An interview with Tim Savoy

dc-center-by-tommy-wells-optimizedAn interview with Tim Savoy
Public Health MPH ’14
Student in the Spring 2014 ‘Philanthropy and Social Enterprise’ course taught by Dr. Blaine Parrish

May 28, 2014

Q. What motivated you to take the Philanthropy and Social Enterprise course with Dr. Blaine Parrish?
I was motivated to take the philanthropy and social entrepreneurship course with Dr. Parrish because I am interested professionally with corporate social responsibility (CSR). To me, I have always been interested in where private enterprise intersects with philanthropy and how the corporate world can shape charitable giving. I have seen corporations throw money at causes to no avail, and yet have also seen targeted and message driven campaigns by other corporations that make major impact. This made me want to learn more about how this process happens.

Q. How was it similar and distinct from other academic courses available to you in your program?
My Master’s degree is in public health, concentrating in epidemiology (the study of disease across populations). Believe it or not, this course complimented my coursework in a big way. Through my program in epidemiology, my colleagues and I learn about the biggest health problems both here in the US and abroad. This course, in many ways, put that knowledge into action. This course taught me how to ask the best questions in order to understand how to make the most informed charitable gift.

Q. What surprised you most about the course?
I was most surprised about the giving experience. Initially, our class put out a request for proposals (RFP) to about 8 HIV-related nonprofits. However, these were all major players in HIV in the Washington, D.C. area, and I think they saw our $10,000 grant as a small opportunity. Thus, we really had to think outside the box about how to market our gift to other groups. In the world of philanthropy, donations like ours may be small, but I was surprised to see the amount of innovation we were able to find with the DC Center for the LGBT Community for our gift.

Q.Tell us your understanding of how philanthropy and social enterprise connect.
Philanthropy and social enterprise and constantly evolving. There has been a generational shift over the past several decades from philanthropy that focuses on just a cause (for example, focusing on a specific disease) to a focus on innovation and impact (really getting at “HOW” we can make change).

To me, philanthropy 2.0 (as we call it) could not exist without social enterprise and vice versa. Both of these concepts in the modern day feed off of each other. This is clear when we look at the current environment for philanthropy and social enterprises. Groups like Kickstarter and Indigogo are based on the idea that philanthropists really want to feel connected to their causes.

Q. What were some key takeaways from your experience with the course?
I had several takeaways from this course. They included a better understanding of how philanthropy has evolved over time, how to adequately make grant funding and philanthropic donations, and finally, how corporate giving can be made to give back to communities while also promoting enterprise.

Q. Give us an anecdote or story about the course–an “aha moment” or some compelling moment.
During our check presentation to the DC Center, my classmate and I got to present a large check (physically, it was about 5 feet long!) to the board of directors at the organizations headquarters. During the presentation, I had a overwhelming feeling of joy as we did press and photos with the organization. The individuals at this nonprofit, a very small group compared to some of the HIV players in DC, were very grateful for our gift and it was an amazing opportunity to give back to a good cause that promotes innovation.

Q. How does this experience contribute to your professional goals?
I am someone who is a big fan of interdisciplinary research and learning. This course enhanced this as the course was truly service-learning in multiple disciplines at its finest. The course had elements of research within public health while also focusing on policy and project management. I believe that this course will allow me to better understand my giving philosophy when I started a full time career.

Q. If a fellow GW student were on the fence about taking this course, what would you say to them?
This is the only time in my six years at GW that I have been given $10,000 to spend as I wish. This will be an opportunity that you may not have for many years! Take this course because you will get first-hand, real life experience in the world of philanthropy and understand how major gifts are made!

Read more about the grant in Metro Weekly, and an interview with the faculty member leading the course here.

An Interview with Kristen Pinto ‘Perform for Peace’

May 23, 2014

Q. What does “social entrepreneurship” mean to you?

A. Social entrepreneurship means developing creative solutions to pressing social issues.

Q. Tell us about the issue you’re addressing through your initiative (or “commitment to action,” in the terms of the Clinton Global Initiative University.

A. Elementary and middle school kids face bullying everyday. My project, Perform for Peace, aims to interrupt the cycle of violence and raise awareness about bullying.

Q. What exactly does Perform for Peace do?

A. By employing theater as a positive, creative outlet, the Perform for Peace initiative teaches peace skills to middle schoolers. It introduces them to theater around the world, strengthens their reading and writing skills, and equips them with the tools to peacefully address bullying in their schools.

Q. What is Perform for Peace’s goal?

A. The goal is to harness the community-building capacity of theater to inspire and empower potential peacemakers. Standing up to bullying in schools starts by teaching students how to peacefully resolve conflict

Q. What moment or moments inspired you to move from thought to action?

A. Last year through my service with a peacemaking nonprofit, I led a short, 4 week lesson on theater games. We then wrote a skit about how to use peace skills in school. My “Perform for Peace” initiative is inspired by this project. I loved seeing how much the kids enjoyed performing and how they were able to learn from the experience.

Q. How does taking on the responsibility of your own commitment to actionsupport your professional goals?

I am majoring in public health, and violence is a pressing public health threat. My venture supports my professional goals by helping me practice and implement an intervention that helps ameliorate an important issue.

Q. Who has served as a mentor for you in developing Perform for Peace?

A. My mentor and inspiration for this venture is MJ Park, the co-founder and director of Little Friends for Peace, a nonprofit organization in DC that empowers children and adults to employ non-violent conflict resolution to solve their problems and create a culture of peace. MJ inspires me because of her dedication to her vision and her compassion for everyone in the community. She believes that peace needs to be experienced, learned and practiced, and it is such a privilege to help her spread the Little Friends for Peace mission.

Q. How did becoming a Clinton Global Initiative University commitment maker, and attending the annual gathering of 1,100 student social entrepreneurs from around the globe this past March, make a difference for you?

A. It was an incredible opportunity. I was able to network with other students interested in peace and conflict resolution in the DC area. I have been able to connect them with Little Friends for Peace and start potential partnerships. The best part of the conference was hearing about all the different ventures. It was inspiring to hear so many college students talk about their passions and what they aspired to achieve to make a difference.

Q. What’s your next step to roll out your Perform for Peace project?

A. Right now, I am hoping to do a small pilot project over the summer with some peace campers at Little Friends for Peace. If I do not have the opportunity to pursue my venture over the summer, I plan to collaborate with Little Friends for Peace to see if there is a site during the school year to pilot my program.

Q. What would you say to a fellow GW student who was interested in engaging in social entrepreneurship?

A. If you are passionate about something and you have an idea, go for it! There are wonderful students, professors, faculty, and community leaders that will help you every step of the way and who want to see you succeed.

“If Bono had a Record Label”

An interview with Max Grossman (ESIA BA ’17)

May 14, 2014

Q. Tell us about social entrepreneurship. What does it mean to you?
A. Social entrepreneurship is about citizens creating solutions to social problems that governments and traditional businesses have not yet been able to fix.

Q. What problem are you working to solve?
A. GenerationA seeks to solve three pain points: (1) social initiatives’ lack of funding and exposure, (2) artists’ inability to reach larger audiences, and (3) Millennials’ desire for socially conscious products.

Q. What is GenerationA all about? What does it aim to do?
A. GenerationA is a socially conscious record label that produces music, puts on events, and creates video content. We provide (1) social initiatives with funding, (2) music artists with exposure; (3) Millennials with the socially conscious music experience they desire.

Q. Who are some mentors who have provided insights for GenerationA?
A. Melanie Fedri, the Coordinator of GWupstart, has been an unbelievable resource for GenerationA. She’s honest, knowledgeable, and always seems to have the right critique or suggestion on how to address issues GenerationA has faced. Ron Bose, our mentor for the finals, has been extremely insightful in terms of our financials. Professor John Rollins has taught us how best to write our business plan, and Professor Lynda Maddox has shown us how best to pitch GenerationA! Also, for me in particular, my dad is my inspiration. He works like no one I’ve ever met.

Q. Have you had an “aha” moments of insight while working to get Generation A off and running?
A. Maybe not an aha moment, but definitely a pivot, going-back-to-the-drawing-board moment. Just this week GenerationA met a university student–a Millennial in our target demographic–who loved the goals of GenerationA but had suggestions as to exactly what kind of artists GenerationA should target, and how also to really hone in on the social component of the record label. The student’s comments were vital, unexpected, and we took them seriously. Aha!

Q. So it sounds like GenerationA has been “getting out of the building” a lot to understand what your prospective customers really want. How has that process gone for you?
A. As GW students, we tell a lot of our friends about the idea, because they are in many ways the Millennial audience whose pain points we are seeking to solve. They share comments, considerations, and questions that half of the time get us even more excited about the idea of GenerationA. The other half of the time, they get us brainstorming how we can reshape GenerationA’s product so it is exactly what our “customer archetype” is looking for.

Q. GenerationA seems like it thrives on collaboration. Have you had any early wins with collaborations?
A. GenerationA has worked with GRID (Gaming Revolution for International Development), a non-profit venture that creates video games that teaches best practices to address the nuances of international development. GRID just launched their pilot video game that featured music produced by GenerationA’s own Bryce Connolly. For GenerationA, this was our first experience working with a social initiative. It was a very helpful way to learn about social initiatives’ needs and concerns.

Q. How did competing in the GW Business Plan Competition all the way through the finals affect GenerationA?
A. The Business Plan Competition was an incubator for my team. It forced us to write our business plan, pitch our idea, ‘get out the office,’ and ask people what they thought. It provided us mentorship and, most importantly, allowed us to fail as a venture—we did not win the competition. Failure is essential to success, and has hardened us to pursue our vision.

Q. If a GW student was on the fence about turning their ideas into action through social entrepreneurship, what would you say to him or her?
A. I would say to someone on the fence about social entrepreneurship to hop off the fence and get involved! GW has so many resources to help actualize whatever it is you want to accomplish with a social venture. With hard work and the ability accept and consider feedback, really, the sky is the limit.

Q. How does your work with GenerationA support your professional goals?
A. If it were not for becoming a part of GenerationA’s team, I would not have had the experience of working with such a solid team to write a business plan, nor would I have pitched a business in my first year of undergrad. These two experiences have been invaluable. They’ve shown me the ins of what it takes to  start an entrepreneurial venture.

Q. What’s next for GenerationA?
A. Next for GenerationA is producing music, conducting more artist outreach, and streamlining how best to provide value propositions for all three of our customers.

Watch Generation A Record’s Finalist Pitch in the 2014 GW Business Plan Competition:

In the game of international development

GWupstart’s Melanie Fedri took a moment to sit down with Mariam Adil (ESIA MS ’15)

May 12, 2014

Q. Tell us about social entrepreneurship. What does it mean to you?

A. When you mix entrepreneurial passion with a vision to change the world for the better you get social entrepreneurship. At its very core is the ambition to contribute positively to the world around you.

Q. You had the initial idea to found GRID. What problem are you working to solve?
A. There is a learning gap between the science of international development taught to students and development practitioners, and the art of development practiced by professionals in the field. Until now, there have been few tools to bridge that gap – to provide the experiential learning required to practice complex decision-making at a scale well beyond one-to-one interaction.

Q. What is GRID all about? What does it aim to do?
A. GRID provides low-cost, demand-driven gaming solutions for greater understanding of the challenges encountered in international development. With a push towards innovative use of technology in international development, and the recognition of the effectiveness of games as learning tools, the stage is set for development games to be introduced as training mechanisms for development practitioners and students.

Q. Was there one moment or a series of moments that inspired you to action?
A. Being a student and a practitioner of international development, I realized the importance of the art of development and the need for learning tools that could simulate the challenges faced in perfecting this art.

Q. Have you had an “aha” moments of insight while working to get GRID off and running?
A. It is easy to get carried away with the excitement of a new idea. An important lesson for me was “not everything can be simulated as a game,” and this came as a random thought when I was trying to make sure our first game did not end up looking like an online course module. It was an important thought that allows me to filter between challenges that have the potential to be simulated with GRID games.

Q. Has anyone been a sounding board for you in the process of founding GRID?
A. GRID has been a team effort and our inspiration has come in little doses, in the shape of moments when we’ve gotten to discuss our idea with development experts and they’ve told us GRID is unique and meets a pressing need.

Q. The diversity on GRID’s team is notable. Tell us about that.
A. GRID serves a niche market of gaming solutions for the development world. This marriage of gaming with development is a fairly new idea, and it helps build holistic knowledge in the field, which is hard to gain because topics are taught in a fragmented way. Creating games that simulate realistic scenarios for international development requires an interdisciplinary approach. GRID has a number of students and mentors from different fields on its team. Our student team members have expertise that ranges from economic development to public policy to computer programming to business administration to fine arts and music.

Q. You and two of your teammates attended CGI U 2014. How did that experience benefit GRID?
A. Two days packed with inspiration, passion, and optimism made CGI U the perfect launching pad for our first game.

Q. Can you share a valuable insight you picked up at CGI U?
A. We met Asi Buran of Games for Change at CGI U 2014, and he gave great advice about marketing social games. The pricing and marketing of social games is very different from conventional games.

Q. If a GW student was on the fence about social entrepreneurship, and turning thought into action, what would you have to say to him or her?
A. It won’t be easy but its worth every ounce of energy! There will come a time when your venture will be the driving force behind all your ambitions, be they professional or academic.

Q. How does your work with GRID support your professional goals?
A. Being a development practitioner myself, I know that holistic knowledge of the development process is critical. The process of developing GRID games helps me do my development work for the World Bank so much better. I know it can help thousands of practitioners and students just like me.

Q. What’s next for GRID?
A. We’ve piloted our first game with the World Bank, and we’re looking forward to expanding our reach and making more games.

GRID was also a 2014 Finalist in the GW Business Plan Competition. Watch their pitch in the final round here: