Bridging the Opportunity Divide

This Nonprofit Helping College Students Knows What It Takes to Succeed: Information Capital Plus a Network of Mentors

October 7, 2019
by
In partnership with
Menu
This Nonprofit Helping College Students Knows What It Takes to Succeed: Information Capital Plus a Network of Mentors
college
The CEO of Braven, a startup dedicated to erasing the education-to-employment gap, has learned a thing or two about the power of mentorship.

If you were trying to get your first nonprofit off the ground, you’d probably have a lot of questions — but not necessarily the money or the expertise to answer them. So what would you do? In the case of Aimée Eubanks Davis, CEO and founder of Braven, a nonprofit that helps promising, underrepresented college students land strong jobs after graduation, you turn to GLG.

As the world’s largest knowledge marketplace, GLG gives professionals the opportunity to connect with more than 700,000 experts — a worldwide network of leaders who represent nearly every industry. For Davis, a current GLG Social Impact Fellow, that means two years of free access to GLG’s vast resources — an unparalleled opportunity to help her grow Braven by soliciting advice on the strategic and operational challenges faced by young organizations. 

Before launching Braven in 2013, Davis taught sixth grade in New Orleans with Teach For America. However, it was only when she moved into senior leadership roles for the organization that she fully realized the education-to-employment gap: specifically, that a college degree doesn’t guarantee a career. Only about a quarter of first-generation college students, students from low-income backgrounds and students of color go on to graduate school or secure a quality first job. Through Braven, Davis vowed to change that.

Braven partners with large public universities to build career education into their curriculum and give underrepresented students the skills and networks needed to succeed in the workplace. Braven also fosters a sense of community among the students they serve, along with a healthy dose of self-confidence — the soft skills, Davis realized, their affluent peers had already developed.

“They were underselling their greatness,” Davis said. “If no one tells you how to write a resume or what a cover letter looks like, you’re shooting in the dark.”

In 2014, Braven launched its first program at San José State University in California with just 14 students. In the five years since, the nonprofit has grown exponentially. Today, they’ve reached over 1,800 students at additional partner schools: Rutgers University–Newark in New Jersey and National Louis University in Chicago. 

College students enroll in an accredited course that allows them to explore their individual strengths and the career paths that might prove a good fit. They practice writing resumes, drafting cover letters, building portfolios and participating in mock job interviews. By the end of the semester, they’ll have a team of mentors whom they can turn to for help. 

It’s a support system not unlike GLG’s, Davis said. Working with the organization’s network of experts was like “hitting the jackpot on advice,” she added.

When Braven’s chief of staff asked GLG for feedback on the nonprofit’s organizational design and operating model, the response was robust — so much so that Davis said that “the input from those calls is helping to guide a two-day retreat this fall.”

Braven’s product and tech teams tapped GLG experts for their insights on building an innovation team: How should they staff it? How do they budget for innovation? Braven executives were also curious about how leaders at other companies approached staffing as their companies grew in size and scope.   

“We ended up using GLG’s input to decide on our staffing structure, the roles we would hire for and their responsibilities, and how we would distinguish core product work from innovation work,” Davis said.

Braven also relied on GLG’s expertise in shaping a new product designed for the nonprofit’s employer-partners, which include corporate heavyweights like LinkedIn, Salesforce and Charles Schwab. 

“We were able to get great insights that helped us design a pilot product suited for their rising talent,” Davis said.

Davis praised both the volume and quality of the advice and feedback Braven received through her fellowship with GLG. 

“Some of the questions we had — what it would take to get all these opinions would have been impossible [without the fellowship],” said Davis. “GLG set us up for success.”

And that’s not unlike what she and her team at Braven do for their own Fellows.

This article was paid for and produced in partnership with GLG. GLG Social Impact delivers the power of GLG’s platform to the social sector.

Comments