Economic Mobility, Get Closer

New Report Introduces Human-Centered Algorithm Design as a Tool for Creating an Expansive and Inclusive Funding Pipeline

New Profit and People Rocket release Unlocking the ‘Black Box’ in Philanthropy: comprehensive report on pipeline development uncovering actionable insights for equitable philanthropy. Download today to explore strategies, learnings, and best practices to make your philanthropic efforts more inclusive and impactful.

March 21, 2024

An unfortunate truth in philanthropy is that resources often fail to reach the most impactful solutions. Part of this reality is driven by the limitations of traditional funder networks and the implicit biases unwittingly baked into pipeline development. Philanthropy’s blind spots, in terms of surfacing ideas and innovations from overlooked leaders, is itself a blind spot. Yet, many funders have a growing desire to evolve philanthropic practices to distribute capital and resources to the most promising social entrepreneurs and organizations. 

Over the past year, our team at New Profit worked with the folks at People Rocket, a human-centered design firm, to identify how we could expand our pipeline of eligible organizations advancing economic mobility in America. Through a collaborative and iterative process that engaged leaders across the country, we developed new methods to identify pipeline organizations. These methods ensured we would not miss the community-focused organizations driving powerful impact through proximity that philanthropy has often overlooked. Our collaboration with People Rocket resulted in our pipeline increasing 25-fold, with 2,465 organizations identified, reflecting diversity and inclusivity across all 50 states. We also partnered to develop this report, which is intended to share our learnings and takeaways with the broader philanthropic community to shift practices and build a more equitable and impactful capital market. 

Interviews with key stakeholders throughout our study underscored the importance of speaking in the language of those served, investing in trust-building, pushing beyond existing networks, and leveraging local partnerships. The learnings gathered show us that an expanded pipeline is only the start. It will increase the number and range of organizations we explore, making for a more expansive and inclusive list for investment. However, to effect change, we need mindsets and capabilities within philanthropic organizations to evolve. We must also engage in more informed outreach and relationship-building, lowering the barriers for prospective applicants, asking better questions, and continuously rethinking our assumptions about how individuals and organizations positively impact economic mobility in the United States.


I think on not missing the [social entrepreneurs and organizations]; it comes from how you source and, again, I think it's how do you reverse why the existing system looks the way it does.

— New Profit Stakeholder

Key Takeaways: 


  • Process matters: The integration of qualitative and quantitative data in this human-centered process was essential; it expanded our pipeline and will enable us to adapt and learn over time. The qualitative data that came directly from our interviewees helped us identify biases and allowed us to iterate and improve the algorithm to address them.
  • Expanding our aperture can help us see gaps: It bears underscoring that the list of organizations that was created is just a list. It does not include every organization working in this field, and it does not capture the nuance of the powerful impact of any of these organizations. But by zooming out, we and other funders can see and acknowledge the breadth of the field that is likely obscured when we look through a narrow lens and begin to identify gaps in our understanding. 
  • Funders should consider all aspects of their processes: Our interviews shone a light on the ways in which the field of philanthropy can feel distant and impenetrable to historically undercapitalized social entrepreneurs– because of the language we use, because of the sense of needing to know the right people, and because philanthropy does not typically invest in the trust-building required to create relationships with organizations outside of their networks. Several interviewees urged funders to work with local intermediaries with proximity to their communities to learn more about “the ground game” and the organizations doing deep and impactful work. 

In sharing these key takeaways with the larger philanthropic community, we hope to continue learning and unlearning processes for identifying and supporting impactful, innovative, community-driven solutions that advance economic mobility across the United States.

Download the full report today: Unlocking the ‘Black Box’: Human-Centered Algorithm Design as a Tool for Creating an Expansive and Inclusive Funding Pipeline