With its creativity, flexibility, and mission-driven focus, philanthropy can be a linchpin, capable of bringing together the public sector’s authority and agenda-setting power and the private sector’s financial resources and dynamism.

This was the clear lesson learned during the launch of the NYC Boss Up program to help entrepreneurs living in NYCHA housing expand their businesses. The program provides $20,000 grants and business development courses to the winners of a “Shark Tank”-style competition.

The program addresses a common obstacle facing low-income entrepreneurs: lack of access to capital to launch or expand a promising business. Starting a full-blown, full-time business is always difficult, but especially without seed capital that often comes from family wealth or small business loans. Most public housing residents do not have the collateral or documented business track record that it takes to access those resources.

Entrepreneurship should be a vital pathway for public housing residents to boost incomes and build wealth. Side hustles and home-based businesses offer an alternative to the longstanding barriers many public housing residents face in accessing well-paying jobs.

While many philanthropic initiatives are driven by the passions of funders working in isolation, the Boss Up initiative was informed by a deep engagement with the issues and the landscape.  Inspired by research from Center for an Urban Future, a policy think tank which identified the entrepreneurship opportunities open to NYCHA residents, we combined existing programs and capabilities from government and nonprofits with new financial resources to create a unique, impactful program.

The Boss Up program is an example of philanthropy at its best and it should prompt all of us to think differently about how we work. If we can form more connections between imaginative donors, entrepreneurial nonprofits, and the public sector there is no limit to the new, creative solutions we can develop to improve people’s lives.

Read the full article about philanthropy and collaboration by Sam Marks at CityLimits.