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SOCAP Conversations: Bilal Alkatout of the Bush Foundation

SOCAP May 12, 2017

The St. Paul, Minnesota based Bush Foundation, established by Archibald and Edyth Bush in 1953, invests in great ideas and the people who power them. This year, SOCAP is excited to announce that we have partnered with the Bush Foundation to offer a special scholarship opportunity–the SOCAP17 Bush Foundation Scholarship for Social Business Creators.
Innovators, entrepreneurs, and business leaders based in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the 23 Native nations that share the same geography are now invited to apply for the opportunity to come to SOCAP17 in San Francisco this October. From the pool of applicants, twenty five outstanding business creators will be selected to go to the Social Capital Markets Conference to build valuable connections and stronger networks with social entrepreneurs, potential mentors, and leaders from the global impact community. Recipients of the Bush Foundation Scholarship for Social Business Creators will be given a ticket to SOCAP17, roundtrip airfare to San Francisco, and accommodations during the conference.
We sat down with Bilal Alkatout, a Community Innovation Program Manager at the Bush Foundation, to discuss the Foundation’s history and programs and the impact they hope to create with this scholarship opportunity.

SOCAP: Can you describe the genesis of the idea for the Bush Foundation Scholarship for Social Business Creators at SOCAP?

Bilal Alkatout: As a foundation we invest in great ideas and the people who power them.
We know that our region has the recipe for a local, social business ecosystem that could be a national leader.
My team, the Community Innovation team, provides funds to organizations who are interested in community-driven problem solving process. We believe that if you are affected by an issue, you are going to be the best person to understand the issue and guide the most effective and sustainable outcomes to shift the needle on that issue.
Our Nation Building team has done a tremendous amount of problem solving in tribal government with the goal to strengthen governance and advance the aspirations of their people.
We also recognize that the private sector is often overlooked as an opportunity to solve problems and, in our economy, an opportunity to solve problems that’s sustainable through capital markets. Our partnership with SOCAP17 will play a part in building social business problem solving capacity in our region and showcase what we have to share at a national venue.

Can you tell us a bit about the history of the Bush Foundation and the vision that drives your programs?

BA: It all starts with our regional talent. Archibald Bush climbed the 3M corporate ladder from bookkeeper to chair of the executive committee. Recognizing the importance of mentorship and leadership guidance, he created the Bush Fellowship program as a leadership program for ambitious individuals. Now the Bush Fellowship has been around for over 60 years.
Today Bush Fellows are provided $100,000 to pursue the training or experience they need to become a more effective leader. So there is a lot of focus in how we invest in people at the Bush Foundation.
One of the reasons we created the SOCAP17 opportunity was that it will provide leaders an opportunity to be inspired, equipped with tools and resources, and a chance to connect with others in the field.

Who are the ideal applicants you hope will apply for the Bush Foundation SOCAP scholarship?

BA: We are open to many different types of people who have the intent to create a positive social impact through business.
We named this scholarship opportunity the Bush Foundation Scholarship for Social Business Creators because there are many types of people within the social business ecosystem that we hope will participate: folks who have collaborative work spaces or who are in collaborative work spaces; who are part of incubators or funders of incubators; impact investors that are interested in building social businesses so they can make more Program Related Investments; business developers and so on. We don’t want to limit the scholarship only to people who call themselves entrepreneurs because many people, especially in traditionally marginalized communities, may not identify with the term entrepreneur. We want to be as inclusive as possible in how we define social business creators.

Are there any specific outcomes you hope to see from this scholarship program?

BA: No specific outcomes, just hope to inspire, equip and connect folks in our region to a national level conversation on social business. We hope to showcase the great minds that are in our region while also building their capacity to continue their great trajectory.
Learn more about the Bush SOCAP17 Scholarship and apply here.
If you know anyone in Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota or a member of the 23 Native nations who would be a perfect fit for this scholarship, please share this post with them and encourage them to apply. The deadline to apply is June 30th, 2017.

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