Back in June of this year, Facebook pledged to train 1 million US business owners by 2020 and equip more people with the digital skills they need to compete in today’s workplace. To help them meet that goal, this week the company announced a partnership with the National Urban League (NUL) to offer free training in social media strategy and digital marketing at 13 NUL locations in the following cities: Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Houston, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Kansas City, MO; Las Vegas, NV; Los Angeles, CA; New Orleans, LA; Philadelphia, PA; and Washington, D.C.
Facebook is Partnering with the National Urban League – Here are the Details
Monique Dorsainvil, public policy manager for Facebook, filled us in on some of the details of the program, why it’s important for Facebook to pledge this commitment to train small business owners, and why working with organizations like the National Urban League will help them accomplish their goal.
Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To see the full interview, watch the video below, or click on the embedded SoundCloud player.
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Small Business Trends: With me today is Monique Dorsainvil. Monique is a public policy manager for Facebook, and they have some really interesting news about a partnership they’re doing with the National Urban League. But before we get into that, Monique, thank you for joining me and tell us a little bit about yourself.
Monique Dorsainvil: Thank you for having me, Brent. It’s quite the honor. My background before joining Facebook, I worked for the Obama Administration for seven and a half years. I worked public engagement and inter-governmental affairs. A lot of people called our team “The Front Door to the White House”. It was Valerie Jarret’s team, and our charge was to engage constituency leaders across the country. We also engaged local elected officials. Mayors, governors, state legislators; on policy issues like raising the minimum wage, criminal justice reform, immigration, and really making sure that we were connecting the stakeholders and the policy makers and then also having conversations with folks before policy was enacted at the White House.
I’m honored to be at Facebook now on the public policy team, and happy to be on your program today.
Small Business Trends: And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that you also spent four years going to one of the great Atlanta universities, Emory, and you actually know a little bit about [my home state] Delaware because of our friend, Joe Biden. So it’s pretty cool.
Monique Dorsainvil: I did, I did. I did. My career in politics actually started with Stacy Abrams. I worked for Stacy Abrams before joining Barack and Michelle Obama in DC. I really cut my teeth in Georgia.
Small Business Trends: So you have a little bit of an interest in the gubernatorial race here in Georgia?
Monique Dorsainvil: I certainly do. Very excited about it.
Small Business Trends: All right, so tell us a little bit about this new partnership that was just announced between Facebook and the National Urban League opening these digital centers around 13 cities.
Monique Dorsainvil: Absolutely. So we are very excited. Sheryl Sandburg and Marc Morial had a wonderful armchair yesterday at the National Urban League Conference in Columbus. The partnership is really focused on small businesses. We will be training at 13 of the National Urban League’s Entrepreneurship Centers, and the training, as you mentioned, focuses on digital marketing skills. The Urban League has identified this as an area where their members and their entrepreneurs have skills but really want more skills.
We know that over 80 million small businesses use Facebook Pages every month. So we know that there’s a hunger for this type of curriculum, and we’re excited about partnering with the National Urban League because of their local reach. They work with communities of color across the country at the local level. They really have the expertise to know what curriculum will really land; what skills are needed, and so with that expertise, we’re really hoping that this partnership can really help us meet our goal of training one million small business owners by 2020.
Small Business Trends: Talk a little bit about why that’s important to Facebook.
Monique Dorsainvil: Small business owners, as you know, are the economic engine of this country. I think a lot of folks think about Facebook as a platform that connects people, right? And that really is the crux of the business. I think a lot of folks don’t know how much small business owners rely on the platform to run their businesses. You talk to some folks and you say, “Oh, can I have your website?” A lot of folks will tell you, “I don’t have a website, but I do have a Facebook page.”
We know, from some of our research that African-American owned small businesses, Latino-owned small businesses, and veteran-owned small businesses have a lot of success on the platform. So for us, it’s a no-brainer. We want to make sure that whatever folks are already doing can be enhanced, and then we want to give folks additional skills to really compete in the digital economy. The crux of the training is really focusing on best practices, on what tools are available on the platform that folks may not know about, and then there’s a third component that’s really about branding and helping small businesses tell their story, which is so important in this economy.
Small Business Trends: Yeah. I guess there are certain skills that maybe the small businesses are more interested in getting up to speed with more than others around marketing. How does this program help small businesses kind of be able to promote themselves more effectively and efficiently, use marketing opportunities to really get their brand out there?
Monique Dorsainvil: I think you’re hitting it on the head. You can have a great product. You can have a great business model, but if you can’t effectively tell your story; if you can’t effectively cut through with minimal text, with minimal images that really demonstrate what you’re all about, then the rest almost doesn’t matter, right? And that’s a very … It’s a piece of the puzzle that I think a lot of folks don’t have, and it’s a piece of the puzzle that can really amplify businesses, and really help them perform.
We’re excited about the partnership, and the Urban League has 13 Entrepreneurship Centers. They also have 90 affiliates across the country doing work at the local level, so we think that this is the beginning, and we’re excited to work with Marc Morial, just to see what comes in the future.
Small Business Trends: How do you track the success of the program?
Monique Dorsainvil: Last year, Mark Zuckerberg did a tour of the US. He visited communities across the country, and his goal is really to get out of the valley to really understand how folks were using the platform and what more Facebook could do, right? Coming out of that year, the mission of the company shifted. Initially, we were really about connecting people and the shift is really thinking through beyond connecting people; what responsibility does Facebook have after folks are connected?
I think this is a key piece there. So the 2020 goal, we are essentially building upon a program that we already have, called the Community Boost Program. We do this program across the country, so coming out of that year, Mark said, “I want to go to 30 cities across the country.” That goal increased to 50 cities. Each city, we have a whole small business team that tracks attendees. They send out surveys afterward, because I think part of it, you want to refine the curriculum over time. Right? And you want to see, based on different communities, rural communities, communities in different cities. There are just different needs.
So, in addition to tracking the number of folks that go through the program, we’re constantly iterating on the content itself, and that’s why we were really excited to bring on the National Urban League as an advisor. They’re now a national advisor, and they’re going to be helping us think through how to really tailor the program to the communities that they serve.
Small Business Trends: And who all is eligible to participate?
Monique Dorsainvil: The National Urban League, they will be sending out releases for each of the trainings. They’ll send it out to their members, but they’re sending it out beyond that, much broader. Part of our partnership is also with local community colleges, and so that is a big component that we’re also looking at, but the trainings will be open to local residents in the communities in which they’re taking place. All of the trainings are free. I don’t know if I mentioned that at the onset.
Small Business Trends: No, but that’s a good thing to mention. I can’t wait to check out the one here in Atlanta. I’m glad Atlanta is one of the 13. Where can people go to learn more about this?
Monique Dorsainvil: You can go to Facebook’s website, and I will send you the exact details on the Community Boost Programs.
Small Business Trends: Well, hey. It’s been a pleasure, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these centers progress and really help as many as a million businesses. I think that’s great.
Monique Dorsainvil: I think this is some of the most important work that we do as a company, and I’m excited about just scaling it and growing it. So thank you for taking the time, and I hope to talk again soon.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.