Entrepreneurs face unequal challenges even before getting in an investor's door. Data illustrates disparities in the social innovation sector.
Why a Focus on Black Male Achievement?
BMA Fellows, with Geoffrey Canada of Harlem Children’s Zone, on August 3, 2012.
Echoing Green is in the first year of its partnership with the Open Society Foundations’ Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA). Together, we launched this first Fellowship of its kind targeting new and innovative individuals launching organizations dedicated to improving the life outcomes of black men and boys in the U.S. Our 18-month Fellowship offers $70,000 in seed funding, mentoring, and support from experts within both the Echoing Green and Open Society Foundations communities.
In June 2012, we selected our first class of BMA Fellows. As senior associate supporting the Black Male Achievement Fellows, I am fortunate to participate in the growth and transformation of these social entrepreneurs. The Fellows come to this work from a variety of backgrounds: from a community organizer, to a college student on hiatus to business school students to PhD candidates putting the academy on hold to build a social venture. As they launch or seek to scale their work, we spend time discussing what access to the field of social entrepreneurship means to the Fellows and how their Fellowship can positively impact the lives of black men and boys in the United States.
In the months since the Fellowship has launched, several themes have emerged both with our Fellows but also with the growing field of social entrepreneurs in the United States addressing these needs.
Innovation is necessary if not urgently needed
The issues facing black men and boys in the United States are not new; yet to achieve ambitious and seemingly impossible goals, new and innovative strategies must be employed. To identify these ideas, the team at Open Society Foundations turned to Echoing Green to identify and invest in social entrepreneurs to generate new ideas and invest capital and resources to advance black male achievement. Neil Phillips, 2012 BMA Fellow, explains “The chronic underachievement of black men and boys in America is a humanitarian crisis. The BMA Fellowship provides a unified approach to identify common themes and then address these through new and innovative approaches.”
Sustaining the next generation of leaders
Our partner, the Open Society Campaign for Black Male Achievement, is collaborating with Root Cause and Policy Link to launch the Leadership and Sustainability Institute for Black Male Achievement (LSI). The LSI is a national membership network that seeks to ensure growth, sustainability and impact of leaders and organizations across the public, private and nonprofit sectors committed to improving the life outcomes and systemic change for black men and boys.
“Leaders working in the field of black male achievement have always grappled with a lack of funding, capacity, and momentum. With the strong network of leaders created and sustained by the LSI, we can now create the support system necessary to sustain effective programs and policies that will do much to improve the lives of black men and boys across the United States,” writes Shawn Dove, Campaign Manager of the Open Society Foundations. This resource provides BMA Fellows key support to sustain the impact of their projects and their growth as leaders in the field.
2012 BMA Fellow Donnel Baird, reflecting on the benefits of the LSI, says ”It will take focused and intentional efforts to bring Black males into the economic mainstream, defined as having employment with dignity, health care, and a living wage that allows men to take care of themselves. The partnership between Echoing Green and Open Society Foundations helps to do that.”
Mentors are necessary
It is also important to reflect on the history of social entrepreneurship in the field of Black Male Achievement, as BMA Fellow Markese Bryant explains, “We must always remember before Black Male Achievement was considered a professional field, many of those who came before us considered this work to be a moral obligation.” The civil rights leaders of the past were the social entrepreneurs of today, their social, economic and political innovations provided the foundation for the efforts we are a part of today. Learning from these torchbearers is an important part of the BMA Fellowship experience - connecting with advisors and mentors who are able to provide sage advice and context for the Fellows work.”
2012 BMA Fellow Khalil Fuller explains the impact of mentors in his work: “Echoing Green and the mentors I have met through this partnership with CBMA have helped me create larger goals for my impact and a much more well-defined vision of what Black Male Achievement can look like. As a young and green social entrepreneur, fighting everyday to move the needle and make a dent, mentors have been invaluable.”
Echoing Green and our partners at Open Society Foundations together seek to find and support that next great idea and solution to advance black male achievement. We will support individuals who do not just see problems but think big, are bold, and drive change. We seek to further projects and ideas that take risks, disrupting the way we think and approach advancing black male achievement. Shawn Dove said upon the launching of the Fellowship, “nothing great happens without collaboration or partnership,” and we believe that the lives of black men and boys across the country will be exponentially better because of our Black Male Achievement Fellows.
Join the 2013 BMA Fellowship class
On December 4, 2012 we launched the application for the next class of BMA Fellows, which is done in conjunction with the Echoing Green Fellowship Application launch. We are honored to continue growing the partnership between Echoing Green and Open Society Foundations.
Our community stands for—and is committed to—love, justice, and equity.
Identifying key trends affecting today's social entrepreneurs will help build out critical support.