WUSTL, YouthBridge to partner for social entrepreneurship

One million dollars would support new initiative


On Independence Day the country just celebrated the American spirit. While we associate the Fourth of July with such things as freedom of the press, religion and association, there is another aspect to the American character that is worthy of celebration: social responsibility. It’s a quality William Penn lauded before the founding of the republic when he encouraged citizens to show any kindness they could for their fellow humans. More than a century later, Theodore Roosevelt also cited its importance to the country when he said, “This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in, unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.”

In St. Louis, a new partnership between Washington University in St. Louis and YouthBridge Association will continue this tradition. The goal of the partnership is to help social entrepreneurs develop and fund self-reliant ventures that deliver valuable public goods and services.

YouthBridge has pledged $500,000 in funding over five years so Washington University can create the YouthBridge Award and the St. Louis Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition. Washington University, with help from community partners, plans to support the initiative with more than $500,000 in additional resources. Washington University and YouthBridge are inviting other area universities, institutions, community groups and foundations to collaborate on this effort. The purpose of the competition is to stimulate collaborative activity that leads to multiple innovative approaches to the area’s social problems.

The St. Louis Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition — the first of its kind in the region — will launch in the fall of 2005. First year participants will be eligible for a maximum of $65,000 in funding and they will receive feedback from a panel of social investors and judges who are experts in social entrepreneurship and innovation. Both existing and new not-for-profit organizations will be invited to participate. Washington University will work with YouthBridge and community partners to offer numerous workshops and public events to assist participants in their plan development.

Washington University and YouthBridge are celebrating the joint effort between the two St. Louis area institutions.

“We believe a partnership with Washington University is the perfect way to extend our mission of serving children at risk or in need,” said YouthBridge’s long-time board member, Jim Cullen. “We have a history of successfully working with and funding new approaches to youth- related social problems. Working with Washington University allows us to discover new ways to leverage our resources and expertise to help others.”

“The coalition with YouthBridge and the new competition are natural extensions of our efforts to expand in the area of social entrepreneurship,” said Ken Harrington, Managing Director of the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Washington University. “They allow us to connect our students with social innovators in the philanthropically rich St. Louis region. These are a perfect fit with our mission of teaching, research and community service. We are proud to partner with YouthBridge to help extend their contributions and good works.”

The YouthBridge Association is a 135-year-old organization that was previously known as the General Protestant Children’s Home for children. YouthBridge’s mission evolved to fund and support multiple innovative youth-focused social ventures, some of them located on its 19-acre Creve Coeur campus. YouthBridge has supported and funded ventures designed to operate as independent entities following the association’s initial support. YouthBridge’s goal is to support more ventures that can benefit from the organization’s initial support and then grow into self-sufficient entities.

Examples of this include the Good Shepherd School which provides innovative approaches to early childhood education and intervention services for a diverse population of children with both typical skills and developmental challenges. This inclusive environment helps develop well balanced, compassionate youth. YouthBridge also helped organize and fund the Missouri Alliance for Children and Families, LLC. Since its inception, the Alliance has helped more than 1,100 severely disadvantaged children and their families to become more functional, minimizing foster care and residential services. The YouthBridge Family Community, another organization assisted by YouthBridge, provides services to families and patients that have traveled to St. Louis to receive treatment at area hospitals.

The Skandalaris Center stimulates a campus-wide environment of collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurial creativity. This expands learning, understanding and economic opportunities for students, faculty and the St. Louis community. The Center supports entrepreneurship in all academic disciplines and defines it inclusively as “the process of seeing novel opportunities, acting energetically, and using limited resources and collaboration to create new value for others.”