Foundations and nonprofits are generating innovative solutions to improve life outcomes and decrease disparities for Black men and boys. The case studies presented here highlight strategies, successes, and lessons learned.
Echoing Green: Funding the Next Great Idea
A joint project of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) and Echoing Green, the Black Male Achievement (BMA) Fellowship identifies the most promising nonprofit ventures that improve life outcomes of Black men and boys. Modeled after Echoing Green’s flagship program, the Fellowship provides $70,000 in startup capital as well as support trainings, consulting opportunities, and mentorship.
Strengths and Successes
- The BMA Fellowship builds sustainable pathways for young social change makers to enter the field early and stay in the field.
- The “seal of approval” of the Fellowship and its connection to OSF’s Campaign opens doors and provides access to: 1) convenings and social capital networks that might not otherwise be accessible; 2) the philanthropic community without having to go through existing bureaucracies; and 3) prospective investors or partners willing to take a risk on Fellows’ innovations.
- By placing Fellows’ work on a larger stage, innovation is recognized and Fellows have the opportunity to influence the work of large organizations at the local level (e.g., partnering with local Big Brothers Big Sisters and Boys & Girls Clubs).
Challenges and Lessons Learned
- BMA-focused organizations need infrastructure resources—e.g., technical assistance support and funding—to be effective.
- Will BMA funding be sustained beyond the current “season”? Will there be long-term support?
- Will there be mainstream interest in BMA work, similar to interest in the developing world or in “traditional” education organizations?
- Are funders prepared to seed or support innovation if it highlights inefficiency in the current marketplace?
- When the Fellowship is completed, will Fellows still have access to convenings and informal networks?