Circle of Collaboration

by: James Higa, Executive Director

In previous issues of  our ‘Progress’ newsletter, I discussed the growing Inequality Gap and how PVF wants to catalyze ‘Radical Collaboration’ to create solutions.  Today, I want to talk about how we have put that into action as is our wont to ‘do’, rather than ‘talk’.

PVF's Executive Director, James Higa (left), and Not for Sale's President, David Batstone (right), inspire some brainstorming at the Invention Circle.

PVF’s Executive Director, James Higa (left), and Not for Sale’s President, David Batstone (right), kick off the Invention Circle.

On June 6, jointly with our fantastic Invention Hub collaborators, Not For Sale & Just Business, we invited 50 of the Bay Area’s most creative and influential individuals that we know to gather together for an Invention Circle.  The Invention Circle is a gathering to bring radical collaborators together to help create solutions for those being left behind in our communities by the growing Inequality Gap.  This wasn’t about just brainstorming or convening. We promised to put into action, the idea that emerges out of the day, with a commitment to begin working on the project the Monday immediately following the event.

These 50 people included high tech executives, athletes & team owners, journalists, film makers, venture capitalists, grassroots community organizers, chefs, real estate developers, lawyers, SF City officials, and more. Collectively, this Invention Circle group:

  • has founded more than 50 companies
  • is on the board of directors or advisers for more than 90 businesses or nonprofits
  • has more than 30 patents
  • and has had 1,000+ articles published and produced 5 films
PVF's President, Bill Somerville collaborates with the "risk takers" group at the Invention Circle.

PVF’s President, Bill Somerville (center), collaborates with the “risk takers” group at the Invention Circle.

The day was full of design thinking at its best as we split up into groups to refine and hone our brainstorms.  My strongest impression of the day is a room alive with bursts of energy and post-it note ideas covering every bit of free space.  After presentations by our six groups, the idea we decided to implement (pitched by PVF’s own summer intern, Sadia Saifuddin!), was to launch a co-packing company.  A contract packing company, or co-packer, is a company that packages products and foods for their clients.  In our case the clients will be the emerging maker, craft, food, and artisanal companies of San Francisco.  The employees will be those in our communities left behind by the Inequality Gap who will now have an opportunity for dignified work in a company they can be a part of from its launch and creation.  This winning idea was introduced to the world at a San Francisco Giants game the next day in a home plate ceremony.  We are already gathering funders and looking at spaces to house this company.

The fruits of radical collaboration, an idea of this ambition and imagination, are extraordinary.  But so is the way that this vision came about in a circle of collaboration, bringing together people and ideas that wouldn’t otherwise intersect.  At PVF, we believe our activist mission is to actively create the future of philanthropy by taking risks and trying out new grant making approaches.  We continually look for people and projects performing ground breaking work in our communities.  The Invention Circle is just such an approach.

Stay tuned to this space.

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Where’s James? Getting Amped Up About Starbucks’ Approach to Corporate Philanthropy

I sat down recently with Howard Schultz, Chairman, President and CEO of Starbucks,Starbucks to talk about the fracturing of the American Dream. Nearly half of Americans who begin college don’t finish.  Much of this is the result of escalating costs and life/work balance.

70% of Starbucks’ US employees are students or aspiring students, and Starbucks is stepping up to the plate to help them get a degree through the College Achievement Plan.

What a shining example of what bold and ‘think different’ corporate philanthropy can be.

 

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PVF Invests in After School Fun

by: Aly Quiroz-Perez, Clerical Assistant

Every student needs to have a fun way to unwind after a long day at school. Some students go straight home and relax by watching television or going online. Others prefer to do something more active and engaging like dance or skateboarding. Whatever the activity, students want and need something fun to do after school where they can socialize and develop a skill or talent in a safe space.

To meet this need, Philanthropic Ventures Foundation offers an After School Program Grant to encourage teachers to create and lead activities for students. Teachers can receive grants of up to $2,500 to cover the costs of equipment, teacher time, and refreshments.

Funding is available during the school year for schools serving 6th-12th grade students in the Alum Rock, East Side Union High, Franklin-McKinley, Oakland, and Redwood City schools districts. PVF’s After School Program Grant has already had positive impacts on schools around the Bay Area and the Peninsula. Take a look at what recipients have said about PVF’s program:

DSC_0393 “I want to thank you on behalf of the students and the school for supporting our after school ‘Comet Kickbox Club.’ With this year’s money we were able to buy and replace some pads, buy shirts for everyone involved, and buy a great sound system that has garnered even more attention for the club…the sheer volume has attracted more students to our club because they heard the music playing after school.” – Jeremy Bruce, PE Teacher and Comet Kickbox Club Advisor, James Lick High School, Alum Rock

“Thank you for supporting our afterschool robotics team project. Due to your generous donation, we were able to provide the opportunity of an afterschool 6th-8th grade robotics team for girls. The grant allowed the team of 8 students to meet twice weekly for 1.5 hours. They worked under the tutelage of a credentialed teacher, whose stipend was paid by the grant. The students were very Robotics Clubenthusiastic to learn and experiment with robotics. We were especially excited that our team this year was comprised of girls. It was our goal to empower more girls to become involved in the robotics programs moving forward.” – Kelly Greenfield, Assistant Principal, North Star Academy, Redwood City

“Thank you for your generous donation to the 5th Element Hip-Hop Club and After School Program at Oakland High School this year. Your donation has helped over thirty students who share a love for hip-hop choreography, break dancing, and rap music. With the donation, weDancers 1 have been able to purchase costumes for the dancers’ performance, buy equipment for the recording studio, and put on a studio dedication event where students performed and received a T-shirt that is a representation of all the other after school clubs.” – Aya Allen, Hip-Hop club co-sponsor, Oakland High School

“Thank you so much for the financial support that you have given us for our school newspaper. ‘The Observer’ allows the school to feel a sense of community, and it teaches the students who are involved so much – they learn about teamwork, deadlines, and their own strengths and weaknesses. I cannot thank you enough for your help and support throughout the years!” – Teresa Heger, English Teacher, James Lick High School, Alum Rock

“The financial support of the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation afterschool grant made it possible for us to print our first issue of the Castle Crier to much rejoicing. Students grinned as they passed the paper out to afternoon classes, and many students across campus dropped everything and read. Reaction to the first issue was overwhelmingly positive – sparking discussion and interest in journalism from students of all grades.” – Marguerite Sheffer, AP English Language/Castle Crier Adviser, Castlemont High School, Oakland

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Soles Without Holes: Recycling Shoes for Those in Need

by: Duncan Beardsley, PVF Board Chair

Soles without HolesWhat fun it is to visit a farmer’s market and discover a small but very worthwhile project being run by a high school girl in San Mateo. Abbie Schultz created Soles Without Holes, which collects gently used shoes to be donated to orphanages, homeless shelters, and disaster sites in need. Her enthusiasm, dedication, and vision are wonderful! PVF is happy to support her underwrite costs for having a booth at farmer’s markets and the shipping costs to get the slightly worn shoes to places in need.

When I visited her booth she said: “I collect all types and sizes of shoes and send them to orphanages in Haiti and the United States. Please look in your closet and consider dropping off those pairs that are collecting dust.”

Learn more on her website www.soleswithoutholes.com. You can email Abbie c/o her father at henryschultz123@gmail.com.

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Where’s James? Uniting with Foundations and Nonprofits at the Social Innovation Summit

Held at the United Nations Headquarters, the Social Innovation Summit brought together leaders in philanthropy, business, and international development to investigate solutions and catalyze partnerships.  This year included companies like Panera Bread, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs, as well as non-profits like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, charity:water, and the Clinton Global Initiative.

The Bay Area was there in force.  It was gratifying to be among our peers like the Tides Foundation, Code for America, Google.org, and Downtown Streets Team, all leading the way forward to collaborate and explore big ideas in a spirit of not just talking about the next big thing, but building it.

Social Innovation Summit

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Our Partnership: Looking Forward

Philanthropic Ventures Foundation’s 2013 Report is now available online. In this post, our Executive Director and President reflect on PVF’s role in transforming philanthropy.

Transforming Philanthropy

InventionHub_Jamesby: James Higa, Executive Director

Two themes stand out as I reflect on 2013. They are radical collaboration and the rising Inequality Gap. One thing I experienced when working in the world of high tech that I don’t see in philanthropy is the notion of radical collaboration.  I routinely had diverse talents like musicians and graphic designers on our product development teams. In the philanthropic world we are more isolated in our individual spheres. Why is it that the circles of corporations, grassroots community organizations, venture funds, non-profits, family foundations, and community foundations rarely intersect?  What if all of these circles could join together to reinvent our communities?

PVF has always aspired to transform philanthropy. Our mission is to actively create the future of philanthropy by taking risks and trying out new grant making approaches. It is in this spirit that we have pushed hard this past year to find new collaborative grassroots leaders like Josh Nesbit at MedicMobile or Jennifer Pahlka at Code for America who are crossing traditional boundaries to tackle our pressing problems in new ways.

In 2013, we also saw the rising awareness of the Inequality Gap in the Bay Area, with a tale of two cities unfolding before our eyes. I have known what it is like to have high tech campus cafeterias overflowing with food. Yet two blocks away, kids are hungry. Survivors of unimaginable hardship are praying for dignified work. The Inequality Gap will be one of the defining issues of our generation. PVF intends to redouble its effort and work to be the activist connectors and with our unrivaled immediate response spirit, to lead the charge to make a dent in closing this Inequality Gap.

Finding and Funding Leaders

by: Bill Somerville, President & CEO

Bill Somerville color2013 was a year where we searched for, found, and funded people doing good work. Philanthropic Ventures Foundation is different in many ways. We fund outstanding people doing outstanding work, primarily concerned with poverty, and we give them continuing funding for multiple years. In almost every case, these people have established substantial programs serving low-income clients in positive ways. Next, we have introduced new methods of giving, such as giving grants quickly and not requiring extensive application procedures. We are not careless nor naïve, but we are willing to venture and trust.

Over the past year we have exercised a large degree of trust in giving grants to new programs. One such program built on trust is our Ambassador Program, which provides grants of up to $10,000 for designated professionals to give out the funds themselves to programs they feel are worthy. In a sense, a grassroots mini foundation.

Other giving efforts in 2013 were Freedom House, a safe house for sexually-trafficked women; Street Life Ministries serving the homeless; a grant to help continue Carlmont High School’s effort to stabilize the lives of troubled youth; money to Mz. Shirliz Transitional Living to house and help people returning from incarceration; support to Your Family Counts to increase the self-sufficiency of single mothers. These grants are where the foundation gives discretionary money to program directors to use as they see fit.

It has been a good year and we invite you to journey with us into the future.

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Opening Up Windows of Opportunity for Youth

PVF’s Excursion Grant Program was established three years ago by a IMG_3781generous donor with a singular aim: let kids have fun. Mark Louie, a teacher at Hoover Elementary in Oakland, sought to do just that by taking 25 4th grade students on a camping trip to the Rob Hill campground in San Francisco. He was able to do so with the help of an Excursion Grant, a program which funds field trips for public school classrooms in Alameda and San Mateo Counties.

IMG_3827For all but three of his students, it was their first time camping.  For over half of them, it was their first time spending the night away from their parents.  For all of them, it was their first time putting their feet in the ocean and watching a sunset fall below the horizon. Mr. Louie told us: “It was nice to watch the kids enjoy nature and be truly happy without the normal dynamics of our classroom relationships.” We are proud to be able to offer Excursion Grants to teachers like Mr. Louie as a way to open windows of new and exciting opportunities for youth.   IMG_3866

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