Braven: Creating New Talent Pipelines
Why did you found Braven?
Aimee Eubanks Davis: The work at Braven is very personal to me. I grew up in low-income communities and as I grew in my leadership and in my career and got ever more senior, I started to walk into rooms and realized that there weren’t people there who looked like me. I wondered ‘Where were the women? Where were the African Americans, Where were the other people of color in leadership roles in education?’ I started to realize that because I played such a big role for such a long period of time in building skills in young professionals [at Teach for America], I actually had the knowledge and tools to create something to help even more young people build career-readiness skills so they can not only land their first job but thrive in it.
Who are you trying to reach?
AED: Our primary target audience are young people who are in college, often at large state schools. Right now we work at San Jose State and at Rutgers Newark. We want to work primarily with young people who are first in their families to go to college, are on Pell Grants, or from low income communities. We also want to make sure we are bringing in really awesome talent from the workforce to coach the teams, often people who are young professionals who are looking for a way to give back.
AED: We have a dual model where we have students in the cohorts from five to seven members and we have young professionals coaching those teams. What we’ve seen is that both groups win. The students get the career readiness skills that they need and the young professionals get an awesome opportunity to coach, lead, and manage a diverse team of people early in their careers. Through this model, we are creating, alongside our partners, an undeniable pipeline of extraordinary human capital who just happens to have come from low-income communities.
What impact would you like to see in the next 5-10 years?
AED: I am definitely thinking long term here. Building a pipeline of talent that’s going into pathways that allow them to have more economic opportunities, that is the America that we all believe in, and being able to see that and put our finger on it, that would be success in the world of Braven. I want to be able to say there are 100,000 young people who are not only getting through college, but also getting a strong first job. That would be a dream come true.
What did you learn in establishing and trying to scale up Braven?
AED: We want to keep growing our impact. I think one of the big questions that we have to ask ourselves is ‘what does scale look like for us?’ Is it that we hold tight at these two schools and continue to do what we’re doing to understand how to build an organization that can scale over time? Or do we say, ‘Alright, we’ve learned enough to know that it is working and we have others interested in our work?’ Is it time to start working with more schools or not? And that’s sort of where we are.
We’re at this interesting moment where we feel like the very heart of our model, which is this immersive experience that gets students the career readiness skills that they need, is well developed, but there are these other pieces around the campus based alumni experience as well as our connections to employers that we haven’t built out as robustly as the first part. And we’re just trying to figure out what those next sequences look like while also saying, ‘Does that mean we should just stay put – these campuses are enormous – or should we grow to a new campus because we might have new learnings? So that’s where we are at this point.
Is there any advice you would give to Fellows looking to make an impact the leadership development/job readiness space?
AED: One of the biggest pieces of advice is that the problem is massive. It really is. So it’s about defining where you feel you can make the biggest impact, given your own interests and skills, because the need is massive.
How has being involved with the Aspen Global Leadership Network and attending the Aspen Action Forum accelerated your growth?
AED: Without being a part of the Pahara-Aspen Fellowship, Braven would not exist. Period. I knew the challenge was there because I had seen it and was disturbed by it, but I didn’t have the time or space in my former role to actually figure out what I might do about it. The Pahara-Aspen Fellowship gave me time and the space I needed. So that’s huge. In addition, our very first donor who said, ‘I think this is important,’ came from the Pahara-Aspen network and actually right out of my cohort. Without Aspen, Braven would not be.
The Resnick Aspen Action Forum is an annual event designed to connect Aspen Global Leadership Network Fellows as well as other action-oriented leaders from Aspen Institute programs and partners and spur them to move “from thought to action.” Each participant at the Resnick Aspen Action Forum is asked to make an “Action Pledge” — a public commitment to do something about a societal challenge of their choosing.
Watch AGLN Fellows and Action Forum participants Aimee Eubanks Davis, Emile Cubiesy, and Ami Dror share their Action Pledges and discuss their efforts to build a pipeline of change-makers in their communities.