A Tale of Two Startups: Reducing Recidivism, Reviving Vacant Lots

May 25, 2014 | Forbes by Anne Field

Semi-permanent, modular structures to make crime-prone vacant lots safer. A tablet-based system to provide self-driven education to inmates and, as a result, reduce recidivism.

Those are just two of the  ten social enterprise startups in the Philadelphia-based FastFWD accelerator that recently held their pitch day, each adopting an unusual approach to improving public safety.  I recently wrote about the accelerator.

Let’s start with SHIFT_DESIGN. Started in 2009 , the five-employee Philadelphia company designs sustainable outdoor products using three systems: green roofs, “living walls”—basically, green roofs  that are walls—and rain water capture. The enterprise really got its start in 2010, when it was part of a GoodCompany Ventures accelerator program. (Founder Mario Gentile is an architect, not a businessperson and the experience helped him put together a business plan; GoodCompany is one of the organizations involved in FastFWD).

For FastFWD, the team focused on building modular mini-buildings that can be easily turned into semi-permanent structures in vacant lots. (All materials are made in or near Philadelphia).

What does that have to do with public safety?

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