September 29, 2019

It's All About Follow Through: Supporting Ventures As They Advance In Their Missions

Two McNulty Prize Laureates, Rocketship Public Schools and Nutrivida, have been awarded $25,000 Catalyst Fund grants by the McNulty Foundation – a new initiative to expand support to ventures at next-phase critical junctures since being recognized by the McNulty Prize. Read more below to learn how Rocketship Public Schools and Nutrivida are crossing into new territory and deepening their impact.

Landing across the US

Rocketship Public Schools, founded by Henry Crown Fellow John Danner and led by Pahara Fellow Preston Smith, provides high-quality education to students in low-income communities by getting parents involved and designing technologies to personalize learning. 9 years since being named a McNulty Prize Laureate, they operate 19 schools, have served 20,000 students, and consistently rank in the top 10% of public schools — and now they have plans to open another 10 high-performing public elementary schools in historically disadvantaged communities.

To scale to the size of the problem facing public education in our nation, Rocketship is focused on building parent-led movements that change the ecosystem of public education in disadvantaged communities. By focusing exclusively on elementary education, Rocketship demonstrates to parents what is possible from the moment their child enters the formal public school system. And by deeply engaging parents in their child’s education and school community, Rocketship parents become powerful advocates for their students and their communities. They learn to hold leaders accountable, demand political attention, and harness the power of their voice to enable high-quality public school systems to thrive in their own community.

As Rocketship expands, it brings a track record of success in similar environments around the country. As of the current school year, 75% of Rocketship students are economically disadvantaged, 36% are English language learners, and 5% are homeless. Those statistics, however, have been no barrier to learning at Rocketship: at their 13 California schools, economically disadvantaged Rocketship students outperformed the state average for all students in math and are quickly overtaking them in English. Longitudinal studies confirm the most important part of the equation: these benefits stick. Two years after graduating, SRI International’s study shows that Rocketeers are still a year ahead of their peers. When Rocketship won the McNulty Prize in 2009, it was because they proved its model worked and were bringing it to greater San Jose. Now they’ve doubled down on those findings and proved it works even after high school, and we’re thrilled to support their expansion.

Serving up solutions in Central America

Exciting expansions continue well south of Texas as Nutrivida expands its social business offering fortified foods to families at affordable costs to eradicate the scourge of malnutrition in Central America. Founded by CALI Fellow and food industry executive Gisela Sánchez, who partnered with Nobel Prize-winning economist and social business pioneer Mohammed Yunus, Nutrivida has made significant inroads in defeating childhood malnutrition in Costa Rica, and will be moving into Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Nutrivida’s success has come from its multi-pronged delivery model. First and foremost, it offers a range of fortified products that kids actually enjoy and which parents can feel proud serving on their tables. The business started with just three products, and five years later, they offer 13 products: two infant cereals, four soups, five drinks and two spice mixes for cooking. Offering products that can compete and win on store shelves is crucial in making the program sustainable, allowing parents who want to buy their children the best a budget-friendly way to do so while ensuring Nutrivida is not dependent on philanthropy. The company has sold 7.4 million units in Costa Rica thus far, and has donated over 2.3 million meals in Costa Rica, Venezuela and Haiti. Its sales reps are a network of women who sell its wares to mom-and-pop shops and supermarkets across the country, as well as partnering with institutions like hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, and schools. Their network is now 650+ strong, mostly vulnerable women who now make between $150-$250 USD a month.

In a region with 1.8 million children suffering from malnutrition—a preventable condition in the modern world that leaves lifelong deficits for its victims—this kind of acceptance and success is exactly what a rising Central America needs to raise its next generation. With 10 million meals already delivered, Nutrivida is now partnering with local NGOs and companies to take it into its new countries.

Both of these leaders, Gisela Sánchez and John Danner, leveraged their expertise and resources of their careers in food and tech to bring transformation to their secors. At the McNulty Foundation, our expertise and resources are dedicated to amplifying the work of dozens such leaders; to be a catalyst for change. The Catalyst Fund will always seek to launch new projects and keep brilliant ones growing.

The McNulty Prize Catalyst Fund was created by Anne Welsh McNulty in 2017 to expand both the Foundation’s ongoing support of McNulty Prize Laureates at pivotal moments in their venture’s growth, and to boost newer ventures as they scale and develop.

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