2018 marked a transformational year for Impact House. We diversified our service offerings to better serve the DFW area by expanding onward from our program pilots in youth education and engaging entrepreneurs, adult innovators and technologists of color directly through Dallas Start-up Week, a week long education event series featuring track topics and over 5,ooo attendees Impact House also launched the #HackTheCulture Networking Series, an event series consisting of interactive activities based on a chosen topic, along with featured community speakers. These efforts will continue to expand and lead to more community-centric skill building workshops and events in 2019.
“Our mission at Impact House is simple; To Accelerate and Invest in All Shades of Genius. This is paramount as we move towards the demands of a 21st century learning environment for under-resourced students, underrepresented professionals in the workplace, and investing in the untapped genius of women, black, latin-x, and people of color through entrepreneurship and capital deployment” – Founder & CEO, Benjamin J. Vann
Diversity remains a key driver of innovation and market growth, and Impact House is dedicated to creating a community that accelerates all shades of genius, thereby positioning untapped communities for long term success.
Research shows that “Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 30% more likely to perform above the mean in their industry” Jenny Abramson, Managing Director of Rethink Impact said to Forbes Magazine earlier this year.
For Impact House, creating that community meant first building a foundation through out youth program pilots. These pilots centered on teaching minority students 21st century skills, like design thinking, social impact, and financial literacy, thereby giving them a leg up in areas such as problem solving and critical thinking that are essential to thriving in the workplace or through entrepreneurship.
“They’re really engaging the youth and they have such creative ideas,” said Sheryle Gillihan, CEO of Cause Labs, a software consulting B-corporation said, “they’re not just starting a discussion; They’re giving [youth] critical skills and mentorship, and the opportunity to do these hack-a-thons to prototype their ideas , and who knows, maybe one day these ideas will eventually come to life.”
Gillihan partnered with Impact House as a mentor when it hosted its Hack Financial Literacy “#HackFinLit” event back in August. The event, born out of a partnership with Fidelity Investments, placed middle and high schoolers in the teachers’ shoes, challenging them to develop new ways to teach financial literacy in public schools. This came after the 2016 pilot #Hack4Impact partnership with Capital One Financial, where Impact House teamed up with volunteers from Capital One to teach middle and high schoolers how they can leverage technology to tackle everyday challenges within their own neighborhoods.
But at its core, Impact House wanted to develop programs and services that took a different approach to addressing the opportunity gap, skills gap, and the racial wealth divide; A pipeline approach to be exact. This approach would create a more holistic strategy and view into how we’re developing what the next iteration of the 4th industrial revolution or innovation economy looks like. Taking the data, results, and findings from our first two pilots, we now began to shift our focus to adults and take a human-centered approach to bringing inclusion to every facet of designing programs and services fit for underrepresented professionals and under-resourced founders to drive change in their respective industries. And so, Impact House launched its #HackTheCulture Networking series in November of this year.
In order to close the gap we must first analyze where are the are leaks in the pipeline. This requires a holistic approach that centers the end users and positions knowledge, human-design, technology, creativity, and culture as key drivers of inclusive economic growth. We know what the new economy is demanding, it is up to us to position the tools and resources within our communities to see positive change. – Founder & CEO, Benjamin J. Vann
“I am loving everything about this #HackTheCulture Networking Series” CEO and Founder Craig J. Lewis said at one of the networking series events “We’re having real conversations without the BS you get at other series.”
Lewis, a local tech-entrepreneur who’s company GigWage recently received a seed investment, spoke on a panel at the December event, and discussed how the imposter syndrome – the feeling that you don’t deserve the success you’ve earned – affected his journey in founding and fundraising for the payroll services startup GigWage.
Occurring monthly, the Hack The Culture networking series aimed to create a safe space for innovators of color to discuss the issues in technology affecting both their careers and their communities. While December’s event empowered innovators of color to take ownership of their accomplishments and overcome the imposter syndrome, November’s event gave attendees crucial strategies for navigating predominantly white and male dominated workspaces, as the only woman or person of color.
“It’s a great place to connect and really find a sense of community,” Keisha Whaley, founder of the marketing agency, Brass Tacks Collective, said. Whaley was one panelist at November’s event and spoke on the challenges she faced as a black women, in both starting her business and while working in the industry.
The next event, occurring in the new year, will tackle self-care and time management for underrepresented professionals and founders. These events will culminate in a VIP event and award ceremony on February 15th, where the community will celebrate success and recognize outstanding champions in the DFW area.
Going forward, having created this foundation, Impact House will turn its learnings to developing an incubator and accelerator program for innovators of color by innovators of color. The foundation will stem from a “State of Tech Inclusion” Report developed by Impact House and community stakeholders to be released in the spring of 2019.
“With our accelerator, we will prove that embracing diversity is critical to the entrepreneurial journey. We’ve connected with organizations across the country on best practices to develop programs that zero in on the unique challenges specific to women and minority entrepreneurs in business and tech, and we think we’ve developed something unique for Dallas.” – Accelerator Program Director, Herbert B. Ferguson-Augustus
Impact House will launch this program starting in February, partnering with #HackDFW for the Hack DFW 2019 event on the weekend of February 16th. The Hackathon will pair participants with industry experts, highly-skilled mentor, and community stakeholders in an effort to rapidly solve problems in underserved communities producing ten tech or tech-enabled social enterprises. Throughout the year, Impact House will continue these efforts through monthly workshops. These workshops will teach skills on how to prepare for investors, design experiments for new products, develop user profiles, and market fit. “Hackathons and other forms of rapid prototyping like this, are essential for minorities and groups underrepresented in Tech. It allows them to build confidence by failing fast and problem solving on the go, build teamwork and leadership skills, and even provide opportunities for companies big and small to scope talent, and what better place to interview someone than live, in person, and in their element.” -Impact House Founder & CEO Benjamin J. Vann
Yet this new focus on skills development will not detract the organization from its commitment to creating a truly inclusive community. Impact House will continue to host monthly networking events – Tribe Talks as a continuation of it #HacktheCulture Networking Series.
“We’re excited to champion diversity and inclusion in Tech as the only program designed by entrepreneurs of color for entrepreneurs of color in Tech. The Dallas Startup community is relatively new and our work ensures that the playing fields are level before the tech explosion happens. In the next 10 years, Dallas will be the next tech hot bed. We have every any and every element already here to support it” – Impact House Founder & CEO, Benjamin J. Vann