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Social Entrepreneur's Cup Finalists Announced

MINNEAPOLIS, June 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Social Venture Partners is proud to announce the four finalists for its Social Entrepreneur's Cup awards. The Social Entrepreneur's Cup is a competition to find Minnesota's most innovative and effective social entrepreneurs. The four finalists compete for recognition and cash awards as part of the Engaged Philanthropy Conference that takes place on Thursday, June 18 at the Graves 601 Hotel in Minneapolis. The Social Entrepreneur's Cup was created to seek out, celebrate, and promote Minnesota's most innovative and effective social entrepreneurs and the non-profit organizations they lead.

Bill Drayton, the founder of the Ashoka Foundation and a leading social entrepreneur himself, describes a social entrepreneur this way: "Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society's most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change. Rather than leaving societal needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps. Over the past two decades, the citizen sector has discovered what the business sector learned long ago: There is nothing as powerful as a new idea in the hands of a first-class entrepreneur."

Each of the finalists will make live presentations before the judges and conference attendees vying for cash grants and consulting assistance from Social Venture Partners. The winner of the competition will receive $20,000 as a general operating grant and 40 hours of consulting services from the experienced entrepreneurs and managers who make up Social Venture Partners. The second place winner wins $5,000 and 20 hours of consulting services from Social Venture Partners. The other competitors will receive a $1,500 honorable mention award. Sandra Vargas, the president of the Minneapolis Foundation, presents the winners their awards at the concluding ceremony and reception.

Judges for the competition are: Kate Barr, Executive Director, Non-Profits Assistance Fund; Terry Barrerio, Executive Director, University of St. Johns Entrepreneurship Center; Trista Harris, Executive Director of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice; Sean Kershaw, President of the Citizens League; Melissa Stone, Director, Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute; Greg Tehven, co-director of Students Today Leaders Forever and the 2008 Social Entrepreneur's Cup winner; and Jeff Tollefson, former venture capitalist and current Executive Director of Genesys Works.

The Social Entrepreneur's Cup finalists represent the spectrum of social needs including education, health, homelessness, and sustainable energy. Each of the finalists has a fascinating story of innovation and hope to tell. The four finalists are:

Admission Possible

A college education remains the best pathway out of poverty and into a middle-class life. Admission Possible helps promising low-income students enter college by providing ACT and SAT test preparation services and admissions and financial aid consulting. Each year, approximately 200,000 low-income students in the United States graduate from high school prepared for college, but don't go. At no cost to students Admission Possible provides four critical services to help them prepare for admission to college: 1) ACT/SAT preparation; 2) college applications preparation; 3) Financial aid assistance; and 4) Guidance in the transition to college. Since 2000, 99% of Admission Possible students have earned admission to college, and nearly 80% are continuing to work toward their degree or have already graduated.

Admission Possible was the first college access program in the country to use AmeriCorps members to "coach" their students. Starting as a 35-student pilot program in 2001, Admission Possible's program is now in 17 Greater Twin Cities high schools and serves 1,300 students across five school districts. In fall of 2008, Admission Possible expanded its program to high schools in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Rural Renewable Energy Alliance

Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) installs solar heating systems for low-income families that qualify for public heating assistance. While Heating Assistance is a vital safety net for the lowest income Minnesotans, it isn't a permanent solution for generational and cyclical fuel poverty. RREAL home solar heating systems saves low-income families money while reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions; localizes energy production; and creates green jobs in impoverished communities in northern Minnesota. The solar heating systems installed by RREAL offset as much heat in one season as a family receives through heating assistance.

RREAL manufactures and sells of one of the most efficient solar air heat collectors on the market. The income from sales of its solar heating systems allows it to subsidize installations of systems in the homes of low-income families. RREAL is working with Community Action Programs to replicate their work across Minnesota.

RREAL's goal is to install Solar Air Heat in residences, businesses, and industry throughout Minnesota and beyond not only as a solution to fuel prices, but for the reduction of greenhouse gases, keeping energy spending local, the creation of local employment, and energy independence.

Hearth Connection

Homelessness is a social ill that Hearth Connection knows how to solve. Hearth Connection's network of supportive housing providers houses over 1,300 men, women, and children, 92% of whom now live in their own homes. Homelessness is expensive for taxpayers because the homeless go to hospital emergency rooms, jails, detox facilities, and other expensive services. The Hearth Connection's outcomes are impressive. Extensive research demonstrates that Hearth Connection use public resources more productively and is breaking the cycle of homelessness.

The Hearth Connection solution to homelessness is to finance, develop and manage a network of supportive housing providers that houses people with long histories of homelessness. They provide support for the homeless and help them get treatment for mental illness, addictions and medical problems.

Homelessness is difficult for government or charities to solve alone because both the problem and the solution are complex. As an intermediary, Hearth Connection brings together faith communities, non-profit social service agencies, housing developers, neighborhoods, philanthropy, hospitals and all levels of government. Hearth Connection's special contribution is rethinking the problem of homelessness by taking it on systemically.

Apple Tree Dental

The top unmet health care need for low-income Minnesotans is dental care. Annually, an estimated 20,000 visits to emergency departments in Minnesota are for dental infections that could have been prevented. Apple Tree Dental addresses this problem in a whole new way. Apple Tree Dental provides comprehensive dental services for almost 15,000 low-income Minnesotans enrolled in Minnesota Health Care Programs (MHCP) including Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare.

Recognizing that traditional dental clinics were not reaching people with the greatest needs, Apple Tree created the "Community Collaborative Practice Model" as a three-way partnership among a group dental practice, community organization and an on-site dental care team. The Community Collaborative Practice Model brings care to low-income people where they live or receive other social services and teaches healthy habits while delivering preventive and restorative care. Dentists and dental hygienists work together like doctors and nurse practitioners, with hygienists providing on-site education, assessment and triage services. The Community Collaborative Practice Model extends the reach of the dental workforce by allowing dentists to focus on restorative care while hygienist practitioners provide earlier disease prevention that reduces painful infections and expensive treatment.

About the Conference Host Organization: Social Venture Partners Minnesota (

Social Venture Partners Minnesota is an engaged philanthropy organization that leverages the money and talents of its members to promote philanthropy and improve the lives of 'at risk' children and youth in Minnesota. Our members are successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and professionals skilled at growing organizations with a heart for making a better world. We are business entrepreneurs working alongside social entrepreneurs to solve social problems.

Social Venture Partners follows the venture capital model of patient, long-term investment combined with hands-on assistance to transform the social entrepreneur's vision into reality. We invest financial capital, social capital, and intellectual capital in the nonprofit innovators we support. Social Venture Partner members gain satisfaction from giving of their talents, as well as their money, forming personal relationships with the nonprofit staff they work with and the children served by the nonprofit. Through our youth program, SVP Teens, we prepare the next generation of philanthropists.

SOURCE Social Venture Partners Minnesota
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