PresenTense: Soaring To The Future

logo_fostering_innovation_medPresenTense Solidifies 11 Chairs, Each Worth $15,000, for PresenTense Summer Institute 2009

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – Organizations and foundations throughout North America and Israel have enthusiastically taken to PresenTense’s mission to equip Jewish innovators with the tools they need to develop initiatives that can inspire the Jewish People and change the world.

Given the current uncertain economic climate, PresenTense’s initial goal for this year was to find six sponsorships for its sixteen fellows. To date, the Group has received eleven, with yet another three pending. Potential sponsors have jumped at the opportunity to focus their resources on a project that will revitalize their organizations, and indeed the Jewish community as a whole. Each chair sponsors a socially-minded pioneer in PresenTense’s six-week, summer entrepreneur bootcamp. In addition to practical training in building a social startup, and the community and networks developed, the young innovator also receives personal, hands-on guidance throughout the year following the fellowship.

On her foundation’s decision to invest in the PresenTense Institute Sponsored Chair program, Marcella Kanfer Rolnick, President and Chair of the Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation, explained:

“There’s never a bad time to invest in innovation. During times of high ambiguity, change and resource constraints, it’s actually a great time to innovate. Not only are we facing many of the same challenges and opportunities that we’d faced before the financial downturn, but we are also facing new and more pressing ones. In order to survive today and to set ourselves up to thrive in the future, our community needs to be open to — and supportive of — new ways of working and thinking.”

The business world thrives on new ideas, and more and more organizations are turning to the up-and-coming Digital Generation for sparks of insight and creativity. PresenTense, through its sponsored Summer Institute Chairs, offers a unique opportunity for the non-profit sector to develop new and exciting projects with minimal risk. Last summer, the Institute assisted in the launch of 15 projects from across the disciplines, and is currently witnessing the early success of seven of those projects, over half a year since graduation. The success rates demonstrated by the PresenTense Institute are unrivaled by even the most celebrated high-tech and for-profit business incubators. Clear evidence from these initiatives has shown a strong social return on investment, as these projects affect thousands of individuals around the world.

Given the high impact of the Institute’s ventures, the associated risks are remarkably low for the sponsoring investor organizations: “Each Chair is a unique opportunity for an organization to launch innovative ventures at a reduced risk while increasing the probability for returns on the project,” said Ariel Beery, Co-Director and CEO of the PresenTense Group. “PresenTense asks the organization what it wants to accomplish and then finds an entrepreneur in that field to develop the project as a fellow of the PresenTense Summer Institute,” explained Beery.

For a mere ten percent of what the project could cost each organization, PresenTense Institute uses the sponsorship to provide the option of room and board at the Institute’s dormitory-style housing, technical infrastructure for full-time online work environment, skill-building lessons and other learning opportunities, field trips to visit examples of successful social ventures in the field, and venture development for one year post-graduation at a base-line level. The entrepreneur is primed to graduate the Institute ready to actualize the venture’s clear vision, strategic plan, business model, budget, board structure, transmedia presentations, and fundraising opportunities. PresenTense works with both the fellow and the sponsoring organization to help them foster a personal relationship through mentorship and coaching as they work together to develop a world-changing venture.

Initial Sponsored Chair investors for the 2009 PresenTense Institute include the Josh and Rena Kopelman Foundation, the Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation, the Covenant Foundation, Sheldon and Anat Wipranik, The iCenter – founded by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the Jim Joseph Foundation – and Pamela Applebaum. Other sponsors will be announced over the next few months.

Among the Chairs set for the upcoming summer are:

  • Josh and Rena Kopelman Chair in Online Community Organizing, seeking a social entrepreneur who will develop and utilize communications technologies in order to master online community organizing, and actualize its potential for empowering the Jewish People to participate in communal decision-making.
  • Covenant Chair in Educational Technology (2 chairs) recognizing that as students spend more of their time online, the Jewish People needs to adapt its methods and modes of education to the new modes of communication that define the present digital age. The Covenant Foundation-sponsored Chairs in Educational Technology is seeking two individuals who are exploring the usage of new communications technologies in their application for formal or informal education.
  • Sheldon and Anat Wipranik Chair in Israeli Civic Engagement, seeking a social entrepreneur who has a new approach to generating an ethic of civic obligation in Israel in response to polls showing that political and civic participation in Israel has been on a steady decline. With younger generations less likely to find a calling in public service within Israeli Society, the goal of this Chair will be develop a stimulus package for a new Zionism in the Digital Age.
  • iCenter Chair in Israel Education, seeking educators who are developing innovative projects to teach about Israel, its history, culture and its people, in formal or informal education environments for students in age levels between the grades of 1 – 12.

Investment in Jewish innovation is meaningful to these sponsors, as they earn not only get higher returns through reduced cost of program development, but also enjoy a personal hand in the growth and development of the next generation of Jewish entrepreneurs.

about: The PresenTense Group is a non-profit organization aimed at recognizing the Jewish People’s collective potential by enabling and supporting Jewish and Israeli creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. PresenTense Group’s portfolio currently includes a print and web magazine that reaches 30,000 readers, educational programming in Jerusalem and major American cities, professional development programming currently being run with young federation professionals and other assorted organizations, and our flagship project, the PresenTense Institute, an early stage applied R&D shop in Jerusalem that provides a launchpad for socially-minded entrepreneurs initiating (for and not for profit) startups in the fields of education, technology, Jewish Community and Israel, environment, social justice, and philanthropy, among others. Most recently, the PresenTense Group launched its Jerusalem Hub, a centrally-located open workspace for members of the creative and entrepreneurial communities to work together, participate in workshops, and share ideas.