COVID-19 Response

A Note from Our Founder: Basta's COVID-19 Response

Like all of you, the last several weeks of my personal and professional life have revolved around COVID-19. As the CEO of a nonprofit that serves marginalized young people, I have had a front-row seat to the disproportionate impact of this crisis. We have received heartbreaking updates from young people about the death and illnesses in their families, and we know that more than half (59%) of our most recent cohort lost jobs or hours due to the economic downturn.

That direct cash assistance is what we are deploying right now. To date, I’m proud to share that we’ve provided direct grants totaling nearly $20,000 to more than 25 fellows. 

That said, Basta and the young people we serve are resilient. ​We adjusted our programming on the fly and ensured that Basta remained a constant for our Fellows when, for many of them, every other aspect of their lives had become uncertain.

Across these last several weeks of social distancing, I’ve also learned a great deal about what it means to lead through a crisis. I am eternally grateful for my team and our supporters, who stepped up without skipping a beat. As one of those supporters, I wanted to take this time to update you about Basta’s specific response to this crisis, and how we’re leveraging what we’ve learned in the last four years to support the broader field at this moment.

Across these last several weeks of social distancing, I’ve also learned a great deal about what it means to lead through a crisis. I am eternally grateful for my team and our supporters, who stepped up without skipping a beat. I wanted to update you about Basta’s specific response to this crisis, and how we’re leveraging what we’ve learned in the last four years to support the broader field in this moment.

Like the young people who graduated college just after 9/11, or those who entered the workforce in the shadow of the Great Recession of 2008, this year’s college graduates are going to have a radically different experience with employment than students just a few years older. More than ever, the K-16 community supporting first-generation college students and students of color must provide the best possible career support to students who will otherwise be the first to get left behind by an uncertain economy.

Basta's Immediate Response

We created the ​COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund​: With a community of just over 400 Fellows, we know the lives and backgrounds of our young people. Perhaps more importantly, members of that community feel safe and comfortable sharing hardships with us. To that end, we knew we were in a unique position to ask students to share their stories with us, so that we might support them through $500-$1,500 one-time
disbursements.
 
That direct cash assistance is what we are deploying right now. To date, I’m proud to share that we’ve provided direct grants totaling nearly $20,000 to more than 25 fellows.

We moved to an all-virtual program model: Because 60% of Basta’s content was always delivered virtually, this transition was seamless. Across March, we hosted a full Saturday workshop with our winter cohort and in the last week of March, we hosted our first-ever all virtual kick-off, welcoming 70 Basta Fellows into our community through a two-day virtual workshop.

Trends and Drivers for Fiscal Year 2021

As we look ahead to FY 21, it is inevitable that we are headed towards an economic downturn.  We already have evidence of mass layoffs, both for our current students in hourly wage jobs and our early career alumni who recently started in career jobs. Additionally, internship programs are being cancelled and delayed; many interview processes are on hold. This downturn will likely lead to several more waves of layoffs, a reduction in early-career jobs, as well as more competition for those jobs. Additionally, with a bloated talent market, we can no longer rely on companies maintaining active and well-funded diversity initiatives.

The consequence of all of this is that our students need to have an even more nuanced understanding of both the job market and their career aspirations to be competitive for blue-chip jobs. That’s exactly where Basta excels.
 

Basta's Unique Position in the Virtual Landscape 

In addition to now having 100% of our content virtually accessible, all of Basta’s student-facing tools are accessible online, including a first-of-its-kind “career readiness diagnostic” that we recently launched in partnership with Bellwether Education Partners. The diagnostic allows us to assess a student’s career readiness while sharing robust data with individual students and at the organizational level (when we are partnering with college success organizations). This year, we trained a community of Basta alumni to serve as resume coaches for our Fellows. The resume coaches are learning leadership skills and earning wages, all while augmenting Basta’s capacity to serve our current students. Next year, we plan to create more roles for Basta alumni to deliver and drive our content.

Moreover, with massive early-career unemployment likely across industries and geographies, existing direct-service providers in both the charter management and college success spaces will not be equipped to meet the increased student demand. Basta’s virtual content, remotely accessible platform, diagnostic tool, and alumni program position us to support thousands more students through partnerships with those organizations at a time when students across the country need high-quality career support more than ever before.

Innovations to Our Program Model - ​Potential Areas for Innovation

Augmenting college career services​: Many colleges will soon find themselves inundated with students seeking help to find a job. Basta can play a critical role in supporting college career centers (based on a gap analysis).

 

Offering Basta mini-modules directly to students​: With the diagnostic, we can now break down our 50 hours of content into mini-modules, each tied to one leg of the Basta Career Readiness roadmap. This means a young person could take the diagnostic and then participate in a learning journey that is precisely designed around the student’s starting point on the roadmap. By disaggregating the content into more precise modules, we can drive greater impact for individual students.

Expanding partnerships with college access/success providers​: We started down this path in FY 20 and will launch a year-long partnership with KIPP this summer. We are looking at accelerating our partnership strategy.

Creating Continuity and Support for Basta Fellows

Across the next six months, 200 Basta Fellows will hit the job market. Over one-third of those students graduated in December 2019. Regardless of whether the job market bounces or crawls back, the majority of students graduating now will inevitably find themselves in a holding pattern, and our first commitment is supporting this community in securing career-pathway jobs. For this group, we are deploying the following strategies:

  • Employing our job-seeking fellows​: Historically, we hired our employed alumni so they could augment their income; however we will now train and hire our job-seeking alumni so they can continue skill-building and earning wages while they are job-hunting.
  • Leveraging our Volunteer Force community as Basta Fellow hiring advocates​: Our volunteers know the incredible talent of the Fellows community. We plan to leverage these folks, many who work at large companies, to identify job opportunities and advocate on behalf of Basta Fellows within their companies.
  • Increasing the coaching capacity of our team​: We will add a part-time coach to our team and closely monitor the labor market to determine whether this will turn into a full-time hire.
  • Open-sourcing Basta job-seekers​: We are leveraging our technology platform to provide open-access for any employer looking to hire Basta Fellows. This means they can review resumes and recruit directly from our candidate pool.

 

Now more than ever, Basta’s foundational message – that social capital, which we define as knowledge (what are the available jobs) and access (who is willing to vouch for me) –​is the most critical asset we can provide a young person. This is what differentiates us. ​Thank you for your crucial partnership to-date. Without your support, we would not be in the fortunate position we are today – ​organized and ready to pivot to a new reality and positioned to support thousands of students to succeed through a time of crisis.