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REDF Accelerator

Accelerating growth & impact

A unique program designed specifically for the leaders of employment social enterprise

Applications for our Summer 2023 cohort are now open and reviewed on a rolling basis, so don’t wait to apply!

Are you a leader of an employment social enterprise? A business that generates revenue from the sale of a product or service and provides paid employment to individuals breaking through barriers to work. Are you poised for growth and greater impact? Are you looking to strengthen your program and your bottom line? Would you like to build a community of support with like-minded peers?

The REDF Accelerator was built with you in mind.

Described as a “mini-MBA,” the REDF Accelerator is a five-month, hands-on program designed to equip social enterprise leaders with the connections, skills, and tools to grow their enterprises and increase the number of meaningful jobs they create. 

During this highly interactive five-month program, you’ll work alongside your peers to learn and put into practice the methods, skills, and tools needed to achieve big goals and reach key milestones. And there’s no fee to participate. 

The benefits don’t end after those five months―once you have successfully completed the REDF Accelerator, you will receive a $20,000 grant to implement some of the high-impact lessons learned during the Accelerator. You’ll also become part of the REDF Community of 150+ leading employment social enterprises located around the country, gaining access to additional skill-building resources, capacity building from the REDF team, and the opportunity to continue to learn alongside your peers. 

Note: The next REDF Accelerator will be held in a hybrid model of in-person & virtual. While we are currently planning for some in-person cohort convenings, we are following the recommendations of the CDC for all guidance around large in-person convenings. With this in mind, our in-person convenings may be converted to virtual convenings. Our decisions will prioritize the health and safety of our leaders and staff. Hear from Accelerator alums about the changes REDF made to build the virtual Accelerator experience in 2020. 

How to Apply

The REDF Accelerator is now reviewing applications (apply here!) on a rolling basis for two cohorts per year. We will accept applicants on a first-come first-serve basis and place them into one of two upcoming cohorts: Winter (Jan – May) or Summer (Jul – Nov). Cohort spots do fill up so apply as soon as possible.

The stages of our rolling application review process are:

  • Stage 1: Eligibility Screening
    • To access the Accelerator application all applicants complete an eligibility screening. We may reach out to you if there are any questions or clarifications around your eligibility.
  • Stage 2: Application 
    • The Accelerator team reviews applications once they are submitted.
  • Stage 3: Interviews 
    • All qualified applicants will be invited to sign up to interview with an Accelerator team member.
  • Stage 4: Notification
    • You will receive a decision on your application within 8 weeks of submitting your application.
  • Stage 5: Placement 
    • If you are accepted into the REDF Accelerator and you accept you will be offered a placement into one of two of our upcoming cohorts.

Key Dates for 2023 Program

  • Applications Open for Winter 2023 & Summer 2023 Cohort: July 7, 2022
  • REDF Accelerator Program – Informational Webinar: July 15, 2022 (recording & materials here)
  • Last Day to be Considered for Summer 2023 Cohort: March 21, 2023

NOTE: We are no longer accepting applications for our Winter 2023 cohort (Jan – May), but are still accepting applications for our Summer 2023 cohort (Jul – Nov). Applications for our 2023 cohorts are reviewed on a rolling basis. 

  • Winter 2023 Cohort: Running from January through May 2023, with cohort convenings sessions on:
    • January 23-27 (in-person)
    • March 13-17 (virtual)
    • May 1-5 (in-person)
  • Summer 2023 Cohort: Running from July through November 2023, with cohort convenings on:
    • July 31 – Aug 4 (in-person: Bay Area, CA)
    • September 25-29 (virtual)
    • November 13-17 (in-person)

 

If you have questions, reach out to the REDF team at connect@redf.org.

Curriculum

The Accelerator structure and curriculum are designed to equip leaders with the tools and resources to work on:

  • Structure
    • Three, week-long cohort convenings (two in person, one remote)
    • Cohort size of 18 social enterprise leaders
    • Facilitated curriculum, supported by peer learning, with direct application to your enterprise
  • Curriculum – Described as a “mini-MBA,” our Accelerator includes 100+ hours of professional development tailored to the needs of ESE leaders.
    • Expanded Business Model:
      • What – Design a framework to test new program components and their likelihood to increase or sustain revenue within your business model.
      • Why – Save time and money by prioritizing program innovations that deliver the highest value using the least resources.
    • Innovations in Impact:
      • What – Create a system for measuring impact that reveals opportunities for program improvement and/or increased funding.
      • Why – Leverage high-potential program innovations to attract more funding and scale your enterprise.
    • Leadership Coach and Advisor Relationships:
      • What – Connect with experts in the field to work on live time business and program challenges that you’re facing such as grant writing advising, leadership coaching and employment program design..
      • Why – Increase sustainability as you scale through strong relationships with expert advisors and coaches that specialize in the social enterprise field.
    • Sustainable Enterprise Growth:
      • What – Set and test goals for program outcomes and revenue generation for the following 3 years.
      • Why – Build accountability into your plans to scale programs, measurement, and strategy.

 

The core curriculum focuses on the following key areas:

  • Core Competencies and sample workshop topics
    • Business Model Development
      • Business Model Canvas
      • Value Proposition Design
    • Employment Program Design
      • Theory of Change
      • Job Readiness Assessment
    • Financial Management
      • Double Bottom Line
      • The Financial Story that Scales
    • Leadership Development
      • Intro to Mental Models for Leadership
      • Organizational Culture Design
  • Experimentation Design
    • Learn & practice applying an experimental approach to navigate challenges and opportunities in your business and employment program.
      • Business Model Experiment: Using the ‘unvalidated assumptions’ uncovered in your Business Model Canvas, design a customer interview that will give you new data. Ex: What features of your products/ service are most important to your customer? Least?
      • Employment Program Model Experiment: Using the ‘unvalidated assumptions’ uncovered in your Theory of Change, design a stakeholder survey that will give you new data. Ex: What interventions have the biggest impact on employee success? Least?

Eligibility

Enterprise

  • Must operate a business (non-profit or for profit) that sells a product or service and generates revenue.
  • Must provide paid employment and wraparound services to REDF’s target populations, including:
    • Those who have experienced homelessness, justice system involvement, and/or mental illness including substance abuse;
    • Young people ages 16-24 who are disconnected from both school and work;,
    • Those with refugee and asylee status;
    •  And survivors of human trafficking or domestic violence.
  • Must have projected revenue for 2022 of $100K-2M earned via the sale of goods or services made or delivered by the participants of your employment program. If revenue is above or below this range, you’ll be asked to provide more detail as to why you believe this enterprise is a right fit for the program.. For example:
    • Revenue is currently $88K/year but there are active contracts that will bring the enterprise to $140K this fiscal year.
    • Revenue is currently $2.2M/year, operating costs are high, and the programmatic side of the enterprise is struggling since it lacks expertise in employee supports and workforce development.
  • Must pay wages that meet local minimum wage thresholds.
  • Must have been in operation for at least 12 months prior to January 2023.
  • Must have a team/staff of at least two full-time people that  help operate your employment social enterprise.
  • Must be either a stand-alone employment social enterprise or an employment social enterprise housed under a parent agency.

Applicant 

  • Must lead an employment social enterprise and/or have full decision-making authority within the social enterprise. For instance – able to add a new product or service to the business and able to offer a new wraparound support to program participants.*

Note: Only a single leader from the enterprise will participate in the REDF Accelerator. That leader must commit to attending the full program and engage in peer collaboration in-between convenings.

  • Must commit to attending three separate week-long cohort convenings and actively engage in peer collaboration between convenings (reference program dates in “How To Apply”).

Note: The next REDF Accelerator will be held in a hybrid model of in-person & virtual. While we are currently planning for an in-person program we are following the recommendations of the CDC for all guidance around large in-person convenings. With this in mind, our in-person cohort convenings may be converted to virtual convenings. Our decisions will prioritize the health and safety of our leaders and staff.

  • Must be willing and able to provide two years of key data to REDF following the participation in the program:
  • Must be willing to work on challenging issues you face as a leader, get comfortable making tough decisions, and take measurable/affordable risks to advance your enterprise.

Selection Criteria 

The Accelerator program operates our review process through inclusion-centered decision-making – meaning our goal as an Accelerator program is to accept every leader into our program that is eligible and ready. During our review process we are looking for reasons to include leaders in our program NOT exclude.To facilitate this partnership, we will be reviewing applications based on the following criteria.

  • Leadership: The leader has a demonstrated interest in, and capacity for, being an active Accelerator participant – to learn from, share with, and teach others. They express an eagerness to participate in the REDF Accelerator program, learn & collaborate with peers, and have demonstrated commitment to DEI efforts within their enterprise and community.
  • Organizational Capacity: The ESE and leader have the capacity to participate in the REDF Accelerator program including: (1) Ability to step away from their organization for all three cohort convenings,(2) Do not have to shut down their enterprise operations in order to participate in the Accelerator program.
  • Employment Program:  The leader’s enterprise has designed programming/processes/systems in place through which they deliver the wrap around services helping their participants remove barriers to employment. E.g. an intake process that asks which barriers they face, and then a case management/follow up process to manage that barrier. If they do not currently have an employment program in place, they intend to start thinking strategically around building these programs.
  • Business Model & Mission: The ESE has a stable business model that can serve as the foundation for growth. The growth plan is clear, comprehensive, and realistic while offering a compelling vision based on feasibility, market need, and job-type fit for the population served.

Program Expectations

  • Willingness to collaborate with peers in the cohort.
  • Attendance & participation in 30+ hours of programming during three cohort convenings (reference program dates in “How To Apply”).
  • Willingness to complete program surveys
  • Participation in 2-5 hours of programming per week in-between cohort convenings. These hours consist of:
    • Homework Assignments
    • Peer Feedback Group Sessions
    • Social Hours & Activities
    • 1:1 Office Hours
    • Leadership & Tactical Coaching
  • In-Person Travel Logistics:
    • REDF pays for:
      • Lodging
      • Meals during programming (with the exception of evenings where there are no program activities)
    • Participant pays for:
      • Airfare*
      • Ground Transportation

* REDF offers a limited number of travel stipends to support leaders who face financial hardship in attending the in-person cohort convenings. The stipend amount may not cover the full cost of your travel.

COVID Policy

We recognize that COVID cases are rising around the country, and the reality on the ground in different communities is quite different. We are approaching this event with a deep sense of responsibility and an understanding of our role as a convener in ensuring the health and safety of everyone in attendance, those in the local community we will come into contact with, including the staff at each venue and hotel, and the individuals within your own communities you will return to after the event.

You can find the REDF Accelerator program COVID-19 Policy here.

REDF's Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

REDF aspires to advance racial equity in our programs and funding decisions, and generate significant impact in terms of employment for individuals overcoming barriers. We understand our privilege and power as a funder, and recognize that if we are not actively working to advance racial equity, then we are contributing to the systems of inequity, oppression, and underinvestment in communities of color. In addition, REDF believes that leaders of color and those who share the lived experience of their program participants, bring invaluable expertise to their work and to the sector, and so we seek to increase the allocation of REDF resources to them.

REDF welcomes feedback on how we can continue to improve our programs and processes to advance racial equity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find the application?

Access the Accelerator application here. 

When do applications for the Accelerator program open and close?

The REDF Accelerator application opens on July 7, 2022. The REDF Accelerator reviews applications on a rolling basis to fill our two cohorts per year.

Consideration for Winter 2023 closes on October 3, 2022 at 11:59 PM PST. Because applications are now reviewed on a rolling basis they may fill up before our October 3rd cut off date. We recommend you apply early. Below are the key application & selection dates;

  • Applications Open for Winter 2023 & Summer 2023 Cohort: July 7, 2022
  • Last Day to be Considered for Winter 2023 Cohort: October 3, 2022
  • Last Day to be Considered for Summer 2023 Cohort: March 21, 2023

How can I learn more about the program? 

You can access the Accelerator informational webinar recording and presentation here. We have broken the webinar down into two parts:

For questions regarding eligibility please contact the REDF team at connect@redf.org

Who should participate?

This program is designed for one leader from the social enterprise with decision-making authority to implement changes within their social enterprise. Examples of past participant roles include CEO’s/ED’s, founders/co-founders, and Social Enterprise Directors. Please inquire with the REDF Accelerator team if you are unsure who from your enterprise should participate.

Can I reapply to the REDF Accelerator if I have already been through the REDF Accelerator? 

Leaders and organizations that have already been through the Accelerator or the VPP (now known as the Growth Portfolio) are not eligible to participate again.

It is our intention that leaders will bring the program learnings back to their organization and share them, and those leaders have ongoing access to their curriculum archive in order to do so.

If you lead a social enterprise that has already been through the Accelerator but have since launched a new business line you may be eligible to reapply.

How much does the program cost?

There is no fee to participate in the REDF Accelerator. For our in-person cohort convenings, hotel accommodations and breakfast and lunch are provided. Participating leaders are responsible for purchasing their travel (plane tickets, etc.) to our in-person convening locations. REDF offers a limited number of travel stipends to support leaders who face financial hardship in attending the in-person cohort convenings. The stipend amount may not cover the full cost of your travel.

Will I have to cover my travel expenses?

The REDF Accelerator will cover the majority of travel expenses incurred for in-person cohort convenings.

REDF pays for:

  • Lodging (one hotel room per social enterprise)
  • Most meals

Participants pay for:

  • Flights to/from the session location
  • Local ground transportation
  • Meals outside of scheduled workshops

How much time will I need to invest in the program?

The three, week-long cohort convenings are full-day. Please plan to be “out of office” for these three convenings. In-between convenings, plan to allocate 2 – 5 hours per week connecting with peer feedback groups and making progress on the projects you identify in the program. We anticipate you dedicating about 150 hours to this program in total:

  • Month 1: 40 hour in-person intensive week + 3 hours/week inter-session
  • Month 2: 2-5 hours of peer work each week
  • Month 3: 30 hour virtual intensive week + 3 hours/week inter-session
  • Month 4: 2-5 hours of peer work each week
  • Month 5: 40 hour in-person intensive week + 3 hours/week inter-session

Why is the program hybrid?

We understand that in-person cohort convenings require a significant travel commitment. Our second session is virtual to offset the time required away from your enterprise. Please note that during this virtual session the workshops will still be full-day (with added accommodations and tailored scheduling to manage “screen time.”)

What information do I need to prepare before applying to the Accelerator program? 

Information to Prepare

  • Number of staff (these are staff that do not participate in your employment program)
  • Number of program participants facing barriers to employment (these are employees that participate in your employment program)
  • Earned revenue, philanthropic revenue, and total expenses

Documents to Prepare

  • Organizational chart
  • Income statement (profit and loss statement) for this year and last
  • Budget for the current fiscal year

How can I share program learnings with my broader team?

All program materials (decks, workbooks, shared materials from the cohort, etc.) will be made accessible via Google Drive. We will also offer suggestions for how to involve your team in specific projects. After graduating from the REDF Accelerator, you and your extended team will have access to expanded offerings via the REDF Community.

Do I need to be fully vaccinated to participate in the REDF Accelerator? 

We approach our role as conveners of REDF Accelerator cohort convenings with a deep sense of responsibility for the health and safety of everyone in attendance. Here you can find the COVID policy we are implementing to facilitate participation and safety. Our COVID policy is subject to change, and we will let leaders know as soon as any changes are made.

What does the Accelerator team take into consideration when reviewing applications? 

The Accelerator program operates our review process through inclusion centered decision-making. Our goal as an Accelerator program is to accept every leader into our program that is ready and eligible. During our review process we are looking for reasons to include leaders in our program NOT exclude.To facilitate this partnership, we will be reviewing applications based on the following criteria.

  • Leadership: The leader has a demonstrated interest in, and capacity for, being an active Accelerator participant – to learn from, share with, and teach others. They express an eagerness to participate in the REDF Accelerator program, learn & collaborate with peers, and have demonstrated commitment to DEI efforts within their enterprise and community.
  • Organizational Capacity: The ESE and leader have the capacity to participate in the REDF Accelerator program including: (1) Ability to step away from their organization for all three cohort convenings,(2) Do not have to shut down their enterprise operations in order to participate in the Accelerator program.
  • Employment Program:  The leader’s enterprise has designed programming/processes/systems in place through which they deliver the wrap around services helping their participants remove barriers to employment. E.g. an intake process that asks which barriers they face, and then a case management/follow up process to manage that barrier. If they do not currently have an employment program in place, they intend to start thinking strategically around building these programs.
  • Business Model & Mission: The ESE has a stable business model that can serve as the foundation for growth. The growth plan is clear, comprehensive, and realistic while offering a compelling vision based on feasibility, market need, and job-type fit for the population served.

What are the requirements to receive the program grant?

Grants are disbursed at the completion of the program and evaluations.

If I apply and am not selected, can I reapply?

Yes! We understand that your business will continue to evolve and grow, and we will stay in touch to learn if a future program is a better fit for your enterprise

REDF Accelerator Alumni

Located around the country, Accelerator alumni are poised to make major moves in the employment social enterprise sector.

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I love the cohort model. All of the Accelerator Fellows are knowledgeable and really passionate about their work. We are becoming such a closely tied community, and I think every startup entrepreneur needs a community.

Jerelyn Rodriguez, Co-Founder and CEOThe Knowledge House

The Accelerator program feels like an MBA program designed for my nonprofit social enterprise. The depth and specificity of learning, and how relevant it has been to my work, is incredible.

Paul Fordham, Deputy Director of Homeward BoundWagster Treats

The community and networking that the Accelerator program offers is fantastic and so energizing. It’s incredible to meet people from across the country doing such phenomenal, impactful things.

Paige Pavalone, Executive DirectorMissoula Works

Being part of the Accelerator is going to help me take my social enterprise to the next level. I have learned so many new lessons and ideas – from other participants and the speakers – that I can take home and implement.

Justin Green, Founder and Executive DirectorBig Reuse