What's Simran Sidhu up to? - Generocity Philly

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Mar. 30, 2018 1:24 pm

What’s Simran Sidhu up to?

The former head of YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School is now building The HIVE, a social enterprise meant to increase opportunity for Philly's youth.

Simran Sidhu.

(Courtesy photo)

Correction: The HIVE's commitment to impact over profit has been clarified and Joanna Berwind's name has been corrected. (4/9, 12:55 p.m.)
What’s new with Simran Sidhu?

Sidhu, former head of YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School, gave a few thoughts to our social enterprise explainer a few weeks ago. To be brief, we defined “social enterprise” as “the act of attempting to solve some social or environmental problem through a for-profit company.”

But as we come to a close for our social enterprise month, we figured it would be a good chance to give Sidhu the chance to discuss the concept further — as well as catch up with her career.

Last time we featured Sidhu she had left YouthBuild to start The HIVE at Spring Point with Joanna Berwind (daughter of late Philadelphia businessman Charles Berwind). Sidhu says she and Berwind met through the latter’s involvement with YouthBuild, and chose to collaborate due to their shared belief in “in this idea of holistic development, looking at the whole young person, not just one aspect.”

The focus of The HIVE, whose mission Sidhu describes as “amplifying voice, choice and opportunity for young people” — was a natural extension of Sidhu’s experiences at YouthBuild.

“We sat at the intersection of many systems,” she said of her 21 years at the alternative school. “You kind of see where the intersections of things are.”

Sidhu says that The HIVE’s mission is to support students through navigating all of these systems and encouraging collaboration between organizations working on the issues, to “make [adults] learn to work better with each other so that we’re making it better and better for the young people.”

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Sidhu says The HIVE funds 10 nonprofits, including Covenant House, YouthBuild, Attic Youth Center and the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project. The HIVE invests in “longterm ways,” said Sidhu, offering operating and technical support.

Something that has come up are issues with college accessibility and employment retention rates for young people. That’s what drove The HIVE to work with places like the Monkey and Elephant Café, which employs former foster youth.

Beyond that, The HIVE provides trainings for everyone from managers to teachers to students to parents on how to increase collaboration around these issues.

“I’ve been doing deep-dives into what are these systems and how do you move them, and, no surprise, the themes on that are all about collaboration and never acting like you’re coming in to save anybody,” Sidhu said. “Often those solutions are [already] within those communities and within young people. We’re super mindful about that.”

And collaboration is key for the future of these social enterprises, she said.

“I think there’s been this social sector that knows how to maximize impact very deeply, but has always struggled to figure out the resources,” Sidhu said. “Then there’s the world of capital and venture capital and business that has always understood profit, but folks in this space also want to understand how to do good. I think that we have more and more spaces where each sides respects the intention of the other side. That’s where innovation lives in my head.”

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