Guff Van Vooren, #20Storiesfor20Years

“I show up at Social Venture Partners Minnesota because I’m passionate about connecting with and caring for people and our planet. My spouse, Vicki, and I joined SVP Minnesota in 2010 and we’ve had transformative experiences connecting and collaborating with incredible people and organizations around the world.

At SVP, we collectively pool our money, time, and connections – engaging shoulder-to-shoulder with organizations and leaders we partner with. They’re the experts in our community – they’re closest to the challenges and they have the solutions for them. My role is to show up and support them in ways they need me to.

I serve on the Bridgemakers team, an organization building a youth-led movement. These young leaders are building power – they’re courageous, resilient, joyful, and full of hope for our future. I learn a lot from them and they give me great hope and joy for our future, too!

I also serve on the board of directors for Social Venture Partners International, the hub of our social change ecosystem. There are 3,400+ of us around the world! I believe we’re all interconnected globally and so are our challenges, opportunities, and impact. SVP’s local and global connection – the grassroots work we do in the Twin Cities AND the collective work we do across communities, sectors, and countries – is one of the things I love most about SVP. It’s helping me evolve in my role and as a person.

At SVP, we’re shifting the way we do philanthropy. We understand our sector itself is a system that needs to change, and SVP is part of that change. We also acknowledge why our sector is needed in the first place. The organizations and leaders we partner with, historically underfunded by our sector, address these social challenges at their root. We’re sharing power and resources with them…..and hopefully in the future organizations like ours and our sector aren’t needed, or at least not as much, anymore.

Building relationships is at the center of our work. We move at the speed of trust, knowing the work we do is for the long haul. We need to be patient, persistent, vigilant, and resilient – and make sure we celebrate, are joyful, and have fun while doing it, because it’s hard work. Together, we’re helping to rewrite the global story of some people benefiting from the many people suffering. These are things I’m learning from these amazing social justice movement leaders. They’re showing me better ways to move forward together.

In this moment, there’s a lot we can do. I feel the more we listen, and the more we learn and ask questions, and the more we connect and take action together, the more we’ll move forward in our journey toward our collective well-being and shared liberation. SVP has really been my catalyst to help build a more just, peaceful, loving, and resilient world where everyone and everything thrives and feels like they belong. I’m lucky and grateful to be part of SVP’s global movement. I invite you to join us!

Guff Van Vooren (she/her)
SVP Minnesota partner & SVP International board member

Photo: Humans of Minneapolis
#SVPmn20StoriesFor20Years #collectiveaction #communityimpact #nonprofit

Linda Ireland, #20Storiesfor20Years

“After 30+ years in many corporate roles, I’m fortunate to be at a point in my life where I can fill my time with a mix of hands-on philanthropy and service on boards. When I met SVP Minnesota at a “Taste of” breakfast, I found a way I could do good work, learn things that would make my box bigger, and be part of a new community. I have relationships with partners and nonprofit leaders I never would have without SVP.

For my first project, I was the lead partner on an impact team that worked with Brandlab. Their work is with youth who come from different backgrounds, many of whom are first generation immigrants. It makes you realize how narrow your own experiences are and how wonderfully diverse the perspectives of young people are in the Twin Cities. Over time I’ve worked on several impact teams. At World Savvy, we worked to design a scalable organization structure. At Breakthrough Twin Cities, it was about diversifying revenue. At RECLAIM, we’ve worked on developing the board. Each one helped nonprofit leaders deepen or expand their organization’s impact, and they all stretched my brain and heart in very different ways.

The relationship building between partners and investees is both the most challenging and rewarding part of the work. Perceived power and trust are both at play. It’s understandable why nonprofit leaders might come to the table very tentatively. Sometimes when people expect you to behave a certain way, they see that in your behaviors, even if it’s not what you’re putting forward. So we need to clear all that stuff out of the way on both sides and make everybody feel comfortable that this is about shared learning. It takes a lot of listening and a lot of questions. The more time we can spend on that, the easier it becomes.

To go through what our world has gone through in the last few years, especially in the Twin Cities, and not feel like I’ve come to understand things in a different way, I’d be disappointed in myself and feel like we all failed, you know? So I appreciate the chance to become a more effective partner to people on the front lines doing such great work. I didn’t have a career as an activist. I didn’t do youth development work. That’s not what I did in my career. I have so much respect for the strengths that other people bring to the table, and enjoy putting what I bring to work in new ways. The opportunity to learn from amazing people has changed me.”

Linda Ireland, SVP Partner and Board Member

Linda Bryant, #20Storiesfor20Years

“I was Vice President of Workforce and Training with Emerge Community Development. There was a survey done of African-American young men in North Minneapolis who were hanging out on the corners. Not a written survey, verbal. Someone asked them, ‘What would it take for you to stop doing this?’ And time after time they would say, ‘Well, gimme a job.’ So we came up with a gang intervention model called North 4. We created internships and an empowerment group for them. The young men had to refer themselves and then interview for ten cohort spots. The goal was for them to begin making better choices and start changing their life trajectory.

We applied for a grant with Social Venture Partners Minnesota and we were awarded it. We were partnered with Houlihan Lokey and they were the best partnership for this project. They had project management and data analysis expertise that we didn’t have, nor could we ever afford. They put together a presentation for us to better articulate what we were doing and share the results. And they didn’t just do that, they also started doing clothing drives, they started hosting us at their offices. These young men had never even been in a building downtown, so to be able to go into a skyscraper on the 50th floor and just look out the window for them was life changing. When I left Emerge in 2019, one of our original partners was actually on the board of Emerge. So that’s how much they believed in what we were doing. That’s putting your money where your mouth is.

Eventually, I took a seat on the SVP Board so I could be a voice of community for youth-serving organizations. If there’s an opportunity for me to weigh in on something, that’s what I do. I feel like at the table, I can influence how the money is given out. That doesn’t happen very often in our community. So that empowerment is very important, feeling heard. You don’t just stack your board with people who have money, you also stack it with people with experience and a diverse perspective. And I think that becomes value and SVP knows that and it shows in the work.”

Linda Bryant
SVP Board Member and former SVP Fellow

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