New website, new Blue Ridge Foundation
April 28, 2013
One of Downtown Brooklyn’s star social impact-oriented organizations, Blue Ridge Foundation, recently gave itself a new look with a revamped design of their website, courtesy of fellow Brooklyn design firms Hyperakt and Type/Code.
With that visual upgrade, though, comes a big change in direction for Blue Ridge. What once was a company designed as an incubator and supporter of non-profit startup ventures that have a positive impact on high poverty communities will now focus its efforts entirely on tech-related proposals from both for- and non-profit organizations.
“How we live our lives has become shaped so dramatically by tech in such a short time that we’re making this shift to align with technology’s effect in changing society,” said Robin Edwards, a Blue Ridge Expert-in-Residence. “This is the society we live in – good ideas come from all sectors. We want to nurture ideas regardless of organizations’ tax statuses.”
With the rising number of tech-related startups in seemingly every office building in the neighborhood, Blue Ridge is surrounded by potential ventures. Recent for-profit companies winning a spot in the Blue Ridge portfolio include an Ed Tech accelerator, an app that helps people make ‘impulse saves’ and build emergency reserve funds, and a company founded by educators that is creating high-quality online instructional content.
The process of selection is rigorous, and with their ability to take on only a select number of organizations, decisions are typically made after at least 2 months of considering applicants. Once selected, startups receive funding, use of Blue Ridge offices, expert advice, and professional guidance as they begin to implement their ideas in underserved communities.
“We are trying to tap into what is happening on a large scale in New York City,” said Edwards. “With 10 years of success behind us, we can get people, organizations, and businesses to double down and invest in high poverty communities.”
And their track record is a good one: the first venture Blue Ridge worked with in 1999 was the educational mentoring startup iMentor, which today has partnerships with 14 organizations in 11 states, and received an $1 million grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation at the end of last year. Another project was Womenslaw.org, a website providing plain (multi-)language, state-specific legal information and support for women. Since then, the venture has been acquired by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), accrued $1.3 million in funding, and generated a 100,000-person monthly traffic rate.
Blue Ridge’s newest changes, said Edwards, “are really an evolution for the foundation. Now it’s only going to get exponentially more exciting.”