The Hidden Genius Project is a fast growing, innovative organization founded by entrepreneurs. In its first year, the organization launched its flagship Intensive Immersion Program serving five students, while staffed entirely by volunteers with a total income of $1,500.

 

The group articulated a bold vision: to be a global leader in black male youth development, as well as the leading incubator of dynamic young black male entrepreneurs and technologists.”

OUR GROWTH

Since 2012 THE IMPACT of The Hidden Genius Project has grown in breadth and depth. Program sites have expanded to serve youth in two Bay Area locations – OAKLAND AND RICHMOND – and additional Catalyst opportunities have been steadily added.

PROGRAMMING AND TOTAL EXPENSES

Each new program built on and contributed to the synergy of the overall body of programming. Attendees at the one-day Catalyst events began to apply and be accepted to the Intensive Immersion Program. As the reputation of the organization expanded through increasing visibility, the staff was asked to provide short-term programming in local schools on a contractual basis.

The reach of The Hidden Genius Project grew as requests for Catalyst events started to come in from across the country (with sponsoring partners including major companies and/or professional sports teams). Catalyst Events have been sponsored in several cities including LA, New Orleans, Buffalo, Detroit, and Miami, and interest has been expressed by a number of other cities. This led to the exciting opportunity to deliver two Catalyst programs in London in 2018.

PROGRAMMING GROWTH OVER TIME

2012
OAK1 - Intensive Immersion Program
– Five Hidden Geniuses
2016
First Community Partner Programming
– Youth Educators as faculty
2013
First Catalyst Program: Brothers Code
&
OAK 2 - Intensive Immersion Program
2017
First expansion Intensive Immersion Site – Richmond, CA
2015
OAK 3, first “overlapping” cohort launched
First Strategic Influencer Technical Assistance contract with OUSD
First In-School Programming – staff delivered programming (partnership)
2018
First international Catalyst Event – London, UK

LASTING IMPACT THROUGH ALUMNI NETWORK

The Hidden Genius Project model is inspired by the Ron Brown Scholar Program – an organization dedicated to building a lifelong network for positive social change. As the cadre of alumni builds, the network associated with The Hidden Genius Project will continue to grow in scope and impact.

In addition to staying connected, many Hidden Genius Alumni return to serve as Youth Educators (facilitators) at Catalyst and Community Partner Programing. Several of the students have started successful businesses, working in their communities and providing inspiration to the incoming students.

Click HERE to read stories from Hidden Genius Alumni who completed our Intensive Immersion Program.

COMMUNICATIONS

An additional program element, while difficult to quantify, is the organization’s “Strategic Communications.” A great deal of favorable media coverage (MSNBC, The New York Times, Black Enterprise, HuffPost Tech, and many more major outlets) has helped to grow its reputation and expand its influence.

Click HERE to read the latest news.

FINANCIAL MODEL EVOLUTION

With a growing wave of interest in Silicon Valley in increasing the diversity of the tech workforce, in 2015 Google awarded one of six Impact Challenge grants of $500,000 to the organization. Two years later Google awarded its annual Google.org grant of $1M to the group.

While continuing to attract these large grants, the organization is increasingly developing programs delivered on a contract basis (Community Partner Programming, In-School Programming and Technical Assistance) thereby growing an earned revenue stream. The Catalyst Program is another revenue generating program, poised to generate a financial surplus given its sponsorship model. Staff will soon be able to share curricula in licensing agreements, adding a fifth revenue-generating program as a line of business. In 2018 the combined earned revenue and sponsorship funding was 16% of the total and it is rapidly growing up.

Donations (from individuals, event income, online giving and major donors) were 15% of total revenue in 2018, having grown 600% since 2015. With earned revenue and donations combined, the total percentage of revenue from grants was reduced to 66% of the total.

ORGANIZATIONAL CAPACITY

The organization has been able to raise the funds to grow its capacity and systems in financial management, communications, exploration of strategic priorities and core faculty and programming staff to match the growing programming. Again, the parallel to the rapid growth of tech start-ups is seen.

THE WAY AHEAD

The Intensive Immersion Program is at the center of an expanding set of concentric circles of programming and influence. The organization has solid roots in Oakland, CA and the Bay Area, and has experience serving black male youth across the US and now across the Atlantic. Its mission and vision to serve as many youth as possible and to become a global model compel the organization forward.

The first seven years have demonstrated proof of concept, the ability to attract a growing level of support and to diversify revenue streams, and the discipline to build the organizational infrastructure to keep pace with the increasing scale of program delivery. What can be expected in the next seven years is unwavering commitment to its vision and values, consistent assessment of potential risks, and ongoing creativity in finding ways to pursue its mission and reach significantly more young people.

SITUATIONAL ASSESSMENT / COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS

Along with the increasing role of technology is a rapidly growing awareness of and commitment to the need for increasing the diversity of the workforce in every sector that is technology driven.  Thus the need for the core work of The Hidden Genius Project is easy to demonstrate.

Not surprisingly, the number of organizations serving youth of color as well as adults of color is exploding across the US and internationally. (See Appendix 2. Environmental Assessment and Appendix 3. Training Landscape Analysis summary prepared by TechHireOakland for High School and adult programs and Comparative Cost/Student Analysis by the Harvard Business School Community Partners team).  

Thus demand for entry-level skills, as well as programs seeking to provide training and job placement are all increasing.  On the one hand it appears that the competition for funding and for students might become more challenging. However to date the unique combination of attributes and distinctive focus that characterize The Hidden Genius Project, supported by enthusiastic response from participants, their parents and others in the community, has put it in a very strong competitive position.

COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

In the context of the market/environment assessment and the SWOT analysis, the Strategic Planning Committee has concluded the following.  (See Appendix 4: Updated SWOT)

The Hidden Genius Project’s competitive advantage is its core program model with a unique combination of attributes (who is served, what the focus of the program is and how the program is delivered), and a strategy that encompasses several levels of engagement (deep individual training and coaching; lower-intensity training and exposure events; technical assistance to systems; advocacy and thought leadership).

  • Who is served: Unapologetically black – serving black male youth, with leadership who look like the young people
  • What the focus is: Technology + Entrepreneurship + Leadership 
  • How the program is delivered: Holistic youth-centered program model –unique approach to mentorship and coaching – Student centered and students out front 

These elements as program principles are incorporated through all programming.

VALUE PROPOSITION

The Hidden Genius Project aims to build a more positive societal narrative around black boys and men, in whom we see a tremendous amount of unrealized potential.

Technology creation offers a significant opportunity to engage economically disenfranchised young men to thrive in a global economy while simultaneously bolstering societal productivity.

In learning to build a tangible product they recognize is complex and cutting edge, the young men that participate in our programming develop confidence that they can overcome obstacles and excel in all facets of their lives.

PROGRAM MODEL

The Hidden Genius Project’s program mix has evolved into a “4 tier Program Portfolio” with 7 individual programs – where each level reaches a “broader” market with decreasing “depth” of investment.  The programs are integrated and interdependent.

PROGRAM GROWTH TRAJECTORY

Intensive Immersion Program 

The landmark Intensive Immersion is ready for expansion.  Having successfully launched the program in a second city two years ago and with a well-developed assessment scorecard in hand, six cities have been identified for possible expansion.  (See Appendix 5: New Site Launch Scorecard).

Through 2022

  • Establish 1 – 3 new sites for a total of up to 5 Intensive Immersion Cities – with 5 sites each offering overlapping cohorts – the Intensive Immersion Program would be serving upwards of 200 youth per year.
  • Another opportunity to increase the number of youth served is to consider increasing the scale of local Intensive Immersion programs by adding a third and possibly fourth cohort at a given site.  In Oakland it seems likely from recruiting experience in recent years that demand would support this scale. Instead of serving approximately 50 youth in two overlapping cohorts, a given site could serve 50% to 100% more each year.

Through 2025

  • Add up to five more Intensive Immersion Cities for a total of up to 10 total sites.
  • While the standard two overlapping cohort model has been proven; we can expect experimentation on adding additional cohorts to more rapidly grow the overall capacity of serving more students each year

Catalyst Programs

The Catalyst Program was the second program created after the Intensive Immersion Program.  It is highly collaborative, and has proven to be an excellent vehicle for bringing the unique aspects of The Hidden Genius Project to new audiences, and new communities. The likelihood is that demand will continue to increase for this program and that it will begin to generate a meaningful level of surplus revenue.  

Through 2022

  • Continue to employ Catalyst events to expose young people to possibilities in technology they may never have considered for themselves (in Silicon Valley, in sports, in media, in health care, etc.).
  • Continue to employ Catalyst events to “test the waters” in new communities for potential partnerships and funding sources – especially where the possibility of launching an Intensive Immersion Program exists.
  • Maintain modest growth in this program at eight to twelve events per year for the next few years, serving up to 2,000 young people per year.  There is strong interest to repeat the UK experience and potentially explore invitations that have been received from elsewhere in Europe as well as Africa.

Through 2025

  • One scenario posited in discussion about future possibilities would have the majority of Catalyst Programs delivered by alumni of the Intensive Immersion Program.
  • The variety and nature of Catalyst Programs will continue to increase.

Alumni Support and Engagement

The alumni network is one of the most powerful outcomes of The Hidden Genius Project’s work.  Supporting this group of enterprising young men is a core commitment and programmatic element – growing as the number of graduates increases.  The creation of the Youth Educator role is just the first of what we can expect will be new innovations emerging from this body of Geniuses.

Through 2022

  • Develop the infrastructure for a growing cadre of alumni.  
    • One of the basic elements of the vision is to grow a national and ultimately international brotherhood of alumni of The Hidden Genius Project Intensive Immersion Program.  
    • Building the capacity for this network to be active and to make it easy to interact and find fellow graduates with similar needs, or similar aspirations is already under development.  
    • One can imagine an annual conference and/or a robust online platform for networking, and access to the types of resources and contacts that alumni are interested in.

Through 2025

  • One of the early ideas of the founders of The Hidden Genius Project was to create a dedicated “Incubator” for new businesses to provide intensive and individualized support to those alumni who are interested in, and ready for, creating new businesses.  Part of this dream is that businesses started by Geniuses are likely to provide job opportunities for new graduates! It is likely that within this timeframe, more concentrated work toward this vision will be achieved, potentially in partnership with one or more other organizations.

Community Partner Programming 

This training program delivered by the Youth Educators is growing rapidly.  The demand for this unique training is growing and the numbers served are increasing more rapidly than in any other program.  Where this program goes next is difficult to foresee, other than that we can expect that growth and innovation will continue.  

Through 2022

  • Continue to grow the number of youth served (from 300 in 2018 with five contracts) to 500 – 1,000 served (in Oakland) through eight to twelve contracts.
  • Take the first steps to replicate this program in Richmond, and perhaps other sites as Geniuses graduate.

Through 2025

  • If steady growth in demand and service continues, it is possible that well over 2,000 youth will be served per year through this program in the Bay Area.  And if it is something that other new expansion sites begin to offer, the overall scale could become quite significant.

In-School Programming

The current contract under this category of programming is a highly innovative effort aimed at providing in-school skills development in the field of information technology in health care sponsored by the Alameda County Healthcare Services Agency.  There is great demand for young people with these skills, and it appears to be a highly leveraged application of staff expertise. The Hidden Genius Project staff are working alongside staff from Mentoring in Medical Sciences. There is discussion of the creation of a Certification Track, as well as other possible directions for growth.  This work is funded on a contract basis, so the only limitations are demand and internal capacity.   

Through 2022

  • This work is high profile, and has potential to create significant impact.  We can expect that much more will be learned from this pilot effort and that other similar efforts will be undertaken.

Through 2025

  • New proposals are surfacing regularly for various ways existing organizations might work with, or learn from, The Hidden Genius Project.  One intriguing request would marry the In-School Programming role with the Strategic Influencer Role to support the delivery of a new school-year program inspired by, and with support from, The Hidden Genius Project.  The potential for this type of consulting/training/partnering relationship may be quite large. 

Strategic Influencer – Technical Assistance

The initial Technical Assistance contract with the Oakland Unified School District has allowed The Hidden Genius Project to reach over 3,000 young people per year through helping to shape an annual weeklong program for high school students.  While similar to the In-School Programming delivered by staff from The Hidden Genius Project, in the Technical Assistance role, staff is advising others on how best to deliver the program rather than delivering lessons. This is clearly a highly leveraged role, and another contract-funded program.

Through 2022

  • It is likely The Hidden Genius Project will continue to advise OUSD.  Other contracts will need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
  • The new opportunity in the next few years is for The Hidden Genius Project to begin licensing curricula.  
    • The work to prepare curricula for distribution is already well underway, so it is highly likely that this will be unveiled in the next year or two.  Significant decisions will need to be made about how the curricula is used and with what conditions, as well as what role, if any, The Hidden Genius Project will play in the utilization of the curricula.
    • A choice that The Hidden Genius Project will need to make is whether to offer “Train the Trainer” support along with the curricula, and/or any other forms of Technical Assistance that may be requested.

Through 2025

  • Should this work continue to grow and prove to be an effective vehicle for achieving its mission, The Hidden Genius Project may consider creating a Technical Assistance consulting arm to grow and fine tune this work.

Strategic Influencer – Strategic Communications

As noted above The Hidden Genius Project has made significant investments in its communications, messaging and branding.  The staff is keenly aware of, and eager to influence, the growing public discourse about the issues the organization is confronting. 

Through 2022

  • Over the next few years, The Hidden Genius Project is committed to getting its “message” out more broadly through media, public speaking, and potentially publishing.  There is a growing body of work to share with a wider public, and growing interest in what this organization has to share.
  • It is highly likely that as the organization becomes a well known thought leader that several team members will be in position to represent the organization through speaking engagements, sitting on panels at conferences, and achieving significant visibility.

Through 2025

  • Depending on how this work unfolds, one could imagine “institutionalizing” strategic communications as one of the core strategies The Hidden Genius Project employs to share what it is learning and demonstrating.
  • A filmmaker partner is currently interested in creating a documentary that highlights the story and elevates the visibility of The Hidden Genius Project internationally.

REVENUE GROWTH STRATEGY

After three years with very few resources and no paid staff, The Hidden Genius Project grew explosively with remarkable levels of recognition and financial support from Google, other corporate supporters as well as traditional foundations.  The Hidden Genius Project is riding a wave of interest in increasing diversity in the technology field from the corporate sector as well as private philanthropy.  There has been understandable concern among the leadership about the wisdom of depending on this level of support continuing over the long term.

What is remarkable is that in 2018, the level of earned revenue and donations each doubled over the previous year.  As a result while foundation and corporate grants are still the primary funding source, the percentage of total revenue has declined to 66% from 90% in 2015, even while total grant funding tripled over this period.

Nonetheless, with awareness of the ongoing dependence on grant funding, The Hidden Genius Project has articulated a set of complementary strategies to manage risk while supporting continued rapid growth over the next several years.

ORGANIZATIONAL GROWTH STRATEGY

The Strategic Planning Committee identified organizational growth as one of the core areas of attention needed for The Hidden Genius Project to grow successfully.

Area of particular focus included:

  • Human Resources
  • Program Support
  • Management systems generally
  • Evaluation tools – and potential use of automation
  • Possibility of contributed in-kind resources as a cost saving measure
  • What process to use to prioritize findings and alignment with strategic plan

ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE & CULTURE

Goals:

  • Add Development capacity
  • Add internal Communications capacity
  • Build organizational structure that can replicated
  • Build sustainable HR system that supports growth
  • Document Intensive Immersion storytelling infrastructure

 

Long-Term Objectives:

  • Solid relationships with schools where Geniuses attend (post High School as well)
  • Full-time Social Media manager or high-level outsourced solutions?
  • Time commitment e.g. for expansion site. Staff members to minimize turnover.
  • The organization operationalizes a smooth hiring process.
  • Management structure supports development of clear goals, benchmarks and training for all staff members
  • 100% of staff utilizing professional development opportunities across all locations.
  • Build an organizational structure and culture that can be replicated as we expand to other cities, states etc.

 

What Resources Will We Need?
What Significant Expenditures May Be Needed in the next 3-5 years?

  • Flexible yet meaningful administrative support for each leadership position
  • Software
  • Holistic HR design process that reflects our values
  • Hiring is essential
  • Commitment from the Communications Director for a specific length of time.
  • Search Team to I.D. good candidates e.g. Development/Communications Director
  • Making sure we the budget to cover the position.