What does social innovation look like in Austin?




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We’re lucky to live in a region full of smart, passionate people who want to be part of the solution to the social challenges facing our city. At Greenlights, we’re confident that Austin’s complex social problems can be solved and believe that social innovation is a key component. In fact, Greenlights’ Board Member and CEO of BuildASign.com Dan Graham explained in the Austin Business Journal why Austin is poised to be a social innovation capital. In the article Dan suggests “we must find ways to bridge business concepts and strategies with nonprofit missions and social causes.” That’s what social innovation is all about. And it’s already happening right here in Austin.

In our last blog post, you read about the five organizations accepted into the Accelerator. At AustinNext on June 3, we’re assembling the leaders of the 2015 Accelerator class, along with 10+ other groups who are leading the way in bringing social innovation to Austin. These mission-driven organizations and initiatives are bringing together Austin’s strong entrepreneurial mentality with the city’s community-minded, altruistic spirit.

Here are just a few examples of social innovation happening in our backyard:

Mobile Loaves & Fishes – Community First! Village:

The Community First! Village is a 27-acre master-planned community that will provide affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas. It is already attracting national attention because of its collaborative approach and focus on empowering our entire city. With a mix of affordable housing options, a community garden, a medical facility, micro-enterprise opportunities, an outdoor movie theater and much more, the Community First! Village will radically transform and renew our community by lifting homeless men and women up from the streets and into a permanent home.

Mother’s Milk Bank:

After participating in the Greenlights’ 2014 Accelerator and becoming an investee, Mothers’ Milk Bank of Austin developed a business plan to create a new, specialized human-based milk product that will improve outcomes for more than 60,000 vulnerable, very low birth weight infants born in the U.S. each year. Mothers’ Milk Bank has developed the formula for a fortification-free product, reducing the risk of a debilitating condition called necrotizing enterocolitis by 75%. They’re working now with the FDA application process to bring the product to market.

Aunt Bertha:

In the United States there are 89,000 government organizations, over a million public charities and more than 300,000 congregations. Many of these organizations offer programs designed to help people with food, health, housing or education needs. But navigating through the information available can be intimidating – and all too often people give up and fall further into crisis. Aunt Bertha is building a way to connect people looking for help and organizations that offer that help. By building the world’s most comprehensive, crowd-sourced human service database Aunt Bertha believes that well-organized, accessible program information can help people avoid preventable poverty.

Easter Seals Central Texas — Easter Seals Lawn & Landscape:

Easter Seals Lawn & Landscape is a social innovation with a simple idea: to provide lawn care and landscaping services to homeowners, create jobs for people with disabilities, and return the profits to its programs supporting adults and children with disabilities. Since its launch, Easter Seals Lawn & Landscape has acquired more than 230 customers and is still growing, which translates into jobs and support. In the last year, Easter Seals has grown its program with the help of Greenlights’ Accelerator and Social Venture Partners and recently secured a “social impact loan.”

Want to learn about more exciting programs in Austin and find ways to get involved? Join us at AustinNext on Wednesday, June 3 to meet these and many other social entrepreneurs including College Forward, E3 Alliance, Fusebox, Intertwine, and Stretch Recipes among others. You will have a unique opportunity to meet and interact with some of Austin’s most forward-thinking leaders who are tackling Austin’s growing divide and most pressing social problems, such as affordable housing, education, homelessness and poverty.

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