Interview: Dr. Terrie Rose, Ashoka Fellow and Baby’s Space Founder

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Source: Ashoka

Dr. Terrie Rose is an inspirational leader and innovative social entrepreneur. After becoming a mother of three within three years, she instantly felt the hardships of being a parent. During this stressful time, Rose found time to volunteer as a consultant at a program that helped new mothers who had used drugs and alcohol during their pregnancy gain the parenting skills they needed to successfully raise a child. She witnessed many situations which were much worse than her own. As she was driving home on a cold October day in Minnesota, she started to cry.

“I was physically and emotionally exhausted with the benefit of a supportive spouse, good friends and attached garage – essential in Minnesota in the winter,” Rose explained.

A few years later, she remembers watching a young mom struggling to convince her 2-year-old to walk two blocks to the bus while she struggled to carry her baby through the snow covered sidewalk – this young mom turned out to be a client of program where Rose was a consultant years earlier.

“I could hardly imagine her daily struggles to remain sober, care for her children; find a job and quality child care, while living in the neighborhood which earlier in the year earned our city the title ‘Murderapolis,’” Rose said.

“Welfare reform never conveyed empathy or understanding or the commonality of her struggles with those of all mothers of young children. Rather, led by a mandate of self-sufficiency, these mothers’ struggles with issues of child care, employment and successful parenting were viewed as their own liability for their poor choices and self-imposed conditions of poverty, single parenting and social isolation,” Rose continued.

Dr. Terri Rose

This is when the idea of Baby’s Space came to her. Babies in poverty stricken neighborhoods were growing up in violent atmospheres which lacked proper relationships. Baby’s Space was created to help those babies build relationships, grow and make a positive impact on their community in the future. And thanks to Rose’s commitment, her friends and University of Minnesota colleagues, she was able to fund an initial venture, which has grown into a model that is being expanded into new neighborhoods across Minnesota.

First comes the fellowship, then comes the marriage

Rose was inducted as an Ashoka Fellow in December of 2008 and says, “The most important step in achieving my goals was the interview process.” For those new to Ashoka Fellowship, there are two interviews, the first being an in-depth interview, and the second being a panel-style interview. By the second interview Terrie knew where her full commitment lay, “It helped me realize that this was my cause now, this is what I was going to commit 100% to.”

Rose has also formed a partnership with Social Venture Partners Minnesota whom she met at their 2008 Engaged Philanthropy Conference. Rose described how she earned their attention, “I went to the conference hoping to meet other engaged philanthropists and while that didn’t happen, I knew I wanted to be engaged with the organization. SVP-Minnesota had been supporting youth development activities and had decided to broaden into early childhood. The competition for their 2009 investee was specific to early childhood. Alas, the marriage was set.”

A word for aspiring social entrepreneurs:

“Look for the head nods, have a deep understanding for your area and be a risk-taker,” is the advice Rose gives for new and aspiring social entrepreneurs. She touched on the importance of having a mentor, “A mentor and their experiences can help guide you in the right direction.”

We also discussed finding funding for social ventures and she said, “When you have the right idea, and it’s clear about the differences it will make, people will fund it.” Rose says that getting financial backers early on, attending conferences and doing whatever it takes, are keys to success (even if that means going to your neighbors, uncles, cousins and asking for funding).

At the end of our conversation I was motivated by Rose’s philosophy, “If everyone did what gave them passion, it would create a world that’s positive and engaging.” I say, take this to heart, do good when you can, experience as much as you can, and when you discover something that inspires you to build a change model… GO FOR IT!

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