Startup Weekend focuses on social entrepreneurship via United Way partnership


Startup Weekend Cincinnati returns May 20-22 with a special edition focusing on social entrepreneurship in partnership with the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
 
“The United Way came to us in December and proposed working with Startup Weekend to engage the community in coming up with creative solutions to problems affecting the region,” says Julia Chick, content partnership manager at Ahalogy and a member of the Startup Weekend Cincinnati organizing team.
 
United Way launched its Bold Goals initiative in 2011, directing resources toward making significant improvements in education, income and health for area residents by 2020.
 
“In 2014, we took a step back to see how we were doing in making progress against those goals,” says Mike Baker, United Way’s director of community impact. “Although we were making progress, it was incremental. So we looked at what we could do to accelerate the pace of change in the community and encourage innovation in the social sector.
 
“One of the things we could do was expand the circle of people focused on the issues we care most about, particularly by connecting with the corporate sectors and startup community. Startup Weekend is a really great opportunity to get to know the people in the startup community and to attract their minds and resources to issues around education, income and health.”
 
Startup Weekend: Social Edition will work much like other startup weekends and hackathons, with a key difference — the event’s focus is creating a business or product that solves a social problem. On the Startup Weekend website, the organizers have included an explanation of social entrepreneurship as well as some “idea starters” related to the Bold Goals issues.
 
“The weekend itself is open to any ideas or creative solutions that attendees bring,” Chick says. “We worked with the United Way to come up with some thought starters to give examples of the problems facing the region. The idea is not to limit participants but to jump-start them.”
 
Mentors and coaches from the social enterprise sector will be around throughout the weekend to make sure the ideas that teams pursue really will address a particular issue. Their guidance will be reinforced by Saturday morning speakers Keri Dooley Stephens and Keith Romer from The Garage Group, who will talk about consumer validation.
 
Anyone can participate in Startup Weekend: Social Edition as long as they register before the program starts at 6 p.m. on Friday. The event is being hosted at the 84.51° headquarters downtown.
 
“There is great energy around a startup weekend,” Baker says. “It’s a really awesome way to get involved in the community, meet other people who care about the same issues you do and potentially solve big hairy issues. We’re looking for people who are willing to bring their creativity and ask the ‘why not’ questions: Why not try this? Why not move forward?”
 
Startup Weekend will provide food and beverages for the participants throughout the weekend to ensure teams can focus on developing their ideas. Everyone is encouraged to bring his or her own laptop and iPad and any other materials they’ll need in their work process.
 
“There are a lot of passionate people out there who may have some creative solutions to the problems United Way is addressing,” Chick says. “By bringing people together, we can collaborate to make Cincinnati an even greater place.”
 
Those unable to participate in the entire weekend can register for the free Demo Day event at 5 p.m. Sunday, when teams will pitch their ideas to the judges. The winning team will receive pro-bono consulting services from FlyWheel Cincinnati to help develop and implement their idea.
 
“I think Startup Weekend will be a great opportunity for people to experience the hustle and fast-paced creativity, problem solving and adjusting on the fly that goes into a startup, while connecting with and making improvements against the important issues so many of us care about in the community,” Baker says. “It will be both meaningful and fun for everyone participating.”
 

Read more articles by Julie Carpenter.

Julie Carpenter is a jack-of-all-trades with a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums and nonprofit organizations. She's a bit obsessed with the built environment and irregularly shares her musings on architecture, urban planning and city life on Facebook and Twitter (@StrawStickBrick).
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