LOS ANGELES – On March 22nd, before a panel of judges and a live audience of more than 500 Angelenos at the Skirball Cultural Center, Patti Larson, Executive Director of Food Finders, and Shanae Polk, Program Director of 2nd Call won the Grand Prize and Audience Award, respectively, at the 2017 Social Innovation Fast Pitch competition.
Larson and Polk were two of 10 non-profit finalists who competed on-stage for funding by delivering three-minute pitches of their organizations at the 9th Annual Social Venture Partners Los Angeles event.
“One in six people in Los Angeles is food-insecure, and last year we rescued 8 million pounds of food and got it to people who desperately needed it,” said Larson, who won the $10,000 Judges Grand Prize Award for the best overall pitch. “Our program is a win-win; people are fed and waste is reduced.” The award will support the mission of Food Finders, a multi-regional food rescue organization that helps provide food to more than 300 agencies and shelters throughout Southern California, reducing hunger and food waste while improving nutrition in food-insecure communities. “Participating in Fast Pitch has increased awareness of our program even more, so we can grow and ensure people know Food Finders is a resource.”
The Audience Awards were selected by the audience of 550 Angelenos—potential donors, partners and supporters–via live text voting during the event. In addition to 2nd Call, who wins $10,000 as the audience’s favorite pitch, Mario Fedelin, Executive Director of Big Citizen HUB won $5,000 for the organization as the runner-up audience favorite.
“I used to be Inmate W80854,” began Shanae Polk, Program Director of 2nd Call, an organization designed to save lives and reduce violence by assisting in the personal development of high-risk individuals. “I stand before you tonight no longer a victim, or an offender. I am an advocate, a peacemaker. I am a second chance.” While on average, 68% of individuals release from jail are re-arrested within 3 years, the return rate is only 2% out of the 825 people 2nd Call has served. “Social Venture Partners has helped us take our organization to the next level, building new relationships that we never would’ve had access to before now. I am so grateful.”
Two additional Judges Awards of $5,000 each were given to recognize pitches that demonstrate exceptional innovation and social impact. The Innovation Award went to Ernie Merlan, Executive Director of Exceptional Minds, which provides individuals on the autism spectrum with customized instruction and hands-on experience to earn a living in the fields of multimedia, computer animation and post-production. The Impact Award also went to Polk and 2nd Call.
To round out the night’s cash award winners, Michelle Cho, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Gladeo, was awarded the $5,000 Coaches Prize, for noteworthy accomplishment in the two-month training program. Gladeo is dedicated to inspiring and helping young people discover, navigate and achieve their dream careers by creating innovative multimedia career content and distributing it online. The Coaches Prize is selected by the 20 volunteer business executives who worked with the finalists; each non-profit leader has two business coaches who work exclusively with their finalist as a team over the course of the training.
Competitors were among 20 nonprofit leaders who took part in an intense 8-week program of coaching and training by volunteer business executives. In the final weeks of the training, ten finalists were selected, whose experience culminates in presenting their Fast Pitches before a panel of judges and a live audience. The program believes that every person has a story to tell, and that lasting positive social change comes when we share those stories, inspiring us to unite around a common purpose.
Christine Margiotta, the new executive director of Social Venture Partners L.A., was only a few weeks into her role when she decided to participate in the coaching and training program to experience the signature program firsthand and hone her pitch for the new vision of SVP. She kicked off tonight’s event with her pitch, which highlighted SVP’s soon-to-be-announced plans to expand beyond direct coaching to building coalitions to drive social change around a few high-profile issue areas in L.A.
“I’m honored to have participated with this team of incredible social entrepreneurs,” said Margiotta. “I’ll be forever grateful to the business executives who volunteer their time every year as SVP coaches. Getting feedback on my ideas and messages from a room full of people who are leaders in their field was invaluable. It helped me truly understand the value of this program.”
“Soon we’ll launch our next chapter, our Innovation Circles,” Margiotta continued. “We’ll ask the community of non-profits to tell us roadblocks in their work that, if we were to help remove them, would accelerate their impact. We’ll choose 2-3 big challenges and our Partners will team up with the nonprofits to come up with innovative solutions, invest seed funds to test the best ideas, and keep at it until we’ve met the goal.”
In addition to the cash awards, two finalists—Shanae Polk of 2nd Call and Michelle Cho of Gladeo—were each awarded GG Society Fellowships, a one-year immersive executive coaching and management consulting program for non-profit leaders, provided by Fast Pitch coach Cristina Gallegos. Plus, all 19 Fast Pitch presenters—both the finalists and semifinalists—were awarded three months of pro bono executive coaching from the Los Angeles Chapter of the International Coaching Federation.
Sekou Andrews, the schoolteacher turned national poetry slam champion who has performed for Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and many audiences nationwide, served as Master of Ceremonies and performed at the event. The night also featured a performance by everybody dance! from The Gabriella Foundation, whose mission is to transform the lives of underserved L.A. youth through high-quality dance instruction.
The community leaders who served as Fast Pitch judges this year were Sylia Obagi, President & CEO, Roy & Patricia Disney Foundation; Rina Palta, Correspondent, KPCC; Andrew Russell, President & CEO, PBS SoCal; Gary Segura, Dean, UCLA Luskin School; and last year’s Fast Pitch winner, Rachel Sumekh, Executive Director, Swipe Out Hunger.
Social Venture Partners L.A. (SVP) connects venture philanthropists in L.A. with emerging leaders on the front lines of social change. They invest time, resources and funding to help non-profits large and small reach the next level of impact. One of their most popular programs has been the annual Social Innovation Fast Pitch competition, in which non-profit leaders participate in an intense program of coaching and training over 8 weeks and ultimately make a pitch before a panel of judges and live audience, with the winners receiving funding for their organizations.
Fast Pitch is a two-month intensive journey for non-profit leaders, made possible through the generous support of sponsors, including Platinum Sponsors, California Community Foundation and The Roy and Patricia Disney Foundation, and Gold Sponsor The Annenberg Foundation.
Prominent alumni of the program include Tamika Butler, Executive Director of the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition; Rick Nahmias of Food Forward; Harry Grammer of New Earth; and Rachel Sumekh of Swipe Out Hunger.
The complete list of Fast Pitch finalists and their organizations is below. For more info, visit www.svpla.org.
Watch videos of the 2017 Social Innovation Fast Pitches
2017 SOCIAL INNOVATION FAST PITCH FINALISTS
Shanae Polk, Program Director
2nd Call is a community based organization designed to save lives by reducing violence and assisting in the personal development of high-risk individuals, proven offenders and others who society disregards.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles
Tiffany Siart, President/CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles provides children facing adversity with strong and enduring, one-to-one mentoring relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.
Big Citizen HUB
Mario Fedelin, Executive Director
Big Citizen HUB is a little league for civic action; a place on Saturdays for young people to transform into Big Citizens.
Ernie Merlan, Executive Director
Exceptional Minds provides individuals on the autism spectrum with customized instruction and hands-on experience to earn a living in the fields of multimedia, computer animation and post-production.
Food Finders, Inc.
Patti Larson, Executive Director
Food Finders reduces hunger and food waste while improving nutrition in food insecure communities. It is a multi-regional food rescue organization that helps provide food to more than 300 agencies and shelters throughout Southern California.
Michelle Cho, Co-Founder and Executive Director
Gladeo is dedicated to inspiring and helping young people discover, navigate and achieve their dream careers by creating innovative multimedia career content and distributing it online.
Math Leadership Corps
Christine Soldner, Assistant Director
MLC partners with school districts to develop a systems approach to problem solving and leadership professional development, with a shared goal of improving math teaching and student mathematical learning.
Blythe Maling, Chief Development Officer
St. Anne’s provides extended foster care and help to pregnant and parenting young women in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
Cindy Montañez, CEO
TreePeople is an environmental nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire, engage and support people to take personal responsibility for the urban environment, making it safe, healthy, fun and sustainable to share our process as a model for the world.
Daquan Oliver, Executive Director
WeThrive uses undergraduates to lead youth from under-resourced communities in the creation of a business venture, mentoring them and teaching them critical life-skills along the way.
Images by Dotan Saguy.