Building Inclusive Ecosystems for Diverse Social Impact Talent

After 35 years of supporting transformational leaders globally, Echoing Green knows that a surefire way to bring the most innovative solutions to the table is by investing in innovators closest to the problems. Directly impacted by the issues they’re determined to confront, these leaders bring their lived experience into their work as they co-design sustainable solutions with and for their communities.

Echoing Green has long worked with values-aligned partners to build inclusive ecosystems that support these proximate leaders, fuel their social change journeys, and accelerate their impact.

In fall 2022, Echoing Green teamed up with long-standing partner Barclays to host the fifth annual Social Innovation Challenge—a series of hands-on workshops, community building, and strategic advising sessions with the founders of 12 dynamic organizations. Over the course of six weeks, these leaders of color worked with Echoing Green and Barclays staff to build upon their skills, forge critical connections, and craft and refine pitches.


In the aftermath of two challenging years and amid an ongoing pandemic, this year’s Social Innovation Challenge participants looked toward a thriving future. With a curriculum focused on leading in times of crisis, the power of community in social change work, and mental and emotional wellness, the 12 leaders explored how organizations like theirs are advancing transformational change across three focus areas:

  • Thriving Minds + Bodies: Organizations whose work centers on improving community members’ physical and/or mental wellness.
  • Thriving Communities: Organizations whose work centers on strengthening spaces and/or systems that benefit the entire community.
  • Thriving Futures: Organizations whose work centers on improving the future outcomes of community members through systems change work like advancing economic security, dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, and more.


The 2022 Social Innovation Challenge culminated in a public showcase on November 15, where each leader pitched their bold visions for a chance to win $20,000 to deepen their impact.

This year’s Winners

Arion Long founder of Femly
Thriving Bodies & Minds – $20,000: Arion Long, founder of Femly, a social enterprise eradicating period poverty by increasing access to free menstrual hygiene machines, organic period products, and health education in restrooms around the world.

Ali Anderson, founder of Feed Black Futures
Thriving Communities – $20,000: Ali Anderson, founder of Feed Black Futures, an organization eliminating food insecurity for Black prison-impacted families by partnering with Black and Brown-owned farms and food suppliers across California.

Ahmed Badr, founder of Narratio
Thriving Futures – $20,000: Ahmed Badr, founder of Narratio, the only U.S. based fellowship program building multi-city cohorts of youth refugees reshaping the global conversation around displacement, resettlement, integration, and cultural production.

Emalohi Iruobe, founder of Represent Black Girls
Viewers’ Choice Award – $18,000: Emalohi Iruobe, founder of Represent Black Girls, an organization recruiting and training Black female attorneys to provide critical legal support and assistance to Black girls facing the juvenile justice system.

In total, the Social Innovation Challenge awarded $150,000, with each founder receiving $9,000 for their participation in the series.


During the program, viewers also tuned in to a fireside chat with Echoing Green’s Vice President of Programs, Dr. Kimberly Osagie, and 2021 Fellow and founder of Black Outside, Inc., Alex Bailey. From America’s first historically Black summer camp for girls to healing-centered programming for youth impacted by incarceration, Black Outside is reconnecting Black youth to nature through culturally relevant outdoor experiences.

“Black Outside tries to imagine and dream more expansively about what the outdoors is. We say to our kids and our community that the outdoors starts when you walk outside your house. So yes, we take kids backpacking in Colorado. But then our kids also do yoga at MLK Park here on our east side. They have done community gardening in their local neighborhood. They’ve kayaked in the San Antonio River. And with that, honoring this legacy in history, right? We really try to honor the fact that the Buffalo Soldiers and Harriet Tubman are amazing legacies in the outdoors.”

Reflecting on his biggest piece of advice for early-stage social entrepreneurs, Alex advised, “Don’t forget to give yourself a lot of grace. There’s a million things you can discover as a nonprofit or for-profit leader, but give yourself the grace of time and the abundance of love of self-love and self-care. Remember, it’s not a sprint—it’s gonna be a marathon.”


Since our founding, Echoing Green has operated at the intersection of social justice and social innovation, supporting leaders worldwide to create new and shared value in our communities. We are building on this foundation through engagements and opportunities like the Social Innovation Challenge, which gather leaders from across sectors to foster an ecosystem where those closest to the problems are supported to lead the solutions.

As remarked by Toks Sotande-Peters, 2022 Social Innovation Challenge judge and Global Relationship Director at Barclays, “We know that to have great impact, we need to partner with organizations like Echoing Green, who are doing a huge amount of work to scale and elevate leaders of color by providing onramps to social innovation through programs like the Social Innovation Challenge. As a society, if we’re going to see progress towards inclusive growth, we’re going to need social entrepreneurs who drive so much impact in the communities across the country and around the world.”

We are immensely grateful to Barclays for their partnership on this initiative and to the 12 participants for sharing their bold visions with us. Thank you also to the 2022 Social Innovation Challenge judges: Toks Sotande-Peters, Global Relationship Director at Barclays; Danielle Kristine Toussaint, chief external affairs officer at NewSchools Venture Fund; and Jordyn Lexton, 2015 Echoing Green Fellow and founder of Drive Change.

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