Education: Lumina builds strategy around partnerships, investments
By Jamie Merisotis
A big job takes a big toolbox, and we’re fortunate at Lumina to have some interesting tools to help bring desperately needed, high-quality education beyond high school to all Americans.
One of those tools is impact investing: Through Lumina Impact Ventures we make direct equity investments in companies that can contribute to our mission, and so far we’ve built a portfolio of eight companies.
This is in addition to the grant support we provide to accelerators such as Camelback Ventures, New Profit, and Village Capital, which are working to incubate a diverse array of entrepreneurs focused on post-high school learning.
Our equity imperative is front and center in all this work, through investments in platforms that reach underserved learners, and our effort to invest in women and minority entrepreneurs.
Lumina’s direct investments have allowed us to accelerate action on racial fairness and equity, and now half of our portfolio companies are headed by people of color. We’ve also done important work in stressing the social — not just financial — outcomes with these companies as they strive to increase high-quality learning after high school.
One example is Care Academy, an education company that provides training to support in-home caregivers and the families they work with.
Many of these caregivers come from first-generation, immigrant populations with little education and a history of very low-wage work. Care Academy offers them a series of learning opportunities that can lead to a job-related certification and, ideally, on to collegiate learning.
The point of our impact investing isn’t just to help these startups; it’s about identifying and investing in platforms that can scale Lumina’s work to make high-quality training and education after high school available for more Americans.
Rather than helping a few hundred people, we’re seeking to reach thousands of learners and thus improve the national attainment rate, which will ultimately improve the lives of millions and help America compete in the global economy.
Of course, we’re not doing this alone. Though Lumina seeks to be a catalytic investor in this work, we leverage our knowledge and experience to collaborate with other investors and stakeholders in education, expanding opportunity for entrepreneurs and the learners they seek to reach.
Working together is critical. Only by sharing opportunity and responsibility, and by working cooperatively, can we achieve the economic, cultural, and racial equity objectives that we all share as mission-driven investors.