Accelerating Social Change: Celebrating My First Year as CEO of PresenTense Israel

by Guy Spigelman

Actually, I have the best job in the world. It’s true. Everyday, I get to meet incredible people who are going to make their communities, countries and the world a better place. If optimism was a currency, and some say that it is, well I am surrounded by a treasure trove.

I had the good fortune to join a relatively young organization with very solid foundations, made up of a fantastic professional team, unique curriculum and methodologies, and a large and growing community of supporters. Ariel Beery and Aaron Horowitz, and all the others, did a great job.

Of course there were and are challenges, but as my friend Mike Prashker (the Founder of Merchavim) says, “joy at work is about facing challenges you know you can meet head-on.”

The main task at hand was to do more, to scale. To take PresenTense’s fellowship – the Community Enterprise Partnership, or as we now call it, our community based Venture Accelerator, to more locations, to more populations and to more content areas.

And this is what we are doing. Together with our fellow travellers – the community partners we deliver programs with and the venture philanthropists who support us, we are impacting local economies, changing the narrative for disaffected populations, and transforming neighborhoods and communities.

In Ra’anana we have launched the first Venture Accelerator worldwide for new ventures that will improve the lives of people with disabilities – in partnership with Bet Issie Shapiro and the Ruderman Family Foundation. We call it A3i – standing for “Accelerating Inclusion In Israel” – applications are still open here.

In Nazareth, we have partnered with Cisco and the Nazareth Business Incubator Center – to launch nazTech – the first technology StartUp accelerator for Arab Israeli Entrepreneurs. For some it sparks a question – why should an organization that has been so focused on the Jewish world, run a program for Arab Israelis? Our answer is simple – if we are going to build an exemplary Jewish State – then we have to show the world that the minorities among us have full access to participate and realize their potential – just as Jews around the world, wherever they live, should not be limited in any way.

In Jerusalem – with the generous support of the Leichtag Foundation – we are running a brand new program called SCALE. By PRESENTENSE, with a cohort of existing organizations who are facing a point of inflection and who want to explore ways to reach the next level.

Also in Jerusalem we adapted our flagship program to incorporate a community partner, the Jerusalem Movement, and with the support of the Leichtag Foundation, we launched the 5th year of Yazamim – over 100 applicants stemming from all of Jerusalem’s diverse neighborhoods have applied.

One of the core components of our work is building local steering committees to guide the Venture Accelerators, to ensure that they are addressing the vital needs of the community. I had the privilege to attend the first steering committee meeting of The Haifa Project – a social business and social venture accelerator we run in conjunction with the Haifa Young Adult Center, and the Boston Haifa Connection. There I discovered some of the real challenges faced within neighborhoods – with little or no cultural and community activity, and relatively few services for young families.

Beyond these programs we have run dozens of workshops, completed a program with the Heseg Foundation released lone soldiers and advised the Tel Aviv Council and the Jerusalem Development Authority on building spaces of entrepreneurship.

I constantly tell the professional and super dedicated team I work with – we have to always keep our eye on the prize. We need to spread the entrepreneurial message to 100% of Israel – to help people and communities take charge of their own lives, and transform the “StartUp Nation” to the “GroundUp Nation”. I simply can’t wait for the next year, and beyond.

Guy Spigelman is CEO of PresenTense Israel.