Carrie Freeman, Co-CEO of SecondMuse, has been named the 2021 YPO Global Impact Award winner. Under Freeman’s guidance, SecondMuse has more directly engaged with more than 200,00 people through economic education, facilitating USD600 million in investment and incubated more than 500 companies.
“We fundamentally believe that economies and most businesses were built in a way that is not inclusive of all people and often degrades the environment. We are in the business of reversing that,” says YPO member and Co-CEO of SecondMuse, Carrie Freeman.
This is not just a feel-good statement. It is the underlying premise of SecondMuse, an impact and innovation company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, with offices and teams in 10 cities throughout the globe. The work of SecondMuse is not easy to define: part fee-for-service, part implementation partner, and part capital provider. The company’s mission, however, is clear: to bring communities together to build economies that benefit people and protect the planet.
Since 2012, when Freeman joined the organization in a leadership role, SecondMuse has worked with companies, foundations, and governmental agencies, taking a collaborative approach to solving global challenges. The company has led programs on all seven continents, in more than 200 cities and 100 countries, with 70 partners including the World Bank, Google, Nike, New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), Pivotal Ventures, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Developing economies of the future
As Co-CEO, Freeman has been the driving force to deliver SecondMuse’s work of creating self-sustaining economic systems that the company calls “economies of the future,” which build upon communities and networks, not goods and services. To develop these new economic systems, SecondMuse believes organizations need to engage in an unprecedented collaboration. The company puts this into practice through innovative programs they design, partner and implement.
“We actually get on the ground in communities all around the world and design and implement the programming that is driving and addressing challenges with new markets,” says Freeman.
Under Freeman’s leadership, SecondMuse has grown its revenue on average 40% year-over-year. Financial gain, however, is not their primary goal. Instead, the company has a mandatory metric that every SecondMuse program generates learning and positive social impact. Since the company is a hybrid of sorts, SecondMuse does not singularly make an impact. Instead, they work with organizations and develop programs with other people and companies — and it is those programs that are making an impact.
Here are some examples:
International Space Apps Challenge. SecondMuse co-founded the world’s largest global hackathon with NASA. The program enables coders, scientists, designers, storytellers, and technologists to engage with NASA’s open data to develop solutions to address real-world problems on Earth and in space. To date, the program has participants in 187 cities who have created nearly 6,000 projects. In October 2020, more than 26,000 people participated in a “Take Action” as part of an annual hackathon, held entirely virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now in its 10th year, Space Apps is a NASA-led initiative organized in collaboration with Booz Allen Hamilton, Mindgrub, SecondMuse, and the NASA Open Innovation Applied Sciences Program.
The LAUNCH program. This is a signature program for SecondMuse, which was developed with NIKE, NASA, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the U.S. Department of State. This collaboration was established when these organizations realized they could not solve complex problems on their own. Today, LAUNCH brings together influencers, global leaders, and innovators to solve the world’s biggest challenges in multiple fields. The first two programs were LAUNCH Water and LAUNCH Health, followed by LAUNCH Energy for advances in energy, science and technology; LAUNCH Beyond Waste covering waste and recycling issues; and LAUNCH Fabrics to transform the way fabrics are manufactured and applied.
LAUNCH continues today with programs such as LAUNCH Legends, which offers food-based storytelling across Asia-Pacific in support of 60 entrepreneurs and 5,000 community-members. Another LAUNCH program is the Circular Innovation Challenge, which is focused on creating a “circular economy.” In this world, a customer would rent, lease or subscribe to a service, with the idea that this could provide access to better experiences, more customized products, or save money. In 2018, SecondMuse received 125 innovations representing 36 different countries. Nine innovators were selected as finalists, who then met with investors, experts and companies, including IKEA, VF Corporation, Walmart, Novozymes, Kvadrat, Nature’s Path, Waste Management and Sympatex.
For Climate Tech. SecondMuse launched an initiative that offers global innovators the most comprehensive accelerator programming for attracting and growing climate technology in New York State. The For ClimateTech initiative helps founders fast-track businesses and breakthrough technologies that reduce greenhouse gases and further strengthen the state as a hub for climate-related solutions. For ClimateTech offers two inaugural programs. Scale For ClimateTech helps growth-stage innovators with production. Venture For ClimateTech helps innovators at earlier stages jumpstart their climate tech companies. Both programs bring together a global community of innovators, entrepreneurs, funders, and government representatives working to forge market-ready pathways for testing, piloting and selling climate-related solutions.
Making a noticeable impact
In the past 10 years, the portfolio of SecondMuse programs has engaged more than 200,000 participants, prototyped 30,000 solutions, vetted 13,000 innovations, and accelerated more than 200 high-impact companies. Those companies have raised more than USD250 million in funding, created a market value of over USD500 million, and yielded USD7.25 billion in positive social impact. More than 60% of the companies they help are women and minority-owned, and 80% of their entrepreneurs succeed.
We fundamentally believe that economies and most businesses were built in a way that is not inclusive of all people and often degrades the environment. We are in the business of reversing that. ”
— Carrie Freeman, Co-CEO of SecondMuse share
Organizations, companies and other innovative thinkers are noticing the work of SecondMuse. Pivotal Ventures, a Melinda Gates Company, reached out to SecondMuse to create a program, Headstream, to provide innovative digital solutions for adolescent mental health. Together, they are looking at how teenagers are being impacted positively and negatively by technology. The goal is to change the equation to create well-being using technology.
Working with ecosystems in their infancy
Pivotal Ventures also recently approached SecondMuse to address a similar effort to increase gender equality in technology. “Millions of dollars have been invested in this problem and the numbers just are not budging. Pivotal came to us based on our work at the regional level, like our manufacturing work in New York, to help change that equation,” says Freeman.
SecondMuse believes that economies are more easily shaped and influenced when they are in their infancy. In this case, SecondMuse and Pivotal will focus on cities where the tech industry is just starting to advance to implement their Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities initiative. The goal is to accelerate the representation of women in technology, by developing inclusive tech hubs at the city level.
GET Cities is a three-fold program to build pathways to technology to propel more women into tech education, tech careers, and tech entrepreneurship; align local tech ecosystems including universities, tech companies, entrepreneurial and venture capital; and create long-term systemic change by sharing insights and creating space for a national dialogue. GET Cities launched in Chicago in January 2020, recently expanded to Washington, D.C., and a third city will be announced later in 2021.
Building resilient and diverse economies
While the COVID-19 pandemic forced SecondMuse to pivot to address immediate and pressing needs, this global crisis also laid bare the need for resilient and inclusive economies — an underlying principle of SecondMuse. “The pandemic put a spotlight on how our economic systems have not been designed with all people at the forefront. You can see that women have been disproportionately impacted, and women of color even more so with regards to their work and family care. We really believe that if you leave out huge populations, you are not going to have the resilient economies that we all want,” says Freeman.
SecondMuse was founded with the intention to celebrate diversity and promote inclusion and equity. Freeman says that resilient economies, in general, are diversified, they are inclusive, and they have sustainability at the forefront. “Whether it is getting more women in the workforce or getting people engaged who have been bypassed, you’re just going to have a more resilient economy. One of the things we have tried to do with all of our programs is to increase participation and access to all people,” says Freeman.
She adds that the pandemic has revealed how much networks and community really matter and that all communities already have strong assets. The goal is to take those natural assets, connect the dots, and build relationships to develop more resilient economies.
“The pandemic has brought a massive disruption, and so there’s a real opportunity for new solutions and new ideas. People recognize that we don’t have to do things the same way, and quite frankly, we can’t stick to the same mindset that we had prior to the pandemic. We see there is a significant amount of opportunity in the rebuilding and that people are now a lot more open-minded and creative about how to rebuild again,” says Freeman.