Social Venture Partners Dallas Hosts bigBANG!

As I looked around the dining room, I was struck by how things had changed.

bigBANG!, a day-long event conceived by Social Venture Partners Dallas and produced this year by SVPD and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, had been imagined in 2010 to celebrate social innovation in Dallas. A half dozen of us sat around a table at Bolsa and wondered what innovation we would feature, whether we could identify enough to fill a whole day, and who—if anyone—would come.

Five hundred people now sat in the dining room at Paul Quinn College in South Dallas. Paul Quinn is a private, historically black, faith-based, four-year liberal arts-inspired college that was founded in 1872. The school’s original purpose was to educate freed slaves and their children. Today, Paul Quinn is home to the WE Over ME Farm, which was created through a partnership with PepsiCo to bring healthy food to the South Dallas food desert, and they plowed up their football field to do it. In Texas.

A half dozen of us sat around a table at Bolsa and wondered whether we could identify enough to fill a whole day, and who—if anyone—would come. Five hundred people now sat in the dining room.

Seated around me were representatives from The University of Texas at Dallas, Southern Methodist University, and the University of North Texas. All three schools have developed in the past several years course offerings focused on social innovation and added the study of creativity and innovation to their business and engineering curricula.

Several tables away sat representatives from The Dallas Foundation, Communities Foundation of Texas, Living Cities, and several family foundations. They were fresh from a funder’s forum held at the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank several weeks before where we had discussed the limitations of traditional philanthropy and pledged among us to lead together as we explored new ways to leverage our philanthropic dollars to effect greater social impact, learning from other communities and each other.

PepsiCo, Paul Quinn’s farming partner, and Mary Kay were there, too. Several years ago, bigBANG! featured their corporate social responsibility initiatives. Today, we talk about ways to integrate social mission more directly into their day-to-day corporate DNA. And others have joined them as our corporate community moves beyond CSR and toward creating shared value, a strategy focused on creating measurable business value by addressing social problems that intersect with their business—a much bigger idea.

Representatives of the GroundFloor sat close by. The GroundFloor is United Way Metropolitan of Dallas’ impact accelerator fund that invests in and supports innovative companies (for-profits and nonprofits) that place social impact at the heart of their business model.

Cafe Momentum, the GroundFloor’s first fellow and a bigBANG! discovery in 2010, catered lunch for us all.

Later that afternoon, we heard of the work of the Dallas Festival of Ideas—an initiative of The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture and the Dallas Morning News—as they reported on their 10-month initiatives to imagine the future city of Dallas.

And, from the stage at lunch, we learned of this site, a collaboration of the Dallas Regional Chamber and D Magazine Partners, and the Dallas Innovation Alliance, a coalition of stakeholders from the city of Dallas, corporations, civic and nonprofit organizations, academia, and private individuals who are invested in Dallas’ continued evolution as a forward-thinking, innovative, “smart” global city.

What a difference five years has made! Today, as Jimmy Durante said, “Everybody wants ta get inta da act.” Godspeed to us all for the next five. This is gonna be fun.

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R E A D   N E X T

Bob Wright is an attorney, teacher, community activist, and piano player. Bob is a founding member of the law firm Wright Connatser PLLC, where he leads its corporate, finance, and social enterprise p(...)

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