The Innovation Ecosystem: Emergence of a New Jewish Landscape

Based on the 2008 Survey of New Jewish Organizations

ecosystemcoverthumbnail_260An ecosystem is a complex set of relationships – the interactions of organisms that live in an interdependent environment. In an ecosystem, the web of connections between individuals and structures forms a self-organizing framework to support life.

Over the past decade or so the Jewish world has witnessed the emergence of a new landscape of innovative startups. These enterprises have created new entry points to Jewish life, and new ways of building Jewish community. This diverse and vibrant collective of new Jewish initiatives is an organic communal infrastructure for the Jewish community in the twenty-first century.

The Innovation Ecosystem: Emergence of a New Jewish Landscape is a snapshot of a habitat with over 400,000 participants and over $500 million in investment over the past decade. This new report by Jumpstart, The Natan Fund, and The Samuel Bronfman Foundation provides data, analysis, implications and recommendations about the emerging communal infrastructure of Jewish life for innovators and supporters of Jewish innovation.

Here’s a review of the Key Findings along with the recommendations released today:

I. Landscape and People

  • The size and diversity of the Jewish startup sector indicate that this is not a fringe phenomenon, a novel outreach strategy, or limited to the so-called next generation.
  • A large number of small, niche-based initiatives has emerged across the country, increasing the number and diversity of customized access points to Jewish life. Few organizations have large numbers of participants and constituents; smaller, more intimate organizations are the norm.
  • The vast majority of new initiatives describe their mission category as religion-related, education, arts/culture/humanities, or civil rights/social action/advocacy. Very few are focused on service provision, such as human services, mental health/crisis intervention, employment, housing/shelter, or health care.
  • New initiatives bring together people of different Jewish backgrounds and appeal to people at different places in their Jewish journeys. Serving the highly involved and engaging the less connected are not separate activities.

II. Economic Indicators

  • The sector has grown dramatically, but new initiatives may lack the infrastructure to weather the economic downturn.
  • Startups younger than seven years old are especially vulnerable because they do not yet have stable revenue streams.
  • Startup leaders face challenges building sustainable models for governance and financial management.

III. Navigating the Lean Years

  • Jewish startups already are feeling the effects of the economic crisis and say they need sector-wide support to survive.
  • Startups seek collaborative approaches to increase the effectiveness of their programming.
  • Startups say they would benefit most from mechanisms that lower administrative and operational costs.


  • Incorporate innovation as an essential element of philanthropy and program delivery.
  • Seek to establish ideas that are relevant to and adaptable in the broader community.
  • Build a broad and diverse base of financial support for innovation.
  • Establish a culture of transparent governance and mission accountability.
  • Change accountability expectations to allow for unpredictability, unintended positive consequences, mid-course corrections, and the possibility of failure.
  • Change the way success is measured to account for collective impact across the ecosystem.
  • Recognize and minimize the complex challenges involved in applying for grants, undertaking new programs, and satisfying evaluation and reporting requirements.
  • Collaborate and cooperate to reduce costs.

You can download a pdf of The Innovation Ecosystem: Emergence of a New Jewish Landscape and launch a conversation in your own community.