Elon Musk Continues to Innovate and Amaze

Yes, Elon Musk is the Benjamin Franklin of our generation. Possibly, he is also the real Iron Man, like the movie character played by Robert Downey Jr. And yes, I am his fan.

His Master Plan, Part Deux, for Tesla, revealed today only ratcheted up my enthusiasm for his determined, bold plans that blend sustainable with cool and smart in order to make Earth better. Bloomberg did a deep dive into the master plan and took a look at Tesla’s future too.

Thanks to RelayRides founder and current CEO of Peers Shelby Clark for bringing Musk’s Master Plan to our attention.

If you aren’t yet a believer, I recommend Musk’s biography to you — “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceEx and The Quest For A Fantastic Future.”

Tesla Model S (Photo courtesy of Tesla.)

Tesla Model S (Photo courtesy of Tesla.)

I also recommend that you test drive a Tesla and compare it to all the other luxury electric cars recommended in our Make It Better article: Luxury Cars Go Green.

Yes, we can all change the world for the better by choosing greener and cooler. Elon Musk is showing us how.

Let’s Make It Better Together: Trevor Noah, Chewbacca Mom and Charles Tillman Provide Inspiration and Conversation Starters

It has to stop. Our country is better than this.

The shootings. The racial bias. The deafening silence of inaction. The standoffs on either side of the aisle in Congress. It all has to stop.

Everyone needs to help.

But, if you are like me, living in a safe, progressive suburb largely insulated from the bigotry, fear and guns, it can be hard to know where to start.

The first step is just to talk about it with love. With your kids, family, friends, at dinner, at the club, on your social networks.

Here are three inspiring reference points to help you start the conversation:

On “The Daily Show” three days ago, Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah offered an impassioned plea for everyone to be “pro-black” and “pro-police.”

“You shouldn’t have to choose between the police and the citizens they are sworn to protect.”

Texas mom Candace Payne shot to viral fame when she donned a just-purchased talking Chewbacca mask in her car and shared the experience on Facebook. In this new video, Payne channels Adele and sings Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World.”

In an interview with Make It Better’s Willie Griswold, published today, NFL great Charles “Peanut” Tillman describes why he is passionate about supporting police, the military, and children in need, and explains his dedication to opportunities to serve others.

Tillman spent 12 years with the Chicago Bears before heading to the Carolina Panthers in 2015. He’s been to two Super Bowls, two Pro Bowls and earned the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2013 for his work through his Cornerstone Foundation.

After his daughter Tiana received a heart transplant as a baby, Tillman founded Cornerstone in order to pay forward his blessings and help other critically and chronically ill children and their families.

“We took a negative situation, a bad situation, a tough situation and we turned it around and we tried to make the best of it.”

Tillman’s is exactly the attitude we need in America right now. Let’s please follow the lead of these three celebrities and add our voices to this opportunity to turn our country around.

It starts with love.

As Tillman says, “As I get older I get wiser and I read more — just love, man. We’re here to serve one another and we’re here to love one another. I can help you. You can help two other people. Those two other people can help four … That cycle, the love, the gift, the giving, you got to keep it going.”

Our gifts in America are great. Let’s please be mindful of this and do what we can to pay it forward and to stop the ignorance, belligerence and violence. We can make it better together.

Depot Nuevo Owners and Other Best Of 2016 Winners Embody Corporate Social Responsibility at the Local Level

Make It Better's Francia Harrington, Depot Nuevo Chef Hildy, owner Rob Garrison and Make It Better's Lynne Madorsky.

Make It Better’s Francia Harrington, Depot Nuevo Chef Hildy, owner Rob Garrison and Make It Better’s Lynne Madorsky.

Wilmette’s Depot Nuevo just won the Make It Better Best Of Dining Award for Best Mexican/Latin the third year in row and celebrated by treating the rest of this year’s winners to free margaritas and a festive gathering June 29, as part of our official Best Of 2016 Reveal Party.

Thank you Depot Nuevo and owners Rob and Ann Garrison!

Depot Nuevo owner Rob Garrison addresses Make It Better Best of 2016 Reveal Party guests.

Depot Nuevo owner Rob Garrison addresses Make It Better Best of 2016 Reveal Party guests.

The generosity behind this party is an excellent example of how the Garrisons run all of their businesses — including The Noodle restaurant and The Next Door Market by The Noodle. It’s one of the reasons our audience loves and votes for Depot Nuevo year after year too.

Generosity and gratitude long have been the Garrisons’ modus operandi. They appreciate and take good care of their employees, customers and community while serving great food. For example, the Garrisons take employees on a culinary inspiration trip to Mexico. In fact, Garrison says, the first trip was motivated by the restaurant’s first Make It Better Best Of win, and have kept it going because it was such a wonderful educational and inspirational experience.

Make It Better Associate Publisher Michelle Morris addresses Best of 2016 Reveal Party attendees.

Make It Better Associate Publisher Michelle Morris addresses Best of 2016 Reveal Party attendees.

From our perspective, their businesses are great local business examples of what good corporate social responsibility (CSR) should be.

PEOPLE, PLANET, PRODUCT

CSR often is defined in terms of “People, Planet, Product.” Does the business take care of its employees while creating useful products in a manner that does no harm to the environment? Is it a good community member, paying forward its success and enhancing the community in which it is based?

Increasingly, consumers expect a strong double bottom line. Their purchase has to support good as well as provide them with a good product. Shopping or eating local, patronizing a family-owned business that also supports other aspects of their community, is increasingly compelling.

Most of the Best Of 2016 winners are similar to Depot Nuevo. Most are locally owned and serve this community so well that they won a large number of the 168,000+ votes cast by you, our audience, this year. (Happy dance and a big thank you for this audience participation achievement!)

The team from JCC Chicago who won Best Day Camps and Best Overnight Camp.

The team from JCC Chicago who won Best Day Camps and Best Overnight Camp.

We’re happy that effective CSR is increasingly important nationally. But we’re particularly delighted that great local, family-owned businesses still thrive and provide examples that larger corporations should work even harder to emulate.

What is it worth for a business to win a Make It Better Best Of award? Rob Garrison says, “I think pride and satisfaction. It really matters to me to be able to say [to an employee], ‘Hey, you did a great job and here are people besides me saying it.’ I can compliment them in a sincere way and relish that feeling.”

He also says that winning the award is a good data point and allows him to keep highlighting the good things happening within his business even beyond the materials and marketing generated by Make It Better in conjunction with Best Of recognition.

The crew from A. Perry Homes, celebrating its fourth Best Of win.

The crew from A. Perry Homes, celebrating its fourth Best Of win.

What is it worth for us to have high-quality, family-owned businesses in our hometowns that good care of local employees and recognize and support our family, friends and other beloved institutions?

Please support Depot Nuevo and the other priceless community businesses that won Make It Better Best Of 2016 awards this year.

Thank you.

Depot Nuevo owner Rob Garrison chats with Make It Better's Francia Harrington, Wintrust's Ed Wehmer and Cathy Pratt.

Depot Nuevo owner Rob Garrison chats with Make It Better’s Francia Harrington, Wintrust’s Ed Wehmer and Cathy Pratt.

Make It Better's Julie Carter with Lake Geneva's Joe Tominaro.

Make It Better’s Julie Carter with Lake Geneva’s Joe Tominaro.

Classic Kids' Julie Floyd and chats with North Shore Community Bank's Liz Taylor.

Classic Kids’ Julie Floyd and chats with North Shore Community Bank’s Liz Taylor.

The Best Of Reveal Party also featured a birthday celebration for Dorothy Wehmer with a cake from Bent Fork Bakery.

The Best Of Reveal Party also featured a birthday celebration for Dorothy Wehmer with a cake from Bent Fork Bakery.

The crew from A. Perry Homes, celebrating its fourth Best Of win.

The crew from A. Perry Homes, celebrating its fourth Best Of win.

Make It Better's Francia Harrington with Richard Mesirow of Mesirow Financial.

Make It Better’s Francia Harrington with Richard Mesirow of Mesirow Financial.

Make It Better's Michelle Morris with Kim Launer and Sophia Kondos of Royal Travel & Tours, the 2016 winner for Best Travel Agent.

Make It Better’s Michelle Morris with Kim Launer and Sophia Kondos of Royal Travel & Tours, the 2016 winner for Best Travel Agent.

Business neighbors Mary Bowler of Wags on Willow and Andreas and Ashley Hogue of Andreas Hogue Salon.

Business neighbors Mary Bowler of Wags on Willow and Andreas and Ashley Hogue of Andreas Hogue Salon.

Donna West and Carrie Londe from Londo Mondo, Best Chicago Clothing Boutique.

Donna West and Carrie Londe from Londo Mondo, Best Chicago Clothing Boutique.

Get Inspired by Shirley Ryan and Pat Ryan

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, Pat and Shirley Ryan and Dr. Joanne C. Smith, president and CEO of RIC.

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, Pat and Shirley Ryan and Dr. Joanne C. Smith, president and CEO of Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. (Photos courtesy of RIC)

Need inspiration to lean in and embrace your faith, intellect, gifts and power to create impact? Please get to know Shirley Ryan. Other-centered, eloquent and determined, she is a social entrepreneur extraordinaire, whose strategic and values-driven work to create opportunities that lift up others was honored yesterday at a ceremony celebrating the integration of two groundbreaking organizations. Thanks to a record gift from Ryan and her husband Pat, Pathways — a leading nonprofit research and rehabilitation center for children struggling with developmental delays founded by the Ryans decades ago — will join best-in-class Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s (RIC) state-of-the-art research hospital, AbilityLab, with the new institution renamed in Ryan’s honor — “Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.”

Read the full story on Make It Better.

3 Trends That Prove, Despite the Headlines, Good Will is on The Rise

The relentless beat of horrific news and constant drone of our perplexing, tiresome presidential election drown out much good news in this country.

Please pause with me now to reflect on three fundamental trends that demonstrate that compassion and benevolence are in fact on the rise, and we have much to be positive about.

1. NEW PHILANTHROPIC RECORDS SET

Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report On Philanthropy, released earlier this week, shows that America is more philanthropic than ever, setting new records for individual, corporate and foundation giving.

In 2015, total gifts of $373.25 billion were up 4.1 percent over 2014 (which had also set a record high). According to Peter Fissinger, president and CEO of Campbell & Company, a national fundraising consulting and executive search firm for nonprofits, “This is 2.1% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a watermark reinforcing Americans’ commitments to organizations that impact both their lives and those of their fellow citizens.”

2. IMPACT INVESTING ON THE RISE

What seemed a novel idea only a few years ago has become an explosion of interest in “impact investing,” aligning more capital than ever with business that do good, as opposed to businesses that only focus on their bottom line. Millennials (our future) are driving this change. They expect mission and meaning in life and work.

According to CNN and Bank of America, an astonishing 93 percent of Millennial Millionaires (individuals between 18 and 35 with over $3 million of investable assets) identify a company’s social and environmental impact as a key factor in their investment decision.

Savvy investment firms have developed funds and other vehicles to capture this trend too. Morgan Stanley was one of the first. Earlier this year, Mesirow Financial launched Mesirow Impact Management.

3. FEMALE LEADERS EFFECT FASTER POSITIVE CHANGE

According to Kiersten Marek of Inside Philanthropy, women’s perspectives on leadership seem to be pivotal to tackling big problems in new and more effective ways. She cites Clara Miller, director and president of Heron Foundation, as a prime example.

Miller fundamentally restructured Heron to better align its endowment with its mission — thereby helping smaller organizations get access to greater funding.

Women are on the rise throughout our economy and in academia. More women than men are registered in colleges and graduate schools. Women under the age of 40 are outstripping their male peers throughout the work force. A woman is likely to be our next president.

Despite complaints about glass-ceiling limitations, it is inevitable that these trends will also produce more women in leadership positions. Perhaps the same characteristics that allow mothers to intuitively and with common sense quickly respond to need also make them better leaders.

The numbers are clear, more than ever: Men and women in our “land of plenty” instinctively want better for others as well as themselves.

The internet allows all to quickly research options. We increasingly choose local, family-owned, organic, green and good values too. We expect greater impact with our charitable dollars and support generously the organizations that deliver this.

Our headlines and politics may still be ugly, but many of the trends of day-to-day life are very hopeful indeed.

Yo-Yo Ma at the Forefront of Social Impact

“Give together, so we can get it together, in order for us to live together,” iconic musician and social entrepreneur Yo-Yo Ma recommended at the Annual Forefront Luncheon June 6 during his interview with Donald A. Cooke, senior vice president for philanthropy of the McCormick Foundation and Forefront Award Honoree.

Welcome Yo-Yo Ma to our annual luncheon! #myforefront

A post shared by Forefront (@myforefront) on

This is a pretty darn good description of why impact philanthropy and virtuous-circle-building are so important.

Our community yearns to support the philanthropic activities that create the greatest good and help the most people live together well. Organizations like Forefront and Make It Better provide structure to facilitate this. In difficult economies — like Chicago — our work is more important than ever.

Ma explains, “Communities need safety and trust, in order to foster curiosity, imagination and the ability to use empathy and critical thinking to solve problems.” Of course, learning to play a musical instrument and perform in ensembles powerfully utilizes and builds these skills too.

Ma demonstrated his pay-it-forward, give-together-to-grow-together philosophy by jumping on stage and playing with students from The Peoples Music School (TPMS), Chicago’s only entirely free after-school music instruction and a beneficiary of Forefront’s impact philanthropy efforts.

“We were delighted to host almost 800 of our colleagues from the social impact sector at Forefront’s Annual Luncheon,” Forefront President & CEO Eric Weinheimer says. “This luncheon was especially meaningful as we honored our Chairman Don Cooke and featured the brilliance and artistry of Yo-Yo Ma. It was the perfect way to take a break from our important missions, find inspiration, insight, and beauty, and re-energize. It was an event to remember.”

Yo-Yo Ma with students from The People's Music School, with whom he performed at Forefront and TPMS Exec Director Jennifer Matsuzawa.

Yo-Yo Ma with students from The People’s Music School, with whom he performed with at Forefront and TPMS Executive Director Jennifer Matsuzawa.

Ma’s parting gift was this solo performance of two songs he particularly relates to Chicago, a city he loves. Every listener in the sell-out crowd in the Chicago Hyatt Regency Ballroom where the luncheon was held felt the love and connection Ma offered with this music. I hope you do too.

Women Power Makes History At Chicagoland Chamber Breakfast

Women on the rise or already at the top were the stars of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Annual Breakfast Meeting June 7.

Google President Margo Georgiadis, who I recently interviewed, gave a keynote speech every business can learn from.

Sophie Evanoff, owner of Vanille Patisserie, won the James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award and credited her success to upholding the community values and importance of giving back her parents fostered as she grew up, and maintaining these principles as a core mission of her business.

Theresa E. Mintle, chamber president and CEO, contributed significantly to making the event a powerful and inspiring one, leaving attendees moved to become more involved in the coming year.

This much female power on stage also made history for the Chamber and was accompanied by substantial good news about Chicago, too. Despite the drumbeat of bad news in the press, Chicago is a city with plan that makes sense. AT&T President and outgoing Chair of the Chamber, Paul LaSchiazza, focused on the “spectacular growth” in the last two years that has contributed to making “Chicago the best city in the world in which to work, live and visit. The best city.”

Mayor Rahm Emanual emphasized the fact that independent studies by organizations like McKinsey have found Chicago to be the second-strongest city economy in the country, thanks to diverse sectors, an abundance of “talent, transportation and technology” and a plan to further develop unlimited talent pools for the businesses poised to grow the most by linking community colleges to relevant industries through effective training programs.

2nd day in a row spending my morning with Rahm. Thanks @1871chicago! #cccannual112

A post shared by Reva (@giantsgal4) on

Powerful positive community connections proliferate when women are at the power tables, as they were today.