Making Contact: Maternova


Out of the 6 organizations presented by SVPRI, I chose to work with Maternova, an internationally active non-profit organization that provides technology and devices to mothers and infants with the goal of preventing birth-relate fatalities.

Maternova describes its purpose as follows:

“We make it easy for doctors, nurses and midwives and the organizations that equip them to track innovation and to buy technologies and kits to use overseas. Our focus is on tools and protocols that save lives in childbirth. We will accelerate the speed at which better, faster, cheaper technologies and ideas are made accessible through a pioneering, efficient-commerce marketplace.”

As a team, myself, Stephanie Roh, and David Eisenbery will research and compile information about Maternova, including opportunities for growth or re-examination, which we will present at the SEEED Conference at Brown University on April 26th.

We are to converge with Maternova for our first meeting this week.

In my introduction to Meg, the founder of Maternova, I described my personal interest and background as related to the purpose of her organization:

Who am I? Why am I interested in working with Maternova?

I’m a 32-year old new graduate student with an academic background in Architecture, Anthropology, Latin American Studies, and French language. I have a special interest in international work with purpose and have traveled extensively. I speak French and Spanish. I hope to work internationally to solve pressing problems in both the first- and third-world. I come from Asheville, North Carolina in the Carolinian Appalachian Mountains in which midwifery is prominent. I have lived with doulas and midwives in more than one country, and my last home doubled as a classroom from time to time for The Matrona, a midwifery school run by Whappio Diane Bartlett:!__m-faculty. My mother is a vice president of Arkansas Children’s Hospital. My exposure to children’s health issues and issues unique to medical administration began early and has continued throughout my life.

I would like to make a difference via design by applying creative and powerful problem-solving techniques to urgent real world problems. Maternova fits into my personal interest framework wonderfully and should provide powerful insight as to how to do this type of work successfully. I am interested in the development of the organization over time, what problem-solving you had to undertake that was unexpected, how financial and legal concerns have been navigated, and I hope generally to learn from your experience… and to be inspired by exposure to and cooperation with Maternova.


SVPRI: Orientation

Last Thursday we visited Social Venture Partners Rhode Island, a non-profit organization based in Providence.

We met with Kelly Ramirez, executive director of SVPRI.

“Kelly Ramirez is the Executive Director for Social Venture Partners Rhode Island (SVPRI). She has more than fifteen years of social enterprise and international development experience, advising NGOs, corporations and governments on civic engagement, sustainability, business development and advocacy. Kelly directed the Social Enterprise Initiative at the William Davidson Institute (WDI) and was an adjunct lecturer in Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. She has extensive fundraising, consulting and project management experience with organizations including Aid to Artisans, the Ford Foundation, the European Commission, USAID, the State Department, and Roche. She is active as a board member and volunteer with several non-profits. Previously, Kelly worked as a political analyst for the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service, an election monitor for the OSCE, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Slovakia. Kelly received MA Degrees in Public Policy and Urban Planning and a BA in political science from the University of Michigan where she has also done post-graduate work at the Ross School of Business. She was named a 2011 Woman to Watch by the Providence Business News.” – RISD Entrepreneur Mindshare

How SVPRI Works

Kelly provided us with a well-rounded orientation regarding the history and function of the organization. Highlights were as follows:

SVPRI was founded 10 years ago by 10 venture capitalists. The Social Venture Partner model was chosen by the group to serve as the basis for aiding social ventures through financial support. Initially, SVPRI gave grants to social enterprises in the area. Over time, SVPRI shifted and hired Kelly to improve the organization. Now SVPRI provides support for partner organizations and the Providence community through loans (filtered by a loan committe), a local youth social enterprise program, and a 9-week mentor based business incubator program. SVPRI aims to become a national leader in the Ecosystem Model of social venture support.

Twenty business leaders contribute their time and money as mentors and financial supporters for local social enterprises as part of what is known as the Ecosystem Model.

SVPRI’s Ecosystem Model:

1. Build a network of entrepreneurs as a volunteer workforce

2. Build a community of social enterprises to collaborate with one another

3. Connect these two

SVPRI is funded as follows:

25%  entrepreneur partners

50%  state & federal grants

25%  consulting, ticket sales, and other forms of income

Presentation of partner organizations for RISD collaboration:

The second part of our meeting consisted of an introduction to 6 SVPRI affiliate organizations from which to choose for deeper examination. We will be presenting our research findings and analysis of each organization in groups of 2 or 3 at the SEEED Conference at Brown University on April 26. Clicking on an organization’s name will take you to their home page.

Buy With Heart

Save Chocolateville

My Happy Shirts


Providence Granola

Riverz Edge Arts Project

Social Venture Partners Rhode Island


Tomorrow we meet with Kelly to begin our collaboration with SVPRI, a local Providence organization that supports social enterprises in the name of making Providence a better place to live. We will be partnering with 8 local nonprofits that are supported by SVPRI. Over the next several weeks, in groups of 3, we will be observing, studying, and researching each of these social enterprises. By exploring opportunities for growth, problems, and sticky points, we will work with these organizations to consider what change may benefit them, benefit Providence, and benefit our educational experience… as we delve deeper into the real world of social enterprises and social entrepreneurship.

Preliminary Purpose Statement

REconnect Providence

My personal interest lies largely in the areas where agriculture, food issues, immigrant issues, poverty, waste management, recycling, resource management, energy use, architecture, transportation, and education overlap.

Our general practices as a nation are not sustainable, mindful, or respectful to the environment or to each other. We could better honor the great resources available to us, and in doing so, better our lives by leaps and bounds. Often resources are taken for granted, squandered, misused, or wasted. People are also often taken for granted, misused, or undervalued. I believe that relearning the value of each other and of the land that sustains us – and cultivating a lifestyle based on those values – would benefit us all… more than we can readily imagine.

As a culture, as a whole, a mindset of disposability and disconnect has thrived and been tolerated. Although we are largely taught to value freedom and independence, in my opinion we have become overly free and independent in relation to our very real and indelible connections to each other and to the land, the planet, that sustains us. We sustain each other and the earth sustains us. To be in denial of this would be pure folly and delusion. No matter how much independence we might tout as a slogan, the food we eat is almost always due to the toil of another human being with their hands in the dirt of the earth. Independence is a fine ideal within proper bounds. Misused and overblown, it leaves us living in a nation, in a state, where many of us don’t know our neighbors, don’t know where our food was grown, don’t know where our trash is going, and we don’t care. This state of affairs is not only less than ideal. It is tragic.

As a nation I believe we are missing out on a gallant opportunity to live life much more fully, to enjoy more meaningful connections on a daily basis, and to sustain ourselves more deeply on all levels. The same “inconveniences” we resist are often the relaxing and productive practices that grounded and brought joy to our ancestors. Perhaps we just need to remember, to explore, the question of what is really important. The answer may surprise many of us. Maybe buying food in the grocery store on autopilot is not the most satisfying or healthy way to eat. Perhaps the safe haven of our home would be sweeter if we had the neighbors over for tea more often.

I would like to look at how to improve the relationship between the citizens of Providence and what sustains them… I would like to research and design for RE-connection and reintegration. Our natural way, as humans, is to provide, problem solve, and work as a team. I believe this is really what we all want deep down. When it comes down to it, without the earth, without respect, and without each other, few of us would survive. Even fewer of us would thrive. To thrive is not only to be alive, but to feel fulfilled and to live a life that has meaning. I hope to be a part of bringing meaning back into the lives of people who have found themselves in a state of disconnect. What better place to start, but literally, in our own back yard.

Infographic: Agriculture in Providence, RI

As a class we examined – via research and infographics – various aspects of life in Rhode Island, including, but not limited to history, resources, environment, health care, living conditions, transportation, cultural elements, immigration, gender issues, waste management and politics.

Agriculture in Providence & Rhode Island

City, County, and State Levels


Agriculture in Rhode Island vs.  USA