The DC Social Innovation Project was launched in 2011 by former Akin Gump attorneys Darius Graham and Omar Hashmi.
They had done well and good, but noticed that too often, succeeding in social entrepreneurship required pre-existing wealth and access to networks.
“There were faces missing from the conversation,” said executive director Melissa Ehrenreich.
So Hashmi and Graham, who now directs the Social Innovation Lab at Johns Hopkins University, started a fiscal grant and mentorship program powered by donations, and a slate of pro bono consultants.
“Our job is to really help brilliant ideas become bankable,” said Ehrenreich.
Among the projects the nonprofit has helped kick off are Young Doctors DC and Food for Life, two organizations that provide training to disadvantaged youth, and Digital Hope, an online marketing workshop for people who have experienced homelessness.
Last week, the organization opened a new round of applications that closes July 17. It will select up to three ideas to address youth, workforce development, or hunger and health challenges.
Each grantee will receive a $3,000 cash grant — with the condition that it is matched “to create sustainability and attract new donors,” said Ehrenreich — plus advising, marketing and strategic planning services. The total package is worth around $25,000, she said.
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