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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Evolution of an Investee: Reflection on Investee GrowingGreat

August 6, 2013

Get Healthy with GrowingGreat!An SVP Investee since late 2009, GrowingGreat’s mission is to inspire children and adults to adopt healthy eating habits through innovative classroom nutrition lessons, school gardens and community events.  Here’s what Lead Partner Lance Tendler had to say about working with GrowingGreat.

Q: What attracted you to volunteering with GrowingGreat?
Lance:
I was a coach for the 2009 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, and GrowingGreat was one of the organizations participating. Co-founder Peggy Curry was representing GG. Her energy is very infectious and I was quickly won over by her presence, and her passion for the cause of nutrition education and inspiring healthy eating habits. LASVP Partner Steve Raymond was guiding GrowingGreat through the process of applying to be an Investee of LASVP, and was looking for a co-lead Partner, and I quickly agreed. GrowingGreat’s work is universal – it’s a cause that is relevant to all of us regardless of economic status, race, or creed.

Rita with lettuce_smallQ: Where do you think LASVP Partners have added the most value to GrowingGreat?
Lance:
The Board of GrowingGreat is small but competent, and the organization had a history of relative success prior to allying with LASVP. Early on Steve led a technology initiative relative to rebuilding the GG website, and the migration to a web delivery model for GrowingGreat’s classroom content and teaching plan. But generally, I would say that the greatest value came at a high level such as strategic planning, governance and board development, which is helping them evolve from a very volunteer-based organization to one with experienced professional staff. LASVP helped facilitate an intensive strategic planning initiative, and LASVP sponsored GrowingGreat’s participation in the Annenberg Alchemy program which focuses on Board Governance and best practices.

ggbuild2Q: What’s next for GrowingGreat?
Lance:
The organization is making an important transition in terms of service delivery. Initially a lot of the food handling, documentation delivery, teaching and instruction was organized and provided directly by GrowingGreat volunteers and staff. The classroom lessons and content are loaded onto the site now, which creates an opportunity to deliver GrowingGreat value to a significantly larger footprint. By emphasizing the content, and phasing out the physical delivery, GrowingGreat really becomes a national force.


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.


LA Diaper Drive: A Medium for Change for Families in Poverty

March 6, 2013

Los Angeles Diaper DriveLA Diaper Drive is the second largest diaper bank in the country, and has the unique position of being the only diaper bank using diapers as an incentive for attending GED prep and life skills classes. LASVP connected with LA Diaper Drive through the 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, and the organization is now one of our investees. You can watch Caroline Kunitz’s prize winning pitch for LA Diaper Drive here.

LA Diaper Drive provides diapers to families that can’t afford them.  If that was all they did, they’d be providing a wonderful service to communities in need.  But the organization does more than that.  Their strategy for distributing diapers helps families across Los Angeles find ways out of poverty.  That strategy is what got LASVP’s attention, and it’s a big part of why we chose to invest in the organization.

LA Diaper Drive donates diapers to established nonprofits, and those organizations use the free diapers as an incentive to get parents into programs, classes, and workshops that will help them learn how to be better parents and improve the lives of their family.  Take, for example, Anna and David*, participants in LAUSD’s Homeless Education Program.  In high school Anna became pregnant, and her parents kicked her out of the house.  After their baby was born, she and her boyfriend David did all they could to keep up their education by taking turns going to school.  Eventually this became too difficult and they stopped going altogether.  The Homeless Education Program intervened, helping them find a more flexible school and offering diapers from LA Diaper Drive as an incentive to keep going to class.

Anna and David started going to school regularly. They got help from some other programs, too, including a “Christmas adoption” program through which another family gave them presents for the holidays. The young couple eventually graduated from high school, found work, and made their way out of homelessness. They even became strong enough as a family to give back to the organizations that had helped them—after graduation, they became Christmas adoption sponsors themselves, providing presents for a family that was in the situation they were once in.

This kind of life-changing result is what inspires LASVP to support LA Diaper Drive.  A diaper may be a small thing, but, as Board Chair Caroline Kunitz tells us, “a diaper can help you move forward or keep you down.”  By meeting this fundamental need in a creative way, LA Diaper Drive is helping to change lives.

*Names have been changed

You too can aid this amazing work by making a financial or in-kind contribution to LA Diaper Drive through their website. Thanks to connections they have made with generous suppliers, LA Diaper Drive receives free or deeply discounted diapers. $1000 given to LA Diaper Drive can keep 29 babies in diapers and 29 parents in classes for an entire year. That works out to be less than $35 for an entire year’s worth of service to a family.


Partner Q & A: Keith Kegley

January 8, 2013

Keith Kegley, SVP PartnerKeith Kegley is a technology entrepreneur and philanthropist. He joined Social Venture Partners in Seattle in 1997 and has been an active partner in Los Angeles since 2006.

Q: How were you introduced to LASVP?

Keith: I heard about it soon after Paul Brainerd and Scott Oki came up with the idea of it in 1997 and joined as soon as I met Paul Shoemaker.

Q: Why did you decide to get involved and what have your roles been with SVP over time?

Keith: I was inspired by the core mission to train and develop savvy philanthropists and felt a deep connection with that agenda, so I began as the first partner education lead. A group of us designed the early philanthropy curriculum in Seattle.  We recruited a roster of notable experts and innovative philanthropists to lead a series of workshops and programs and were offering about 40 courses a year. I led the partner orientation workshops for the first 8 years and have co-led a series of those here in Los Angeles as well.  I’ve served as a lead partner for 2 investees and as a board member in Los Angeles and actively contribute in various ways to SVPI.

Q: What is your favorite part of being involved in LASVP?

Keith: Learning about the sector, working with social entrepreneurs and investees, collaborating with partners, and teaching partners how to upgrade their philanthropic confidence and savvy.

Q: What is the most memorable experience that you’ve had so far with LASVP?

Keith: Working with Healthy Child Healthy World as a lead partner, feeling confident in our ability to help them and be a resourceful change agent in their transformation as an organization.

Q: What did you dream of when you were a kid?

Keith: I read lots of science fiction, spy novels or political thrillers, so mostly I imagined how the future would be very different and how exciting that was going to be. I got a glimpse of the accelerating pace of technology, won a national invention competition and earned my first patent when I was 15. To me, the future was going to be full of socially transformative inventions and institutions.

Q: What do you look forward to on the weekends?

Keith: Time at home with my wife Ali.

Q: What social issue are you most passionate about?

Keith: I began as a true Earth First tree hugger after hiking through clear-cuts the north cascades, then evolved to realize the environment was an economic justice issue and have progressed to realize that as human beings move into the middle class they care more about the quality of the air, the water, the food and the health of their communities. I believe that for the planet to support a multi-billion person, modern, global society we need as many people in that middle class as we can manage because that’s what stabilizes populations, shifts resources to address those issues, and generates the demand for policies that take care of those concerns.

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


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.


Congratulations to Synergy Academies

December 4, 2012

synergy-academiesSynergy Academies has been an LASVP Investee since 2010. With the opening of their high school, Synergy Quantum Academy, in 2011, Synergy Academies now reaches 1,200 K-12 students in South LA.

At Synergy Academies the values of hardwork, encouragement, and accomplishment are just some of the ways the staff and student “scholars” are creating an equal opportunity learning experience in South Los Angeles. As a charter school, Synergy accepts all types of students with a range of abilities and learning backgrounds who come from impoverished and underdeveloped inner-city areas. The Synergy student body is predominately composed of African American, Hispanic, and Latino students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. Historically, these students would have found themselves in a school that was performing significantly lower than their counterparts in affluent communities. Despite the struggles these scholars face, “The Synergy Creed” brings the learning community together.

The Synergy Creed:
At Synergy, we’re all in this together because together we are better.
We bring out the best in each other and in ourselves, every day in every way.
~Randy Palisoc, Co-Founder

Synergy Academies had another outstanding year of academic achievement. The California Department of Education recently released the 2012 Academic Performance Index (API) Reports, which are used as part of a school’s accountability progress reporting to determine whether a school is meeting performance standards. The target for all schools in California is a score of 800.

This year, Synergy Charter Academy (Elementary School) achieved a chart-topping 934 and remains one of the highest performing schools in Los Angeles. Schools with similar demographics also made progress toward the 800 benchmark, but are still performing in the low to mid-700 range, with some schools in area performing close to 650. Synergy Kinetic Academy (Middle School) met their school wide target scoring 805 and is out performing schools with similar demographics by approximately 50-70 points.

Over the last three years, LASVP Partners have provided support to Synergy through strategic planning, branding, marketing, IT, financial planning, executive coaching, and funding. And we’re seeing a great return on the investments of time, talent, and money that we have invested.

Congratulations to everyone at Synergy Academies for not only another outstanding year of academic achievement, but also for keeping their commitment to creating stronger schools, stronger students, and a stronger community.

If you would like to support Synergy Academies, you can connect a STEM field professional with the school who can speak to the students about their job experience, 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.


Witness the Power of the SVP Network!

December 4, 2012

Diane and Way-Ting at SVP Conference 2012Last month, 7 Partners and staff members represented LASVP at the largest Social Venture Partners conference to date in Portland, OR. The growing SVP network now has over 2,300 Partners in 29 cities around the globe, including the most recent additions to the network Chicago and Bangalore. Over 300 people came together to stretch their thinking and share ideas. There was even a nonprofit delegation from China who was able to join and share how SVP is becoming a global movement.

With almost 20 breakout sessions to attend and hundreds of socially engaged people to meet, SVP Partners were able to make connections and learn more about the power of the network at every turn. Sessions on Innovation in Education, Collective Action, and Financing Social Impact gave an overview of what is happening across the network and the movements that SVPers want to be a part of. In the Excellence in SVP track, Executive Director Diane Helfrey and Partner Way-Ting Chen  (pictured) led a session on the LASVP Impact Framework and the Strategic Planning process to a packed room of people eager to learn from our experience!

Plenary speaker Dan Palotta, author of Uncharitable and Charity Case, provided an update on the Charity Defense Council. The Charity Defense Council seeks to be a voice for the nonprofit sector and act as an anti-defamation league. The organization has been granted 501(c)3 status, built a board, and has defined their five primary functions. SVPI board member and SVP Cincinnati Partner, Tom Callinan is aiding in the effort as well, as the chair of the Charity Defense Council’s anti-defamation committee.

Keynote speaker, Sam Kaner, author of the Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making, helped us think about our group interactions and how we can move toward consensus decision making. We learned about the dreaded “groan zone” that is a natural part of true consensus decision-making. The “groan zone” happens when a group finds itself with a number of ideas, opinions, and possible courses of action and must work through the diverse options in order to move toward consensus. Kaner described it as “struggle in the service of integration” and we learned that by helping one another to understand and communicate with each other, we can reach a decision.

On Changemakers Night, we heard firsthand how difficulties, setbacks, and failures lead to innovation. Matt Flannery of Kiva, Jill Vialet of Playworks, and Craig Kielburger of Free the Children all inspired us to keep moving through our own struggles as we stretch ourselves to the next level of impact and unleash our own potential. This trio of speakers gave us real-world examples of people who were lost, who failed, and who weren’t taken seriously, but found the strength to move ahead and create organizations that are making a better world, showing us all that innovation and change are possible.

If you weren’t able to make it to the conference this year, be sure to stay tuned to all of our SVP news and make plans to attend the next annual conference in Silicon Valley on October 18-19. It is a wonderful time to see the power of the SVP network in action and witness the power of coming together to create change in our communities.


Partner Q & A: Ron Sinha

October 31, 2012

Ron SinhaRon Sinha has been an Associate Partner at LASVP since 2011. In addition to his work with LASVP Investee Synergy Academies, Ron helped coach Tamika Butler of Young Invincibles to victory at this year’s Social Innovation Fast Pitch.

Q: How were you introduced to LASVP?

Ron: I was introduced to Diane Helfrey by a high school teacher of mine from back in the day, Ari Engelberg, who happened to work at Bright Star Schools, one of LASVP’s early investees. Upon moving back to LA, I had mentioned to Ari that I wanted to stay connected in the social sector here and he thought LASVP would be a good start. After that, I talked to Diane and attended some events and knew that it’d be a great group of people to work with.

Q: Why did you join LASVP?

Ron: Back in Boston, I worked in social impact strategy consulting / research, and loved it. I wanted to stay involved in a volunteer capacity in that type of work out here since the job I moved back for was in a completely different space! I think connecting high-performing organizations with the resources they need is key to propelling the sector forward, and LASVP works in many ways towards that goal.

Q: What do you think is the biggest barrier to creating social change?

Ron: The misallocation of resources, ranging from financial resources to human capital.

Q: What social issue are you most passionate about?

Ron: It’s a tie between economic empowerment and youth education.

Q: What do you look forward to on the weekends?

Ron: Acting, writing, movies, running and hanging out.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about what it’s been like to work on a volunteer project with one of our Investees?

Ron: Interested in unique and effective models around education, I jumped at the opportunity to leverage my analytical skills on a project with one of our investees, Synergy Academies. I am working with a few other partners and members of the school staff to analyze and improve the school’s internal finance tools, and to build a performance dashboard that can ultimately be used by the school’s board to drive operational decisions. In addition to providing me with the opportunity to apply my quantitative mind to the sector, this has allowed me to gain exposure to a high-performing school in the area and the fantastic staff and students that make it what it is.

You can read more about our Partners on our website.


Partner Q & A: Amy Friedman Cecil

October 5, 2012

Amy Friedman CecilAmy Friedman Cecil has been an LASVP Partner since 2011, and she’s doing it all. From Fast Pitch to investees to Partner education, Amy’s there!

Q: How were you introduced to LASVP?

Amy: I was introduced to LASVP by my good friend Nancy Hammerman.  She took me to a open house event where I heard many people speak about the organization.  I was really impressed with the impact LASVP had on both its investees and its partners.  I was also excited by the diversity and energy of the partners.  By the end of the afternoon I had committed to LASVP and am very glad to have made that decision.

Q: What is your favorite part of being involved in LASVP?

Amy: My favorite part about my LASVP involvement is the range of experience it offers.  Since joining last year I have consulted with GrowingGreat and have led a focus group to get input on a new service delivery module. I am part of the Fast Pitch planning team and have participated in the pre-screen and full application review and selection and am assisting at the Fast Pitch coaching sessions (yes- that was me with the camera).  I am also part of the Partner Education committee along with Amy Johnson and Ellen Sloan.  This is a wonderful opportunity to work with two very intelligent women at very different trajectories of their careers and to create a curriculum which will have a broad and deep influence over how and what partners can learn through this organization.

Q: What inspires you to make a difference?

Amy: I have been a volunteer since my childhood.  What I have learned is how very little it takes to change someone’s life for the better.  You don’t need much experience, or much time, money or effort to make an impact.  But with a greater investment of any or all of the foregoing, magical things can happen. I am constantly amazed by the way in which the process of working with others is so rich and rewarding.

Q: What do you listen to when you’re stuck in traffic?

Amy: My traffic distraction really depends on my state of mind.  If I am calm I can listen to KCRW/NPR or KPFC, although the broadcast material itself might get me upset.  If the traffic is really bad I may have to blast Ben Folds or the Decemberists to keep me going. If I am in need of soothing, it is a toss-up between classical or Joni Mitchell on CD.

Q: Who was your favorite teacher in school?

Amy: My favorite was Mrs. Hibblein, my first grade teacher, because she was so supportive and kind.  This is my best memory of her: We were sculpting an animal to go with a book we had been reading and I was trying to fashion wings for my swan. I could not get the wings to stand up because the dough was too heavy.  She came over and told me not to give up, but rather to imagine what the swan looked like in many positions.  She said she knew I could make it work (shades of Tim Gunn).  When she came back, I had carved lines on the swan’s back and told her that his wings were folded.  She was so delighted at the way I solved the problem that even at that age I felt empowered.  That first grade swan still sits on my desk.

Q: What do you think is the biggest barrier to creating social change?

Amy: Imagination and implementation.  There are so many barriers: financial, partisan politics, lack of time, a lack of hands and help, the incredible magnitude and complexity of the problems which need to be addressed. It sometimes seems that large-scale social change is impossible and this is disheartening.  But then someone imagines a better life and has the courage to implement their idea and things happen.  It takes imagination to see that change is possible, to craft a shape it can take, and then to see it to fruition.

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