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November 4, 2014

A Spectacular Gathering of Givers

What a blast our Annual Gathering of Givers was on Wednesday, October 22!  We enjoyed a vibrant sunset in the beautiful Oshman Family JCC venue, connected with friends both longstanding and new, and found profound inspiration in our newest rock star Grantees—The Art of Yoga Project, Food Shift, and The Big Lift.

Pictured: Partners Gina Jorasch, Nancy Heinen, and Laurie Lacob

Partner and Board Chair Nancy Heinen kicked things off with an update on SV2’s “Year of Pilots.” Partners Lucy Donovan, Nancy Yu, Julie Cates, and Jennifer Heyneman Sousae then introduced leaders from our three most recent Grantees, who shared their “aha” moments—when they were inspired to address the difficult problems they seek to solve with their work. A Grantee Q&A session moderated by Lisa Van Dusen, Director of Partner Engagement & External Relations, concluded the formal program. 

Pictured: Mary Lynn Fitton (The Art of Yoga Project), Dana Frasz (Food Shift), Erica Wood (The Big Lift), and Lisa Van Dusen (SV2 Director of Partner Engagement + External Relations)

If you had to miss it—hey, the Giants World Series game was on—check out the video here.

The dynamic energy and spirit of the Gathering of Givers will long live on. Visual Journalist, Ellen Lovelidge created a graphic recording of the evening that will adorn the SV2 office.

And attendees crafted what we affectionately called “artisanal tweets” on note cards. One such tweet, “We live in one of the most rich and prosperous places and so many kids here can’t read at grade level. WE MUST CHANGE THAT! #BIGLIFT #SV2Givers.” Right on!

Dana Frasz, Founder and Director of Food Shift, reflected, “The Gathering was so special. Thank you for doing the work you do so authentically and with so much care. I am so honored to be a part of the SV2 community and overwhelmed by the feeling of being so supported. Thank you for believing in me and my vision.”

We couldn’t agree with Dana more. SV2 is a very special community. Our gratitude goes out to each of you – SV2 Grantees, Partners, and Friends -- for the important part that each of you play.

The Land of 1000 Hills
by Partner & Board Chair, Nancy Heinen

Pictured: Nancy rests after a morning dance session with Binunga village children

Mwaramutse! Nitwa Nancy Heinen. (Or, “Good Morning! My name is Nancy Heinen,” in Kinyarwandan.) I’m excited to report back on October’s SV2-sponsored trip to Rwanda.

Rwanda - the “Land of a Thousand Hills” - is a beautiful, landlocked country of 12 million located in East Africa. One of the most densely populated countries in Africa, it suffers from extreme poverty as it recovers from a genocide just 20 years ago, in which more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred in 100 days. The challenges of rebuilding are daunting: supporting orphans and rape survivors; building a new government; repairing a shattered economy; bringing hundreds of thousands of genocide perpetrators to justice; repelling ongoing violent attacks by extreme Hutu militia sheltered in refugee camps; and overcoming deep national trauma and division.

But reconciliation and hope are being restored, and Rwanda has achieved stability, international integration and economic growth. The current government is one of the most efficient and honest in Africa. It is also regarded as the safest country in East and Central Africa. The average income over the past ten years has tripled from $220 to $620; expected years of schooling have increased from 6 to 11 years; and infant mortality per 1,000 live births has declined from 124 to 39. The road is long and they have far to go. We were there to learn about that journey.

The SV2 program was operated by ThinkImpact, an American company offering experiential education programs intended to catalyze social innovation and entrepreneurship. The program offered unique access to communities and thought leaders along with a curriculum that brought the most out of our journey. Our program included 4 days/3 nights in a rural community, immersed with a homestay while we met local leaders and entrepreneurs. We worked with rural community members to understand local challenges and provided feedback on four community development programs.

Pictured: Group photo of entrepreneurs, advisors, SV2 Partners, ThinkImpact representatives, and homestay family members

The programs were in bee keeping/honey production; an organic crop collaborative; enhanced seed quality; and innovative crop production techniques. The remainder of our time was in Kigali, the capital, where we met with social entrepreneurs, nonprofits, private and public schools; incubators and accelerators; and innovative educational organizations. The entrepreneurial spirit was truly in full force! Three of us ended our journey with an trek with the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park.

I even learned a bit of Kinyarwanda –in part because my homestay family spoke no English. As we sat in a darkening room over a modest dinner (there was no electricity to light the conversation), we communicated more with charades and laughter than conversation. Because they see so well in the dark, the headlamp I wore at night was just one more source of entertainment. I was touched deeply by the energy and spirit that propels them to envision a better tomorrow, with or without a headlamp.

One of my inspirations to take this journey came from my favorite literary and movie character, Atticus Finch of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Atticus tells his daughter Scout: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." The trip to Rwanda offered me the chance to walk in the shoes of those living in poverty; to witness the power of entrepreneurship to pull a poor nation towards a better future; and the transformative power of caring communities to heal people deeply traumatized by genocide.

Pictured: A young boy Nancy met during her village homestay in Rwanda                      

I left Rwanda humbled by the strength, courage and ingenuity of its people. I learned from our trip the critical importance of listening to the community about their most important needs, and making sure that the community owns the solutions to their prioritized problems. It was a remarkable experience that I’m grateful SV2 made possible.

I can’t wait to learn what SV2’s next international opportunity may be!  If you would like to be kept abreast of possible future international trips, please let us know by sending an email today to

Featured Resource:
SV2's Springboard Session
Impact Investing: Aligning your Portfolio with your Values

Pictured: Speakers Fran Seegull, Julia Sze, and Kat Taylor

On October 3, we hosted our first SV2 Springboard Session with the goal of empowering Partners to jump–or at least begin to wade–into the world of impact investing. Impact investing, simply put, is investing that aims to achieve both measurable social impact and a financial return.

Three dynamic field leaders in the impact investing space shared their knowledge with us: Fran Seegull of ImpactAssets, Julia Sze of Sonen Capital and Kat Taylor of Beneficial State Bank. They provided an eager audience with an overview of this rapidly developing field. They highlighted impact investment opportunities across asset classes and offered practical resources to help Partners take initial steps to align their personal investments with their values and the social causes about which they care.  If you weren't able to join us, check out the video of the session to learn more!  


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