In 2005, Ariel Beery and Aharon Horwitz were fed up with people constantly telling them that their generation was the future. They thought that there had to be something to do in the present rather than the future. Together in an apartment in Jerusalem, they brainstormed ideas for how to make a difference. They wanted to bring together people to work on ideas in a collaborative setting. They created a magazine only to realize that print media was not an efficient channel to follow their mission. In 2009, in partnership with Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston, they came up with an accelerator model that become the heart and soul of PresenTense.  Fast forward 7 years and PresenTense is running eight  programs in Israel and seven  in the United States.

Focus group discussion

Focus group discussion

“The mission of the American PresenTense is to use entrepreneurship as a tool to enrich Jewish communal life, grow local economies and solve critical issues facing society.” explains Emily Winograd, Vice President of Programs at PresenTense US’ headquarter. “In Israel, we don’t focus as much on the Jewish aspect, but rather, our mission is economic empowerment and full participation in the startup ecosystem for all members of Israeli society, particularly marginalized groups.”

Selection & Program Overview

In every location, PresenTense works with local partner organization to implement their programs. Hence, the selection process differs according to the needs, circumstances and community of each partner. “The content is very universal so that anyone can contribute to the conversation. The curriculum is based on design thinking – we emphasize visioning and empathy – and is delivered over six seminars. We complement seminars with  mentoring and coaching, leveraging local networks of personal coaches and subject matter experts. Our goal is to grow an ecosystem of support by engaging the entire Jewish community around each partner. Most Fellows work full-time or are in graduate school. Two programs only have seminars on Sundays, some programs run on weeknights. Most of our programs run from January to June in cohorts of seven to fourteen participants. With a core team of six in New York and Denver, we work with local coordinators and trainers for each program to deliver our curriculum. A strong curriculum, capable trainers and a strong network of experienced mentors are key to a successful program.”

Brainstorming potential solutions in session

Solution brainstorming

How PresenTense is unique

I had no idea that Israel is a hub for technical innovation and startups. So obviously I learned a lot during this interview. What fascinates me about PresenTense is that they manage to leverage their Jewish community across the US and within Israel to sync their efforts in the space of social startup incubation and acceleration. Emily tells me that Joshua Venture Group, Upstart, PresenTense and ROI convene at an annual conference known as The Collaboratory to create an ecosystem that provides continuous support to Alumni of these programs. This is something I would love to see with non-Jewish support organizations! I realize that some of these efforts take place at the Global Social Entrepreneurship Network out of London, UK, and Conveners in the US. But the longer I think about it the more I believe that organizing in sub-groups has its advantages as opposed to trying to meet at SOCAP or flying to some other destination for a Learning Exchange (which have their benefits, too).
Another defining characteristic of PresenTense is their partnership model. Partner organizations pay to run a PresenTense Accelerator (like Compass Partners). Now you know I am a great fan of financial sustainability of support programs and I love seeing this approach work! How do we adapt our cost structure to be able to implement this model in mid-tier cities and their communities that have less financial resources?


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