TBT: Who Applies For a DCSIP Grant

We know–it’s Tuesday. But TBT is coming a little early this week because we are really excited to find the next great grantees who will pilot new approaches to tackle poverty in DC. (Have you applied for a grant yet? We strongly encourage it!)

As we are stretching out across every media outlet, blog, and social network that we can find, we went into the vault to find this gem of a blog post from the Notebook about who applies for a DC Social Innovation Project grant. And the answers may surprise you.

Did you know:

  • Our applicants are deeply rooted in DC. 50% of applicants report having lived in DC for 25 years.
  • New ideas start by filling out our application. Nearly 1 in 5 applicants report that filling out our grant application motivated them to start something new.
  • Lean startups are the norm. More than half of our applicants have full-time or part-time jobs outside of the new venture they are applying for support.

Are you ready to launch something incredible to tackle poverty in the District of Columbia? Apply today!

Join Our Team

helloSummer is in the air! We are looking for a few good grantees and now are happy to announce that our annual fellowship cycle is open! Every year we hire fellows to help us fulfill DC Social Innovation Project’s mission and provide leadership in the social innovation space. This year, we are looking for a new team member to help us engage our community of supporters, volunteers, and partners. Our Strategic Engagement Fellow will be responsible for helping develop quality educational programming, networking events, and find the best people to help light up the District of Columbia.

We are recruiting a highly talented and committed individual who gets how to support and build incredible communities committed to change. The Strategic Engagement Fellow will be responsible for connecting and supporting our rock star volunteers and grantees, our partners who are helping us raise the profile of social entrepreneurship and innovation, and our donors and community investors who make our work possible.

We provide mentoring, the connection to our leadership team, and a small monthly stipend; you provide the initiative, energy, and brilliant ideas.

You in a nutshell (AKA–our ideal candidate):

  • You love to design opportunities to cultivate and engage game changers
  • You have an abundance orientation and value collaboration to create powerful results
  • You know and use the magic words “please”, “thank you”, and “how can I help” often and to great effect
  • You deliver what you promise with flair and no drama
  • You are a people person who loves volunteers because together we can make GREAT things happen
  • You get the power of philanthropy–asking someone for a gift is energizing
  • You embody the social entrepreneur and believe that every challenge is an opportunity to innovate

If this is you, we can’t wait to meet you! Step up and apply today! All candidates have until July 17, 2015 to apply for this annual fellowship. Please send a 200 word note describing why we should choose you and your resume to info@dcsocialinnovation.org.

What We Look For: Sharks for Social Innovation

daymond johnOur Summer 2015 grant application is open and we are looking for the next DC Social Innovation Project grantees who will win a $25,000 social capital grant to launch a new idea to tackle poverty in the District of Columbia.

As you mull over your application, we wanted to drop some wisdom about what we look for in excellent grantees. The truth is, we look for more than people who tick off boxes on our application. We look for signs of grit, we look for passion, we look for great ideas, and we look for partners who need our help to find new paths to bring solutions to market. Our role is to help community-based innovators bring new solutions to light who aren’t served by traditional philanthropy. We want to broaden the entrepreneurship pipeline by investing in a new generation of leaders that are developing community-based strategies to eliminate poverty in the District of Columbia. We want to be great partners to pilot small, but smart prototypes that test big ideas. We want to turn good intentions into great ideas that can transform lives together.

But don’t take our word, take a brief listen to Shark Tank expert Daymond John or read this new insightful Inc. article on how he spots winners, because that man knows what he is doing. People, passion, grit, and a willingness to work together. Step up to the plate, apply today, and show us what you got!


Open For Business: Apply for a $25,000 Grant Today


–Nelson Mandela   

Today we are announcing the opening of our Summer 2015 call for applications. For the next 30 days, we will solicit as many ideas to find our next grantees that will join the DC Social Innovation Project Innovation Family. Will you be among them?

Over this long hot summer, we will explore some of the coolest cutting edge ideas to tackle poverty. We cannot wait to be bowled over by great ideas. If you’ve never started something but have always wanted to–now is the time. If you are sitting at your computer, reading this and wondering if you have what it takes to change a life–give us a shot. If your organization has always thought, wouldn’t it be great if we tried something new? This might be your moment to find out.

Our role is to incubate GREAT ideas and community-based innovators. We do that by providing unique social capital grants valued at $25,000 to provide seed funding and expertise that give good ideas a running head start. We don’t require a track record, we don’t require a big bank account. We require ingenuity, grit, and the courage to step up and try something new. For once in DC, it’s refreshingly not about who you know but about the great ideas inside of you.

Maybe you’ve never gotten a grant before, or never even written a grant. It didn’t stop Malcolm Woodland, founder of Young Doctors DC who used our grant to put in motion his incredible idea to build a bridge to college for young men of color while delivering life saving health clinics. Don’t let it stop you.

Today, on the 150 anniversary of Juneteenth, we will get to sit down with dozens of incredible organizations making a difference in communities of color. It will be wonderful to spend four hours at today’s My Brother’s Keeper Probono Lab to dive in, dig deep, and do good with some great organizations. But we want more.

We have 30 days to be astounded by all the good ideas in our community. Help us light up communities in the District through the power of innovation. Apply today or share this post with a friend to encourage them to apply.


Melissa Ann Ehrenreich, Executive Director

Calling A Social Innovators: A note from our new Executive Director

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

Announcing our new Executive Director

Since awarding our first grant in 2011, we have played an instrumental role in the launch and development of ten innovative community programs. These programs provide academic and career opportunities for young adults, access to healthy food grown right here in DC, and opportunities for women in under-served neighborhoods to start small businesses. In all, we’ve convened and awarded more than $250,000 in funding and strategic assistance to help jumpstart and sustain these initiatives.

A significant part of what has made DCSIP what it is today are the people involved. From our founding team, to our volunteers, board members, grantees, and supporters like you, it’s the people that drive our mission and make our work possible.

Today, I’m excited to share with you that we’re adding Melissa Ehrenreich to our team as Executive Director. Melissa brings a wealth of experience from more than 15 years in the nonprofit sector having worked in the areas of program development, impact evaluation, fundraising, and strategic communications. She not only has the experience, but she also has the passion and enthusiasm that has always been essential to our work. Having Melissa as our Executive Director is a milestone for DCSIP as she will be the first leader outside of our founding team.

We’re thrilled to have Melissa join us at this exciting time for DCSIP and we look forward to working with her – and you – as we continue to be a driving force for social innovation and positive change in DC. Please take a moment to join me in welcoming Melissa. You can email her directly at melissa@dcsocialinnovation.org or connect via Twitter (@mehrenreich). Learn more about Melissa and the rest of our team on our website.

Press Pass Mentors graduates its second class

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Last week we joined our grantee Press Pass Mentors (PPM) for its annual scholarship celebration. PPM is an 18-month writing intensive and one-on-one mentoring program for high school juniors and seniors from Wards 7 and 8 who want to attend college but need a boost in their writing skills. Each student that completes the program receives a scholarship to attend college. (Read more about them in our previous blog profile.)


The scholarship celebration took place in the auditorium at The Washington Post. Each of the seven graduates – who are now heading to college or the military – were introduced by their mentor and then gave a speech about their growth during the program.

The speeches were hilarious, thoughtful, and touching as they recounted their experience in the program and the impact it had on them personally and on their writing ability. One student remarked, “I finally found my voice and I plan to use it to the fullest extent.”



Congratulate PPM and its graduates by sharing this tweet:

Congrats to @dcsocialinnov’s grantee @presspassmentor for graduating its second class and providing scholarships to college! http://wp.me/p1tFvv-db

For opportunities to support our work and grantees like Press Pass Mentors, visit the Get Involved page on our website.