Philly won $1 million from Bloomberg. Now what?
March 13, 2013By Zack Seward, @zackseward
Social entrepreneurship is a fancy term for making money while doing good.
The procurement process is a fancy term for how the city buys outside goods and services.
Now here's Philadelphia's million-dollar idea:
What if city procurement could be a giant carrot for luring private companies trying to solve public problems.
"They will figure out on the business side how to make money; [while] we get the benefit of their insight and knowledge." That's how Mayor Michael Nutter put it on a conference call with Michael Bloomberg Wednesday. Bloomberg was joined by Nutter and three other mayors (Chicago's Rahm Emanuel couldn't make it) to announce the five winners of Bloomberg's Mayors Challenge.
As for Philly's winning idea, here's another take from one of the initiative's key partners.
"The Philadelphia Social Enterprise Partnership is about attracting entrepreneurs to address city problems," said Zoe Selzer, executive director of GoodCompany Group.
Selzer says the PSEP is a seven-step dance:
- The mayor will form a committee to identify the pressing issues social entrepreneurs might be able to fix.
- A team from Wharton's Social Impact Initiative will do a thorough analysis, making sure those problems are properly framed.
- A call will be issued to social entrepreneurs across the country.
- The PSEP team will pick the top 8-12 ideas and bring their creators to Philadelphia.
- The selected do-gooders will embark on a 12-week accelerator program at GoodCompany, whipping their business models into shape.
- The social entrepreneurs will present their ideas.
- Some will be awarded pilot contracts with the city of Philadelphia; others will seek out venture capital.
On Wednesday's conference call, Mayor Nutter said that first cohort of entreprenuers will be selected by early 2014.
GoodCompany's Selzer says the million-dollar prize is enough to get the project started. Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger says the city is pursuing additional support, possibly from interested foundations.
As for the problems the city is looking to fix? No specifics just yet.
Nutter says the partnership could tackle a handful of thorny issues: poverty, public safety, quality of life, sustainability, public health, education.
"We're going to benefit from [social entrepreneurs'] ... outside view," Nutter said. They'll "help us, at times, to do things better; and, at other times, to get out of the way."
Selzer offered up gun violence, storm water management and vacant land as examples of possible issues.
"We [the city] already spend a lot of money trying to fix this," Selzer said. "Maybe there are new ways to add new tools to our toolkit."
She added: "It's really about drawing the best, most innovative entrepreneurial solutions to Philadelphia to solve these problems."