Fourward helps young professionals of color thrive in the workplace

Consult this team of experts who provide tools and resources to support underrepresented people in the workforce and in life.
organizers of fourward around a table
Photo by Paul Newby, MA, Photojournalist
Fourward’s founders — Linda Vakunta, Alyssa Neblett, Delphine Vakunta and Joseline Nyinawabera (left to right above) — want to help young people of color thrive. "We’re figuring out the system and we want to reach back to the community to help young people do the same," Delphine Vakunta says.

Before COVID-19, a group of friends would gather for a good meal and lively debates around Delphine Vakunta’s glass table. They found they had similar challenges in the workplace and wanted to be good mentors to other young people of color.

“We decided to launch a platform where we could build a community around those discussions,” says Vakunta, who earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Wisconsin–Madison before working for the United Nations in Somalia for six years. “Even though everything felt like it was in disarray in 2020, we wanted to talk about what we deal with as female professionals, and we really wanted to expand on what we’ve experienced as people of color: the microaggressions at work, the need for mental health support and advice for financial stability.”

As one of four co-founders of Fourward, which launched in October 2020, Vakunta wants to reach young professionals of color in their 20s and 30s. She describes how young people who may not have chosen a straight-line path for higher education or a career could feel a little lost, especially during an increasingly tumultuous time. All four founders, who grew up in Madison and are now in their early 30s, have learned how to succeed based on their own experiences with discrimination and pressure. They use the Fourward platform to provide young professionals the tools to navigate challenges and ultimately thrive. But first they had to find them.

“We harnessed the power of social media to connect with people and share advice,” Vakunta says. They connect with people — who may have dealt with traumatic experiences or barriers — through online discussions and virtual events featuring expert speakers. Some of Fourward’s most engaging content relates to being honest about how they’ve found support for their own mental health. They also help people find financial stability, whether it be by connecting clients to jobs or helping them find a side hustle outside of the traditional 9-to-5.

“When we were growing up, we felt like we didn’t have enough people to look up to,” she says. “We’re creating a space where a young girl or a young boy in Madison can say, ‘Hey, they figured it out. I can ask them for advice,’ and maybe they won’t have to reinvent the wheel to cope and survive.”

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