The School for Ethics and Global Leadership

Spring 2016 Jumps into Social Venture capstone project

Date: Apr 2nd, 2016

Spring Break affords our students more than an opportunity for rest and rejuvenation: it allows them to reconnect with their home communities and begin to think about the transition home.  One important part of that transition is the capstone social venture project that each student completes.

The social venture project is one of three capstones–the ethical Credo, the collaborative policy document are the other two– each of which is essential to the SEGL experience.  Students tackle the social venture business plan first, after Break we launch the policy document experience; Credos are delivered at the end of the semester.

Some of the students will expand and improve existing ventures, but most will create from the ground up.  All will gain important lifelong skills, and, perhaps, a nice college admissions boost!.

This semester we are again honored to welcome our social venture coach, Joe Weinstein, who works directly with our students over the course of the semester to prep them for their capstone.  Weinstein spent years at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a global health program officer and before serving as Senior Director for Strategy and Operations at Arabella Advisors, a leading consulting firm for philanthropic donors.  Now the Director of Operations and Planning at Signal Vine, a start-up company that uses text messaging to improve student outcomes, he also advises Georgetown University’s Global Social Enterprise Initiative. Weinstein has an MBA and M.S., in International Affairs, from Georgetown.   In short, he has an enormous amount of experience determining what makes a promising venture.

Our first social venture week put the students into four groups of six.  Each group visited a different DC social initiative focused on poverty, Bread for the City, Pathways to HousingBack on My Feet, and the National Coalition for the Homeless, as representatives of the imaginary “Alvin Fridie Foundation” (yes, that’s Alvin, our science teacher!).  They researched each organization to determine strengths and weaknesses given the Fridie Foundation’s mission and criteria for funding.  These four groups then divided into six new groups of four.  In each of these new groups all four members had visited a different venture.  And so the debates began: which organization had the soundest finances?  The biggest need?  The strongest leadership?  The best prospects for scalability?  Each group could choose only one organization.
On Friday Weinstein returned to play the Director of the Fridie Foundation.  Each group suggested a different funding allocation strategy, and each was forced to defend it.  We’ll let the students tell you the final allocation!  Later, as the students reflected as a group, many began to realize the point of the exercise: they could apply the lessons they learned about making an organization worthy of funding to their own SEGL venture project.
Later this semester we will meet with leading social entrepreneurs in the non-profit and for-profit communities who will give their own first-hand account of starting and sustaining a change-making organization.  More on that, and our student ventures, in the coming months!