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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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Maps of the Wind River Range

I wanted to put some of the maps in here – just to have these resources available for folks in the future.

The below is the overview. We did not actually drive from Pinedale up to the “Forest Road 650C” location. The idea was that would have been closer to the center line, and a better place to start from on the Thursday/Friday ahead of the Monday eclipse. But, we worked out a plan from the south, from Pinedale up into Fremont Lake.

Here’s more detail – we started right above the word “Bridger” in the middle of this image.




Essentially, we hiked in from the end of the black squiggle road at the bottom of the bottom image, toward Photographer’s Point, where we watched the sunset and then set up tents about 10 minutes further along. We really only went up to the top right corner of this image. The pond at the top right is Island Lake which was the furthest we went to.

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Preliminary Dispatch from the Wind River Range

Wow – what an amazing time with great people. Always delightful to spend time with my brother Teddy. Wow!

I took a little dayhike and it was amazing. What a landscape!

Teddy was making the most of his fishing permit. We were eating brook trout for breakfast and dinner every day. I can still taste that spirit of the mountains right here!

Amazing sunsets. Imagine this image 1000-times larger!

A special place.

Ahead of the trip, we met up in Denver, CO, to grab a few brewskis at a very cool little pub in Jefferson Park, the Briar Common. It was a great! Wow. I drove four three days and T-man hooked a bus from Santa Fe. Quite a good little rendezvous.

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Civekos Redux

Hello Good People!

I have rebooted my plan for Civekos, the cooperative housing network for social benefit professionals.

I had an opportunity to describe the concept to some folks at Harvard Kennedy School through their Social Innovation & Change Initiative. They are seeking applicants for their Social Innovation Fellowship Program – looking for new ideas on how to innovate in the social sector. I responded by giving them my latest thoughts on Civekos. I actually didn’t bring up the name or the larger social movement of Civekoi (the renunciate members dedicated to social purposes), but I outlined the benefits of subsidized housing for social benefit professionals. You can read the application below.

I always like some photos in my blog:

Here’s a new development near my house in Cambridge (this is technically Somerville). It was a standard triple decker (three units, 6-9 bedrooms), and now looks like 8 units with more like 20 bedrooms. But probably a condo style development of separate ownership and some kind of management entity that maintains the exterior, public interior space, parking and grounds.

Here is another multi-fam development from about 30 years ago (can you tell?) on the other side of the same Beacon Street. This is also condos. It’s not that exciting to me.

Here is yet another – the more vintage multi-family alongside the new one. You can also see the elevator core of a yet next building going up – this on the site of what had been a single-story ~3000sf commercial building. I knew it was going to get redeveloped and am surprised it took the owners so long to shift it from what it was to residential.

My larger thoughts are about who and why people are going to move into these places, and what and how they could be designed and operated for greater social benefit. Building a similar amount of domiciles using a cooperative household or togetherment model could result in stronger linkages among residents and between them and the surrounding community.

That is one of my areas of interest.

But regarding Civekos and housing for people dedicated to social purposes like teaching and social work, here is the pitch I provided. Actually, here is the application description and the questions they were asking. Briefly, the selection criteria are:

  • Provides evidence of real commitment to a specific social issue and the people adversely affected by the current state.
  • Demonstrates a clear connection between the Fellowship and long- and short-term post-graduation goals.
  • Approaches innovation with a learning mindset.

While I was concerned that my concept is something of a “meta-solution” rather than a specific intervention into a social problem, I am hopeful that it can be seen as a good aspect of a broad solution effort, and an actual innovation in how we provide compensation and residential tenure security for people who choose to pursue non-commercial professions.

Here is the application essay (four questions):

  1. What public problem or social issue are you passionate about? Why do you care? Please discuss 1) how you came to understand the problem through academic, personal, and/or professional experience, or other activities, and 2) your personal motivation to contribute to a solution. (500 words or less)

I want more people to be able to commit to long-term work in the social benefit sector, yet many leave because of fears about housing costs. Many people working in non-profits, or government agencies, or teaching, or other social benefit work, spend a few years of enthusiastic service and then leave and start new careers in the private sector in order to earn more income. Social benefit professionals can become income sensitive especially when challenged by housing cost that are rising rapidly in their community.

This is a clearly seen problem in many places. My personal motivation stems from a systems perspective where I envision multi-resident housing “lodges” for social benefit professionals throughout the world. A network would evolve and adapt for different locations and different populations.


Imagine facilities similar to youth hostels, but with long-term residents, sharing in a group living setting and taking various responsibilities for house/facility management, developing and strengthening their commitment to social benefit service work. Each node in the network would provide not only a reasonable-cost housing option for social benefit professionals, but also a micro-community of curated colleagues which could support each other’s intentions and provide emotional & professional support. The lodges would be centers for continuous learning, maturing, and networking, regardless of the specific professional work a member performs. The facilities could model distributed education for sharing best practices, integrating with surrounding communities, and facilitating long-term commitment to social benefit work.


  1. How will you use this opportunity to make change happen? Please describe the factors that led you to apply for this particular Fellowship and how you anticipate using your time to develop and advance your social innovation project. (500 words or less)

If selected to participate in the Cheng Fellowship program, I will be able to focus on researching, modeling and building out a network of housing for social benefit professionals. There are many examples of how people who are providing social benefit work find housing. Major institutions like the Catholic Church and the military provide housing as a matter of course for their members, who are performing social benefit work. I have found many semi-similar affordable housing models but nothing quite specific to reward social benefit work and reduce the total household costs for this type of professional by reducing housing costs. Across the globe, there are a variety of institutional structures which address housing and also connect social benefit work to housing, but usually these are directly connected to a specific institution – the housing is only for associated workers. There could be a more open-source brand and non-affiliated (non-religious and/or non-political) to link multiple employers to a housing benefit. It would not be unlike other types of benefits social oriented workers find: such as student debt forgiveness, schedule flexibility, food or travel allowances etc. Entities like Teach for America or small social service non-profits observe that their fellows and staff do find low-cost housing on the market, yet this is a missed opportunity to create a better benefit package and better experience for these employees.


I will use my time at Harvard to tap into the resources and academic connections to learn how to create a social enterprise which would meet the demand for this type of housing. I will explore the legal structures necessary, such as urban land trusts and community development corporations. I will research the governance structures that would be needed, such as decision-making processes and conflict resolution. I would determine ways to select residents and/or how can the nodes in the network be self-organizing, independently appropriately responsive to their localities and generate net positive benefit.


  1. How can we be sure that you will still be working on this post-graduation? And if you aren’t sure, why? (250 words or less)

I have had a dream about this concept since at least 2011 when I first worked on it as a part of my Environmental Leadership Program ( cohort research project. Due to my professional trajectory, I have not had sufficient bandwidth to truly build out the model. However, I have been living in a prototype of this housing, my 11-person residential cooperative household, since 2004 (which had been founded in 1963). I am an active participant in the cooperative housing community in the Boston area and can see a real opportunity to build out a network to meet the needs of social benefit professionals in many places. I want to use my year at HKS to focus on an audacious concept like this and learn how to iterate until we have a self-perpetuating social enterprise dedicated to delivering low-cost housing to this population. It may be a technology or communications platform, or it may be as evolved as a non-profit real estate development entity financing, building and managing these facilities.


  1. What characteristics, skills, or experiences demonstrate that you will be able to attract and mobilize money, people, and institutional support around your cause? (250 words or less)

People know me as a charismatic and engaging person who can rally support to a cause. I have had reasonable success growing small organizations into stable operations. In attracting support, I have worked to earn grants, various sized corporate donations, and built out income-earning programs and fee-for-service contracting. I have been involved in real estate, building, community development and planning throughout my entire professional life. The topic of housing cost is hot, and facilitating more people into social service can attract a coalition of supportive institutions. The idea of grouping people in “co-living” arrangements is also contemporary: adding to the group living experience a shared social mission orientation will strengthen the nodes in the network. Financial and in-kind support will come from traditional social service support entities (like CDC’s and city agencies), and from “start-up” oriented actors who can see this as a new model to address social needs. Having developed two non-profits from scratch, and having grown other entities through hard work and leadership, I believe I can tackle this problem and build a new organization to solve the dilemma of housing cost for social benefit professionals.


[Stay in touch!]


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Sights of Rome!

Of course spending some time in the Eternal City would result in the seeing of some sights.

I have collected a few of my shots on the general topic of touristic sights here.

I will indulge you in a separate entry on “Structure” – my take on the details of my strolling.

One of my all-time faves here now: The Pantheon. What a great place.

This is a lovely little bridge we went over a few times. There were buskers. Great music. A piano even! And people just hanging out. On a Monday night.

I know this is some famous church. I can’t recall the name. You can tell me. It’s quintessential.

This is another quintessential pic: mopeds and arches.

I think this is a little hidden Etruscan gem. Who could it be?

And of course the big boy: El Colosseu!

Random ancient stuff:

This place was so crowded, I was getting freaked out. Somehow I took a picture without being able to tell that ten thousand people were crowding around me.

This is a statue of some important figure who was used as a sounding board and complaint system during the time of some autocratic popes who really didn’t want to listen to anyone. There is a lot more to this story but here you go:

I had to have a picture of me looking somewhat regal or fascist. From Palatine Hill. A nice little side-garden in front of the museum. We had too much fun looking at duomos and missed the cut-off for going into the museum – suddenly it was past 7pm. Great days in Rome!

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Structure: Rome

While in Rome, my eagle eye spotted all sorts of visual treasures.

More of the collection is in an album here; below are some of my faves.


At Diocletian’s Baths:

Looking up:




Planar Geometry:

I have a whole series of these: buildings at night with one light on…

I thought this was cute:

And this one was rather bold:

This is looking into some fancy embassy’s main hall…must be some nice parties have happened in there!

This was on Instagram…and the BLUE!

Loads of great doors in Rome. I could do a whole post about this.

Here’s a little door…liked the texture…

More stone and masonry texture… and antennae…

The PANTHEON at night. Just a classic.

And this was looking through a window grate at a little old shop. Maybe a tailor? Maybe an insurance broker?



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Fun in Rome!

Whew! It was actually kind of hard. A few days in Rome. With Fabio & Raquel. What a couple! And don’t forget João – he is a good kid.

I arrived in Rome and immediately we had to go get ice cream. Mieko, another Burning Man connection, had been cleaning up the apartment (this was a place that Fabio had once lived in, which he had been subletting to various people for the past dozen years, which was now vacant of tenants and in-between renovations…long story). Dean, Mieko’s man, had just arrived from having been in the States for a wedding, in the middle of their “year around the world” trip. We all went out. Fabio gave us a tour of the town from his place, near Termini, to the Pantheon. Then we walked around for two and a half hours. Wow! That was a lot of fun.

Actually, we had dinner first – then ice cream. This is Fabio, Raquel, Joao, Mieko, and Dean. And me in the awkward selfie location.

Here we are at the nearby street market – generally excited about things!

Here are a bunch of the photos. And some choice shots below.

Grey and Fabio getting coffee across the street from the flat – this is every morning. I’m sad I didn’t get the two very engaging barristas who work here – what a hoot!

Raquel modeling her Cleu Camp (our Burning Man camp) tatoo, while at the deli getting some supplies for our Todi trip.

Mieko made “acqua fresca” from the watermelon: just add lime juice. Refreshing!

Here is some fun in Rome – a guy trying to clean the crenelations in the basilica of Diocletian’s Baths…it is a pretty big place.

Grey, Danielo & Fabio had lunch at the Teatro Quirino – an excellent spot with great food and books, quite close to the Trevi Fountain but we had the place to ourselves. Really relaxing. Great music. We were able to sneak a peek into the stage to see a modern dance performance practicing. Very cool.

On one of the days, we went to the beach. It was fun!

And had pizza on the way back to the City.

We had a lot of great wanderings – this is just one example from the blog entry about “Sights” – which is almost as good as the one with “Structure” – even though this one about “People” is the best!

This is us at the last dinner – in a piazza in the Jewish Quarter – all showing off our Cleu Mandalas.

Ah, and here is the two lovelies just doing there thing:

And this is one of my favorites. When we got back from dinner, we were wondering where to park. There is a little street near the flat. Can we park here? Looking closely you’ll see that cars and mopeds are parked in all directions (actually in Rome you are supposed to part with traffic, unlike in Boston, but as is in Cambridge). The street was actually one way heading in to us – so we had to figure out an alternative. The sign was actually placed in such a way that it couldn’t be turned to face the direction of the jurisdiction…but I didn’t get a pic while we were laughing at it. Roma! Always smiling.

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Wanderings near the Palazzaccio Todi

I was able to get out and about a bit.

I love the countryside in Italy. It is obviously similar to parts of California that I know (and vice versa!) and the comparison is irresistible. There are some similar species but a lot new to me. The dryness is very similar and daunting. I do “prefer” the New England landscape with it’s abundance of water. So there’s that overarching situation, and everything is sharp and pointy here. Well, not like Tuscon but you get the idea.

Loved a dayhike with Dean and Mieko. Saw snakes and birds. And an old walnut grove. Found the tower, our target. I took a short-cut back to the house, going through some old olive orchards and passing an abandoned house. Came to some recently ploughed fields and descended into a ravine where I did find some actual water (smelled horrible etc.) and followed it back to the lane out the north side of the property that we had started from. Felt great to navigate based on drainages, but I could see how some could find that crazy. I did have a liter and a half of water, though…

Here is an album of pictures, and here are some choice shots for commentary.

A nice morning at the house, waking up on the terrazo.

Here’s the side field view of the house. I sat here for an hour as the sun descended and watched the trees at the bottom waving in the breeze. The temperature was perfect and I was mezmerized.

Seriously mezmerizing…with the old town and some estates in the distance…

This is actually an evening shot, of the tower, that we wanted to get to…

Now, would I need a Lamborghini to get there? Would João really need a /bathing cap and goggles/?…

Nothing like a little beautiful countryside, eh? Dean had taken a jog down a woodsy lane the first day and thought we could walk it and get to the tower.

Where were we getting to? Mieko with the big camera for the Todi shot.

Made it to the tower!

[Did not actually  climb it, thought Dean and Mieko wanted to try…]

We decided to keep going…and had a little discussion on what would get us back to the house first. There was a vague plan to get back to Roma after “mid-day…” I decided to take a little ramble. This is place I got lost in…I mean, I was making steady progress…

I thought I should include a pic of myself among all the landscape imagery…

This pic is somewhat out of order, but is the little hamlet of Pontecuti (or is it Montecchiani Renzo) on the west side of the Todi hill. Great old bridge. We was a fox on the road above the night before. That is another collection – our stroll in Todi proper…

This is the view from Fabio’s pool. Let’s put a date on the calendar and make it happen, people!!! I’m talking fam, friends, classmates, GBMC, whoever wants to get together in paradise!!!

Here’s a nice fixer-upper nearby, just for you!

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Awesome Times at the Palazzaccio Todi w/ Fabio and Raquel

Over the course of a few days, I was able to spend time at Fabio’s family’s country house near Todi. That’s Todi in the background; this shot is on the road up to the house, passing a little church where they have the festivals of the local community called Canonica. I couldn’t get a shot of the church/village without a lot of power lines and I just don’t like taking pictures like that. And from the road, while moving…etc…

Here is the flickr album which has more pictures from the ride and of the house itself.

Here’s a little map:

Here is the little kitchen door that we primarily used.

Here’s the house! (kitchen door on lower right, invisible…)

We had some good times. And eating was primo.

My new friends Mieko and Dean spend the day organizing the kitchen! It looks amazing now!

Aww, cute! Dean is an organizer-type. Mieko is a chef – she studied at various places including a farm/retreat in Alto Adige near Austria. They live in Bend, Oregon.

We found a secret chapel in the place. Woah. Not expecting this.

Up on the third floor is a giant terrace/porch, looking to the north and east. The trees surrounding the house have now come to that height, but there are still great views. There is a hill blocking this house from the actual “money shot” view of Todi, but the rental property (ah yes – here is the link!) has a higher elevation. And a pool!

Amazing central staircase. Oh – and I slept on the terrace up there…

Here’s the “posto” where we got the mozzarela di bufalo. I am shocked that I didn’t get an “interior” shot with all the amazing food for sale. And wine from 500l tanks…we filled multiple bottles. Always good to stop for provisions on the way to the country house.

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