10 Social Ventures Present Visions for a Better World, The PAC Wins $25,000
Ten social ventures. One $25,000 award. Thousands of people benefiting from emerging social ventures.
Those numbers only begin to summarize Tuesday evening’s Impact+Innovation Forum, the Social Innovation Lab’s (SIL) culminating event for its 2016-2017 cohort of nonprofit and mission-driven businesses.
“The ventures in this cohort started out strong, having made it through a competitive selection process with 53 applicants,” says SIL Director Darius Graham. “Throughout the six-month program, these teams worked hard, learned a great deal and, in some cases, pivoted their approach.
“The forum was our way of publicly sharing their vision for a better Baltimore and world with our larger community of supporters.”
Though each of the SIL ventures has made strides in providing a measurable impact to communities in Baltimore and beyond, The Portable Alternative Crib (PAC) received a $25,000 award to accelerate its mission of lowering the occurrence of sudden infant death syndrome across Maryland. The organization’s founder, Shantell Roberts, provides families with young children information and resources, including a certified sleeping space, that keep babies safe.
“Parenthood is one of those weird spaces for which you could never truly be prepared,” Roberts said during her presentation, noting that new parents often receive well-intentioned advice. “But what if the information they gave you was unsafe? Or it didn’t work? Or led you to create an unsafe environment for your baby?”
In 2011, Roberts’ 1-year-old daughter was one of the more than 100 infant deaths that occur in Baltimore each year. Because of this tragedy, Roberts endeavored to ensure no other family had to endure the loss of a child.
Roberts, a safe sleep coordinator for Baltimore who joined SIL as a community member with no affiliation to Johns Hopkins, says the city has had six unsafe sleeping deaths of babies in the first quarter of 2017 alone. The PAC’s solution—a rectangular box only a couple of feet long—provides a certified, comfortable and safe sleeping space for babies.
For the immediate future, Roberts has set The PAC on a 100 box initiative. By selling 100 of the $150 boxes, which include maternal self-care and infant care items, she will have funding to send 100 additional boxes to organizations in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.
The $25,000 award she received from the Social Innovation Lab will go a long way in helping her achieve that goal.The PAC received the reward based on peer evaluations within SIL’s 2016-2017 cohort. Four times from January through April, each venture rated their peers on a four-point scale across seven categories:
Compelling spokesperson – A palpable passion, enthusiasm or commitment to their venture
Vision for impact – A reasonably ambitious vision for making an impact in a substantial way
Vision for venture – A reasonably ambitious vision for their venture’s future size, scale, impact and profile
Resilience – Acknowledgement of challenges and dedication to overcome them
Empathy – An extensive understanding of and empathy for the beneficiary of the venture
Progress – Demonstrated growth or development of the venture during the program
Generosity – Offering time, contacts or ideas to help others in the cohort
“We were inspired to create this peer review process for the award based on the work that Village Capital has done via their Peer Selected Investment Model,” Graham says. “Having such a process where the cohort provides ongoing feedback to each other and where that feedback determines the winner of the award helps us identify the team that best exemplifies what we look for in entrepreneurs.”
Though PAC received top honors at the event, the nine other nonprofits and mission-driven businesses have benefited communities in Baltimore and around the world.
Using dirt bike culture as a platform to repair and build relationships in the community, provide a pathway to career opportunities and unite the community.
Presenter: Brittany Young, founder
Inspiration: Became an engineer despite being told she couldn’t because of her race, the community in which she grew up and the fact her parents lacked degrees
Key fact: Children as young as 5 either ride dirt bikes or want to be dirt bike riders
Quote: “Riders, regardless of where they come from, deserve a safe place.”
A mobile app for anonymous, text-based, group therapy that uses artificial intelligence.
Presenter: Ravi Shah, co-founder
Inspiration: Saw friend suffering from mental health illness, but she feared judgment in treatment
Key fact: One in five people in the United States suffer from a mental health illness
Quote: “That community and support [my friend who suffered mental illness received] was limited to just 90 minutes a week, but her depression wasn’t scheduled.” — Ravi Shah, co-founder, Beacon Tech
Empowering families to eat well by connecting them with essential kitchen tools and fostering a community brought together by a passion for improving its food environment.
Presenter: Mark Corser, founder, Bent Carrot
Inspiration: Lived in a Baltimore food desert with the nearest grocery store 20 blocks away
Key fact: 30 percent of children in Baltimore live in a food desert
Quote: “The Kitchen Kit allows families to prepare fresh, healthy foods in their own homes, on their own terms.”
A mobile app that improves access to comprehensive primary health care for remote and underserved communities through telemedicine.
Presenter: Neha Goel, CEO, Intelehealth
Inspiration: From India, Goel noticed existing telemedicine solutions inadequate for rural populations as they require high bandwidth or are specific to a single illness
Key fact: 400 million people around the world lack access to basic health care services
Quote: “They have to travel long distances and spend an inordinate amount of money to get the care that you and I take for granted.”
Providing supplies and support to breastfeeding moms at work.
Presenter: Meg Stoltzfus, founder, Lacstation
Inspiration: Manager of breastfeeding support program had to race to provide nursing mothers missing equipment
Key fact: Four in five mothers breastfeed when a baby is born, but that rate drops to two in five after three months
Quote: “Breastfeeding is one of the most valuable preventative health measures a mom can take.”
A music education program that teaches students concentration, awareness and listening skills through a series of classroom sessions and live orchestra concerts
Presenter: Rebecca Smithorn, founder, The Listening Lab
Inspiration: Education conductor of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra
Key fact: Intentional listening allows people to lose themselves in music as they would a great movie or book
Quote: “A lot of our students face hurdles daily that infringe on their ability to sustain awareness.”
Bringing small-scale investment to Baltimore communities in the form of vacant lot revitalization and community-driven programming
Presenter: Elyse Oliver, president & co-founder
Inspiration: Grew up in Biddeford, Maine, a town that hadn’t seen investment since the heyday of its textile mills in the 1960s
Key fact: Sixty-five percent of Baltimore’s 7,500 city-owned vacant spaces have no plans for future revitalization
Quote: “I was involved in the revitalization efforts of Biddeford’s downtown during my senior year of high school. That involvement dramatically changed my perception of the city.”
Connecting community members to play pickup sports, while generating revenue for community centers and recreation facilities.
Presenter: Nikhil Panu, founder
Inspiration: The captain of the Johns Hopkins basketball team, Panu has long had an interest in sports but struggled to find people to play with and places to do it
Key fact: In its initial launch in Baltimore, Squadz had 130 bookings of space at recreation centers over a period of weeks
Quote: “We see people from various neighborhoods coming together, and this is all through sports.”
Increasing the health, happiness and retention of educators by streaming wellness programming into schools.
Presenter: Jenna Shaw, founder and CEO
Inspiration: Began teaching in Baltimore public schools nine years ago, and each year she saw fewer and fewer of her colleagues returning to the classroom
Key fact: At 35 percent, Baltimore’s turnover rates for teachers are twice the national average
Quote: “Schools don’t have the resources or knowledge they need to truly support our educators