Jay and Linda Grunin met at the New York University School of Law in 1966 where they were classmates. They soon became study partners and by 1969 were married and practicing law together in Toms River, New Jersey. In 2016 they decided the time was right to give back to the school which had shaped both their personal and professional successes.
Jay and Linda, in consultation with their son and Executive Director, Jeremy Grunin and Tara Cunningham, Director of Strategy suggested more impact could be created if the considerable sums discussed were used in alignment with our mission and in a truly collaborative way.
Enter Ashoka. Ashoka is a pioneer in the field of social entrepreneurship with operations in 89 countries around the world, and as one of 3,000 Ashoka Fellows, Tara invited them into the Foundation’s discussions to see if they thought a global “Changemakers” program could improve the legal systems that affect social entrepreneurs. True to form, they had an even bigger idea.
Social Entrepreneurs are often caught in a quagmire of legal and tax policy issues. Social enterprises are not typically non-profit or for-profit—rather, they are essentially hybrids attempting to be financially sustainable, with substantially all of their profits going back into their work to implement social change. Yet tax policy does not make the distinction between social entrepreneur entities and ordinary for-profit businesses. Additionally, social entrepreneurs frequently find it difficult to obtain financial support from both business lenders and grant making bodies because of their often confused legal status, thus limiting their social impact.
At Ashoka, Jonathan Ng, Sachin Malhan and Sarah Voelkl quickly realized the opportunity to pair up with NYU School of Law’s Professor Deborah Burand who was just beginning to scratch the surface to address this need for clarity through her over-subscribed International Transaction Clinic.
NYU and Ashoka showed an unrelenting passion for the project, working in the most collaborative and innovative partnership our Foundation has ever had the privilege of witnessing.
In just six short months, a challenge grant from the Foundation was accepted by the now joint enterprise team, comprised of $5 million for the NYU School of Law and $1 million for Ashoka, to create the Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship at the Law School. It is the first center of its kind at a law school and is expected to be a trailblazer in social justice and education innovation. The Center is poised to spark a movement that will transform the way law creates positive impact in the world.
Jay and Linda are thrilled their hard work and perseverance will benefit those new leaders who will be at the forefront of this important endeavor.