Aaron L. Levitt Social Entrepreneurship Challenge

Social entrepreneurs make changes that grow communities. Social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading communities to take new chances; they seize opportunities others miss in order to improve systems, develop and disseminate new approaches and advance sustainable solutions that create social value. The Aaron L. Levitt Social Entrepreneurship Challenge is a collaborative effort for community, agencies and students to connect to make a difference in Kansas City communities and beyond.

The Aaron L. Levitt Social Entrepreneurship Challenge is open to all UMKC students from any UMKC school. Students will participate in a series of workshops over the fall and spring semester, culminating in a competition day in May 2018 during which teams or individuals present their projects to judges from the community. Teams ready for implementation will be elevated to Changemaker status and receive support to bring their plans to fruition over the next year.

You may bring an idea of your own or help a community organization with an idea of theirs. You may work on your own or with a team.

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The Levitt Social Entrepreneurship Challenge exemplifies the Bloch School vision by: giving students and community persons an experiential learning opportunity to put theory into practice; teaching how be more like our benefactor Henry W. Bloch through understanding of the importance of giving back; and developing entrepreneurial and innovative thinkers in the nonprofit and public sector.

In 2011, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce unveiled the city’s Big 5 Ideas, five initiatives designed to elevate the Kansas City region onto the world stage and make the area one of America’s best places to work, live, start a business, and grow a business. These community-based projects take advantage of the area’s world-class organizations and the spirit of our citizens to inspire innovation in our region. The Levitt Challenge supports several of these initiatives, including the Urban Core Neighborhood initiative and Making Kansas City America’s Most Entrepreneurial City.

November 16

Workshop: Introduction

December 14

Workshop: Issues, Ideas, Opportunities ~Simultaneous Pursuit

January 18

Workshop: Understanding Those to be Served and Their Communities

February 8

Workshop: The Policy Environment ~Opportunities and Constraints & Analyzing Competitive Forces ~ The Market and Industry

February 29

Workshop: Creating a Social Venture Feasibility Plan

March 21

Workshop: Completing a Viability Assessment of the Venture

April 3

Draft Feasibility Plan due

April 14

Feedback reported back on each Draft Feasibility Plan

May 1

Final version of Feasibility Plan due

May 9

Workshop: Preparing Changemaker Presentations

May 14

Feasibility Plan Review

May 19

Changemaker Event!

Aaron L. Levitt Social Entrepreneurship Challenge Awardees


  • Breakwater Communities, Dave and Ginger Pullin
    Providing quality housing, meaningful work, and continued education for adults with, and without, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
  • Family Partners Support Services LLC, Beth Brinkley
    In-home services to help families remain intact, reunify, or safely join back together after separation. Our goal is to partner with parents to build and support healthy relationships, parents, and families.
  • Freedom Hoops, Daron Gray, Christopher Guhl, Michael Loney
    An urban basketball ministry that plans to transform the northeast of Kansas City, Missouri. Many of our young men come from single parent homes and are looking for a place to be belong and be known. We use basketball to mentor and transform urban youth.
  • Strategic Workforce Development, Anjou Giri, Joe Hall, York Wilson
    Career coaching, vocational education and employment opportunities for justice involved adults and disadvantaged populations in the Greater Kansas City area that want a second chance for meaningful reintegration into society.
  • The Transition Academy, Kim Riley
    A special needs college and career planning center – a one-stop shop guide to researching and exploring college and career opportunities to seamlessly move students from high school to higher education and/or the workforce.


  • CES School, John DeGrandpre, Shung Hrangbung, Neil Mansuy
  • Determination Incorporated, Kyle J. Smith
  • DOLOCOIN, Larry Sanders
  • The Reading Nook, Brenda Starkes-Fonseca, Jeffrey Williams, Sharon Williams




  • No Changemakers



  • Tutorious, John Stamm and Alfredo Palacol
  • EPEC, Natasha Kirsch and Jim Fisher

Cindy Laufer
Project Manager
Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership

Wim van Klinken

Who was Aaron L. Levitt?

The Aaron L. Levitt Social Entrepreneurship Challenge was made possible by funds established in memory of Aaron Levitt upon his death in 1988. In 2012, the funds were repurposed for this event by his son Jim Levitt and the Levitt family, a family that has been part of Kansas City’s history for more than 90 years. Aaron Levitt was an entrepreneur who started his own furniture business. He was also a social entrepreneur with a deep commitment to giving back to the Kansas City community. He was deeply involved with UMKC, serving as president of the University Associates (now the UMKC Foundation) as well as chairman of the UMKC Board of Trustees. Levitt was active with the American Red Cross, the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the civic council. He also made local history as the first Jewish man to be invited to join the Kansas City Club and the River Club.