Justice Reform

Coming soon: Unlocked Futures to invest in 8 social entrepreneurs impacted by the American legal system

August 24, 2022

We are excited to announce that we will be accepting applications for the third Unlocked Futures cohort beginning in September. Unlocked Futures will provide $100K in catalytic, unrestricted funding to each of eight social impact organizations with leaders directly impacted by the American legal system.

Note: applications for this cohort opportunity have closed. We recommend signing up for the Unlocked Futures mailing list to be notified about future application launches. 

Launched in 2017, New Profit’s Unlocked Futures aims to increase visibility, remove barriers to capital, and build community with social entrepreneurs and communities who have been directly impacted by the American legal system. These barriers—including lack of access to formal job training, limited housing options, and hiring restrictions due to criminal records—leave 60 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals unemployed one year after their release, contributing to the recidivism cycle that damages so many communities. Entrepreneurship is one of the most viable economic pathways for the formerly incarcerated to escape this cycle, live with dignity, and contribute positively to their communities. Unlocked Futures aims to open the opportunity equation and remove barriers to entrepreneurship for people whose experience with the American legal system provides them with unmatched expertise and insight into how we build alternatives to incarceration and improve the current system.

To date, Unlocked Futures has invested in 16 game-changing organizations led by visionary social entrepreneurs. For this next cohort, we are seeking to invest in and provide capacity-building support to eight innovative organizations. You can read more about the creation of Unlocked Futures in this Fast Company piece.

Eligibility Criteria

Organizations applying to the Unlocked Futures cohort must fit the following criteria to be eligible for consideration. If your organization does not meet the eligibility criteria at this time, we invite you to sign up for the Unlocked Futures mailing list, which will notify you of future relevant funding opportunities. If you are on the fence about applying, we would encourage you to register for our informational webinar here or contact our team at catalyze@newprofit.org

The Unlocked Futures eligibility criteria are as follows:

  • Organization or fiscal sponsor must be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit or impact-driven for-profit organization.
  • Organization is led by a social entrepreneur. We define a social entrepreneur (often the CEO, ED or equivalent title) as both the leader and final decision-maker of an organization’s internal/external strategy, daily operations and financial decisions. Outside of your board, the buck stops with you.
  • Social entrepreneur must work for organization on a full-time basis (~30 hours/week) as of December 31, 2022.
  • Social entrepreneur plans to stay at the organization until March 31, 2024, the estimated end date for Unlocked Futures programming.
  • Social entrepreneur has been impacted by the American legal system. To get a sense of the leaders and organizations we have partnered with previously, we invite you to take a look at the first and second Unlocked Futures cohorts.
  • Organization has been in operation for two years as of December 31, 2022.
  • Organization has an annual budget of less than $2 million.
  • Organization has not previously received funding from New Profit’s Build or Catalyze initiatives. We will not be considering previous New Profit grantee partners for this funding opportunity.
  • Social entrepreneur commits to engaging in:
    • monthly 1:1 coaching, 
    • three convenings (typically spread out over 2-3 days), 
    • and three 2-3-hour virtual learning sessions over the course of one year 

We estimate that the total time commitment for a social entrepreneur participating in the cohort is 6-8 hours per month, on average. In months where programming is scheduled, the time commitment will be higher, and in months without programming, the time commitment will be lower. New Profit covers travel, lodging, and meals for in-person programming. Ability to commit to and attend ALL programming is required for selection. The first few programming dates will be provided when the application launches and the Unlocked Futures team will work with the cohort to schedule the rest. 

Please consider when applying that New Profit selection cycles can be highly competitive. In the past, we have received over 80 applications for eight funding opportunities.

Our Model

Unlocked Futures offers a collaborative support model to support breakthrough social impact leaders and their organizations, creating value across several dimensions. This includes a peer learning community, 1:1 adaptive leadership coaching, consultations with external content experts, New Profit’s tested capacity-building framework and tools, and $100,000 in unrestricted support.

While each cohort requires different supports, the base of our capacity-building program includes: 

  • Refining a systems theory of change and connecting it to a compelling story of impact
  • Assessing organizational strengths and capabilities and opportunities for growth
  • Building effective boards of directors
  • Developing effective practices for managing teams/stakeholders
  • Identifying effective practices for operational excellence in order to execute against organizational strategy (fundraising, finance, HR, and communications) 
  • 1-2 additional topics identified by cohort members as areas of support

Please note that this capacity-building program is focused on nonprofit social impact tools that address specific questions and challenges faced by nonprofit organizations. Given New Profit’s expertise lies primarily in the nonprofit sector, organizations outside of the nonprofit sector may find that some elements of the programming are less directly applicable to elements of their work.

If you have any questions about this opportunity in advance of the application launch, please contact the Unlocked Futures team at catalyze@newprofit.org. 

We recommend signing up for the Unlocked Futures mailing list to be notified about future application launches.