Belmont University’s newly-formed Innovation Labs has been awarded a $6 million grant from Templeton Religion Trust, a global charitable trust chartered by Sir John Templeton.
Belmont’s Innovation Labs, founded in 2022, is a catalytic initiative focused on social innovation. Through a multi-sector, multi-stakeholder approach, the Labs tackle complex challenges facing society, collaborating in working groups around core issues to develop ventures that promote human flourishing and community thriving.
Belmont’s Innovation Labs team is coming alongside the Transformational Business Network (TBN) to form the Transformational Business Network Alliance. A global network of purpose-driven investors, entrepreneurs and capacity builders, the TBN Alliance takes an enterprise approach to alleviate poverty in low-income and underserved communities.
This grant will allow the TBN Alliance to catalyze a movement of social impact champions on a global scale, geared toward support of businesses in frontier and emerging markets. Over the next five years, the TBN Alliance will launch an estimated 1,800 ventures, providing approximately 11,850 new jobs in frontier and emerging markets globally.
Dr. Josh Yates, executive director of the Belmont Innovation Labs, said Belmont is thrilled to receive this generous grant from the Templeton Religion Trust.
“This funding will empower us to fulfill our mission of equipping people and organizations to design collaborative responses to our most pressing social and community challenges,” Yates said. “The Innovation Labs will work hand in hand with the Transformational Business Network to make a tangible impact in the lives of individuals and communities around the world. This is an extraordinary opportunity for Belmont faculty and students to be engaged in applied learning and experiential education.”
Championing enterprise solutions to poverty in communities worldwide, the TBN Alliance will leverage the power of business to mitigate root causes of poverty. This means supporting global entrepreneurs with skill and leadership training and serving as matchmakers to potential funders and investors. This support allows these enterprises to create market-based solutions that tackle the issues of poverty, which include job creation, production of goods and services that people need to improve their lives, cost-effective innovations that lower income people can afford (e.g., energy or water solutions) and room to experiment with solutions in smaller communities.
Since its creation in 2003, TBN has successfully supported more than 800 entrepreneurs, assisting in the launch of 429 ventures to date. With active chapters in Asia, Africa, Indonesia and the Americas, TBN helps social businesses achieve their impact goals of job creation, business solutions for positive social change and directly influencing the well-being of families and communities.
Partnering together allows Belmont Innovation Labs and TBN to evolve the ways they work to better meet social impact needs by supporting and creating economies of scale to deepen impact to underserved communities.
The impact of start-ups supported by the TBN Alliance is already evident. Kopernik, a female-led R&D lab in Indonesia, is incubating environmental and social ventures, while Agape, a call center in Singapore, employs formerly incarcerated individuals. Bawa Hope works with marginalized handicraft artisans in Kenya, connecting their high-quality products to global markets.
Chairman Melvyn Mak of Transformational Business Network Asia highlighted the significance of this partnership, stating: “The investment in frontier and emerging markets is essential for generating enterprise solutions to poverty. This collaboration between Belmont University’s Innovation Labs and TBN is tremendously meaningful. By leveraging the power of entrepreneurship and interfaith initiatives, we have the opportunity to make a profound difference in underserved communities around the world.”