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Connecting the Dots to a Greener Future
Smith Alumnus Founds Green Hub in Bethesda
Being a social entrepreneur is anything but boring.
Dave Feldman, Executive Director of Bethesda Green and a Smith
School alumnus (both undergraduate and MBA), can readily attest
“Social entrepreneurship is about adapting to change,” he said.
There’s an inherent resistance toward moving away from existing
systems, and this requires someone to subscribe to Winston
Churchill’s philosophy: “Never, never, never, never give
Five years ago, Feldman had a vision for building sustainable
communities and created a model that included collaboration
between local business, government, nonprofits and citizens.
He recognized the need for a hub for the green and sustainable
movements—one that would connect the dots of programs and
companies already existing in the community as well as support
programs or ideas not yet discovered.
“It’s about leveraging what already exists, and creating what
doesn’t exist,” Feldman said. By breaking down existing
silos and creating synergies or networks, the movements would be
He launched the first implementation, Bethesda Green, in January
2008, and ran it out of coffee shops for the first six to seven
months. In September of this year, Chevy Chase Bank
generously donated space on Cordell Avenue in Bethesda, and in
October, the center’s doors were opened to the community.
Bethesda Green’s physical space offers numerous opportunities
for businesses and community residents, and the goal is green
the community by getting as many people through the doors as
possible, Feldman said.
In addition to being a “new version of the community center,”
where people can come to learn more about all things green,
there is office and meeting space for the nine organizations
currently incubated by Bethesda Green, as well an event space
that hosts other groups.
One of the events that recently made use of Bethesda Green’s
community space was a press conference to announce the renaming
of the Maryland GreenHawks. Formerly the Knighthawks, the
Rockville-based GreenHawks are recognized as the first green
professional sports team. They play in uniforms made of
recycled materials, and utilize carbon offsets to neutralize all
home games and travel. It’s a sign of the times, Feldman
“Five years ago, people would smile and say ‘that’s a nice
goal,’” Feldman said. “But today, people understand.
The issues are much more mainstream.”
Feldman’s goal is to create a model that is replicable in other
communities. He measures organizational success along
three dimensions: participation, innovation and education.
Since October, more than 1,500 people have come through the
doors of Bethesda Green, and it has received more than 13,000
hits on its Web site. The visits and hits point to the
early success of the organization as it continues to grow and
evolve to meet the needs of the community and businesses with
which it partners.
Feldman never pictured himself ending up as the executive
director of a nonprofit, but it’s a role he seems happy to
embrace. His advice for other nonprofit executives?
“The mission comes first, but you have got to run it like a
business,” he said.