For three local social enterprises, the final class of BAEP- 460 – Philanthropy and Social Impact, was like Christmas in November. But in reality it was the students—and Los Angeles County—receiving a gift.
Representatives from Plaza de la Raza, the Engineer Factory and Safe Place for Youth were there to celebrate the end of the class, and to receive their share of the $60K in social enterprise funding.
“We are unbelievably delighted to be awarded this money,” said Alison Hurst, executive director of Safe Place for Youth, a non-profit that works with homeless youth in Venice Beach. They will use the $30,000 awarded them to create a sustainable marketplace for their clients’ artwork, which will include workforce training, to be called the Color of Hope Collective.
“The three groups here today are the best of the best. Each are working on quite different social challenges, but they are all lead by dedicated social entrepreneurs committed to using markets and business principles to address problems that we must solve to have a just and sustainable society. We are all very pleased to help accelerate their growth.”-- Betsy Densmore, Founder and Managing Director, Academies for Social Enterprise and BAEP 460 technical consultant
She was impressed, she says, that a team of students from the class had not just made a cursory visit. “They hung out and met the clients,” she said. “They got to see the spirit and the hope of the unhoused youth we serve in Venice and the West Side.”
The student team went back and advocated fiercely for this particular need. That passion helped convince the class as a whole to agree that Safe Place for Youth was deserving of the largest of three awards.
Meet the Best
The ceremony Nov. 27 on the University Park campus was the culmination of a semester-long process in which students researched, advocated and narrowed down a list of 48 social enterprises to three final grant recipients, and then decided how to allocate $60,000 between them.
“This course is a ‘learning by doing’ experience in which the students develop practical skills while learning about different social enterprise models,” said course instructor Laura Fox, an attorney and former entertainment industry executive. She co-teaches the class with her husband, serial entrepreneur Ben Van de Bunt.
Now in its second year, BAEP 460 once again filled up quickly. In fact, Fox said, she increased the class size so that three students on the waitlist—who all demonstrated a strong interest in social enterprise—could attend.
“We are very grateful to Jim Ellis and USC Marshall for allowing us to create this innovative course,” she said. “We also particularly appreciate the tremendous support and advice we’ve gotten from Adlai Wertman, Abby Fifer Mandel and David Belasco.”
Plaza de la Raza, a cultural space serving Eastside Los Angeles neighborhoods with year-round programs in arts educations and cultural enrichment, won a $20,000 grant to expand La Tiendita, its store and coffee shop, as part of its 50-year anniversary in 2020.
The Engineer Factory takes the teaching of STEM subjects into the classrooms to expose girls and students of color to the wonders of engineering. The $10,000 grant will enable them to hire a marketing consultant to take its advocacy to the next level.
“We will leverage these resources for more resources,” said Audrey Thompson, executive director. “This award helps us spread our message.”
The class had a technical adviser in Betsy Densmore, a longtime social enterprise advocate who vetted nearly 60 organizations within an hour’s drive of USC to be part of the program.
“The three groups here today are the best of the best,” she said. “Plaza de la Raza, Engineer Factory and Safe Place for Youth are each working on quite different social challenges, but they are all lead by dedicated social entrepreneurs committed to using markets and business principles to address problems that we must solve to have a just and sustainable society. We are all very pleased to help accelerate their growth.”