Q&A: Community activist Stacy Caldwell


Stacy Caldwell of Oak Cliff is president of Dallas Social Venture Partners, a nonprofit composed of business professionals, entrepreneurs and foundations who work to strengthen community in innovative ways. On June 16, Caldwell and company are putting on the second annual Big Bang, a symposium that brings together nonprofits and investors.

What is the Big Bang?
Some organizations have galas once a year. This is our big annual event. It borrows from a venture-capital pitch, but instead of putting traditional business entrepreneurs on stage, we’re bringing people who are doing great work in their communities or have ideas for ways to make their communities better. And then we’re filling the audience with investors.

What is it like?
It’s a lot of fun. We make it very interactive. We believe if you’re going to have an event about social innovation, you don’t want the traditional keynote speakers and meetings. In the morning and afternoon, there are pitches. But in the middle of the day we do what we call “spark experiences”. First, we have a community garden buffet, and all the food is locally grown by two organizations. One is Youth Village Resources of Dallas, and the other is the farm at Paul Quinn College. In February, we were already planting seeds for our luncheon. That runs through what we call our “socially conscious marketplace”. That features triple bottom line businesses, which measure their success not just financially but also by what they give back. Toms Shoes is a good example of one. So guests can have lunch, walk through the marketplace, and then go to our speed-networking room. It’s like speed dating where you meet a lot of people in a very short amount of time. This is a great way for attendees of a large event to get to know each other. But we think it’s a great collusion between the suits and the jeans.

It gives them an opportunity to spark a conversation and mix it up a bit. Then, you can go to our social media lounge. That’s where you can rent a geek for 10 minutes. It’s really focused on how technology is driving giving and social action. Kiva.org is a good example of one. They provide micro loans as a way to reduce poverty around the world. Then, after all that, you might be feeling a little tired, so you can relax a little bit at our network film festival. It’s a festival of local videos created by networks here in the North Texas area that are also doing good. That’s people like Better Block, TEDxSMU, Art Conspiracy, Dallas Social Venture Parnters, Spark Club. In order to make North Texas a better place, we’re going to have to do it together, and that room is really an exploration of what’s going on in North Texas.

How is it organized?
Innovators are divided into four cause tracks. Those are education, which is called “Teach”; food and sustainability, which is called “Nourish”; women and girls, which is “Empower”; and corporate social responsibility, and that’s “Serve”.

It’s on June 16. Where is it?
It’s at Union Station, which is the perfect backdrop. It’s right next to the DART tracks, and it’s just a beautiful, dramatic space. Wolfgang Puck has been amazing to work with as far as sourcing the food locally.

How did you come up with this idea?
My partner and I have been traveling around the world and seeing these great things going on in social innovation. And we just kept thinking, “When are we going to get into this conversation?” And we began modeling our own thing.

This is the second Big Bang. The first one was last year. What was that like?
Before we even began the day, people were mulling around and having coffee, and the energy was kinetic. You could just feel that the people who were there were just really interested in doing something different. Philanthropy is traditionally very stuffy. But this is about taking it to a new level and brining to light some people in our community who are doing things that are very innovative. This is a way for them to window shop. Usually, the way to philanthropy is through a 20-page grant proposal. And that’s fine. But this is just a different way of doing it. Over the course of years, we can create a body of this information and a directory, so we become a source for innovative ideas and social innovation.

Register for the Big Bang and find more information at bigbangtx.org.

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  • scott

    Having attended in 2010, bigBang 2011 will be an interesting and innovative way for philanthropists of all persuasions to meet successful non-profits in a very fun atmosphere.