1. What is the Lehigh Valley Social Impact Center and how did it get started in Southside Bethlehem?
The LV Social Impact Center is a co-working and event space for social entrepreneurs. Social enterprises include both non-profit organizations and for-profit companies that also have a social mission. One of our goals is to promote effective collaboration across the nonprofit, for-profit and governmental sectors by offering opportunities for community engagement and training on tools and concepts that support collective impact in the community.
It was an idea that I have had for several years, but really got kicked off when I was invited to speak at an event sponsored by the Non-Profit & Business Partners Council at the Greater LV Chamber of Commerce a little over a year ago. There was really great receptivity to the idea and a group of us got together to discuss where might be a good place to get started. After looking at several possible locations across the LV, we decided that south Bethlehem was one of the more central places to locate and the Partnership for Innovation (Pi) space was the perfect space with just the right amenities.
This space is meant to be our temporary home for at least a year while we do research and due diligence on how big a space we might need in the future and where the best permanent location might be in the Lehigh Valley.
2. How did BPN get connected with your organization and the shared office space become available?
I know PNLV Executive Director Yamil Sanchez from a group that has been getting together to discuss how we can share data more effectively in the Lehigh Valley and I know Amanda Raudenbush from a group that has been getting together to talk about how the non-profit, for-profit and government sectors can collaborate more effectively to tackle some of the more complex issues in the Valley.
One morning I went out for coffee and looked across the street and saw Amanda in front of the Hispanic Center LV, which is right across the street from where we are located. I invited her to come over and see our space and she introduced me to Christian Torres who is the main point of contact for Bethlehem Promise Neighborhood. I explained to both of them that we were open to the community as a co-working space and they explained to me that they were actually just out looking for a space for their summer resident survey project. It was a fortunate coincidence that we ran into each other that morning.
3. What are you hoping that BPN and the results of its tandem neighborhood surveys in Southside and the Marvine/Pembroke community will do for families and children in the city?
We are actually in the middle of our own data mapping project to find out more about the non-profit and philanthropic sectors in the Lehigh Valley including the mapping of faith communities and social enterprises that go beyond the standard definition of a non-profit. I would very much like to sit down and compare notes with the BPN team to see what they learned this summer and to share with them what I learned from our mapping project. This is essentially the goal of the LV Social Impact Center, to bring people and organizations together to have a better understanding of the issues and to know what resources are available to address these issues. I’m very much looking forward to working closely with BPN in the future.
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