With the current economic hardships in this country, local communities are flooded with problems such as poverty, homelessness, pollution, lack of a quality education for the youth, and other disparities. Due to the lack of funding, governments are forced to shut down social programs that are aimed as solutions to these dilemmas. Nonprofits are great alternatives, but they rely on grants and donations to operate. Social entrepreneurship can fill these gaps left in local communities.
Social entrepreneurship is the act of recognizing a social problem, and using entrepreneurial tactics to make social change. It's about developing companies that are for-profit, but have a nonprofit soul. These type of organizations put people and the environment before profit, however they depend on providing a product or service of value to be self-sustainable. Examples of such companies could be TOM's shoes, Better World Books, FEED projects and my organization, EduCare. However, we need more companies like these that are for-profit and also work to solve world's social and economic problems. But, we do not see much encouragement for such ventures from the government or the investors.
But recently, I came across a socially-conscious web startup incubator, The Illuminated Ventures Project (IllVP), which was started by Drew Little with the help of several college students at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Their mission is to inspire, inform, and invest in under-served and under-represented youth in the areas of New Media and Internet Technology to help level economic self-sufficiency in the United States, and to diversify the ideas, opinions, and opportunities in the New Media landscape.
After learning about the amount of wealth being made in New Media, Drew and his team started thinking about ways to utilize the web for social good. But, they have a different approach. Instead of searching for young entrepreneurs with startup ideas to develop, they presented their own web startup ideas to college students and help them develop into young social entrepreneurs. The only catch was in order to be a part of one of their projects, college students had to contribute their passion to the team.
Their business model is to create a variety of innovative, local niche social networks and mobile apps that connect like-minded people, and at the same time help aspiring talent and local businesses reach their full marketing potential. Through this business model they plan to creatively merge the web with the real world in local communities.
How Do They Make Change?
They donate 30 percent of their profits to an upcoming nonprofit program that teaches disadvantaged youth (aged 11-25) important life skills (advanced personal finance, history of money, personal development -- not taught in public education system) and the fundamentals of New Media, Internet Technology, and Social Entrepreneurship.
Once students develop a strong foundation of the curriculum and think of a web startup that's socially and/or environmentally conscious, innovative, and self sustainable, ILLVP will provide the capital, connections, and resources to help them become successful.
Their Current Project:
Creating Awareness and Solutions to Autism
IllVP partnered up with Taren Guy and her early-stage, social enterprise startup, Faces of Autism.
Faces Of Autism is all about celebrating these beautiful and unique individuals and their abilities. Many people diagnosed with autism go through phases of obsessions that sometimes may be looked down upon. FOA believes that these abilities or obsessions should be highlighted.
As a mother of a child with autism, Taren believes that we should not try to change who they are but embrace what they love and share it with the world.
How can you be a part of ILLVP?
You can be an Impact Investor in ILLVP through a crowdfunding website, 33Needs.com and ILLVP would share 7 percent of their revenue with the investors from 33needs for two years. Please visit here to invest in ILLVP.