by Layla Avila

There are a laundry list of polarizing issues in the education field today: Charter vs. non-charter; union vs. anti-union; testing vs. no testing; the need to focus on schools vs. poverty. Unfortunately, students get caught in the crosshairs of these debates—particularly students of color and lower income students. We founded EdLoC to lead inclusive efforts that cut through this toxic polarization with Third Way Values and solutions. We focus on bridging divides and advancing innovative ideas that transform the education and life outcomes of our most vulnerable students and achieve the educational equity they deserve.

This month, we’re expanding those efforts by putting our money where our mouth is. Introducing the Boulder Fund: a venture fund exclusively for EdLoC members with the purpose of investing in education leaders of color launching or expanding innovative third way solutions to some of our most pressing issues in the field. Our goal as an organization is to create an education field that worries less about which side of a debate we’re on and more about solutions. To do that, we need leaders who align with our third way thinking and have the support to start and nurture their ideas and initiatives.

Our one year grants range from $100,000 to $150,000. Among the projects we seek to fund are those looking at the intersection of education and other critical social issues such as the school-to-prison-pipeline or the creation of more culturally responsive schools and curriculums. We hope to support initiatives and new organizations attracting, strengthening and developing pipelines for leaders of color in education and related fields as well as invest in partnerships with community based organizations engaged in community development projects in which education improvements figures prominently.

We are also interested in collaboration, partnership and mentorship. One of the questions on our application asks: What is a particular area where you could use support? We hope to leverage our extensive EdLoC network to provide support to help our grantees meet their objectives; whether that be in the form of mentors working in similar avenues or through facilitating partnerships with members already knee-deep in the fight to advance common goals.

While many of us in this space who grew up in the communities we serve have been blessed with academic and professional success, the opportunity gaps we experienced as students don’t exactly go away as adults. Oftentimes, the first check is the hardest to come by for entrepreneurs, particularly entrepreneurs of color without long-standing ties and access to the philanthropic community. We hope the Boulder Fund serves to get projects off the ground, opens doors for additional outside support, and makes the larger philanthropic community take notice of the potential of our third way leaders of color and their ideas.

We are also working hard on our end to make sure we can expand our own support. Our Board of Directors has set a goal for the next three years to build a $10 million dollar fund that will help support the Boulder Fund over the long term. As an executive team made up of education leaders supported by longstanding relationships in the funding community, it is our responsibility to support the next generation of leaders carrying the torch by positioning them to drive the innovation needed not only to sustain their initial efforts but scale them to far greater heights than they imagined.

Our application period will wrap up in November. In the coming months we’ll share with you the exciting projects the Boulder Fund will help support. Stay tuned!