What a thrill and an honor it is for me to be selected to lead DC Social Innovation Project (DCSIP) as Executive Director. Throughout this selection process, I have felt the excitement building as I think about the potential of this small organization to become a major catalyst for innovation in the District of Columbia. No getting around it: I am ridiculously psyched.
I’m excited precisely because the significant challenges we face in the District are stacked against the dizzying abundance in our region. Consider that we are one of the wealthiest regions in the country yet in some wards, one out of every three children lives below the poverty line and more than 40 percent of the population is classified as “low-income.” We lead the nation in bike access lanes, yet also claim the prize for HIV/AIDS infection at epidemic levels, obesity rates, and infant mortality rates. Our city has more residents with graduate and professional degrees than any other given our size, but also abysmal high school graduation rates.
In that dichotomy there is hope. Our wealth of talent, ideas, and resources across the region is the platform for change at the heart of DCSIP’s innovative social change model. We can and have tapped into that abundance to launch new social enterprises that are focused on addressing the root causes of poverty. Our model is simple: identify the most brilliant and innovative ideas of change and provide true working capital—in the form of money, expertise, and courage—to help new social enterprise leaders tackle the challenges in their communities. We purposefully select gutsy, high-risk ideas and then build a team of volunteer expertise to turn those ideas into action and monitor their success.
In the year ahead, you will see us more fully own our role as experimenters and innovators in helping community-led social enterprises spread across the District of Columbia. Through transparency in what works and what doesn’t, we will tell more stories about what we are learning and share them widely within our community. We will experiment with new ways to transfer core expertise to community leaders to create deeper and long lasting social impact. Through a stronger network of partnerships with philanthropists and community innovators, we will build new opportunities for generating community wealth and develop a movement for social enterprise in the District.
I look forward to working with all of you to make this happen. From the idea generators to the next generation of powerhouse philanthropists that DCSIP has helped to bring together, I know that we can do this. Our strength lies in our networks and in channeling the creativity, passion, and energy in each of you.
Here’s to the beginning of a beautiful partnership and all the fun to come!
Melissa Ann Ehrenreich, Executive Director