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The world’s premier community impact organization is finally opening up a Miami office

Until this week, Miami was one of the only cities in the country to not have a chapter of Social Venture Partners, a global leader in getting cities to coach their investor community toward creating meaningful social change in their communities.

That will no longer be the case thanks to Lauren Harper, the founder of co-working space Center for Social Change. She is now transitioning out of her role there to lead what will officially become the 41st chapter of one of the most impactful philanthropy organizations in the world.

“We’re a city of startups — we always rank near the top,” she says. “But we’re dead last when it comes to scale ups. For social impact organizations, the costs to the community are even greater when that’s the case.”

SVP Miami is hoping to change all that.

What is it?

The first Social Venture Partners chapter was founded in 1997 in Seattle. Today it has turned into a global network with chapters in 40 cities. The goal of SVP is to gather wealthy partners and have them pool their funds to make multi-year, unrestricted gifts to carefully vetted groups that can make an impact in their communities. SVP Partners also contribute their business and professional expertise to the groups.

Who’s behind the Miami Chapter?

Lauren Harper, a former lawyer, decided being a corporate attorney wasn’t right for her. After working at coworking space the Center for Social Change in Coral Gables for a few years, she began meeting with SVP’s national executives in 2014 to found a Miami chapter. She was able to convince them not only that Miami had a need for social improvement, but that there was enough wealth and committed investors in the city to meet the usual goals of SVP.

SVP Miami now has 10 “founders” who are ready to offer financial or institutional support, including Fred Stock, head of Jewish Community Services (JCS) of South Florida, the county’s largest social services support organization.

“I believe that not for profit human service agencies will be challenged in the coming years with regard to government resources, so communities will need to step up to provide those resources,” Stock said in an email. “As a large multifaceted human service agency, JCS is in a unique position to assist smaller not for profits with not only funding, but human resources in planning, budgeting, management and leadership development.”

What issues will SVP be supporting?

Harper says the four main areas of focus for SVP Miami will be economic justice, education, the environment, and health.

Which groups will receive the money?

On Thursday, SVP Miami will hold its official launch event at the New World Center. One business or nonprofit will receive $10,000 if they can win a “Shark Tank”-style pitch event arguing why they are worthy of investment.

After that, Harper says any organization can apply, but that they already have specific organizations in mind that they will be explicitly asking to apply. These are organizations already beyond the “ideas” stage, meaning they already have some track record and just need more resources to grow.

By Rob Wile
Rob Wile, the curator for Startup.Miami, is a writer and entrepreneur living in Mid-Beach. He’s a former staff writer for Fusion and Business Insider. His work has also appeared in Slate, Newsweek, Money Magazine and The New Tropic. He writes a twice-weekly newsletter on tech, business, and the economy in South Florida called The Heatwave.