New Profit Announces Investments in Two Education Organizations Working to Improve Student Wellbeing and Identity Development Across the Country
Venture philanthropy organization New Profit welcomes two new organizations to its portfolio in a new effort to focus on wellbeing in education.
Last summer, during the height of the pandemic, New Profit launched our Wellbeing in Education initiative, in which we sought to invest in organizations that actively advance the wellbeing of their constituents as a primary element of their model. In particular, we were looking for organizations that provide:
- Social-emotional learning for young people, educators, and families;
- Mental health supports to assist students; and/or
- Ongoing well-being supports for young people, educators, and families as they navigate a variety of challenges—personal and educational—while establishing a “new normal.”
We received over 170 submissions from an impressive set of organizations with a range of impact models—from those working on student agency, identity development, and racial justice, to organizations working on mindfulness with students, educators, and school leaders. We went through a rigorous process to assess these organizations, with a particular focus on those with leaders who center equity in their work and are proximate to the communities we collectively aim to serve (learn more about New Profit’s commitment to equity). In the words of Bryan Stevenson, Founder of Equal Justice Initiative, “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.”
As part of our investment selection process, we also recruited six parent leaders and education advocates from DC PAVE to serve as advisors in reviewing applications, screening finalist organizations, and working through our due diligence process. Their voices were crucial in this process, as they are the experts in understanding the types of support that would benefit their children, schools, and communities the most at this moment in time.
We are excited to announce our first two investments within the Wellbeing in Education initiative: Envision Education and Kingmakers of Oakland. Each is receiving $1M in unrestricted capital, in addition to strategic advisory support from New Profit. Both organizations have developed innovative, regional models and are also working on broader systems change by spreading their models through direct consulting and advising to school districts around the country. Additionally, they are working to change mindsets and policies to support their core missions. Both Envision Education and Kingmakers of Oakland are deeply equity-oriented pro-Black organizations and, in keeping with our Inclusive Impact Initiative, both organizations are led by leaders of color. Read on for more information about these two incredible organizations.
Envision Education, launched in 2002 in SF Bay Area, CA, recognizes that the current culture around schooling tends to focus on academic rigor and preparation for standardized assessments while failing to cultivate critical 21st-century skills (collaboration, communication, and creativity). This overemphasis on academic outputs often overlooks the needs of the whole learner to develop character, life skills, and positive self-identity; particularly in schools that serve students of color from low-income communities. Envision’s instructional model weaves together the academic, wellbeing, & positive identity development of their students, giving them opportunities to practice & demonstrate skills in all three areas. This is the key to supporting students to realize their personal aspirations, contribute to their communities’ actualization, & sustain culturally affirming lives. In this model, students regularly collect their work in portfolios and publicly present (or defend) what they know and are able to do with the knowledge, skills, and self-awareness they have developed. Under CEO Gia Truong’s leadership, Envision has also committed to proving that education must be centered on identity development work and bolstering students with the tools they need to understand and advocate for themselves in a society that does not always prioritize the voices of Black and Latinx students. To fully realize this combination of academic, social-emotional, and identity development in service of their communities and shifting nationwide systems, Envision is also navigating the process of transforming to be an anti-racist and pro-Black organization.
Today, Envision runs five charter middle- and high schools across the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as a spread arm—called Envision Learning Partners (ELP)—to support districts, school networks, and individual schools to adopt its key practices nationwide. Envision is currently supporting a dozen districts to implement these graduate profile and portfolio assessment practices and has spread this to over 100,000 students nationwide over time.
Kingmakers of Oakland (KOO) with its co-founder and CEO, Chris Chatmon, has developed a comprehensive model in response to their insight that school systems systematically ignore the collective identity, genius, and lived experiences of Black boys—which ultimately hampers their ability to flourish—even though research shows that equitable access to resources and identity development are critical components for educating Black boys. KOO leverages an integrated, direct, and systems-level impact approach to “heal the fish while treating the toxic ecosystem.” To this end, KOO works on six specific drivers of impact. They work with schools and districts to 1) deliver culturally relevant curriculum and pedagogy; 2) support the recruitment and retention of Black male teachers; 3) amplify student voice and agency; and 4) engage parents and families. At the ecosystem level, they work to 5) drive narrative change and 6) advocate for policy reform that will support and acknowledge the genius and value of Black boys. KOO’s direct service approach with students and teachers is fundamentally integrated and embedded within its larger systems-level approach with families, communities, districts, and policymakers.
Founded in 2018, and currently working in seven school districts, KOO is directly guided by the experiences and feedback of the youth they serve, or “Kings.” Their programming addresses the failures of the education system upon Black boys due to exclusion, anti-Black racism, and inequitable access to resources and support systems critical for thriving. By utilizing a targeted approach focused on a community that the education system has deeply marginalized (Black boys), KOO is addressing the universal problem of the U.S. education system not equitably supporting all students.
We are thrilled to welcome these two game changing organizations and their leaders to our portfolio and invite you to check out these video resources to learn more: