Nonprofits with new ideas to empower women in poverty, protect people from predatory lending, and use urban gardens to grow food and jobs make up the newest class of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ GroundFloor Fellows.
Founded in 2013 – with seed investments from Dallas-based AT&T, EY and individual donors – GroundFloor is a social innovation fund and accelerator program that provides support and resources to innovative social ventures. Candidates selected show promise of introducing the next big idea for preparing students to succeed after graduation, reducing poverty and improving health throughout the region.
GroundFloor invests in its fellows with a three-pronged approach: financial capital, human capital and and social capital. The social capital, which connects GroundFloor’s participants with the more than 1,000 United Way corporate partners and 80 service providers, is valued at $194,500.
This year, five social entrepreneurs will be awarded a combined $300,000 in seed funding as they offer solutions in the areas of education, financial stability and health.
The Akola Project
The Akola Project, dedicated to employing and equipping women in Dallas and Uganda, will receive an investment totaling $107,500. The project vocationally trains, employs and educates women in areas of health, wellness and finance.
All sales revenues are reinvested in paying the women Akola employs, covers operations and expands Akola’s impact. This allows for 100 percent of donations to fund wrap around services that provide women with skills and support they need to succeed. After 10 years of successfully developing and implementing Akola’s hybrid model in Uganda, Akola has expanded to Dallas in order to create a pathway out of poverty for local women seeking financial stability and independence.
Bonton Farms, an urban farm focused on revitalizing the community in South Dallas by producing healthy foods and jobs, will be awarded an investment valued at $97,500. Bonton, just five miles south of downtown Dallas is located in a “food desert.” With 63 percent of residents lacking personal transportation, and the nearest grocery store a 3-hour round-trip bus ride away, residents rely on the local liquor stores for their groceries.
Bonton’s cardiovascular disease rate is 54 percent higher than that of the city of Dallas. Diabetes is 45 percent higher, stroke 61 percent higher and cancer 58 percent higher. The mission started as a small project at the home of BridgeBuilders’ Director of Urban Missions. Currently, the grassroots effort has grown into a rapidly developing urban farm, providing food, jobs, community development and restoration in Bonton.
Dallas Teacher Residency
Dallas Teacher Residency will receive an investment totaling $148,500. Dallas Teacher Residency prepares effective classroom teachers for urban schools to ensure all students are provided with a quality education, regardless of zip code.
“GroundFloor’s support is instrumental to our success, helping us provide highly effective teachers to meet the often overlooked needs of students in urban classrooms,” said Rob DeHaas, co-founder and CEO of Dallas Teacher Residency. “This generous investment will support our program’s expansion efforts, helping us serve 4,400 students in Dallas and Mesquite.”
Dallas Teacher Residency serves as a strategic response to local urban school districts’ need to recruit, prepare, and retain effective classroom teachers to serve urban students in urban classrooms. Through a year-long apprenticeship program patterned after a medical residency model, DTR is a district-based teacher education program that pairs master’s level education content with a rigorous full-year classroom apprenticeship with trained mentor teachers in urban classrooms. DTR prepares and supports teachers to successfully serve students in urban schools, ensuring that prior to having a classroom of their own, program residents are provided with the training, skillset, and on-going support necessary to best meet the needs of students in urban schools.
SafeNight will be awarded an investment valued at $78,500. SafeNight is a mobile app service that engages donors in paying for hotel rooms for domestic violence victims when local shelters are full.
The mobile service assists domestic violence organizations in the coordination needed to identify open shelter beds and engage individual donors in paying for hotel rooms when shelters are full. The service features a web-based resource coordinating system and a smartphone app to find and fund sanctuary rooms (open beds, hotel rooms, etc.) on a real-time basis for people who are in danger of violence. The program received initial support for development from Microsoft Corporate Citizenship, Blue Shield of California Foundation, and Vodafone Americas Foundation.
Society of Saint Vincent de Paul
Society of Saint Vincent de Paul will receive an investment worth $62,500 to fund its Mini Loan Program, providing relief to those financially trapped in high interest payday and auto title loans. People in the community are financially trapped by exorbitant lending rates of up to 500 percent APR of predatory lending mechanisms such as payday/auto title loans. They are increasingly unable to take care of their families and are spiraling into unending debt. The MLP breaks this cycle of debt as the Society partners with participants to convert a predatory loan into a low-interest loan.
The application process for GroundFloor’s 2017 program will open this fall.