In September, we announced the launch of the Innovations in Accelerating Impact Enterprises challenge, which aims to scale impact enterprises as a promising, sustainable means of addressing social issues affecting the poor or vulnerable. This work is a result of feedback from impact investors who have observed that there are still too few investable impact enterprises ready to absorb capital, and fewer still that have achieved meaningful scale.
The Rockefeller Foundation, in collaboration with Monitor Deloitte, presented its initial findings on the existing accelerator landscape at the GIIN Investor Forum in November 2013. The presentation focused on identifying and exploring the priority barriers that currently exist in scaling impact enterprises, and identified some preliminary examples of organizations that are seeking to innovate this process. According to this research conducted by Monitor Deloitte, impact enterprises need technical expertise, business acumen, funding, and strong networks that enable access to funders, mentors, and potential partners to achieve sustainable viability. Many organizations are successfully tackling these challenges through a mixture of existing practices and innovative, new solutions.
After gathering, examining, and testing concepts presented in over 100 applications from Africa, Southeast Asia, and the United States, we are pleased to announce the winners of the Innovations in Accelerating Impact Enterprises challenge:
1. The African Management Initiative (AMI), is developing an online learning innovation via Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), to help address the shortage of qualified, entrepreneurial leaders needed to run local impact-oriented enterprises. AMI will build 3 MOOCs for over 500 Impact Enterprise leaders that will encourage ongoing skill development and create a community of practice for entrepreneurial managers to foster social learning and lifelong professional development. AMI will address the need to develop new delivery models to provide critical enterprise level management training, and will be piloting this work across Africa.
2. The Bertha Centre for Social Innovation at the University of Cape Town, in cooperation with the International Centre for Social Franchising (ICSF), will organize the world’s first Social Franchise Accelerator. Social franchises are defined as successful impact enterprises that scale up, by enabling others to deliver their proven model under a formal license. ICSF and the Bertha Centre will partner with Franchising Plus in South Africa to provide in-depth technical assistance, training workshops, direct funding, and mentoring to selected enterprises. They will address the need to develop new paths into impact enterprise expansion, and will be piloting this work in South Africa.
3. The Unreasonable Institute will scale their existing 5-week mentor-driven bootcamp to two new geographies; Uganda and Mexico. The Institute builds deep and lasting relationships between their entrepreneurs and mentors. These mentors work intimately with enterprises to assess challenges, build plans for scale, deepen impact models and become ready for investment. In many cases, these mentors become investors and board members, and provide support to these enterprises for years after they leave the program. Unreasonable Institute addresses the need to develop new paths to intermediary growth, providing a new method of intervention in mentorship delivery for entrepreneurs at the founder/management level.
4. Village Capital is a global platform that is transforming the social impact landscape by modifying how enterprises target and engage in problems. The “Problem-Based Approach” employed by Village Capital, recruits impact enterprises not with an industry or geographic lens, but with an eye towards solving specific subsets of larger social and/or environmental problems. The organization will implement six new programs that utilize this Problem-Based Approach in India and the United States.
5. Shujog has developed a Capacity Building and Technical Service program (ACTS) that supports Impact Enterprises across Asia to raise raising investment capital, and scale and deepen their impact. Shujog utilizes the expertise of a wide ecosystem of professionals and organizations to support the Impact Enterprises to prepare their businesses for effective growth and investment readiness. Shujog ACTS does this work through an innovative revolving fund model that allows various ecosystem players to get involved in scaling the Impact Enterprise in a financially sustainable way, thus magnifying the impact for all many times over. Shujog’s model helps to address the need for new service delivery for impact enterprises, and will test their approach across Asia.
Through engagement with these organizations, The Rockefeller Foundation hopes to learn more about which types of innovations are most effective in scaling impact enterprises, and how these models themselves can be scaled. We hope that the findings will also include a discussion around the challenges of this type of intervention, and the value of using innovative platforms to scale enterprise growth.