Civic Engagement

Meet New Profit’s Civic Lab 3 Cohort of Democracy Entrepreneurs

June 14, 2022

New Profit is pleased to introduce the eight democracy entrepreneurs that comprise our Civic Lab 3 Cohort. Organizations within the cohort are using one or more of these five levers to create increased civic trust and build a civic culture in the United States: 1) grassroots organizing, 2) building diverse pipelines for public office, 3) policy advocacy, 4) narratives to counteract polarization and misinformation, and 5) data systems and operations infrastructure.

Often, support and funding for democracy organizations are dependent on the electoral calendar; there are very few ongoing learning and nonpartisan convening spaces for democracy entrepreneurs. New Profit’s Civic Lab is designed to create a powerful peer learning community coupled with 1:1 capacity-building support for its organizations. 

In our 2021 State of Democracy Entrepreneurship report, we identified funding disparities for entrepreneurs within the democracy space. Due to the significant funding disparity for democracy organizations led by leaders of color, particularly women of color, Civic Lab sought to make at least 50% of investments in organizations led by Black, Latina/x, and Indigenous women and nonbinary leaders. We achieved this goal in the Civic Lab 3 Cohort. Every leader in the Civic Lab 3 Cohort self-identifies as an entrepreneur of color and six of the eight entrepreneurs self-identify as Black, Latina/x, or Indigenous.

The Civic Lab 3 Cohort includes:

  • Anathea Chino, Advance Native Political Leadership: Advance Native Political Leadership (Advance) is the first and only national Native-led organization working to build a complete ecosystem of power building in Native communities—leadership recruitment and support, civic engagement, and national coordination. As they build their historic organization, Advance aims to address the significant gaps in training, organizing, strategy, and research and data on Native American civic engagement at every level, in particular the dearth of research on culturally-specific messaging, preferred communication mediums, and voter behavior.


  • Diana Hwang, The Asian American Women’s Political Initiative (AAWPI): AAWPI is the country’s only political leadership organization for Asian American and Pacific Islander women. Their mission is simple: they work to ensure that Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women have a voice in our democracy. Since 2009, AAWPI has been building the pipeline of low-income and immigrant Asian American women leaders, women who so rarely see themselves reflected in government but are the needed leaders. This year, they are expanding to Georgia – and then to North Carolina, Texas and California, states where AAPIs are the fastest-growing population and where their voices and votes can be the difference. AAWPI is building what doesn’t exist: a national infrastructure to engage and elevate AAPI women at all stages of the political pipeline. They plan to activate and mobilize at least 50,000 AAPIs and API women by 2025.


  • Erica R. Perry, The Black Nashville Assembly: The Black Nashville Assembly is a participatory democracy, community organizing, and political engagement project. Their mission is to develop informed voters and build the political power necessary to implement transformative policies and programs while engaging in grassroots community organizing. Their approach includes leadership development, base building, advocacy, community surveys, relationship building, and people movement assemblies.


  • Ahtza D. Chavez, Naeva Naeva’s mission is to unite community stakeholders to actively improve the quality of life for Native American communities and protect the continuity of Native American cultures. They promote awareness and action on issues facing Native American communities through community organizing and education strategies. Naeva is committed to social, economic, and environmental justice principles that advance healthy and sustainable communities for Native families living in New Mexico. They seek to ensure fairness while creating opportunities for Native American families to succeed in both a traditional and contemporary world.


  • Ely Flores, Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD): OCCORD’s mission is to bring workers, families, and community partners together to organize and advocate for good jobs, strong neighborhoods and an inclusive democracy in Orange County. Founded as a community-labor alliance in 2005, OCCORD combines community organizing, civic participation, strategic research, and advocacy to engage residents, workers, and stakeholders in local government decisions that impact economic opportunity, community health, and overall quality of life. OCCORD promotes inclusive public decision-making in a region where a profound civic disconnection exists between the region’s governing class and the increasingly diverse constituent base it seeks to represent. They concentrate their efforts in communities such as Anaheim and Santa Ana where working families and immigrant communities have not fully participated in government decision-making processes and long-standing community needs have gone unaddressed.


  • Issel Masses, Sembrando Sentido: Sembrando Sentido’s mission is to harvest knowledge, tools, and inspiration to strengthen civil society advocacy efforts for more transparent, responsible, inclusive, and efficient government practices in Puerto Rico.


  • Shawon Jackson, Vocal Justice:  Vocal Justice positions youth proximate to injustice as leaders for liberation by creating learning conditions that build their critical consciousness and communication skills. Their core offering, a teacher fellowship program, trains and pays middle and high school teachers to facilitate a justice-oriented public speaking program at their schools. Over time, Vocal Justice will work with young people to make liberatory education and youth power core to every school.


  • Aliya Bhatia, Vot-ER: Vot-ER integrates civic engagement into healthcare. Vot-ER develops nonpartisan civic engagement tools and programs for every corner of the healthcare system—from private practitioners to medical schools to hospitals. Their work is driven by a community of health care professionals, organizers, clinical students, and technologists united by a common vision: healthy communities powered by inclusive democracy.

Over the next year, the cohort will benefit from a peer learning community that connects these entrepreneurs through learning sessions and multi-day convenings focused on tackling key leadership and organizational challenges. Additionally, each organization will receive $100,000 in unrestricted funding and one-on-one leadership and strategic coaching to help them build organizational capacity and take aim at changing the broader systems in which they operate. 

As noted in our State of Democracy Entrepreneurship report, “In our 20+ years of investing in and working with entrepreneurs, we know that one of the key ingredients for success is a strong network, including a community of peers. Being an entrepreneur and a leader can be a lonesome journey. As a relatively nascent field, the democracy entrepreneurship ecosystem is still forming. Democracy entrepreneurs are seeking inclusive and collaborative spaces not only to accelerate their individual organization’s efforts but to also weave the networks that are critical for building a collective vision for our democracy.” 

To connect democracy entrepreneurs in the cohort and beyond, Civic Lab created the Democracy Entrepreneurs Directory as part of its open investment selection cycle in 2021. The Directory aims to demonstrate the breadth and variety of democracy organizations in our country. Over 150 organizations have already joined the Directory and we invite more organizations to become a part of this growing community by submitting this form

About New Profit

New Profit is a venture philanthropy organization that backs social entrepreneurs who are advancing equity and opportunity in America. New Profit exists to build a bridge between these leaders and a community of philanthropists who are committed to catalyzing their impact. New Profit provides unrestricted grants and strategic support to a portfolio of organizations led by visionary social entrepreneurs to increase their impact, scale, and sustainability. It also partners with social entrepreneurs and other cross-sector leaders to shift how government and philanthropy pursue social change to ensure that all people can thrive. Since its founding in 1998, New Profit has invested over $350M in 200+ organizations and, through the America Forward Coalition’s collective advocacy efforts, has unlocked over $1.7B in government funding for social innovation.