PresenTense is Coming to Beantown

by Tali Minsberg

boston-skylineStarting in January 2010, the PresenTense social entrepreneurial fellows experience will not be limited to Jerusalem and people who can give six weeks of their summer. Working with the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, PresenTense is launching its first states-side fellowship program, hoping to channel the Jerusalem-based Institute’s energy and achievements into New England environs.

Taking the fellowship out of Jerusalem will not be easy. Entering the Jerusalem Institute brings on a rush; you feel the energy as soon as you walk in the door. And its not from the espresso that runs freely throughout the building. PresenTense’s Zion Hub, in the heart of Jerusalem, is the center of a community dedicated to growing and equipping the next generation of pioneers in Israel and Jewish communities around the world. PresenTense has helped Jewish innovators make their dreams a reality – including ventures such as the Bible Raps curriculum initiative, Challah for Hunger’s expansion across American campuses, the public launch and sale of Kelim’s Jewish arts initiative, and Be a Kli’s work pairing Israeli backpackers with orphanages in India. It is with the lessons learned from these successes from three years in Jerusalem that PresenTense is extending the tools it developed half-way across the world.

“This is a very exciting development,” says Aharon Horwitz, co-director of PresenTense group. “PresenTense is really looking forward to working with one of the most innovative federations in North America to grow the next generation of pioneers.”

From January to May 2010, PresenTense will apply its tested models to the Boston community by targeting young innovators, the greater community inspired by entrepreneurship, and professionals within the community.

Similar to the Jerusalem fellowship, the Boston pilot program will identify social entrepreneurs, train and educate them through the fellowship program, and provide various networking opportunities to make their visions a reality. “This will be a further test of our tools,” says Ariel Beery, co-director of the PresenTense Group. “We have developed and refined a set of tools that we’ve found very successful with pre-seed stage social entrepreneurs, that has resulted in a 43% follow-on funding or acquisition rate. Now we are about to find out if those same tools can be provided outside of the Institute, in partnership with a local institution. And there is no one better than the CJP – a visionary, risk-taking federation by tradition – to test it out with.”

In September, the program will take shape with the recruitment of fellows, mentors, experts and teachers to lead the new venture. PresenTense staff will work with CJP to fit the program to local conditions and train employees. Boston fellows will, however, have close contact with the Jerusalem hub. PresenTense staff will kick off the program in January with a full day orientation on transmedia ventures and social entrepreneurship. In addition to day-long seminars led by PresenTense staff, the program will feature a monthly “innovator hot seat”, bimonthly board-hopping and skill-building sessions, ongoing mentorship opportunities, and a final Pitch Day and Celebration.

This could be the way of the future, Beery says. “It’s an experiment on whether we can aid systematic change in the federation system. We recognize the important role federations play in welfare and social services, and want to make sure they can continue supporting the poor and needy in the future. For that, we want to help upgrade their operations for the digital age through partnerships and new practices in federation orbit.”

Everyone is awaiting PresenTense’s arrival in Boston this coming year. New ideas will be brought to life, new connections will be made, and a community will be newly ignited. And in the land of the Red Sox, we can only imagine the energy that the Boston community will bring to the plate.

Tali Minsberg is a junior at the University of Wisconsin studying journalism and Hebrew. She is active in the Jewish and athletic community and combines the two as much as possible. Currently,
Tali is spending a year in Israel interning and studying at Hebrew University.