Reflections on Joining Echoing Green

It has been a week since my mother, Teresa Hodge, and I journeyed to New York to officially become Echoing Green (EG) Fellows and this post is my reflection on our time there and what it all means.

First, it is important to note that we received our fellowship as Mission: Launch co-founders so that we can launch R3 Score in a nonprofit/for-profit hybrid model. In case this is the first time you are hearing about this, check out this post here. I explain what R3 Score is in detail.

Also if this is the first time you are hearing about Echoing Green you can visit their webpage here. They are literally the global leader, and have been since 1987, in identifying people with potentially game changing ideas and investing them. There are so many amazing Fellows out of the nearly 800 people who have joined this network but some of the most featured are First Lady Michelle Obama (1993), Van Jones (1994), Wendy Kopp (1991), Vikrum Akula (1998) and so many others. The phrase "it is an honor to even be nominated" applies in this case because just being selected to interview is an honor. This year 2,847 people poured themselves into their applications and 35 of us were picked. Super crazy.

The onboarding process into this fellowship begins with a 6-day orientation, known as New Fellows Retreat (NFR). NFR was jammed pack (easily 10 - 13 hour days depending on how social you wanted to be) with content focused on skills building, community building and personal reflection. Our days began in community and ended in community and in between we focused on ourselves, our ideas and our journey.

Oh, we also had some Olympic level team building that included egg tosses, paper airplane battles and so many other awesome games that sound corny but totally brought us together. Check out my "orange team" teammate Antoinette Carroll's of Creative Reaction Lab team spirit photo to see how serious it was!

I've intentionally joined peer network communities that could help me develop as a leader since 2010 and eight years later I can honestly say it really is the people that you remember most. Coming home I've gone through my notes, I've followed up with business cards and I've started my skills building work outlined by my portfolio manager but it is my cohort members, alumni, the staff and the chaplains that I most remember. It is important to note that each Fellow has a portfolio manager and chaplain, which is unique to Echoing Green. This means there are people who are committed to you, your idea and holding space for you to have "non-performative spaces" - places where you don't have to be seen as a leader but just a human being. 

This level of thoughtfulness held so much honor and respect for another layer of the fellowship that I experienced. This is the first peer network fellowship community that I am joining with my mother. We've both joined communities where one of us was selected, nominated or pursued the opportunity. This is our first time applying and being selected together (here is Teresa's fellowship profile page and here is my fellowship profile page). Echoing Green made it clear from day one that while we are partners in the work we are viewed as individual Fellows. NFR allowed us to flow seamlessly between being a unit and being individuals. It was such an affirming experience and one that deeply honored how we even came to this work. 

 

As a family we sat in Alderson Federal Prison Camp many days discussing ways to rebuild our family after my mother's incarceration. In so many ways Mission: Launch has been the realization of these dialogues for so long and now that we are including R3 Score in our work it feels like our careers, as individuals and a team, are taking a big deep breath. So becoming Echoing Green Fellows for our hybrid model is a true full circle moment personally and a major validator professionally. Since 2012 we have been entrepreneurial and innovative in our reentry work and yet we were reluctant to scale until we felt like we could truly affect change at the size of the need. In full transparency, we've applied to EG twice before but never advanced to the interview round. When asked about our evolution it felt good to honestly say: this is our best idea and if this isn't a good fit for Echoing Green we totally understand but this is what we are going to do because we deeply believe it can scale to reach millions of people. I am grateful that they agreed our hybrid model is really able to change the trajectory of millions of people and that they wanted to help us get there. Curious about the hybrid model? I won't take us too far off course so check out this blog post

As our time together at NFR came to an end we packed up from the retreat venue and moved into New York City to attend Echoing Green's annual Big Bold Benefit, one part gala, one part fundraiser and one part incoming class reveal. By this point we are all feeling the love so walking into a beautiful venue to sit with nearly 400 guests and friends of Echoing Green felt like a graduation of sorts. Each of us was given an opportunity to pitch/present our work at a pre-event gathering with Board members, staff and other partners. I was also deeply honored to have been selected to present our work on the main stage event. You can check out my presentation in the video below.

I walked away feeling refreshed and actually ready to get back to work, so much so that I cancelled a vacation. I feel like I will take the time off later this Summer but for now I am ready to get to work. My mind is swimming with new ideas; my work is reenergized. This was partly seeded by the fact that we received some good news about the pilot we are building that should give some Maryland entrepreneurs with records access to banking products, specifically personal and/or business loans. 

So we are back at work and more motivated than ever to chase our mission of accelerating self-sufficiency and improving social outcomes for individuals living with criminal records.

Have you seen our video explaining R3 Score? You can view it here


We are excited for the LaunchPad + R3 Score pilot and could really use your support. If your community organization wants to partner with us in identifying area entrepreneurs, please join us. If you are interested in volunteering to support area entrepreneurs, please join us. If you know of financial institutions we should connect with, please join us. You can sign up here


We can't wait to get to work providing small business support and access to critical capital. With your tax-deductible donation today we can begin to identify area entrepreneurs ready for our CDFI partners. All donations, even $10, will matter so please consider donating. You can donate here

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Moving to a Hybrid Model

"When you're finished changing, you're finished." - Ben Franklin 

We are moving towards a nonprofit/for-profit hybrid model and we are excited about the future. Mission: Launch will remain a nonprofit deeply committed to community engagement and inclusive entrepreneurship. It will also be the founding nonprofit partner to a for-profit software company that delivers R3 Score, a risk analysis tool designed to move people beyond their criminal record.  

For several years we hosted community events and led The Rebuilding Reentry Coalition, which resulted in a national network of 400+ individuals, corporations, government agencies, nonprofits and civic coding communities. Our collective network received national and local media attention as we came together for tech-driven community problem solving. And while that was nice it only served to amplify the great need for innovative reentry solutions.

As a directly impacted mother-daughter team we have become national thought leaders, providing context in critical conversations. Indeed Teresa's 2016 TEDx Mid-Atlantic talk "We've Made Coming Home Too Hard" has been helpful in building bridges among unlikely allies. 

We have made coming home from prison entirely too hard | Teresa Hodge | TEDxMidAtlanticSalon
Video posted on YouTube by TEDx Talks

Moving from problem identification to dialogue to action led us to unearthing the significant barriers to earning an income with a criminal record. Our theories on necessity entrepreneurship in reentry challenged us to build a 4-month business accelerator program, LaunchPad. Since 2015 we have provided high touch support via technical assistance, shared workspace and leadership development training to entrepreneurs leading to the formation or growth of worker owned co-operatives, sole proprietorships and limited liability corporations throughout Maryland and Washington DC. In each of these cases we realized there are critical barriers to forming and growing a business with the main gatekeeper being the criminal background check process.

So for the last two years we have been working to determine what would it really take to create an alternative to the background check. After our time together we realized it was a major undertaking but one worth pursuing because at scale we could truly help millions of people. R3 Score provides an opportunity see systems-level change. With the help of our trusted advisors we are venturing into the formation of a new company and are planning for Teresa to transition into the core leadership of R3 Score. This transition was seeded by New Profit and John Legend's FREE AMERICA cohort, Unlocked Futures. Teresa was selected in December of 2017 to begin her transition as a result of this opportunity. 

John Legend Speaks With the Entrepreneurs of Unlocked Futures
Video posted on YouTube by LETSFREEAMERICA

How this hybrid model will play out in the real world looks like LaunchPad being revived as a weekend bootcamp rather than a 4-month business accelerator. LaunchPad will identify entrepreneurs and prepare them for mainstream banking products and services, specifically loans through community development financial institutions (CDFIs), credit unions, community banks and national commercial banks.

Our vetted financial partners will use R3 Score along with their traditional processing tools to aid them in selecting entrepreneurs to receive loans varying in size from $1,000 - $40,000. These loans are designed for personal credit building/repair, the consolidation of debt associated with ones record (debt related to child support payments, fines, fees and/or restitution) as well as small business loans. 

This model of providing support to nontraditional entrepreneurs and introducing them to financial institutions will be piloted in Baltimore, MD this year. Both organizational teams are excited about learning how to help entrepreneurs secure the financial support they need while providing market value to banking partners that are committed to non-predatory practices for this untapped customer segment.

If you are interested in learning more about R3 Score contact Teresa@R3Score.com

If you are interested in learning more about LaunchPad and the Baltimore pilot contact Laurin@Mission-Launch.org

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Introducing R3 Score

So what is R3 Score in plain language? 

R3 Score is an alternative to a standard background check. Specifically it is an online platform where individuals with records can answer a few questions and receive an equitable numerical score and report to use alongside an application for an opportunity. By creating a risk analysis tool we believe that we can improve the economic health of individuals with criminal records through an algorithm for background screening that is fair, demonstrates the strengths and capacity of individuals living with records, and expands access to jobs, entrepreneurship, and financial products.

 

Why does this matter?

The data is harsh but truly shows how having a record impacts one's ability to successful navigate in society. 

  • 9 in 10 employers use background checks [1]
  • 4 in 52 landlords use background checks on prospective tenants [2] 
  • 3 in 53 colleges and universities use background checks in admissions [3] 
  • An applicant with a criminal record is 50 percent to 63 percent less likely to get a callback or job offer [4] than an identical applicant without a record—and this effective hiring penalty increases twofold for black applicants compared with white applicants [5] 
  • Individuals’ net worth decreases by an average of more than $47,500 [6] in the years after incarceration—after adjusting for inflation—and the incarceration of a family member is associated with a 64.3 [7] percent decrease in a family’s assets
  • After incarceration, a person’s probability of homeownership drops more than 45 percent [8] relative to their never-incarcerated peers—even though the two groups’ homeownership probabilities were similar prior to incarceration

The realities of what it means to have a record collides with the fact that 70 million, or 1-in-3, Americans have a criminal record of some sort and this number is expected to grow to 100 million by 2030. The background screening process was created for criminal investigations and yet is now the standard for vetting candidates for just about every major life event. The widespread use of the wrong tool has an additional complication - criminal background reports often include inaccurate and incomplete data.  

Without intervening at this level personal bias and sweeping discrimination continues to exist. We know this because 60 - 75% of individuals remain unable to secure employment a year after their release from prison or jail. In order to see a change in our social outcomes we must get a better assessment tool into the hands of decision makers, one that includes the contents of a standard background check but goes further to provide greater context. 

But how does this fit into Mission: Launch's work?

Odds are if you are on Mission: Launch's website you are familiar with our work in the prison reentry space, maybe you attended a hackathon or you met our co-founders at a criminal justice convening. So I'm sure it seems rather unlikely that a nonprofit would be talking about technology but in our case this isn't too off the mark.

Since 2012 we have worked with the civic tech community. In fact we have contributed to a national dialogue focused on expanding access to opportunities in tech for individuals living with records (like that time we presented at SXSW on the Prison Tech Boom in 2016 and Teresa became an Open Society Fellow advocating for this very thing). We have also supported the creation of a few open-source projects, such as Clean Slate DC which was built with love by DC volunteers through Code for DC, and we've joined very strong communities like Tech Lady Hackathon and Hear Me Code to name a few.

Additionally, while promoting tech inclusion we have also worked to expand the inclusive entrepreneurship dialogue for entrepreneurs with records. The ability to earn a livable way is paramount to every building block to economic security and yet sweeping workforce discrimination means individuals with convictions have to be equipped to start even a micro-business. Since 2015 we have helped Maryland and Washington, DC entrepreneurs form or grow a business. Overwhelmingly we see how difficult it is to secure an occupational license, bid on a contract and even establish banking relationships for a personal or business loan. In each of these instances a decision maker runs a background check and most often rejects an entrepreneur with a record. So we've slowed our programming down to focus on a product that can help our entrepreneurs and so many others nationwide. We are excited to finally be able to unlock the capital they need to pursue their dreams. Curious still? Check out this post here

If you are interested in learning more about using R3 Score you can view the R3 Score Promotional Video and email Teresa@R3Score.com 

 


[1] Society for Human Resource Management, “Background Checking—The Use of Criminal Background Checks in Hiring Decisions” (2012), available at https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and- surveys/pages/criminalbackgroundcheck.aspx

[2] David Thatcher, “The Rise of Criminal Background Screening in Rental Housing,” Journal of the American Bar Foundation 33 (1) (2008): 5-30, available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1747- 4469.2008.00092.x/abstract.

[3] Center for Community Alternatives, “The Use of Criminal History Records in College Admissions” (2009), available at http://www.communityalternatives.org/pdf/Reconsidered-criminal-hist-recs-in-college-admissions.pdf.

[4] Devah Pager and Bruce Western, “Investigating Prisoner Reentry: The Impact of Conviction Status on the Employment Prospects of Young Men” (Washington: National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 2009), available at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/228584.pdf.

[5] Amanda Agan and Sonja Starr, “Ban the Box, Criminal Records, And Statistical Discrimination: A Field Experiment” (New Haven: Yale Law School, 2016), available at https://law.yale.edu/system/files/area/workshop/leo/leo16_starr.pdf.

[6] Michelle L. Maroto, “The Absorbing Status of Incarceration and its Relationship with Wealth Accumulation,” Journal of Quantitative Criminology 31 (2015): 207-236, available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272018453_The_Absorbing_Status_of_Incarceration_and_its_Relation ship_with_Wealth_Accumulation.

[7] Bryan L. Sykes and Michelle L. Maroto, “A Wealth of Inequalities: Mass Incarceration, Employment, and Racial Disparities in U.S. Household Wealth, 1996 to 2011,” The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 2 (6) (2016): 129-152, available at https://muse.jhu.edu/article/639847/pdf.

[8] Bryan L. Sykes and Michelle L. Maroto, “A Wealth of Inequalities: Mass Incarceration, Employment, and Racial Disparities in U.S. Household Wealth, 1996 to 2011,” The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 2 (6) (2016): 129-152, available at https://muse.jhu.edu/article/639847/pdf.

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PRESS RELEASE Co-founders Selected for Echoing Green 2018

Mission: Launch Co-founders Receive Fellowship Award from Echoing Green 

Laurin (Hodge) Leonard and Teresa Hodge Joins 2018 Class Of 35 Leaders Who Will Receive Grants And Strategic Support To Advance Their Groundbreaking Ideas For Tackling Pressing Challenges In Environment, Racial Justice And Other Areas

 

Baltimore, MD June 13, 2018 —Echoing Green today announced the recipients of its 2018 Fellowship for emerging leaders, providing seed funding, training, and programmatic support, and access to a large network of investors, supporters, and thought leaders to 35 for-profit and nonprofit entrepreneurs tackling the world’s most pressing issues—from systemic racism to climate change. With the help of this award, which comes with seed-funding, Laurin Leonard and Teresa Hodge will become a nonprofit and for-profit hybrid model to launch R3 Score along with their team. 

 

Their Big Bold Idea for change is to "improve the economic health of individuals with criminal records by producing an algorithm for background screening that is fair, demonstrates the strengths and capacity of individuals living with records, and expands access to jobs, entrepreneurship, and financial products."

 

This year’s Echoing Green Fellows are working on everything from harnessing artificial intelligence and data to tracking police interactions with communities of color in the U.S. to reducing plastic in the environment through innovative chemical processing techniques that allow the re-use of previously-unusable plastic waste. They come from across the globe, working in eight different countries and ten different cities and states, including Brazil, India, Kenya, Oakland, Detroit, St. Louis and more. Each Fellow has an innovative and promising solution to address urgent social and environmental challenges worldwide.

 

Echoing Green selected the 35 talented winners from a pool of 2,847 individual applicants proposing work in 155 different countries. View the full list of 2018 Fellows here: http://www.echoinggreen.org/fellows/introducing2018

 

“We believe in supporting not just the big ideas for positive social change, but in investing in the bold and talented people behind them,” said Echoing Green President Cheryl L. Dorsey. “That’s why Echoing Green is creating an ecosystem to support our past, present, and future Fellows with the tools they need to thrive. We are excited to welcome the 2018 class into a lifelong support network that can help make their ideas reality for years into the future.”

 

Mission: Launch is committed to creating earned income opportunities through entrepreneurship for individuals with criminal records. In this work they have come to discover how having a record makes it nearly impossible to navigate around the background screening process when trying to pursue an occupational license, bidding on contract vehicles and even when pursuing startup capital from traditional financial institutions. To address this they have established a pipeline whereby Mission: Launch will identify entrepreneurs and provide assistance in preparing them for mainstream banking products and services as well as loans through community development financial institutions (CDFIs), community banks and national commercial banks. With this community touch these entrepreneurs will be ready to be introduced to vetted financial partners who will use R3 Score along with their traditional loan processing tools. R3 Score is a strengths-based, risk analysis tool designed to provide context about an individual with a record that goes beyond a standard background screening process. 

 

This innovative strategy will work to demonstrate how a standard background check disqualifies the 1-in-3 Americans with an arrest and/or conviction record from receiving critical reentry opportunities. Currently 2.2 million individuals are incarcerated, costing taxpayers $80 billion a year, and disproportionately this includes communities of color. Up to 60% of formerly incarcerated individuals are still not employed one year after release, and partly as a result, more than four out of ten return to prison within three years.

 

"We have been entrepreneurial in our work since 2012 and Echoing Green is a community that we deeply respect so this is a major honor for us", says Laurin Leonard. "Indeed, we knew there was no better place for us to launch this one-of-kind online platform, R3 Score, than with Echoing Green. They have provided unwavering support to some of our country's most inspiring leaders building solutions that have changed our world. This is humbling for us and our entire team", says Teresa Hodge. 

 

Echoing Green is a global organization that identifies social entrepreneurs with the greatest potential to make lasting change and invests deeply in their success. The organization provides seed funding of up to $90,000 and leadership support for two years to accelerate the growth of high-potential leaders and their organizations. As a Fellowship awardee, Teresa and Laurin will join a lifelong global network of philanthropists, investors, and entrepreneurs.

 

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For more information, Contact LAURIN LEONARD, 202-449-4677, Laurin@Mission-Launch.org

About Mission: Launch, Inc.

Tagline: Technology for social good. Impact through coalition. Stories igniting empathy.

Vision: We envision an America that restores equity and creates sustainable opportunities for fresh starts so that citizens facing barriers due to an arrest and/or conviction record can live out their full potential by rejoining society and contributing in meaningful ways.  

Mission: Accelerate self-sufficiency for Americans facing discrimination due to criminal justice system connections.

Issue Focus: Poverty alleviation, workforce/economic development for disadvantaged individuals due to criminal justice system connections

Twitter:www.twitter.com/mission_launch

Facebook:www.facebook.com/missionlaunch

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/missionlaunch

 

 

About Echoing Green: Echoing Green identifies tomorrow’s transformational leaders today. Through its Fellowships and other innovative leadership initiatives, Echoing Green spots

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USA Today Op-ed | Changing Hiring Practices

"Before serving more than five years in a federal prison, I worked in human resources in various capacities. I know firsthand that HR departments are designed to discriminate. It's a matter of practicality. When a hundred applications come in for a single job, it’s impossible to move forward without developing some criteria, some system to whittle the pile down to a workable list."

Check out the USA Today Op-ed post released today by our co-founder, Teresa Hodge, HERE.

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