The Studio @ Blue Meridian

The Studio @ Blue Meridian embraces experimentation and provides flexible resources to help organizations accelerate their readiness for significant scaling.

Accelerating Readiness for Scaling

We believe in the power of scale – expanding reach, impact, or influence – to address both emerging and intractable social challenges. We also know that promising approaches often face barriers on their path to becoming scalable solutions. In order to accelerate more organizations’ readiness for significant scaling, The Studio @ Blue Meridian provides visionary social sector leaders with the space, resources, and support they need to test and refine their strategies. The Studio is central to Blue Meridian Partners’ commitment to innovation and experimentation in pursuit of boosting the economic mobility of young people and families trapped in poverty.

The Problem

Promising solutions advanced by visionary leaders do exist, but these leaders often face barriers in their quest to tackle the magnitude of the problem. A gap in the funding market restricts social sector leaders who seek the flexibility to innovate and iterate on their existing platforms in preparation for significant scaling. Furthermore, systemic inequities limit the flow of funds to leaders of color at every stage of their organizations’ growth. This gap is especially glaring as the ongoing financial and health devastation from the COVID-19 pandemic creates new pressing challenges.

A Gap

in social sector funding limits opportunities to experiment and refine strategies.

The Solution

The Studio @ Blue Meridian aims to fill clear gaps in the social sector market to accelerate more organizations’ readiness to significantly scale their reach, impact, and influence. These investments provide visionary leaders who desire to think big and prepare for transformational growth with the flexible capital and tailored advisory support required to innovate, test, and enhance their existing approach to solving complex or emerging social challenges. In our investing, The Studio considers the historical racial inequities in funding, and believes it is important to support leaders who share lived experiences with the people they serve. The Studio is also prepared to address pressing needs, such as inequalities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

$61M

committed to date to organizations looking to accelerate their readiness for scale

Participants in The Studio

The Studio will support accelerating readiness for scaling across a range of strategies that address issues of poverty and lack of economic mobility. To date, we have funded eight exemplary organizations working on a range of barriers to scale over a two-year period.

Waterford UPSTART

Waterford UPSTART helps young children develop cognitive and social-emotional skills in the home by empowering parents to become their child’s first and most influential teachers. Waterford UPSTART’s instructional program is used 15 minutes per day, five days a week, guiding children along a personalized path to learn the fundamentals of literacy. Parents are also partnered with parent coaches who provide tools and insight to help parents continue to work with their children offline. Independent research shows the average graduate enters kindergarten reading at nearly a first-grade level. Waterford UPSTART is available to all families, including those unserved or underserved by existing Pre-K options, at no cost.

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Waterford-UPSTART

College Possible

College Possible makes college admission and success possible for low-income students through an intensive curriculum of coaching and support. They use near-peer coaching – leveraging the power of dedicated and passionate recent college graduates serving as AmeriCorps members – to offer mentoring and support to students. In 2016, College Possible launched a new partnership model called Catalyze, which was born out of the belief that an innovative approach to increasing college success for low-income students could be embedded on college campuses and scaled to serve many more students. Catalyze builds the capacity of four-year colleges by providing a research-based curriculum, training and tools to integrate near-peer coaching into their operation, extending the reach of existing infrastructure.

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College Possible

Family Independence Initiative

Family Independence Initiative (FII) trusts and invests directly in low-income people so they can work individually and collectively to achieve prosperity. It provides a technology platform, UpTogether, where people experiencing poverty can build and exchange social capital and access unrestricted cash transfers to help them accomplish goals they have chosen on their own self-determined paths.

FII uses the data and achievements of people who join UpTogether to drive government and philanthropy adoption of its strength-based approach to reach the 50 million people living with low-incomes in the US.

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Family Independence Initiative

LEAD

Inaugurated in Seattle in 2011 as the nation’s first pre-arrest, pre-booking diversion model and now replicated across the nation and internationally, LEAD uses a multi-agency systems approach to reduce criminal justice involvement for people whose unlawful conduct stems from mental illness or substance use disorder. A partnership of social service organizations, justice-systems and elected leaders, and diverse community stakeholders, LEAD authorizes law enforcement officers to divert such people entirely out of the criminal justice system and into long-term, non-coercive, community-based case management at the earliest possible opportunity: the moment of potential arrest. By intervening at the front door of the criminal justice system and deploying evidence-based practices proven most effective for people with these complex challenges, LEAD provides a transformative new solution not only for the people it serves but for law enforcement agencies, health systems, nonprofit service providers, and communities. The LEAD National Support Bureau, a program of the Public Defender Association, is the nation’s exclusive resource for strategic guidance and technical support for jurisdictions implementing LEAD.

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LEAD National Support Bureau

New Leaders

New Leaders offers evidence-based leadership training for school leaders at every level to ensure schools and systems provide all students with the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Their nationwide network of diverse, skilled school leaders reflects the communities they serve and believes that every student can excel, especially students of color and those from low-income communities. New Leaders forges deep partnerships with schools, districts, states, and institutions of higher education to equip school leaders to be powerful and positive forces for change. New Leaders champions policies that reflect the transformative power of exceptional school leadership and that break down inequitable structural and institutional barriers to student achievement and educational equity.

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New Leaders

OneGoal

OneGoal is a national postsecondary success organization that works to close the college degree divide and create a more equitable future.  They partner with public schools in low-income communities across the country to ensure postsecondary planning, preparation, and support are no longer extracurricular luxuries, but rather integral components of the high school experience. Their three-year program starts as a daily class in students’ junior and senior years of high school and continues with remote support through students’ first year of college or other postsecondary path. In 2019, OneGoal launched a systemwide solution that integrates their model into the fabric of entire school districts, thus ensuring all students have the opportunity to achieve their greatest postsecondary aspirations.

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OneGoal

Compass Working Capital

Compass Working Capital supports families with low incomes to build assets and financial capabilities as a pathway to economic opportunity, and out of poverty. Compass’ core program model supports families living in federally subsidized housing, by partnering with affordable housing providers to expand the scope and impact of an existing federal housing initiative – the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. Since 2010, Compass has worked with these partners to integrate the FSS program’s highly-scalable asset-building opportunity with financial coaching and other asset-building strategies. Its model has significantly increased enrollment rates and had a measurable impact on the financial security and economic mobility of participating households. Compass aims to scale its model and, ultimately, make asset-building the norm rather than the exception in our nation’s anti-poverty work.

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Compass Working Capital

Vision To Learn

Vision To Learn (VTL) provides children in underserved communities with the glasses they need to succeed in school and in life. Left untreated, vision problems are associated with adverse life outcomes, including delays in literacy acquisition, high rates of special education referrals and a greater-than-average likelihood of contact with the criminal justice system. Using mobile vision clinics, VTL partners with school districts and community organizations in low-income and rural communities across the US to bring free vision care to K-12 students. Services provided include vision screenings, eye exams and glasses, as well as replacement of broken or lost glasses.

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