Community open to New Ideas (CJN September 2011)

This "Sustainable Jew" column appeared in the Canadian Jewish News, September 8, 2011

How does a community come together to look at new ideas and decide which ones to make a small investment in and see if they will succeed?

The GTA Jewish community brought forward 78 proposals to the UJA Federation’s SixPoints Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund. Sixty individuals pooled their financial resources and business planning skills to fund and support new and innovative programs, consistent with Jewish values.

Each proposal team was asked to record a short video and write up their project describing the hypothetical community benefit.

Shoresh was the only group to propose a sustainable solution for the Jewish community. ( Their proposal looks for a permanent home for Shoresh’s Kavanah Garden, temporarily located on the Lebovic Campus. Jewish community members from across the spectrum use the garden and its programs to strengthen their Jewish identity, and inspire Jewish social and environmental responsibility.

Shoresh and 35 other entries, agreed to publically show their proposal. The SixPoints funders will be using their expertise to help improve proposals. They will select 3-5 projects to share $300,000 of assembled funding.

Concurrently, the ClimateSpark Social Venture Challenge ( is about to begin under the leadership of Julia Langer, based on a previous challenge mounted by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund. A City of Toronto agency, TAF has helpedcommunity leaders and green entrepreneurs identify and advance emission reduction and clean air ventures for over 20 years.

ClimateSpark SVC is looking for 10 high-impact, self-sustaining initiatives that can lead to significant local reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. As with SixPoints, you need to record a short video to overview your idea. Additionally you need to succinctly describe in words how the idea would work, be able to provide some way to quantify the positive impact it can have on the environment and explain how the project would become self supporting over 5 years.

ClimateSpark SVC offers adiverse group of experts, from professional consultants and community leaders to entrepreneurs and greenhouse gas emissions analysts. Through the power of social networking these experts along with other members of the public will offer their comments and intellectual capital to mentor contestants and strengthen plans being submitted. The 10 selected projects will receive additional private coaching. The final three will be eligible for a pool of financing from grant-makers and private financiers.

Some of the community teams who may have hesitated in bringing an environmentally related project to SixPoints may want to consider proposing their idea to the ClimateSpark community.

“Both ClimateSpark and SixPoints have a similar objective of bringing value to their community” said Adam Minsky, Chief of Community Capacity Building, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. “I recognize that solicitation of community input through social network crowdsourcing and having different funding sources are two critical differences. There will be lessons to be learned from both models.”

“It is exciting to see open-source contests emerging in different sectors in Toronto,” says Langer. “It shows awareness that complex problem solving relies on accessing knowledge and ideas from many sources, and on mutual refinement that makes good ideas great.”

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