About You and Your Work

Your bio:

Aimée Eubanks Davis is the Founder and CEO of Braven, which works to empower promising, underrepresented young people—first-generation college students, students from low-income backgrounds, and students of color—with the skills, confidence, experiences and networks necessary to transition from college to strong first jobs, which lead to meaningful careers and lives of impact. She founded Braven based on her deep belief that our next generation of leaders will emerge from everywhere. Aimée spent more than a decade of her career at Teach For America where she held various senior leadership roles, including leading the organization’s groundbreaking human capital and diversity work. Earlier in her career, Aimée taught sixth grade and led the Breakthrough/Summerbridge New Orleans site. She is a 2019 Obama Fellow, Pahara-Aspen fellow, a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, a Braddock Scholar and a Draper Richards Foundation Entrepreneur.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Project name:

Scaling Braven’s Career Accelerator

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

One-line project summary:

Braven will scale its proven college to career accelerator to more than 18,000 new underrepresented and low-income college students by 2025.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Present your project.

Braven partners with universities and local employers to offer a 15-week online and in-person Leadership and Career Accelerator course that college students take for credit typically during their sophomore or junior year. Fellows complete weekly online modules and assignments to develop key professional competencies. The course is led by volunteer professionals who lead cohorts of 5-8 Fellows through in-person workshops that simulate real-world work experience. Fellows emerge from Braven with the skills, confidence, experiences and networks they need to get a strong first job upon graduation, which lead to strong careers and economic mobility.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Submit a video.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What specific problem are you solving?

While education has the potential to be the great equalizer, nearly 1 million of the 1.2 million low-income and first-generation college enrollees each year won’t emerge with a quality first job. These students--who will earn only 66¢ on the dollar to their higher income peers--were already facing a structural recession. And with the COVID-19 crisis and recession/depression upon us, now more than ever, college students from humble beginnings need to be prepared to compete to succeed in the modern economy. 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What is your project?

To address this, Braven partners with employers and colleges to support untapped students from college to career through a two-part experience that begins with the credit-bearing Braven Accelerator course followed by lighter touch post-course supports that last through graduation. 

The one semester course is a hybrid career-acceleration experience that students, called Fellows, take for credit typically during their sophomore or junior year. Fellows complete weekly online modules on Braven’s online platform and then apply that content through weekly virtual learning labs in a cohort of 5-8 peers led by a volunteer professional, called a Leadership Coach. Fellows complete assignments to develop in five professional competencies: operating and managing, problem solving, working in teams, networking and communicating, and self-driven leading. 

After the course, Post-Accelerator Fellows receive additional opportunities to develop leadership and career-readiness skills, engage in an enduring professional network, and stay on track to securing strong internships and jobs.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Who does your project serve, and in what ways is the project impacting their lives?

In our first 6 years of operations, Braven has served 2300+ first-generation, low-income and underrepresented college students across four campuses (San José State University, Rutgers University-Newark, Lehman College - CUNY, National Louis University in Chicago), two of which sit in enormous state university systems. Specifically our Fellows identify as 89% People of Color, 58% first generation college students, and 65% from low-income families. 

We have more than 600 Fellows who are now in the professional workforce. These young adults are outpacing their peers by 22 percentage points in strong job attainment within 6-months of college graduation (71% versus 49%). Nearly 50% of them are outearning their parents in their very first job out of college. Additionally, 73% have completed at least one internship during undergrad, compared to 49% of all first generation graduating seniors at large state schools. 

We are incredibly proud of this progress. Crystal (Box), Mussab (entering Harvard Law), Jalil (Google), Alycia (Prudential), Carlos (Rag & Bone), Dyllan (2L Georgetown Law), Kaitlyn (EY) and hundreds of other Braven alumni are in strong first jobs, building health and wealth, and helping their companies transform how they think about talent. Our students are living proof of the American promise.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Which dimension of The Elevate Prize does your project most closely address?

Elevating opportunities for all people, especially those who are traditionally left behind
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Explain how your project relates to The Elevate Prize and your selected dimension.

Braven elevates opportunities for first-generation college students, students from low-income backgrounds, and students of color— by equipping them with the skills, confidence, experiences and networks necessary to transition from college to strong first jobs. Our vision is that the next generation of leaders will emerge from everywhere and be as diverse as our future demands.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

How did you come up with your project?

The problem of inequitable economic outcomes crystallized for me growing up in low-income communities in Chicago and most significantly when I was leading Teach For America’s human capital work. I began to see my former students applying to be TFA teachers. Some of my students – who I knew as talented, brilliant, motivated, and compassionate – weren’t being accepted into the program. I realized that no one was preparing these students to get strong first jobs.

As a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow, I identified the education-to-employment gap as the focus of my project and through this fellowship built the idea for Braven. For the first two years, Braven piloted in the middle/high school and higher education spaces to determine the best solution to the problem. Every pilot had great success; however, it was clear that there was no organization at scale serving the growing number of students from the bottom two income quartiles who were 1)entering college, but not persisting and 2)even if they were persisting, highly unlikely to graduate college with a strong job. This led us to focus on our current core model, which to date, has served 2300 young people across the country.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Why are you passionate about your project?

I have lived the promise of America. My life began in one of the most economically challenged neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side. Early on I faced unexpected trauma of my father passing suddenly.  My mom went back to school, got her real estate credentials and met my stepfather, and they bought a building in another economically depressed community. Over 40 years and persisting through many obstacles that property now sits seven blocks from the Obama home. As a result, year over year, I experienced economic mobility. This is not an intellectual concept to me, it is my life experience.

In addition to the moral imperative I feel, this is a highly solvable societal challenge. It’s not a lack of talent, effort or intellect. Rather, we haven’t invested in ensuring that college students from humble beginnings have the resources and opportunities to  develop the soft skills and social capital needed to launch from college to career. The good news is that with intentionality, we can close these gaps. Just like we can teach a five-paragraph essay, we can teach students professional soft skills and how to build relationships beyond their immediate family and friendship circles.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Why are you well-positioned to deliver this project?

In addition to having a firsthand understanding of what economic mobility looks like and means for a family unit, I bring the lenses of being an educator and the head of a large HR function to my work at Braven. Through my experience as a 6th grade teacher I witnessed my students’ incredible potential as well as learned how to develop highly effective educational experiences. And for more than a decade, I oversaw Teach For America’s human capital and diversity initiatives. I led a 130-person Human Assets function, which fueled the growth and success of Teach For America through attracting, engaging, developing and retaining extraordinary, diverse talent.This helped me understand how employers think about their talent pipelines as what is broken about our current talent systems. This confluence of experiences helped me understand both what needed to change in higher education as well as within employers to ensure that the next generation of CEOs, teachers, scientists and public servants are as diverse as our future demands.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Provide an example of your ability to overcome adversity.

When we launched Braven, we knew we would need to work hard to build a successful model, but we underestimated the work that we would need to do to convince others (including the funding community) that there was an actual problem to solve in the transition from college to career. Many people continue to assume that college alone is the ticket to the American Dream, and while our large public universities are critical engines of economic opportunity and the American dream, right now only one in four low-income or first generation college enrollees will emerge with a strong first job. As a result, we’ve needed to build up our staff capacity and muscle to help create a new philanthropic market. After 7 years, with a track record of results, a national conversation that is putting increasing pressure on higher ed, and immense incoming demand for our work, we’re starting to feel like we’re hitting a tipping point on this front. 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Describe a past experience that demonstrates your leadership ability.

We have a core value at Braven called Live Your Legacy that says "Others paved the path for us; we must do it for others.” It’s inspired by the leaders who paved the path for me. One of those people is Wendy Kopp, the Founder/long-time CEO of Teach For America and now the Co-Founder and CEO of Teach For All. Wendy took an enormous bet on me when she hired me to be the VP of New Site Development, and then asked me to oversee half of the TFA regions which led to my role as Head of Human Capital. I learned so much about strategy and execution from simply being in her presence and watching her operate. I grew the organization’s presence into Miami, Philadelphia, South Dakota, Las Vegas, and Charlotte as well as doubled our presence in New York City. I then led strategy to ensure that TFA was a great place to work. During my tenure, TFA ranked #74 on Fortune’s 2012 list. I managed the human assets strategy for the organization’s 2000 full-time staff members and the nearly 1300 seasonal staff members.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

How long have you been working on your project?

7 years

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Where are you headquartered?

Chicago, IL, USA
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What type of organization is your project?

Nonprofit
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.
More About Your Work

Describe what makes your project innovative.

Braven began as a leadership and career development experience for underrepresented college students, on the surface very similar to nonprofits MLT or InRoads. However, our focus on strong outcomes delivered at scale in a low-cost way challenged us to build something truly innovative. We decided to first build an experience partially delivered online, allowing us to effectively teach professional skills at significant scale. Then, we embedded the in-person components as a higher education course for credit, allowing vulnerable students to fit our programming into their already overflowing schedules. Lastly, companies provide the volunteers who facilitate the course as a learning and development opportunity, eliminating our need to pay instructors while building our Fellows’ social capital. The result is a highly impactful and scalable experience that can plug into 4-year universities across the country while allowing employer partners to play a powerful role in preparing the next generation of leaders in their community for career success.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What is your theory of change?

We believe there are four primary barriers contributing to the college to career challenge for underrepresented students.  The first is a lack of career readiness skills –problem solving, working in teams, and communicating and networking–that students are expected to have mastery of, but are never taught. The second is a gap in the confidence needed to get and thrive in a strong first job. The third is a lack of professional experiences - often our students have significant school, work, and family obligations that prevent them from being able to prioritize an internship. Lastly, and probably most critically, our students lack a network of people who will mentor, endorse, and open professional doors for them. 

In the Accelerator course we address these four gaps: students identify their personal leadership assets, discover their career path, and authentically share their leadership story. They practice the hard skills of professional writing, building a professional online presence, applying for internships, and interviewing and presenting, and students apply key professional competencies like project planning, working in teams, giving and getting feedback, and design thinking.  

Partnerships with employers play a key role. For employers, Braven provides meaningful employee professional development experiences, engagement with the local community, and offer early access to diverse talent. And, for Fellows, these partnerships build their professional networks and open doors to strong internships and jobs.

In 2018, Professor Monica Higgins at the Harvard Graduate School of Education completed an exploratory study that looked at Braven's impact on Fellows’ noncognitive skills and social capital. The study found that Braven Fellows saw statistically significant growth ingrit, sense of social and academic fit, growth mindset, job search self-efficacy, and career self-efficacy as well as statistically significant growth in the closeness of their friendship and advice networks. In 2019, Anthony Lising Antonio and Eric Bettinger of Stanford’s Graduate School of Education completed a two-year study on Braven’s impact on factors tied to college persistence. Fellows showed statistically significant growth over the comparison group in many of our measured constructs, especially the areas where we had seen previous positive impact in the Harvard study.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Select the key characteristics of the community you are impacting.

  • Urban
  • Low-Income
  • Minorities & Previously Excluded Populations
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your project address?

  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • United States
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • United States
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

How many people does your project currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

In our most recently closed fiscal year, we served 782 new Fellows in our Accelerator course across 4 sites. Next year, we will serve ~1100 new Fellows across 4 sites. In five years, with the expansion to additional sites, we have the potential to serve more than 18,000 new Fellows annually (1500% increase). 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?

Our topline goal remains to achieve strong job outcomes with our Fellows by exceeding the national job attainment rate by 25 percent. We also know that there are promising indicators on the path to a strong first job like college persistence and internship attainment. We aim for 95% of our Fellows to persist in college from year to year or graduate and for 75% of Fellow graduates to complete at least one internship during undergrad. 

The Braven Accelerator course is directly tied to preparing students to land their internships and jobs through the building of the career artifacts needed like a strong  resume and LinkedIn profile, as well as the confidence to interview well through several mock interviews and using their personal story and storytelling as a leadership asset. Therefore, we will also monitor content mastery of the course and aim for 85% or greater content mastery each semester for our Fellows. After the course, Post-Course supports will be targeted at students who are most in need of additional boosts to get them career-ready. These optional post-course activities include engagements such as: 1) our Professional Mentor Program, which provides students a 15-week 1:1 mentor in their desired field as they get closer to the time of the job search, 2) access to our bi-weekly jobs blast which shares internship and job opportunities, and 3) one-off professional development and networking events such as Company Treks & Skill Builders.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

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

Higher Education Funding: We have from the get-go intentionally chosen to work with under-resourced schools that have historically been powerful engines to the American Dream for  low-income and first-generation college students. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 and its implications on higher education, all signs point to our schools’ current resources being significantly strained going forward for the next few years, which puts our ability to serve their students at risk given our fee for service model. For comparison, even before COVID, here were our schools’ endowments compared to top tier universities: 

(San José State University: $153M ($4K per student) vs. Stanford: $27.7B ($1.6M per student), Rutgers System: $1.5B ($21K per student) vs. Princeton: $27B ($2.8M per student), Lehman College: $8.2M ($350 per student) vs. Columbia: $10.9B ($350K per student), National Louis University: $36.6M ($7K per student) vs. UChicago: $8.5B ($500K per student)

Economic Downturn/Job Attainment: As mentioned above, our topline goal remains to ensure strong outcomes for our Fellows. Given COVID-19, we’ve collected data and research to understand the economic impact on employment. However, there is still a lot of irreducible uncertainty around the labor market and where our jobs' metric baselines will end up falling. We set targets based on the information available and our best educated guesses and will need to keep monitoring labor market indicators, however, the reality could end up looking quite different.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

How do you plan to overcome these barriers?

Higher Education Funding: While we don’t believe that this will be the reality forever, we are hoping that a select group of individuals and foundations might be able to support our universities provide the critical Braven program in the interim by supporting the gap in fee for service that they might face. Especially, when now more than ever, their most vulnerable students will likely have the most challenging time securing the fewer, coveted jobs in the marketplace. We want to be able to continue to provide the skills, networks, and experience that will keep our students at the same starting blocks as their wealthier peers.  

Economic Downturn/Job Attainment: We also just released a contingency planning guide for Fellows and PAFs to support them in finding opportunities in this tighter job market. We have been revamping our data collection systems, FY20 grad support strategies, and outcomes goals.

We’ve made a few adjustments in what we’ll measure in the future: 

  • We will define post-graduate success in a recession more broadly to include quality employment and general employment. 

  • We will also monitor “pathway” jobs, which ideally serve as stepping stones to career-accelerating opportunities. 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

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

Braven launched with seed funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative at San Jose State University. Since then, growth funders such as the Arthur Rock, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, New Profit, and Valhalla Foundation have enabled our work to scale to Rutgers University-Newark, National Louis University and Lehman College. The Stupski Foundation funded research from Stanford University exploring our strong correlation with college persistence and graduation. Anchor employer partners such as Salesforce, LinkedIn, Deloitte, Prudential and Adobe have fueled our impact with investments of $100,000 or more a year while engaging their employees as volunteers. 

Our university partners (San José State University, Rutgers University-Newark, National Louis University, Lehman College) provide physical space for our course, course credit, as well as funding in the form of fees for service allowing us to serve more than 2300 college students to date. 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.
Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

The Business Model Canvases that Guide Our Work

Value Propositions: 

  • For Students: Proving currently enrolled postsecondary students with the soft skills, experiences, networks and confidence needed to land BA-worthy jobs. 
  • For Universities: Providing 4-year universities with a mission-aligned service to provide soft-skill and social capital development, which improves graduation rates and job outcomes
  • For employers: Providing employers with 1) a more diverse talent pipeline prepared with essentia career soft skills and 2) high impact engagement opportunities and L&D for current talent. 

Cost Structure: 

  • Program: Costs directly related to running the program
  • Fundraising: Cost of raising/soliticiting contributions 
  • Management & General: Costs that support the entity as a whole

Lifetime cost/student: ~$7K -> $3K

Revenue Streams: 

  • University Fees+Flex Funding: 33%
  • Employers: 33%
  • Philanthropy: 33%
  • In-kind: for every $3 dollars of revenue, braven brings in another dollar of in-kind support
33548_Screen%20Shot%202020-07-12%20at%2010_1440x810.png
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What is your path to financial sustainability?

We have a shared revenue model that relies on philanthropy, employer partnerships, and university fees for service. In 2018, with the help of a team of consultants, we set an ambitious goal of working forward the goal of one-third of revenue coming from philanthropy, one-third from corporations, and one-third from our university partnerships by 2022.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

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

Our fiscal year ended on June 30, 2020 and all amounts following are preliminary as we work to finalize our year-end close. As of June 30th, we have commitments for $9.79M which is 102% to our goal. We secured $1,305,264 from employers which is an 170% increase to last year and covers 17% of our total expense budget and 20% of our core model budget. We added new anchor partnerships this year with Deloitte, Adobe, and LinkedIn. Additionally this year we have four universities across four major metropolitan centers now paying for Braven and bringing in $466,500 in revenue (6% of our estimated expenses and 7% of our core model budget). Finally, we raised $7,998,372 from individuals and foundations.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

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

In order to grow the numbers of Fellows served over the next two years (FY21 & FY22), we need $24.5 million in revenue. Luckily, we have already secured 78% of the revenue needed for FY21 (~$8.9 committed), but as we look to the FY22 needs we have $2.8M committed, which is 22% to goal. We are actively working to close the additional $12.5 million needed across these two fiscal years by June 30, 2022.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What are your estimated expenses for 2020?

FY21: $10,000,000

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.
The Prize

Why are you applying for The Elevate Prize?

As a relatively young organization (7 years), we are proud of the incredible growth and impact we’ve made, however, we wake up everyday thinking about the 1 million low-income and first-generation college enrollees each year who won’t emerge with a quality first job. And with the COVID-19 crisis and recession/depression upon us, now more than ever, college students from humble beginnings need to be prepared to compete for strong jobs. We are doing a lot of good, but we have far bigger ambitions to equalize access to economic mobility -- and we have a scalable systemic solution and the results to prove that we can! 

The Elevate Prize provides an incredible opportunity to help us rise to respond to this pivotal moment in American history. The collective discussion about the implications of the racial wealth gap and lack of economic mobility by race are at an all-time high. While Black Americans make up 13% of the population they hold only 3% of the county’s wealth. We know Braven’s solution and strong results could deliver a proven-solution to this critical but solvable challenge  --- and for the first time in generations the country is ready to listen. Your support with a tailored media and marketing campaign aimed at amplifying the college to career issue and Braven’s work, could ignite a level of action among philanthropists, universities and employers that would change the narrative about what’s possible for our millions of college students who hail from humble beginnings.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

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

  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Marketing, media, and exposure
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

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

Marketing, Media, Exposure: TED, New York Times, 

Monitoring and Evaluation: It would be a dream to work with Raj Chetty and his team. 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Solution Team

 
    Back
to Top