1. What is your new, innovative idea to create lasting social change? Be clear, specific, and jargon-free in your answer.
Help Text: Pretend that a friend who knows little about your field asks you to explain your idea. How would you describe your idea to them? This is the approach you should take with this question.
2. What drew you to this issue? When and how did you come up with your idea?
Help Text: Echoing Green’s book, Be Bold, talks about having a "moment of obligation." This is the moment at which a person identifies the things that truly matter to them and then commit to carrying them out. Walk us through your moment of obligation and tell us where your idea came from (e.g., did it come from first-hand experience or hearing about the issue second-hand, did you develop it with others?) and how it has evolved, if applicable.
For inspiration, read about Echoing Green Fellow David Lewis’s moment of obligation in Be Bold.
3. As specifically as possible, demonstrate the need for your organization. Use statistics and references.
Help Text: Identify the problem that you intend to address and explain why it’s significant. Provide information substantiating that the need exists, when possible, through the use of statistics or quotes from experts or constituents. Tell us about the lives of the population your organization will serve. Because your response is limited in length, it is acceptable to identify your references without providing the full level of detail (e.g., publisher, volume number, page number) that you would provide in a footnote.
4. What’s the root cause of this problem? How does your idea tackle this root cause?
Help Text: A root cause is the primary source of a problem and also the ultimate obstacle to fixing it. If you could neutralize the root cause, you could eliminate the problem. Be careful not to confuse the root cause with the symptoms of the root cause, however!
Think of a medical analogy: You go to the doctor with a big problem – you can barely speak. Your symptoms are clear – you have a sore, scratchy throat. Now, if the doctor bases her solution solely on the symptoms and gives you a cough drop, you may feel better for a little while, but your problem will soon come back. However, if your doctor thinks about the problem more carefully and goes beyond the symptoms, she will be able to diagnose the root cause of the symptoms – strep throat. And thus, by providing a solution that addresses the root cause – antibiotics – she can ultimately solve the problem.
Here’s an example for the SEED School, an organization funded by Echoing Green:
• Problem: Students from low-income areas in Washington, DC aren’t graduating from high school at the same rate as their peers from wealthier areas.
• Symptoms: Low attendance rates, poor student performance in school, homework is often not completed
• Root Cause: Students are not receiving proper nutrition, don’t have a quiet place to study at home, and aren’t getting reasonable amounts of sleep at night. These issues manifest themselves in the symptoms listed above and ultimately lead to the problem of high school dropouts.
• Solution: The SEED School addresses the root cause of poor educational outcomes by providing a comprehensive urban boarding school for its students. Students receive three quality meals a day, after-school support, and a structured environment for study and rest. As a result, they don’t suffer from the same symptoms listed above and graduate at higher levels than their peers. The problem is addressed by starting with the root cause.
5. Help Echoing Green visualize what your organization will do. Describe the specific programs that your organization will engage in to deliver your long-term outcomes.
Help Text: What will your work look like? Think about a member of the population served by your organization and tell us how they will experience your
programs. And be specific enough that you’re not just repeating your idea over again, but actually explaining how your idea will work.
For instance, Teach For America, which received seed funding from Echoing Green, has two main programs: First, they recruit the best and brightest college graduates to teach for two years in high-need school districts. They prepare them via an intensive summer training institute, give them on-the-job support from master teachers, and consistently evaluate their students’ performance to ensure high achievement. Secondly, after their corps members complete their two-year commitment, Teach For America runs an extensive alumni engagement program. They support corps members who stay in the education profession with resources and networking, communicate with those who have left the profession to keep them engaged with the organization, and build a movement of leaders within education and outside to advocate for greater educational opportunity for all of America’s children.
6. Describe your long-term desired outcomes. How will you measure your progress toward these outcomes?
Help Text: How will the world be different because of your work? Be as specific as possible in describing the outcomes you will generate (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions will be cut by 25% in 10 years, all Nigerians will have access to clean drinking water by 2020, New Orleans will be ranked as having the best school system in the country).
Then, connect your outcomes to an evaluation system that will measure your performance. Identify the documented data you will use to establish a baseline at the outset of your work. If data sources do not exist, explain the methods that you will use to establish your own data source. Describe how you will collect and track this information over time. For instance, if you are trying to reduce greenhouse gasses, you would want to mention current levels, describe how you will measure them in the future, and also explain your plan to record secondary data that will ultimate generate your desired outcomes (e.g., the number of people who have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint).
7. Innovation is important to Echoing Green. Explain how your idea is truly innovative. Identify other organizations that are addressing this issue and how your approach is different and has the potential to be more effective.
Help Text: It is very likely that there is a wide variety of organizations and entities, from local community organizations to governmental agencies, that deliver services to the constituency/community that you have identified. It is also possible that one or more organizations are focused on the same area of need, either in your community or outside of your community. How is your idea for social change different from the ideas already at work? Why do you think your idea will be more successful than the others? Feel free to quote experts or publications that validate your assertion.
8. Building a new organization is challenging. How are you entrepreneurial? Describe your skills and experiences that demonstrate you can lead a start-up organization.
Help Text: To successfully start and run a new organization, you need to be a good entrepreneur, leader, and manager. Each of these roles requires different skills. Thus, think about your experiences and describe a time when you were able to start something new, when you influenced others to join you in a challenging endeavor, and when you managed different people working toward a common goal.
9. Why are you uniquely qualified to lead your specific organization? Describe your experience working with this issue and population.
Help Text: Why you? Why now? What is driving you to take on this challenge and why is this the right moment?
Be sure to include any experiences you’ve had working in this field and geographic area, if applicable, as well as any experiences you’ve had with the population that you will serve. Please be specific about the duration of your experience and the capacity that you served in.
10. How much money have you fundraised to date? Who is your largest funder and what is the size of their grant? Provide an estimate of your total budget for each of the next two fiscal years.
Help Text: Please give us an honest assessment of your current financial situation and realistic estimates of your future budgets. However, if you have yet to raise any money or develop a sophisticated budget, don’t worry. We fund entrepreneurs at all points within the start-up phase and just want to get a sense of where your organization currently stands.