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The Aspen Institute launches incubator for social entrepreneurs in DC

The Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit organization based in Dupont Circle dedicated to education and policy work, has launched an incubator for social entrepreneurs. The new incubator, called the D.C. Urban Innovation Lab, will be run out of the newly created Center for Urban Innovation, and is for companies that are themselves focused on innovation in the urban space.

"Aspen is a big organization that does lots of great things, but sometimes it’s hard to see the direct impact in our backyard.," said Eric Lavin, manager of Aspen Ventures and director of the D.C. Urban Innovation Lab, in an email. "The Urban Innovation Lab’s purpose is to harness Aspen’s networks and knowledge to drive positive social change in Greater Washington."

According to Lavin, the D.C. Urban Innovation Lab will host between five and seven ventures, either nonprofit or for profit, that solve problems in "education, employment pathways, justice [and equity]…areas of interest and expertise in our network."

Lavin says that D.C. Urban Innovation Lab will be different from other social entrepreneurial incubators around town, such as Halcyon, 1776 and Impact Hub, "because we're filling a specific gap around urban innovation. Halcyon is earlier-stage, focusing on tech and scalable solutions, [on the] global scale." Businesses and nonprofits that apply to D.C. Urban Innovation Lab should be D.C.-based, or should be focused on solving problems in the District. Lavin also says any for-profit ventures that apply should be further along, "in the Series A stage."

In addition to the incubator, the Center for Urban Innovation is also launching a pitch prize series, with the first event scheduled to take place in mid-May. "Semifinalists will have access to development experts, foundations, [representatives from] government and real estate developers," Lavin says, "and the winner [will take home] $15,000 or so."

Those interested in applying to the D.C. Urban Innovation Lab should look for an application on the Aspen Institute's website in roughly two weeks.

Due to a reporting error, Elevation DC has clarified the quote appearing in the second paragraph of this story.

Read more articles by Allyson Jacob.

Allyson Jacob is a writer originally hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, and is the Innovation and Job News editor for Elevation DC. Her work has been featured in The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati CityBeat. Have a tip about a small business or start-up making waves inside the Beltway? Tell her here.
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