Rubicon’s mission is to end waste. This has been true since our company’s founding, and in addition, our commitment has always been to ensure that we foster our employees’ creativity and innovation while at Rubicon®, and even further out as they move forward in their careers.
We like to keep in touch with former employees, and we recently spoke with former Rubicon team member, Colby Hall. During his time at Rubicon, Colby worked to provide SMB owners with sustainable, cost-efficient waste and recycling solutions to help these businesses live by Rubicon’s mission. Currently, Colby is Executive Director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR), a regional nonprofit focused on economic revitalization in Kentucky’s 54 Appalachian counties.
Please find a video of our conversation below, followed by a transcript of Colby’s remarks. Please note that the transcript has been lightly edited for length and readability.
Please introduce yourself…
Colby Hall: I’m the Executive director at SOAR, which is an acronym. It stands for Shaping Our Appalachian Region. We’re a 501(c)(3) regional nonprofit headquartered in Pikeville, Kentucky, but covering 54 counties in eastern Kentucky. And we’re broadly focused on economic revitalization in eastern Kentucky, and a lot of the former coal communities.
Could you tell us a little about your background and what triggered your interest in social enterprise?
CH: The thrill of being in a space where there’s a little bit more [of a] grey area, because you’re trying to answer some really complex but super important questions that folks have spent decades trying to answer. The challenge and the thrill of that was very exciting to me. And I think just the opportunity to be a part of something that’s a little bit bigger than myself, that could benefit more than just me, and have a true lasting impact in a region that needs it were some of the things that really got me interested in this social enterprise nonprofit world.
What did working at Rubicon teach you about the power of free market principles when it comes to solving large-scale challenges?
CH: When it comes to solving complicated problems, you have got to try to find a way so that all relevant stakeholders find a way to win. I think with Rubicon and the free market tackling things like waste and recycling, just saying it is good for the environment or it’s good for the world, that is not good enough. You have got to actually make it to where it makes sense for each individual that is going to be a part of that solution. So I think [about] incentives, when you align those incentives and find the right incentives or new incentives, they do [make sense]. The other thing I will mention is just the importance of “on the ground” work, the importance of execution when it comes to these real-world challenges and making sure that free market solutions are doing it. Your solution is only as good as your team is on the ground, or your plan for execution. I think between incentives and a real solid plan for execution, you have got to have both of those things to solve complicated issues like we see Rubicon tackling.
You recently published an op-ed in The Lane Report noting that money alone won’t solve Kentucky’s digital divide. Can you expand on this?
CH: In that op-ed, I was really getting at the importance of local community leadership, government, business, education, healthcare, all these important community anchors in cities and counties to think about how they have skin in the game when it comes to their digital future and digital vision.
What is next for you and SOAR?
CH: I tell everybody that it’ll be a good day when I wake up and no longer have a job at SOAR, because I see us as a means to an end, as this important player that is trying to help this region find its footing and return to prosperity after the decline of our principal industry and really [its] economic backbone. So, we have a strategic blueprint that guides our work. Broadband and connectivity is at the top of the list. We have to move past just talking about how important it is. Everybody understands that now, it is such a game changer. And we really have to move into how that work gets done and the execution component of it, like we have talked about today. So we are really going to be focused on helping communities prepare to be able to apply [for] and receive massive amounts of funding for broadband projects that is going to be coming down from the state and federal government in an effort to get out to those unserved and underserved locations.