On November 12, the Austin Impact Accelerator welcomed a crowded room of community leaders and social impact experts from all sectors in Austin. Our accelerator is a 5-month program that invites initiatives focused purposefully and primarily on workforce development and affordability in Austin.
Impact Hub Austin has developed this program to be deliberately different from other accelerators. Instead of exclusively focusing on the acceleration of a venture, program, or startup — we intentionally and collectively focus on the issues of affordability and workforce development.
On Community Showcase night the participants of the accelerator pitch their projects. All of the participants have unique solutions to more targeted problems within these two tent-pole issues.
Read on to learn about how these nine ventures are working towards a more equitable, accessible, innovative city.
Participant: E4 Youth: Digital Docents
Austin is losing its history. At the same time, young adults of color are being left out of the creative economy.
In Central Texas, young adults only have a 12% chance of earning a living wage without a postsecondary credential. And in Travis County, 11,000 young adults are disconnected from education and employment.
“If a kid of color says they want to be an engineer or a lawyer or a doctor, everybody’s happy,” E4 Youth founder Carl Settles said in a recent interview with Built in Austin. “But if a kid likes to do music, like me, their parents and teachers are really just trying to talk them out of pursuing their creativity, and it becomes a way of disenfranchising these students because they don’t feel like they’re being seen. And, at a certain point, they disconnect from education.”
E4Youth has created its Digital Docent initiative. The Digital Docent initiative lets college-age students build out their digital media portfolios by collecting and digitizing oral histories from older people of color in the Austin community. It’s called the Austin Digital Heritage project, and it integrates with local landmarks so passerby can point their smartphones and access stories about the people who lived and worked in the area.
Ask: $500,000 to train and employ youth of color, collect and curate 150+ oral histories of older residents of color, and to host multi-generational events that celebrate and explore their history
Participant: Austin Justice Coalition: Complete Communities
Displacement is happening in Austin. And it’s happening mainly to people of color along the familiar Eastern Crescent. The UT Uprooted Study, identified five signs that identify people who are vulnerable to displacement; people of color, renters, low-income folks, people who lack higher education, and children in poverty.
AJC asked the audience what they want Austin to look like in 20 years. Do we want to see a homogenous, exclusive and unwelcoming city? Or do we want to see a thriving, diverse city that welcomes people from all backgrounds and statuses?
Their Complete Communities initiative strives to reverse the effect of displacement and create a complete community in Austin. They define a Complete Community by: a community that values its members, does not displace for profit, does not endorse policies that lead to economic segregation, and value its legacies. People are free to choose where they live, but they are not free from responsibilities to the community they’ve moved into.
AJC is working towards a Complete Community in Austin, and this is done through 1). listening to the community, providing tools, and creating new policies that support people as a priority and disrupts the status quo.
Ask: $300,000 to fund the first year of the Complete Communities Initiative
Participant: Diva-Licious Brands
Angela Shelf Medearis, known as The Kitchen Diva asked the room how many people knew someone (or if they themselves) have been affected by Type II diabetes. It’s no surprise that there were a lot of hands that went up. More than 100 million Americans have diabetes or pre-diabetes according to the Center for Disease Control. And this disproportionately affects people of color.
Diva-Licious Brands has a three-tiered process in creating better health outcomes and jobs for people in Austin. Currently, they’re working with mentors and advisers on the following developing recipes for Diva-Licious Brands packaged food products and meal kit lines.
And they will launch of the first DIVA-LICOUS! Mini-Mart/Restaurant pilot store and area resident employee training program in East Austin in Fall, 2020.
Ask: Diva-Licious is looking for investors and mentors who are well-versed in the CPG space to assist with securing a $500,000 investment, and partners to create a legacy of health world-wide.
Participant: Survive2Thrive Foundation’s SANCTUARY Web Application
Domestic violence is a displacement and homelessness issue due to emergency shelters lacking capacity. Nationally 11,441 people have been turned away from emergency shelters in one day. And about 42% of people will be turned away from shelters in Texas.
The SANCTUARY web and mobile app is unique because it leverages the private market to fill a social need. The SANCTUARY web and mobile app provides immediate and accurate information to first responders and the many communities in crisis they serve. This project has already served over 5,000 families and is projected to serve a total of $7,000 in 2020.
Ask: $384,000 to develop SANCTUARY out to support the expected increase in client workload, and hire the needed personnel to support the platform and the expected increase in client workload.
Participant: The Other Ones Foundation
Chris Baker, The Other Ones Foundation Executive Director asked the audience directly if they knew someone with a mental health or substance abuse issue. Hands went up. He went on to say that these two issues are what people assume cause people to become homeless. He then asked the crowd to keep their hands raised if the person they were thinking of was homeless. Hands went down.
Homelessness is a front and center issue in Austin. Underneath TxDOT’s removal procedures, and our mayor fighting with our governor via tweet, are people who just need a hand up and stronger support network. That’s where The Ones Foundation comes in.
They offer extremely low barrier employment to people experiencing homelessness. They pair this with a personalized service plan that helps clients navigate resources and acquire needed materials to move forward on their journey towards stable housing and income. Since they began, workers have received over $115,000 in compensation. Nearly 117,000 lbs of trash have been removed from Austin parks. And, 26 people have moved into stable housing.
Ask: $700,000 of unrestricted funding to support direct rental assistance, and employment pipeline, and overall stability to people experiencing homelessness.
Participant: Haven Connect
There’s currently no digital trackable way to manage affordable housing applications, which can range anywhere from 3 to 3,000 per unit. Because landlords have to contact every applicant; the process is long and people can be on waitlists anywhere from 2-10 years on average.
Haven Connect streamlines the affordable housing application process for applicants and property managers. Haven Connect provides a user-friendly online platform for individuals searching for affordable housing to quickly identify open waitlists and apply to multiple lists using data auto-fill. For property managers, they help fill vacancies faster by using automated workflows and easy applicant communication tools.
Ask: Haven Connect is looking for referrals/intros to affordable housing properties (in Texas and nationwide) and advice on scaling sales/growing their sales teams with a longer sales cycle.
Participant: Equidad ATX – Equidad Express
“Imagine someone knocking at your door and telling you you need to leave your neighborhood, your community, your home. Imagine this was all asked of you because the color of your skin.
That’s what the 1928 Master Plan did to black and brown folks in Austin.” Ashton Cumberbatch, the founder of Equidad ATX opened his presentation. The Eastern Crescent of Austin has historically, (and at times intentionally) been under resourced.
Cumberbatch went on to talk about urban deserts; and how organizations in Central Texas are working to serve communities along the Eastern Crescent with mobile solutions. Mobile solutions include healthcare, grocery stores, libraries, professional services, among other services. The problem is the lack of coordination between them.
Equidad ATX has created a mobile ecosystem to help these coordinated efforts, in order for communities to have more access to needed services. They’ll have more agency and dignity in their decision to access this services, too. Equidad Express is not a replacement for, but a bridge until better resources are built and serving communities in urban deserts. And Cumberbatch assured the audience that they are fighting for that to happen.
Ask: Equidad ATX needs $572,500 in funding for a project manager’s salary for years 2 and 3. They are converting a donating CapMetro bus to a mobile grocery, and that requires funding for conversion and operating the bus.
Participant: Prowess Project
43% of women leave the workforce to raise a family. After just three years, a mother’s compensation power is decreased by 37%. And 97% of moms say they would return back to their jobs if it required more flexibility.
“Flexibility is not just the ability to work from home or change their office hours. Flexibility requires a new way of thinking about how moms can reenter the workforce.” Reginald Herde, an advisory to Prowess Project said.
Prowess Project offers certification and training, continued education, and training for moms who are looking to reenter the workforce. Prowess Project connects women to companies; and the companies receive certified vetted talent, low-risk project-based hiring, and behavior-style compatibility.
Ask: Prowess Project is looking for companies looking for contract talent, women who have taken a pause and are looking for empowering work, and angel investors to further build the technology and spread the word.
Unemployment rates among the formally incarcerated are low. This community is 10x more likely to experience homelessness and has a 63% chance of being re-arrested within 3 years of their release. But education can change that. Prisoners who receive education while incarcerated are 43% less likely to return to prison. There is also a 13% higher chance of gaining employment. Currently, prisoners lack educational content that they can own and use on their own time.
Level creates free high-quality educational content sent at scale directly to inmates. Level utilizes a pre-existing distribution system to get educational materials directly to inmates. Their materials are primarily focused on three areas; job training, high school equivalency, and personal development.
Ask: Level is asking for $175,000 to fund the next year of development. In 12 months they will create 12 new guides and distribute to 30,000 inmates for free.