Aaron L. Levitt Social Entrepreneurship Challenge

In a kickoff event on Oct. 19, the UMKC Henry W. Bloch School of Management and the Department of Public Affairs launched the Aaron L. Levitt Social Entrepreneurship Challenge.

This fun new initiative is designed to develop social entrepreneurship and innovative civic leadership in the Greater Kansas City region as it enables the next generation of civic leaders and social entrepreneurs to serve our community.

Students from any school at UMKC, alone or in collaboration with a community agency, will develop and prepare an innovative or socially entrepreneurial initiative, project, product or solution and compete for support to launch or implement their idea.

“The Bloch School is committed to twin pillars of excellence: entrepreneurship and innovation in the for-profit sector and social entrepreneurship in the nonprofit and public sector,” Bloch School Dean Teng-Kee Tan explained. “The Levitt Social Entrepreneurship Challenge is a way for students to get experience putting innovative ideas to work to better Kansas City communities.”

From left, David Renz, chair, Bloch Department of Public Affairs; Jim Levitt, son of Aaron Levitt; Bloch School Dean Teng-Kee Tan; Jean Levitt-Birnberg, daughter of Aaron Levitt; Molly Levitt, daughter-in-law of Aaron Levitt; and Karlyn Wilkins, Bloch School Director of Development

Jim Levitt talks about his father Aaron Levitt and his committment to the Kansas City civic community.

According to Dave Renz, chair, Department of Public Affairs and director of the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, “We developed the challenge with funds donated by the Levitt family specifically with the purpose of aligning with Kansas City’s Big 5 Urban Core Neighborhood initiative. We want our students to use an entrepreneurial mindset to solve problems, start organizations, or help existing organizations.”

The kickoff included a presentation by keynote speaker Paul Light, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service at NYU and expert on social entrepreneurship. Light informed the audience that social entrepreneurship (or entrepreneurship of any kind) isn’t always about inventing something new, but rather finding new combinations of existing practices or products to fill a need.

Light was followed by a panel of local Kansas City entrepreneurial nonprofit organizations who answered questions and gave insight into how they got started. They included Steve Rees, Minddrive; Rebecca Welsh, HALO Foundation; and Chantell Garrett, R.U.B.I.E.S.

From left: Steve Rees from Minddrive talks about teaching at-risk youth to build environmentally friendly cars; seated, center: Rebecca Welsh, HALO Foundation, and Chantell Garrett, R.U.B.I.E.S.

Participants in the challenge will take a series of workshops to help them develop and hone their ideas or business plans for competition. In May, four to five of the best ideas will be chosen to compete before a panel of judges. Winners will recieve in-kind mentorship and resources from the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership to implement their ideas.

Students may still register through Oct. 30. For more information on the program, contact Cindy Laufer, lauferc@umkc.edu, or 816-235-6306. To register, visit the program web site.