Advancing Racial Equity through Entrepreneurship
Comcast NBCUniversal recently joined leading changemakers (leaders) on a panel focused on the Intersection of Entrepreneurship and Racial Equity at the 2021 Social Innovation Summit.
Gwyneth Gaul, Comcast’s Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships & Community Impact, moderated the panel comprised of three of Comcast’s digital equity partners: Cheryl Dorsey, President of Echoing Green; Dr. Angela Jackson, Managing Partner of New Profit; and Melissa Bradley, Founder and General Partner of 1863 Ventures and Co-Founder of Ureeka.
As part of Comcast’s approach to creating more equitable pathways to opportunity, we are investing in leaders and entrepreneurs who are working to close the racial wealth gap and create meaningful change. Gwyneth talked with these three leaders about what brought them to this work and their diverse models for supporting more entrepreneurs of color. Below are highlights from the conversation.
Gwyneth Gaul: “[At Comcast] we believe that digital equity – the equal access to technology and the capacity to use it – is central to social equity. And our conversation today focuses on one aspect of our model for change: supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs and leaders with the business resources and skills needed to create their own success. We believe that working to foster the success of more entrepreneurs of color is one of the most consequential actions we can take in the fight for social and economic justice.”
“We know that black and brown entrepreneurs and small businesses are severely underfunded and under-resourced, often preventing them from fully transitioning to the digital economy. Each of your organizations is tackling this challenge in a different way, but Melissa, maybe you could highlight one approach you are taking to support more entrepreneurs of color.”
Melissa Bradley: “I think it's a great question because I think too often people believe that entrepreneurs just need money. And the reality is they need a combination of financial and non-financial assets.”
“The best thing, the thing I'm most proud of is that, unfortunately post George Floyd, we've been able to deploy over $150 million to over 10,000 entrepreneurs through partnerships and grant programs such as yours and many others. And so, I think what we find is that money is a great tool, but we also find that it's paralyzing. When you're a person of color, and let me speak from my own space, when I got my first check, I had never had that much money before, and unfortunately it still didn't account for all the things I needed. And so, we realized that money is great, but those non-financial resources of helping them [know] how to spend, how to be strategic, how to invest in build for scale…that's the kind of support that entrepreneurs need, and they can get it through a formal organization, or they can get it through informal mentorship and coaching.”
Dr. Angela Jackson: “I can really appreciate that. At New Profit, we really intentionally invest in what we call proximate entrepreneurs – those who either have lived the experience that they're trying to solve or have some hard-professional experience. You’ll see that a lot of the entrepreneurs that we're investing in are coming from the communities that they're aiming to serve. They may not have had the benefit of going to business school or a wide social network, and so when we're trying to work shoulder-to-shoulder with these entrepreneurs, we need to look at them holistically. What all do they need? What is that technical support that’s actually going to get them on the pathway to more success and doing more good in the world?”
“We recently did that with the Future of Work Grand Challenge. We put out a $15 million challenge to proximate entrepreneurs to help people get back to work.”
Cheryl Dorsey: “I appreciate Comcast really raising up this question about how we support more entrepreneurs of color. All of us got into this work in part because we scoped the problem. From my vantage point, when you look at the philanthropic marketplace, domestic grant dollars for people of color represent only 10% of the total domestic U.S. grant dollars. And it gets worse as you start to segment the audiences – only 0.6% of these dollars go to women and girls of color, only 0.3% of men and boys of color 0.5% to the AAPI community and 0.2% of transgender people of color. So, the need is big, which is why it's so important to have organizations like New Profit, 1863, Echoing Green, etc. stepping into this void and doing the work that we do in the ways that we do it.”
“For Echoing Green, in the aftermath of the murder of Mr. Floyd, and the devastating impacts of COVID-19, we launched the Racial Equity Philanthropic Fund that is trying to tackle this issue from a systems level and really rests upon three pillars. One is that we've committed over the next three years to identify and launch and scale 120 new social enterprises and another 380 existing social enterprises within our network, helping them to get to the next level of impact. We're also going out into communities around the country to mobilize and up-skill 5,000 next generation leaders of color on social innovation principles and practices, including key settings like HBCUs. Last but not least, we've made a pretty bold commitment to engage deeply with upwards of 10,000 corporate leaders as critical and meaningful allies in the fight for racial equity.”
To hear more from the panelists including bright spots in the racial equity movement, areas for opportunity, and tangible ways to engage in their work, watch the full panel.