anyone can easily search for critical life-saving services.


Consider the story of a grandmother who used the One Degree service last fall. She had been caring for her small grandchildren because her daughter struggled with addiction. After losing custody of her grandchildren to Child Protective Services and finding out she was diagnosed with cancer (treatment for which she was unable to afford), her life was veritably in pieces. She didn’t know where to turn to start finding help.


By using One Degree, she was able to connect to an affordable health plan — a small, yet important step that empowered her. Subsequently, using One Degree, she was connected to counsel to begin the process of reuniting her family. Before accessing One Degree, she did not know where to go to find information about these critical resources.


How to Upgrade to Social Sector 2.0

The One Degree prototype is just the first step of many that are required to get to Social Sector 2.0 and to truly change the power dynamic in the social sector. It’s our first step to make it easy and accessible for people to find and access services. It’s not enough that we are providing services for low-income families anymore. Families should be able to navigate and share their voice in how these services are run.


We imagine a time when people can be their own experts in their own community and experts in what the community has to offer them. And to get to this vision of Social Sector 2.0, we need to join the digital age. We need to streamline data and information about our services. We need to create data systems that work with and talk to other organization’s systems. We need to figure out timely and effective ways to cooperate with fellow social services because families need a lot more than what one organization can provide. And most importantly we need to let go of the antiquated notion that we who work in the social sector know more than the people we serve. That time is quickly coming to an end, and we need to embrace it, evolve, and serve people in the new ways they need to be served.


The social sector has a huge opportunity right now to dramatically improve and shift the way we fight poverty in this country — a way that is inclusive of the people and voices in low-income communities and tears down barriers rather than erects new ones. We can make this happen, and in fact the shift to Social Sector 2.0 has already started.

50 days until One Degree launches

I can’t believe we have less than 50 days before our pilot launches here in San Francisco. Time certainly flies, especially when we’ve had exciting things to do like the Echoing Green New Fellows Retreat

To give you a quick update on that, at the retreat we had these activities called Brain Trusts, where we got into small consultation groups and  brainstormed a current issue we’re facing. Our topic was One Degree’s vision for growth, and I came away with fascinating insights. It’s a luxury to collaborate with brilliant minds on One Degree’s big picture needs.

More importantly it was great to be with kindred socially entrepreneurial spirits. We bonded, shared tips, and also commiserated on the trials of startup life. It’s great to be part of the 2012 Echoing Green cohort!

You know how we’ve been talking about this mysterious web platform that’s like a “Yelp for Nonprofits”? Yea, well we actually have one now! It’s a simple version 1.0 of our platform (in “Lean Startup” terminology, this is our MVP, or minimum viable product). We didn’t want to spend a ton of time or money creating a website that we’d have to change anyway, so we’re testing this with the people in our pilot, taking the lessons learned from that pilot and then building off of it in the next round.
You can help even if you don’t have web development experience! We need your eyeballs to beta test our site (shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to an hour and you can do this on your own time next week). Sign up here to help and to get a sneak preview!

Don't forget to turn on your images to get a sneak peak of our website!

Can you forward the email below my signature — right now — to one person who may be interested in volunteering?
If you’re in the Bay Area, you, too, can sign up to be in our founding cohort of Resource Desk Volunteers! This is a great opportunity to work in schools to connect low-income families to the resources they need to thrive. No experience is necessary to join, and we’re asking for a short time commitment each week.
Help us recruit our first cohort of volunteers. Please email your contacts now.
The next 50 days are critical to launching our pilot successfully and showing that all families can have easy access to critical services in their community. I hope you can lend a hand.

For our youth,

CEO + Founder

Founding Connectors Blog:
Twitter: @1deg
Subscribe to our mailing list:

Hi _____,
I really think you should check out this new organization, One Degree, which has an innovative solution to fight poverty. They’re looking for volunteers to operate their Resource Desks in low-income schools in San Francisco. I thought this might be a good fit for you.
This is a great opportunity to work in schools to connect low-income families to the resources they need to thrive. No experience is necessary to join, and it’s only a short time commitment each week.

Check out their website for more info at Feel free to send this email to your friends, too.
Your Name Here

One Degree connects kids & families to poverty-fighting resources. We are mobilizing trained volunteers to operate resource desks in low-income public schools. This makes schools the focal point of the community and helps families navigate through the complex web of social services. Furthermore, we’re developing a web and mobile app that’s like a Yelp for nonprofits, which holds all the information about community programs in one place. Imagine millions of people being able to access, rate, review and get information about their local resources, like food banks, employment services and afterschool programs. We hope to make families the drivers of social change. One Degree is a 2012 winner of the Echoing Green Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship.

Originally posted on One Degree’s blog.