Solution Overview

Solution Name:

Building Beats

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One-line solution summary:

Expanding our youth incubator and leadership program for creative entrepreneurs: bbLeaders

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Pitch your solution.

Building Beats is working to address the lack of access to quality arts education in New York City’s low-income neighborhoods. Low-income neighborhoods have been hardest hit by recent reductions in arts education where the majority of our work is located. 

bbLeaders is for young people who have either graduated from our traditional bbWorkshops or are advanced students that want to grow in their leadership development and music skills. Building Beats is looking for funding to scale bbLeaders. 

Students in bbLeaders learn essential entrepreneurial skills from their creative passions to benefit themselves and their communities. Graduates have gone on to start their own businesses, been hired at Building Beats and other community organizations and have found work in the music and creative industry.

Scaling this program will allow more students to learn entrepreneurial skills that impact their local communities.

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Film your elevator pitch.

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What specific problem are you solving?

The disproportionate lack of arts education in the neighborhoods Building Beats works with constitutes a considerable achievement gap between youth from low-income neighborhoods (who are disproportionately youth of color) and their counterparts in upper-middle class neighborhoods. The National Endowment for the Arts reports that high school students without arts programming have lower GPAs, lower college enrollment rates, and are three times less likely to receive a bachelor’s degree. Creative outlets for students through arts programming are incredibly impactful, particularly for those of low socioeconomic backgrounds.

There is a particularly great need for engaging and relevant curricula and programming for low-income youth in urban public schools, who are disproportionately youth of color. This is evidenced by lower academic performance, lower graduation rates, and higher dropout rates of minority students. For example, in New York City, only 65% of Black and Latino youth graduated High School in the 2016-17 school year compared to 83% of their White counterparts (NYC Department of Education Graduation Report, 2017). We hope to impact each young person we serve by increasing their creative confidence and social and emotional intelligence, encouraging active leadership in their schools and local communities, and fostering industry-standard skills in Music Production and DJing. 

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What is your solution?

Building Beats is seeking funding to expand the bbLeaders program. Each cohort of bbLeaders goes through a series of at least 12 workshops that focus on entrepreneurship, leadership, and life skills to help young people become successful, creative professionals. A few sample lessons include negotiation, music licensing and publishing, digital marketing, and personal budgeting. Youth in the bbLeaders program are connected to opportunities for internships within the music and creative industry, assistant teaching roles in our traditional beatmaking “bbWorkshops,” performance opportunities with our various corporate and city partners, and a chance to travel to other cities for workshops with our network of partner organizations.

The bbLeaders program was started because students wanted a place to continue on their music making and DJ’ing journey, and we brought in our alumni students to develop a plan on how to create programming specifically for their interests. bbLeaders is expanding, and we currently have 30 bbLeaders, and have hosted 3 cohorts in total. We plan to build out our capacity to accommodate several cohorts of Building Beats each semester, so that we can connect more young people to job opportunities within the music and creative industries. 

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Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Like the bbWorkshops program, our bbLeaders initiative partners primarily with Title 1 schools to serve students that come from low-income households. 

bbLeaders started because of the demand from young people and partner programs asking for services outside of on-site programming. Building Beats arrived at this moment because of the growth of the organization, and what was heard from students.

Through bbLeaders, we are building the foundation for a regenerative ecosystem that will allow students to move on to become leaders, teachers and mentors for future students and youth. We plan to have bbLeaders develop their own curricula, host their own gatherings, collaborate with each other to host more workshops, and bring in new leaders from across the city, and beyond, as a result. With a strong belief in activating students’ passion for music as a pathway to build leadership and entrepreneurial skills, we provide students with the structure, tools, and knowledge necessary to become self-directed, creative producers who harness their potential to benefit their communities.

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Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Increase access to high-quality, affordable learning, skill-building, and training opportunities for those entering the workforce, transitioning between jobs, or facing unemployment
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Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Reimagining Pathways to Employment in the US Challenge and your selected dimension.

With our wide reach of working in low-income communities and schools, we target youth from these backgrounds to join our program. We are leveraging our invested social capital to strengthen relationships with these youth to continuously engage them and provide them with growth and development opportunities. Our focus on building an online community and content space for our students provides them with the resources on-demand to continue their education. The digital aspect of our curriculum allows for this program to scale.

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

New York, NY, USA
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In which US state(s) will you be operating within the next year?

  • California
  • New York
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What is your solution’s stage of development?

Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth
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Who is the team lead for your solution?

Phi Pham, Executive Director

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How many people work on your solution team?

We have a staff of 27 people including 3 full-time administrative staff members, 18 part-time workshop leaders, 4 interns, and 2 volunteers.

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: What is your approach to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization?

Building Beats is an equal opportunity employer and we target hiring staff members that match the demographics of the communities we serve. We embed within our hiring processes for staff (as well as recruitment processes for our board) to include reaching out to specific networks for underrepresented communities that increase our representation, inclusion and diversity in our team. We are building a pipeline to connect our alumni to opportunities in fields that historically have been underrepresented by people of color, gender non-binary people, and women. We believe our long-term investment in connecting our youth to these industries begins with having a diverse staff, leadership, mentors, and board that can guide our young people through their personal and career growth.

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More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process
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Describe what makes your solution innovative.

Building Beats’ core values are Learning, Leadership, Creativity and Community. These values shape our approach to youth empowerment - we believe that young people in this day and age must, above all else, be life-long learners with the leadership skills required to devise creative solutions for the world’s increasingly complex problems. We harness young people’s intrinsic familiarity with music and technology to impart these values within a context that is accessible and culturally relevant to youth. Just as musicians learn unfamiliar skills, create new genres, and are responsible to their fanbase, we encourage our students to apply Learning, Leadership, Creativity and Community to all areas of their lives, whether that is starting a business, inspiring social action, or any other endeavor.

Within the bbLeaders program, young people are expected to create digital portfolios, build their own websites, release musical projects, assist in bbWorkshop curriculum planning, and more. Students start out with a one-time $250 stipend for attending bbLeaders meetings, workshops, and events geared towards the program and are offered more paid opportunities such as DJ gigs and podcast music projects from Building Beats extensive network of partners. We use highly engaging platforms to teach young people job-transferable skills and prepare them to thrive in the innovation economy of the 21st century.

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Describe the core technology, if applicable, that powers your solution.

Building Beats uses a web-based curriculum which encourages students to continue learning online and outside of workshops, and not relying on expensive equipment to be creative. The curriculum is software agnostic because we know each partner site we work with may have different technology, and devices available. This mindset allows us to be flexible and serve our students with the tools they have readily available. 

Students use free, web-based music software like Soundtrap and Chrome Music Lab to learn Music Production skills (i.e. songwriting, remixing, and recording) and collaborate with their classmates. Building Beats uses contemporary digital apps, and tools. Zoom is used for community meetings, Q&A events, bbLeaders’ workshops, and one-on-one mentor-mentee sessions. Trello is used for bbLeaders to manage their own projects, and to undergo the onboarding process. Google Classroom is used for student project management. WhatsApp and Discord are used as the additional communication tools provided for bbLeaders to interact, collaborate on projects, and build community.

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Provide evidence that this technology works.

This is a link to our toolbox that is used in classes and interested students online: https://buildingbeats.org/toolbox 

This toolbox is used in our classes with our students, recommended to our partners and available for anyone, anywhere.

We average about 50,000 visits to this toolbox on a monthly basis. We believe we can leverage this to draw more students to our programs. 

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Audiovisual Media
  • Software and Mobile Applications
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What is your theory of change?

Our long term outcome is a world where underserved youth have the confidence and skills they need to be self-sufficient leaders in their community, and participate fully in the digital economy. 

Our intermediate outcomes are:

- Increased creative confidence 

- Entrepreneurial mindset 

- Improved ability to join the internet economy as producers instead of consumers - Increased ability to become leaders in their communities 

- Growing building beats community 

- Connections with individuals in the Building Beats community

- Increased access to career pathways at: Similar organizations, Corporate spaces, Music world - Increased sense of social awareness and responsibility 

Our short-term outcomes are:

Music Production Skills 

- Increased ability to produce music including: sampling/sound manipulation, drum programming, melody creation, Equalizers basics, sound engineering, song arrangement, storyboarding, sound design, 

Music Knowledge 

- Increased knowledge of music vocabulary 

- Increased knowledge of music theory 

- Increased knowledge of music history 

Life Skills

- Improved ability to conduct research 

- Improved ability to think critically 

- Youth receive psycho-social support 

- Increased confidence and self-esteem 

Entrepreneurship 

- Creation of a digital portfolio 

- Increased access to mentors who work in the arts/music industry 

- Improved ability to manage projects 

Leadership 

- Improved communication skills (Public 

speaking/Presenting) 

- Increased ability to work in a team 

- Increased ability to integrate social issues into the arts 

- Connection to other Building Beats participants

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Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Women & Girls
  • LGBTQ+
  • Children & Adolescents
  • Poor
  • Low-Income
  • Refugees & Internally Displaced Persons
  • Minorities & Previously Excluded Populations
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How many people does your solution currently serve? How many people did your solution serve in 2019? 2018? 2017?

Currently: 1500; 2019: 1100; 2018: 900; 2017: 700

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What percent of the people you served in 2019 were between the age of 15 and 30?

  • 41-60%
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What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?

Our goal is to become the Khan Academy of music education. With our years of experience working with youth, our plan is to make bbLeaders a sustainable program, and we dream to become an organization that can also train teachers invested in revolutionizing music education through a youth empowerment lens. 

Each year, we teach over 1,000 young people through bbWorkshops. Since the quarantine was announced this year, we have already hosted over 600 workshops online, with over 1,000 students. We just landed a partnership with over 20 schools in Los Angeles, and are expanding our programs to the west coast. As we continue to build out our capacity, we want to expand our work to New Orleans, Chicago, Baltimore, DC, and other cities across the U.S.

We plan to create curriculum plans to develop an educator training program so our organization can be used as a resource for music educators anywhere. With our existing partnerships, and more funding, we’d be able to expand our online presence to make our curricula, methods, and workshops accessible to any young person, and educator across the globe. We believe the expansion of our online programs will only further support our goal of building a pipeline to connect any young person we work with to opportunities in fields that historically have been underrepresented by people of color, LGBT people of color, and women.

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What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?

Our work has primarily focused on New York City youth, but our goal is to scale that physically and digitally to young people everywhere. Those are two separate challenges that we will have to figure out: scaling a team in another city to work with young people in-person will lead to cultural, market and some legal barriers. Scaling to serve even more students online will have legal and technical barriers.

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How do you plan to overcome these barriers?

To scale our real world team, we have to invest in improving our team systems and work culture for a distributed staff. Luckily, the quarantine has helped us move to be remote-friendly for anyone on our team and we expect this to continue after the pandemic is over. Creating onboarding and training processes that help team members learn how to teach, coordinate partnerships in any other city will be important to successfully scale our work to other locations.

To scale our digital team, we need to invest in our team’s understanding of the internet, online business models and online engagement.

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What outcomes data would you like to be collecting that you are not yet able to collect?

We want to see long-term student progress outside of our programs and in their lives.

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About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Nonprofit
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How many people are on your leadership team? (Of these, please provide the number of individuals from your leadership team that are full time, part time, and volunteer)

3

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What is the number of individuals from my leadership team that received a Pell grant as a college student?

2

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In what year was your organization founded? How many years have you worked on your solution?

2013, 11 years

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Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

We are a team of creative professionals who have practiced what we teach. Our team is made of music industry professionals, artists, and musicians who have a mission to empower young people through music. We think about team’s network and experience in this space allows us to strengthen a pipeline to teach young people how to succeed as creative entrepreneurs.

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What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?

We work with over 40 partners including Think Together, Children’s Aid Society, Center for Court Innovation to implement our in-person workshops.

These partners are our main access point to revenue and student connections. 

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Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

Our bbWorkshops is a traditional earned income model (selling workshops to partners, schools and after-school programs). Any profit margin that comes from this is invested into our bbLeaders program. The bbLeaders program is funded from these profits, corporate sponsors, and any revenue generated from booking student Djs, funding from podcasts for student music and other student-centered creative projects.

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Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?

Organizations (B2B)
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What is your path to financial sustainability?

The majority of our work is currently sustainable (bbWorkshops) and as we continue to scale this program, our profit margins help us invest in our other programs. We plan to make bbLeaders sustainable through a variety of revenue streams (corporate sponsorships, foundation funding, and revenue share from creative projects with students).

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If you have raised funds for your solution or are generating revenue, please provide details.

We have received $45,000 from the Brooklyn Community Foundation for the past year and will be receiving it for two more years to fund our capacity building. Other foundation support has come from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund ($15,000), the Department of Cultural Affairs ($22,500) and Nathan Cummings Foundation ($5,000). A majority of our revenue comes from our program ($315,000 last fiscal year).

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If you seek to raise funds for your solution, please provide details.

We are not seeking any investment but are always looking for non-dilutive grants. 

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What are your estimated expenses for 2021?

$457,000

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Partnership Opportunities

Why are you applying to the Reimagining Pathways to Employment in the US Challenge?

We believe we have an impactful and sustainable model that can scale and target disaffected youth in low-income communities using music and hip hop culture as an engagement tool.

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Product/service distribution
  • Legal or regulatory matters
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Please explain in more detail here.

Learning how to scale a team and learning to work in different states is our biggest challenge at the moment.

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What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?

We would like to partner with the Khan Academy and build a space for learning digital music education and music entrepreneurship that would be available to anyone, anywhere. This would dramatically increase our scale of impact on the world. 

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Solution Team

 
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