Evolution University: online school for changemakers

Empowering tech, social, and eco entrepreneurs everywhere to evolve our world forward by bringing great ideas into reality.

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  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Joni Roberts

Initiative's representative date of birth

29 March 1966

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Woman

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • USA

Where are you making a difference?

EU is a virtual organization based in Jacksonville, FL and available to changemakers everywhere.

Website or social media url(s)

Website: https://www.evolution.university/ *** Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EvolutionUniversity/ @EvolutionUniversity *** LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/evolution-university @EvolutionUniversity *** Twitter: https://twitter.com/EvolutionUni @EvolutionUni *** Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/evolutionuniversity/ @EvolutionUniversity

When was your organisation founded?

January 2020 is the official incorporation date of the online school. The idea, prototype, and in person workshop delivery has been in the works for years.

Focus areas

  • Financial skills and capability
  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce

Project Stage

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $100k - $250k

Organisation Type

  • For-profit
  • Currently an S-Corp and applying to be a benefit corporation

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

As EU's founder, my journey has been one of unexpected adventures in international entrepreneurship and higher education instruction and course design. As an entrepreneurial advisor, I noticed that many people with the best intentions for starting businesses with positive benefits for people and the planet struggled from evaluating ideas to being successful in the marketplace. This meant they were often disillusioned by their attempts and didn’t prosper financially. What they needed were the skills that people with deep expertise in entrepreneurship and business education have: strategic thinking with proven methodologies for launching, growing, and leading successful enterprises. To meet this need, I founded EU to upskill entrepreneurs.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

The big picture problem is unsustainable business practices leading to stresses on ecosystems plus social and economic inequalities. According to the UN SDG's there is a short window of time to solve these issues from 2020-2030. People want to take action, yet many lack the skills to turn ideas into impact. Many of the best resources are inaccessible due to distance/cost, do not embrace changemaker mindsets, and have fragmented offers.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

EU overcomes these problems by embracing the changemaker movement and putting the people, planet, prosperity model at the center of our programming. EU offers education and support throughout the full entrepreneurial lifecycle from purpose, idea, launch, growth, and impact investing. EU empowers local and global innovators with access to the school from anywhere anytime, embraces a social learning approach and values connection to a community. EU offers a unique 3-part approach: online courses with mentors and instructor leadership, a community of online changemakers within the school where EU will be cultivating conversations to propel the changemaker movement globally, and an accelerator program with an opportunity to pitch to impact investors. EU also has a unique approach to course content such as combining MBA level frameworks with proprietary models. A free course that is not seen in traditional incubators is MOREcompassion and is a prerequisite to the flagship Mini MBA for Changemakers. This makes a statement right away that people who join the school will have compassion as a core competency. The 8-week Mini MBA focuses on Marketing, Business and Action strategies.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

EU is innovating by taking existing knowledge, repackaging it and expanding on it to fit with the changemaker movement. EU brings heart and soul to traditional incubators and accelerators, something very appealing to changemakers. We are more than launching successful businesses, we are changing the world by reimagining the way we do things, creating greater abundance and joy for all. EU creates unique social learning experiences by integrating business and science with international art and culture, and bringing members on an inspirational journey. Courses are designed at the quality level of university courses with content that is engaging, thought provoking, practical, and action oriented. Certificates can be shared on LinkedIn profiles.

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

Evolution University supports changemakers across the full entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial lifecycles from connecting to a purpose, evaluating ideas, launching and growing, to accelerator and pitch opportunities. Courses apply to startups as well as new programs and ways of doing business in established organizations. For our world to fully transition to a sustainable future, we need to include corporations, medium, and small businesses and help them reinvent products, supply chain practices, and improve employee experiences. EU can provide online and live workshops, week-long intensives, and customized trainings for existing organizations to upskill leadership, strategic thinking, innovation, and sustainability competencies.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

Skills are compassion, empathy, leadership, management, strategic thinking, innovation, sustainability, financial management, marketing, customer experience, employee experience, goal execution and achievement. The key performance indicators are: • Course enrollments • Course completion rates • Growth of school membership • Member retention & engagement o Remaining a member of the free community o Purchasing membership into private groups o Member engagement levels in discussions • Revenue & profit per member • Member satisfaction & reviews • Graduate success in the marketplace.

6. Financial capability: how is your organization or project creating innovative solutions that arm people with ability to optimize their current and future financial health

An essential skill for running and growing businesses and changemaker movements is monetizing operations for today and tomorrow. Managing financial growth in a way that is fast enough to bring revenue in while balancing that with smartly scaling for long term success are skills needed by every changemaker who is leading organizations and departments. Financial management skills are woven into the Mini MBA for Changemakers program. Financial management is also slated as a future separate training topic to be created in collaboration with financial experts and hosted on Evolution University.

6a. Please describe what aspect of financial capability your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress.

The aspects of financial capability are: revenue generation, revenue reinvestment into the organization, stakeholder management including social giving, loan management, equity investment, product pricing, value chain analysis, circular economy, and financial forecasting. • Course enrollments related to financial management • Course completion rates • Revenue & profit per course • Member satisfaction & reviews • Graduate success in the marketplace.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Multiple education alternatives exist, none with the same offer as EU. 1: Accelerators, Y-Combinator, Techstars. Strengths: brand name, thought leaders, massive venture capital. Limits: fragmented, physical presence, no changemaker movement. 2. Singularity University. Strengths: leadership, tech to recreate our world, extensive learning resources. Limits: high cost. 3. University Certificates, i.e. Get Smarter. Strengths: quality content, brand reputation. Limits: lack community. 4. On-demand, LinkedIn, SBA, YouTube, Blogs. Strengths: free, low cost. Limits: fragmented, self-motivation.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Evolution University is in a prelaunch stage for the online school. A pilot is booked for the Mini MBA for Changemakers with the winners of Techstars Startup Weekend Jax held in January 2020 (EU's founder Joni Roberts was a coach for the event). As an example of the types of outcomes people can experience by taking the courses, I applied these same concepts and methodologies as a cofounding team member of an AI predictive analytics startup in Jacksonville called www.PolarController.com. I led the strategic planning process, social responsibility programs, and developed the investor pitch deck and presentation, helping to bring the company to its first successful round of $500K seed funding in August 2019. You will also find testimonials on www.Evolution.University from people who have attended the in-person programs, sharing how the courses helped them be more successful.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

In the beginning, I am bootstrapping, doing all of the work myself from logo design, to website development, course design and development, networking, promotion, and so on. I have a window of opportunity to launch this school and nothing will stop me. Even if 10 people take my courses I will be happy, however my true dream is to reach as many changemakers around the world as possible, hopefully 1,000s. The minimum fixed costs are not high, so it is financially sustainable at the basic level. The question is how fast and at what quality can the school grow? By adding a team of designers, marketers, customer experience specialists, and adjunct instructors, the school can grow faster, reach more people, and make greater impact for 2030 SDGs.

10. Team

Please see bio for Joni Roberts, Chief Evolution Officer, on LinkedIn and Evolution.University website. EU will keep a lean team, outsourcing and automating any non-core functions. Early hires will be for digital design & video development, social media marketing, sales, customer experience, and partnership development. As the number of courses offered grows, EU will add highly engaging and dedicated adjunct instructors paid above market rates, and based on a percentage of revenue.

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • Gender

If you selected “yes” to any of the categories above, please explain how being a member of this group has impacted you and your work?

When I started my entrepreneurial journey as one of the first tech founders in Romania post communism, I did not want to believe there were differences between men and women in business and entrepreneurship. Largely, I believe I have been respected as a woman, a leader, and a contributor, however I cannot deny there are differences in access to capital. It also takes longer for a woman to prove her credibility. Biases exist and we have still have a long way to go to achieve equality for women.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media


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