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Beverage giant Red Bull announced today that its social entrepreneur incubator program, Red Bull Amaphiko Academy, will make its US debut in Baltimore in August 2017.

Red Bull Amaphiko — “Amaphiko” translates to “wings” in the South African language of Zulu, the program’s origin country — aims to bring together and uplift individuals from around the US who are using their talent and energy to tackle social issues in their community.

“We say the people who are closest to the challenges in their community are often closest to the solutions, and the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy was built around that belief,” says Michelle Geiss, co-founder and executive director of Impact Hub Baltimore, a community partner to Red Bull Amaphiko.

About the Amaphiko Academy

Red Bull Amaphiko’s primary platform is the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy. The Academy begins with a 10-day residential program that brings together social entrepreneurs to connect and collaborate with leading innovators, entrepreneurs, and storytellers. The 10-day residency is followed by an 18-month individually tailored development program that further helps the social entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life.

Red Bull Amaphiko Academy for social entrepreneurs

Participants pose for a portrait during the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy event in Sao Paulo, Brazil in December 2015. Photo by Fabio Piva

Red Bull Amaphiko Academies have taken place four times across the world since 2014 — twice in South Africa and twice in Brazil — and have supported more than 100 social impact ventures globally. The US Academy in August 2017 will be the fifth iteration and the first in the US.

The US Red Bull Amaphiko Academy will start with a 10-day residency at the Eubie Blake Cultural Center in the Mt. Vernon part of Baltimore. It will include 15 to 20 participants from across the US.

Baltimore’s social entrepreneurship divide

Baltimore was selected as the host city because it continues its emergence as a leading social impact hub in the US. In just the past few years, Charm City has been the home to the Social Innovation Lab at John Hopkins University, the Front Lines of Innovation event in summer 2016, and Light City’s Social Innovation Conference. In addition, the local Baltimore chapter of Impact Hub continues to grow its presence by offering social innovators and entrepreneurs an inclusive, inspiring, and functional space to expand their social ideas.

However, it’s not yet clear what kind of impact the program will have on the city’s entrepreneurial community. “There’s a huge divide in Baltimore,” says Jeff Cherry, founder and executive director of the city’s Conscious Venture Lab, an accelerator and venture capital fund for conscious entrepreneurship. “Most of the innovation ecosystem activity is happening in the south and eastern parts of the city, in Harbor East, Canton, or Fells Point. There’s virtually nothing going on in West Baltimore. It would be fantastic if they came to town focusing on some of those neighborhoods that have traditionally been left behind, or connected with some of the historically black universities and colleges in the area, or area’s Innovation Village.”

Cherry also had questions about the program’s format: “Despite the success that Village Capital has had with the off-site model, when the entrepreneurs come together for a few days and everything else is virtual, I’m not a big proponent of that,” he says. “I’m interested to see how it works.”

Applications are open for social entrepreneurs

Applications to attend the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy are open between March 1 and April 30, 2017; applicants are encouraged to apply via the below link: 2017 Red Bull Amaphiko Academy Application