Stacey Epperson, Ashoka Fellow, president and founder of Next Step Network, is one of the twelve leading social entrepreneurs participating in the second edition of the Dela programme, a co-created programme between Ashoka and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship.
Elected as a Fellow in 2012, Stacey and the Next Step team are increasing access to affordable housing space to low-income individuals and families across the U.S.
Throughout her career in affordable housing, Stacey has interacted with people living in older mobile homes, facing difficult financial decisions and not affording much-needed home repairs. She has seen first-hand how unstable and unsafe housing contributes to an endless cycle of poverty, and asked herself how things could be done the right way.
As a result of diligent research and learning, Stacey changed her mindset and set on a campaign to transform the housing industry, making it better for the families who needed these homes. “It all started an epiphany and shift in my thinking”, says Stacey.
“If I had the opportunity to advise myself early in this process, I would say: As long as you are following your guiding principles and mission, you have incredible flexibility to find the path for change. Always focus on real impact. If you fail on tactics, just move on to the next great idea.”
Last year, Stacey joined the Dela programme, embarking on a journey to redefine her systems change strategy and focus on scaling up her organization’s impact. After being paired with Rob Olson, IKEA Advisor and Real Estate Manager from the Group Real Estate, Stacey confirms to have come out of the first Strategy Phase of the Dela Accelerator with a clearly defined systems change goal.
“The program has top-notch business advisors and a framework to help fellows structure their systems change", Stacey Epperson
Prior to Stacey’s participation in the Dela program, Next Step was moving towards systems-level policy change, but presently Stacey and her team are very much focused on which levers they need to pull first. Throughout Dela, Next Step has changed its thinking about home development strategy, shifting from non-profit to for-profit developers. Stacey is now focusing on impact and revenue generation, intending to test and prove their approach profitable for developers.
“Through Dela, I have added a whole new pillar to my current systems change strategy to work on indirect impact, such as larger networks, open sourcing and affiliation”.
Currently, Stacey will focus on policy change that improves housing for the entire housing industry, about 100,000 homes a year. In addition, Next Step will focus on policy change at the local level, opening new markets and seeking zoning discrimination bans that keep factory homes out of cities.
About the Dela programme
The Dela programme comprises of the Dela Accelerator and New Fellows Selection. By supporting innovative ideas, the Dela Accelerator enables established Social Entrepreneurs to continue developing their strategies with the goal to scale impact.
Through New Fellows Selection, we identify social entrepreneurs in every corner of the world, whose system-changing innovations solve deep-rooted social problems. After a rigorous selection process, they are invited into the Ashoka Fellowship – providing early stage financial support and a lifetime membership into an expansive network of peers and partners – enabling them to achieve their vision and have even greater impact.
This global programme offers a unique Fellowship experience based on Ashoka’s and IKEA’s expertise and networks.