Uncover your confidence and get the skills, knowledge, tools, community support, and mentorship you need to build a social venture from the ground up.

Important dates:

Next program starts September 2018.  Sign up here to be notified when applications open. 

"There's a huge gap between knowledge and action. And the world needs action. Groundswell is a community of people who will help transform your ideas and inklings into something concrete, actionable, and real. Get moving, the world cannot wait much longer."

Jeremy Kirouac, 2015 Groundswell alumnus

The social venture incubator program takes you through two major components: FOUNDATIONS and BUILD. You will journey from thinking about starting a project or venture to actually building it.  

Participants have a wide range of backgrounds and experience:  no prior business knowledge is required, and we work with people with a variety of interests such as art and design, education, heath and wellness, permaculture, event productions - anyone who wants to make positive social change through their work.

After the incubator program, you have access to the Groundswell Launchpad, a supported community marketplace with access to the resources you need to test your venture and take it to the next level.  Find out more.

If you have questions about your fit for the program or any other inquiries, don't hesitate to get in touch.  Email our program and managing director at or call six-zero-four-365-6369

Guest Speaker Series

Each week of the program, a guest speaker dives deeper into the week's curriculum.  Through this program element, you will get connected to 20+ industry experts, professionals, entrepreneurs and community leaders. Learn about some of our speakers and partner organizations here.

Part I: Foundations

Build confidence - uncover your skills and potential - be in community - refine your project idea

Karen Tomkins.jpeg

“The authenticity and lack of pretension at Groundswell is something I don’t see in any other business incubator in the city. It’s real, it’s messy, and we address real issues in business and at the personal level. Everyone is accepted for who they are at Groundswell and I can be myself.”

Karen Tomkins,  2017 Groundswell Alumna

You start with an intensive and intense Kick-Off Weekend of experiences and sharing with your peers to lay the groundwork for real collaboration.  You will start to meet the Groundswell alumni and professionals in our network.

Personal & Professional Development

Week by week, you will explore your own story, map your values, skills, and experiences, and uncover what really drives you and how you can best make real positive change.  In these initial weeks, we will help you  develop your own personal and professional potential so that you can create an authentic venture, and you will get the confidence you need to take it forward.

Foundational learning lectures, dialogues and workshops

In a parallel series of sessions you will:  find the levers of change and explore the creative and innovative methods that drive it; explore the language and landscape of social entrepreneurship; learn to connect to and build your community; and discover alternative economic models for social, economic, and environmental justice

"Before Groundswell I had a lot of ideas, but never really succeeded in starting something. For me Groundswell provided me with the necessary structure to get started and more importantly a supportive community of peers and mentors when things get tough.”

Chris Schuchmann, 2016 Groundswell alumnus

Community Skill Building

This is a weekly session in which the power of collaboration is at the forefront.  You and your cohort will map your collective skills and share knowledge, utilizing peer-to-peer learning and teaching methods.  You will also explore the power of community outside of the classroom: make meaningful connections with community partners and engage them in your work through hands on projects, events, and conversations.

Ideation and validation

With creative approaches, your vision will be elaborated, before honing in to bring a real venture to life over the remainder of the program (and beyond!). You will fine tune and test the validity of your venture concept.  Ideas will be generated, expanded, tossed, combined, dismantled and examined by your community of mentors and peers.  Then, you will use tested validation tools and techniques to communicate with the community you want to serve to ensure you are creating a solutions based venture.  

Part II: Build

Turn your idea into a real venture hands on, in real time, with mentorship, skills training, business tools, and networking.

You will:

  • Turn your idea into a working social venture.
  • Get hands-on learning with a ready-to-launch project and complete lean business plan as the end objective.
  • Get access to a team of mentors and the collective capacity of your peers.
  • Be accountable to your peers with weekly update and pitch sessions.
  • Get ongoing peer and panel reviews and feedback on your pitch and presentations.
  • Encounter the chaos and uncertainty of a real startup - with the support of the Groundswell community.

"The weekly pitching was key, I thought so many great things came out of it, from development of our ideas, getting experience speaking in front of a crowd, clearly communicating our idea and organizing our own thoughts about what we are doing, and a lot of personal growth came out of this too. I gained a lot more confidence." Groundswell alumni

Cover these topics and find answers to these questions:

  • Testing your business concept: Is it feasible? Is it financially viable?
  • Social venture business models: What structure will work for your purpose and product or service?  
  • Financing options and opportunities: How do you find and manage the money?
  • Branding, promotion & marketing: From theory to design to digital execution - how will you communicate your venture?
  • Business operations tools and skills: What people, products, and processes will you need?
  • Measuring Success: How will you blend money and a social mission?

Program outcomes

"I moved to a new city for Groundswell, with no work or social networks. And now my Groundswell project is a job for me, and the people I met became my social networks, my friends.”

Kevin Elliot, 2014 Groundswell alumnus

Groundswell programs are flexible and adaptive to the impact you want to make, to your idea, and to the place you are in your life.  The outcome formula goes something like this: (what you put in) x (venture complexity), so there are a range of outcomes, and these aren't mutually exclusive:  

  • a ready to launch or launched venture, cooperative, non-profit, or community project
  • self-employment
  • a job placement doing what you love (aka intrapreneurship)
  • a clear understanding of your skills and potential and the direction of your journey forward
  • a diverse and productive community of support around you

Regardless of where your outcome, you never "finish" the program: the vitality of Groundswell and the ventures created here are part of a growing ecosystem of people, skills, stories, sharing, services, and ventures that is constantly being created in and around this community.  

Build your vision. Take the first step.

Social Venture Showcase

At the end of the program, you'll have the chance to present to potential funders, investors, partners, collaborators and the rest of the greater Groundswell community to continue to build momentum around your venture or project.  But this is not the end.  You are now a lifetime member of the Groundswell community!
Watch a video of the 2015 Showcase.


 Details subject to change.  Any necessary changes will be updated on this web page.