photo by: Chicago Ideas

By Allison Matyus

Chicago Ideas Week is about bringing ideas and people together to implement change. Some folks, however, are ahead of the game, and their ideas have already brought about change. The Chicago Ideas Week 2017 BHSI Fellows include six people who have done just that with their own ideas.

The Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship recognizes young social entrepreneurs whose innovative organizations have created significant change for social challenges. This year, five applicants were chosen out of 250 to be recognized and receive financial support for their ventures.

Brian Hill and his company, Edovo, are making a huge impact in both education and in recidivism. Through Edovo, incarcerated inmates are able to have access to a tablet-based education platform. Since the company started, over 30,000 inmates in 20 states have engaged in this learning program.

Edovo’s platform is quite simple: through goal-driven learning, inmates can learn and interact with the program that ranges from cognitive and behavioral therapy to GED preparation. Completion of these programs can result in certificates and awards, as well as other incentives such as unlocking music or movies. It’s about doing something positive with their time in jail.

Hill is the brainchild of the entire operation, and as one of Conscious Company’s “19 Social Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2017,” his BHSI Fellow honor is much deserved.

The Idea Forge: What does it mean to you to be honored as a BHSI Fellow?

Hill:  It’s a huge honor to be among the BHSI Fellows this year. The opportunities for learning and connecting with individuals who can help accelerate our mission and impact is unmatched. 

When did you begin your entrepreneurial journey and where did the idea for Edovo originate?

Edovo officially started in 2013, but the seeds were planted much earlier. My father taught in Folsom Prison when I was growing up and would share the essays and stories of his students with us at night. From that early age, I could see the limitations and challenges of the system and looked forward to a time when I could ensure that what was available in my dad’s classroom of 20 could be available for the 2.25 million incarcerated people, many who never get access to education. 

What is Edovo’s mission and how do you think it contributes to Chicago’s tech and education scenes?

Our mission at Edovo is to unlock the potential of all people affected by incarceration and drive better outcomes for those returning home. We’re a significant contribution to the Chicago tech scene because we anchor the blend of real products and design plus tech in the pursuit of solving some of the most challenging problems facing our country. 

What is some advice you would give to someone wanting to start their own company? 

Because I focus on the impact space, I always encourage folks to fall in love with the outcomes you want and not the idea. Our ideas of what will work will be wrong, but the outcomes are critical. So be committed and get ready to pivot a lot.