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Introducing Echoing Green’s Mentorship Program

Brennan DuBose, manager of Global Fellow Engagement at Echoing Green, gathers with Fellows at Echoing Green's New Fellows Retreat in 2019.

For over 30 years, Echoing Green has invested in extraordinary leaders, creating a lifelong community of nearly 900 global social innovators who dream big and drive transformative social change.

Social entrepreneurship is often difficult and lonely work. During this past year and a half, we have witnessed how a global pandemic and racial reckoning have contributed to the isolation and burnout faced by proximate social entrepreneurs. Essential to social entrepreneurs’ long-term health and impact are support systems that validate both the challenging and rewarding experience of tackling the world’s toughest problems.

One of the greatest assets of the Echoing Green Fellowship is the community itself. Fellows show up for and support each other, not just as entrepreneurs who can share advice about incorporation or making that first hire, but as people with lives outside of their enterprise. Fellows are entrepreneurs, but they are also friends, partners, parents, and people whose lived experiences directly impact their work. From our chaplaincy program to convenings and communities of practice, we’ve learned how important it is to have near-peer support that acknowledges and honors the unique and layered experiences of entrepreneurship across social identities. As Echoing Green deepens our investments in racial justice leaders transforming systems worldwide, we know creating equitable ecosystems that directly support our diverse community of social entrepreneurs must be central to our support.

Echoing Green is excited to launch a first-of-its-kind mentorship program in the social innovation space for Echoing Green Fellows this fall.

It’s no secret that mentorship helps develop leadership skills and can grow one’s network. For emerging social entrepreneurs who are navigating a realm where growth can be correlated with who you know and who is in your corner, mentorship is a crucial part of surmounting barriers to markets and networks. This is especially true for Black, Indigenous, and people of color globally, who face increased barriers in accessing capital or credit to start and scale their enterprises. Research suggests that mentorship can help close the racial wealth gap by helping BIPOC entrepreneurs overcome sociocultural barriers and increase access to networks that provide capital and social opportunities. At Echoing Green, we’ve witnessed first-hand the impact of creating spaces for culturally responsive relationships and community building.

Echoing Green’s Mentorship Program

Echoing Green’s mentorship program aims to strengthen support networks for both mentors and mentees through a mixture of facilitated and organic touchpoints that harness the existing collaboration and collegiality of the Fellow community.

“It was important to design a program that centered the wants, needs, and desires of the leaders in our community who are advancing racial equity and justice,” said Brennan DuBose, manager of Global Fellow Engagement at Echoing Green. Informed by the insights from more than 40 interviews with current and alumni Fellows, Echoing Green identified two mentorship offerings:

  • Community mentors are paired directly with new Fellows at the start of their fellowship. As leaders working toward racial justice, this relationship focuses on themes of self-advocacy, increasing self-confidence, and entrepreneurial capacities. Community mentors bring their own lived experience in their mentorship approach as they support incoming Fellows who have similar social identities, issue-area focus, and impact locations.
  • Network mentors serve as a bridge between new Fellows and the connections, networks, and strategies needed to scale and accelerate their individual leadership and organizational impact. By providing one-on-one guidance, connecting mentees to entrepreneurial opportunities, and identifying key partnerships, network mentors will support the success of incoming Fellows.

The inaugural mentor participants include 12 community mentors and 19 network mentors spanning race, gender, geographic location, Fellowship class, issue-area focus, and more.

“It was important to design a program that centered the wants, needs, and desires of the leaders in our community who are advancing racial equity and justice.”

Brennan DuBose, Manager, Global Fellow Engagement

Culturally Authentic Relationships Drive Innovation and Impact

Though traditional mentorship models often center on Western, white-centric notions of success, culturally authentic and community-based mentorship models can maximize innovation and impact. Take, for example, national nonprofit MENTOR’s framework for increasing racial equity within the New York youth mentoring movement, or the Education Development Center’s 7th Generation National Tribal Mentoring Program that fosters cultural and tribal connections between Native American youth and adults. By creating shared understanding and building trust, culturally authentic mentorship can help emerging social entrepreneurs understand that they are a part of a larger, collaborative, global community working to dismantle the legacies of institutional racism, inequity, and injustice.

“A commonality between all Echoing Green Fellows is their passion in making a positive impact in the world through their work and journey as a social entrepreneur,” said Brennan. “I’m so excited for the next generation of Echoing Green Fellows to be supported by some of these best-in-class innovators and to build collective legacies through mentorship.”

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