Since it launched in 2011, Black Girls Code has taught computer skills to thousands of girls and young women of color in summer camps and after-school workshops throughout the U.S. When the pandemic put in-person classes on hold, the Oakland-based nonprofit group’s instructors pivoted to online sessions and realized that they could serve more students in more places — if they had help sorting out logistics such as how to get laptops to low-income participants.
Meanwhile, 10 Latinx-serving organizations across the country, all recipients of Raza Development Fund grants, found themselves unable to meet with potential clients in person and were desperate to learn better ways to promote their services virtually.
In recent weeks, MBA students from the UCLA Anderson School of Management have stepped up to aid these and other organizations. They were inspired by the Impact@Anderson Crisis Response Corps, which UCLA Anderson students Joe Roohan (’21) and Charles Moran (’21) created in the spring of 2020, when harsh pandemic realities became clear.
The CRC program’s mission is to match organizations in need with students eager to put their coursework and corporate experience to work. The students are consulting pro bono at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has many nonprofit entities and social enterprises against the ropes.
Roohan and Moran matched 71 students, either individually or in teams of two to four, with 27 organizations. Among the clients are 17 nonprofit groups, two social enterprises and four startups. Consultants include current students across Anderson’s programs, along with a few members of the Class of 2020.
All have been motivated by a desire to do some good during a period of immense challenge.
“This opportunity came at a time when so many of us were sitting inside our houses wondering what could be done,” says Anna Boudinot (’21), who is a student in Anderson’s EMBA program and volunteered to consult with Raza Development Fund.
Boudinot, 42, says she jumped at the opportunity because the pandemic had crippled her ability to volunteer to help Los Angeles-area teens hone their writing skills through the nonprofit group 826LA. In addition to studying for her MBA, Boudinot recently co-founded 27 Engines, a boutique marketing agency.
Her UCLA Anderson co-consultant is Naren Raghavan (’21), an EMBA student who works full time as a senior product manager with DocuSign, based in San Francisco. He will advise the Raza Development Fund affiliates about how to best use their software platforms to operate efficiently.
Based in Phoenix, Raza Development Fund is the nation’s largest Community Development Financial Institutions Fund and is part of a national program run through the U.S. Treasury Department. CDFI Funds invest federal dollars and private-sector capital in economically disadvantaged communities. Raza Development Fund, whose mission is to increase opportunities for Latinx communities and low-income families, manages more than $400 million in assets and has awarded grants for education, affordable housing and health care projects.
Rodrigo Vela (’06), Raza Development Fund’s chief financial officer, received an email from UCLA Anderson about the Crisis Response Corps and encouraged the organization to apply.
Boudinot and Raghavan began by auditing the websites and social media pages of 10 Raza Development Fund affiliates that had recently received grants. Boudinot then conducted two webinars to help the affiliates bolster their digital marketing efforts — which have taken on more importance, given the limitations on in-person meetings with constituents.
“I covered how to build a strong brand based on their mission statements and values, and how to implement a marketing strategy with limited resources,” Boudinot says. She next plans to meet with the affiliates one on one to provide tailored advice on their marketing needs.
Raza Development Fund staff and interns participated in the first virtual UnidosUS Annual Conference and Marketplace
The affiliates include: Chicago’s Northwest Side Housing Center, which helps homeowners to avoid foreclosure and mentors the parents of school-age children; Tampa, Florida-based Enterprising Latinas, which seeks to empower low-income Latinas; and the Northeast Ohio Hispanic Center for Economic Development, which helps to nurture Cleveland-area businesses.
Raza Development Fund has invited Boudinot and Raghavan to continue their consulting indefinitely.
“They were a really good fit, a match made in heaven,” says Eric Salazar, director of UnidosUS Affiliated Investments, Raza Development Fund’s parent organization. Salazar says he hopes that Boudinot can expand her webinar to advise an additional 15 to 20 affiliates.
As the Crisis Response Corps revved up, Lauren Diaz (’21) was eager to enlist. She and three other Class of 2021 FEMBAs — Aura Roy, Stacia Long and Fiona Yu — formed an all-female team to advise Black Girls Code, which was scrambling to shift to online instruction.
In a noteworthy nexus, Diaz is the finance and operations manager for the nonprofit Ending Pandemics, which provides funds and technical support to groups around the world seeking to identify and contain disease outbreaks. Roy is chief of staff to the vice president of Lockheed Martin’s advanced technology center; Long is mission director at Boeing Satellite Systems; and Yu is a search fund associate at Granite Point Partners, a private investment company.
Since its founding as a basement startup almost a decade ago, Black Girls Code has promoted the advancement of young women of color in technology jobs by offering training in software programs during after-school workshops and other sessions. Its lofty goal is to train 1 million girls by 2040 to help them become innovators in science, technology, engineering and math.
The need is dire. A recent study by Deutsche Bank concluded that Black girls and young women, along with Latinas, are experiencing a “racial tech gap” that could threaten their future ability to gain meaningful employment and to earn good money in the digitized economy.
The UCLA Anderson team took on the analysis of a variety of factors, including the effectiveness of Black Girls Code’s remote delivery, feedback from participants’ families during the summer and hardware needs for participants as distant as the Caribbean. The MBA consultants helped Black Girls Code gauge how many laptops were needed for participants in remote locations and how to run virtual meetings most effectively. They also recommended that the group tailor programs based on participants’ coding capabilities and career expectations, and be more strategic about where to expand.
“We do not have a lot of bandwidth when it comes to diving deeply into analysis,” says Yusni Bakar, Black Girls Code’s program director–virtual programs. “The MBA students have been really helpful.” Bakar adds that the students spent “hours and hours” working on issues behind the scenes and that their input will be invaluable as Black Girls Code shifts to a hybrid model that combines in-person instruction with virtual engagement.
The MBA team’s research showed that Black Girls Code has direct competitors in its field and needs to set itself apart. Moving to a hybrid model, Diaz says, “might help them stand out.”
Diaz says she and her teammates welcomed the experience of being helpful outsiders. “This was a really great opportunity,” she says. “A lot of groups were scrambling to figure out how and what to do.”