The Studio @ Blue Meridian made a set of investments in Spring 2021 to organizations ready to implement action plans to tackle their barriers to scale. The leaders of these participating organizations share brief reflections about their experiences with The Studio.
Q: What is the biggest opportunity for your organization enabled by The Studio’s investment?
“While we had achieved significant and replicable outcomes, we wanted to scale our efforts to serve the millions of students from under-resourced communities who could benefit from guidance and support to navigate their college journeys. This investment is allowing us to both dream AND test; it is allowing us to refine elements of our model to close the gap between where we are today and where we need to be to achieve our vision of redesigning a higher education system that is more accessible, affordable, equitable, and effective.”
– Alexandra Bernadotte, Founder & CEO, Beyond 12
“The biggest opportunity is having both the capital and the time to do the hard work of testing ideas and finding a solution set that has the potential to enable states across the country to fundamentally transform how they deliver benefits services. Few nonprofits have the opportunity to actually figure out how to pick the lock of a big problem and fix it. This effort allows BDT to do the kind of work, testing, and relationship building that has a real shot at creating a pathway for government to realize its full potential and promise.”
– Trooper Sanders, CEO, Benefits Data Trust (BDT)
“With 42% of low and middle-skill jobs lost during the pandemic not returning and 50% of high paying jobs requiring coding… we have a unique opportunity to drive systems change in computing education and employer hiring. In the next three years, CodePath will double our program impact. Blue Meridian is the ideal catalytic partner, accelerating our momentum at the precise moment that Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students who are reeling from the pandemic most need pathways to economic mobility. In addition, Blue Meridian introduced us to a very rigorous and helpful framework that challenged our approach and strategic plan. ”
– Michael Ellison, Co-Founder & CEO, CodePath
Q: How has the investment from The Studio been unique?
“The Studio’s approach both enabled visionary thinking about the big problems we are collectively trying to solve and engendered deep thinking about potential pathways to achieve that vision. The rigorous approach MLT developed in partnership with The Studio will allow for experimentation, testing, and learning in program delivery and provide the time and resources necessary to adjust and optimize. With their support, we are clear on the building blocks we need to execute our plan. It is clear our Studio partners are with us on this journey and doing everything they can to enable us to succeed.”
– John Rice, Founder & CEO, Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT)
“Our experience with The Studio was unlike any other. We received such thoughtful, nuanced, and strategic support from their team. As a result, Merit America left the Studio a stronger, more-unified, and focused organization. We entered with rough projections of where we were headed and how we’d get there; we left with a detailed plan for scaling Merit America nationwide (and the confidence to make it happen!). Even if we hadn’t been selected to receive funding, we would’ve repeated the entire process without question!”
– Connor Diemand-Yauman and Rebecca Taber-Staehelin, Co-Founders & Co-CEOs, Merit America
“Per Scholas [has] the chance not just to help many thousands more individuals access thriving wage technology careers but to engage some of the largest and most influential technology employers in comprehensive efforts to make the tech workforce more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. The Studio @ Blue Meridian’s investment in Per Scholas is distinctive. It is a true leadership investment that is sizable enough to facilitate really substantial innovation, growth and achievement… and Blue Meridian is unusual among grantmakers for its willingness to support experimentation aimed at testing critical hypotheses about channels for scale, rather than solely achieving a prescribed set of outcomes.”
– Plinio Ayala, CEO & President, Per Scholas
Q: What was your single biggest learning from the experience working with The Studio?
“While Grameen America had already begun to work on a strategy to better serve Black women entrepreneurs, being part of The Studio helped us fully develop this vision into an actionable plan. Through the Elevating Black Women Entrepreneurs initiative, we aim to advance racial and economic equity by investing $1.3 billion in loans to 80,000 Black women across the country. [Our] team’s most valuable experience was being a part of the workshops and learning from their advisors, experts, and peers… certainly learning that defining the ‘how’ is often more important than the ‘what.’”
– Andrea Jung, President & CEO, Grameen America
“The single biggest learning from our experience working with The Studio and our advisors is pretty simple, yet also profound: we must ‘widen the pipes.’ We realized that we have laid a strong groundwork with the channels we have poised to scale. Going forward, and with the support of The Studio, we are more consciously aware of the potential we have for massive impact for students and teachers nationwide … and really the responsibility we have to ensure that we are doing all that we can to maximize that impact.”
– Shalinee Sharma, Co-Founder & CEO, Zearn
“Our process with The Studio took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, which – while a challenging time for our program – turned out to have some surprising benefits. With campuses shut down all over the country, and our services largely on pause, our staff was able to fully participate in a series of strategic planning sessions as part of The Studio. This experience reminded me how valuable it is to step back from our day-to-day program metrics and take a broader look at our long-term goals … the benefits of this review will be felt by our organization for years to come.”
– Ann Hollister, President, Vision To Learn