His successor, Dr. Joanne Smith, not only carried forward Betts’ legacy, she improved upon it. This includes her brainchild, the “Ability Lab,” which put a high quality, light filled rehab therapy space decorated with positive messages next to appropriate research scientists and laboratories. This proved extraordinarily effective and is one of the many good reasons behind RIC’s campaign to build a new hospital filled with similar spaces.
The not-so-secret sauce of Make It Better’s success is our people. Many great people – talented, kind leaders all – laid a strong, trusted, valued and valuable community foundation when we launched makeitbetter.net on May 1, 2007. Watch that story here.
Many more have been building greatness upon this foundation ever since – particularly our staff, savvy advertisers, outstanding nonprofit partners and smart, engaged audience. I thank and celebrate each and every person. But, most of all, I thank and celebrate my partner (and sister in a former life), Mindy Fauntleroy.
Two days ago, in New York City, Make It Better’s unique success was recognized nationally – when we received Folio’s Top Women In Media Award as Inspiring Entrepreneurs.
Other Folio Award recipients included publishing superstars from the New York Times, Hearst, The Atlantic, Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes, Time, Glamour, Meredith, Guggenheim, Harvard Business Review and Slate. Here’s the full list. See #FolioTopWomen too. So we were in delightful, inspiring company. You can watch the story on this video.
Not Me, But We
Others often comment to me, “Can you believe how much you’ve done with Make It Better – and so quickly?”
My response, “It’s not what I’ve done, but what so many others have done. And it doesn’t feel fast to us! It’s been – and continues to be – so much work.” Again, it’s only because so many talented, great people have worked well together that Make It Better has grown.
Yes, it was my brainchild. But it’s taken a very large village to raise it – and grow our most trusted, easy to use community resource. Again, Mindy is at the heart of this success.
More than 10 years ago, I took her to lunch and invited her to be my partner launching a website for North Shore women. Mindy has all the organizational skills I lack and an even bigger make it better heart. She’s the perfect ying to my imaginative, self-deprecating yang. With four young children and a husband who travels a lot, Mindy only agreed because she thought this meant we were starting a little neighborhood blog.
Ha! Little did Mindy know.
Now we’re a full service print, online, video and events media company with an annual audience of at least 75,000 engaged, unique online users, 150,000 print mag readers, 1000s of event attendees. And we create virtuous circles as fast as we can. Oh yeah, and along the way we also launched a Foundation. And soon we will officially launch our Shop For Good eCommerce too.
We’ve attracted great people to help with every new initiative. Talented writers, videographer, sales reps, marketers, nonprofit leaders, social networkers, audience members and more. I love them all. No hyperbole.
Our world is ever more complex and interconnected; so, it will be ever more important for people, brands and institutions to work together to solve problems, share their passions and joy, and to lift each other up. That’s why the mission of Make It Better is to be the most trusted, easiest to use community resource that helps you make your life and the lives of others better by connecting you to the businesses and resources you support – online, in print and in person.
Thanks Mindy for living our mission so well, helping us attract and work with great others together, too.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African proverb
Imagine how magnificent our world would be if every person got at least one good chance in life and made the most of it. It’s easy for me to envision this right now, after I spent last week attended Harvard graduation events. The speeches, the exemplary lives honored and the hope for the future on display everywhere inspired this.
I was at Harvard’s commencement to celebrate with the Honorary Degree recipients. The group of ten included two of my friends, who also have been featured in Make It Better : Patricia Graham and Renee Fleming. A third recipient – Honorable Deval Patrick. – has a strong Chicago connection. He descended from slaves, grew up on the south side and was the first person in his family to attend college. After completing his eight year tenure as Governor of Massachusetts last year, Deval dove into the innovative and hopeful field of social impact investing at Bain Capital.
Of course, the other honorary degree recipients were inspiring too. The entire list also includes:
Svetlana L. Alpers
Wallace S. Broecker
Linda B. Buck
Deval L. Patrick
This is the statement that got me thinking about the possibilities inherent in our American society to give every person around the world at least one good chance in life. We have the wealth, freedom, democratic structure and abundant good intentions to realize this magnificent dream – sooner, rather than later. The dream to give every person at least one good chance, every family at least one good resource to help, and every child a caring village of support.
Every child should have at least one person who sees their potential and helps them develop it. Every family should have at least one good community resource to help them with whatever struggle they face. Some type of committed, loving community should be available to everyone.
Our country’s vast resources can and should more readily align around the most effective problem solving programs and institutions to accomplish this. Honorary degree recipient Patricia A. Graham serves as an example of someone who has consistently worked towards this and has had great impact.
“She not only illuminated the history of education, she made it.” – Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust’s comments about Patricia A. Graham.
I couldn’t be more proud of my association with Pat Graham. I’m so fortunate to have her as my Godmother. She is also a role model for everyone else, as well. Her career as a teacher, historian of education, federal agency director, author, first female dean of Harvard, president or chair of multiple foundations, corporate board member, highly prized education expert nationally and internationally is extraordinary. She used each role to create more opportunities for women and the indigent while she also helped the politically displaced receive a better education while exercising common sense and wisdom on behalf of each institution. She lifts up each person and program she touches.
Pat’s vision and influence is intertwined with America’s growing determination to better educate every child. It was particularly delightful to hear President Faust declare Pat a maker of history. Pat’s example continues to inspires me in my own life and my Make It Better publishing journey. I hope her extraordinarily well-lived life will inspire you too.
“She is both diva and divine, known for her arias, but not for her airs.” Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust comments about Renee Fleming.
Opera star, literacy advocate, National Medal of Arts recipient, author, crossover singer, teacher, fashion icon, champion of new music, TV host, Creative Director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, proud mother of two. Renee Fleming is all of this and more.
She describes her work as “beauty, humanity and history every day, combined with the joy of singing.” This may be true of all great opera singers. What inspires me about Renee is what makes her different from other divas – her focus on including the most meaningful facets of a well-lived life that aren’t related to singing, despite the demands and opportunities of being “The Voice.” Renee once explained to me that few international opera stars marry, have children and enjoy a great relationship with their offspring; they are too busy enjoying the opportunities and demands of an international career.
Renee has always prioritized her kids, given back, focused more on others than herself, taken risks, tried new things and helped others. She’s a natural collaborator and an out-of-the-box thinker, working ever smart to grow new audiences for the music she loves and new opportunities for the next generation of artists. This is exactly the type of thinking and opportunity creating we need to achieve my dream of giving every person at least one good chance in life.
“It’s much better to fail while daring greatly than to be a bystander.” Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean Jim Ryan, quoting Teddy Roosevelt. Watch his speech here.
It’s such an exciting time. New technologies accelerate our knowledge and our ability to connect every day. Good people can spread good ideas faster than ever too. For this reason, in my own small way, I have dared greatly too – with Make It Better Media. This has been a journey inspired by a belief that paying good fortune forward is the best way to grow something of enduring value. With the help of so many good people and the inspiration others like the honorary degree recipients, I’m living a worthwhile dream.
As Make It Better Media accomplishes its’ mission to be the most trusted, easiest to use community resource and magazine that helps our audience make their lives and the lives of others better, we’re growing a valuable network of good. More good people, finding more good ways to help, giving at least one good chance in life to those who need it the most.
Typically, we think of females as the Make It Better stereotype – multitalented, multitasking, creators of win/win scenarios, re-inventors of self, fundraisers. Rarely do we think of males the same way. However, there’s someone you probably know coming to Chicagoland to raise money for skin cancer research, who clearly earns the title “Make It Better Man” –Christopher Knight, child star of the Brady Bunch
Knight will share his peripatetic, curiosity fueled, multiple career, remarkable life story at “Skin For Life 2015” – benefiting The Skin Cancer Foundation – at the Deerfield Hyatt on May 28th. This should be entertaining as well as rewarding.
Knight earned his childhood Brady Bunch gig despite being an extreme introvert. He was even more interested in how things work, science and business than acting. So he’s also studied, worked or started businesses in geology, technology, home furnishings and dermatology (including founding the world’s leading tattoo remover “Dr. Tattoff.” He fit in a few reality tv shows in recently, too.
Dr. Amy Forman Taub, a dermatologist who founded the state of the art clinic Advanced Dermatology and skinfo Specialty Skincare Boutique in Lincolnshire and Glencoe, launched the Skin For Life fundraiser 5 years ago. Using her heart and entrepreneurial spirit this way definitely proves Taub is a Make It Better woman too.
The energy, entertainment, inspiration and good intentions on stage May 28 should make your life a little better if you attend the 5th Annual Skin For Life. Added benefit – you’ll be contributing to finding a cure for skin cancer too.
A good education is the best – and least expensive – fix to most social ills. Schools that engage and succeed are in everyone’s best interest.
No institution enjoys greater impact in education reform than Harvard. And no city has made greater progress in urban education reform than Chicago. So naturally, Harvard convened civic leaders, its alumni and others in Chicago for the first “Bold Ideas In Education” outreach of its Graduate School of Education capital campaign.
Chicago Board of Education Chairman David Vitale moderated the event at The Casino. Professors Monica Higgins, Tom Kane and Paul Reville presented compelling research and data. With thoughtful questions and comments, expert panelists and audience members continued the discussion of big ideas for improving schools. Everyone left feeling inspired and more connected to a hopeful future for all children and schools.
I was particularly proud to cohost this event that brought together thoughtful education philanthropists – like the leadership of the Chicago Public Education Fund, for which I was a founding board member 15 years ago. It was a vivid reminder of the growing impact this type of philanthropy has on our city.
Ala’a Basetneh prefers pink. It predominates her attire and the décor of her suburban Chicago bedroom in the home she still shares with her parents. Even her fingernail tips are sometimes pink. But don’t let this deceive you. Basetneh is made of steel. Courageous, compassionate, composed, determined steel.
By age 19, as a college freshman and despite death threats, Basetneh was facilitating protests within Syria of its repressive regime – via social network from that quiet suburban pink bedroom, in between classes, during breaks from a full-time job. Since then she also has lobbied or worked with appropriate officials at the United Nations, White House, UNICEF and other international organizations. Basetneh even convinced her father to accompany her on two secret trips to Syria to deliver humanitarian aid.
Four years on, the protest continues. A full 75% of the people Basetneh has worked with in Syria have been killed – including a Fulbright Scholar journalist from Syracuse University, Bassel Al Shahade.
Mainstream media attention has moved on from the Syrian government’s atrocities against its own people to ISIS atrocities within Syria against the world.
Thanks to the Family of Women Film Festival at the Wilmette Theatre, which opened with this film and a Q&A with Basetneh, last night, a sold out North Shore audience was informed and inspired. Including me. When asked how we best could help, Basetnet’s answer was simple – and it reminded me how powerful your personal online voice can be.
“Please, just share our story – #freeSyria,” she said. “Your social network needs to know about the innocent Syrian children, women and other citizens being imprisoned, tortured, killed by their own government. When you share an online post about our struggles, we see and are inspired by this support.”
The Film Festival continues through the weekend with two more films I recommend to you too:
Saturday, April 11, 7 p.m.
“The Supreme Price”
Sunday, April 12, 2 p.m.
But, before you see these, please take a few moments to share your support online for Chicago’s own Ala’a Basetneh and those struggling for freedom and democracy in Syria:
On Twitter: #freeSyria
On Facebook at : https://www.facebook.com/Ffree.Syriaa
“Mom’s philosophy was, ‘You are on this earth to make the world a better place…She built confidence that you could do anything, you could be excellent and she could help you get there. She was, and is today, very powerful.” —Sarah Duncan, Honey Skinner and Keith Goldstein on Sue Duncan, Founder of the Sue Duncan Children’s Center.
Honey Jacobs Skinner, Keith Kiley Goldstein and Sarah Duncan know about good moms and power.
As the 11th of 13 children, Honey could have gotten lost in the pack. Instead, she graduated from Harvard and became a partner at Sidley Austin with a powerful lobbying practice even while she was raising 2 great sons and is supporting her husband’s high profile career (Sam Skinner was Chief of Staff for George H. W. Bush, among other powerful jobs). Illinois state legislators consider Honey an angel for children because of her thoughtful work on behalf of Lurie Children’s Hospital.
Keith Kiley Goldstein earned a Wharton MBA and worked in commercial banking and real estate before deciding to exercise more power on behalf of children through organizations like the Ounce of Prevention, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Civic Consulting Alliance while raising her two children and supporting her own powerful husband (Rodney Goldstein is a Managing Partner of Frontenac Fund).
Sue raised 3 kids – including Sarah and current US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan – with them working at her side in an after school tutoring center that she founded in one of Chicago’s worst neighborhoods.
Sue’s compassion, determination and dedication transformed the lives of thousands of children who most needed help. And she raised amazing kids in the process. Please learn more about Sue’s work and watch the inspiring documentary shown at the UNICEF event where Sue was honored.
A great mom like Sue Duncan is a powerful person indeed. Thanks for reminding us all of that, Honey & Keith.