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Barton Institute for Philanthropy and Social Enterprise

Core Programs

Cross Sector Partnerships

Government can’t do it alone. Business can’t do it alone. And, nonprofit organizations can’t do it alone. The Institute will bring together people from different sectors and combine them with resources from DU to address major social challenges. One promising new model is social impact bonds. These use private money to fund social programs that save local governments money by addressing the root causes of issues and reducing the need for expensive, last-effort interventions. The savings are then used to repay investors and scale the programs.

Learn about the Tiny Homes Initiative 

The Barton Institute announced its first cross-sector partnership | working with the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado to help with development of Denver's first tiny homes community. Construction of Beloved Community Village broke ground on May 20 with the support of 100 community volunteers and with the financial backing of individual community members contributing $10 to $1,000 totaling close to $60,000. The Village will have eleven tiny homes supporting at least fourteen people with stable housing, a supportive community, and employment and other services.

The Barton Institute granted $20,000 to help the Beloved Community Village, and then challenged other funders to join them with an offer to match the next $20,000 in gifts, boosting fundraising for Phase 1 of the project past the finish line. While the Barton Institute is not a traditional grantmaker, we will be supporting a few key projects where the various sectors come together to address major social issues – particularly when the people most affected are involved in developing the solution.

Learn about the Restorative Practices Initiative

When a student struggles in school and is referred for discipline to the school administration, educators are clearer than ever that suspension is not the answer. Educators are increasingly using what are called "restorative practices" or "restorative justice" as strategies to address the harm the student has caused, while keeping that student in school and learning.

The Barton Institute is investing in the expansion of restorative practices in the Denver Public Schools. The District received a grant from the Colorado Department of Education to create a cohort of schools working to improve these practices. The Barton Institute added three additional schools to bring the cohort to fourteen – including elementary, middle, and high schools from low-income communities throughout Metro Denver. The goal is to keep students in school and learning – and to improve academic growth over time.

The Institute is partnering with Professor Yolanda Anyon from Graduate School of Social Work to conduct and evaluate this effort.

Read more about restorative practices.

Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab

The Barton Institute, with philanthropic support, has established a Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab. The Lab is housed at DU's Barton Institute for Philanthropy and Social Enterprise. 

The Lab works with state officials to evaluate public policies, design improvements to existing programs, and pilot new interventions intended to benefit Colorado residents. The Lab puts Colorado at the forefront of a movement to implement an evidence-based approach to governing in order to make progress on key issues. 

Dr. Kristin Klopfenstein is the Director of the Lab.

The Governor's and Lieutenant Governor's offices recently set priorities for the Lab: recidivism reduction, affordable housing, and prevention and early intervention for system-involved youth.

Click here to learn more about the Lab and view photos of the press conference and event announcing the creation of the Lab.

REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS: Seeking Research Partner with Criminal Justice Expertise

In partnership with the Governor's office and the Department of Corrections, the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab is seeking a research partner (individual or team) to lay the data and policy groundwork for understanding what combination of pre- and post-release programs is the best to offer to adult offenders to reduce recidivism. Click here for the RFP and more about the action lab.

Evaluations at DU

Program evaluations are a necessary pre-requisite for organizations seeking to quantify their efforts and be able to monetize success.

The Institute hopes to connect local organizations with faculty and students at DU who have expertise in these areas. Students could perform program evaluations, giving them valuable experience while reducing the sometimes-prohibitive evaluation costs for the nonprofits.

Social Enterprise Programs

One vision for this work is that ten years from now high school sophomores nationwide who want to make the world a better place will say, “I want to learn how to make a difference in social enterprise, and one of the best places to do that is the University of Denver.” The Social Enterprise Fellowship Program provides DU graduate students experiential and the strong foundation in ethical leadership and business skills needed to succeed in social enterprises.

Through a generous partnership with Quarterly Forum, the inaugural class of Social Enterprise Fellows has been named and Barton Institute staff is building relationships with community partners. For more information contact Rebecca Arno.

Read more about the Social Enterprise Fellowship Program.


Existing social enterprise at DU
  • Many of the first year students in the Living and Learning Community program, particularly those studying Sustainability, Innovation, and Social Justice, aspire to be social entrepreneurs.
  • Dozens of programs through the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning involve aspiring social entrepreneurs
  • A well-regarded program at the Daniels College of Business trains MBA students to be private sector entrepreneurs, though many of these students want to make a social impact as well.
  • At the graduate level, students of law, social work, professional psychology, international studies, and other disciplines want to improve the world while pursuing their chosen professions.
  • At University College, there are many students currently working in the nonprofit sector who want to hone their business skills. And there are students in the for-profit sector who want their work to have a more direct impact on the world.

Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that a large percentage of Millennials and Generation Z are interested in becoming social entrepreneurs (citations available upon request.)

The Social Enterprise Fellowship program brings together an interdisciplinary group of DU graduate students to take action on social and economic challenges through social enterprise, with a focus on improving the lives of vulnerable people. 

Strategic Opportunities

“The only thing that is constant is change.” -Heraclitus

Philanthropy and social enterprise have undergone a revolution in just the past few years. The Institute will closely monitor and analyze new developments in these areas.

These opportunities may be one-time events (conferences or seminars) or they may emerge as another line of continuous work. Simultaneously, the Institute will continuously evaluate program viability. This agility and flexibility are absolutely essential to the culture, success, and sustainability of the Institute.

On October 4th, the Barton Institute hosts the Bold Philanthropy convening, in partnership with Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, the Colorado Association of Funders, and the Quarterly Forum.