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Participants of the Echoing Green Social Innovation Challenge
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Lasting social change is driven within communities. When COVID-19 made it harder for people to access the support and services they need, Echoing Green embraced innovation to help keep its mission of supporting social innovators on track.

Echoing Green is a non-profit that identifies, supports, and connects the world’s best social entrepreneurs. Since it was founded, it has invested over US$48 million in leaders of organisations dedicated to doing social good. Its alumni have gone on to raise US$7.5 billion in funding, and include the founders of Teach For America, Last Mile Health, and Michelle Obama.

Barclays has partnered with Echoing Green since 2010 on its annual fellowship programme, as well as individual initiatives, such as The Partnership for Innovation for the Future of Work in New York City.

The events of 2020 have created serious difficulties for communities across the United States, particularly when it comes to accessing education and healthcare, and creating economic opportunity. However, Echoing Green was determined to support entrepreneurs wanting to tackle inequalities in these areas.

Social innovators are critical for reimagining a future where all people can thrive. We’ve worked to innovate our support to those operating on the front lines of the pandemic’s impacts while COVID-19 continues to magnify the challenges many people across our communities are facing.
Camila Pazos, Director, Investments, Echoing Green

In October, Echoing Green hosted a Social Innovation Challenge, backed by Barclays as part of its global COVID-19 Community Aid Package. The month-long programme of remote mentorship and training helped 12 shortlisted entrepreneurs develop their solutions for tackling racial injustices and creating a more inclusive society in a post-pandemic world.

Pitching during a pandemic

The Challenge began with an insight session, which focused on recovery solutions that would rebuild fairer and more resilient social systems. The session featured senior leaders of Barclays, Echoing Green, The Center for Black Innovation, and Profound Gentlemen.

The 12 chosen entrepreneurs were then given the opportunity to perfect their business pitch via virtual coaching sessions with 30 Barclays colleagues from across the business, including members of the Barclays Black Professionals Forum.

Hearing first-hand the passion and determination these entrepreneurs have to improve society, even in the most challenging of circumstances, was incredibly inspiring. We were proud to be involved and offer whatever help we could.
Marvena Edmond, Director, Group Strategy, and Co-chair, Americas Black Professionals Forum, Barclays

At the end of the month, polished pitches were given to an audience of over 200 viewers, including Barclays colleagues, who voted on which organisations they believed would have the greatest social impact and therefore deserved funding.

Rebuilding a stronger society

The winners of the final pitch competition came from across the economic development, education, and healthcare sectors. Beyond the funding they received, the winners were given the opportunity to attend a mentoring session with Jes Staley, Group CEO, Barclays, after their victory.

The winners of the 2020 Echoing Green Social Innovation Challenge include:

EightFold Farms DC, headed by Calvin “JR” Hines, is a group of intensive, sustainable community farms created in underutilised and abandoned indoor and outdoor spaces throughout Washington, DC.

thinkLaw, set up by Colin Seale, uses a standards-aligned curriculum based on real-life legal cases to provide education about equity in classrooms at all grade levels, alongside support and coaching for teachers.

Black Therapists Rock, founded by Deran Young, provides mentorship, knowledge and the sharing of experiences among black mental health professionals, in order to break down stigmas about therapy and heal racial trauma.

Finally, HomeWorks Trenton was the viewers’ choice winner on the day of the pitch competition. HomeWorks Trenton, led by entrepreneur Natalie Tung, aims to break systems of education and gender inequality in marginalised communities through a community-based after school residential programme.

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