Bristol, UK-based social entrepreneur Dana Saxon and London-based Bloomberg L.P. engineer Alex Ling began meeting virtually in spring 2021, connected through Bloomberg’s support of the Fair Education Alliance’s Innovation Award program. Winners of the annual competition receive salary support, training, and mentorship to develop, test, and scale creative solutions to tackle inequality in the education system.
Dana founded Ancestors unKnown to help schools teach students about untold histories by drawing on their own family backgrounds and the power of genealogy research. She was inspired by her own search for information on her ancestors, many of whom survived slavery, and the remarkable details she discovered.
When Dana won the Innovation Award, Ancestors unKnown was an early-stage project that was not financially sustainable. The award provided Dana with the opportunity to take her work to the next level – with help from Alex as a mentor. “Alex was so great about boosting up the mission of Ancestors unKnown, and showing support, and reaching out to his contacts, and adding in to my network people who he thought could be supportive and offer additional insight,” she said.
Through their virtual sessions, Dana developed and refined her business model and marketing, including how to boost revenue by engaging with corporations to sustain her work with schools. By the end of their time together, Ancestors unKnown had not only successfully completed a pilot with seven schools in London, but was actively conducting workshops and consulting London-based corporations on genealogy research. “There’s always more work to do, but Alex put me in a different frame of mind…. He opened my eyes to more opportunities.”