Recent News

May 10, 2016

Startup Weekend and United Way Make Unique Partnership

United Way of Greater Cincinnati is partnered with Cincinnati Startup Weekend for their May 20-22 Social Edition event. The partnership may make more sense than what initially meets the eye.


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United Way of Greater Cincinnati and Startup Weekend? What’s the connection between a nonprofit and the startup community? Beginning in 2015, United Way began to have more of an intentional focus on how we can support innovation in the social sector. The basis--that there are unproven, but potentially transformational ideas which could accelerate the pace of progress toward the Bold Goals for Our Region.

“When we looked at innovation, we really wanted to focus on ideas,” said Mike Baker, director of community impact, and United Way’s social innovation guru. “One thing we thought would be important would be to expand the audience of people that were looking at innovation in the social sector—the creative minds, people with the entrepreneurial spirit, the whole startup community—how do we get everyone focused on these challenges and finding new solutions to them? This is an opportunity to expand our conversation to draw more people in to helping craft solutions for our community.”


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United Way formed a Social Innovation Council—a group of 12 volunteers who represent the social sector, as well as some of our agency and corporate partners. The Council recommended United Way reach out to Startup Weekend in an attempt to reach new people within the social sector.

“We’re really excited to partner with Startup Weekend for the Social Edition,” said Baker. “It allows United Way to show up in places we traditionally haven’t—the entrepreneurial/startup/tech community which is burgeoning and growing.”

what is startup weekend?

Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event with the first night serving as the “idea pitch.” Teams are formed around each of the top ideas determined by a popular vote, and then it’s a frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation. The weekend culminates with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with a final opportunity for critical feedback.

In a typical Startup Weekend, the participants bring their own traditional business ideas and pitch them in an effort to start a profitable business. For the Social Edition, participants have been prompted to think about ideas related to the Bold Goals. Topics are not limited only to those, but it is a great opportunity for a new audience to talk about those issues and the possible barriers to achievement of:

  • Kids starting kindergarten ready to learn, succeed in school, and graduate from high school
  • Families getting the jobs necessary to support themselves and build toward the future
  • People having good health that keeps them learning, working and thriving

Mentors and coaches are in place throughout the weekend—people with some content expertise within the social sector and some social entrepreneurs with established success. Their role is to give advice, constructive criticism and to ask questions to challenge the teams.

“There’s potential that a great idea could come out of the weekend that would put us in a prime place to figure out how that idea fits within the community and what we do as United Way,” said Baker.


Click here to purchase tickets for Startup Weekend: Social Edition. Use the promo code “UWGC” to receive $5 off the price of your ticket.