Disrupting the Social-Change Industry

Astrid Scholz spent her last two years of high school at an international boarding school in British Columbia dedicated to peace and international understanding. It’s no wonder she decided she wanted to try to leave the world a better place by doing development work in the Global South. But a gap-year journey from her home in Cologne, Germany, to Africa rid the budding ecological economist of that notion.

“I realized Africa really didn’t need another white person telling them what to do,” says Scholz, a 2001 PhD graduate of the College of Natural Resources’ Energy and Resources Group (ERG).

Today, Scholz is the “chief everything officer” at Sphaera Solutions, a Portland, Oregon–based for-profit mash-up of marketplace, social network, and workflow management that aims to disrupt the social-change industry.

A common shortcoming of nonprofits and NGOs, Scholz says, is that they tell good stories about how they’ve solved problems, but do a poor job of making their solutions available to others. That’s where Sphaera comes in. It invites social-change organizations to bring their problems and solutions together on the company’s nascent publicly accessible web platform. The long-term goal: hosting a vibrant online community of more effective problem-solvers. “We need to figure this stuff out much more quickly,” Scholz says, “because the world is on fire.”

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