Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Late Stage MBA - Josh Moritz --Civil Rights, Martin Luther King and Jack O'Dell

I was reading my marketing text book last night about marketing in a socially correct manner. It focused on sound and socially responsible ideas like not targetting cigarettes to children or saying nasty things about people in general.

But what about the concept of marketing for social change? At Babson there is an emphasis on social entrepreneurship -- which I think is pretty amazing since Babson celebrates, honest, legitimate capitalism with a big "C". The school is out to create dynamic individuals with a moral sense that know how to work as teams in a collaborative way--amusing since I usually think of entrepreneurs as some of the most territorial people in the world -- that might actually want to take their talents and use them for the social good in NGO's, non-profits and in education.

One gentleman who would have fit the social entrepreneurship mold at Babson goes by the name of Jack O'Dell. Without realizing it in 1961, he may have had a hand in influencing the elections of 2008.

O'Dell created and led direct mail fund raising campaigns in 1961 that accounted for over 50% of the organizational budget that supported Dr. Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s civil rights efforts.

In that first year, for an expenditure of $10,000, this direct mail campaign generated over $80,000 and a master list of 12,000 proven contributors, a significant feat for 1961. In 1961, he was one of the pioneers in direct mail fund-raising. He learned direct mail marketing from courses he was taking at New York University.

This achievement is more remarkable given what O’Dell had to work with in 1961: there were no civil rights donor lists, no opt-in databases, no donor histories or credit scores, no demographic or psychographic profiles, no Facebook, Twitters or Linked-In. There was no data analysis or computer to crunch the numbers. Success was a combination of great judgment and masterful execution.

O'Dell did not know that he was as social entrepreneur, but his actions helped to change the way Americans live. Like some NOVA documentary on PBS, you could almost trace history from that day in 1961 when O'Dell sent out those fund raising letters through all sorts of social change that includes voting rights, civil rights, Title 9, non-discrimination in housing and even politicians.

For more information about O'Dell see the book “Parting The Waters, America in the King Years 1954 to 1963,” copyright, 1989, Taylor Branch, published by Simon and Shuster, pages 574 to 575.

Some biographical information from the Web:

"Born in 1923, Jack O’Dell was raised in Detroit and educated in its public schools. He has spent nearly 50 years as an organizer for the labor, civil rights, and peace movements. While a Merchant Marine, he was active in the National Maritime Union. Briefly a member of the Communist Party in the early 1950s because of its anti-racist stance, he resigned to join the Civil Rights movement in the late 1950s. By 1959 he was a field organizer for the first “March on Washington for Integrated Schools,” which was co-chaired by A. Philip Randolph, Harry Belafonte, and Jackie Robinson. The following year he joined Dr. King’s efforts and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. A close advisor to Dr. King, he helped to plan the historic 1963 Birmingham campaign which helped pave the way for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Along with his subsequent writing and teaching and his work with Jesse Jackson in Operation PUSH and the Rainbow Coalition, he has consistently applied his organizing expertise to help plan and carry out nationwide demonstrations against wars and weapons proliferation from Vietnam to the 1991 Gulf War.

O’Dell is currently residing in Vancouver, Canada with his wife, Jane Power."

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