Our Signature Program:
Financial Freedom Rule Breakers
What is a Rule Breaker? Rule Breakers are social innovators who are doing work that challenges conventional wisdom and creates equitable pathways to Financial Freedom for people living paycheck to paycheck.
The Motley Fool is an entrepreneur-led organization that has a long track record of finding diamonds in the rough. The Motley Fool Foundation Rule Breakers Program finds, funds, and amplifies social entrepreneurs who are advancing bold solutions that can help more Americans move from striving to thriving.
Meet The Financial Freedom Rule Breakers. They are Foolish, with a Capital “F”.
Financial Freedom Driver(s): Housing
INNOVATION Kimberly Driggins is executive director of the Washington Housing Conservancy (WHC). Launched in 2018, WHC acquires and preserves affordable rental housing, prevents displacement, and promotes economic mobility – especially for moderate- to low-income African Americans and other people of color. WHC is committed to creating thriving, inclusive, mixed-income communities throughout the Washington D.C. region.
IMPACT Kimberly and her team at WHC focus on the “Missing Middle” – in particular, moderate- and low-income workers who find themselves increasingly priced out of Washington-area housing. The group has so far acquired more than 1,400 units in Arlington, Virginia; Hyattsville, Maryland; and Washington, D.C. – close to half of its initial goal of 3,000 units – helping more than 2,000 residents save between $1,200 and $9,000 on rent annually.
“We work to disrupt a system that favors ZIP codes over possibilities and barriers to success over bridges to a brighter future,” says Kimberly. “And in this time of so many challenges, I believe in the power of our intersecting principles to advance racial equity and inclusion, strive for universal quality, and promote trust and respect.”
WHY WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT KIMBERLY Kimberly is a nationally recognized expert on urban placemaking and has spearheaded creative placemaking projects in both Detroit and Washington. She is a Rule Breaker, innovator, and disruptor who has a passion for creating housing stability for individuals and families so that they can build wealth and other opportunities in inclusive, mixed-income communities.
Financial Freedom Drivers(s): Money
INNOVATION José Quiñonez is the founder and CEO of Mission Asset Fund, which helps low-income and immigrant communities become visible, active, and successful in their financial lives. Through its innovative, award-winning programs, Mission Asset Fund has provided zero-interest loans to people across the country, helping them increase their credit scores, pay down debt, and save for important goals like becoming a homeowner, a business owner, or a U.S. citizen.
IMPACT José and his team are changing how we understand the pathways to Financial Freedom and the importance of creating mechanisms that can move a range of new financial activity and expertise into the financial mainstream. Mission Asset Fund has distributed more than 16,000 zero-interest loans to date, and 90% of the people they’ve helped have been able to establish a credit score for the first time.
WHY WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT JOSÉ José brings deep experience to the Financial Freedom conversation, having worked for two decades to help communities thrive financially. His mindset-shifting insights are rooted in the resilience and wisdom of low-income and immigrant communities, leveraging that know-how into formal financial power. His work with Mission Asset Fund is relevant for tens of millions of Americans who have little or no access to credit and who often turn to fringe financial services for their daily needs.
Financial Freedom Driver (s): Work
INNOVATION Tim Lampkin is founder and CEO of Higher Purpose Co., which works to build community wealth among Black entrepreneurs by supporting the growth of financial, cultural, and political power. In 2021, he was selected by Ashoka as its first lifetime fellow based in Mississippi for his innovation in bridging the racial wealth gap. An economic justice advocate, speaker, and social entrepreneur for more than a decade, Tim is currently creating disruptive programs that connect Black-owned businesses in Mississippi to valuable resources to help increase collective wealth, shared prosperity, and community-based knowledge.
IMPACT Tim and Higher Purpose Co. are working across the Mississippi Delta, where they’ve helped launch more than 200 local ventures. His work has also helped other financial institutions improve and is centered on non-extractive methodologies and community-based knowledge that has the potential to drive economic and social change across rural American economies.
WHY WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT TIM Tim and Higher Purpose Co. are helping Black citizens thrive as local entrepreneurs by ensuring that the capital meant to help underserved regions actually does so in the form of unconventional financial and loan products. He emphasizes access to capital and asset-building as essential levers for achieving financial stability and getting beyond coping.
Tim is focused on addressing racial wealth in the United States, focusing his work and the broader conversation about Financial Freedom on this country’s racial legacy and the continued obstacles it presents to BIPOC Americans in particular.
Financial Freedom Driver(s): Education
INNOVATION Alexandra Bernadotte is founder and CEO of Beyond 12, a technology-based service nonprofit that, through a longitudinal student tracking platform and personalized student coaching service, helps high schools and colleges provide their students with the academic, social, and emotional support they need to succeed in higher education. By collecting and sharing data that spans the K-12 and higher education systems, Beyond 12 not only provides students with differentiated coaching that ensures they earn a college degree, but also provides actionable feedback to high schools about their college preparatory efforts, informs the retention work of colleges and universities, and influences the national conversation about student success.
IMPACT Alexandra and her team work to increase the number of historically underrepresented students who graduate from our nation’s colleges and universities. Beyond 12, in partnership with K-12 and higher education institutions, is tracking 97,000 students through its Alumni Tracker and coaching more than 2,000 students on 180 college campuses. Eighty-five percent of students coached by Beyond 12 for a period of four years have graduated or maintained enrollment for six years, compared to the national average of 42%.
WHY WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT ALEXANDRA Alexandra brings 18 years of executive management and strategic development experience to Beyond 12 to further Financial Freedom through the driver of education. She has a proven track record, both nationally and internationally, of implementing programs and innovations within education systems that increase student retention and success.
Financial Freedom Driver(s): Housing
INNOVATION At a moment when homeownership is increasingly out of reach for many, Bree Jones, founder of Baltimore-based Parity development company, is connecting families with opportunities to purchase affordable homes in hyper-vacant neighborhoods and, as a community, revive entire city blocks. Rather than attempting to sell a single renovated building on a mostly abandoned block, Parity pre-sells entire blocks of abandoned properties to pre-existing social networks. The company recruits cohorts of aspiring homeowners, helps them access financing, and, with their collective commitment to buy and live in restored homes, Parity can then finance the rehabilitation of entire blocks of abandoned rowhouses in historically significant Black neighborhoods.
IMPACT Parity’s homebuyers go through a six-month cohort-based curriculum that helps them prepare for the financial aspects of homeownership and get them socially invested in the idea of “the collective.” In just three short years, the company has guided 60 homebuyers through its homeownership curriculum and has a waitlist of more than 400. Parity has site control on 53 properties and is currently renovating 10. Bree continues to lean into systems change solutions and advocate for new state and federal subsidy funding for affordable homeownership.
WHY WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT BREE While most developers focus on affordable rentals, Bree and Parity are focused on affordable homeownership. Where most developers focus on relatively stabilized neighborhoods to reduce risk, Bree works in the communities deemed “unredeemable” by traditional institutions. And where most development causes displacement, Bree’s approach makes sure that legacy residents stay put. Parity’s work in Baltimore can serve as a new equitable development and affordable housing playbook that can be applied in other cities across the U.S. – especially those dealing with hyper vacancy, such as Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit.
Financial Freedom Driver(s): Health, Education, and Work
INNOVATION Dan Weidenbenner is working to break the cycle of poverty in Greenville, South Carolina, by sparking multigenerational change and driving upward economic mobility. He founded Mill Village as an umbrella organization with four distinct social enterprises. These social enterprises are transforming the communities in Greenville through healthy food (Mill Village Farms), social enterprises (Village Engage), entrepreneurship training (Village Launch), and sustainable transportation (Village Wrench). Together, these enterprises are providing countless hours of education and resources, with the end goal of empowering neighbors to better themselves, their families, and their futures. Dan and his team at Mill Village are equipping youth with jobs and life skills, providing reliable bicycle transportation for the most vulnerable, training community small business owners, and ensuring everyone in Greenville can afford fresh and healthy food. Dan has used a community development approach to organically grow Mill Village into a coalition of social enterprises that are working together to create multigenerational change.
IMPACT Since 2018, Mill Village Farms has distributed more than 1 million pounds of food, distributed more than 68,000 fresh food boxes, and partnered with 40 community organizations. In 2022, Village Launch completed 1,142 hours of training with 64 entrepreneurs and 38 Business Entrepreneur Academy graduates. Village Wrench has repaired 560 bikes at free bike repair shops, trained 16 youth in its 6-Cycle program, and completed nearly 2,000 tune-ups and repairs at the Village Wrench bike shop.
WHY WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT DAN Dan recognizes that sustainable change happens from the inside out. He’s implementing a holistic approach to community development that provides a sustainable framework for bringing neighbors to a place that is flourishing. The growth of Mill Village has been organic, with solutions birthed from real needs and the assets of people living in the community. The community is filling the gaps that the public and private sector aren’t addressing and, through the umbrella of several unique programs, helping more people in Greenville achieve upward mobility.
Financial Freedom Driver(s): Work
INNOVATION Molly is the Co-Executive Director of The Industrial Commons (TIC), an organization she co-founded in 2015 to support industrial workers in Western North Carolina. The establishment of The Industrial Commons was prompted by a significant demand in Western North Carolina for an industry-centric entity that could offer resources and assistance to businesses and networks to enhance workers’ well-being and strengthen local communities. TIC’s approach to reaching workers is distinctive and guided by our theory of change, which comprises four key elements. Firstly, they focus on imparting essential skills for work success. Secondly, they organize workers into employee-owned firms and democratic workplaces, equipping them with the necessary tools, capital, and capacity to thrive. Thirdly, TIC combines these firms into industry cooperatives, fostering a collaborative environment where collective strength leads to more significant market and industry sustainability, all while prioritizing a triple-bottom-line approach. Lastly, The Industrial Commons strongly emphasizes the well-being of our community and our work by actively engaging in stewardship and movement-building efforts.
IMPACTIn the last five years, The Industrial Commons (TIC) has achieved significant milestones, generating an impressive $31.9 million in revenue and business assets from its enterprises and programs. TIC has supported over 2800 workers through various initiatives, providing them with essential training, education, and valuable resources.
Looking ahead to their vision for 2025, TIC aims to foster the growth of 75 sustainable, innovative, and equitable businesses and industry networks. These endeavors are expected to represent a combined workforce of 10,000 individuals. TIC’s primary objective is to empower these workers with the necessary tools, knowledge, and resources, enabling them to become successful democratic leaders within their workplaces and sectors.
WHY WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT MOLLY Molly and her team, create an inclusive economy rooted in community and dignity. Their approach is unique because they build on the assets of their region. They bring workers and manufacturers together to find triple-bottom-line solutions to entrenched manufacturing issues.
We’re in the business of keeping Rule Breakers in business and on the path to success.
We invest in social entrepreneurs who are already moving the needle with a proven concept that’s ready to scale. We help them stay on the path to success by partnering with them at the end of the early stage, after startup, so that they’ll have resources available to them during the most critical point of their life cycle – the middle, when resources and growth potential are most vulnerable. Our goal is to help them on their path to maturity to become larger, scaled, more impactful organizations.
We encourage Rule Breakers and help them innovate in the five drivers of Financial Freedom.
To tackle complex and systemic social inequalities, Rule Breakers need to continuously build their skills and identify opportunities to bridge gaps across the five drivers of Financial Freedom (housing, health, education, work and money). Convening with other Rule Breakers and entrepreneurs and sharing insights from their experiences can serve as a spark for fueling new ideas.
We connect our Rule Breakers to Fool Fuel.
We connect our Rule Breakers with our network of Fools for Good, who serve as supporters, mentors, and partners to help them break through their barriers and amplify their work!
On Our One Year Anniversary,
Fund a Rule Breaker!
Thanks to you, we’ve raised enough money to launch our program with six Rule Breakers. Our goal is to fund 25 Rule Breakers by 2025! And to mark our Anniversary, let’s double our numbers – and the number of lives we can impact. Please consider donating to help us reach our goal and fund the growth of our Rule Breakers program.
Are You the Next Rule Breaker?
Interested in becoming or nominating a Rule Breaker? The Motley Fool Foundation has two recruitment cycles for its Rule Breakers program. Each cycle lasts eight weeks and starts with a review of considerations and nominations on January 15 (winter cycle) and July 15 (summer cycle). Follow the links below to learn more or to submit a pre-application.