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About Us

Michel Gelobter is the author of the forthcoming book, Lean Startups for Social Change: The Revolutionary Path to Big Impact.

Michel has held senior positions in advocacy, government, academia, and business, with an ongoing substantive focus on environment, energy, and social justice. Most recently he's been a Senior Fellow at the David & Lucille Packard Foundation.

Michel co-founded, the fastest-growing platform for the world’s building energy data (800,000 buildings and counting) and Cooler, a company whose mission is to connect every purchase to a solution for global warming. From 2009 until 2011, Michel served as the Chief Green Officer for Hara Enterprise Environmental Management, a Kleiner Perkins portfolio company acquired by Verisae.

As an advocate, Michel co-founded a number of environmental justice, water, and oceans organizations and led Redefining Progress from 2001 through 2006. In that capacity, he worked to originate and design the world’s most aggressive climate legislation (California's Global Warming Solutions Act) and the financial mechanisms that generate over $300 million in annual revenue as part of the Northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Michel founded the Program on Environmental Policy at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and created the country's first multi-state community-based environmental research consortium. His government service has included staffing the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee and serving as Assistant Commissioner for the New York City's $2 billion-a-year water utility and environmental agency. He concurrently served as the City's Director of Environmental Quality.

Michel earned his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D at U.C. Berkeley, is an alumnus of Deep Springs College and has completed extensive coursework in Homiletics at Berkeley's Graduate Theological Union and the College of Preachers. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Congressional Black Caucus Fellowship, a AAAS Mass Media Fellowship, and presently serves as a Board member of the California Clean Energy Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Ceres and the African-American Advisory Committee of the Spence-Chapin Adoption Agency. He lives with his three children in Berkeley, CA.

Principles & Process

Principle 1: Fail Fast!

Instead of waiting for the plan … to get funded … then implemented, social entrepreneurs practicing lean start with educated guesses (or hypotheses) about how the overall innovation is expected to work. Then they test those guesses relentlessly, failing fast, but also speeding the way to development of solutions that work. The Lean Change Canvas is a tool for managing this process.

The Process: Customer Development

Customer development is all about testing the right hypotheses at the right time with the right data. And it's the process at the core of the lean revolution.

Principle 2: Agile

Agile development replaces the Plan-Fund-Do method itself with a new way of building things. Agile production methods offer fast, iterative ways of building change. At more advanced levels, they offer a blueprint for how to generate guesses about your project that have the best odds of being right.

Principle 3: Efficiency...

Lean = Efficient. Lean’s origins are in companies where you have to make big change with very little money. In non-profits and government, money isn't the only limiting factor. Efficiency helps you preserve financial, social, and political capital, spending the least amount of each for the most result.

The Book

“There’s a new way to change the world...”

The new way is called the lean startup—and it’s not just for new companies. It’s been revolutionizing businesses of all sizes for years, and this book shows it can have the same transformative impact in non-profits, government, faith institutions and across the social sector.

Traditionally, entrepreneurs develop a detailed plan, find money to fund it, and then pursue it to its conclusion. But conditions can change drastically at any point—you can end up locked into a process based on now-obsolete assumptions. The lean startup is all about agility and flexibility. Its mantra is “build, measure, learn”: create small experimental initiatives, get real-world feedback on them quickly, and use that data to identify what works and discard what doesn’t. And then test some more.

Lean Startups for Social Change explains exactly how nonprofits and advocacy organizations can adapt lean startup concepts to their unique circumstances. He offers dozens of real-world examples: an established homelessness group whose data analysis showed that reducing a single overlooked metric could get many more people off the street; a technology-based literacy startup that used lean techniques to reach 2 million children in two years, when a more traditional program took fifteen; and many others. The standard approach wastes time and money—the lean startup promises to help social sector organizations vastly increase the good they do. 

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Introduction to Lean Change: Techniques of the Lean Startup for Social Change and Government

Whether you're in government, a non-profit, or just standing by for action, you have a lot of change you'd like to make

In the private sector, the Lean Startup has been transforming the way new products and services are being launched in companies big and small. Lean Startups for Social Change, a new book by Michel Gelobter coming out later this year, is all about how to use the groundbreaking techniques of the Lean Startup to accelerate social change.

Join Michel and practitioners from across the social sector for an introductory workshop on how to increase your odds of making big change happen, and how to do it as efficiently as possible. You'll leave with:

  • Practice in the core principles of the Lean Startup, including Customer & Agile Development
  • Proven ways to increase your odds of driving deep change, or at least to know more quickly when you've hit a wall.
  • Practice in speeding the Build-Measure-Learn cycle vital to testing and growing innovation in the social sector
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In Progress...This section will be complete by the book launch (November 2, 2015)

From the Book (the following are links/topics referred to in Lean Startups for Social Change):

  • The Lean Change Canvas: Here's the template for the Lean Change Canvas...
  • How to Generate Operating Models: You've got the Lean Change Canvas. For an in-depth approach to making it work, nothing better than Alex Osterwalder's Business Model Generation. His model is well-aligned to the lean methodology and is the original source of the Lean Canvas. Its an invaluable resource for generating ways to build a new innovation.
  • Tools for Customer Development, Launching, Analytics, Social Metrics, Driving Growth:
    • Steve Blank (the father of Customer Development) has one of the most comprehensive resource lists on the web. It's private sector oriented but still chock full of tools to grow any innovation.
    • is one of the rare tools focused on the social sector. Check it out and look for more like it!
    • A/B testing is a staple of basic hypothesis development and evaluation. Check out Steve's long, long list to find what you need.
  • Power Mapping: has a fabulous tool on Power Mapping for understanding the broader context in which your partners, customers, constituents operate.
  • Funders: Philanthropic and Government funders are figuring out how to promote lean methods. Follow the conversation here.
  • Community: Help grow the convesation! Join the blog and forums for Lean Change.Philanthropic and Government funders are figuring out how to promote lean methods. Follow the conversation here.
  • positioning statement for ed boards
  • r “small batches” and “work-in-progress inventory” along with “lean.” Or take a look at the discussion on

Case Studies

Lean Change in NonprofitsSamaSchool

SamaSchool is the domestic arm of SamaGroup. Listen to Kosar Jahani, Program Impact Manager, describe the lean experiments they are running to revolutionize workforce training and new employment models.

Lean Change in GovernmentU.S. Digital Service

Hear Aneesh Chopra (the first ever Chief Technology Officer of the United States) speak with Eric Ries about diverse experience implementing lean methodology in government. Examples include the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, immigration reform, the Veteran's Administration, and, of course,

And read this great post by Lisa Gelobter, Chief Digital Service Officer at the U.S. Department of Education,
about the new College Scorecard

Lean Change in Faith Institutions The Lean Startup Church

68% of new startup churches fail. Read Tim Soerens' excellent blog post about and resources on lean startup thinking for starting a new faith organization or church.

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Michel Gelobter


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