HUTCHINSON, Minn. – Social entrepreneurs in Southwest Initiative Foundation’s (SWIF) region who want to tackle a social challenge and pursue leadership growth are invited to learn more about the Initiators Fellowship opportunity at an April 8 webinar. SWIF’s region includes the 18 counties of southwest Minnesota and the two Native Nations that share this geography.
The webinar is open to anyone interested in the fellowship and will explain how the program works, who would be a good fit, eligibility criteria and the application process. Webinar registration and more information is available at greaterminnesota.net/fellows. The 2022-2023 fellowship application is open May 24-June 15, 2021.
Launched by the Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation in 2016, the Initiators Fellowship is expanding to include the regions of Northwest Minnesota Foundation, West Central Initiative and SWIF, covering a total of 53 counties in Greater Minnesota and six Native Nations.
The two-year Fellowship will award a $30,000 annual stipend to up to eight early-stage entrepreneurs—two from each participating region—who want to tackle a social challenge and pursue leadership growth. In addition to an annual stipend, fellows benefit from an executive-level mentor, deep programming, educational opportunities and support from dedicated staff members.
“I realized over my time in the fellowship it’s really the networks, the mentorship and the support from the fellowship that really has been the most invaluable to me,” said current fellow Erin Schutte Wadzinski. “The Initiators Fellowship is an excellent opportunity for someone who wants to grow themselves alongside their social enterprise. The fellowship focuses on you as a person as much as your business idea.”
A practicing attorney, Schutte Wadzinski opened Kivu Immigration Law in her hometown of Worthington last year to “close the justice gap in Greater Minnesota.”
Anne O’Keefe-Jackson is also a current fellow in southwest Minnesota. She is a member of the Lower Sioux Indian Community near Morton, and her enterprise is to increase availability and access to traditional art supplies for native artists paired with exhibit and performance space.
“I have always wanted a gathering place with beautiful artwork and supplies for sale, a place where community members could gather, connect and build relationships,” O’Keefe-Jackson said. “(The fellowship) is very much personal and based on relationships built not only with the Initiative Foundation, but also with partners like Southwest Initiative Foundation, and also all of my fellows.”
Eligible applicants for the fellowship must be 18 or older, can be a recent college graduate, a young professional, mid-career or in their encore career years. Additional requirements include living within one of the four participating Minnesota Initiative Foundation regions, or one of the Native Nations that share this geography, for the two-year duration of the fellowship term.
Diversity is a core program value. Applicants with diverse backgrounds, experiences, ability, economic status and perspectives are encouraged to apply. An eligibility quiz for the 2022-2023 Fellowship is available at greaterminnesota.net/fellows.
The expansion of the Initiators Fellowship is made possible by generous funders, including Granite Partners, an original funding partner, along with the Bush Foundation and Sourcewell.
About Southwest Initiative Foundation
Southwest Initiative Foundation is a nonprofit community foundation connecting people, investing in ideas and building communities to create a southwest Minnesota where all people thrive. Since its founding in 1986, SWIF has distributed more than $88 million through its grantmaking and business finance programs.