Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself.
— Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Our Story

Appleseed began as a passion project. Philip and Adam harnessed the power of behavioral science and social psychology in their work at SGA, a marketing firm that changes community-wide behaviors to help the environment. They yearned to apply their expertise to make impact in the development sector. Ruth, a pediatrician, was passionate about improving patient health using ways that went beyond diagnosing and writing prescriptions.

On Monday nights, the trio would share home cooked meals, discussing the ways they hoped to make a difference in the world. Examining the issues that resonated with them—the environment, health, children, developing communities—they realized what tied it all together was on the table in front of them: food! Thus, in 2015, Appleseed set out to tackle the biggest social issue of our time: chronic child malnutrition.

In 2017, the team decided to expand beyond malnutrition issues, and in 2018 the team decided to expand beyond child health entirely. Now, Appleseed leverages behavior-change expertise across all types of health, energy, agricultural, and conservation issues facing the very poor.


Appleseed's mission is to foster social change

in the world's poorest communities

The Appleseed founding team and significant others at our first annual retreat in Ojai, California.

The Appleseed founding team and significant others at our first annual retreat in Ojai, California.

Today, Appleseed has outgrown Philip and Ruth’s kitchen in Long Beach, California, but we’ve maintained the same passion that sparked our journey. Leaning on our strong social marketing background, we are creating a model that solves a unique problem in the developing world: the challenge of changing behavior.

Our team works remotely from field offices around the world and home offices in the United States. Though we're rarely all in one place, what keeps us connected is our desire to live and work to serve others, with impact as our bottom line.



Why the name Appleseed?

Our namesake, Johnny Appleseed, was an American pioneer who became a folk legend. He dreamed no one would go hungry, so he traveled the frontier planting apple nurseries, which he returned to tend, year after year. Eventually, many towns grew from his nursery sites.

Most remember him as an eccentric story-telling nomad who foraged off the land and enjoyed the hospitality of frontier families. Many forget he was a strategic businessman. He methodically selected nursery sites, planted seeds, and returned at regular intervals to tend the land and sell his trees, for which he charged only what circumstances allowed each customer. Despite financial success, he lived simply, in nature, and among the poor. He was a fine communicator who befriended Native Americans, spoke their languages, and helped avert trouble between tribes and settlers.  His kindness made him welcome anywhere in the frontier. What we most admire is he lived to serve others.

While we aren't planning to enter the apple business any time soon, we see our work and our values to align with Johnny's. Each new project is like a seedling that, with care, will someday grown into a tree. We carefully select our partners and projects, which we tend to each year. We help our partner organizations get the most from limited resources. Our field teams work and live simply, among the poor. We've been gifted with the freedom to go anywhere, the ability to speak multiple languages, and skills that can make a difference wherever we go. So it is our duty and privilege, like it was for Johnny Appleseed, to walk between worlds serving the communities who welcome us.