This year, Stand Together Ventures Lab launched the Unbundle Policing: Reimagine Public Safety Challenge in partnership with MIT Solve. The two-phase challenge, which includes an Incubator and an Accelerator, equips innovators to reimagine public safety in the US through community-led alternatives.
The three-month Incubator kicked off on September 9. The Incubator phase is designed to support budding entrepreneurs as they develop and refine solutions, build teams, and garner expert feedback. Participants receive mentorship, connect with potential team members, and tap into resources like collaboration software and consulting services.
Policing in the US relies on law enforcement to address everything from traffic stops to mental health crises. Its all-encompassing nature leads to unwarranted and/or unnecessary police encounters. Rather than preserving public safety and protecting human dignity, this approach breaks down trust and imposes harm — especially for people of color. To fix this, we need collaborative, community-based alternatives that enhance public safety and well-being. By launching this Challenge, Stand Together Ventures Lab aims to accelerate a range of better alternatives for point of crisis situations otherwise likely to result in an unwarranted police encounter, emergency room visit, incarceration, injury, or death.
We’re thrilled by the solutions our Incubator cohort has already brought to the table. When we announced the Challenge, we knew that innovation around this topic was already taking place — and that ideas just needed the right support to flourish.
Meet the innovators
More than 180 participants attended our Incubator kickoff event, joining us virtually from across the United States, India, and Africa. Our diverse cohort of entrepreneurs includes members of law enforcement, community-based organizations, and criminal justice reformers.
In the first few weeks of the Incubator, our cohort has introduced solutions with the potential to transform how we think about policing and public safety. Participants are asking — and answering — questions like:
- What other response mechanisms are more appropriate than police intervention for situations like mental health and substance abuse?
- How can we repair relationships between police and the communities they serve?
- How can we empower communities to engage in their own safety?
- How do we employ technology to allow police to focus on violent crime?
The ideas participants have submitted so far rely on community participation and collaboration. Some examples include designing ways to reduce contact during traffic stops, improving reporting tools for community and police interactions, exploring virtual reality for enhanced police training, and proposing alternative response models using community-based organizations in lieu of armed law enforcement.
Throughout the Incubator, these ideas will be refined and expanded into concrete solutions. Because we believe that no one individual, organization, sector, or industry can solve these challenges alone, the Incubator is highly collaborative by design. Programming includes interactive breakout groups, feedback from experts, and networking. In the coming weeks, participants will hear from criminal justice reform experts, as well as join solution-prep workshops, customer interviews, and pitch sessions.
We’re bringing a robust set of resources to bear for our participants:
- We’ve partnered with 13 advisors and 48 mentors to support our early-stage entrepreneurs.
- We’re working with the consulting firm, Customer Illuminated, which helps startups find their place in the market. They are hosting a “Venture Series” set of workshops to provide a comprehensive framework for participants to refine their product and plans regardless of stage, including group working sessions and homework to help teams better understand their customers and refine their approach.
- We’ve partnered with Global Accelerator Network (GAN), a community of accelerators, partners, and investors that helps startups build businesses and make a meaningful impact, through which we are offering a wealth of perks and resources to our participants.
Ultimately, the Incubator will prepare teams to submit their solutions to phase two of the Challenge: the Accelerator. We look forward to continue working closely with our diverse cohort to help them develop their solutions and prepare to submit applications this fall. Top teams will share their pitches with a panel of judges in early January, who will then determine the 10-20 teams that will be accepted into the funded Accelerator program.
The Accelerator will be an invite-only, six-month program that provides an immediate $50,000 per accepted team to deploy or scale solutions that reduce adverse law enforcement encounters across the United States. At the conclusion of the Accelerator, select teams may receive additional funding or investment from the over $1 million allocated to support compelling teams.
We are now accepting Accelerator applications through November 19, and participation in the Incubator is not required. If you’re part of a team that is ready to pilot or scale your solution, we encourage you to apply directly to the Accelerator. Interested teams should visit the Challenge website to fill out an application.
Still have questions? We’re here for you. Get in touch with us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to seeing your solutions!