Four nonprofits honored as social entrepreneurs

Four local nonprofits were honored at an awards dinner April 17 for the third annual Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition (SEIC).

The teams will receive a total of $110,000 in cash and in-kind support for successfully demonstrating that their ventures have social value and that their group has the ability to implement its plans. Partners in the SEIC are the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the YouthBridge Community Foundation. The SEIC is designed to foster growth for social entrepreneurs who craft innovative processes, approaches and solutions to help resolve social issues.

This year’s winning teams were selected from a field of 24 entrants. Since September, the teams have participated in workshops and judging events and received feedback on their ideas. The YouthBridge series of workshops is free and open to all with an interest in social entrepreneurship, and this year’s workshops were designed for nonprofits that may be interested in the concept but perhaps were not ready to compete.

The SEIC has several other supporters in addition to Washington University and YouthBridge. This year, the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis joined with the Incarnate Word Foundation, which returned for its third year of supporting the competition. RubinBrown is a Skandalaris Center supporter and will be providing in-kind support to two of the winners, and Innovate VMS, the venture mentoring service of Innovate St. Louis, also plans to support the winning teams.

This year’s winners are:

StudioSTL, which empowers youth to discover, develop and celebrate their individual voices through writing. The organization teams students with area writers, artists and educators who volunteer to assist with writing projects that are published or performed — in a song, a film, a newspaper or an anthology of collected works. StudioSTL received the $35,000 YouthBridge award and also will benefit from RubinBrown support.

LiveFeed, which engages St. Louis’ entertainment industry and its fans to reduce hunger. The organization provides promotional resources and incentives to affiliated bands and venues that then raise money at performances to provide funding for local food pantries. LiveFeed received the $30,000 Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis award and will benefit from RubinBrown support.

BEGIN (Businesses, Employment, Growth, Incomes, Neighborhoods) New Venture Center at St Patrick’s Center, which prepares homeless and impoverished people for higher-wage, sustainable jobs. It develops and operates a mixed-use, small-business incubator in conjunction with the St. Patrick’s Center’s skills and training center. BEGIN received a $15,000 Skandalaris award that was supplemented by YouthBridge.

Indego Africa, which partners with existing artisan cooperatives in Africa to provide organizational management expertise, commercial opportunities and capital donations. The organization’s goal is to enable Africans to bring themselves out of poverty by exporting their unique handicrafts and directing the revenue generated toward training in higher-value skills. Indego Africa also received a $15,000 Skandalaris award supplemented by YouthBridge.

Bijal Desai, MBA 2008 in the Olin Business School also received a $5,000 cash award for her work supporting StudioSTL.

“We are pleased with the growth and direction of the competition,” said Ken Harrington, managing director of the Skandalaris Center.

“It sometimes takes a year or two for people to understand how social entrepreneurship works and how earned income can impact their organization. For example, we’ve supported LiveFeed for a couple of years, and they have developed an interesting hybrid approach. They collaborate with other organizations (both for-profit and nonprofit) to raise new money they funnel to existing nonprofits already serving the hungry in St. Louis,” Harrington said.

The Awards Dinner featured a presentation by Greg Roberts, president and CEO of the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., a nonprofit organization which works strategically to address the long-term needs of children, youth and families in the District of Columbia. Roberts spoke on the topic of “Moving Social Entrepreneurs to Achieve Excellence” and challenged nonprofits to equip leaders with the entrepreneurial skills to transform their organizations, producing not only better managers but also better leaders and social entrepreneurs.

Plans already are under way for next year’s competition and YouthBridge workshops, including an orientation to help participants understand the concepts of social entrepreneurship and earned income.