The best thing about being an incubator is seeing the ideas that start with the tiniest spark become big solutions that take the world by storm. This week, we were overwhelmed by pride that one of our grantees, Street Sense, did exactly that and was featured on a long story piece on PBS Newshour. If you missed it, watch it now. Seven minutes is all it will take to be inspired by an innovator in our backyard who took a brave leap into the new world.
What would you do if you woke up one day and realized your core product was not good enough? Would you close your doors or would you roll up your sleeves and head to the whiteboard to find your competitive advantage?
The reason why I am bowled over by Street Sense is because they are refusing to stand still. So many of us who have bought a paper from one of their vendors have been inspired by the dignity that the Street Sense model represents. But it is not enough. In the high-cost DC metro area, Street Sense realized that they need to help their vendors find higher-paying jobs that are relevant in the digital economy. So quite recently they asked the question—what if we were not just a newspaper? What if instead we became a new media company built for the 21st century?
That’s a heady question for an organization who is known as the people who make a newspaper. It sparks a re-invention process that can be scary, that has a lot of risk because it is stepping out into the unknown. Like any great entrepreneur, Street Sense is looking to develop a diversification of products to move the dial on homelessness. One of those products, a micro-blogging jobs program, is where DC Social Innovation Project is partnering to develop a clear standard that will position their product in the market so their vendors can be more successful. Street Sense might seem on its face like a traditional nonprofit but they are a shining example of a social entrepreneur who sees a barrier and discovers an opportunity. You can hear me talk about more about what it takes to be a social entrepreneur on our recent podcast with DC Young Entrepreneurs.
Earlier this week, the chair of our Board of Directors, Darius Graham, was remarking that we have the cuties babies. Over the past five years, we’ve bet on 13 organizations just like Street Sense. So many ideas that come to us are not quite ready to walk. They may have a big strategic challenge, they may be just a kernel of an idea, or they may seem like a leap of faith. But we see the potential and invest our strategic capacity to and helped them to get up and run.
Together with your help we are helping grantees turn big ideas into solutions. So join with me today to congratulate Street Sense on taking a running leap into success by sharing this story and celebrating the power of social innovation. Good things are happening in our amazing City.