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Making Magic: Reflecting on the World Savvy – Social Venture Partners Relationship

Posted by minnesota

A recent conversation with World Savvy CEO Dana Mortenson and Social Venture Partners (SVP) Partner Vicki Raport, was filled with mutual admiration.

It became apparent that the successful relationship between SVP and World Savvy* was based on trust and teamwork. Vicki shared that successful team dynamics allows magic to happen. As we summarize a fruitful three-years of collaboration and growing impact, we are indeed celebrating the magic!

Looking back, Dana had heard about SVP through the Full Circle Fund in San Francisco – an SVP affiliated program, but one that functions much differently than SVP Minnesota. She entered the grant application process nervous that World Savvy was bigger and more mature than the typical nonprofit SVP Minnesota invested in. However, the appeal of technical support, in addition to a financial grant, propelled Dana and her World Savvy team forward as they advanced through the grant application stages. At the February 2016 Pitch Night, World Savvy was selected as an SVP Investee!

At that same Pitch Night, Vicki quickly raised her hand to be a Lead Partner for World Savvy. While serving on the due diligence team that brought World Savvy (and another finalist) to Pitch Night, Vicki was deeply impressed with Dana and with what World Savvy was trying to accomplish. Vicki believed in World Savvy’s mission, saw many opportunities for partnership, and was eager to help World Savvy achieve their goals. Additionally, to Vicki, World Savvy felt like the right partner at the right time for SVP. It was time to challenge SVP with a larger, more complex organization. In agreement with Vicki, multiple SVP Partners stepped up to build a consulting team around World Savvy after they were selected. Vicki shared: “We lucked out with an A++ team of SVP Partners! Everyone who came in came with an open mind and an approach of how to best serve World Savvy. Everyone was willing to get hands-on and follow through with the work that needed to be done.”

Dana agreed that she got lucky with an incredible team of SVP Partners. She noted that from the first interaction, there were indications that magic would happen. Dana had areas of focus in mind and then Vicki brought her strategic experience to help guide World Savvy’s growth. With additional technical help from Kate Berman, Mary Dee Hicks, Linda Ireland, John Mauriel, and a few others, Dana felt that she had a dream team of Partners who “pushed World Savvy to do better, who leaned into the partnership in ways that were deeply collaborative,” and who she trusted as strategic thought partners. Equally as important as the goals on paper, were the valuable insights of SVP team members who served as coach/mentor/strategic advisor and more as issues arose and needed attention. Recognizing that being an executive director can be lonely, Dana appreciated having SVP Partners as trusted allies and as a sounding board when needed.

Dana pointed to the work on organizational structure as the biggest success over the three years of the SVP-World Savvy relationship. Through staff coaching, Board governance work and organizational evaluations, SVP helped position World Savvy for stronger growth by having the right structure and people in place. During this time, World Savvy also tackled projects related to earned revenue, fundraising and addressing their certificate program. Dana stated: “World Savvy looks different today than it did three years ago. SVP helped us examine how get to a tipping point for growth in MN and beyond. We are set up so much better to move in the direction of our goals and be a referential voice across the US.”

When asked what advice they could share with other SVP Investees and Partners, the theme of positive relationships continued. Dana advised Investee leaders to be sure they connect with the SVP Lead Partner and consulting team members in order to leverage the relationships for all their potential. Vicki added that it’s important to feel a connection with the mission of the Investee and to recognize and respect the timeframe in which work can be executed.

So…what’s next for World Savvy as they “graduate” out of SVP’s investment portfolio? World Savvy has a new strategic plan aiming to be in 10,000 schools by 2030. They will continue to expand to a be a multi-state organization in multi-areas…urban, rural, etc. That’s already happening in MN. They’ve leveraged their growth to secure a Bush Foundation grant to expand into more rural areas – now serving youth across very diverse backgrounds. Dana admits that their strategic plan is audacious. But World Savvy is approaching it with thoughtful consideration and research. They want to reevaluate what teaching and learning means. According to Dana, in a 21st century classroom, quality education should assume that cultural competency is a given.

And on the relationship front, they’re not breaking up! Vicki and Dana have built an incredible friendship full of shared goals, valuable conversations and trusted mentoring. They’ve jointly created an environment where magic happens, and who wants to leave that behind? We look forward to watching World Savvy’s impact on youth expand and deepen!

* World Savvy is a national education nonprofit that works with educators, schools, and districts to integrate the highest quality of global competence teaching and learning into K-12 classrooms, so all young people can be prepared to engage, succeed, and meet the challenges of 21st century citizenship. World Savvy’s mission is to educate and engage youth to learn, work, and thrive as responsible global citizens.