Welcoming Promesa Boyle Heights and South LA Child Welfare Initiative to SVP

August 6, 2013

Social Venture Partners is excited to announce that our two new Advisees for 2013-2014 are:

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Breaking Out of Silos: LASVP’s Next Investments in Education Focus on “Collective Impact”

June 6, 2013

LASVP Hones in on Collective Impact

LASVPLASVP’s newly revised investment approach alternates between a permanent social issue (education) and a rotating social issue based on Partner interest.  Having worked with great educational nonprofit in the past, it will come as no surprise that the permanent issue chosen by Partners was education.

Taking education as the framework, the Investment Team met in late 2012 to narrow in on a more specific focus area for 2013.  The team broke up into subgroups based on Partner interest.  Different teams looked at STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, early childhood development, advocacy, and collective impact.  Each of the subgroups researched their topics then presented their findings to each other.

One approach stood out.  Collective impact was a component of many subgroup recommendations, and rose to the top as a strategic approach that appealed to the majority of the group.

Defining Collective Impact

So, what is collective impact?  Collective impact happens when diverse organizations come together to address a complex social issue.  John Kania and Mark Kramer’s article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review defines collective impact as “the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem.”

Collective Impact Puzzle PiecesThe idea of collective impact was born out of the idea that complex social issues require a coordinated, structured, and collaborative approach.  Collective impact is defined by a variety of organizations coming together across sectors (i.e. nonprofits, government agencies, businesses, foundations, etc.) and who are all committed to a common agenda.

Want to learn more?

Why Collective Impact Makes Sense for LASVP

Alex SoschinAlex Soschin, Partner and spearhead for collective impact (pictured to the right), recalls that during the Investment Team’s discussions, collective impact seemed like a natural fit.  It provides a framework that is being utilized by nonprofits in all the areas the Investment Team explored.

By finding the organizations and initiatives that are collaborating in this way, you find players who are taking a holistic approach to tackle the issue.  Alex says that collective impact appeals to him because, “There is a focus on data, a focus on breaking out of silos. Collective impact looks at the big picture, not the individual battles.” When organizations decide to work collaboratively, they begin to share data, funding and experience, and they begin to eliminate unneeded competition.

“When you write a check to support a collective impact initiative that includes 20 or 30 other organizations, they all win from your investment,” says Alex. “Even a small strategic investment can leverage huge results.”

LASVP’s 2013 Collective Impact Investment Cycle

With this strategy in mind, the Investment team conducted research and reached out to other funders to learn who had initiatives underway that would improve long-term educational outcomes for children in Los Angeles County.  Potential applicants were invited to apply after attending a workshop on May 14th.  Applications are due June 10th.

PARTNERS:  If you would like to get involved with the application review and selection process for this Education Investment Cycle, please contact SVP staff.


Passionate Leadership: Candy Deemer and Synergy Academies

April 8, 2013

Candy Deemer, LASVP PartnerSynergy Academies is a charter school system that reaches 1,200 K-12 students in South LA. Inspired by their amazing work, LASVP Partners have put their time and talent behind the organization, giving almost 500 hours of strategic assistance since our initial investment in 2010.

Energy, passion, and love of education. Founding LASVP Partner Candy Deemer brings all of this to her role as Co-Lead Partner with Synergy Academies. As a writer and executive coach with years of marketing and management experience, Candy can add fun, creativity, and keen insight to any conversation. Together with her Co-Lead Partner, Richard Landers, Candy has led the way for SVP to help Synergy Academies make the most of their communications.

Candy learned about Synergy by participating in meetings for LASVP’s grant rounds where she was impressed with the level of success Synergy had and their high standards of excellence. Using the knowledge she gained through volunteering with our former Investee Bright Star Schools, Candy was prepared to jump in and take the lead. As Co-Lead Partner, Candy acts as a liaison between SVP Partners and the Synergy leadership team.

She has developed tremendous respect for Synergy Co-Founders Meg and Randy Palisoc, and can attest that “they are wonderful people who work very, very hard for their students. They aren’t afraid to tackle any problem.” With LASVP’s passion for improving education in Los Angeles and Synergy’s entrepreneurial spirit, our investments of money, time, and talent have paid off. “It’s a really strong two-way working relationship,” Candy says. “Synergy is interested to have LASVP’s help and our partners have the skills to assist them with their goals.”

Throughout our time supporting Synergy Academies, SVP Partners have provided strategic assistance with board development, financial planning, organizational strategy, marketing and branding, IT infrastructure, and executive coaching. Candy has coordinated and managed the various projects and matched fellow Partners who have the skills needed to accomplish a project’s goals. Through Candy’s leadership, SVP Partners assisted Synergy as they have grown and expanded from grade school classes in a local church to having elementary, middle, and high schools, all of which are co-located with traditional LAUSD schools.

So what’s been Candy’s most rewarding experience with Synergy? “Seeing how they have come along in the way they present themselves.”  From branding and identity, to executive coaching, to building presentations, Candy has loved the “fun and creative” aspects of assisting Synergy. “They weren’t getting the full bang for their buck [with their communications] when we first started with them,” she says. But now, the way they present themselves through their Trade Secrets Tours and presentations “does a great job of showing how Synergy achieves such extraordinary academic results. People get it now and they get excited about it.” Synergy’s effort to share their success with other educators is gaining traction and teachers are traveling from other states to take the tour and meet their teachers.

Overall, Candy believes that SVP Partners added the greatest value by helping Synergy “think through their strategy as an organization–how to lead a growing organization, how they present themselves to the world, and thinking about what’s next in terms of ‘sharing out’ their best practices with other schools.”

To learn more about Synergy Academies, you can visit their website at www.wearesynergy.org and RSVP for their next Trade Secrets Tour coming up on May 22.

To find out more about becoming an SVP Partner, click here.


Partner Q & A: Robin Salter

March 6, 2013

Robin Salter, LASVP PartnerRobin Salter is a senior consultant at Concentric Consulting Services. Robin joined LASVP in 2012 and we’re so excited to have her on our team! 

Q: How were you introduced to LASVP?
Robin: Diane Helfrey and I met through a mutual friend who had organized an “LA Salon” which was designed to draw like-minded people together into a fun, casual and intellectual discussion about a range of topics. That group no longer exists (or if it does, I am no longer involved!) but the beauty of it for me was that I got to meet Diane and be introduced to LASVP. I asked if I could be involved as a coach, since that is what I do for a living. “Time to give back!” I thought, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made, both personally and professionally.

Q: What is your favorite place in LA?
Robin: Palisades Park, between Alta and Palisades Avenues.

Q: What project are you working on with LASVP? Why did you choose to get involved this way?
Robin: Currently, I am on the Education Investment Committee and am organizing the Social Innovation Fast Pitch Alumni Program. This is a great opportunity for me to invest both time and effort in helping those who have been involved with our organization to remain involved, to learn about other ways in which LASVP can continue to help and support them, and also to create an ongoing forum in which these organizations, many of them fledgling, can learn from and support one another.

Q: What book are you reading right now?
Robin: I always have four or five books on the go at the same time. Currently, my list includes: Mantissa (John Fowles,) Finn (Jon Clinch,) You Are Here (Thich Nhat Hanh,) Rock Springs (Richard Ford,) Fortune’s Children (Arthur T. Vanderbilt II,) and The Cloister Walk (Kathleen Norris).

Q: What social issue are you most passionate about?
Robin: As a teacher, administrator and educational coach/consultant, I believe that Early Childhood experiences are key to the outcomes demonstrated in society as a whole. I know that children who are born into poverty, those whose families are affected by illness including drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness, children who grow up without loving and kind parents and role models, and others who endure adverse experiences in childhood are likely to face enormous emotional, intellectual, educational and even physical challenges later in life. Without the foundation of healthy early life, our community as a whole suffers damage. As Thomas Reid once said: we are only as strong as our weakest link. I believe that our energy and attention should be focused in great part on ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to start life in the best way possible.

Q: Who is your hero?
Robin: Victor Hugo. As a writer, I aspire to develop a fraction of the dedication he displayed to his work ethic. (After his exile to the Channel Islands off the coast of England, he used to stand at a podium to write, facing the window which overlooked the sea, and set a minimum of 4 hours at a stretch.) Hugo was a poet and writer of novels whose message of freedom from tyranny was clear and effective. I see him as one of the world’s iconic champions of social justice.

You can learn more about our Partners here on our website.


Synergy Academies: Empowering Parents to Help Close the Gap

February 6, 2013

Synergy AcademiesInspired by their amazing work in South LA,  LASVP Partners have put their time and talent behind Synergy Academies. Since our initial investment in 2010, LASVP Partners have given over 465 hours of strategic assistance to Synergy in areas such as executive coaching, IT infrastructure, financial planning, and board development.    

What makes Synergy Academies’ outstanding academic results even more impressive is that most students arrive at Synergy underprepared.  According to Synergy Co-Founder and CEO Meg Palisoc, “Almost 100% of our kindergarten students every year [begin by performing below the standards] in everything.  They’re already behind at age 5…they don’t know their letters, numbers, shapes and colors in English or Spanish.”

It’s impossible to point to a single cause for the achievement gap between middle-class white students and low-income African-American and Latino students; there are a myriad of socioeconomic factors at play that lead to inequalities in school preparedness. While some may believe that parental apathy is to blame,  Meg says that most Synergy parents want to do all they can to help their children succeed, but suffer from a lack of useful information.  “There needs to be more out there to help educate parents in our community…they’re really crying out for help.”

A concerned mother of one underprepared kindergartner asked Meg, “Is this a problem, that my child doesn’t know these things?”

According to Meg, “I told her, ‘At your child’s age, she should be capable of knowing [letters and numbers]…don’t worry, that’s why we’re here; we’re going to work together with you.’  I didn’t want to make her feel bad, but I also wanted to educate her about her child’s developmental capabilities.  When I asked if her child had gone to Preschool, she said yes, she had been going since she was 2 or 3.   She had even asked the Preschool teacher if she, as a mother, should be teaching her child letters and numbers and colors.  The teacher said, ‘No, that’s a kindergarten standard, let the kindergarten teacher do that.’”

The mother didn’t question this bad advice.  After all, it came from a person in a position of authority; a person who she logically assumed had more knowledge than she did about how a child should be educated.  “Obviously her child struggled,” says Meg, but the dedicated and caring teachers at Synergy helped the student catch up. They accomplished this with the indispensable support of the child’s mother, who, armed with advice from Meg, was now aware of what she could do to help.

You can learn more about Synergy Academies’ recipe for success by joining one of their upcoming Synergy Trade Secrets Tours. If you want to help Synergy’s work to help students and families thrive, you can register your credit cards and grocery club cards (Ralph’s Club Card, Target REDCard, etc.) so that a portion of your purchase will be donated to Synergy or make a donation.


Celebrating SVP and Looking Forward to 2013

February 6, 2013

LASVPIt was great to see everyone at the first Partner Meeting of the year on January 31st. It was a good follow up to our New Year’s Resolution Party as we’re all looking for ways to share our ideas and talents to make a difference together.

We kicked off the meeting by taking a look at the highlights from 2012, including:

    • Welcoming 11 new Partners
    • Completing and gaining board approval for our new strategic plan
    • Approving our final reinvestments with GrowingGreat and Synergy Academies
    • Helping our 3 Investees strengthen their organizations and serve more LA-area residents
    • Successfully organizing and hosting our 5th Annual Social Innovation Fast Pitch
      (Watch the highlight reel.)

We recognized our Founding Partners for their years of dedication and support in building stronger communities with Los Angeles Social Venture Partners. We’d like to thank the following Partners for all they’ve done and all they continue to do to support LASVP:

Additionally, we recognized those Partners who have been part of the LASVP family for five or more years. Their continued commitment to LASVP and belief in the potential of Los Angeles is exactly what makes our Partnership great. Thank you:

We are also very proud to recognize Betsy Densmore as the LASVP Partner with the most reported volunteer hours in 2012! Betsy is a member of the LASVP Board of Directors, was the Lead Partner on the Social Innovation Fast Pitch, represented Los Angeles at the SVP Conference, and aided in recruiting efforts. But maybe the most amazing part is… Betsy does all this while living in Orange County! We are tremendously lucky to have such an outstanding and dedicated person in our Partnership.

Looking forward to 2013, we received an update about our Investees and opportunities for Partners to volunteer with them.

GrowingGreat is looking for Partners to identify 5 new schools to receive their healthy eating education program in the 2013-2014 school year, and to work with them on business development, school launch plans, and a long-term geographic expansion strategy. LA Diaper Drive is looking for connections to sources for diaper donations and aid with their governance and operating policies and procedures. With Synergy Academies, we’ll finish up the projects we have underway and support the ramp up of longer-term HR projects to make sure they’re well-positioned as we wrap up our investment in 2013.

We’re also very excited about our upcoming Education Investment Cycle! For the last two months, the Education Investment Committee has been doing some fantastic and fascinating exploration in the education arena of Los Angeles. Taking a look at STEM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), Early Childhood Education, Advocacy, and Collective Impact, the team found a variety of opportunities for LASVP and shared their new knowledge with one another.  And, after some debate, they have recommended that for this upcoming cycle we should focus on a Collective Impact approach to issues in education. (See the slide deck for further detail.)

We still have several key questions to answer about how we’re going to make investments using the Collective Impact approach, but we’re excited to dig in and learn all we can. LASVP Partners can join the team anytime.

We’re off to a good start this year! We have some fun projects and interesting learning opportunities on the horizon. We have great people in our Partnership and we’re hoping to find more.  2013 is our year, SVP!

Partners Only: If you missed the Partner Meeting and want to know more, you can view the slides from the meeting here, take a look at the master calendar here, or contact Diane or a member of the Education Investment Committee with questions.


GrowingGreat Has New Energy

January 8, 2013

Get Healthy with GrowingGreat!GrowingGreat‘s mission is to inspire children and adults to adopt healthy eating habits through innovative classroom nutrition lessons, school gardens, and community events. The organization has been an LASVP investee since late 2009.

GrowingGreat has a new team, which is bringing fresh energy to take the organization to the next level. Executive Director, Burgandie Onekea officially started at the end of May, and has been driving positive change to advance the mission of GrowingGreat. Burgandie is a seasoned, skilled, and accomplished nonprofit Executive leader who has dedicated her career to improving the health and lives of the people and their communities for over 15 years. Burgandie expressed: “It is a privilege and joy to work for an organization whose mission focuses on education, driving change in behavior in children & adults as we inspire healthy eating habits. We have a dedicated team of staff and volunteers who are passionate about nutrition and prevention, educating our youth and adults to join us in making a true difference in our communities through our mission, and decreasing the risk of obesity and disease.”

Burgandie is originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, and has a personal passion for healthy living and the mission of GrowingGreat. She is happily married with two children and enjoys sharing her life and faith, and making a difference in the lives she has the privilege to touch.

GrowingGreat also welcomes Jill Coons, Program Manager who joins GrowingGreat’s staff after serving as a longtime volunteer and contributor. Jill is a strong businesswoman with a extensive background in Event and Program Management. She is skilled in sustainable gardens, nutrition, and volunteer management. Jill is a graduate of the University of Arizona with experience in Agriculture and an emphasis in Landscape Architecture.  She is a dedicated wife and mother who loves spending her free time with her husband, David, and her three wonderful sons. As the very first volunteer for GrowingGreat, Jill has dedicated herself to the GrowingGreat mission for over 9 years and now she has transitioned to a lead staff management role as the new Program Manager. Jill’s passion, experience, and expertise allowed for a seamless transition and we foresee a stronger Program Department as she continues to further expand GrowingGreat’s outreach.

Last, but certainly not least, Kristy Gump, Community Development Manager, focuses on developing stronger partnerships throughout the community. As a part of her role, she will be building a Development Department with emphasis on income development, marketing and communications. Kristy joined GrowingGreat in January and is passionate about the GrowingGreat mission. She is originally from a small town in the Sierra foothills and moved to Los Angeles to attend Loyola Marymount University, graduating with a B.A. in English. She worked with the Long Beach Opera and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in development and administrative capacities, before shifting her focus to education and her true passion – nutrition and healthy living. She also held fundraising and management positions with The Oaks School in Hollywood and New City Public Schools in Long Beach. While at New City, Kristy helped manage the creation of the New City School Farm – one of her most valued accomplishments. She loves to cook for her husband, garden on her little patio, and shop at the local farmer’s market over the weekend.

To learn more about GrowingGreat’s mission and accomplishments, visit their website at www.growinggreat.org.