Tel Aviv Steering Committee Member Inbal Baum
“Never lose sight of your vision, keep it fun, and keep the energy positive! Let the fun and good energy be what defines the project.”
Tell Me a Little Bit About Yourself
My name is Inbal Baum and I am one of the members of the Steering Committee of the Tel Aviv Fellowship. I made aliyah in March 2009 and have been involved in Tel Aviv’s budding social entrepreneurship scene ever since. My interest in social entrepreneurship has its roots in my high school days in Maryland, when I was an active member of BBYO. At an early age, I was able to take on leadership roles (I served as international vice president), which taught me a lot about creative thinking, reaching out to broad demographics, and getting people interested in programming. I have carried the lessons I learned with me to other leadership roles throughout my life.
What Prompted You to Get Involved in the Social Entrepreneurship Scene in Tel Aviv?
Israel is well-known as a capital of entrepreneurship, but there is not yet as much attention to the full range of “social” efforts in entrepreneurship, so I figured I could add my knowledge and enthusiasm to the mix. When I moved to Israel, I realized that most of my social entrepreneurship activities had centered around pro-Israel programming while studying at University of California, Berkeley during the Second Intifada. As an Israeli citizen without a strong attachment to any particular political party, I searched for an outlet to enable my passion to bring people together with a meaningful purpose.
I found the Tel Aviv International Salon, an initiative started two years ago by a few friends with the simple goal of bringing together the Israeli and international young professional communities to listen to informative, high-level speakers address relevant topics. Part of this consists of a networking and a social component of meeting people beyond standard nightlife. Recently, the Salon hosted MK Tzipi Livni, Reut Institute Founder Gidi Grinstein, and Senior Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom.
Tell Me About Your Latest Venture, the Pop-Up Café.
Last month, Kinneret Yifrach and I co-founded Israel’s first pop-up café. Riding on Tel Aviv’s famous café culture, we envisioned a community café that would be a meeting place and center for meaningful interaction for city residents. We took the concept of a temporary space that “pops up,” popular in New York and abroad, and brought it here in the form of a café. For one week at Café Bograshov, we hosted around the clock events on the theme “interactions,” including morning meditation, speed dating, a community shabbat dinner, film screenings, and a bluegrass concert by Holler!.
What Makes Social Ventures So Important?
Both the Salon and the Pop-Up Café bring communities together for meaningful interaction. After the organized community of college disappears, we often move to big cities and lose the community life and framework that college provided for us. Facebook is great, but the offline versions are important for real face-to-face collaboration. From my personal experience as an olah chadasha (new immigrant to Israel), I value community events as opportunities for networking with people who have gone through similar transitions and challenges. Through social ventures, I am working to create a social, cultural, and educational environment for sabras (native Israelis) and new Israelis to enjoy together.
What Challenges Have You Faced?
Keeping focused. One of the visions of the Pop-Up Café was for people in Tel Aviv to come and pay for events—and people came, so in that sense it was a success. One of the best things about PresenTense is the extensive visioning and planning process. In any venture, social or otherwise, it is critical to be very aware of your vision and keep it as a guiding star.
What Is Your Advice to Budding Social Entrepreneurs?
Never lose sight of your overall (personal and professional) vision, keep it fun, and keep the energy positive! One of my role models, Jeff Pulver, taught me the importance of channeling fun and positivity, even during the stressful moments. During the Pop-Up Café events, I would sometimes get stressed that people were not going to show up to an event, and at those moments I would try to channel Jeff’s positive spirit and remember that it is up to me to have fun. It made it all the more exciting when people actually showed up and my vision came to fruition. It is also important to keep the situation in proportion and to let the stress or fear become part of the experience and not define you. Let the fun and good energy (and good intentions) behind the venture be what defines the project. PT