How Does Innovation Grow

343799216_c41ab75d74_mWhere is the center of Jewish life?

The debate continues. Some say the Upper West Side and others Jerusalem. But, make no mistake, beginning on Monday, that center of Jewish life is clearly located on ‘coffee house row’ – otherwise known as Emek Refaim – in Jerusalem’s historic German Colony. For here, in an unassuming multi-story building, a community centered around sixteen fellows is gathering. With a stated goal to foster innovation and creativity in order to drive the Jewish People’s mission forward, the PresenTense Summer Institute, cohort 3, is about to launch.

When one looks at the progress made over the past twenty-four months, particularly in the current economic climate, one cannot help but be impressed with what co-founders Ariel Beery and Aharon Horwitz have created. They, along with the entire PresenTense network, have spent the time developing and refining a “platform for social enterprise within the global Jewish community that equips the next generation of pioneers with the skills they need to change the world.”

PresenTense, developed and nurtured by a mostly 20-30ish volunteer demographic, is on a mission – and a roll.

They want to “change the way the Jewish people thinks, acts and works.” And now, as they transition from start-up phase to sustainability, they are well on the way – touching thousands and enriching the Jewish world through their programs and fellows’ venture projects.

With a developed understanding of what the Institute’s flagship program can provide to the Fellows, and the new addition this year of having the participants provide weekly deliverables, the program has – by any measure – come into its own.

Let’s look at some numbers:

  • 27 ventures have been launched over the past two years in projects ranging from education, social action, the environment, philanthropy and the arts.
  • 11 ventures have been either acquired or funded.
  • Several hundred Members regularly interact with and support the Fellowship program.

The Summer Institute has also spurred the creation of a year-round Hub in Jerusalem – a laboratory and meeting space that provides space for innovators to build their ideas and grow creative communities. In just the first, brief, five months of operation, the Hub has:

  • welcomed over 1500 visitors;
  • hosted almost 60 events;
  • developed a community of 40+ co-workers.

With a current funding base that includes private philanthropists and several of the most innovative foundations, Federations and communal organizations in North America, PresenTense is helping communities understand the value of investing in pioneers to develop the next big ideas. They are creating both a model and an eco-system.

So, if you’re visiting Jerusalem this summer, stop by. Book a guided tour and experience innovation as you have not previously. And if you’re here for a bit, check out the speakers program, become a Member and meet the social entrepreneurs developing the ventures that will grow our future.

[note: eJewish Philanthroy is a member of the Hub co-working community and Dan has been an active Member of the PresenTense community since the first Fellowship program in 2007.]