PresenTense Group Accelerates Social Innovation Efforts
The PresenTense Group, which employs entrepreneurship as a tool to enrich communal life, grow local economies and solve critical issues facing society, has completed its latest cycle of programming, supporting more individuals than ever before in creating social impact.
In 2014 PresenTense equipped 180 social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in building 164 ventures that address pressing community issues through its 15 accelerators across North America, Eastern Europe and Israel. Accelerators are community-based, defined as a geographic region or as an affinity area. What PresenTense created this year is extraordinary. “A single entrepreneurial vision can transform lives, and the impact of our global community of entrepreneurs will sustain for years to come,” said Naomi Korb Weiss, CEO of PresenTense Group.
Banner Year for PresenTense Group
In North America, PresenTense provided 72 entrepreneurs in six communities with the essential skills and networks needed to bring their visions for social change to fruition. All programs were executed by community partners, adapting the PresenTense model to local needs, with the exception of the PresenTense NYC Fellowship, run independently by PresenTense. The largest areas of focus for the ventures included education, community building, tech, the arts, the environment, social action and issues concerning women.
As part of the PresenTense NYC Fellowship, Temimah Zucker founded Tikvah V’Chizuk, which provides a support network of culturally relevant resources to members of the Jewish community who are struggling with eating disorders. Alongside Zucker was cohort member Sarah Knapp, who founded OutdoorFest, a festival helping urban dwellers connect to the outdoors within their city. Though their ventures differ in many ways, Zucker felt that the power of the cohort was in the diversity of interests and backgrounds. “Meeting so many people with a passion made me feel at home, and the skills I gained are precious,” Zucker said.
PresenTense equips passionate people with entrepreneurial skills, tools, and supportive networks through community-based venture accelerators, organizational training workshops, and entrepreneurship consulting. Established in 2005 as a magazine, founders Ariel Beery and Aharon Horwitz realized that their friends sought to not only write about what it meant to be a Jew in the 21st century but to take action to create a more vibrant Jewish world.
Two years later, PresenTense ran its first accelerator program in Jerusalem, which was met by great demand. Since then, PresenTense has supported nearly 650 social entrepreneurs who have participated in 52 programs across the globe, with an estimated 300,000 individuals impacted by way of the 630 accelerated ventures. Ventures include nonprofits, for-profits social businesses, and intrapreneurial ventures, as well as community projects.
Workshops and Consulting Services
In addition to operating Accelerators, PresenTense offers innovation workshops and entrepreneurial consulting for individuals and organizations looking to create change from within or train their constituents to approach issues with an entrepreneurial mindset. PresenTense has facilitated hundreds of workshops across the world, enabling Jewish organizations to approach their work in innovative ways.
PresenTense alumni continue to deepen their social impact well past the conclusion of their Accelerator programs. Included is Leveling the Playing Field, founded by Max Levitt, as part of the ConnectGens Fellowship in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Leveling the Playing Field collects and distributes new and lightly used athletic equipment to underserved communities in the Washington DC area. This summer the organization collected 20,000 pieces of sporting equipment, allowing 30,000 kids access to athletic activities that allow them to improve their health, as well as their grades, and build self-confidence by participating in group sports.
PresenTense will operate 18 Accelerators in 2015 across the globe, entering new markets and addressing new populations and areas of need. Fellows will benefit from an upgraded curriculum drawn from best-of-class entrepreneurial skills and tools, enhanced Jewish content integration and new program modules.
PresenTense Around the USA:
Joseph Shamash founded the One Wish Project, a nonprofit organization that strives to create social change through film and education, as part of the PresenTenseLA Fellowship. Shamash shares, “I was inspired to do this project by everyday people on the street whose voices have been unheard, who have been marginalized by society. Their informative films bridge the gap between disenfranchised groups and peoples in conflict by shining a spotlight on our shared humanity, which all too often is overshadowed by our differences.”
Building on the relationship between PresenTense and Challah for Hunger, which began with CfH founder Eli Winkelman in the inaugural 2007 PresenTense Global Fellowship, CfH CEO Carly Zimmerman developed the Challah for Hunger Alumni Network to further broaden their already considerable social impact as part of Philadelphia’s Tribe 12 Fellowship. The Alumni Network creates online and in-person opportunities for CfH alumni to engage with social justice work, Jewish community and philanthropy. “For many participants, Challah for Hunger is an entry point to Jewish social justice work, and we want to support the continuation of their journey,” shares Zimmerman.
Miriam Ament founded No Shame on U to combat the stigma surrounding mental illness as part of the JCC PresenTense Chicago Fellowship. As one who suffered from depression, Ament founded the organization to help others get the help they need to become the best version of themselves and to raise awareness around mental illness. Ament particularly enjoyed working with her mentor, who, Ament explained, provided “great feedback and samples from her nonprofit management experience.”
After struggling with her own issues of infertility, Amy Forseter founded The Red Stone, part of the ConnectGens Fellowship in Washington DC, to offer a safe space for emotional and spiritual support, financial assistance, education and awareness to the greater Jewish community. For Forseter, participating in PresenTense was the boost she needed to realize her concept.
“This idea had been percolating for half a decade. It has taken involvement in PresenTense, and the support of a team, to catapult The Red Stone forward on its path to the creation of a needed community resource,” she said. Forseter’s support groups are up and running, and she is consistently providing additional resources to her target community.