A more engaged Miami with Rebecca Fishman Lipsey

Almost eight years ago, Rebecca Fishman Lipsey moved to Miami to lead the Miami chapter of Teach For America, a national organization of recent college graduates who commit two years of their lives to teaching in under-resourced public schools. In her role as the executive director, Lipsey met inspiring and impactful leaders across the city — people committed to making Miami a better place for everyone. While these changemakers deeply cared about their city, all too often, passionate and hard-working social entrepreneurs were burning themselves out.

That’s when she decided she needed to intervene. Hoping to disrupt the high transition and turnover rates, Lipsey launched Radical Partners, a social innovation accelerator, with the goal of identifying, amplifying, and sustaining high impact leaders. Radical Partners started a Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, last year to help leaders get the funding and nourishment they need to keep doing the important work they do. After the first successful cohort concluded last summer, Lipsey partnered with Andrew Pompa, director of AkermanIN, a program sponsored by a leading U.S. law firm that is aimed at contributing to Miami’s evolution as a center of entrepreneurial activity.

Together, they have strengthened the program, as well as made scholarships available to support interested community leaders. Applications are due Jan. 8 for the next cohort of the Radical Partners Social Entrepreneurs Bootcamp, which starts Feb. 8. We we sat down with Lipsey to learn a little more about Radical Partners, and explored what it takes to become a strong leader in a city like Miami.  

How did Radical Partners get started?

Over the past few years, I’ve loved growing something I believe in and helping build relationships with leaders of organizations all over the city. It started out with me having these sort of coaching conversations with other executive directors around Miami. The whole thing sort of happened informally. I was just in a position where I could do good, so I felt like I needed to. Now, I spend most of my time finding amazing people and learning who is doing amazing things in the city and understanding what they need, and what can be helpful for them. 

When was the first formal bootcamp?

Over the course of a year and a half, I was having  similar conversations with leaders around the city, and I thought it would make sense to have them all in one room together.  When I did the first bootcamp, I didn’t know if I was going to find funding, get materials, or even get people to donate their time and show up. But what I found is that simply by doing it, people would come up to me and say, “Thank you” and “I love what you’re doing.” So the first cohort of 10 social entrepreneurs was this past summer, and they included people like Chad Bernstein of Guitars Over Guns, Marta Viciedo from the Urban Impact Lab, Stephanie Ansin of the Miami Theater Center, Mikhaile Solomon from the PRIZM Art Fair, and Nathalie Manzano Smith of the Miami Science Barge.

What has the bootcamp done for these entrepreneurs?

There’s a couple of things I’ve been really excited about. While the true test of the impact of the bootcamp is the longer term sustainability of the organizations, I’m really investing in these people as leaders. I’ve been excited to see their organizations growing in prominence, funding, and partnerships. Another great thing is that there is a lot of collaboration between groups. Two organizations that were in the first cohort, Guitars over Guns and Educate Tomorrow, now collaborate frequently and bring students to one another. I’ve realized that part of the value is connecting creative people and building a space where they can innovate together. I’ve seen them all grow in their prominence, speak publicly and become more compelling. They’ve also realized that there’s some strategic purpose in thinking about how to make your work more sustainable. Now their conversations are shifting from, “Can we find the funding to stay afloat?” to “How are we going to go from managing a team of just one to a team of five?”

What is the time commitment and curriculum of the bootcamp?

The bootcamp starts with 10 innovators who are solving a community issue with a for-profit or nonprofit venture, who are ready to grow their impact.  I’ve found there are five areas where every organization that I work with feel pain. They are Pitch, Fundraising, Team Growth, Time Management, and Branding. Every other week, the whole cohort meets for 3 hours per session to go through each of these modules. Each innovator is also paired with a coach. So they also meet one-on-one with their coach every week. The program lasts for 10 weeks, total, with approximately 5-10 hours of work a week.

Why do you want to build strong leaders in Miami?

Courtesy of Ekaterina Juskowski
Courtesy of Ekaterina Juskowski

What a lot of people don’t realize about Miami is that it’s a great place for leadership. Because of how diverse it is, Miami has the opportunity to be an influencer for our state and our country. We have folks from all over the world colliding in a place where diverse backgrounds and perspectives can create solutions for community issues — and can serve as a model for changemaking around the world. That’s why I love the idea of building a hub of social changemakers here in Miami. I want this city to be a draw for changemakers by creating a community, support network, and resources for like-minded and passionate people. I love this city and I believe in the leadership in our city. We just have to support and nourish it.

How can folks get involved in other ways?

I want to get everyone in Miami engaged in social changemaking. Radical Partners also has a 100 Great Ideas campaign where I will invite anyone and everyone to brainstorm solutions on a certain issue. The first campaign was about the future of Miami libraries. We had people submit their ideas for improving the library on Facebook and Twitter, and then we got high-level decision makers to actually read those ideas. The last campaign was about the future of the Miami Airport. The next one will be later this month and will be about the future of public transit in Miami — anyone can contribute an idea on Facebook or Twitter, and we’ll consolidate the best 25 and present them to leaders in transit.