MIKE SHAFARENKO – MAN OF ACTION
Arguably ever since his high school days when he sold cutlery in St. Louis, Missouri, Mike Shafarenko has been on the cutting edge. An entrepreneur and a visionary by nature, Mike has pursued his passions and has built civic initiatives and social enterprises around them.
Mike was born to Russian Jewish immigrants and although he has an older brother, he is the only member of his family to be born in the United States. Although he can’t read or write Russian, he speaks it fluently to this day. He has also played the violin since the age of nine, serving as the concert master of his high school orchestra, and later as an undergraduate member of Case’s Chamber Orchestra.
While majoring in Psychology and minoring in Entrepreneurship at Case, Mike reflected on what he might do with these pursuits. He googled the terms “psychology and business” and discovered the fields of Industrial Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior. Inspired by this notion, Mike accepted an internship in Case’s HR department and helped develop an internship program that placed interns internally instead of farming them out. Mike pitched this to the provost while still an undergraduate, and upon graduation, Mike was asked to run this program. When funding for this position later fizzled, Mike found two part-time jobs that appealed to his entrepreneurial spirit: 1) serving as the volunteer coordinator for IngenuityFest where he created a system for volunteer coordination and administration, and 2) coordinating events for Entrepreneurs EDGE, a group which helps middle market companies grow through innovation and entrepreneurship.
From there Mike moved to The Fund for Our Economic Future where he served first as a coordinator and then as the manager of Finance Operations, overseeing a $9 million annual budget. After a couple of years he “got the entrepreneurial itch again” and collaborated with Fund members and staff on “how to engage people in the region around the work The Fund was doing.” Recognizing the existence of duplicative government services and the need to maximize economic growth, they created “EfficientGovNow” to inspire collaboration and efficiency among municipalities. They received hundreds of local government collaboration proposals and put the best ones up for a public vote that garnered over 30,000 votes from across 16 counties. This approach “catalyzed collaborative activity among governments and raised awareness of the need for greater collaboration and efficiency.” EfficientGovNow captured the interest of the Knight Foundation which provided a $3 million grant to create The Civic Commons in late 2009. Mike became president of The Civic Commons one year ago and delights in his ability to pursue social entrepreneurship once again. Asked to describe what he does now in six words, Mike rose to the challenge beautifully by stating that his organization is an “engagement platform that drives civic action.”
Mike has brought that spirit of engagement to SVP – first as a volunteer who helped plan our bigBANG! conference on social innovation last fall and now as a partner. In his new role, Mike is eager to see the “direct impact of investment and effort beyond what he does on a day-to-day level.” Soon SVP’s partners will get to know Mike as his friends do – as loyal, smart, intense, impatient, thoughtful, perspicacious, and really good at Tetris.
Whether intentionally or not, Mike is clearly living Thoreau’s words: “If you have built your castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. . . .”