Caravanserai Project Board Chair Stephen Bennett and Bootcamp Participant Araceli Ramirez

Coachella Valley leaders and entrepreneurs benefit from vital creative support, thanks to Caravanserai Project.

The hybrid social-impact venture energizes enterprising individuals and groups, supporting their entrepreneurial journeys through a variety of methods, but at its core, Caravanserai Project strives to offer unique pathways toward success.

“We focus on mission-driven organizations, whether they are for-profit or nonprofits,” says Mihai Patru, Caravanserai Project’s Co-Founder and Executive Director. “We don’t tell people how to do their work. We help them develop the infrastructure they need to have an impact. Not only an impact that will be relevant in the near future, but five years from now, and so on.”

The organization uses several key processes to assist others—from implementing accountability systems and supplying specialized skills and futures-thinking strategies to uniting networks of individuals that assist stakeholders with watering their ideas and seeing them blossom.

“If you don’t have the right infrastructure or a sustainable business plan, it’s hard to generate system-change approaches,” Patru adds.

One of Caravanserai Project’s more intriguing abilities in “accelerating” irreversible system-change efforts is prioritizing actions. For instance: establishing new opportunities and support for early-stage mission-driven entrepreneurs or quickening the work of advanced mission-driven leaders via its Breakthrough Masterclass.

For the latter, the organization rallies up 15 cohorts facing similar challenges and in group settings, common visions are shared. Ideas spark. Potential partnerships are explored.

Early-stage industrialists may benefit from Caravanserai Project’s SEED Lab, an eight-month pre-accelerator consisting of 90 hours, established in partnership with the University of California, Riverside Extension.

Something unique occurs in these settings.

Here, new opportunities are given to unrecognized talent within historically marginalized and under-served communities. With new creative tools, they can target and create innovative pathways out of traditional norms that have either muted or buried their voices and creative efforts.

Patru notes:

  • 95 percent of the SEED Lab fellows are women and/or representing minority groups
  • 100 percent of the SEED Lab fellows come from diverse backgrounds, which typically aren’t represented in the entrepreneurship sector

“There’s a difference between having a mission, and actually being a mission-driven entrepreneur, whether it’s nonprofit or for-profit,” Patru notes. “In working with a lot of early-stage entrepreneurs, it can be more about the passion and the mission for them, than, for instance, the practicality and real-life reality of what they want to do. We try to help fill that gap.”

Recently Caravanserai Project received a grant from the Inland Empire Community Foundation (IECF) Community Impact Fund.

Patru says the funds will primarily be used to develop and strengthen its own internal capacity.

To that end, recent funds will pave the way for two of Caravanserai Project’s team members to be trained in programs focused on developing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

“When these team members graduate from this program, they’ll be able to bring DEI into work we do when we train organizations, and also help develop programs for others,” Patru adds. Some of those programs include designing DEI webinars or trainings for other organizations.

Patru believes that there would be a significant creative void in Coachella Valley if Caravanserai Project didn’t exist. And while its impact comes from its committed team members, its ability to generate positive ripple effects is in the DNA of its moniker.

The “caravanserais” were notable meeting places—think: roadside inns and the like—where travelers rested from the day’s journey. Typically along trade routes from Asia, North Africa to Southeast Europe, these settings also provided opportunities to exchange and trade goods, and relay information about various challenges on the road ahead.

Travelers were exposed to different cultures and beliefs—always fertile ground for new ideas.

For more information on Caravanserai Project and all it offers, visit caravanseraiproject.org.

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