Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Bridging the Gap between Service-Learning and Social Entrepreneurship: An Interview with the Founders of P:ear

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Bridging the Gap between Service-Learning and Social Entrepreneurship: An Interview with the Founders of P:ear

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

P:ear, an acronym for (program: education, art, recreation) is a highly acclaimed, award winning, non-profit organization located in Portland, Oregon. Its unique example of social entrepreneurship provides a transformational approach where homeless youth engage in a number of identity enhancing activities such as working in their gallery with, and alongside, established artists creating, displaying, and selling their art. Additionally, the founders of p:ear have opened their doors to many volunteers and college students engaged in service-learning who have raised funds and helped market the organization. Our interview with p:ear's founders offers insights into the challenges and successes of a unique start-up organization, and provides a backdrop to understanding possible relationships between social entrepreneurship and the incorporation of service-learning in the business curriculum.

P:ear, a nonprofit organization exemplifying social entrepreneurship, has benefited from collegiate service-learning courses and many volunteers. Its mission is to "build positive relationships with homeless and transitional youth through education, art and recreation to affirm personal worth and create more meaningful and healthier lives." P:ear was created when a local Salvation Army organization closed its operations and three employees at the Salvation Army decided to create a new kind of nonprofit to serve the increasing homeless youth population in Portland. The organization opened in 2002, and our interviewees worked without pay for the first two years. They rely on no government agency funding, yet the three founders now operate on a yearly budget in excess of $500,000 in cash and in-kind donations, and they serve over 600 homeless and transitional youth between the ages of 1 5 and 23 each year. Their gallery allows youth to develop, showcase, and sell their art alongside local Portland artists. Youth are able to keep 90% of the proceeds from such ventures, which provide an attractive opportunity to aid their development.

The gallery hosts monthly shows in conjunction with Portland's monthly art walk, and p:ear has received recognition of its work in this arena such as a winning submission to the Rose Festival's Starlight Parade awarded by Southwest Airlines. A number of youth have worked to complete their high school degrees while at p:ear, and one former p:ear youth is attending law school. Last year, p:ear provided over 28,000 hours of service for homeless youth, provided over 11,000 meals, and managed over 2,000 volunteer hours. It has received numerous awards including the Steve Lowenstein Award for service to the poor and underprivileged in the City of Portland, the Crystal Starbright Award from the Willamette Valley Development Officers, and Portland State University's Community Engagement Award (twice) for excellence in partnerships for student learning. Currently, p:ear is raising $2 million to purchase a new space in downtown Portland, which will serve as a launching point for the next steps in p:ear growth.

Our conversation with p:ear founders, Pippa Arend, Beth Burns, and Joy Cartier, revealed a number of insights about service- learning and social entrepreneurship. The topics covered, and insights they generated, covered a number of topic areas related to entrepreneurship and management education. Our discussion started with background information about the founding of the organization.

Authors: When did you found p:ear? Can you tell us something about the motivation for starting p:ear and challenges you faced during the start-up process?

Cartier: We founded p:ear in 2001 after losing our jobs with Salvation Army in August ofthat year. We incorporated in October, got our 501c3 in December and opened the doors in February of 2002. The first couple of years were tough. Funding was a terrific challenge, which we partially resolved by not paying ourselves for the first two years. …

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