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There’s no time like the PresenTense

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There’s no time like the PresenTense photo 

The PresenTense Coordinators and PresenTense staff at our training conference in Jerusalem this past summer. 

This past week, PresenTense announced that it will launch 13 social entrepreneur fellowships in 10 cities around the world.  Some of the fellowships are with existing partnerships and others are brand new.  By next summer, dozens of new social ventures will launch in Chicago, Washington DC, Cleveland, Kansas City, Jerusalem, Moscow, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.  Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative ideas that can better the community, and social ventures are the result of taking those ideas and developing a new project or organization that provides solutions to social problems.  The fellowships, run as part of the PresenTense- developed Community Entrepreneur Partnership, are owned and managed by local partners in each of the cities, including Federations, JCCs, and the JDC.

Probably the most beneficial part of the PresenTense program is that there are many ways to be involved.  If someone has a big idea to make the Jewish community better in some way, the fellowship provides training and support to help that person see it through to a launched venture.  Many people are not looking to start new ventures or projects, but are still just as excited about the next big idea.  For these folks there is the steering committee—a group of individuals responsible for helping the program take shape and driving it forward.  The steering committee recruits the fellows, promotes the program and leverages their individual networks to bring in help.  Lastly, there are opportunities for experienced professionals in the Jewish and general business/entrepreneurial communities to act as mentors and coaches for the group of fellows. 

The program culminates in a one of a kind event known as Launch Night.  At Launch Night, the entire community comes together to get a first look at what a group of social entrepreneurs has created!  What start as just ideas, turn into real ventures that have the potential to create lasting change in local communities and those abroad.  Over the past five years PresenTense has been operating this program, they have launched over 140 ventures around the world.

Some of the brightest stars have included Challah for Hunger, an organization devoted to making challah on college campuses and selling them to raise money for charities.  It now exists on over 40 college campuses and has raised over a quarter of a million dollars.  Meanwhile, the Warehouse is bringing in young Jews that feel unaffiliated and underserved by providing non-traditional spaces and worship opportunities for them and incorporating music and new media.  Lastly, On Both Feet was started in Boston to combine improvisational comedy and Jewish texts to create interactive training and experiential education programs.

Part of my new role at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington is to coordinate the Washington DC fellowship.  Chicago’s fellowship will be coordinated by Sara Massarik, who, as it turns out, is a pretty amazing choice for the job!  I recently met Sara when we both attended coordinator training in Jerusalem over the summer.  She is bright, experienced and knows a lot of the right people to help this project move forward.  She also happens to care a great deal about the Jewish community in Chicago. 

Questions?  Know someone that wants to get involved?  There is an informational meeting coming up soon, so email Sara Massarik, Chicago Coordinator at smassarik@gojcc.org for more information.

For the Greater Washington DC community: Email Andy Kirschner, DC Coordinator at andrew.kirschner@shalomdc.org.

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