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by Rena Johnson. As Chief Program Officer for CityBridge, leads the CityBridge Incubator and coordinates across our program lines to increase internal coherence in our approach to advancing equity and opportunity for all children.

The last two program years have laid bare the acute impact of the deeply embedded inequities in our systems. However, in the midst of the increasing levels of frustration and disillusionment, we have found local inspiration. Since 2020, over 300 DC leaders have been compelled to address these inequities with the support of our programs. The CityBridge Incubator provides critical early-stage support for school leaders, educators, and entrepreneurs to design innovative and equity-centered solutions to our most entrenched educational challenges. In one of the most troubled and unique moments in our history, leaders—from all wards of the city—in student-serving organizations and schools within both sectors designed, piloted, and launched solutions tethered to one unifying goal: to create a more equitable future for DC’s young people.

Through the activation of equity design principles, our tools, and coaching from our experts, participants designed solutions from strengthening trauma-informed practices within the individual classroom to the launch of a multi-generational model prioritizing family wellness and parent technical skill development. Regardless of whether or not each participant’s ideas or pilots were ready for scaling, all participants embarked on a journey that centered learning from and with the communities most impacted by the problem.

Just as we encourage learning as a part of the solution building process, we demand that of ourselves. In fact, we’ve spent the last two years refining the strategies that will help us deliver programming that catalyzes our unifying goal. We have executed strategies to activate leadership and prioritize the recruitment of Black and Brown leaders, deployed curricula and coaching to improve the effectiveness of early stage ventures, and shared our ideas broadly in order to invite critique and reflection. 

As a part of this journey, we’ve decided to pause and reflect on what we’ve learned in pursuit of these goals and share them with you. 

This, my friend, is for us. A chance for all of us to be inspired about what we’ve accomplished together.

We are thrilled to kick-off The CityBridge Rewind, a month-long highlight reel of the leaders and ideas that have passed through our incubator and what we’ve learned from and with them. Across this month, you will gain more insight into our approach to this work from members of our team, preview the tools we use, and share in the learning that results. 

Upcoming stories will provide insight into how we:

  • Deploy curricula and coaching that will improve the effectiveness of early stage ventures: Listen in on a conversation with Coach Kim and some of the leaders she coached through Fellowship. They’ll share about the partnerships they built, the ways they grew as leaders, and the fun they had through the process.
  • Share our ideas to offer critique and reflection: Read Jim’s story about his work with the CapX and how it exemplifies how we keep students at the center of our work, while being creative, flexible, and innovative about ways in which we can push impact for kids. Read about how we had to pivot our approach after being rejected by the PCSB, but ultimately embraced obstacles as opportunities for students in DC.
  • Deploy curricula that will improve the effectiveness of early stage ventures: Read Andrew’s story of his work with two amazing leaders at Friendship Public Charter Schools. We help educators and entrepreneurs incubate their ideas with a widening toolkit of equity-design methods. One of the most powerful tools? Reflection. Read about how Felicia Ow0-Grant and Ayinde Spradley at Friendship PCS used reflective tools to explore, test, and learn.
  • Activating leadership: Join us at 5:30pm, Thursday, June 23rd as we celebrate the work of all of our alumni at Entrepreneur Journeys event at the Gathering Spot DC. Email Morgan Marler at mmarler@citybridge.org to RSVP.

BACK TO THE REWIND