Ok, so what does your work actually look like?
We have lots of schemes and dreams. Like hundreds. Can’t help it. We talk to people and see possibilities everywhere. We write all of these up and and share with our advisors to see which ones we can actually build out. Then we start building. If the project keeps growing, we build it until we can’t run it any more and then let go. The projects either become new operations or go live at a bigger organization.
Got it, but who pays for it?
75% of our budget comes from donations or grants. 25% comes from fee-for-service work we do for other folks.
So, what’s the deal with Hillel?
OOI was founded and incubated in the Hillel movement. A lot of our team proudly worked for Hillel for years. We draw deep inspiration from Hillel’s commitment to pluralism, innovation and Torah. Hillel’s focus is college students. Ours is the home to home space, from when you leave your home until you set it up. That overlaps (sometimes) with college, but tends to be older. So, for the sake of clarity, we made OOi into a separate entity. We are fiscally sponsored by Hillel, (which means a lot of our back office goes through Hillel) but we are our own thing.
People actually hire you?
Yup… People pay us to help build their own projects, to design their curricula, to train their staff. Basically, to help them dream and scheme.
Where are you based?
Our team is in Harlem, Brooklyn, San Diego, the Hudson Valley, the Berkshires, and beyond. But we work with people and projects all over North America.
A lot of people are “innovative.” What makes you so special?
Innovation lab is a fancy way to say “start a lot of new projects.” Like, a lot. Some take off, some fail. If our projects work, we grow them and scale them and eventually hand them off to another organization. We don’t operate things long term. We’re too busy starting new stuff.
What are the common threads that hold together all your work?
Our work is not as random as it sounds. Innovation is not wide open. We have a focus. Most of our projects focus on life’s liminal moments – leaving home, falling in love, building a family. We see these liminal moments as a time when people are a bit more open to explore the big questions of life. We do that by creating spaces that are animated by a love of the study of Torah, the spiritual leadership of great Rabbis, a deep sense of community and an open, fun environment.