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Good Times Getting to Carrigain

It was another successful outing with the GBMC. It was something of a reunion – we’ve had some of our members disperse away from Boston lately. Luka flew in from Toronto, and Shawn & Laur drove up from Philly. We also had a new crew member, Alishya from Boston. She isn’t really in the green building field, but she is a doctor, and we know we always want a doctor around!

Here is a link with a bunch of the photos on flickr.

We had an early start, getting up 93 almost to Franconia Notch (see below) and met up in Lincoln at a special restaurant and headed for the Kancamaugus. Half an hour later, we were at the Sawyer River trailhead.

The crew: Corey, Alyshia, Moi, Laur, Shawn and Luka:

Gotta love the Canadian engineer among us, who built his own insulated water bottle apparatus…

The hike in rolls along an old logging railbed for the first three miles. Very pleasant. We talked and talked about all our wonderful projects. And yes, we did walk right past the first turn we needed to make onto Fire Road 85. On my (ancient) map, it was F.R. 86. Why would anyone change the number? I think that is why we did not notice it – we were primed for the other identification label.

This is a little beaver pond that the main trail goes over. You can see the stock of sticks the beavers have assembled, and also the de-barked ones they have already eaten. I am not sure I’d want to eat bark all winter.

Gorgeous countryside!

Once we were on the fire road we caught a glimpse of Carrigain Peak. Something in my mind was saying, we don’t have to go all the way there today…

We did find some interesting stuff on the trail. It was beech nut season. They were tasty. I forgot to cook them in the evening, probably because we’d done 15 miles and I was exhausted. But I have a pocket full of them!

The hike would be about 7 miles to the camp, 6 round trip up to the peak and back, and then the 7 the next morning out. A good jaunt, and the legs feel great.

After our lunch, we marched onward. And we found this at about 3:30pm. Yes, that is Carrigain notch to my left and behind me is Zealand Notch, then above my head: Agiocochook – the big top of Mt. Washington rising above the clouds. It just appeared in time for this photo. We would then march up and up the final 500′ to the high peak of Carrigain, and get above that layer. It was also about 20F colder – down into under 10F. We didn’t last long – all hot from the hike up – but it was certainly special. See below.

 

Here we have the view to the northwest: the Franconia Range (Lafayette and Lincoln at least) and the peeking peaks of Middle Majesty (okay, that’s what I call South Twin) and Bond. Like islands in a sea I’d never come across before. The pictures don’t do it justice.

This kind of thing never happens. Well, I mean, it’s hard to time it. I felt very lucky to be there. We all felt like we were enchanted.

This is the amazingness. A great group. An amazing view. An incredible natural phenomenon. And the massif of Mt. Washington rising above the cloud layer like a giant space ship from another galaxy…

We did get back down the hill, skipping and sliding in a third the time. We ended up setting up camp in the dark, but it was a fabulous flat spot. Perfect for setting up a fire ring and a few stories.

In the morning, we packed up and got going at about 7am. Luka took a little while to reassemble his gear, and then it was back out the old rail bed back to the Kanc. Great hike out that morning.

It is hard to quite understand the magic here, but the sun was playing with ice crystals on the sapling evergreens and basically created Christmas lights on each one. They were all the colors. We felt like wood elves had enchanted this little area just for us. We spent a while just soaking it in.

And in the end…back to Black Mountain Burger for a great lunch. The Smitty tradition continues. Who can say no, after a good 20+ miles on the icy trail, to a big burger between two grilled cheese sandwiches? Mmmmm! See you next time!

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Togetherment: Pitch Contest Winner!*

We won second place!*

At my Entrepreneurial Finance course (taught by the excellent Carl Byers (former CFO of Athena Health)), during the final class of the semester, we held a pitch contest. Throughout the course, each student has been working on a venture. I’ve been using the opportunity to improve on Civekos, now called Togetherment, which has been a great opportunity (as you have seen in these pages).

You can read more about the Civekos/Togetherment project on its dedicated pages here. Full website forthcoming!

Here’s the deck I used. Imagine what could happen if I had a graphic designer on my team!

There were seven ventures: lots of great business concepts. It was tough competition – some of these are already signing up customers and bringing in grant funding. We heard about:

  • Jetset Offset – carbon offsets for fliers
  • Vertical Farms in Nigeria
  • Electronic legal contract management
  • Refugee tech education
  • A cross-cultural social/political engagement web platform
  • Ending sexual violence in India
  • and Togetherment of course

Here’s a picture of Jean Guo with her pitch for Konexio (facilitating digital education for refugees in France) (I was not quite as good looking but in the same place in the front of Land Hall). I had actually met Jean this summer at the Global Harvard Alumni Meetup when we were both in Paris in June. It has been great to be in a class with her. She was a Fullbright while in France 2015-2016 and now at Kennedy.

Here’s Carl at the end of the class with key questions about connecting with funders (I was sitting in the front row the whole semester):

  1. Are you doing important work?
  2. Are you well managed?
  3. Will the gift make a difference?
  4. Will the experience be satisfying to me?

If you know someone who might be interested in a new approach to housing, facilitating group living for social purpose professionals, let me know!

*Yes: classmates: there were two first places and two second place finishers if you are really counting! But hey, feedback is good when you can get it. And facing the crowd is important for fine-tuning the message. Thank you MLD-829!

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Nilolede!

So, “monolede” is the term for when you get one hit when you google for two words. It’s hard to do but I’ve done it about three times. Sorry, can’t remember.

But today, our professor in behavioral economics mentioned that “penultimate” was her favorite word. Curiously, it is one of my faves as well.

So I thought I’d play the game. And I discovered that “penultimate vexillology” is only found here on this blog right now. Thanks.

That would now be a monolede, whereas prior to this publishing, it was a nilolede (zero hit).

Fun!

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Togetherment: Co-living with a purpose

The venture is getting going.

NEW: slides of a draft pitch deck. Check it out!

I am passionate about the benefits of people living together in groups. Key features are interacting with others, sharing resources and being a part of a bigger project. Group living is an antidote to social isolation, digital engrossment and consumerist wastefulness.

  • Mental Health: you have people who care about you, check in with you, sharing (which is caring!) you day-to-day life. In some group settings, these relationships can last a long time.
  • Spontaneity: having random interaction and unplanned engagement stimulates the brain and helps keep the heart healthy. Too much of our lives are programmed, planned and platformed.
  • Constant Learning: living with a bunch of people means learning about their lives and livelihoods, in addition to how to negotiate sharing resources and becoming okay with things not exactly the way you think you want them to be.
  • Cultivating Patience: related to being flexible (above), patience is a virtue. Not just in terms of being able to abide in time but also in the sense of forbearance – being able to hold judgement, release others from urgency, and “rolling with it…”
  • Resource Efficiency: you take up less space and share common spaces better, and you share resources like food and domestic items. You can also coordinate to share less-often used items like tools, sports equipment, and art supplies.
  • Connecting with Purpose: many group living situations enable people to connect with like-minded people to share efforts toward a common goal. This could be (and has historically been) for a religious or philosophical end, but also for public service like military or park ranger. Sometimes group living is a temporary thing like a summer camp, crisis intervention, or festival setting. Having a common connection can provide meaning and guidance to a person’s life. Sharing it with others can make it more meaningful.

There are a lot of ways living in community (living in a group) can benefit a person. The network of facilities I’m creating will enable many people to find this option. It is hard to find this type of arrangement in the US. Many group living situations are strongly tied to an employer or religious institution. Some are in the vein of communes as “intentional communities” which demand a lot of engagement and democratic participation.

Our project will enable and accommodate participation but strike a balance so it’s not too much. We will set up the systems, the technology, and the processes so people can come together without too much of a load to design systems from scratch. This is a new platform for an emerging market.

Join us and let’s see where this goes!

Contact me at greylee@gmail.com to learn more, or take a look at these pages.

NEW: slides of a draft pitch deck. Check it out!

Above is an image from a co-living in Silicon Valley called Rainbow House. I like all the books!

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Brewing up a little Democracy!

Some of you have seen the footer of my emails:

“I’m a cooperative investor: join me in supporting DEMOCRACY BREWING

Have you clicked the link? Are you intrigued?

I need you to get excited about this. We are looking for a few more investors. There are a variety of packages in the prospective. Intended return is 5% and the cooperative will buy back shares in 5 years. If you go for the $3000 package, you will get a free crowler of beer every time you visit – as many times as you want! Read the prospectus here.

The organization has started to build out the pub in Downtown Crossing – it is awesome! I went to their open house the other night to check things out. It is going to be really cool. The space is great. It’s a lot bigger than Stoddard’s or the other pub on the block there. It has a cozy feeling, like the den of revolutionary plotters.

You can see the build out here – really going to be cool. The gap goes to the lower level where the kitchen, brewing and events space will be. You can read more about the project here.

Looking up at the entrance from below. I took a little tour while sampling the brews.

The point is not the ancillary benefits, but rather, to join the cooperative movement and directly invest in this great concept. Democracy Brewing will be creating a space to gather and support progressive voices and organizations. You can be a part of it!Here are James and Wex distributing samples of what will be coming up. All good stuff!

Here is the location on Temple Place – right off Tremont at the Boston Common. It’s a three minute walk from the Downtown Crossing T station at Washington St. Yes, the old Windsor Button shop. Buttons used to be huge!

Check out the link to learn more about this awesome opportunity. Below is the leadership team – you can read more about them on the site. Let’s invest together!

Let me know if you have any questions.

I can’t wait to meet you at Democracy Brewing for a pint and some good chow!

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Civekos Outline – Class Exercise #4

MLD-836 Class 8 Workshop Questions Grey Lee 9/26/17

Questions:

  1. How do you operationalize your value proposition and unique attributes into your service delivery chain?

 

Our value proposition is meeting a gap in a niche market of housing. Two spectrums are intersecting: One is related to recognizing and rewarding people who are devoted to social benefit work through subsidizing their housing. The other is creating new and dynamic synergies and connections for these professionals through a new (old) model of group living where people internalize deep learning about communication, patience, service and compassion.

We operationalize it by performing some market research, some philanthropy testing (which could involve finding an in-kind facility contribution/licensing), then implement the prototype. From that we learn how to better manage a given node and learn ways we could scale.

I am trying to determine how my concept fits with issues around privilege, affordability, gentrification, and interventionism in general. While there may be a lot to debate, I am going to side-step a lot of it. I believe that right now, there are a variety of social problems that can be ameliorated by social work and social benefit professionals. Again, while there may be a debate about how much to pay these people, like teachers and health care professionals, regardless of how to influence take-home pay, reducing rent for these people will benefit them, and potentially lengthen the duration in their life that they want to do this type of work. Further, while people of any means make choices around housing, and people have traditionally “doubled up” or lived with groups of others in an effort to reduce their housing cost, I think it is reasonable to build this out for people who “could” choose otherwise. Many people choose to work for social benefit who come from places of economic privilege. There may be a way to seek a type of social finance bond from networks of privilege to directly support a scion of privilege who chooses to work in this realm and who chooses to live in one of our nodes.

We have to procure the nodes in our network of “social benefit lodges” and identify the main partners who will underwrite the real estate side of the equation. There will also need to be partners on the social structure – the governance, the selection/attraction of residents, and general facility and node operation.

Another part of the service delivery chain will be to engage residents as part of the marketing and sales team – to recruit subsequent residents and/or new node groups.

 

  1. Can you think of ways to innovate and make it better?

One thing that we may want to do is look at a replicable design, for instance, some kind of pre-fab structure that could scale like some of the “shipping container” housing that has been developed. One model is Bjarke Ingels’ (Danish architect of the firm BIG) “Urban Rigger” floating dorms. This may be appropriate in some locations – for instance, to locate a node in a place like San Juan, Puerto Rico in the aftermath of a disaster – but this is a departure from the expected priority location targets of repurposable group living facilities like old fraternity houses, religious community housing or otherwise.

Another innovation to improve/expand this model is focusing on the software for improving small learning communities. Slack is an obvious model to create spaces for communication and project management. There are other platforms like WeSpire (corporate employee community engagement gamification) and Habitica (to-do list gamification which can be linked across different people) which can link small teams who may have a common purpose.

There are circular economy platforms for sharing resources and time banks like Neighborrow and Yerdle which don’t quite work because the parties are too unrelated. Within the bounds of the pre-qualified community in each node or even throughout the nodes in this network, a sharing platform could be more successful for sharing tools and other seldom-used but useful items.

The peer-to-peer education platform E-180 (“Brain Dates for Learning Humans”) could see a materialized “in situ” option in the nodes in the network of sobene (social benefit professional) housing [pronounced “sobenny”]

There are a few places to go with just the real estate – scaling to different sizes, repurposing specific challenging properties, tweaking the level of quality/amenities offered. A lot depends on the early engaged philanthropy or partners and what they want to see/who they most want to support.  

  1. Are you truly “delighting” your beneficiaries/stakeholders and solving their pain points?

One of my major challenges is trying to determine a true “pain point” for my target customer. Over time I am seeing that my customer is the individual resident, not the employing agency. The party motivated to find housing is that sobene. As we create a highly differentiated product, we will delight that specific customer. They will have a subsidized housing option, which has superior features and connects them to a social network of similarly socially committed people.

  1. How do your staff and volunteers contribute to your service delivery excellence?

The staff for the central organization will be mostly involved with network organization and the build-out/project management of the nodes. We will recruit residents with some form of vetting for expected in-kind contributions of time and wisdom. Each node will have individuals in certain roles to support that community – a “house government” as it were. Central office staff will design models and guidelines and facilitate (train the trainers) to get nodes up and running. There may be ways for local supporting philanthropies or hosting employer agencies to supply guidance into nodes to ensure they are executing on the intentions around smooth group functioning, strong peer synergies and community engagement.

…and

Questions:

  1. What are the core elements of your solution and delivery model that will fit together to create your high impact enterprise?

Core elements include the acquisition process, and the modeled house node governance process – the systems around resident communication, role & responsibility management, and community engagement. We will have to find the right balance between a centrally-planned and administered real estate operation and a locally-focused community engagement process. The nodes will have to have significant autonomy to meet the local resident market and best connect with sponsoring employer agencies/organizations. The definition of social benefit, and the selection process for residents, will have to be managed by local parties to ensure the best fit with that locality.

 

  1. Are there others in your eco-system whom you can draw in to create or sustain value?

Indeed, these nodes for social benefit professionals will connect with employing social agencies and other service entities who have already engaged with the housing question. We are different in that we will house people from a variety of employers – that cross-fertilization is part of our value proposition. But entities like the Episcopal “Life Alive” and Catholic Worker Houses will be allies. They may even host a node. The cooperative community will also be a strong partner – the Cooperative Fund of New England and North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO) Real Estate fund residential cooperatives and we may be an attractive investment for them. The Slow Money community and entities like RSF Finance may also see the cash flow of residents as a good “patient capital” investment. Community Development Corporations which have built affordable housing may be able to see this model as a useful type of asset to have in their service realms (perhaps even to house their employees), although they generally produce housing for a different type of selection criteria.  

  1. Can you create a virtuous circle of benefits based upon your value proposition(s)?

There will certainly be an emergent virtuous circle of benefits as the nodes multiply and the overhead per node diminishes. Each node will be a marketing tool to encourage more funders, more employer agencies and more residents to join. Over a few years, an age stratification may emerge where longer-term, “lifers” become more permanent house residents (within the bounds of the management structure and governance processes (no curmudgeons allowed!)) will manifest social capital more strongly to guide each node and to engage with new and shorter-cycle residents. There may eventually be nodes designed for families and groups of people who will plan to live long-term in the social benefit professional space. The nodes could each create relationships with academic institutions, municipal and state agencies, and even become their own type of community development entity or social enterprise incubators. People living together, working toward a common purpose of social betterment, will evolve new patterns and solution processes. It will be exciting to watch.

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Real Estate Finance Association Fall Meeting

Every now and then I get together with my father, Bruce Lee, to head into the city for a real estate industry program. He spends most of his time in the burbs, working the commercial real estate circuit along Rt. 128 and Rt. 3 North. He’s been at it for over 25 years at Lee Partners of New England.

This September was a meeting of the Real Estate Finance Association. They had a few speakers that we both like on the docket, so we were looking forward to it.

Bruce wrote up his notes about the event here – he has a long history of observations on the industry and reflected well from the observations of the folks like Bryan Koop (Boston Properties) and Roy Hershland (T3 Advisors), Rob Griffin (Newmark Knight Frank) and Bill Poorvu (formerly of HBS).

The basics were that the experts think we are still moving forward with a growing real estate industry and there is no reason to think it is going to burst anytime soon. That is of course what they said last year…how long can it go? But so far, no major indicators of a change.


After the program, we took a walk through Downtown Boston to see some construction sites. We wound up on the Common. It was a great outing for Lee Partners of New England!

 

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Civekos: Attributes and Competition

Grey Lee – Social Enterprise MLD 836 – 9/17/17

This assignment is looking at the solution, even though I am currently investigating my problem statement as a priority, and trying to avoid focusing on my “solution.” I don’t want to build out something that doesn’t have a strong enough problem, which might fail on the marketplace. On the other hand, I have been thinking about this for some time now and do believe there is a real market for this offering. Fine-tuning it to find funding is the next big question, in my mind.

There are two paths: 1) a traditional multifamily developer/financier sees the value and the market and we build it out, or 2) a philanthropic entity supports it. The one would require stronger financial return from essentially the residents, shifting this away from my original concept of subsidized housing for sobenes (social benefit professionals). The second would enable the project to avail itself of patient capital, contributed real estate, philanthropy or a social impact bond structure and provide the subsidization.

Meanwhile, the assignment has some good market testing questions.

 

  • What are 5-7 unique attributes of your solution that your beneficiaries value?

 

The beneficiaries are the people who will live in the lodges.

  1. Reduced housing expenditure (target of 50% local average / or totally free like a fellowship award)[obviously needs to be determined and specified]
  2. Filtered/Selective mix of peer residents
  3. Structured para-professional support: workshops, mentors, networking
  4. Facilitated social quality-of-life dynamic: seamless IT, organized meals, outings, interactions, amenities like sporting equipment, workshop,
  5. Simplified/reduced-friction group living: cleaning service, meals, streamlined administrative requirements
  6. Mission-orientation and pride of purpose for being a collaborating resident: you are not simply living there, paying rent, and passing through. Residents become alumni of a place they strongly care about.

 

 

  • How does your closest 2-3 “competitors” or “alternatives” compare to you?

 

Fundamentally, the alternative to what I’m envisioning is simply cheap housing anywhere, which is the default for people who are earning at the levels that social benefit employers tend to pay. Many in these roles choose to live in groups – 2-3 housemates – in order to reduce total costs. Often, these group arrangements are spontaneous and messy, and could benefit from more structure. I believe there is a fine line between “fun and easygoing” community and “stable and supportive” institutional style housing. It can be modeled, fine-tuned, and monitored.

There are few specific comparisons which have emerged over time for this type of housing under the auspices of some mission-orientation that provide their own designated housing. My concept is rather a pan-organization concept. Somewhat like a private dorm/multi-resident facility in an academic town (like London House in London) which hosts students from multiple colleges or institutions. In this case, it is hosting residents working for a variety of agencies/non-profits.

Entities which provide housing for people doing social benefit work include:

  1. Catholic Worker Houses (such as Haley House in Boston), which provide housing to a small number of resident staff, but also a larger number of units for low-income residents (who do not work for the organization and their residence is not related to their professional engagement).
  2. The Beacon Hill Friends House is a communal housing arrangement with a slight institutional feel where over 20 people share space, 5-nights-a-week meals, and activities. While generally ascribing to Quaker principles, residents are not expected to work in social benefit arenas.
  3. Various schools and museums provide housing for their teachers or caretakers, and notably summer camps seasonally house their workers.

On the other hand, there are a number of new entities which are building out group living settings known as co-living, similar to the office setting known as co-working. Co-living assumes a willingness to live in a single room attached to communal resources like living rooms and kitchens, with a varying level of service provision. In a sense, it is enhanced multi-housemate living. Most are targeting tech industry workers who are new to an area and want to rapidly integrate socially to the location. These are often priced at near luxury levels in their market (not quite suitable for most social benefit professionals).

  1. WeLive
  2. Urby
  3. Quarters
  4. HubHouse
  5. Common
  6. HackerHome
  7. Startup Mansion
  8. Dwell

There are some entities that focus on serving the needs of nomadic workers (those who are coding, writing or otherwise can work on projects remotely via the internet) with nodes throughout the world. Some of these are more like hostels or a “Club Med” where you can live in one for a month, then on to another, for a change of pace. Due to their locations in emerging market economies, they are often priced “reasonably” compared to something in Boston or San Francisco, but still, not trying to give anyone a break!

  1. ROAM
  2. Outsite
  3. Nomad House
  4. Terminal 3

My concept of blends aspects of these but primarily seeks to connect people doing good work and subsidize their housing through some kind of underwriting.

 

 

  • How sustainable is this over time–are there ways to design your offering to build lasting value? Can you be a thought leader in your space? How can your beneficiaries, partners, volunteers help you build value and distinction over time?

 

The intention is to be sustainable. People will always need places to live, and social benefit work will always call to people. We can find the balance between creating a good product – the housing – and matching the cost to provide to the ability of the residents to contribute. One major dimension will the the screening/selection process, to figure out what really is “social benefit work” and who “qualifies” for that.

Ultimately, I envision the entities becoming self-perpetuating. As the real estate acquisition or build-out costs are amortized over time, and operational costs stabilize, each node may be able to throw off cash for the expansion of the network.

I can be a thought leader for the concept, in fact, that is a major requirement for me to be able to lead an organization in this particular space. I need to start writing about this, critiquing my competition, and connecting future partners and collaborators.

Because this entity is mission-based, and seeks to create a response and support structure for other mission-based organizations employees’ housing needs, we will have the goodwill of these partners. Residents themselves will resonate with the larger purpose of their “landlord” and will potentially be more committed to its long-term success. They will be encouraged to provide volunteer service in facilitating social norms and group activities in the lodges. Some may take on governance roles, and alumni may serve on boards or advisory bodies. I know that the idea is not unique and many competitors may emerge – I hope that happens. I hope more people are able to benefit from group living, more agencies and employers can engage and sustain their employees passions to serve for longer, and more communities benefit from having these types of nodes in their midsts. In a sense, we want to build a larger segment of any given population devoted to social purpose.

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Civekos: Value Proposition Exercise

[I was working on this under the assumption that I had to limit it to one page – which led to this result. I know I could expand on these areas. See my entry from the Jason Jay “Problem Definition” workshop. Thanks!]

MLD 836 Grey Lee Class 4 Workshop – Value Proposition/Solution Questions – 9/12/17

  1. What is your theory of change?

Living in a facilitated and subsidized communal setting will improve the level of commitment of social benefit professionals. Their commitment will be improved through reduced anxiety around housing costs, through improved connections to peers in social benefit fields, and through resonant values expression in the group living setting related to communication, sharing resources, and connecting to the surrounding community. My model will further provide network benefits as the nodes of housing get organized in multiple locations.  

  1. What is the nature of the offering you create/plan to create?

The offering is a superior housing option for people committed to social sector work.

  1. Who is the main beneficiary/customers?

People who are working in the public/social sector, generally young and single, who want to live in a group setting. Their employers may also benefit as they could participate in subsidising the housing for less cost than increasing payroll costs (a higher net benefit to the housed employee). The community benefits from being more welcoming for a longer duration the social servants.

  1. What social/public value do you create?

Reduced housing and household costs and elongated terms of public service.

  1. What is the next best alternative to solving the problem?

People can find cheap housing in inferior buildings/facilities and without the structured interaction, the socio-professional synergies, or linkages to the local community. Employees can negotiate to attain higher income to offset their increasing housing costs as their preferences shift over time.

  1. Can you calculate/describe why your solution is better, being as specific as possible?

We will have to develop the financial model in regards to how our facilities’ units cost in comparison to a market rate for similar housing. Fundamentally, by aligning philanthropy to engage in the real estate, we can magnify their benefit to public service professionals in a new way. Structuring the housing experience for people, new to the work, helps them connect and stabilize their social life/professional responsibilities.

In terms of benefits to residents, there are a few:

  • Household economy: food, supplies, etc are cheaper in bulk
  • Semi-serviced domestic needs like cleaning and cooking are more efficient & higher quality
  • Group interaction is facilitated through both formal settings (weekly group dinners, group presentations, social events) and informally (casual encounters in the kitchen, impromptu networking, spontaneous social outings) for example
  • Group dynamics are moderated by established systems, group norms, grievance systems and
  • Group membership is vetted through an application by each individual – a high quality of housemates is ensured
  • A local board guides and supports the node and helps make connections (this board drawn from the subsidizing agents, community partners, and the employing entities)
  • There is pride in being connected to a larger purpose through this type of network

 

  1. Can you articulate a value proposition for your staff, volunteers, partners?

Our housing reduces costs and builds the capacity of social benefit professionals to thrive.

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Civekos: Problem Definition Exercise

MLD 836 Grey Lee Class 2 Workshop: Problem Definition 9/5/17

  1. What is the specific problem you are aiming to address?

Housing costs are significant for people who are working in the social sector, and many professionals leave the social sector after a few years because they feel like they won’t be able to afford to continue to live in their chosen community due to housing costs.

  1. Who has “pain points” around this problem?

Both the individuals working in the social benefit sector and the agencies and organizations that employ them. Workers move on from their preferred engagement and employers lose talented and experienced staff. Social benefit organizations have to cycle through many staff to keep their roles fulfilled.

  1. Why is this a problem to be addressed now?

Technology, design and curation can enable a new type of lower-cost and higher-amenity housing option. For-profit co-living enterprises* have started to build out communal residences but are aimed at high rent capable members. A branded, well-modeled, philanthropically-supported initiator entity can step into this mix and create a new option on the sub-market of housing for people dedicated to public service who want the benefits of group living.

Example for-profit co-living enterprises include WeLive (spin-off of WeWork coworking); Unsettled (one-month work-vacations); Roam (co-living in emerging markets); PMGx, Common, HubHaus (lite-luxury serviced apartments fostering community), and others.

  1. What is your solution and vision for success?

My organization will develop or re-purpose multi-resident buildings to be local lodges of a network of residential group living communities for individuals dedicated to social benefit work. The facilities will be somewhat like a dormitory or fraternity/sorority house for people working in the social sector. There are many related types of housing in institutions and in the cooperative sector; this new network will be more formal and more supported to create nodes of engagement and cross-disciplinary interaction to advance social benefit work in a variety of communities.

  1. What are your near term, mid-term, and long term goals?

The first order of business is to test the market and the concept. Who is already working on this and how are they not supporting social benefit professionals? Can we develop a brand and followers?

In a year, we want to run a test and model a prototype. Can we find a host or sponsoring entity – somewhere that has social benefit employees needing structured group housing? Can we find multiple of these in order to fulfil the inter-disciplinary enrichment of the community we intend? Also, is our model of group management working? What are the trade-offs that residents experience and how is our model managing friction points? Can we really say living in our lodges creates an enriching experience? How are we measuring that?

Over time, I intend to build out an organization that can forge partnerships with social benefit employers, receive and secure the residential assets, convert them and market the opportunity, and then operate the facilities and manage the community of residents.

  1. What is your end-game to establish a sustainable solution and perhaps declare “Mission Accomplished”?

If the network is self-sustaining and creating new value for non-profit and agency partners, that will be winning. This organization will be a steward of the open-source nature of the process – linking the parties into the future. We can provide standardization, research, and advocacy to support the nodes. An ongoing need will be to continue to identify new niches to support, to develop processes of self-improvement and to celebrate excellence.

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