Future Foundation Atlanta

A Sector Primed for Disruption?

Giving back is a recurring theme in the nonprofit world. No matter what the mission of the organization may be, so much of what we do, when we do it well, is based on the idea of giving back, mentoring, and helping others learn from your own experience to succeed in their own journeys.

This past Monday (August 13, 2017), I had the distinct pleasure of serving as the keynote speaker for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) National Conference in Atlanta, GA.

The reception we received after a disruptive conversation about the way poverty needs to be addressed at YNPN Atlanta clearly shows we’re working in a sector that’s primed for disruption.


The single word I wanted to focus on was “disruption.” I know “disruption” is a term you hear more often describing tech startup businesses rather than nonprofit efforts, but I really believe the way poverty is addressed is primed for disruption and Future Foundation’s story only serves to illustrate that fact.

The YNPN keynote provided an opportunity to initiate a conversation about the way poverty is addressed in America. To take a look at the Disruption Playbook we’re writing at Future Foundation and challenge leaders in our sector to break the status quo, and revamp the 50-year-old social policies and strategies that have been failing so many communities.

Since 2007, Future Foundation of Atlanta has been graduating 100% of our students in an area where low graduation rates are standard. We are proud to say the results we’ve seen since opening our doors in 2004 are undeniable. More important, we’re proud of what our students go on to do after graduation and we’re using our 13 years of success to build on what we’ve learned to fundamentally disrupt the way poverty is battled here in Atlanta, across the country and around the world.

How we do it?

The same way Uber disrupted transportation. The same way Airbnb disrupted travel. We are operationalizing a second-family model designed to make the most of existing resources.

Uber didn’t build a new fleet of taxis to deliver its service. It devised a way to mobilize people who already own cars to deliver a relevant, valued service to their customers.

Airbnb didn’t build thousands of hotel rooms. They connected people who wanted to rent out rooms to people who wanted to stay in interesting places at an affordable rate.

Both of these startup “unicorns” disrupted conventional thinking and reinvented an industry.

We in the nonprofit world so often get absorbed into “good works” thinking. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what drives us internally.

But it’s the disruptive ideas that can drive growth and success and real change in the world. It’s happening in the for-profit world, why can’t it happen in the non-profit one? Why can’t we disrupt poverty?

We are continually gathering data from our Second Family Model and partnering with a wide variety of people, organizations and resources to organize a model to create a disruptive, repeatable, scalable solution to poverty. We’re finding ways to connect existing resources to energize solutions to create opportunities utilizing the greatest asset we have in the not-for-profit sector—our people.

This shift is about relinquishing control of resources, decreasing bureaucracy, collecting real time data to improve student experiences, infusing innovative technologies into marginalized communities, and collaborating to coordinate resources in a strategically aligned ecosystem. It’s an ecosystem made up of a second family that spans the faith  business, government, school system, and nonprofit communities. 

Poverty statistics in America have not changed in 50 years. Judging from the response of young leaders listening to the disruption discussion at YNPN Atlanta this year, the time is now to seize the moment and disrupt our sector before other industry change disrupts our work.

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