- Experiential Learning
- Social Ventures
- Faculty Viewpoints
- The Near-term Impacts of Climate Change on Investors
- Solutions to Post-Incarceration Employment and Entrepreneurship
- Fulfilling the Promise of Education Technology
- Managing Schools to Improve Teacher Performance
- The Economics and Psychology of Poverty
- Measuring and Creating Excellence in Schools
- The American Healthcare Landscape in 2014
- Microfinance Symposium
- Research Resources
Spark Workshops provide social innovators with an opportunity to explore resources, connections, and potential solutions to help their social ventures. These workshops tap into the collective knowledge within Columbia University and the larger entrepreneurial and social impact community.
Spark is a platform for ventures to make valuable connections, as the audience is a self-selected group interested in the topic area. Ventures are also able to gather diverse ideas through group brainstorming to help them address specific questions or problems within the business or organization.
These workshops are free and open to the public. Participants can expect to bring their ideas, experience, and connections to help solve social and environmental challenges that social innovators aim to address.
History of the Spark Workshops:
The inaugural Spark Workshop was held on April 24, 2012 with Manmeet Kaur '12 and her venture, City Health Works. City Health Works is a prevention-focused healthcare venture in Harlem. Manmeet had her classmates gather together to listen to a brief presentation about City Health Works, and then she had the group engage in an interactive break-out session dedicated to helping her work through some of the challenges she had been facing. The session was helpful not only to Manmeet, but to others in attendance as they were able to make connections with fellow social innovators. From this, the Spark Workshop series has evolved to an event dedicated to providing New York City's social innovators with the opportunity to explore resources, make connections and learn about potential solutions to challenges they are facing through the collection knowledge of Columbia University and the larger entrepreneurial and social impact communities.
Past Spark Workshops:
Spark Workshop on Firms with Benefits: How Sustainability is Reshaping the Competitive Business Landscape
with Aziza Jamgerchinova ’13BUS ’06JRN
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Most executives understand the strategic importance of sustainability and how profoundly it will affect the success, and even the survival, of their businesses. However, very few have successfully tackled the challenge of creating a truly sustainable organization.
Where do businesses turn when seeking to develop or expand their sustainability practices? Where can they find answers to questions around how best to manage their supply chain, or how to reduce their carbon emissions?
The Firms with Benefits platform aims to help businesses understand how others have benefitted from incorporating sustainability into key areas of their organizations such as leadership, methodology, strategy, management, and reporting. This platform intends to cultivate and enhance both the desire and the ability to use sustainability as a competitive weapon.
Firms with Benefits will help businesses get smarter, more competitive, and more innovative by synthesizing the conversation around sustainability. The goal is to create an instructional content platform with dynamic learning videos that are short, mobile, and immediately actionable. The information will be curated for the existing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) community and businesses looking to leverage sustainability-based management. The videos will tell stories that identify key decision points that can be used by other companies looking to implement sustainable practices of their own.
Areas for Discussion
- What is the driving force behind corporate giants adapting and embracing sustainable business practices?
- What are the current sources of information and resources available to a company seeking to develop or expand its sustainability practices?
- What are various ways to share and scale knowledge around sustainable business practices and advancements?
- How should a new sustainable business platform engage with existing groups and incorporate existing resources?
Spark Workshop on Hacking Community Solar with Social Solar
with Donna Sanders BUS’17, co-founder of Social Solar; and special guest speakers Gary Skulnik, founding partner of OurPower; Annie Su, senior analyst of Ecogy Solar; and Yanik Kalish BUS’12, CEO of SolarKal
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Pollution that arises from the burning of fossil fuels has several environmental, financial, and health consequences. As a result, international, national, and local laws are being enacted favoring renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. New York State, specifically, has enacted a Clean Energy Standard that mandates 50 percent of all energy come from renewable sources by 2030.
Traditionally, many people are unable to participate in solar energy because they rent their home, live in an apartment building, or own properties unsuitable for installing solar panels. With the New York State Shared Renewables Program, customers can, for the first time, join together to share in the benefits of local solar, wind, and other renewable energy projects. Under this program, solar electric panels are installed offsite to produce renewable energy for subscribing members. Each member’s solar production then appears as a credit on their monthly utility bill. Residents of apartments and condominiums can now go solar!
Areas for Discussion
- What are some of the financial and structural barriers prohibiting widespread community solar adoption in NYC?
- What are viable community solar solutions?
Spark Workshop on “Disrupting Distrust” with Rise
with Alphonzo Terrell CC’05, co-founder of Rise, and special guest speaker Robert Gangi CC’05, Director of the Police Reform Organizing Project
Tuesday, November 15th, 2016
Rise is a mobile app that aims to answer the question “What can I do to help?” by providing users with a curated selection of causes. The app fosters shared values and a network of friends and communities by providing a platform for donations, videos for audience engagement, and social sharing.
Areas for Discussion
In response to the chronic outbreaks of law enforcement-related violence in the U.S., Brooklyn-based startup Rise facilitated a community-wide Spark workshop for Columbia students and the broader entrepreneurial community in NYC to explore innovative products, services, and campaigns that will encourage and incentivize both everyday citizens and law enforcement to help end the cycles of violence in their respective communities. Following the workshop, several of the top concepts were selected to be realized as an activity within the Rise application to be distributed to the more than 10,000 beta users, in addition to potentially influencing new feature sets within the platform.
Specific discussion topics included:
- How do we help humanize law enforcement officials and community members to each other?
- How do we create safe spaces for dialogue between law enforcement and community members?
- How do we create incentives for more humanistic, effective policing and celebrate the wins as much as we call out the fails?
- How do we train both community members and law enforcement on de-escalation tactics/conflict resolution?
- How to we empower people to put pressure on policy-makers to institute independent reviews of performance?
Spark Workshop with Killer Snails
with Mandë Holford PhD, Lindsay Portnoy PhD, and Jessica Ochoa Hendrix BUS’09
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Killer Snails, LLC is a learning game company that celebrates extraordinary extreme creatures found in nature. Killer Snails (KS) creates intriguing learning games using venomous marine snails as a conduit to explore issues of scientific learning. The exciting venom content encourages players to think analytically about the world around them and the many opportunities and challenges present in scientific exploration to become science changemakers. The company is collaborating with the American Museum of Natural History and has received National Science Foundation grant funding.
Areas for Discussion
- Marketing Strategy for Parents & Educators Customers: How should Killer Snails prioritize and communicate the value propositions for middle school parents, science teachers, and administrators in both urban and suburban communities? Should the focus be narrower?
- With a platform that offers both professional development to teachers and education technology for students, how can Killer Snails best enter the educational market? How do we stand out against our competitors? What are the major purchasers in the education sector looking for in an ed tech platform?
- What metrics would measure meaningful impact? Usage, time per game, type of feedback given, activities attended offline?
Spark Workshop with Due Diligence Goes Both Ways
with Christine Mendonça, Managing Director, Shore to Shore Advisory
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
The due diligence process should not be a one-way street. Far too often it’s the investors that do most of the investigating, when entrepreneurs have a responsibility to themselves, their organization, customers, and their mission to perform due diligence on their potential partners. As an entrepreneur you really need to know who your potential investor is before you sign on the dotted line. In her talk, Christine Mendonça, goes through the process of how to screen potential investors, perform investor due diligence, and navigate best fit. It can’t and shouldn’t be all about the money. Doing the work now, ensures that after the deals done you have right partners at the table to navigate growing your social venture.
Christine LeViseur Mendonça is the founder of Shore to Shore Advisory, an impact investment advisory firm, working exclusively with clients who want to put financial return seeking capital to work in positively changing the world. Before starting her company, Christine became the 5th generation in her family to work in the steel industry. At 21, she managed the due diligence process for Gerdau Ameristeel’s 2004 NYSE Equity and Bond Offering. By the age of 26, Christine led or co-led the integration of $187 MM in acquisitions (6 companies, 27 locations) and supported in the integration of another $4.5 BN of assets.
Christine is an active speaker on impact investment and engaging women into the investment process. She has spoken at the United Nations, Conference Board, MaRSDD, and Centre for Social Innovation. She is a senior advisor for the Mentor Capital Network and mentor for Tampa Bay WaVE. Additionally, Christine has served as a board member of Latinos in College, Tampa Bay WaVE, and as a Master Guardian ad Litem.
She received her MBA at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in 2010. Christine earned her BS in Business Administration in International Business at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. She has also studied at ITSEM in Cuernavaca, Mexico, the American University in Paris, and the University of South Florida. Christine is a dual citizen of the United States and Brazil.
Spark Workshop on Project Gado
with Tom and Amy Smith, co-founders
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Project Gado is a social enterprise digitizing and sharing the world’s visual history. Project Gado works with archives to digitize their collections at little to no upfront cost, and partners with Getty Images to help organizations create a sustainable revenue stream from their historical photos. Project Gado also works with individuals to scan personal photo collections including prints, slides and negatives.
Areas for Discussion
- How can Project Gado more efficiently find new archives and collections to partner with?
- What are some other uses of Project Gado's open source resources, including the Gado 2 robot? How can Project Gado leverage the expertise of its open source community to better serve its archival partners?
- How can Project Gado’s CSR initiatives be harnessed to contribute towards its revenue generation? What are some new ways to integrate these programs into the core of Project Gado’s business model?
- What are some innovative ways to raise awareness about Project Gado? What other markets may wish to take advantage of a service like this?
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
e-NABLE fulfills recipients’ need for affordable and easy to access devices. It is a diverse network of volunteers who use 3D printing to provide upper-limb prosthetics to differently-abled children and adults around the world. e-NABLE has relationships with prosthetists and other health care providers as well as academic and research institutions, including Rochester Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins and Creighton universities. In addition, international initiatives with NGOs and other groups are underway to provide greater delivery of prosthetics to underserved populations in developing countries as well as in areas experiencing conflict and the effects of natural disaster. Learn more about e-nable here.
Areas of discussion:
- What revenue strategies should e-NABLE follow to become financially self-sustaining?
- How best can the organization move away from individually funded/donated resources?
- What types of operational processes does e-NABLE need to consider as it moves from a digital community to a physical community?
- Will aspects of their value-proposition suffer – if so, which ones and why?
- How can e-NABLE better measure and market its impact?
Spark Workshop on Terraly, Inc.
with Seth Harlem ’15, co-founder & CEO, Terraly, Inc; Mo Mobarak, co-founder & CTO, Terraly, Inc.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Terraly is a mobile application that raises money for clean water around the world. Terraly makes a connection between having an alcoholic drink and raising money for clean water.
How does it work?
Using Terraly, a user confirms their location and enters what they are drinking. So, if you are at the Amsterdam Tavern drinking a Blue Point Toasted Lager, you tell the app where you are and what you’re drinking.
In exchange, Terraly donates money to a clean water charity. Each donation funds one day of clean water for one person. Donations are funded from the revenue generated by providing alcohol producers with consumption data and real-time consumer engagement opportunities.
Terraly keeps users engaged by showing the impact of participation on global clean water efforts and allowing the sharing of impact with friends.
Spark Workshop on Education Technology: Can Education Technology Close the Achievement Gap?
with Ryan Betts, Teacher, Darien Public School District; Stanley Buchesky '02, Managing Partner, The EdTech Fund; Daniel Konecky, Director of Online Development, Relay Graduate School of Education; Alia McCants '13, Director of Operations, New York City, Relay Graduate School of Education; Terrence Robinson, Teacher, CASA Middle School, Bronx, NY; and Kevan Ottochian, Teacher, Warwick Valley Central School District
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Technology has become a critical part of how today’s school children are educated. From individual classrooms to broader district-wide systems, technology’s integration into established learning systems increasingly raises questions and poses challenges to the status quo. This Spark workshop is dedicated to brainstorming ways that technology can be leveraged to close the achievement/opportunity gap in low-income communities in the US by discussing key problems related to data tracking and reporting, school and school-system operations, classroom learning, and scaling successful solutions.
Potential topics for discussion:
- Data: What are the current challenges of tracking and reporting on student-, classroom-, school-, and system-level data?School/system operations: What are ways in which technology can provide solutions to the inefficiencies and pain points in running a school or a school system?
- Classroom learning: What are the current challenges to classroom learning in low-income communities in the US and how can technology provide solutions? (e.g. Teacher quality, appropriate curriculum, access to resources, etc.)
- Innovation: What are the current challenges of incubating, identifying, funding, and scaling technological solutions that have proven to be effective in a very fragmented national education system?
Spark Workshop on Drive Change
with Jordyn Lexton, Founder and Executive Director, Drive Change; Roy Waterman, Culinary Arts Mentor, Drive Change; and TJ, Marketing Director, Drive Change
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
In New York State, the age of adult criminal responsibility is 16 years old. Each year, thousands of kids leave the criminal justice system with adult felony convictions that are made public to future employers and academic institutions. As a result, opportunity for change is limited and re-offense is common: the recidivism rate for adolescents treated as adults in the criminal justice system is nearly 70%. The adult system has a devastating impact on young people.
Mission: To build and operate state-of-the-art food trucks to hire, train, and empower formerly incarcerated youth ages 16-25. We generate opportunities for youth coming home from adult jail/prison so that they can live crime-free, bright futures.
Drive Change is a hybrid for-profit/non-profit organization. All of our food trucks are for profit LLCs that are wholly owned by the non-profit 501c3. That being said, all sales from the trucks recycle back into the organization so we can subsidize the cost of running our Drive Change re-entry program.
The re-entry program is eight months long and consists of three distinct phases: a 2-month pre-employment training phase, a 4-month employment phase, and a 2-month transition phase. As participants graduate through each phase, they will see an increase in pay scale, from $8/hr up to $12/hr.
Drive Change will provide three concrete services that are proven to lower recidivism:
- Paid, transitional, quality employment.
- Concrete transferable skills and credentials.
- Community building and outreach.
Throughout the entire program, young people will be provided with mentoring and counseling from licensed social workers.
Health For All, representing Columbia University for the 2014 Hult Prize, was formed by five Columbia students who came across these astonishing statistics from India’s Bharat Health Organization: "More than 61 Indians go below the poverty-line every MINUTE due to spending on treatment for diseases already occurred.” At the same time, WHO indicates that at least 80% of premature deaths in India are from cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes. Recognizing the potential to improve the lives of generations to come in slum communities across India and the world, Health For All brings communities together to enjoy the health benefits of dance while learning strategies for healthy living and tracking their impact. The goal is to reach 25 million slum dwellers by 2019. Building on the popularity of television dance competition shows like Dancing with the Stars, Health for All aims to use dance competitions to promote health, scholarship and work opportunities to those living in slums.
This break-out discussion workshop will focus on Health For All’s value proposition, growth strategy and funding model, as well as impact measurement. The Health For All team will outline the business model, explain the goals for Health For All’s future and discuss their thought process as it relates to the value proposition of the business.
Areas of discussion:
- What unique value proposition of Health For All will appeal to potential funders and target customers?
- What five-year growth strategy will enable Health For All to reach its goal of impacting 25 million slum dwellers by 2019?
- Will the funding model be donation-based, revenue-generating, or a blend?
- How will Health For All measure its impact?
Spark Workshop on Inspiring Capital
withNell Derick Debevoise ’12 , Founder & CEO, Inspiring Capital; Yael Silverstein ’13, Director of Products & Marketing, Inspiring Capital
Tuesday, December 3rd
“To be or not to be… a 501c3?” This workshop will focus on finding solutions to whether Inspiring Capital should be structured as a nonprofit or a for-profit venture. Nell and Yael will outline the Inspiring Capital business model, explain the goals for Inspiring Capital’s future, and discuss their thought process as it relates to picking a business structure for the firm. Each participant will be prepped on the different business structures (i.e. 501c3, LLC, L3C, B Corp, etc.) prior to the workshop as background information for brainstorming.
Breakout topic areas for discussion:
Attendees will breakout into groups based on different business structures (i.e. 501c3, corporation, LLC, L3C, benefit corporation, B Corp, etc.) to help Inspiring Capital (IC) determine which business structure will be most beneficial to them in terms of taxation, client relations, funding opportunities, etc.
Given the background and goals of IC, what are the pros/cons of each of the different business structures as they relate to IC?
Topics to consider for each breakout business structure:
- Tax implications
- Client perspective and consumer behaviors
- Organizational culture: operational and/or governance considerations
- Funding: What are the most promising sources of funding – individual contributions or foundation grants? Fees paid by customers? Private investment?
About Inspiring Capital
Inspiring Capital is a network of entrepreneurs and investors who use their financial, intellectual, human, and social capital to change the world. Having earned income rather than relying on donations and grants allows high-potential not-for-profits to improve and grow their work efficiently. Eventually, many not-for-profits may be able to develop a business model that generates all the revenue they need to support their operations and grow. This creates an optimal social enterprise business model that is inextricably linked to its social mission.
Spark Workshop on Kangu
with the 2013 Winner of Social Venture Pitch Competition at Columbia Social Enterprise Conference with Casey Santiago ’07, Founder, Kangu; Co-Facilitator: Anu Khosla, Marketing and Community Director, Kangu
Tuesday, November 12th
This workshop will focus on finding solutions to the challenge of financing and customer growth. Areas of discussion: Financing to support growth and scale: angel investors, impact investors, foundations, and business development Customer growth: driving footfall and conversion
Leveraging the power of technology, Kangu is a crowdfunding start-up that aims to reduce the 250,000 women that die each year from pregnancy and childbirth globally. Nearly all of these deaths are preventable when women have access to basic healthcare services. At our website, www.kangu.org, anyone with $10 to give can connect with a specific high-risk pregnant woman in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and sponsor her access to care. Kangu is making the world a smaller, healthier, safer place for women and their babies. In less than 3 months, Kangu brought together 1000 people who funded healthcare services for over 150 women.
Spark Workshop on Ed Tech
with Damon Kornhauser, INCITE Creatives; Andrea Coleman, Office of Innovation at the New York City Department of Education; Esteban Rodriguez, Education, Entrepreneurship; Zak Malamed, Student Voice Live; Holly Pavlika, MOMentum Nation; Stanley Buchesky '02, The EdTech Fund
Tuesday, August 9th
The Ed Tech workshop discussed the various issues that affect six key stakeholder groups in the education-technology space: education policy makers, education entrepreneurs, students, parents, business partners, and educators. Each stakeholder group discussed the barriers that they encounter from their perspective and brainstormed about how to overcome these hurdles to effectively integrate technology into the classroom.
Each group shared the internal and external factors that impact their sector’s success, and many commonalities were discovered, including bureaucratic challenges, lack of familiarity with technology and its benefits, concern about costs—both financial and time resources—for implementation, a generational gap between the technologies that students are comfortable with using for learning and what the teachers are comfortable with using for teaching, and a need for open discussion among all types of decision makers.
Ultimately the group concluded that there is a great need for ongoing conversation that includes all stakeholders, but especially policy makers, school officials, teachers and students, in order to reach an agreement about the best ways to better the integration of technology into the classroom environment. To continue the discussion with “Spark-leaders” on education technology please join Rethink Learning NYC for their first Meetup on August 28!
Spark Workshop on Defy Ventures
with Catherine Hoke (Rohr)
Tuesday, July 23rd
“What would it be like if you were known for the worst thing you’ve ever done?” asked Defy Ventures founder Catherine Hoke as she started the workshop. In this session, Catherine explained how Defy Ventures provides carefully selected, ambitious men and women who have criminal histories with life-changing entrepreneurship, leadership, and career opportunities. Its mission is to transform the lives of business leaders and people with criminal histories through their collaboration along the entrepreneurial journey.
Attendees were asked to explore questions around scaling nationally by examining models currently used by other organizations and adapting them for Defy. The group felt that Catherine’s involvement in Defy was crucial and needed to remain a priority. It was also suggested that Defy Ventures create local “chapters” in expansion cities with headquarters in New York. Certain attendees thought that a franchise model may not be suitable for Defy, given the strong ties needed for the mission and the difficulty of standardizing processes and activities.
One breakout group tackled the issue of whether they should create a for-profit/hybrid structure to improve their current business model. Ideas varied from partnering with Macy’s to create fashion lines with graffiti lining for a percentage of proceeds, to ideas around creating a structure that drew from organizations such as Accion, Endeavor and Acumen. Attendees also suggested developing an online course for prisons as an opportunity to increase revenues as well as help identify key individuals for the full-scale program. For information on how to get involved, please click here to see the upcoming events and to sign up for: Taste of Defy, Mocktail Day, and Sales Expo events.
International Social Entrepreneurship Workshop
with Selen Ucak '03, The American Turkish Society; Nell Derick Debevoise '12, Inspiring Capital ; Tami Kesselman, Vision2Action / IvyGirl Advisors; Shireen Khan '02, Virtue Consulting, Shubio; Decker Ngongang, Echoing Green
Tuesday, July 9th
After attending the Spark Workshop on Building the Ecosystem for Social Ventures; Selen Ucak proposed a workshop focused on International Social Entrepreneurship. This workshop also served as a place for international social entrepreneurs to meet peers within the network and build relationships that will hopefully help advance their venture. This community shares some challenges with social entrepreneurs in the US; however, international social entrepreneurs face additional challenges including cultural differences when scaling, differing government regulations and compliance restrictions, marketing and branding challenges given cultural differences, among others factors.
Attendees broke out into groups to generate solutions to these challenges and identify the types of platforms needed to help implement these solutions. Among the many suggestions were the strengthening of existing mentorship programs, online platforms for questions to help entrepreneurs, best practices for tapping into diaspora funding, developing benchmark metrics, and more. Facilitator Nell Derick Debevoise mentioned the importance of pitching a social venture to investors and emphasized the aspects that investors will be looking for.
Spark Workshop on Patronicity
with Chris Blauvelt, moderated by Rachel Jacobs ’02, Detroit Nation
Tuesday, June 25th
Patronicity is a localized crowdfunding platform that enables anybody to make a difference in their community by supporting local businesses, organizations and events while simultaneously offering incentives to do so. They accomplish this by helping these local entities—for example a small business—raise small amounts of capital through online donations for specific growth-related projects. In return for their support, the business offers value-adding rewards to the donors.Workshop attendees discussed the potential to scale Patronicity in major cities or whether geographic focus was the best strategy, as well as how to best develop a brand identity that differentiates them from competitors. Attendees focused on creating a strong marketing and social media campaign which in turn could bring brand awareness to the communities Patronicity has projects in. Suggestions were provided on how to use news articles, blogs and media mentions of successful Patronicity projects to create a demand for their more projects, as the organization continues to expand.
Spark Workshop on Social Sushi
with Jay Rayford, moderated by Rachel Jacobs ’02, Detroit Nation
Tuesday, June 11th
Social Sushi was founded as a social event to bring together professionals who enjoy sushi, want to meet other professionals in Detroit, and have a common interest in local community projects. It soon became clear that Social Sushi founder Jay’s special sushi sauce was a crowd pleaser at each networking event. During his workshop, Jay worked with attendees to determine what his next step should be, and how to scale the organization. The workshop determined that Jay’s key assets are his connections and the ability to bring together large networks of Detroit citizens interested in working on social change. Attendees proposed that Social Sushi become more like an event planning company, with a social mission dedicated to connecting those interested in change in Detroit. As his network increases, he can also start selling the addicting Social Sushi Sauce for additional revenue, brand recognition and additional donations back into the local community.
“If it weren’t for the excellent feedback that I got from my Detroit Nation session with Columbia Business School, it may have took me a long time to drill down on my focus and see clearly how we could be effective in a way that benefits everyone,” said Jay Rayford in an article on Detroit Nation.
Spark Workshop on De-Tread
with Audra Carson, moderated by Rachel Jacobs ’02, Detroit Nation
Tuesday, May 28th
Illegal tire dumping accounts for a large amount of blight in urban communities and Detroit’s residential communities are continually plagued by this problem. Illegal tire dumping also opens the possibility for the spread of disease and threats of fire hazards caused by rubber tire disposal. De-Tread’s purpose is to promote healthy and safe communities by solving Detroit’s problem of illegal tire dumping.
Audra used the workshop for help to create a marketing campaign to raise brand awareness within the local community. As a result of the workshop, Audra was steered toward partnering with local auto, waste management and recycling centers for financial backing to get her social venture up and running. It was also suggested that Audra work with the local community and schools in a campaign to get everyone involved in the collection of tires for disposal through a competition. This would bring brand awareness into the community as well as encourage community members to get involved with De-Tread. Partnering with a local organization called D-Tread which repurposes the tires into sandals was also suggested as a potential revenue model. Audra is currently in the development stage of her social venture and is using the ideas generated from this Spark Workshop.
Spark Workshop on Building the Ecosystem for Social Ventures
with Elisa Miller-Out, Singlebrook; Vince Ponzo ’03, General Assembly; Owen Davis ’08, NYC Seed; and Professor R. A. Farrokhnia '04, Columbia Business School
Tuesday, April 23rd
Elisa Miller-Out of Singlebrook facilitated small group discussions on the strengths and weaknesses of the current social venture ecosystem with the goal of brainstorming how we can help to build a stronger network for the future. Some of the strengths included: resources, fellowship programs, and government resources. Weaknesses were related to measurement challenges, a lack of governmental support, and a need for mentorship opportunities.
To build a stronger ecosystem, attendees brainstormed solutions to these weaknesses. Some solutions included creating an angel list for social ventures, educating investors both on social ventures as well as an understanding of ROI measurements, creating a support network to help social ventures scale and streamline these connections with an online rating website, developing a digital hub of social venture resources similar to “Craigslist” in format, and more.
Spark Workshop on Global Mental Health@Columbia University
with Professor Kathy Pike, Columbia University
Wednesday, April 17th
The GMHP@Columbia is an interdisciplinary program aiming to be a world leader in global mental health through pioneering initiatives that promote mental health and reduce the burden of mental illness worldwide. To this end, the GMHP@Columbia is committed to education, training, advocacy, clinical and research capacity-building in low income communities around the world. The program has partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as academic centers in countries including Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and Nigeria. In addition, the program aims to grow its internet-based global network of mental health practitioners from 4,000 to 10,000 members worldwide.
Attendees advised Professor Pike to work with local governments in order to receive grant funding to create a source of revenue for this project. Participants suggested that GMHP@Columbia leverage their educational programs with membership groups that require Continuing Eeducation Unit’s for practitioners, e.g. universities, government departments of mental health, hospitals, private practitioners, etc., as a long-term revenue model.
Spark Workshop on BlocPower
with Donnel Baird ’13, Columbia Business School
Tuesday, April 2nd
BlocPower markets and finances solar and energy efficiency retrofits to churches, schools, nonprofits and small businesses in America's underserved communities--and hires local low income people to do it. BlocPower's online platform connects philanthropic investors to project microfinance opportunities.
During this session, attendees provided feedback to Donnel regarding BlocPower’s investment platform as well as the microfinance risk model. Participants advised him to steer clear of crowdsourced investing and focus on institutional investors. In terms of scaling the venture, the workshop concluded Donnel should increase the amount each retrofitted building is required to pay. This will create a revenue model where revenues are reinvested into the next project.
BlocPower was awarded $1.9 Million in matching funding from the Department of Energy to development a website as well as help market, finance and install energy efficiency retrofits for 1,500 small buildings including churches, schools, small businesses, and nonprofits in low-income communities across the country. For more information please click here.
For more information, or if you would like to suggest a future Spark workshop, please contact: Diana Rambeau.
Supported by the Social Enterprise Program, the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center and the Social Enterprise Club at Columbia Business School