Economics & Enterprise

The Philanthropy of George Soros: Building Open Societies
Economics & Enterprise
Wednesday, 29 June 2011 16:03

To mark the publication of The Philanthropy of George Soros: Building Open Societies (PublicAffairs), this conversation covers topics including George Soros's biographical background, the roots of his philanthropic philosophy, lessons learned, and the future of the work of the Open Society Foundations.


  • George Soros, Founder and Chairman of the Open Society Foundations
  • Aryeh Neier, President of the Open Society Foundations
  • Gara LaMarche, President and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies (Moderator)

Laura Silber, Director of Public Affairs at the Open Society Foundations, introduced the event.


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Donna Niemann and Claudia Hartman will present at the National Cohousing Conference
Economics & Enterprise
Written by {ga=Admin}   
Monday, 06 June 2011 23:08

Donna Niemann and Claudia Hartman, co-founders of VESTA Community Concepts, will present at the National Cohousing Conference in Washington D.C. on June 15-19th.

During their talk, "Demographics and the Next Generation of Cohouser,"  Donna and Claudia will discuss how major shifts in the economy and demographics are causing millions of people to rethink the fundamentals of how we eat, work, relate and live harmoniously on the planet. They contend there is a rising tide of people such as women, millennials, singles and elder who could be drawn to the Cohousing model because it is about sharing resources,  active neighboring and living lighter on the planet. In their presentation they will share key findings from their road trip last fall where they travelled 2500 miles and interviewed 20 Cohousing communities for best practices. Lastly they will reveal VESTA: an ecohybrid housing project done in collaboration with Jillian Brooks from Taliesin School of Architecture.

Vesta Community Concepts is a think tank seeking innovative solutions for collaborative housing options and is working on it's first urban prototype.

More info on the  Cohousing Conference

The Cohousing Association began in 1997 with this mission: to promote the awareness and development of cohousing and to provide sustenance to existing cohousing communities in the
United States. Cohousing offers sustainable housing solutions with huge health economic and social benefits from elders to young children and everyone in between. It is more relevant today than ever and the conference will focus on how Cohousing offers potential solutions to aging successfully, living lighter on the planet and growing together in community.

The conference brings together hundreds of cohousing residents, leading cohousing professionals, community organizers, sustainability experts, educators, and people interested in learning more about living in community.

Over three packed days feature 40 workshops on a wide range of topics from sustainability and affordable housing to co-farming and senior cohousing. Attached is a one-day flyer specifically designed to make it easy for people working in the Washington DC area to attend and learn more about cohousing.

(for more on the conference go to

Here’s our latest press release

regarding the conference.


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VESTA Community Concepts
Economics & Enterprise
Written by {ga=Admin}   
Monday, 06 June 2011 22:54

We are a marketing/design think tank developing innovative urban community-oriented housing concepts. We're an eclectic group of pioneers, change agents, designers, entrepreneurs guided to provide innovative housing solutions for people seeking to live smaller, greener and closer together in community.

Our first project is an urban prototype called Vesta. (named after the Roman Goddess of hearth & home) This intergenerational mixed-use development located in Phoenix shows a vision for a "neighborhood of the future". We worked closely with architect Jillian Brooks from Taliesin West for 6 months designing this eco village on a vacant 5 acre parcel for between 25-50 people. Vesta is a hybrid that takes some of the best aspects of cohousing and combines it with other models to create something new.

We are excited to develop VESTA here in Phoenix for the next generation of people interested in community-oriented development.

Our think tank also explores adaptive reuse or converting existing housing stock, apartments or pocket neighborhoods into collaborative living communities. This could also include providing housing for targeted populations with special needs.

We are passionate about designing communities that are sustainable in every sense--physically, socially and financially. A place where people can truly THRIVE together.

VESTA Community Concepts is proud to support the mission of the FUSION Foundation as a local business with global reach. We are excited to align with other organizations here in the Valley that call forth new possibilities and provide solutions for today's complex challenges. We are proud to be part of that collective vision.

Vesta Community Concepts was founded by Claudia Hartman and Donna Niemann, 50 something, single, educated entrepreneurs living in Phoenix, Arizona. Like millions of others affected by the economy, they started seriously re-evaluating the toll it takes to live independently. Since there is a void of collaborative living options available in Phoenix, Claudia and Donna decided to do some first hand research on what was available elsewhere.  Last September, they borrowed a van, called the Guppy, travelled 2, 500 miles across four states to interview 20 established Cohousing communities to learn best practices in the area of design, affordability, sustainability and governance.  The background and initial findings from their trip can be found on the blog This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Upon their return to Phoenix, Donna and Claudia (aka the 2 CHICKS) were fortunate to partner up with Jillian Brooks, a young architect studying at Taliesin. (Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture)  They collaborated closely with Jillian giving her the program, scope and best practices they observed from their trip. The three of them created a vision for a "neighborhood of the future" on a 5-acre vacant parcel of land in Phoenix conveniently located near key amenities, public transportation, stores and a park. Their vision of VESTA serves as an example of what could be possible in a collaborative living model. Another key component to the vision of VESTA is to incorporate local sustainable agriculture since growing food is so integral to building and maintaining community.

The team is currently getting pricing for Vesta, putting together a performa and advisory team.
Claudia and Donna just launched their "BIRDS of a FEATHER" campaign on Facebook calling out to others interested in building a community here.

To become a fan go to their facebook page:


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Arizona Organizing Project
Economics & Enterprise
Written by {ga=Admin}   
Monday, 06 June 2011 00:23

The Arizona Organizing Project non-profit organization, operating under the 501c3 umbrella of the Atwood Health Foundation (EIN: 86-0975231).

We work with people currently living in chronic poverty to develop their skills and exercise their power, while supporting their efforts to take collective action to shape their own destiny. The lives of people living in chronic poverty are increasingly dominated by social service agencies and these people often feel that the agencies are not accountable to them. Peer groups of people living in chronic poverty associated with specific social service providers need to form and work together with the providers to become a new effective interactive community. This is our work.

Healthy, sustainable communities organized and led by the people emerging from poverty.

Fields of Work:

Peer Group Organizing:

The Arizona Organizing project works to develop and support healthy and effective peer groups of people living in chronic poverty associated with social service agencies.  The lives of people living in chronic poverty are increasingly dominated by social service agencies and these people often feel that the agencies are not accountable to them.  Peer groups are the platform from which the chronically poor can speak and act on matters important to them, and these groups can be the means for their members to effectively partner with the social service agencies to end chronic poverty and build healthy and thriving communities.

Developing Learning Environments:

The Arizona Organizing Project is committed to being an environment of learning: self-learning, social and public education, skill and core gift learning, socialization and trust, civil dialogue and mutual respect, literacy and certifications of achievement.  AZOP will partner with educating organizations to provide on-going education and curriculum.  Most important is that each member of our peer communities will help define their own educational needs and create a plan with their peers.  AZOP is committed to democratic practices allowing every voice and story a place of significance and honor.

Healing and Recovery:

Personal discovery and empowerment are essential for holistic wellness and healing from the inside out.  Peer group development begins when members of a group are able to share their stories to others and then empower others to do the same.  Through modeling and coaching people in supportive listening and responsible leadership, the Arizona Organizing Project helps people recognize their core gifts and while fostering healthy esteem of self and others. It is important to understand that the meaning of healing and recovery is as diverse a process as the population we serve. 

Social Justice:

The Arizona Organizing Project encourages everyone to experience their value and claim their power. People in poverty often face systematic oppression and social exclusion. We use social justice approaches that organize oppressed communities to have collective power. We unify people in poverty to address criminalization of poverty, to hold service provides accountable to customers, and to hold representatives in government accountable to their most oppressed constituents.

Social Enterprises:

The Arizona Organizing Project views social enterprise development as a unique opportunity for individual and collective leadership in the area of economic social change.  We work with people currently living in chronic poverty who have a desire and aptitude to be social entrepreneurs.  The work of these social entrepreneurs creates enterprises that improve the common good and solve a social problem in a new, more lasting and effective way than traditional approaches, while lifting them to sustainable prosperity.  The AZOP honors self reliance, accountability and partnership as key principles to building sustainable social enterprises.


  • Inclusiveness
  • Civility
  • Mutual Respect
  • Human Dignity
  • Optimism
  • Learning
  • Partnership

-Principles Letter

LINK: "A Letter Calling For A Peer Group Organizing Project With Social Service Agencies To End Chronic Poverty in Arizona: Leadership to End Poverty Coming from People Living in the Condition"
July, 2010

This letter is a call for the creation and support of a Peer Group Organizing Project with Social Service Agencies in Arizona designed to bring about the end of chronic poverty and homelessness.

-Endorse Our Principles!

Email your name, contact information, and organizational affiliation to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

-The letter is endorsed by:

· Terry Araman, Madison Street Veterans Assoc
· Dr. Kelly Bender, Sr. Minister Paradise Valley United Methodist Church
· Bill Black, Arizona Organizing Project
· Donna Bouse
· Blasé Bova, St. Vincent de Paul
· Bishop Minerva Carcano, Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church
· Theresa Cordova, New Leaf America
· Susan Cordts, CEO, Adaptive Technologies
· Kit Danley
· Michael Donnelly
· Rick Dooley, Capitol Mall Fellows
· Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer
· Lal Fernando, New Era Children’s Fund
· Rev. Jan Olav Flaaten, Executive Director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council
· Billie Fidlin, Director of Outreach, Desert Southwest Conference of United Methodist Church
· David Fraley, Amigos Foundation
· Nancy Gerlach, New Arid Club
· Brad Hilton, Hilton Foundation
· Scott Jacobson, Arizona Organizing Project
· Robert Koth
· Ann MacNeil
· Brendan Mahoney, Attorney at Law
· Richard Maraj, Sr. Minister – Unity of Phoenix
· Don McKee, Capitol Mall Fellows
· Karen McNeil, Karen McNeil & Associates
· Rev Ed Mendenhall, Faith United Community Church (UCC)
· Linda Morris
· Ron Owen, Humanity Unites Brilliance
· Arlene Pfeiff, St. Vincent de Paul
· Scott Ritchey, Justa Center
· Bruce Roberts, Madison Street Veterans Assoc
· Conde Rogers, Real Gift Foundation
· George Roundy, Arizona Organizing Project
· Runningdeer, Capitol Mall Fellows
· Bianca Sain, New Arid Club
· Ben and Sarah Sanders, Community Ministries
· Lynne Schwarzkopf, LPN, US Navy retired
· Louisa Stark, Community Housing Partnership
· Marissa Theisen
· Rev. Billy Thrall
· Wayne Tormala, Bureau Chief, Az Dept of Health Services
· Don Vance, Madison Street Veterans Assoc
· Elizabeth Venable, MA MPA, Arizona Organizing Project
· Kevin Walton, Capitol Mall Fellows
· Steve Weitzenkorn, Ph.D.
· Janice White-Smith, Madison Street Veterans Assoc
· Brian Williamson, Capitol Mall Fellows
· Tom Woodward, Blue Diamond Technologies
· Sara Vannucci, Amigos Foundation

Read more at:


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Introducing Sunday Cycles
Economics & Enterprise
Written by {ga=Admin}   
Friday, 26 March 2010 05:01
Combining his passion for cycling with business acumen, Joe Berman decided it was time to leave corporate America behind and strike out on his own with Sunday Cycles. With support from family and friends, he built his business with a grassroots ethic — each new customer became a new friend.

Joe literally built Sunday Cycles by hand — spending a month building out the store, from putting up the shelves to hanging the lights — then updating his progress on Facebook as it all came together. Facebook also helped him find his customers — both in the Valley and around the world.

The brand-new shop is a hangout as much as a gear destination. Joe wants everyone to feel at home — stop in and make yourself at home on the sofa to share your latest bike story or a joke. He’ll give you an education while you have a glass of wine or a nutrition sample.

Building community is as important to Berman as building the business — he’s a native Phoenician and has a large family in the Valley.

Cyclists of all levels are valued at Sunday Cycles. With Joe’s industry expertise and Sunday Cycles’ wide range of products, they can outfit a little girl on her first bike with training wheels, or a grown man or woman with a totally custom road cycle. From mountain bikes to comfort, cruisers, tri and kids’ bikes to gear and accessories, Sunday Cycles has something for everyone. Joe carries brands like Marin, Focus, Kona, Kestrel, Zipp, Spinergy, Cycle-ops and more

Sunday Cycles is located on the southeast corner of 32nd Street and Bell Road, open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 am–6 pm.

Find them online at or on Facebook via: Sunday Cycles Bike Shop.

Sunday Cycles
3321 E Bell Road
480-440-2142 480-440-2142


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Five Customer Service Tips
Economics & Enterprise
Written by {ga=sechler}   
Friday, 26 March 2010 04:58
Loyal customers are worth their weight in gold, and that’s not just a cliché. Studies have shown that businesses often spend five to six times more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one.

Over the long term, those dollars add up. In fact, a company’s skill at caring for its customers often determines its survivability in the marketplace.

Make customers happy and they’ll stick with you; disappoint them and they’ll tell their friends.

Fortunately, building customer loyalty isn’t rocket science (even if you’re in the business of building rockets). It’s a matter of focusing on a few basics, like the following:

1.     Hire friendly people.

Grumpy salesmen and bashful receptionists don’t generate repeat business. The staff you employ should enjoy interacting with people. Of course everyone has a bad day now and then. But if your employees regularly hide out in the back room instead of greeting clients, it’s time to take a hard look at your hiring practices.

2.     Invite customer feedback.

This can be as simple as spending a few minutes with a customer to inquire about his or her experience with your firm. Get specific. Don’t just ask, “How was our customer service today?” Instead inquire, “Did our salesman answer all your questions about XYZ product?” You might also establish a focus group of customers to solicit ideas for improving your products and services.

3.     Follow up.

If customers spend valuable time providing their opinions via surveys, suggestion boxes, or focus groups, don’t

ignore what they have to say. Let them know that you take their ideas seriously and are looking for ways to implement at least some of their suggestions.

4.     Never stop training.

Often employees treat customers rudely or disrespectfully because they simply lack training in proper etiquette. Show them the proper way to answer phone calls, how to

make eye contact and smile, how to help without being pushy. With a little focused training, most people can learn good customer service skills. Take time up-front to develop these skills in your employees, and you’ll reap dividends in customer loyalty.

5.     Model proper behavior.

Simply put, the boss should exemplify top-notch customer service. If staff see you treating clients poorly, don’t be surprised if they assume that such behavior is acceptable.

Remember: it’s easier to keep an existing client than to beat the bushes for a new one. It’s cheaper, too.

2010 Mileage Rates

Beginning January 1, 2010, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

50 cents per mile for business miles driven

16.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes

14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The new rates are slightly lower than last year. The business rate is the standard rate used for reimbursement of employee mileage by businesses.

Contact Carolyn Sechler at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

“Business Tips” are published monthly to provide useful business information. Return to my site every month for helpful suggestions on how to make your business more profitable. If you would like more information on anything in “Business Tips,” or if you’d like to be on our mailing list to receive other business, tax, or financial information from time to time, please contact our office.


By Carolyn Sechler, CPA PC

© copyright 2010 SECHLER CPA PC 


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Text Messaging: A Tool for Immediate Engagement
Economics & Enterprise
Written by {ga=Admin}   
Friday, 26 March 2010 04:57
After a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, media, government officials, and users of social networking sites urged others to make charitable gifts to relief organizations. But there was something new about these pleas to give. For the first time in the United States, text messaging ranked alongside Web sites and telephone numbers as a primary giving medium. After the disaster struck, the American Red Cross worked with mGive to set up a text donation program that resulted in more than one million Americans donating over $26 million within nine days of the disaster through $10 text donations. In fact, the Red Cross's mobile fundraising campaign for Haiti emergency response efforts is the largest grossing to date.

The Haiti earthquake marked a turning point in mobile giving. It showed that text messaging can be a far-reaching tool for immediate engagement. Nearly 90 percent of Americans own mobile phones, and text messaging has become an all but ubiquitous part of American life. Because mobile phones are the one device that most people keep handy at all times, text messaging offers nonprofit organizations a powerful technology for fundraising, recruitment, and engagement.

American nonprofits are beginning to utilize text messaging (also known as SMS, which stands for "short messaging service") more than any other mobile phone technology because of its versatility and market penetration. In addition to its fundraising potential, text messaging can be used to communicate breaking news and information, prompt supporters to call lawmakers, or deliver information about the positions of a candidate or corporation. ...

Text messaging is especially well-suited for certain types of advocacy engagement, such as call-in alerts. At the same time, text messaging has substantial limitations. To start, the 160-character limit of a text message leaves little space to make a case for giving or taking action. Furthermore, in most cases, American mobile carriers charge both the sender and recipient for each text message. In terms of fundraising, it wasn't until late 2007 that organizations could solicit donations from subscribers in the U.S., and even now supporters can only donate in amounts of $5 and $10.

In its current form, text messaging is most effective as part of a multi-channel communications strategy. For the foreseeable future, e-mail, Web, and direct mail are likely to continue to be the primary means by which organizations communicate with supporters, raise money, and generate action. However, text messaging can reinforce messages from other channels, provide an immediate engagement opportunity in urgent situations, and serve as a key part of a broader communications strategy.

The 2010 Nonprofit Text Messaging Benchmarks report is the first of its kind. ... The aim of this study is two-fold: 1) To provide benchmarks and metrics by which nonprofit organizations can measure their success with text messaging; and 2) to illustrate the various ways in which organizations are using text messaging. ...

Key Findings

  • Among the organizations that participated in this study, over 80 percent of text subscribers were recruited via an online program. However, some organizations—especially those with a strong presence at events (notably concerts) or with a television advertising budget—can generate a sizeable number of recruits through these "offline" channels.
  • Text messaging lists grew at an annual rate of 49.5 percent. This rate is quite high, in large part because many partner organizations are building their text lists by drawing from existing supporters.
  • The annual churn rate for text lists was 30.7 percent. The benchmark text message unsubscribe rate was 0.69 percent. Unsubscribe rates varied somewhat by messaging type, with fundraising solicitations seeing the highest unsubscribe rate of 0.92 percent.
  • The response rate for call-in advocacy text messages (text messages urging a supporter to make a call to a decision maker on behalf of the organization) was 4.7 percent—nearly six times the 2009 benchmark response rate of 0.82 for call-in advocacy e-mails. This rate is impressive, and indicative of the power of text messaging to generate an immediate response.

SOURCE: Guide Star ( )


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World Business Academy

World Business Academy
Taking Responsibility for the Whole


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    Claire Carter from the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art SMOCA is visiting the Soleri Archives to explore materials for the 2017 exhibition.

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