Announcing the ‘21 Promising Ventures Fellowship Cohort

Since the pandemic began, we’ve witnessed unprecedented changes in how we work and live, changes that have had a tremendous influence on the early childhood space. We’ve seen a country at war with an unrelenting virus, tremendous economic hardship, an overdue reckoning with racism and discrimination; we’ve seen the disruption of child care services and school, and we’ve seen so much of what we had taken for granted become much more difficult and time-consuming.

2021 Promising Ventures FellowsWe’ve also seen tremendous room for opportunity. As Winston Churchill once said, “never waste a good crisis,” and there are a number of non- and for-profits in the early childhood space that have stepped up to meet the moment and innovate in healthcare equity, childcare workforce development, early education, and so much more. We believe it’s our responsibility to support the organizations and individuals driving meaningful change in the space, especially at this moment,  and it is for that reason, for the second year in a row, Sesame Workshop and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center partnered with Promise Venture Studio and Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child to host the Promising Ventures Fellowship.

The Promising Ventures Fellowship is a fellowship program that provides best-in-class entrepreneurs and leaders in early childhood development with intensive support to make progress against ambitious goals to scale their programming and grow their impact. This year’s fellowship kicked off in early September and we’re thrilled to announce the members of the 2021 Promising Ventures class:

  • Birth Detroit, a nonprofit  that designs, operates, and scales Black-led birth centers and midwifery clinics to provide safe, quality, loving care through pregnancy, birth and beyond (Leseliey Welch)
  • Duolingo ABC, a venture that offers fun, free virtual lessons to help kids ages 3-8 learn to read! (Daniel Falabella)
  • Family Engagement Lab, a national nonprofit that catalyzes equitable family engagement and student learning by bridging classroom curriculum and at-home learning  (Vidya Sundaram and Dr. Elisabeth O’Bryon)
  • HealthConnect One, a nonprofit that collaborates with Black, brown, and indigenous communities to ensure birth equity through community-based doula and breastfeeding support programs (Dr. Twylla Dillion and Zainab Sulaiman)
  • The Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation, an academic institute that trains early educators in entrepreneurial leadership and studies systems to support impact at scale (Dr. Anne Douglass and Amanda Lopes)
  • The Hunt Institute, an early childhood education policy support to state elected and administrative policymakers (Dr. Dan Wuori)
  • Kiddo, the first career marketplace for the early childhood education industry  (Melissa Tran and Emma Harris)
  • La Fuerza de Familias Latinas, a nonprofit that inspires and supports Spanish-speaking families to promote their children’s early learning and social-emotional growth with research-based tools and content in language and in culture  (Michelle Lopez and Anthony Tassi)
  • TrainingGrounds, a free drop-in center for families in Orleans Parish that provides quality learning experiences for parents, caregivers and children from birth to age 5 (Melanie Richardson and Christine Neely)
  • Raising a Reader, a nonprofit that engages caregivers in a routine of book sharing with their children from birth through age eight to foster healthy brain development, healthy relationships, a love of reading, and the literacy skills critical for school success (Michelle Torgerson and Michelle Sioson Hyman)

Over the course of the fellowship, fellows will work with coaches and mentors from the Sesame, Promise and Harvard teams to refine their theories of change, learn from the communities they hope to serve, identify new markets, and so much more. They’ll not only consider what their individual ventures can do; they’ll also explore what is collectively possible by forging new partnerships and identifying new opportunities for connection and development. We believe that these ventures are not only capable of having great impact, but that their work will influence the conversation in early childhood for the remainder of the pandemic and beyond.

Please join us in congratulating the Promising Ventures fellows!

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