How to take advantage of the incubator model

MAP Fellowship | Blog | 6 mins.
Written By: Kelsey Thompson | Posted On: 01/26/2022

As the culmination of the 2021 MAP Fellowship approaches, we’re sharing perspectives from the cohort about their experiences and progress. In this piece, we hear from MAP Fellow Allison Quintanilla Plattsmeir about how to take advantage of the incubator model. To create this piece, Allison draws on her experience as a MAP Fellow, which offers many of the same benefits as an incubator,  as well as her experience as part of the Unbundle Policing Incubator: Reimagine Public Safety Challenge, a joint venture between two MFF partners: the Stand Together Ventures Lab and MIT Solve. Allison not only shares her unique insights but her advice for how to take advantage of similar opportunities.


by Allison Quintanilla Plattsmier, Ed.D., 2021 MAP Fellow 

In June, I had the pleasure of facilitating a community discussion on policing. The session centered around the question: What should we do to ensure equal justice and fair treatment in our communities?

After participating in that session with Joshua Rosales of Break-Thru Nashville, we began discussing how to spark similar conversations regarding potential solutions in the Nashville community. At the same time, I discovered the MAP Fellowship. As I perused the MAP challenge partners, I came across MIT Solve as one of the MAP Mentor organizations. From there, I found the Unbundling Policing Incubator they were running. I applied to the Unbundling Policing Incubator and the MAP Fellowship and was accepted to both soon after. 

A joint venture of Stand Together Ventures Lab and MIT Solve, the Unbundling Policing Incubator challenged participants to separate the many roles society asks police officers to play (i.e., monitoring traffic violations, responding to traffic accidents, responding to mental health crises, addressing homelessness, etc.). Law enforcement has, in many ways, become the catch-all for all negative things in society, which has created overstretched police officers. Therefore, when the roles are separated, we can connect individuals to the best resources to address each role. By leveraging alternative responders, like unarmed traffic managers and social workers, we can minimize the use of deadly force where it is not necessary.

Now, as a MAP Fellow, I find myself trying to solve a complex challenge with Colorado SPUR. I noticed that the MAP Fellowship has many of the same strengths as the incubator model – like accessibility, collaboration and hands-on learning. As a recent participant in both the 3-month Incubator and the MAP Fellowship, I am sharing what I learned that people can apply to solve other complex problems.  


Leverage Skills from Diverse Roles

When applying for the Incubator, applicants were particularly encouraged to apply if they filled specific roles, including entrepreneurs, designers, engineers, researchers, justice, policy and law experts, data analysts and activists. 

The incubator recruited people with unique skill sets to contribute to solving the problem. The ability to bring together people across sectors and with different backgrounds allowed us to see various angles and potential solutions. 


Eliminate Barriers to Participation

MIT Solve and Stand Together Ventures Lab provided The Unbundling Policing Incubator free of charge to applicants. This eliminates a significant barrier to community participation in solving community issues. The higher the cost to participate (i.e., travel, training, technology costs, etc.), the more people you exclude from participating in the solution. A proper solution requires people from all walks of life and backgrounds. Therefore, removing barriers to participation ensures that the proposed solution is likely to represent the target communities and ensures the solution is much more likely to be implemented. In addition to being free of charge, the Incubator was virtual, allowing people from all across the country to participate, thus fostering more widespread connection and depth of the dialogue. 


Connect Participants with Resources

Not only was participation in the Incubator free, but it also provided all participants with direct access to investors, thinkers, and partners focused on the public safety realm. Participants were supplied with in-kind resources, including cloud services platforms (up to $100,000 in AWS Activate credits), project planning, product design (up to 5 Adobe Creative Cloud licenses), collaboration software, and impact consulting services. Select teams who submitted their proposed solution at the end of the Incubator and were selected to participate in the Challenge Accelerator received $50,000 in non-dilutive funding, hands-on coaching, partnership support, pro bono legal services, and access to additional funding and investment opportunities post-Accelerator. This allowed participants to truly dream big by connecting them with potential resources to carry their ideas to fruition. 


Provide Access to Mentors/Advisors

Through Slack and open office hours, the Incubator connected participants with mentors and advisors to provide them with feedback on their proposed solution. The mentors were experts in criminal justice reform, innovation, investment, and data/technology. Key stakeholders like law enforcement, justice-involved individuals, and community-based organizations provided feedback on participant ideas. Mentorship is essential, especially for those launching new ventures or new to the space. Additionally, receiving feedback from those who will be implementing the solution is vital to ensuring the community can adopt the solution. 


Offer Access to Uniquely-Tailored Education

During the 11-week Incubator, participants had two sessions a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tuesdays typically included a presentation and/or panel discussion of experts in the field of deflection, diversion, community responders, and other related topics to Reimagining Public Safety. Participants were separated into breakout groups to discuss and collaborate during these learning sessions. Learning session topics included current expected roles of law enforcement, preventative, health first approaches to responding to mental health crises, learning from those with lived experience, and working with system stakeholders among many others. Some of the most notake speakers included 

There were over 20 speakers from diverse backgrounds including:

Facilitators also led us through a case study on a community-based solution, Portland Street Response (PSR). PSR incorporated the perspectives of those closest to the problem to design the potential solution.

As a proponent of community-based participatory research (CBPR), I found this case study particularly interesting. Often solutions are developed by people who are so removed from those experiencing the problem that the solution is ineffective or, even if it had the potential to be effective, community members are not bought-in to assisting with implementation. During the Policing community discussions, we noticed community members would suggest solutions that law enforcement had either already implemented or were incapable of doing. Throughout our various learning sessions, we were taught by experts in the field and those closest to the issue about the most plausible way to approach the problem and how to launch a successful venture. 


Provide Hands-On Experience

Our Thursday sessions were part of a Venture Series led by Customer Illuminated (CI), a boutique consulting firm specializing in customer discovery and validation. CI helps startup founders, entrepreneurs, R&D departments, and PMs find product-market fit. The workshops built on one another and provided a comprehensive framework that allowed every participant to refine their service/product through discussion and guided practical application. 


Overall, there are numerous strengths of the incubator model that can be adopted to solve complex problems.The MAP Fellowship offers all six of the strengths mentioned above. 

Fellows in the program come from all walks of life, and we host monthly mind-melds to cross collaborate in solving our challenges. The Morgridge Family Foundation (MFF) completely covers everything we do throughout our six-month Fellowship. This was a significant factor in ensuring a wide diversity of Fellows in the program. 

MFF supplies each Fellow/Mentor pair with challenge funds that we can use to access vital resources necessary to both solve our challenge and implement our proposed solution. We are also provided with executive coaching and public speaking lessons to prepare for our final presentation. We are partnered with mentors at our partner organization to help navigate our unique challenges, and throughout the six-month Fellowship, we have complete ownership of the final proposed solution.

The MAP Fellowship is a unique hands-on experience that allows us to gain the necessary skills we will need throughout the sector while leveraging the collective strengths of both the Mentor network and Fellow network.