Ending with the Beginning in Mind

Ariel Beery>>Mon Sep 24, 2012

Each year PresenTense ends the previous year with the beginning of the new year in mind. Really, we do, and not only metaphorically: one of the traditions we've developed in PresenTense is an integrated, annual strategic planning process that enables us to review, as a Group, what we've done, to envision where we're going, and then to find a way to present it before those to whom we come for 'din v'heshbon' (those who judge the product of our labor), which is you, the general community.

The result is a transparency that is rare in the social sector (a sector we believe should be as transparent as possible owing to its reliance on the public for support). 

This year we'll continue the tradition of posting the results of our strategic planning process online, as we have in previous years, but I'd like to kick up transparency a notch by including some of our background materials on HOW we plan and run these days as well - so that other organizations who want to develop a transparent practice can do so as well.

And so here is an email I sent the staff before we began this year's planning process, back in June 2012. Hope it helps frame the process from our internal perspective: 

Dear PTeam,

As one year of programming ends, another begins.

Over the course of the next six weeks we will oversee eleven launch nights on three continents - helping to launch almost as many new social ventures as we have in the past five years. That's quite amazing stuff, and we should all be very, very proud of ourselves - and thankful to the energy of the volunteers who made it possible, and the generosity of the communities that have enabled us to work together with them to change the world.


Five Years and Who Knows What’s Changed

Ariel Beery>>Mon Aug 29, 2011

(This article was written upon request for eJewishPhilanthropy, and appeared there first.)

In the summer of 2006, I was set on pitching a new magazine in what I was told would be a four-day global contest for funding held in Jerusalem. The magazine, of course, was PresenTense, an effort a few friends of mine and I started in December of 2005 in Morningside Heights of Manhattan. After months of unsuccessful attempts to raise $10,000 for the first print run and distribution, we ended up printing it ourselves. For $5,000 that a friend and mentor gave me, and around $5,000 that lived on as a (growing) debt on our credit cards, we printed 1000 copies of what we called ‘Issue Zero’ and tried to leverage these copies to gain subscribers and advertisers. We saw this conference as our chance to shine. It brought 120 innovators from around the world and was structured around a series of pitches and workshops supposedly culminating in a grand prize. We were determined to win that prize and scale PresenTense. The conference’s very name convinced us that we were a shoe-in: it was called ROI120, indicating the Jewish community’s desire to get a return on its investment, and was, at the time, a joint effort between the Schusterman Foundation, Taglit-birthright israel, and the Israel Democracy Institute.

We did not win the contest, and from what I understand there was no cash prize at the end. But thanks to the conference, many of the relationships that built PresenTense were formed or strengthened. To go through the list of individuals who attended ROI120 that first year and now are leading major efforts in the Jewish community would be to tempt the consequences of forgetting a name, so I’ll leave others to list them.


The University Education and PresenTense

Ariel Beery>>Wed Mar 20, 2013

In my opinion, there are few things more enjoyable and more rewarding than teaching a person new skills that can help them make an impact on the world. Over the past five years, since we established the PresenTense Institute for Creative Zionism (and with it our program for social entrepreneurs in communities around the world), I've had the privilege to teach hundreds of entrepreneurs and organizational professionals tools and tricks for how to start social ventures. 

But it wasn't until this year that our unique curriculum was honored by being included among college courses - available only to honors students, no less. In the fall semester of 2012, the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya (known as the IDC, and one of Israel's leading undergraduate institutions) offered A Practical Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship, which I taught. 

The main challenge I faced in adapting PresenTense's curriculum to the University classroom had to do with breaking one of our main pedagogical assumptions: practice before theory. In general, PresenTense's curriculum rests on three insights that we had following a significant period of research, trial and error. As we learned, entrepreneurs need, 


Announcing the New Co-Directors of PresenTense

Ariel Beery>>Mon Aug 27, 2012

Dear PresenTense Community,

As many of you have known, PresenTense has been in the midst of transition over the past year, one which will ensure the continuation of our movement as a grassroots effort to remake the world through creativity and social entrepreneurship - and ensure our organization is not too closely tied to the personalities of one or two individuals.

PresenTense was born of volunteer energies, crowdsourcing content and project development before the term ‘crowdsourcing’ hit the general consciousness. From our start as a magazine, we made it our mission to help the Jewish People realize its collective potential through collective action, and have made enormous strides over the years through our Global Institute, and then Community Entrepreneur Partnership fellowship programs to transform ideas into action, articles into new ventures.

As we grew, we required a professional staff - one whose purpose is to serve the volunteers, and whose mission has been to provide a framework to support and focus the amazing energies of communities in over a dozen cities around the world. The larger the staff, the clearer it became to us that for PresenTense to grow to the next level, it would have to clearly distance itself from the particular personalities associated with its founding, so that PresenTense would be seen for what it is, a team of wonderfully skilled and deeply committed individuals, as opposed to a founder-led organization.



Ariel Beery>>Thu Jul 12, 2012

By Ariel Beery and Aharon Horwitz, co-Founders, The PresenTense Group

It is told that in the Beginning, before creation, the Creator realized that for the world to exist, the Creator would have to constrict and provide room for the world to come unto its own. This constriction, or tzimtzum, offered the necessary space for that which was created to contribute to the ongoing well being of the world.

In its study marking its tenth anniversary, Bikkurim-- the second-stage Jewish start-up incubator—invoked this concept of tzimtzum in relation to the challenges start-up organizations face and the opportunities available to them when their creators step away and new leaders step up.

Over the past year, PresenTense has also lived this organizational version of tzimtzum, as we, the two co-founders, have engaged in a process that will culminate in our stepping away from professionally leading what we have created.  This process, which will involve each of us stepping away from day-to-day leadership and playing a more distant board role, is the most exciting milestone in our journey to date. 

In 2007, we wrote in PresenTense’s first business plan: 

"Our ultimate goal is to provide a framework for each and every Jew, regardless of their level of communal affiliation or disciplinary training, to contribute their unique spark of creativity to the Jewish People—and to therefore create a thriving and creative Jewish People who are acting as a light unto the nations in their export of inspiring solutions to human challenges."

We built PresenTense not for us to lead an organization, but because we were inspired by a vision of Jewish people making meaning in a new era of human history. 


Lior Shoham kicks off day 2 at Masa BFL

Ariel Beery>>Wed Mar 21, 2012

Sent from my iPhone


Kickoff of Masa BFL Ideaslam

Ariel Beery>>Tue Mar 20, 2012

Sent from my iPhone


Help Grow PresenTense to the Next Level

Ariel Beery>>Thu Feb 9, 2012

Do you want a chance to take the helm of a fast-growing social venture and help it scale to change the world? You have a chance: the PresenTense Group, an international not-for-profit Jewish social enterprise that helps communities around the world develop community-supported social enterprise accelerators, is looking for a CEO for its North American (Western Hemisphere) operation. This CEO will work with the Israel CEO to develop and lead Global policy and operations, expanding the ways in which PresenTense can upgrade the way we make a difference in the world.


Freezing Publication of PresenTense Magazine

Ariel Beery>>Thu Jan 26, 2012

It is with a heavy heart that the PresenTense Group has decided to freeze the publication of PresenTense Magazine, starting with this Winter edition of the magazine.

As you may know, PresenTense Magazine had an ethic of fiscal sustainability since its founding in December 2005. From Issue 1, PresenTense was able to finance its operations, layout, print and distribution thanks to advertising and subscriptions, and the volunteer effort of hundreds of young adults around the world who gave of their time, ideas and skills to grow the conversation around the question of Jewish identity and life in today’s day and age.

Over the past few years, as the PresenTense Group grew more focused around its Community Entrepreneur Partnership programs - and supporting a growing community of social entrepreneurs and their volunteer coaches and mentors - PresenTense Magazine continued to be budgeted separately from the growing operations of the PresenTense Group. We did this because we believed our different units could stand on their own so long as the demand was there, and for nearly three years, was able to sustain itself and grow.

But this changed in recent years. Like many other publications across the world, the fiscal crisis that kicked off in 2008 crippled our advertising revenue, leading us to operate in a loss since the Spring of 2010. This Fall, 2011, we came to the conclusion that it would be impossible for us to recoup our losses or bring the publication back into break-even in the time-being, and so we decided to freeze the magazine publication until further notice.


PresenTense Year in Preview 5772

Ariel Beery>>Thu Nov 10, 2011

Once a year, we at the PresenTense Group try to take a step back to reflect on our plans for the year ahead through the prism of our mission and the requirements of the sector we work in. It's an engaging, inspiring and sometimes frustrating process, one that we throw ourselves into out of the recognition that we are working in PresenTense to serve a higher calling, and that the community which makes our work possible deserves to know what it is we are planning to do with their volunteer hours and their dollars.

This year's process began in June, when we brought together our staff from around the world to look a few years ahead and envision how we'd like the future to be, and how we could use the tools we have to get there. The next two seminars, in July and August, were devoted to the more practical matters, turning those visions into reality.

The result of this process is the Year in Preview document, included here. The Year in Preview is broken into three parts: first, an introduction, giving a high-level overview of how PresenTense views the year to come, and what new assets we have at our disposal to make sure that this coming year results in successful programs and positive change for the Jewish People and the World. Second, a more in-depth look at our programs through what we've called Project Summaries, which provide a clearer look at the 'how' of what we do. Last, our budget, which can provide those with a more quantitative mind a sense of how we are allocating resources and setting priorities.

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