Alina Boyte shares her experience from developing social enterprises at the Changemaker Institute, and insight into intellectual property law for social entrepreneurs.
The Changemaker Institute was launched as a public benefit corporation to empower businesses to create positive change in the world by 2030. They run programs, such as:
- The Changemakers Lab, a two-day workshop to help businesses get clarity on their impact goals
- The I-Scool, a 12 week online training program for social entrepreneurs
- The Changemaker Start-up Program, a program to prepare women / minority-owned social enterprises for capital investment
I found it fascinating that Alina Boyte, grew up in Malaysia, and her education led to her work in intellectual property law. Many social entrepreneurs have a background in business or the area of social impact they’re servicing, but don’t usually know much about intellectual property law. In the podcast, Alina breaks down what this means, and the basics of trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. These elements can be designed to help companies develop assets and further value in their venture.
Beyond this, she shared how important it is for social enterprises to understand and correctly measure the impact that they’re measuring. It is very easy for social impact businesses to capture easy statistics, but quite often more work to find measurements that accurately reflect the impact they’re trying to make. She stressed how important it is to get these metrics right because they can inform how you grow and develop as a company, attract investment, and actually achieve what you’ve set out to do.
You can find out more about Alina, and these programs at:
00:00:11] Adam: Welcome to People Helping People, the podcast for social entrepreneurs who want to build a social impact business and increase their sustainability footprint. I'm your host, Adam Morris. And I can't wait to share the work of Alina Boyte and her Changemaker Institute. Alina has a super unique background in intellectual property law, but I also really admire the work that she's done to build Changemaker Institute in such a way that brings attention to both social impact and environmental sustainability.
So let's dive right in Alina. Welcome on the podcast.
[00:00:44] Alina: Thanks for having me on.
[00:00:46] Adam: Yeah, I'm really excited. Can we start off, can you tell us just a little bit about the Changemakers Institute?
[00:00:52] Alina: Yeah. So the Changemaker Institute is a public benefit corporation. We are incorporated in Delaware and our mission is to empower businesses, to create positive change in the world by 2030. So we have aligned that date with the sustainable development goals. What we do is we provide training programs.
We provide content, educational material resources to help businesses that are committed to doing social impact work, to help them to evolve with them so that they can, um, go out and do what they do best.
[00:01:27] Adam: Can you share an example of a project that you've worked on through Changemaker Institute?
[00:01:32] Alina: Yeah.
of course. So there is a sustainable clothing company it's called Baba Nyonya. That is based in Malaysia. The impact that they're trying to do is they are trying to protect the environment because West Malaysia is a, is a peninsula that has got beautiful beaches.
And one of their impact goals is to protect the environment. The business model is to use. Malaysian trend. That's really beautiful. It's hand printed, cloth that is made into dresses and clothes, and it's called . It means 10 printed. Um, and it's, it's a variation of the word dictate, which means, um, to, to dot and it's a way of dotting the cloth to then contain the colors.
Vibrant cloth. And the company is it's a really new company, but the goal is to create a sustainable clothing brand using that particular cloth. With the impact goal of protecting the Marine life where, the cloth is actually sourced from villages. Uh, produced the the cloth.
It's a long drawn process where you actually put into colors and then you have to dry it in the sun, because if you don't dry it in the, in the right environment or the right, temperature, the color runs so that it has to be, done in a particular way. Uh, so the, a lot of the villages that actually produced this batik cloth are on the coast of Malaysia.
So one of the goals is to conserve the coast in Malaysia, by elevating this brand. So that's the project we're working on. One of the most difficult things I think is knowing the kind of impact that we have that the company is having, because while it's easy, To use a simple metrics to show that you're making an impact.
Let's just say that the CEO of that company keeps talking about wanting to tag the turtles, which is great. And it's an awesome way to think about progress, but th but tagging 500 sea turtles, doesn't show that impact, that the company is actually having on the environment. So coming out with the right metrics is a little bit more difficult because you're going to have to show that whatever, activity that the company undertakes in terms of that the business actually contributes to long-term sustainability. So while it may be less sexy, it may have a better metric. Maybe how much trash did you get out of the ocean as opposed to how many turtles you, you actually tagged.
[00:04:17] Adam: Got it. Uh, I think that question comes up a lot of just, if I have a social enterprise, how do I communicate the impact I'm making and what metrics do I choose?
[00:04:27] Alina: Absolutely. I think , a lot of businesses choose quantitative metrics, which is understandable because those are easy by the means. I take to say that your tag 500 turtles is a lot easier than saying, I got how many piles of trash out of the, the ocean. And likewise if we break it down to a more simple level it's easier to say I trained 2000 people or I fed 2000 people. Than to actually show that, training those 2000 people actually empowered them. All that feeding those 2000 people actually reduce poverty. Right. So we need to find the right metrics that can actually demonstrate that impact. And it's not just the right metrics, but also the right action.
What kind of action do you need to take to have an impact?
[00:05:22] Adam: how do people go about identifying what those kind of better metrics are?
[00:05:27] Alina: Yeah, I'm huge on the sustainable development goals. And if helpful, and I'll spend a little bit wide, but to answer your question really quickly is to tie your metrics in a meaningful way to the sustainable development goals. And the reason why I think the sustainable development goals is a really good metrics to start off with.
Is that they're simple.
[00:05:49] Adam: Yeah.
[00:05:49] Alina: So, if you just Google the United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals, you'll see 17 of those goals. And it's all laid out for you really nicely. It's pretty it's, it's all color-coded and all that. Uh, but they also gave you, benchmarks. That you can aim towards, you know, the means, for example, reducing poverty.
Uh, they, they lay out the goals for you right there, Mr. Reader's poverty. This is what we hope to see, in developing countries, this is the level of reduction that we hope to see. It's better a to do things, in a simple and easy way than to complicate. That's the quick answer. It's it's easy. Um, and the metrics should tie into achieving the sustainable development goals.
[00:06:32] Adam: and I think that's a great point as well because, It's a very easy framework for people to communicate consistently on, but also as you said, being able to go and actually see, Hey, here's how the United Nations is laid out. You know, how you can measure success on these, on these different goals so that I can give some really good direction.
In the Changemakers Institute, like how do you balance the social impact that people are doing with the environmental sustainability? Because those are both kind of very prominent in your mission.
[00:07:03] Alina: Yeah. So, so I'm not sure whether we see those two things as mutually exclusive. That means whether you have to choose between social impact or sustainability. I think they can be aligned together. So when we talk about social impact, what we're really looking for is making a positive change in society or an, or having a positive impact on the environment.
So the concept of social impact, isn't a new concept. You know, nonprofits have thought have talked about social impact for a long time, foundations, philanthropic organizations have talked about social impact for a long time. The applied social impact of businesses is relatively newer. So I wouldn't say it's all that new because. We've always thought of corporations as having a social responsibility and we can debate about that. I'm sure. I'm sure people listening in might say, well, that, that isn't true. You know, we need to focus on shareholder wealth and until to a large extent, that's the way the law has developed. But, but generally when we first started conceptualizing the, the purpose of a operation, it was really to do public good.
Um, but the concept was social impact is, is two businesses. Is this relatively new? I would say because if people are, uh, beginning to realize that there's only so much government and non-profit organizations can do. And that businesses that choose to be more socially responsible and socially conscious can have a greater impact on society in some instances, more than governments and nonprofits, because, because a company which is right into the market, so that's social impact.
And to answer the question about, well, how does that relate back to sustainability? Sustainable companies are also impactful companies, but maybe the company is impacting the environment in a positive way as opposed to society. But it's the same, it's the same concept, right? That, that businesses have a responsibility to operate in a way to not deplete natural resources, which may include being innovative to see how they can dispose of things, without polluting the environment. And so it's, I don't see those two things as mutually explicit thing. There may be, you know, two different things that can be aligned together.
[00:09:54] Adam: I've noticed this come up a lot in conversations too, of just, budding social entrepreneurs who are starting something. And they they're looking at their environmental impact, um, because they see what's going on and , there's not always a clear path of like, how does this apply to me and how do I figure out what I can focus on or what I can change in my business in order to do better.
[00:10:17] Alina: Sometimes the change that, that you can make. Doesn't have to be a semi of significant dude. You don't even have to change your business model entirely. It may be as simple as choosing who your vendors are. Maybe it may be as simple as deciding I'm no, I'm no longer going to work with this particular supplier because this particular supplier, it doesn't isn't doesn't have the same values as I do when it comes to sustainability. It may be choosing it. It may be something as simple as, um, choosing the material in which you, you package your product. And, and I'm not saying that. That that's not necessarily an easy decision.
I mean, there's marketing issues and you know, where would you place product and how is, how is the consumer going to respond to it and pick different types of packaging? So, yeah, I'm aware that there are other marketing issues that maybe involved in making the decision, but it's, kind of decision you.
You don't have to necessarily come up with a completely new business model or change your distribution channels completely. Change where you put your products, right? It's, it's a matter of, making a small tweak to the choices you make so that you become a sustainable company.
[00:11:40] Adam: and it sounds like part of that is just understanding what you can change, um, or what areas might have, an environmental impact that you can look. So that when you go and you speak with vendors or look at your supply chain, you have an idea of like, Hey, here's some of the biggest challenges I can work on.
Um, I really love that idea of saying, Hey, well, part of growing a business is choosing which vendors and suppliers and partners that you work with and making sure that they're aligned with, you know, what your goals are. Um, so being able to educate yourself enough, to be able to have those conversations.
[00:12:17] Alina: It's a mental thing of educating yourself, but also a matter of knowing who you are. So it's important to not be afraid to put your stake in the ground and say, this is who we are. And we are making a cautious decision not to apply nervous companies. Then do you know.
[00:12:38] Adam: Now you mentioned a client that you work with, um, did the Changemaker Institute. What are some of the events and programs that you run through a Changemaker Institute?
[00:12:48] Alina: Yeah. So we do have a podcast, a weekly podcast where we talk about issues that are important to social entrepreneurs and they are usually around two different issues, number one, how do we become financially sustainable? Which is an important question because you have to sustain impact work. You, you do.
And number two, how do we actually make a longterm impact that impact is effective and it's not just a vignette. For, for doing good at it. You're actually doing so. So those are the two questions that come up consistently. And of course, implicit in all that is it's the mindset of an entrepreneur.
Right. How do you need to think about your business in a way that allows you to be as successful as it can be as an entrepreneur? So those are the things that constantly come up. And those are the things that we tried to talk about in the podcast. So we tried to have guests come on the podcast to talk about specific issues, but yes, there are solo episodes as well, but I provide my own views on this questions so that, so we do have a podcast, but we also have, um, workshops to help you think about how to create a social impact program that is both sustainable and profitable.
And then using that to support your business because it's so important. So understand how to run a profitable business so that you can continue your impact work. So if we can align those two things together, that you see success as a social impact business.
[00:14:33] Adam: Perfect. Who are, who are the ideal people to attend that workshop?
[00:14:37] Alina: The ideal people to attend the workshop are people that are thinking about doing social impact work, but not quite sure about how to go about doing that. People that have full have heard about sustainable development goals and did he know it's important, but he don't know how to bring that into the business.
Um, in people who don't know how to align their business with a social impact program. So bringing those two things together. As I said earlier, it's so important. And while many, many businesses understand the value of a social impact program, they don't know how to, to pull those two things together.
[00:15:17] Adam: Yeah.
[00:15:18] Alina: So the workshop is geared to that group of people who are thinking about starting a business.
Trying to identify what their products and services are going to be. How do we put those products and services out there and how do we develop a social impact program that will give them the opportunity to talk about their business in a more elevated?
[00:15:47] Adam: How did people find out about the workshop?
[00:15:49] Alina: I'm happy to share with your audience. Um, It's www.changemakerinstitute.org.
[00:15:57] Adam: And what is your long-term vision for the Changemaker Institute?
[00:16:02] Alina: So my long-term vision for the change-making Institute. We do want to achieve that mission by 2030 to empower a hundred thousand businesses to create positive change on people in the planet by 2030. So we do have the mission, um, but I think the long-term goal for the changemaker Institute, as with any social enterprise, it is to be sustainable and impactful.
So not only just, um, not only financially sustain. But, but growing and thriving, and also having a positive impact on businesses that want to do good. My personal vision, if I had a choice would be to, to become a content company, like I would love to produce content that would and empower businesses. So maybe a TV program where we could highlight social entrepreneurs
from all over the world that would feed that. I would love to, to do that as a side project to the Changemaker Institute.
[00:17:04] Adam: That's fun. You wear a lot of hats in what you do. Can we shift focus a little bit and talk about your work in intellectual property law? How did you, get into the field?
[00:17:14] Alina: I wish I had a more inspiring story. Maybe, maybe it is inspiring. My mother was actually studying law when she met my father. So she met my father and they fell enough to set up a meeting and he got married and she never completed law school. So she had a lot of law books in the house.
They were around when I was growing. Um, the British constitution and all that. And I used to read those books. I just, yeah, I loved reading. And then the, the logical progression , we'd go to law school right after high school. So it's not like in the us, I grew up in Malaysia, so it's not like in the us where most school is a graduate degree.
We do law school right after high school. So I went to my undergraduate law degree. Um, and then one thing led to another. I went on to do a master's and then I went on to do a second master's and then I did a PhD in copyright law and history. And so that's how I, I came to law and specifically intellectual property law.
[00:18:21] Adam: So I'm curious from your experience in that, what does social entrepreneur need to know about intellectual property law? And how does this come into play when people are launching new and new enterprises?
[00:18:31] Alina: Yeah. So with any businesses with any business intellectual property is I guess the core part of the. Um, essence of the company besides decides the hard assets like buildings and vehicles and machinery and all that. Um, the knowledge, the trademark, the brand, the information that you have as a business, those are all really valuable assets that should be protected. So intellectual property law is about, well, how do we protect all of those assets? Right? How do we protect our brand? How do we protect our information. Um, but specifically for social entrepreneurs, you can protect that information, but that information can also be created in a way or the brand can be designed in a way to actually make an impact.
Right. So, so if you're a business, let's just say you are a business or a regular for-profit business. And let's just say, let's just say, take a pharmaceutical. The pharmaceutical companies, um, goals could be till cumulate patents, right? That means as we develop pharmaceutical, we gonna file for patents and we can have more, more line, more patents, and that the patents that are followed and. And then when they get patents, then they built this patent portfolio. With social enterprises as well, that's, that's something we can do. We can get a lot of intellectual property and we can collect a lot of intellectual property and the intellectual property then forms the company's assets, which there's nothing wrong with that.
But if you want to make an impact, the, the way you designed the information and the path that you take to lead to the pattern and the type of pattern that you get should align with your social impact mission. So, in other words of a pharmaceutical may not necessarily have to think about its impact when it gets the patent. Right. However, if you are a social impact business, you want to be mindful about the patent that you get and the impact that patent has on society. And you want to align that with your mission.
So if you're a sustainable company, The patterns that you might want to pursue would be, will it be innovation that allows you to reduce carbon emissions, right? Or if you are a content company you want to produce content that is more empowering or content that is more socially responsible and socially impactful.
[00:21:19] Adam: Is there any pitfalls that people should be aware of about things that. They might have to watch out for when starting a, an enterprise in terms of other people's intellectual property or, um, areas that could get them into trouble.
[00:21:35] Alina: Yeah.
So you do want to be careful about the intellectual property that you come across. So just to be really quick that the four basic types of intellectual property patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. So trade secrets are information that are kept secret, so protected by confidential agreement and all that.
And then you have trademarks protecting your brand, and then you have copyright which protects, expressive, works, creative, writing art and all of it. And patents, that protects and inventions. When you are studying business and you're designing. And innovating and trying to get any, any intellectual property you want to keep that information close to you and not share it.
And the reason I say it is because a lot of the systems that we have is the first person to file. So the first person to actually file the patent gets the patent. What do you mean day? They satisfy all the requirements. They get the patent, you know, doesn't matter if you invented first.
With trademarks those who use it first gets the trademark must even be able to build a brand while you're thinking of using a trademark. You want to keep it close to you before somebody uses it to build their own brand. And then with trade secrets, when you keep it confidential.
So then you're doing. The, the value of the secret, the trade secrets would be things like recipes, client lists, things that are not protected by trademark, copyright, or patents with, with copyright. The work is protected when, when the work is. You know, so when you fix the information on what they call the law calls, tangible minimum expression basically means when you write it down and put it in a city, or, you know, you fix it, right.
That's the point where you get the copyright. So if you have an idea and you're talking about it to everyone else, and somebody else picks up on it and fix it, fix this at first, they get a copyright. Because ideas are not protected. So you're starting out. You want to keep your information close to you until you can, get the protection that you need from the legal system.
[00:23:46] Adam: Fantastic. And, what sort of help can people get when they're going through this process in order to facilitate that?
[00:23:55] Alina: Yes. So there are trademark agents that you can go to that can file trademarks for you. They are patent agents that you can go to, to file a patent. If you have a, if you have a lot of trade secrets, then you just want a lawyer to draft the confidential agreement for you and you don't even need a lawyer.
You could go to like rocket lawyer or the one of the legal platforms where you can actually pay. And then, you know, it's like $39 per month or something. And then they come up with a customized agreement for you. To get any, um, confidential agreement so that whoever comes across your trade secrets, you'll make them sign the confidential agreements, be their bond to you by contract, to not disclose that information.
Yeah, with copyright, you don't need to do anything to protect it because the moment you fix it, that's when you get no protection. You should still register it with the copyright office, just in case you want to sue someone else for taking your coffee.
Right? So you get protection to make you fix it on, have to register it, but you would have to register it. If you are afraid fitness, somebody else has my name, central copyright, anyone to bring a legal suit eventually.
[00:25:03] Adam: That's great. Thank you so much for that overview. That's really helpful.
[00:25:08] Alina: Good to know.
[00:25:09] Adam: I think when it comes to legal issues, that's something that people have very little experience with. When they're launching a, an enterprise, because quite often they either have some business experience or some social impact experience, that's drawing them to that. Um, but sometimes these other areas are very difficult for people to really grasp and, and get their head around.
So thank you so much for sharing that. I've really enjoyed this podcast. It's been a nice introduction about, you know, what you're doing with the Changemaker Institute and the good that you're doing. We spoke about the workshop that you have coming up on June 9th, and people can find the link for that in the show notes, or go to the changemaker institute.org.
Um, and then we had a great discussion about the intellectual property.
[00:25:54] Alina: And I, I would just add one listening if I may add them. We, we do have a lead magnet that I take might be useful to your audience. If you are interested in, you know, thinking about how do I align my social impact goals with my business goals and being profitable and how do I design the social impact program and how do I go about doing that?
We do have the ultimate impact creation starter kit. That takes you a step by step. It's actually a three-step process. I mean, it's all easy and fun to work through. It's really easy questions to answer, but it will help you think about what your vision is for your company, then how you would design a social impact program.
And how would you use the social impact program to then support your company? So it's a simple three step process. But I designed it in such a way that you will help anyone who's thinking about doing social impact work. Give you a quick start to getting things going.
[00:27:01] Adam: Oh, that's fantastic. Yeah. And for people who are listening, who are working on an idea or, or trying to flush that out, that sounds like the perfect tool for developing that to get off the ground. Well, thank you so much for taking some time today to join us on the podcast and share what you're doing, uh, really admire what you're doing.
And I hope it just continues to grow and grow.
[00:27:21] Alina: Well, thanks for having me. It was such a fun.
[00:27:25] Adam: And if you're listening, you can find all these resources in the show notes and you can find out more by visiting changemaker institute.org. Thanks so much for listening.