When we think of homeless people many of us conjure up a fuzzy picture of the millions of people we see, and often choose to turn away from, who make their homes on the sidewalks and streets of our cities, alongside garbage, cockroaches, rats and all sorts of unimaginable diseases.
But thanks to the existence and efforts of organizations like Echoing Green, however, our current image of the homeless may soon become a thing of the past. Echoing Green is a global nonprofit organization that provides funding to individuals they consider the "best emerging social entrepreneurs." One such individual is Adam Bucko, co-founder of the Reciprocity Foundation, a nonprofit organization that "empowers the homeless to design their futures."
Lara Galinsky, vice president of Strategy for Echoing Green, Bucko, and two homeless youth empowered by The Reciprocity Foundation's work recently appeared on ABC News Now's "All Together Now" to discuss Echoing Green's fellowship program.
Founded in 1987 with the help of the private equity firm General Atlantic, LLC, Echoing Green's role is described by Galinsky as being "essentially like an angel investor in the nonprofit sector. We invest in individuals who have bold ideas for social change by providing them with seed funding, leadership and professional training, as well as technical and wraparound assistance to start their organizations with a strong foundation."
Echoing Green's social investments span the health, human rights, education and environment sectors, among others. The organization has provided more than $26 million in seed capital to nearly 450 visionary leaders, who have created hundreds of new nonprofit organizations in 41 U.S. states and 40 countries and raised close to $1 billion in additional funding.
When asked what differentiates social entrepreneurial work from that of traditional charities, Galinsky explained that "social entrepreneurship is about taking a root cause approach to social change. It's not about just providing services but about looking at a problem at its root and trying to solve that problem -- not merely treating its symptoms."
Echoing Green fellow Adam Bucko and partner Taz Tagore were awarded $90,000 over the next two years to expand their work with homeless youth. The Reciprocity Foundation's mission is to assist homeless young adults in securing sustainable employment, entering college programs and gaining the life skills needed to permanently move out of the shelter system.
"The Reciprocity Foundation has relationships with all of the homeless shelters in New York City, so we do outreach in those shelters, talk to kids, and whenever we find someone who is ready to make a commitment to our program, we accept them," Bucko explained.
Having served as a catalyst for the transformation of 300 youth already, the Foundation is essentially a precollege, preworkplace organization. Its many programs, such as Proof of Concept, Appreciate Designs and Gifts, Design Your Future and Live Well, encompass training in leadership, critical thinking, project management, applied creativity, public speaking, networking and entrepreneurship.
To achieve its mission, the Reciprocity Foundation partners with company leaders in the "creativity economy -- the design, media, marketing, fashion and public relations industries -- who co-lead many of the foundation's workshops.
Yaaserwaah Akuoku is one of the Reciprocity Foundation's success stories. "I was at a major turning point in my life, really scared and alone in a lot of ways," she says of the time in her life when she discovered the Foundation. "They basically made a home for me, not just a physical home, but they let me know that there are people out there who really do care about me, and who care about the community and creating social change."
An illustration of The Reciprocity Foundation's commitment to ensuring homeless youth the opportunity and funds they need to attend college, Akuoku was recently accepted into the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology in Florence, Italy.
"I am so grateful to Taz and Adam for working so diligently with me to make it happen," she said.
"It's just amazing," Galinsky says of the seeds of social change planted by Echoing Green, as demonstrated by Akuoku's transformation from homeless teenager to future fashion designer. "The idea of Echoing Green is to give people who have bold ideas for social change their seed money to launch initiatives that can have a deep and sustainable impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. To me, it's extraordinarily inspiring."
To learn more about Echoing Green, the Reciprocity Foundation and other organizations Echoing Green funds, as well as its recent Be Bold initiative for young aspiring social entrepreneurs, please visit: