WASHINGTON – After a year of intense mentorship by successful businessmen, three Christian social entrepreneurs were chosen as finalists out of a group of 12 on Monday for their creative and effective strategies on how to solve some of society's biggest problems in the spirit of advancing the common good.
Praxis, which comes from the Greek term that means putting theory into action, is the first mentorship program that has successful Christian businessmen counsel social entrepreneurs who are motivated by their faith to make the world a better place.
During the program's "culminating event" on Monday evening, each fellow gave a 5-minute presentation of their project to the audience that included an overview on why they decided to do the project, the goals, and finally the progress made. After the presentations were completed, attendees voted for their favorite fellow via text message.
The three finalists were Sajan George, founder of Matchbook Learning; Jimmy Lin and Scott Taing, founders of Rare Genomics Institute; and Courtney Rountree, founder of Sinapis Group.
Matchbook Learning aims to help turn around underperforming public schools in America by implementing a classroom that would personalize instruction for each student. The Rare Genomics Institute seeks to provide funding and research for individuals suffering from rare diseases. Sinapis Group's mission is to help provide a Christ-centered business education for nascent entrepreneurs.
The three finalists selected will present their entrepreneurial proposals on Tuesday evening as part of the annual Q Conference that is also in Washington, D.C. For these finalists, there will be three cash prizes awarded to them totaling $100,000. First place will receive $50,000, second place $30,000, and third $20,000; the money will go toward carrying out the works of the winners' organizations.
For nearly a year, the 12 selected social entrepreneurs were mentored by 20 Praxis mentors: Dave Blanchard, founder and president of Praxis and former IDEO business designer; Gabe Lyons, founder of Q and author of The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America; Henry Kaestner, founder of one of the nation's fastest growing telecommunication companies, Bandwidth.com; Steve Graves, founder of Coaching by Cornerstone; and Chris Crane, former CEO of Opportunity International.
Dr. Steve Graves, a founding partner of Praxis, told The Christian Post on Monday that there were many things that drew him to become a mentor.
"There was the missional component of how they constructed the whole enterprise. It wasn't just about, you know, picking people with good ideas or great connections. It was picking organizations that had great strong leaders," said Graves.
"It was a number of things that made all these things attractive. Plus I love the process. I love the process that has been constructed for people to fit in and make a difference."
The event on Monday was held at the Center Green Room of the Andrew Mellon Auditorium. The event was the third and final part of a mentoring process for the fellows selected by Praxis. The first event was last November in Hudson Valley, New York, and focused on "refining the fundamentals," the second was in Los Angeles and focused on "building the organization."
Graves explained that the mentoring process for the 2012 class of fellows was "customized for each individual" as each Praxis fellow has a different set of needs to aid their organization.
"We tried to help them understand how to basically build who they are as a leader as well as build their organization kind of in a symbiotic fashion," said Graves.
"To try to integrate their faith in the final component into what they are doing. But then we try to teach them how to collaborate, how to lean on each other. So it's been a number of elements."