In a 18th century mansion, once believed haunted, a new life has begun in the 21st century: A local nonprofit of innovative social enterprise and entrepreneurs with global impact that is getting wide attention — with more programs and places to come.
Washington, D.C., named the nation’s number-one city for social enterprise? Ahead of San Francisco, Austin and Boston?
That likely-to-rankle ranking appears in a study by Halcyon Incubator and Capital One, “From the Ground Up: Defining Social Enterprise Ecosystems in the U.S.” The data are from a 2015 survey of 388 social entrepreneurs nationwide. With regard to the “four pillars of a social enterprise ecosystem” — funding, quality of life, human capital and regulation/receptivity — D.C.’s composite score was 71.7 out of a possible 100.
San Francisco came in at 65.2, Austin at 63.6 and Boston at 61.6.
What gives Washington its edge in the social-enterprise arena? “This type of expertise we have in D.C. that we really don’t have anywhere else in the world,” says Kate Goodall, COO of the Georgetown-based S&R Foundation, which launched the Halcyon Incubator fellowship program in 2014.
The most convincing evidence in the case for D.C. may be S&R’s own track record: 32 ventures nurtured in two short years. On the way are another eight, focusing on coral reef restoration; digital platforms for rural artists, immigrant chefs and East African farmers; the application of data-science techniques to public agency operations and college debt reduction; personalized crowdfunding for K-12 students; and the use of messaging apps to send free stories to families without books.
Collectively, the 11 new Halcyon fellows — eight men and three women — have MBAs from Georgetown, Stanford and IE Business School in Madrid and degrees from Yale in computer science and environmental studies, in city planning from M.I.T. and in urban education from Johns Hopkins, among others. Their resumes include stints at 3M, HSBC, Yelp, the Brookings Institution and Head Start and in the U.S. Army, plus overseas experience in Belize, Cameroon, India, Mauritius and Peru.
“We get to disrupt who gets to be an entrepreneur,” says Goodall, a Cleveland Park mother of two who was born in England, moved to Alexandria (the one in Virginia) when she was 14 and studied literature and marine archaeology in North Carolina.
A public introduction of the new fellows will take place at Halcyon House, 3400 Prospect St. NW, S&R’s headquarters, on Sept. 8. Space is limited, but the public is welcome.
Purchased in March 2012 for $11 million, Halcyon House is one of three Georgetown landmarks owned by S&R Foundation. Evermay, 1623 28th St. NW, another Federal-period estate, was purchased a year earlier for $22 million. As with Halcyon House, this was less than half the original asking price. The former Fillmore School, 1801 35th St. NW, acquired by George Washington University along with other Corcoran assets, was added to the foundation’s holdings for $16.5 million — $2.5 million above the listed price — last year.
The S and the R behind all this repurposing of Georgetown real estate are Sachiko Kuno and Ryuji Ueno, Japanese pharmaceutical entrepreneurs who moved to the Washington area 20 years ago. The pair created the nonprofit S&R Foundation in 2000 to support creativity in the arts, the sciences and enterprise, especially international projects with a social-benefit component.
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