Education

Call for Submissions: New Profit to Make $1M Investments in Organizations Advancing Wellbeing in Education

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the transformation of America’s education system in ways that we are only beginning to grasp. As school buildings have been closed, students have been forcibly detached from the power of in-class nurturing and instruction; teachers have been asked to conduct virtual learning of unprecedented scale and complexity in terms of equity; and parents have been required to play a larger role in the day-to-day education of their children. Trauma has cascaded through the system, as a result of both the pandemic’s disruption and the outrage and outcry following the killing of George Floyd and countless other Black people at the hands of racist policing and policies.

We have no choice but to envision a future and re-architect an education system in which students of all backgrounds and experiences are able to thrive. We can already see that failing to do so may lead our country to ruin.  

Envisioning a more equitable future demands that we acknowledge how connected and interdependent we truly are. This moment calls for us to move from systems built on scarcity, separation, and racism to systems that value the humanity and potential of all young people. As we navigate this global pandemic, the holistic wellbeing of young people in the education system has to be re-examined from a critical vantage point: school is so much more than a physical building or even a curriculum. It is an ecosystem that serves, and is served by, young people, educators, parents, families, and others. It is an ecosystem where social determinants are at work, meaning that what happens outside the walls of school is as important as what happens inside a classroom. 

As we reflect on this moment and anticipate the challenges of re-entry as they relate to the wellbeing of our school communities, we must acknowledge that we cannot talk about student success without talking about the wellbeing of all key stakeholders – young people, educators, and families.

New Profit’s New Wellbeing in Education Initiative

Reflecting on the current moment and the reality that traditional schooling has been disrupted, New Profit is launching an open investment round to provide:

  • 4-year, unrestricted $1 million grants (a New Profit Build Investment) to a set of organizations that provide school and instructional supports to advance the wellbeing of young people, educators, and families. 
  • Expert strategic advising and partnership from a dedicated New Profit Deal Partner to support the organization’s leader and leadership team as they navigate the choices and challenges to growing their organization’s impact.

We seek to invest in organizations that actively advance the wellbeing of their constituents as a primary element of their model. We especially invite applicants who are taking an asset-based approach to wellbeing by, for example, advancing restorative justice and identity development, among other ideas. This includes investing in organizations that provide: 

  • Social emotional learning for young people, educators, and/or families, 
  • Mental health supports to assist students, and 
  • Ongoing wellbeing supports for young people, educators, and families as they navigate a variety of challenges – personal and educational – while establishing a ‘new normal’. 

In addition to these broad organizational profiles, approaches, and ideas, New Profit is focused on investing in organizations with leaders who center equity in their work and are proximate to the communities we collectively aim to serve. As Bryan Stevenson says, “There is power in proximity. Get close to people and communities who are at risk – and stay close. We don’t have to have the answers; instead, we have to want to get close.” New Profit is committed, through our Inclusive Impact initiative, to ensuring at least 50% of our investments are in organizations led by people of color and we are prioritizing investments in Black, Indigenous, and Latino/a/x individuals. These leaders often have the expertise born of proximity, but are significantly underrepresented at all levels of social sector leadership and face the largest disparities in terms of funding and support in the sector today.

Aligned with our equity commitment, in this selection process, we are aiming to further “decolonize wealth”, as Edgar Villanueva describes, by working with a set of parent leaders, as experts in the needs of their children and their communities, to make wiser investment decisions. The transformative opportunity for us and other philanthropists is to learn with and from these proximate leaders — both parent leaders and organization leaders — as we work to re-architect education and America to be more equitable and empowering for systematically underserved communities, including people of color, low-income families, people with disabilities, and English-language learners. 

We invite all applicable organizations meeting the eligibility criteria articulated in the introduction to our Letter of Inquiry, to apply by July 27th. 

Author’s Note:

In addition to this being timely, this work is a personal passion of mine and has been for decades, inspired by my grandmother, Dr. Kankanady Heera Sehra, called Heera in her working life, or Amma when she became a monk after retiring. She was a long-time advocate for the wellbeing of children, serving as a child psychiatrist for nearly 20 years in Missouri and Kentucky, after immigrating to the US from India in the early 1970s. She was honored for her dedicated service in Louisville by being named a Kentucky Colonel. While she suffered pain and dementia in her last several years, doctors said her heart was too strong to let her pass. She did ultimately pass at the age of 94 on April 8th, likely as a result of COVID. The indelible impression she’s made on me by sharing this passion for the wellbeing of young people is one that I carry on. Her heart remains strong.

— Shruti Sehra, Managing Partner, New Profit