Join Urban Land Conservancy (ULC) as we welcome our newest tenant to Tramway Nonprofit Center – Uncharted! Originally founded as “The Unreasonable Institute” in 2010, Uncharted defines their organization as a social impact accelerator whose mission is to “build coordinated movements of people to tackle problems from all angles.” Originally, Uncharted’s model for social impact investing was not focused around a singular issue. However, when the organization decided to rebrand in 2017, their present model of social impact investing emerged.
ULC had the chance to speak with Ash Dumford, the Director of Marketing and Communications for Uncharted. Dumford explained that Uncharted believes there are two primary methods in which organizations can better address endemic issues. The first hypothesis argues that organizations should tackle issues from a variety of different angles, which will lead to more measurable progress.
This idea of vertical acceleration focuses on assisting a business accelerate their overall impact. Uncharted links investors to ventures and matches these ventures with mentors, researchers and other partners to propel the venture towards their mission and goals. In partnership with Gary Community Investments, Futurebound Acceleration Lab selected eight ventures to advance innovative solutions for at-risk youth. Each venture received a stipend, access to pilot sites to test their solutions, support from mentors & experts and will continue to receive ongoing support now that the program has ended. Pilot sites include Teach for America Colorado, Jefferson County Public Schools and Denver’s Early Childhood Council. Since 2016, Uncharted has hosted nine accelerator programs, helping dozens of ventures and nonprofits scale up their impact.
The second hypothesis is focused on bringing ventures together to create a wider collective impact. Uncharted also operates under this methodology, seeking to make a greater positive community impact by connecting established ventures with each other.
“No one organization or idea is going to solve a big problem, we have to do it collectively,” Dumford explained.
A great example of horizontal impact is Uncharted’s recent campaign to address food deserts in the Metro Denver area. A food desert is traditionally a low-income neighborhood where residents cannot easily access healthy and affordable food. (To learn more about food deserts, visit the link here).
The first step in Uncharted’s campaign was to identify “drivers” of the problem, and the ventures that could best create solutions to address each driver. The drivers were identified as access, affordability and education. Through a partnership with the City and County of Denver, 10 Denver-based ventures were selected to address food security. In additional, 30 experts in scalable food models from across the country visited Denver for a five day boot camp. The GrowHaus, ReVision and Same Café were three of the ventures selected for the project.
Following the boot camp, each nonprofit agreed to work together to intelligently source products and collectively purchase produce to leverage economy of scale, thereby increasing affordable food options. The organizations also looked toward extending their efforts beyond Denver’s borders. Overall, the program was a fantastic example of how social impact accelerators can help organizations working to address similar issues connect and increase their level of impact beyond individual capacity.
Since 2010, Uncharted has assisted social entrepreneurs raise more than $252 million, benefiting 37 million lives in 92 countries around the world. And after nearly a decade in the business, it seems as though they are just getting started.
“Last year we were a team of four,” said Dumford. “As of today we are 15 full-time and 5 part-time employees. Rapid growth is really what we are facing now.”