February 27, 2013
Social innovation and entrepreneurship are two of the most powerful tools available to those committed to black male achievement. So argued Cheryl Dorsey, president of Echoing Green, a global social venture fund based in New York City, at the Innovation and Impact Forum hosted by the Open Society Foundations' Campaign for Black Male Achievement last October. In part, added Dorsey, that's because they have captured the attention of, and increasingly are being driven by, a millennial generation interested in a networked, technology-enabled model of social change.
In 2012, Echoing Green partnered with OSF to launch the Black Male Achievement Fellowships and announced the first cohort of BMA fellows in June. Earlier this month, the organization announced the 2013 semi-finalists for both the Echoing Green and Black Male Achievement Fellowships.
Recently, PND spoke with Dorsey about the BMA fellowship program, her own experience as a social entrepreneur, and the role of public policy in the field of black male achievement.
Cheryl Dorsey: I think the president's address presented a call for effective collaboration to solve crucial problems in our country. Many people make it their life's work to try to solve tough problems, from engineers working to create microchips that are smaller but carry more information to community bankers seeking to provide greater access to capital and teachers seeking to help more children in the classroom move ahead. President Obama's State of the Union address was a call for those who are on this path of enterprise, service, and innovation to work together.
These are the principles at the heart of the work of our fellows, who strive every day to solve some of the challenges and problems the president laid out in his speech. When the president talks about reducing the cost of solar energy, I think about 2012 Black Male Achievement Fellow Donnel Baird, who is doing important work to make clean energy accessible to all communities, especially low-income communities. When the president talks about expanding service opportunities for young people, I think about Echoing Green alums like Wendy Kopp, Alan Khazei, and Michael Brown, visionary leaders of the national service movement. The State of the Union address made me think about how Echoing Green can continue to support our fellows who are out there on the front lines in communities across the country and around the world.