The time to build opportunities for next-generation leaders of color advancing racial justice is now. Getting there depends on our ability to come together across sectors and meet the moment together. By engaging stakeholders across sectors, including social entrepreneurs, corporate partners, and intermediaries, in the racial equity movement, we can ensure that we’re creating the new and shared value required to act against racial injustice and create a better future for all.

This is why I appreciated the opportunity to join Comcast’s Associate Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Community Impact Gwyneth Gaul and 2016 Echoing Green fellow and Founder of Gameheads Damon Packwood to share perspectives on the work we are doing to resource underfunded entrepreneurs, advance digital equity, and drive economic mobility for communities of color.

On February 10, the Social Innovation Summit convened a conversation on the role social innovation can play in advancing racial equity – bringing together three perspectives that are actively driving change in the space.

At Echoing Green, we launched a $75M Racial Equity Philanthropic Fund to invest in social entrepreneurs. These leaders see possibilities in the face of urgent challenges and are compelled to take action. Through the Fund, Echoing Green will deliver training and programming to 5,000 emerging social innovators and engage 10,000 corporate employees, including those at Comcast, to support social innovation. We launched our Invest in Black Leaders campaign to help us achieve the Fund’s ambitious goals, which includes our efforts to drive capital and resources to 500 social enterprises advancing racial justice globally. Our aim is to create viable pathways for all who care about social progress to invest in the impact, visions, and power of innovators building a world where all people can thrive.

At Comcast, supporting underserved entrepreneurs is central to our overall equity commitment. “We believe in a holistic set of supports. We're making philanthropic investments with Echoing Green because it allows us to collectively support the work of hundreds of social entrepreneurs. And our initiatives like Comcast RISE recognize the value of capital paired with services and infrastructure to succeed” said Gwyneth Gaul, Associate Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Community Impact at Comcast.

Gameheads Founder Damon Packwood is a best-in-class social entrepreneur making room for bold new voices in the video game industry. Training diverse talent with critical video game design and tech skills, Gameheads equips youth of color with the resources necessary to thrive in the tech industry and the innovation economy. Our discussion was a stark reminder of the impact we’re leaving on the table because we’re asking Damon and his team to go out into the world not fully capitalized. “Obviously the capital is important. It goes beyond capital; it goes beyond mentorship. Providing the training is the easy part. It's the wraparound services [for our students]. That's the most important. Lately the thing that's been the most standout is mental health and focusing on mental health services for our students and staff, especially since the pandemic.”

We need to do more to make the marketplace work for leaders like Damon. Committed companies like Comcast are joining us in in three essential commitments to resourcing visionary social entrepreneurs:

  • Take a “funding and” approach: Provide entrepreneurs with capital and access to holistic supports including training, strategic advising, social networks, formal and informal field events, and the infrastructure to grow and scale their businesses.
  • Leverage business leaders: By connecting thousands of business leaders that sit in extraordinary companies like Comcast with skills-based volunteering and social innovation frameworks, we can make them true partners in our collective goal of a more just, equitable, and sustainable world.
  • Catalyze the next generation of young entrepreneurs: By creating onramps to social innovation and providing programming that helps emerging leaders come into their own as change agents, we can activate young people at scale in transformational change efforts.

As our conversation demonstrated, closing the capital gap for entrepreneurs of color is a solvable problem. But we must act with urgency, using all the levers at our disposal to be part of a movement that brings unrestricted capital and resources to leaders set on a steady course to dismantle systemic racism and oppression worldwide.  

Cheryl L. Dorsey is the President of Echoing Green, a global nonprofit focused on finding the brightest leaders with the best and boldest ideas for social change and supporting their success through their fellowship program and programs like the Racial Equity Philanthropic Fund.

Learn more about the Echoing Green’s Invest in Black Leaders campaign and short documentary, Unwavering: The Power of Black Innovation, which premiered as a special on NBC owned and affiliated stations in February and features Black social innovators like Damon Packwood.

Comcast NBCUniversal’s partnership with Echoing Green is part of Project UP, the company’s comprehensive initiative to advance digital equity and help build a future of unlimited possibilities.