Ideas Worth Investing In

After a four-year hiatus, Joshua Venture Group (JVGroup) has emerged to rejoin the now burgeoning field of Jewish social entrepreneurship as a leading national support source for cultivating strong leaders and transformative ventures that seek to profoundly impact the American Jewish community.

The organization officially re-launched in Fall 2009, announcing its call for applications for the 2010-2012 Dual Investment Program – a two-year intensive program for emerging entrepreneurs to work both individually as venture leaders and collectively as a cohort to develop and refine the professional and organizational skills needed to either start up or scale their ventures. The response to this opportunity was strong, with over 300 individuals inquiring via email and phone, by directly accessing the online application, or by attending one of the twelve JVGroup Information Sessions held in cities across the country in Fall 2009.

Of the 131 social entrepreneurs who applied for the 2010-2012 Dual Investment Program, 18 finalists now remain to compete for 8 coveted spots in the new cohort of Fellows. These finalists represent the vast diversity of the Jewish community, spanning a broad age range of 20-41, located in cities as large as NYC and as small as Austin, and addressing a wide array of issues.

As the initial applicant pool has now been narrowed down to 18 finalists, JVGroup has aggregated extensive demographic and outreach data in order to learn more about where these ideas are coming from, who these emerging entrepreneurs are, and the kinds of ventures they are seeking to establish.

Here are the key findings:

  • Entrepreneurial ideas are not just a product of the “NextGen”: Applicants ranged in age from 20-65;
  • Communities with a local support system for Jewish social ventures fostered a majority of JVGroup candidates : Nearly 60% of initial applicants came from communities with local capacity builders. Additionally, 6 of the 18 finalists are alumni of Bikkurim (NYC), Upstart (SF), ROI Summit (Jerusalem), or PresenTense (Jerusalem/Boston);
  • Social entrepreneurs are seeking to leverage diverse organizational models to support their mission, vision and values: 18% of applicants who advanced to 2nd stage planned to utilize for-profit or hybrid business models;
  • Fewer new ventures seek to tackle potentially “loaded” issues: Food/environmental ventures and those that seek to redefine “community” are prevalent, while few address issues around diversity or Israel.

“We believe that innovative ideas and the people behind them will transform our society,” said JVGroup Executive Director Lisa Lepson. “The impact of our fellows’ work will help sustain, nurture, and redefine Jewish communities throughout the United States. While building upon the strength and values of our
shared heritage and traditions, we envision an expanded Jewish landscape – embracing contemporary values, leveraging new technologies, and relying on innovative and sustainable organizational models.”

Here are the complete survey results for, Ideas Worth Investing In.