I recently launched a non-profit called Greatest Good. In a nutshell, it attempts to reinvent the way people raise money for the causes they care about. David Slocum of the Berlin School of Creative Leadership was kind enough to interview me for Forbes, the transcript of which can be found below. The original article is here.
I had a chance to speak recently with Saneel Radia, a 2009 EMBA graduate of The Berlin School of Creative Leadership, who has created “Greatest Good,” a non-profit platform where people donate their time to raise money for charitable causes. Based in New York, Saneel is the Founder of Finch15, a VivaKi-incubated innovation boutique that helps mature brands to concept, prototype and launch revenue-producing digital businesses. Prior to launching Finch15, Saneel ran the North American division of BBH Labs, the innovation unit of BBH, and, during his Berlin School days, was MD and “Alchemist” at Denuo, a Publicis Groupe Company focused on innovating digital services, media and technology.
David Slocum: Let’s start by asking you to explain Greatest Good.
Saneel Radia: Greatest Good is a digital platform for people to donate their time to support the causes they care about. The intention is for thought leaders across industries to make themselves accessible to individuals and companies that could benefit from their perspective in a one-on-one discussion. The money from selling their time goes to the charity of their choice.
Slocum: What was the insight that led you to develop Greatest Good?
Radia: Working in the marketing and tech areas, in particular, I was repeatedly struck by issues that swirled around the value of time and the transfer of knowledge – you might say, around reconciling financial metrics and depth of expertise. When volunteering, there’s always a tension between donating time and money; contributors want to give their time, charities tend to prefer to receive money. This is because a professional’s time is often worth so much less outside of their native industry. This inefficient conversion of the volunteerism economy is what we’re trying to solve.
Greatest Good emerged as a way for experts to donate something more closely approximating the market value of their time. In turn, businesses could benefit from using the platform to find thought leaders, be inspired, get unstuck, and access new and sophisticated ideas.
Slocum: Can you say more about the model?
Radia: We’re starting with an invitation-only launch featuring 30 advisers whose expertise people can access and roughly 25 charitable organizations that will benefit. Each of the advisers has committed to monthly “office hours” to video chat with users at a rate of $250 per half hour. The users request a video chat with a specific adviser and submit their payment information. After a meeting has occurred, Greatest Good releases the money to the adviser’s selected charity. Overall, Greatest Good is not a cause in itself: it’s a tool for others to make connections while supporting charitable causes they care about.
Slocum: It’s such an exciting project. What’s your timeline beyond the April 2014 launch and the major challenges you see for growth?
Radia: Our plan is for each of the inaugural 30 advisers to invite other advisers of comparable stature in their respective industries. The goal is 40-60 more advisers to join the platform within around three months and for us to continue that cycle into the future until the process becomes self-operating. Our target is for the platform to be fully developed, self-propagating, and with a working pricing strategy, in 18 months. We realize such a process has to be monitored to sustain the quality, diversity and even the consistent pricing of the experience. Accordingly, an instructive parallel for us as we grow is the relationship between TED and TEDx; in the future, we need to ensure that what might be called “Greatest Good ‘X’” continues to deliver the high-level of expertise and full access to charitable organizations that we’re launching with.
Slocum: So diversity is important?
Radia: Diversity is at the core of the concept: diversity in terms of the businesses interested in accessing us, the backgrounds and experiences of the thought leaders and advisers who participate, and the charitable organizations that are on board. Initially, there’s an emphasis on marketing and technology because those are the areas of my own experience and the reach of my network, but we’re very mindful of that. We’re curious following our launch to learn more about the demand for different kinds of experience and expertise and plan to use that as the basis for our future diversification rather than any set plan.
Slocum: The team you’ve assembled is impressive. What else can you tell us about them?
Radia: It’s a group of incredibly talented and committed people. What’s most remarkable is that while they’re all super busy, whether as sought-after freelancers or full-timers at top agencies like BBH and TBWA Chiat Day, they all said ‘yes’ immediately when I approached them about participating. Working together now, with no profit motivation and few resources, has been inspiring. Their willingness to experiment and creatively build something together with little precedent to draw from is amazing to experience first-hand.
Slocum : How does Greatest Good fit into your own future plans?
Radia: I’ve never had a master plan for my future and typically don’t make plans for more than one year out from where I am. My ongoing aspiration is always “to put a dent in the universe” and the stones have just varied over time. As a result my career has touched media, games, creativity, and innovation. Now, Greatest Good provides a marvelous opportunity to build a platform, and a brand, for such positive change. It serves as a great balance to my “day job” running and growing Finch15.
Professor David Slocum is the Faculty Director of Executive MBA Program at the Berlin School of Creative Leadership and is on twitter @DavidSlocum.