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Finding Community and Opportunities for Growth at The Upswell Forum

By: Meralis T. Hood 22 Jan 2024

Meralis T. Hood, CEO of Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll)

The four days at Upswell were nothing short of extraordinary, filled with invaluable insights, community building, and a shared commitment to accelerating the impact of social entrepreneurs in communities of color.  The cohort itself was incredibly diverse, reflecting the communities we serve.  The best part, the forum brought together three people from each organization accepted; so I had the opportunity to collaborate and learn with two colleagues of mine.

At EforAll our vision is clear: to empower and support entrepreneurs, particularly those from under-represented backgrounds, in their journey to launch and grow successful businesses. We deliver a no-cost, one year business accelerator  that provides entrepreneurs with mentorship, peer support, cash grants and a 12 week practical curriculum.

Scaling this work so we can provide program access to as many aspiring entrepreneurs as possible nationwide is integral to EforAll’s vision.  Our participation in the Upswell Forum helped us further refine that vision and walk away feeling affirmed and empowered. The energizing sessions led by renowned faculty and guest speakers who are experts in the field and passionate about this work delved into critical areas like leadership, strategy, and systems thinking—fundamental elements that resonate deeply with our organizational goals. We had the chance to reflect on our leadership, influence and power as leaders, evaluate the depth and quality of our core networks, and consider the ways in which we are using the tool of emergence as a way to think about our organizational and collective impact.

Beyond the enriching sessions, the Upswell Forum facilitated community building.  The meaningful conversations that I had with colleagues across the country who are facing similar challenges, excited and hopeful about finding solutions and thinking about how to increase their impact in a sustainable way were invaluable. I have already taken advantage of the network that I created by connecting with fellow leaders and speakers.

As we wrap up the pilot Upswell Forum, we are excited about the continued work ahead. I am looking forward to the virtual sessions and mentorship opportunities with HBS alumni that will extend the impact of the forum, fostering ongoing collaboration and support.