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Echoing Green’s Black Male Achievement Fellowship Program

Rashiid Coleman, co-founder of Summer House Institute, at Echoing Green's Black Male Achievement Convening.

In 2020, after ten years of building and running the program, Echoing Green sunset the Black Male Achievement Fellowship. The program continues to have a significant and lasting impact on the social innovation field and Echoing Green’s community and strategy.

In 2012, Echoing Green partnered with Shawn Dove and Rashid Shabazz of Open Society Foundations’ Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA) to launch the Black Male Achievement (BMA) Fellowship – the first Fellowship in the social innovation field working to improve the life outcomes of Black men and Boys in the United States.

For Echoing Green, this was an exciting opportunity to expand and diversify the pipeline of next-generation talent solving urgent challenges through social innovation. President Cheryl L. Dorsey and 1992 Fellow notes,

[The BMA Fellowship] was radical in a philanthropic space that not only under invests but quite often disinvests in communities of color, especially Black communities. I think that was really the brilliance of Shawn Dove, Rashid Shabazz, and the Campaign for Black Male Achievement of thinking about a talent approach that centered Black leadership in disruptive approaches to driving social change. This notion of proximity as a form of expertise and asset-based thinking was incredibly powerful.

Cheryl L. Dorsey, President, Echoing Green

Between 2012–2020, Echoing Green invested more than $6 million in 90 BMA Fellows in 40 cities. Over their active fellowships, BMA Fellows would raise nearly $65 million and advance change across multiple sectors, including clean energy, health care, education, and technology.

CHECK OUT THE FULL LIST OF BMA FELLOWS

At the launch of the partnership, Echoing Green knew that the social entrepreneurship field had to grow in order to sufficiently support and scale the work of Black leaders. The organization was grateful to join a bustling community of organizations creating deep, lasting social change for Black men and boys in the U.S. Throughout the Fellowship’s tenure, the BMA field continued to grow with the launch of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative at the White House, Cities United, and the Executive Alliance for Boys and Young Men of Color. Through their Fellowship, BMA Fellows were able to join a broader, collaborative ecosystem of actors dedicated to building thriving Black communities.

IMPACT ON THE FIELD

After years of challenges fundraising for the Fellowship, the organization encountered an inflection point in 2019 about how to scale support for social innovators of color. By the time the pandemic disrupted the world in 2020, the organization faced a harsh reality that interest in funding robust Fellowship programs, particularly those focused on early-stage social innovation leaders, was drying up.

Through the experience of building and running the BMA Fellowship, Echoing Green realized that the effort to effectively support and scale the work of Black social change leaders in this moment and beyond needed to be greater than the organization’s work alone. A sector-wide shift in grantmaking and philanthropy was required to ensure that Black leaders and Black-led organizations were resourced with the funds not just to survive, but thrive – an issue the sector is continuing to learn more about and address today.

To fully commit to racial equity work and mobilize a cross-sector ecosystem of actors, Echoing Green launched an organization-wide shift to racial equity, backed by the organization’s Racial Equity Philanthropic Fund. As part of this decision, Echoing Green sunset its targeted Fellowship programs, the Climate Fellowship and the Black Male Achievement Fellowship, with a commitment to weave the learnings from both programs into the organization as a whole. Namely, the importance of intersectionality as opposed to siloed approaches.

IMPACT ON ECHOING GREEN

Echoing Green is a community by, of, and for its Fellows. Feedback and pushback from Fellows seeking to better the organization not just for themselves but for future generations of Fellows is a core part of the organization’s 35 year history.

Fundamentally, the BMA Fellowship and Fellows encouraged Echoing Green’s strategic shift to use its platform to elevate topics of race, proximity, and leadership support. What does it mean in practice to center the experiences, perspectives, and leadership of people who are directly affected by social challenges? What does it look like to be in solidarity with Black leaders? These questions prompted Echoing Green to make explicit changes to its program design, the day-to-day operation of the Fellowship, and decision-making structures in pursuit of contributing to a more just and inclusive social innovation field.

Most importantly, the organization committed to elevating Black leaders as the best storytellers and mobilizers for their communities. Now, Echoing Green continues to strive to be an organization that can stand alongside these leaders and ensure that they have the resources, the space, and the community they need to advance transformational social change.

Invest in Black Leaders

In 2022, Echoing Green launched the Invest in Black Leaders campaign to celebrate the catalytic impact of Black innovation on Echoing Green and the world. Featuring data, stories, and insight from the Black leaders supported through Echoing Green’s BMA Fellowship, Invest in Black Leaders highlights the abundance of potential that is right in front of us ready to be nourished. Sign up for our newsletter to learn about more Invest in Black Leaders campaign content from the official launch of the report to exclusive panels, roundtables, and more.

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