Editor’s Note: Columbia Business School is deeply involved in creating solutions to social problems through business. Students like Donnel Baird (2013) enrolled in the social entrepreneurship program are encouraged to implement their ideas into action before graduation. I had the pleasure of meeting an innovative social entrepreneur Donnel Baird at a recent Google luncheon at Google HQ in Chelsea. Lunch included a quinoa & kale invention that apparently has as many health benefits for the body as Google+ has for viewers. Donnel is an Echoing Green winner for 2012 and received the “Black Male Achievement” Fellowship from EG for his affordable renewable energy program: BlocPower.
The Power of Collaboration for Social Change
Donnel Baird spent three years as a community organizer in Brooklyn and one year as a voter contact director for Obama For America. Donnel managed a national Change to Win/LIUNA campaign to leverage Dept. of Energy energy efficiency financing to create green construction jobs for out of work populations. He partnered with the Washington Interfaith Network to generate a $100m government investment in underserved communities in the District of Columbia.
Donnel has diverted his attention to New York City and launched BlocPower an innovative social venture to bring low cost renewable energy to low income urban areas. BlocPower aggregates groups of consumers–like Groupon–to negotiate energy savings, pricing discounts, and community hiring quotas with renewable and energy efficiency firms.
The goal for BlocPower is to create jobs for black men and reduce costs for community organizations by leveraging community-led solar and weatherization retrofits for churches and nonprofits.
To date, BlocPower has successfully worked with Green City Force to find energy saving opportunities “for awesome small businesses in Harlem like Levels Barbershop, Land Yoga, and Robofun.”