Profiles: Lauren Speeth

Lauren Speeth

Lauren Speeth

DBA Management 92

Founding CEO of The Elfenworks Foundation; Director of NHM Ministrants, a division of Elfenworks Productions, LLC

Seven Pillars

Coming from a family in which advanced degrees were the norm -- her parents and stepmother all hold doctorates -- devoting time to study and scholarship were always considered important. Growing up in the 1960s, a period of social upheaval in the United States, and having a questioning nature also helped her view the world with realms of possibilities for positive change. When she was about 8 years old, her parents moved to India to create an experimental school for local children where the family lived for a few years.

Like many, Lauren Speeth yearned to help change the world for the better. Dozens of projects that address wide-ranging social issues carry Elfenworks footprints. Although Lauren had extensive business experience at Bank of America, a DBA from Golden Gate, an MBA from St. Mary's, and had taught business courses at the university level, she was a novice in the emerging field of social entrepreneurship.

She was offered a brief audience with former President Jimmy Carter, whose work she respected immensely. In a conversation that lasted no more than a few minutes, President Carter summed up the key areas in which to focus her efforts and passion for change. She came away from meeting with President Carter with renewed commitment and ideas for action. With the wisdom gleaned from that initial conversation, Lauren created the Seven Pillars methodology for Social Entrepreneurs that applies daily at Elfenworks.

These are the seven criteria the President suggested to Speeth during that meeting:
  1. Have a vision and keep its focus and your trust in it, despite corrosive naysayers;
  2. Bring your special skills to bear and fill your gaps with others whose skills complement your own.
  3. Don't duplicate. Fill a chasm where your work is truly needed.
  4. Cultivate partnerships carefully.
  5. Readily share credit.
  6. Have a valid feedback loop so as to understand your impact and to allow for changes and correction in course.
  7. Take a long-term, realistic view, allowing for bumps along the way.

Eventually, that philosophy would become the subject of a second doctoral dissertation when she returned to graduate school to study theology at Bakke Graduate University in Seattle. She received a doctorate in ministry in 2011. Her dissertation became the foundation for her latest book, Intelligence and Compassion in Action: The Seven Pillars for Social Entrepreneurs, which is now an important literary tool for the emerging field. Speeth's book looks to the successes of practitioners, but also lays out a methodology of action, which makes her work relevant to both practitioners and students. Government agencies and faith-based humanitarian groups are also finding the worksheet valuable, as well.

The Seven Pillars for Social Change are designed to arm social entrepreneurs. The Elfenworks Foundation is a longstanding supporter of the GGU Law School's Women's Employment Rights Clinic, which advocates for the rights of low-wage and immigrant workers through direct service, impact litigation and public policy works. Then in 2010, The Foundation and the GGU Law School partnered to found the Elfenworks Center for Employment Justice at the WERC with a $500,000 contribution. WERC was established at the Law School in 1993 on the belief that every worker has a right to decent wages and equal opportunity.

An alumna of Mills, St. Mary's, Golden Gate University, and BGU, Speeth has completed various courses of study at Stanford. She also has attained the status of Certified Classical Homeopath (CCH) from the Council for Homeopathic Certification, and that of International Homeopathic Certification (IHC), from the AIHC. She remains engaged with her alma maters. As such, each partnership was created to extend beyond alumni altruism and address an identified need and the university's capacity to address specific gaps. The Golden Gate University School of Law, with its special and longstanding commitment to public interest law, is helping address a chasm in the legal field, one that Elfenworks wants to be a part of.

Like most Golden Gate alumni, Speeth mastered early the art of juggling a challenging work schedule with pursuing a degree and the day-to-day demands of life. Just 16 when she first enrolled in college, her initial career path seemed to point toward becoming a psychologist like her parents, or a medical doctor or researcher. During her undergraduate years, though, she began to question her career path and upon graduation with a liberal arts degree, decided to re-enroll in order to take all the computer courses she could find, a new field at the time.

She joined Bank of America as an assembly language programmer and began rising through the corporate ranks. Her father was appalled at her choice to pursue an MBA. She describes that period as her personal rebellion. Lauren, though, was following her own compass, which appeared to be leading her up the corporate ladder at Bank of America. She later sought a DBA with the idea to teach, and shortly after earning her doctorate at GGU, she realized that dream, joining a local college as adjunct faculty, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in math and computer science. At that time, she also launched LMSWebdesign, the precursor to Elfenworks. Much sought after as a motivational speaker and judge of media content, she has guest lectured domestically at Mills, SMC, USF, CSUMB, and GGU, and internationally in Amman, Beijing, Canberra, Kiev, and Trichy.

Today, in addition to the myriad of important projects supported by the Elfenworks Foundation and Elfenworks Productions, she helps other social entrepreneurs advance their work by utilizing the Seven Pillars methodology on projects throughout the globe, including Trichy (India), Kiev (Ukraine), and Amman (Jordan). "The Pillars methodology is a useful framework for thinking about social action," she explains. "Vision, the first of the pillars, provides a sense of direction, a way to gaze out toward the horizon and both wonder and imagine what is waiting out there. The Seven Pillars offer us compass points to help guide us. The journey is rarely a straight and simple path; it is fraught with peaks and valleys, twists and turns. The Pillar methodology helps you look at your skills and evaluate the pursuits you're best suited for. The methodology also explains the challenges individuals face in their careers."

Lauren Speeth is a visionary and a pragmatist, a pioneering spirit in a relatively new field. She believes that each person has the capacity to create change. Whether it's providing hands-on work through Elfenworks Productions, developing partnerships for change through the Elfenworks Foundation, or publishing new literature in the field, her eye is always fixed on that horizon.