Venture Grants for Innovative Solutions:
Addressing Anti-Black and Systemic Racism

A cornerstone of Brown’s mission is to empower our community to address persistent and significant problems. The Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA) and the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship (NCE) are partnering to bring together students from across the University to create innovative solutions that address anti-Black and systemic racism. Our partnership will empower students and other members of the Brown community from diverse backgrounds to address this challenge.

ABOUT THE PARTNERSHIP

The Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA) and the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship (NCE) are partnering to bring together students from across the University to create innovative solutions that address anti-Black and systemic racism. Dr. Tricia Rose, CSREA Director has been an advocate for the development of ideas that support the creation of a just society. Rose has emphasized that “our future fundamentally depends on how well we understand race in America. Without comprehensive teaching and research on race — our hope for just, peaceful, multi-racial, multi-ethnic democracy is in peril.”

The purpose of these grants is to build upon this deeper understanding, to identify specific problems that contribute to anti-Black and systemic racism, and to develop and test specific solutions that address those problems. In doing so, teams will be invited to draw on the resources of both centers: on CSREA to enrich their understanding of the problem and on the NCE to equip themselves with entrepreneurship resources needed to translate their ideas into real-world solutions. As NCE Director Danny Warshay ‘87 notes, “Entrepreneurship is a structured process for problem solving, and there are few problems more pressing than creating a more just society, one that addresses anti-Black and systemic racism.”

GRANT DETAILS

These Anti-Black & Systemic Racism Venture Grants are designed to support and empower teams of students to use entrepreneurship tools to design solutions that address systemic and anti-Black racism. There are few restrictions when it comes to the specific issues that a team may want to tackle, so long as they have articulated the problem and how it relates to the issue of anti-Black and systemic racism. We are also agnostic with respect to how the founders may conceive of the vehicle for delivering and sustaining their proposed solution, whether it is a for-profit, non-for-profit, or blended model. For example, tEQuitable, founded by Lisa Gelobter ‘91 is a for-profit tech company that addresses matters of bias and systemic issues in the workplace. Data for Black Lives, a non-profit founded by Yeshimabeit Milner ‘12, uses data science to create concrete and measurable change in the lives of Black people. What matters most is that teams have developed a solid grasp of the issue they want to address and have a plausible hypothesis for how they wish to solve it (however preliminary) using the entrepreneurial process.

The initial grant amount is $250, consistent with the Nelson Center’s Explore Grants, and is designed to help students better understand the problem they have identified. Often, this grant is used to conduct early “bottom up” research with relevant stakeholders who may be key to the venture’s success (end-users, industry experts, etc.). If warranted, teams may request an additional $250 as part of this initial grant amount.

Teams that have made significant progress and have achieved tangible milestones may also apply for a larger $2,500 grant, one designed to help them refine and test their hypothesized solution. This may take the form of an early prototype or other “minimum viable product,” once students have validated their initial problem hypothesis. This is consistent with the Nelson Center’s existing Expand grant offerings.

We do not require any prior entrepreneurship experience in order to apply, but we do encourage applicants to familiarize themselves with the NCE’s entrepreneurial process. If you have specific questions about the grant or your venture, you are welcome to meet with Jonas Clark, Associate Director at the Nelson Center (jonas_clark@brown.edu), or Stéphanie Larrieux, Associate Director at the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (stephanie_larrieux@brown.edu).

Requirements and Eligibility

● Founders must be enrolled as full-time undergraduate or graduate students at Brown University.
● The team has identified and can articulate the problem that they wish to solve.
● Teams are advised to watch How Structural Racism Works (2020) and How Structural Racism Works, Tricia Rose and Sam Rosen (2017) as well as read through these resources to better understand our shared definitions of Racial Equity and Anti-Black Racism.
● Teams are also advised to watch this video about the first step in the entrepreneurial process—discovering unmet needs through “bottom-up research”—provided by Danny Warshay ‘87, the Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship.
● Teams applying to this grant should demonstrate diversity in team representation. When it comes to solving problems, diversity in teams leads to better chances for success.
● While solo applicants are invited to apply, we have a preference for supporting teams of more than one person, given how challenging it is to build a venture and how important it is to have multiple sets of perspectives and skills involved in the entrepreneurship process.

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