Posts tagged nonprofit
Matthew Manos Discusses New Book On Future of Social Enterprise

As collaborators with hundreds of entrepreneurs at both entry level and scale, it's clear to us that the core goal of business is, as Peter Drucker famously wrote, "to create a customer"– however you define customer. But what if you anticipate the customer's needs? Design thinking guides us in the identification of problems and opportunities, and lean startup thinking helps us dial in the solution. To that end, Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise creates an exciting space for discussing entrepreneurship within the context of building the future we wish to live in, or solving problems before they happen. I sat down with our Founder, and colleague, Matthew Manos to talk about this exciting new book and why everyone involved in social impact should be reading it.

What is this book about?
Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise is a manifesto and collection of essays inspiring a new generation of social entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders to move from a founding principle that is informed by reaction to one that is driven by strategic foresight. "Social entrepreneurship is almost always too late. As practitioners of social enterprise, we hold the assumption that our responsibility is to exclusively act post-crisis in order to gradually chip away at a persistent problem, or to maintain a state of peace. The art of reaction is necessary, but the expectation of post-traumatic innovation as the singular starting point for an entire industry is limiting. What if social enterprise was also responsible for preemption? What if social entrepreneurs were also futurists?"

What is preemptive social enterprise?
A preemptive social enterprise is the opposite of a reactive social enterprise, the norm of socially responsible innovation. While traditional for-profit enterprise is rewarded for investing in visions of the future, social entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders are rewarded for reacting to problems that already exist. While it is crucial that the social sector continues to react to the problems of today, we advocate for the integration of strategic foresight in that practice.
Through this book, we have revealed reaction as a critical shortcoming in the practice of social entrepreneurship - the fact that entrepreneurs often launch a business inspired by a traumatic event. By considering the future as an ally, social entrepreneurs can move beyond band-aid solutions, and can be inspired to think more holistically/systemically about a problem.

How did you arrive at this idea?
The notion of moving toward a more preemptive social enterprise is a concept that I originally developed during my MFA thesis work at the ArtCenter College of Design. While I was a student there, I was developing scenarios around a future in which humanly perceivable problems will be harder and harder to come across (due to the acceleration of technology). The work became interested in this idea of adopting tools that can allow us to be more preemptive in order to stay ahead of the curve. In the years since completing that thesis work, verynice has continued to prove the value of futures thinking in social enterprise through our work with entrepreneurs and academic institutions around the globe.

Why is this an important topic now?
In any election cycle in the U.S., we often highlight our culture's reactionary nature. These quick assumptions/reactions often miss the boat on proposing solutions that are more systemic, and as a result, bigotry and band-aid solutions to deeply systemic problems prevail. As a culture, we need to understand the implications of our solutions by adopting more methods that allow critical thinking to flourish. Futures is one great way to do that.


What was the criteria for choosing the contributors on this book?
The book features over 20 voices - this is strategic in the sense that the future is too big of a topic for one individual to carry the weight of in a single book. I selected contributors who are thought leaders in their respective fields, but specifically requested the participation of futurists. Futurists are tasked every day with imagining the implications of traumatic events, scanning trends, and understanding emerging issues so that we all may be more preemptive, or at least know what we are doing with.


What do you hope comes out of this project?
If even one social entrepreneur picks up this book and says, "Hey, how can I continue the great work that I'm doing, but also set aside time to reflect on the implications of my work in order to ensure I am tackling the right problem?", I will be happy.


Who did you write this book for?
This book was written for the next wave of social entrepreneurs. More and more business schools have dedicated courses and even programs for the practice of social entrepreneurship. The really exciting implication of this institutional support is the fact that we will see the number of social enterprises multiply in the next 4-5 years. The book is written for any social entrepreneur, but especially the new social entrepreneur.


What is the connection between this book and your last book, How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free?

An excerpt from the book's afterword addressed this question:

"...in 2012, I decided that the only way we could achieve our mission of alleviating nonprofit expenses would be to inspire a new movement in pro-bono. To accomplish this, we open-sourced our business model and proprietary methodologies by way of publishing a book: How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free. As a result of this initiative, we have inspired thousands of practitioners to engage in pro-bono work around the world.
After publishing the second edition of our book in 2014, I realized that social entrepreneurs needed even more tools that could allow them to create their own unique business model, driven by impact, just as I managed to do with Give Half. Enter our second major initiative: Models of Impact.
Models of Impact is a toolkit that allows people to create innovative business models for social, environmental, or personal impact. The Models of Impact project is part of a greater initiative to open-source every model of impact. Our vision is to enable legacy by making systemic approaches to long-term change more tangible, actionable, and accessible. With thousands of entrepreneurs and educators now leveraging the Models of Impact toolkit (as of 2016), we estimate that the toolkit has generated over 7,500 new impact-driven business concepts. With the immense volume of ideas being generated, the almighty question of "why?" can't help but present itself to me. Our manifesto, Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise, is one attempt to answer that question."
The Difference Between Facilitating and Leading

By Megan Tremeling | Design Strategist | verynice

I recently co-facilitated a Design Thinking Lab — a.k.a. Ideathon — with my colleague from verynice, Marlon Fuentes. The workshop was hosted by the Center for Nonprofit Management as an amuse-bouche to their annual 501(c)onference. This 8-hour design thinking adventure with nonprofit leaders left me with some practical ideas to share about the ways facilitating can help us reach our goals.
 

1. Your Role As Facilitator and Designing Optimal Space For Collaboration
Earlier in my career I used to fluidly dance between the words facilitate and lead. I learned the important distinction between leading with your own ideas and facilitating thought, leaving me far more satisfied as a facilitator. Marlon and I created a structure and environment for the participants to learn, come up with their own new ideas, and celebrate themselves. A crisp understanding of the role can help keep you focused on “What can I do to help this team get the most from an empathy map exercise?” rather than “How can I jam a smart comment into this conversation so that I sound smart?” Facilitating is a process of inclusion and thought organization. 

2. Encourage Participation
We can create value for participants by making time for teams to share with each other. Many participants told Marlon and I (in questionnaires before and after the event) that they wanted to meet other professionals. I highly relate, but was so focused on passing on design thinking skills that I forgot about this other, possibly primary, reason why participants paid money and took 8 hours out of their day to attend. Team sharing not only allows for new connections, but insights such as: “Oh, our team is way off on the journey map!” or “Ahhh, I never thought considering the needs of an internal, fundraising team member could earn our organization more revenue!”

3. Tactile Experiences Go A Long Way!
Everyone’s energy went through the roof when we did scrappy, hands-on prototyping. Earlier in the day, I saw teams shy away from drawing colorful dots and curvy lines on a journey map, let alone sketching an idea for a new product on a Post-it. Throwing out a goofy sketch of an idea that your team may criticize can be terrifying. This fear vanished once we asked people to stand up, physically move about the room, and forage for neon shoe strings, toilet paper tubes, and egg cartons. I had a nonprofit leader ask me, “Where are those LEGO action figures again?” I don’t know why this activity seriously boosted the room. Maybe it was breaking free of sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at a classic business roundtable, but I will throw active, colorful, and crafty activities into a workshop as early and often as possible. 

4. Sharing is Caring
Brief and defined share outs kept the room alive. I think we’ve all been in a workshop or group discussion where listening to others share their work feels like a lifetime at the DMV.  Marlon and I used a defined, fill-in-the-blank pitch statement and we asked teams to stick to it during share outs. This made for quippy, fun, safe, and competitive sharing, and a lively room to end the workshop. 

Final Thoughts
I believe workshop facilitation is like the board game Othello, “A minute to learn…a lifetime to master!” Marlon agrees. Whether it's a design thinking workshop that deals with large, systematic issues or effectively running a meeting, learning how to keep things inclusive, fun, and efficient can lead to breakthrough learning and discovery.

By Megan Tremeling, Design Strategist, verynice

An Exciting New Annual Report for Downtown Women's Center

It's always exciting to kick off another project with the Downtown Women's Center Staff! These are colleagues we've had the privilege to work with over the years and admire deeply for their innovative approach to helping women who are homeless. Our team created a beautiful annual report for Downtown Women's Center  last year to showcase their new brand identity and this year we wanted to do something different. Our goal was to create an even more immersive, easy-to-digest annual report that exemplifies the experience at Downtown Women's Center. 

The Design Challenge

It's often difficult to narrow down content for informational design. After all, when you create as much social impact as the Downtown Women's Center, you will have a lot to share! Information architecture is one of the many methods we use to organize large amounts of information into not only a digestible canvas that meets business requirements, contextual relevancy, but also aS a way to provide a pleasant experience that meets the audience's needs. 

Design Solution

After exploring many ideas, we decided to create a folding brochure that had enough panels for relevant information, but that was guided by beautiful photography of real DWC women and staff. The brochure unfolds and communicates the action of opening the doors to the Center. With each unfold the reader is welcomed by friendly faces accompanied with information and quotes from the residents that tell a human story. The content was broken down into a few simple categories to fit the flow of each panel: Mission and Board, How You Can Help, Housing, Programs, Financials, and Donors. 

Design Thinking

We were fortunate to have the DWC staff in our corner to create this content in a way that our design team could puzzle together for an organized and palatable experience. Design thinking is all about facilitating the creative process of flaring with ideas, and moments of focus and analytical thinking. This process can be exemplified through this project. After a brainstorm, sketches, three design iterations, and one-and-a-half copy edit rounds, the end product is an informational keepsake for donors, residents, and anyone interested in the Downtown Women's Center experience. Click here to download the report!

Looking for a design partner? 
Our team is ready to start the conversation. 

 

 

 

5 Women-led Organizations You Should Know About

By Marlon Fuentes | Design Strategist, verynice 

Happy International Women's Day! To celebrate we'd like to put the spotlight on a few of the amazing women-led organizations we've had the pleasure of working with. 

"Let us devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieving gender equality around the world. There is no greater investment in our common future."  – UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon


Etkie 

Etkie celebrates the rich landscape and cultural heritage of the southwestern United States through their refined jewelry and accessories produced by Native American women in New Mexico. Etkie strives to make their production process as values-driven as the products they create by ensuring that each piece is crafted or finished by talented individuals in underemployed communities. verynice had the opportunity to work with Etkie to design their brand identity which was inspired by the rich cultural heritage and timelessness of their craft.

Working with Etkie was an absolute pleasure. I really enjoyed the enthusiasm and spirit they brought to the creative process." – Alisa Olinova, Art Director, verynice


Downtown Women's Center 

Founded in 1978, the Downtown Women’s Center is the only organization in Los Angeles exclusively dedicated to addressing the needs of women overcoming poverty and homelessness in Skid Row. DWC's mission is to provide permanent supportive housing and a safe and healthy community fostering dignity, respect, and personal stability, and to advocate ending homelessness for women. 

verynice was fortunate enough to be asked to help with the 2014 Annual Report as well as both participate in and design the 2013 Downtown Women’s Needs Assessment for the Downtown Women’s Center. Not only did we leverage our local volunteers to go out to Skid Row and help collect valuable information from its female residents, we also were able to see the project through by designing a series of infographics and a publication. Working with their newly revealed rebranding, we designed a publication that introduced their donors and supported to their new look. The pages feature beautiful full page photographs of the women who live and love DWC, and their stories.

"verynice is much more than a design agency –  they have been critical collaborators in our communications strategy for two years now. We’ve partnered with them on such a wide range of projects – digital and print design, illustration, website development, photography, and workshop facilitation – and their work is consistently of the highest quality and always pushes forward our brand and mission."Ann-Sophie Morrissette, Director of Communications and Policy


The Empowerment Plan

The Empowerment Plan is a Detroit-based nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the homeless community. Their goal is to help build a better life for those that have become trapped in the cycle of homelessness. They emphasize hiring homeless parents from local shelters to become full time seamstresses so that they can earn a stable income, find secure housing, and gain back their independence for themselves and for their families. 
 
The individuals Empowerment Plan hires are trained to manufacture a coat that transforms into a sleeping bag at night, and a bag when not in use.  The coats are distributed to homeless people living on the streets at no cost to them through partnerships established with outreach organizations in communities around the nation. 

"We're so excited to kick off our working relationship with the Empowerment Plan. In our interactions thus far as well as in the materials we've been deep within, I've been blown away by Veronika Scott's leadership, determination, and vision to improve lives everywhere." - Matt Manos, Founder and Managing Director, verynice


Mothers2Mothers

Mothers2Mothers trains, employs, and empowers mothers living with HIV to bring health and hope to other mothers, their families, and communities. Significant progress has been made over the last decade towards the elimination of paediatric AIDS.  Yet each day, 600 children are still infected with HIV. Almost 90% of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa, and most acquire HIV from their mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. 

m2m’s programme also has a positive impact on the Mentor Mothers themselves. The employment enables Mentor Mothers to gain financial security for themselves and their family.  By virtue of being professionalised, Mentor Mothers become role models in health centres and their communities, putting a face to empowered, strong, and healthy HIV-positive women, and thereby reducing HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

The Mentor Mother Model has been identified as a key strategy in the United Nations Global Plan to eliminate paediatric AIDS by 2015 and keep mothers alive. m2m advances four of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that most directly affect the health of women and children.

"As on of our early nonprofit clients, it was a pleasure to work with m2m's leadership team in Los Angeles and South Africa."Kate Manos, Director of Design Operations, verynice


Swipe Out Hunger

Swipe Out Hunger partners with college campuses to end hunger while raising young people’s awareness of homelessness and hunger through education and outreach. 

Born under the name Swipes for the Homeless in 2009, a few friends at the University of California, Los Angeles went into the dining hall, used their meal cards to swipe some sandwiches and then deliver them around town. In a single week, 300 meals were collected. A few months later, in partnership with UCLA’s Dining Services student they were able to donate their extra meal funds and that allowed the number to grow to 1,087 meals. By the Fall of 2014, it exceeded 15,000 donated meals in a single week. 

As of 2015, the movement has been renamed to the current, Swipe Out Hunger has delivered its  its 1,206,145th meal. verynice believes in their mission to raise awareness, foster student leadership and – Swipe Out Hunger.

"Rachel Sumekh is a visionary leader and truly sets the bar for Millennials around the world. It's been an honor working with Swipe Out Hunger on a Pro-Bono basis for years, and watching this organization go from student group to global movement."Matt Manos, Founder and Managing Director, verynice

Together we can do great things. 
For inquiries, contact our team at info@verynice.co
Case Studies

Vignelli | Graphic Design for Non-Profit Organizations

Graphic Design for Nonprofit Organizations

by Marlon Fuentes | Design Strategist, verynice 

Reeeeeewind! It’s been nearly 40 years since the great Massimo Vignelli and Peter Laundry wrote Graphic Design for Nonprofit Organizations.  And while the tools of production have certainly evolved, the discipline and ethos behind this classic stand as a reminder that great design is not only attainable through study and practice, but also something all organizations, regardless of tax status should aspire to achieve. Whether you are the in-house designer or a manager working with an agency, knowing the fundamentals can go a long way. Have questions or need help with a project? Connect with our team.

"A common misconception about design in the non-profit sector is that it is a "nice to have" as opposed to a "must have." The reality is that design can be one of the best possible tools an organization can use to bring clarity to their mission and vision. If done well, then, design can truly elevate an organization's potential and allow for even more impact in the world.”
– Matthew Manos, Founder, verynice

There’s no better assignment for a design maestro like Vignelli. After all, many nonprofits like other lean running organizations prioritize the reduction of waste and the optimization of value and durability. Vignelli was strongly opposed to what he called the “cults of obsolescence, waste, and the ephemeral.” Elegance for him was not a matter of frivolity. His use of few typefaces, grid layouts, and international paper sizes was all done in an effort to reduce the need for anything that would require more than the necessary resources. He was a conservationist in a sense. 

vignelli nonprofit design

The first part of the book is a set of guidelines. The second part reviews the application on two prototypical organizations. Theory and practice. At the bottom of this post you can find a few of the design principles Vignelli has championed in this book. And if you are a true scholar, the PDF is available and was approved for distribution by Massimo before his passing.  

“The main purpose of this manual is not to generate sameness or fads but to provide the tools to develop individual programs to fit individual situations.”  – Massimo Vignelli

 

  • "The grid is the most important tool that can be used by the layout designer. It is an invisible structure that provides disciplined and consistent look while increasing production efficiency and maintaining the flexibility needed to solve a wide range of layout problems."
  • "For most applications, a ragged right setting is best because it has the advantage of uniform word spacing; shorter lines are not lengthened by adding space between words." 
  • "Typography is closely allied to the fine arts, always reflected the taste or feeling of their time."
Marlonnonprofit, graphic design
verynice + Google: A Collaboration for One Billion Acts of Peace
 
Image via   Niharb  .

Image via Niharb.

At verynice, we’re on a mission to inspire and support companies in incorporating pro bono into their business models. We aim to spread awareness of the benefits that pro bono can provide to both the practitioner and the recipient as well as the impact it can have on communities, both local and global. About one year ago, we had the opportunity to work with a client who could demonstrate the affects of pro bono on a major scale: Google— in a project that is currently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. 

Google had partnered with a nonprofit called PeaceJam for their initiative, Billion Acts, to provide pro bono support. Led by Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Billion Acts aims to inspire individuals across the world to perform acts of peace in 10 key focus areas, which include protecting the environment, advancing women, and alleviating poverty. Google’s role was to build a brand and digital platform that would allow Billion Acts to become a global movement.

So, where does verynice enter the picture? Google asked our Founder, Matt, to join their Billion Acts team to lead brand strategy and serve as an advisor for usability testing, marketing, and product development for the Billion Acts platform. While Google brings all the expertise, efficiency, and staffing of a global technology giant, verynice brings something different to the table: a wealth of experience creating effective brand and product strategies for non-profit organizations, and leadership in the management of pro bono client relationships.  

Instead of recapping this collaboration ourselves, we thought it would be more interesting to hear it from Google’s perspective. We chatted with Aldis Ozolins and Jay Castro of the Google Billion Acts team to find out how our knowledge of the nonprofit space and experience with pro bono engagements benefited this incredible project. 


Hi Aldis! Hi Jay!

How has the Give-Half model inspired your work with Billion Acts and at Google in general?
A: I’ve had the pleasure of working with Matthew Manos on several occasions before and the give-half model was something that inspired me to seek out projects that held a deeper purpose.  Working at Google has allowed me to be part of a community of creatives who share this strive to (as cliché as it sounds) make the world a better place through technology. And when I discovered the Billion Acts initiative, I saw it as the perfect space to bring verynice in and execute the spirit of give-half at the scale that only Google can provide.

J: I was raised in a big family— a big, tribal family— so my brother and I are great examples of “it takes a village to raise a child.” Because of that, it's in my core to care and give back to my community. The Give Half model has inspired me to do exactly that: give half. Before reading the book and working with verynice, I gave what I could, when I could, and where I could. Since implementing the Give Half model, I've found that my time and skills are more valuable to my pro bono work, and I've seen significant, positive increases in my personal capacity and time management. The Give Half model was the "proof in the pudding" to what I've always wanted to do, and created a simple framework for me to follow. 
 

How did verynice's insight into brand strategy help inform and push forward your work with Billion Acts?
A: Verynice was integral in leveraging their expertise in this space to provide additional perspective on the nonprofit world. Their trend analysis helped give us a clearer picture of the current landscape. As a result we were able to uniquely position the Billion Acts rebrand. 

J: First and foremost, verynice knows the nonprofit world from many different perspectives; this knowledge has helped shape our interactions with PeaceJam, and the many nonprofits we engage with. Additionally, verynice has implemented a user focused research and feedback loop to our development process that's helped to quickly gain and implement validated findings. 


What was one of the biggest takeaways from our collaborative usability testing work?
A: Having design decisions proven wrong through usability tests is how you know you are doing your job. The tests really shed light on what parts of the app were working, what parts weren’t, as well as what was missing from the app. These tests really help us build empathy for the user and see our concept through unfiltered eyes.

J: The biggest and more important take away from the collaborative usability testing is that no matter how right or how amazing I might think one design or feature may be, the usability testing can (and usually does) prove me wrong. I've learned functionality is more important than features and there's no better feedback than the reaction from our users. 


Can you talk a little bit about your engagement with verynice and how this work in general may have informed or even changed your perspective on pro bono?
A: I’ve always had the desire to work on projects that give back. But it wasn’t until I met Matthew and began collaborating with verynice that I discovered pro bono work doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive from what I do for a living. I think the piece of inspiration that has always stood out to me is not thinking of pro bono work as a side quest or temporarily fulfilling distraction but rather something that anchors everything I do professionally. In the sense that it is not about the individual projects but embracing a new philosophy of life, one that says, “I want to put others first and I want my work to reflect that whether or not it is pro bono.” That is a world-changing ideal.  

J: Previously, most of my pro bono work (in the tech industry) has been very high level and strategic. Engaging with Matthew and the verynice team on high level strategies as well as the fine details of a design has inspired me to "roll up my sleeves and get dirty" every once in awhile. It's healthy and inspiring. Furthermore, this engagement has literally inspired me to roll my sleeves up and get dirty with local organizations in my community, away from a WiFi connection, with my phone on airplane mode. Through this experience, I've learned that, with proper time and capacity management, I can give back to my community via technology in the cloud and shovels in the ground. 


What is the relationship between pro bono and professional development? What opportunities for growth do pro bono engagements open up? 
A: To me, one of the fascinating things about creative work is the inverse relationship between creativity and money. As a project gets bigger with more of a financial burden attached to it and more relationships to manage, the creativity generally seems to suffer. On the other hand working on a pro bono basis means that not only are you working with smaller budgets, you are also working with people that have a passion for the project. I’ve found that this tends to lead to a more creative output. So as it turns out, pro bono work is not only good for your soul it’s also good for your creative development. 

J: The relationship between pro bono and professional development reminds me of my days as a rugby player. Rugby doesn't come naturally to many Americans; it's a sport that requires time on the training pitch, learning the fundamentals of the sport. In 13 years of playing rugby, I've come across very few great rugby players that did not require training to get to their level of play. In many cases, with training, any athlete can become a great rugby player. 

The same circumstance can be applied to pro bono work and professional development. For instance, becoming a product manager at Google, or any tech company these days, requires years of on the job experience. So how does an aspiring product manager succeed if their dream job requires years of experience? This is where pro bono work comes into play: as in rugby, pro bono work can be an extremely valuable training pitch for one to learn new skills, develop relationships, and gain the practical experience that is attractive to future employers. 

Pro bono experiences and professional development can be very similar to internships. In my case, pro bono has opened up a new network of do-gooders and taught me new skills in product development, user research, and team management. The skills I've learned in my pro bono work are not required in my current role at Google, but are skills that I find extremely valuable in my professional development. All in all, I'm extremely thankful and fortunate for my training pitch. =]


Thank you, both! 
 

verynice hopes to continue to form meaningful collaborations with excellent companies to support a deeper commitment to pro bono. Check out more of our pro bono work for nonprofit clients, here

A Brand to Build a Network

When it comes to getting funded, nonprofits must overcome a few more hurdles than for-profits, especially when it comes to reaching potential donors.  For-profit companies trying to bring in new customers work hard to leave an impression on their desired audience. Put simply, when they present a strong and consistent view of their brand to the right people, they see success.

While nonprofits can effectively acquire new donors in the same way, they often have fewer means to do so. Without the budget or staffing to create a robust brand, they loose valuable opportunities to reach an audience that cares about the work they’re doing. This affects their ability to retain donors, and therefore to set long-term goals for growth.

When our client, <dev>tech academy, approached verynice with this same issue, we knew we wanted to help. <dev>tech is a nonprofit that provides a comprehensive web development program, job training, and personal finance skills to disadvantaged youth. We were immediately impressed by their ability to create social change by matching two major issues— the tech skills gap and the lack of opportunity faced by youth who cannot afford a college education. In order to help <dev>tech build a support network, we just needed to help them communicate the power of their model to the world. How? By giving them a strong brand strategy and visual identity. 

Instead of taking you through this process ourselves, we asked <dev>tech Co-Founder, Stacy McCoy, to talk about <dev>tech, their work with verynyice, and what she sees for the organization’s future. 

Hi, Stacy! Can you tell us about who <dev>tech serves?
500%.  That’s how much the cost of college has risen since 1985.  Student loan debt is over $1 trillion and is second only to mortgage debt.  It’s not an affordable option for everyone anymore.  Unfortunately, there aren’t many alternatives.  Those without higher education will make on-average less than $30,000 a year and struggle to find a job because unemployment rates are much higher for those without a college degree.  

At the same time, there’s a tech talent shortage.  Code.org estimates that by 2020 there will be 1,000,000 more jobs than students.  And it’s much harder for companies in smaller tech hubs to recruit and retain talent.  <dev>tech academy bridges this gap by helping youth that can’t afford to go to college gain the skills necessary to get a job as a junior developer at a local tech company.  Youth get access to higher paying jobs and a stable career, tech companies get the talent they need to grow and scale, and the surrounding communities experience greater economic development due to the additional money flowing into the local economy.  It’s a win-win-win! 

Are there any differences between the traditional “dev bootcamps” we’re becoming familiar with and <dev>tech’s model?
<dev>tech academy takes the standard for-profit web development bootcamp model, bumps it out to 6 months, and adds a long-term apprenticeship.  This was a novel idea when the model was designed a couple of years ago.  But now these types of models are starting to be tested in a couple of big cities around the country.  But we take it a step further.  On top of providing mentorship and career services, we also provide financial literacy support from opening bank accounts to teaching how to manage money and save.  I would also like to think the curriculum we’ve developed is one of the best.  Finally, we have plans for creating a model that works for rural areas and monetizing the model so that it’s self-sustainable.  But it’s too early to share the details of those. Stay tuned!

Even though the <dev>tech model seems incredibly robust and relevant, were you facing any barriers to getting off the ground?
Though the idea behind <dev>tech academy was formed a couple of years ago when I was living in Los Angeles, I held off on launching it because I knew I would be moving soon.  When my husband and I moved to Durham late last April, I hit the ground running.  Finding advisors and community support was easy.  The pieces of the puzzle quickly fell into place as one after another people offered to help.  Durham is such an amazing city!  But there was one big piece missing: funding.  The cornerstone of the program is a bootcamp, which requires a skilled teacher to be competitive.  Skilled web development instructors are expensive!  It’s a big ask.  My first venture Give To Get Jobs – which is organized as a for-profit LLC – was self-funded.  Fundraising, especially non-profit fundraising, is completely new to me. And pilot programs are the hardest to fund.   It’s been difficult going from moving so fast to needing to slow down in order to find the right donor(s). 

Now that you have a visual identity, how has that removed some of the barriers you’ve been facing?
Revamping <dev>tech academy’s visual identity was huge for us.  It makes us look a lot more professional, which is important when you’re asking for large sums of money.  It also helped guide a website redesign and will inform all graphic design styles moving forward.  And I’m a lot more confident that we’ll be able to effectively reach our target market with this new identity. 

How about the brand strategy piece? Did that open up new opportunities for <dev>tech as well?The new brand strategy is helpful beyond words.  Working towards that strategy pushed us to dig deep and determine what’s behind the <dev>tech academy brand.  Our brand and brand story is a lot clearer now enabling us to tell the story in a much more effective way.  

Sounds like <dev>tech is headed toward a bright future! How are you visualizing your next steps?The biggest goal is to get the money to pay an instructor.  Once that happens, we can have the program up and running in less than a month and a half.  Everything else is ready to go.  Once we launch the pilot program, the next big step will be to run a successful program.  When we have proof of concept, we’ll be scaling the program rapidly.   And then the adventure will really begin!  It’s a big undertaking, but I can’t wait.  And I can’t thank verynice enough for helping <dev>tech academy as we set out to develop communities by developing tech talent. 

Thank you, Stacy! 

If you haven't taken a closer look at <dev>tech academy yet, check them out here. We couldn't be more excited to see what they achieve next!