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Startup Weekend is excited to announce we are going to put the Startup Weekend model into application in a totally new way in Haiti in an effort to help inspire and support entrepreneurial efforts as a solution to the devastating aftermath of the earthquake.

The idea began in a conversation about what people like us could do to help in Haiti. The answer as we discussed, might not lie far from home for Startup Weekend and a few groups that have jumped out and been willing to support us. Fundamentally, the Startup Weekend model has the power to allow entrepreneurs within a community to voice possible answers to problems everyone faces. The community then bands around the best solutions to problems that they can relate with, and then they being to actively build the solutions. The result from each event is a tremendous amount of learning, networking, and problem solving that truly inspires and helps entrepreneurs and teams flourish.

What we are planning:

The mission is to team up with local relief efforts and charities that are familiar and deeply rooted in Haiti’s recovery to host an event for local Haitians using the Startup Weekend model. Currently, there has been tremendous support offered by the folks at We Hear Your Voice to help us execute an event under the Startup Weekend model that will truly benefit the local communities needs and efforts. The event will be far different from a standard Startup Weekend event; however, the model will fundamentally used to help find the best solutions to the most widely felt problems of the people. We believe we will find local Haitians that will have great ideas to address some of the problems they face daily. The end goal is to take the money we receive via the fundraising efforts and award it directly to the new, local ventures and ideas the emerge from the event.

Will this look like a standard Startup Weekend?

No, it most certainly will not. While mobile apps and web service might benefit us here in the US, we know that the need in Haiti is for much less trivial things and more for the problem solving of issues related to supply logistics, relief coordination, effective communication strategies.

What do we expect to see result from the event in Haiti?

That is yet to be determined. If there is an idea to build a logistical support system to facilitate local rebuilding efforts, we will help. If the need to is to find a way to more effectively distribute basic supplies, we will be there.  Here is a recent excerpt from this article that has certainly inspired us:

“But as he looks for short-term solutions to the country’s most pressing needs, the economic development expert is trying to keep his eye on the bigger picture. He’s seeking to ensure that the relief effort becomes an economic engine for the beleaguered country — U.S. officials hoped to create 25,000 jobs by the end of January through the reconstruction process — and plants the seeds for a longer-term recovery with better infrastructure, governance and economic opportunity.”

Who will we work with to accomplish this?

Amazing connections are being made right now that will ensure that our efforts are effective. Our primary partner as of now will be We Hear Your Voice, which is a non-profit that was formed shortly after the Haiti disaster by Piryx and Jackson Walker LLP. The mission of We Hear Your Voice is 3 things: 1. Facilitate companies, aid organizations, and nonprofits with resources and innovative ideas to help Haitians recover with models for sustainability. 2.Focus on rebuilding schools and orphanages, and help foster self-sufficiency by creating jobs through social entrepreneurship (rather than plain cash and foreign aid).  In time, we hope to help educate future leaders. 3. Film a documentary.  We want to use the power of media to inspire people to learn how they can help Haiti, and better understand a country rich in history and heritage.

See the CNN interview with Justin Yarborough and Kennedy Granger who we are working with from We Hear Your Voice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dS4T0ym5pu4

We Hear Your Voice has an extensive network of partners that we will be working with as well including:

Global Water Trust – Their CEO Rob Krame who has spent the past 20 years as an entrepreneur and executive in the media, technology, environmental, and non-profit sectors. Rob has done work with the Department of State and has his own miraculous Haiti story here.

– Angels in Cowboy Boots –  Angels is Cowboy Boots founder is Lance Kennedy.  Lance’s father is the spiritual head of Church on the Rock-International, an organization of independent non-denominational churches in over 30 nations.  His missionary in Haiti is Dr. Jay Threadgill, who has been a missionary for almost 30 years.  He runs an organization called Fishers of Men Ministries and is the pastor of the nation’s largest Evangelical church in Haiti with around 6,000 members.  Jay has founded dozens of churches and 17 schools including an American school called Morningstar Academy.  He has also opened clinics and other humanitarian operations in Haiti.  Lance has access to shipping roughly 70 tons of goods via container in the next 2 weeks, and within the next 6 months they hope to ship 50,000 5-gallon buckets filled with aid to Haiti, which they have already purchased. This effort also includes longtime Haiti missionary, Dr. Jay Threadgill.

Why are we doing this?

We are constantly impressed by the power of bringing together people to solve problems. At every event, we see connections, ideas, and inspiration that wasn’t there before that can be harnessed and applied to create truly valuable outcomes. We know we certainly don’t have all the answers, but we do believe that through Startup Weekend’s model, we do have the ability to empower, inspire, and help create positive change in any community. Another point that has been inspiring for us is the fact that almost 40% of Haiti’s annual budget even before the disaster was supplied by foreign aid. We believe that building a viable entrepreneurial ecosystem is an essential aspect to innovative solutions and economic growth.

How much of the Money will be spent in Haiti?

We are dedicated to spending at least 90% of all funds raised within the boarders of Haiti by funding new ventures or ideas that result. We promise to post all of the expenses publicly on our website to show exactly where the funds are being allocated as things progress.

Steps we are taking:

This is all still being developed, but we wanted to share with our community to get their input and ideas as soon as possible. We are currently examining who we need to be talking to on the ground in Haiti. The relief effort is in full swing right now, and our intention is to find a few groups that can help advise us on how best to execute. Our next steps will be to fund raise.

When will the event be?

The event will likely be held in the Fall of this year following the rainy season in Haiti, and it will give the massive flow of emergency relief efforts taking place now some more time to be executed.

Kicking off the fund raising:

On March 13th at SXSW in Austin, we are teaming up with Microsoft BizSpark and Piryx to begin raising funds that will be put directly to funding new ventures and ideas that come out of Startup Weekend Haiti. There will be a benefit at The Speak Easy on the 13th where we will have room for 400 people. Microsoft will be sponsoring the venue and drinks, and admission will be $20 per person which will go directly to this cause. We hope to raise between $8,000 and upwards of $20,000 to help launch this initiative.

How can you help?

Join our community and let us know what you think, and of course, make a donation!

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Marc Nager Marc Nager
(@marcnager) Startups, everything outdoors, and Chief Community Officer at Techstars.