Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Dave Koken, the director, Impact Programs of Social Venture Partners Denver . Let’s learn what’s happening at Social Venture Partners Denver and how Dave is making a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Dave! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Social Venture Partners Denver?
Dave: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Social Venture Partners Denver (SVP Denver) connects local nonprofits and social enterprises to the support, resources, and expertise they need to grow their impact. Each year we amplify the impact of dozens of organizations through mentor matching, targeted pro-bono consulting, expert-led training and funder connections—all at no cost to the organizations we support.
Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?
Dave: I’ve spent most of my career helping social impact leaders around the world to access resources. I’ve also started and run a couple of my own social enterprises, so I’ve got firsthand experience with how challenging it can be to scale a mission-driven venture. I love working at Social Venture Partners Denver because I’m getting to apply those learnings toward building a creative, generous community that supports incredible local leaders in my own backyard.
Spiffy: How would you say that your organization is working towards a more equitable world?
Dave: Equity is at the center of everything we do at Social Venture Partners Denver. All of the organizations we support address health and economic inequities in Metro Denver and we prioritize working with leadership teams with deep personal connections to the communities they work in/issues they focus on. About 80% of the organizations have less than one million dollars in annual budgets. We help these under resourced and underinvested leaders grow their organizations because when they thrive, the communities they serve benefit.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience/community?
Dave: In 2023, Social Venture Partners Denver worked with over 100 impact organizations for the first time in our 20-plus year history. Lots of the organizations we support are able to access new funding and achieve greater impact, but I’m most excited about the ripple effects of the community we are building. I think the real power of organizations like Social Venture Partners Denver comes from the long-lasting relationships and connections that get built by bringing impact leaders, local professionals, and funders together.
Spiffy: Tell me about an inspiring startup that your organization has helped to advance its impact.
Dave: One of the most inspiring startups we’ve supported recently is B-Konnected. They are preventing 90% of would-be evictions by giving landlords and social workers better, real-time data on their residents and clients—typically folks who recently experienced homelessness. We helped them with some training and connections. Now, they’ve raised significant early investment and they’re working toward scaling nationally.
Dave has been leading innovative nonprofits and social enterprises for 10-plus years. Before Social Venture Partners Denver, he co-founded the global community ecotourism startup Lokal and worked at the financial inclusion nonprofit Kiva.org. He’s passionate about helping local leaders to access the resources they need to better serve their communities. (Nominated by Josef Scarantino from Hubspot Ventures. First published on the Ladderworks website on January 24, 2024.)
First published on the Ladderworks website on January 24, 2024.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Daniela Vega. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.