In 2019, Blue Meridian piloted an investing approach designed to provide visionary social sector leaders with the flexible resources – both coaching and capital – to accelerate their readiness to significantly scale their reach, impact, and influence. At that time, we couldn’t have anticipated the tumult ahead and the enormous challenges the next year would bring. Yet the COVID-19 crisis only underscored the urgency of our work and the importance of The Studio @ Blue Meridian as a central pillar of Blue Meridian’s commitment to innovation and experimentation in pursuit of our mission: Improving the economic mobility of young people and families trapped in poverty.
From the start of The Studio, we have relied on the experience of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and PropelNext – as well as the guidance of other earlier stage funders and intermediaries in this space, including Echoing Green and New Profit – to refine and shape our approach. The Studio’s initial investments in a set of outstanding organizations preparing for future transformative scaling not only reflected the learnings we’ve derived from others, but also underscored our commitment to fill gaps in the social sector market – especially for leaders of color – and build a pipeline of organizations ready to overcome barriers to scale.
And now, as we take stock of our progress, we are gratified to see that our intentional approach has paid off: Through an independent evaluation, leaders of organizations highly rated their participation in The Studio, sharing that the experience provided them with the support of “critical thought partners” as well as the “space and encouragement to think big.” Building on this positive feedback and success to date, we welcomed a new cohort of organizations to The Studio this past winter. We worked closely with these organizations, pairing them with a set of expert advisers as they asked tough questions of themselves and determined what to test in their models – a process which ultimately produced clear action plans that serve as living roadmaps for testing solutions to barriers holding them back from reaching transformative scale.
These investments reflect key priorities for Blue Meridian Partners: Pursuing an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and closing funding gaps in the social sector marketplace. With COVID-19 exacerbating longstanding economic disparities, we believe it is critical to adapt both our short- and long-term investing strategies and address urgent needs arising from the pandemic. The Studio is especially focused on supporting leaders and organizations working with communities hit hardest by the pandemic. Our latest investments fall into three areas: Financial security, learning continuity, and workforce development.
The Studio was designed to fill gaps in the social sector capital market that limit the resources available for successful organizations looking to test and further refine their approaches. While the flow of capital is inadequate for most leaders at this stage, research has shown that it’s especially lacking for Black, Indigenous, and Latina/o leaders whose work is often undervalued or overlooked. The Studio is committed to addressing systemic racial inequities and investing in organizations with diverse leadership teams that reflect the communities they serve and have lived experience shaped by the problems they seek to solve.
Over the last two years, The Studio has made investments totaling nearly $150 million in 16 participating organizations. In line with Blue Meridian’s performance-based investing approach, we typically provide up to $10 million in unrestricted funds for each organization to implement their multi-year plan of action.
Blue Meridian is committed to the continued evolution and expansion of investments under The Studio and to supporting more organizations that are seeking to ready themselves to scale their promising solutions to the problems that trap so many in poverty.
We believe that in order to propel a truly equitable recovery from the overlapping crises from the last year, we need to invest in leaders who are successfully driving economic mobility for children and families in poverty and provide them with the tailored support and expedient access to capital they need, with an emphasis on opportunities for quicker action and impact. There is no one solution to intergenerational poverty; in the months and years ahead, we will look for additional ways to collaborate and learn from other funders, intermediaries, and social sector leaders in pursuit of our mission and in service of building a society where everyone is empowered to achieve their full potential.
Learn more about The Studio at Blue Meridian.