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ChangeMaker Foundation: Promoting Social Entrepreneurship through Data Culture

The Pivot Accelerator impacted organizational and community leaders in the fields of Arts and Culture through workshops on digital communication, equity, and data collection and analysis to increase the reach of nonprofits and social entrepreneurs. By Adriana Díaz Tirado In December 2021 the Pivot Accelerator completed its second training cohort for social entrepreneurs focused on data culture and digital communications. This cohort sought to strengthen leadership in nonprofits and social enterprises in the art and culture sector. The Pivot Accelerator is the ChangeMaker Foundation’s main initiative. It aims to increase inclusive leadership capabilities in communications, technology integration, and data collection and analysis. The five organizations selected to participate in the Arts and Culture cohort worked together through seven two-hour sessions consisting of virtual workshops, practical exercises, and mentoring focused on developing and completing an individual project. “Non-profit entities and social enterprises are a cornerstone of Puerto Rico’s socio-economic development. Professional education accelerators make it possible to democratize knowledge focused on data culture and digital communication anchored in equity, " said the director and founder of ChangeMaker Foundation, Mariely Rivera Hernández.

Pivot Accelerator Cohorts 1 & 2

The organizations that participated in this cohort were Centro Ishi in Loiza, Obras del País in Ponce, Old San Juan Heritage Foundation in San Juan, Waves Ahead, with chapters in San Juan and Cabo Rojo, and Niños de Nueva Esperanza in Toa Baja. Two participants from each were selected to be part of the virtual workshops. Nine out of ten leaders were women. The Accelerator's curricular model integrated three educational modules: Datapreneur (Data Culture); Mediapreneur (Digital Communication); and Socialpreneur (Diversity, Inclusion, Equity). The Pivot Accelerator’s first cohort was conducted during the summer of 2021, and it focused on Food Safety. Organizations are eligible to receive a $500 stipend upon completion of their participation and after presenting a data culture micro project. These funds enable them to implement their project and apply the concepts, knowledge and skills acquired in the modules. Participants can choose between developing a proposal, a digital marketing plan or a minimum viable product as their micro project. According to participants, the most important takeaway from the accelerator was understanding the importance of data culture and the use of data to analyze and report on their communities’ needs and identify impact opportunities in the populations they serve, as well as to make more assertive internal decisions. The Accelerator also enables the Foundation to analyze scarcity of updated data on the problems that affect communities in Puerto Rico. Participants recognized the importance of connecting with other like-minded organizations, establishing support networks in the digital ecosystem and spending time evaluating and reflecting on their work.

Urgent need for Social Entrepreneurship Strategies

There were over 14,000 non-profit organizations registered with the Puerto Rico State Department before the COVID-19 pandemic. Given this figure, Rivera Hernández stressed the importance of continuing to train nonprofit leaders and contribute to the collective and transformative well-being that Puerto Rico needs to recover from the crisis created by the pandemic.

The ChangeMaker Foundation aims to reduce inequalities by teaching best practices in data culture, diversity, inclusion, equity, and communication. Through the accelerator, instructors and participants also work on developing data driven decision making skills, revenue generating strategies that leverage impact data, and project proposals for collaborators and grantmaking institutions.

"Nonprofit leaders, particularly in community centered organizations, have an urgent need of developing social entrepreneurship skills," insisted Rivera Hernández. The ChangeMaker Foundation’s founder is a fellow of the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation - Culture of Health Leaders program, and the Pivot Accelerator is the strategic initiative she developed to generate change and positive impacts on social determinants of health.

Since 2020 the ChangeMaker Foundation has hosted a podcast, which has already reached 100 episodes, reporting on current issues related to non-profit organizations and social enterprises, such as organizational health, data culture, economic development metrics, diversity, impact investing, among others. The podcast, called Pivot-ES, was awarded a Latin Podcast Award in 2020 for serving as an innovative source of education. It increases awareness and knowledge about important social issues and how different agents of change address them.

Data on the podcasts’ audience shows that Pivot-ES reaches a larger audience outside Puerto Rico, particularly Spanish speaking countries and Hispanic communities in the U.S. The Foundation trust’s that the Pivot-ES podcast and the Pivot Accelerator will continue to help create awareness and open doors for a new breed of nonprofit and social enterprise leaders from Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean Basin to learn about common social challenges are being met in an increasingly digital world.

Adriana Díaz Tirado is an independent journalist with expertise on gender, politics, health, education and culture.

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