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Social Entrepreneurship: A Look Back, A Look Ahead

Posted By Patricia Haines, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University, Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Leaders in social entrepreneurship, from Miller Center, Skoll, Toniic, Acumen, FSG, and more, take stock of 2016, look ahead to 2017.

The cusp of the new year naturally prompts reflection about the past and speculation about the future. Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship invited some leaders in social entrepreneurship and impact investing to share their thoughts about the current state of the sector and some trends they see for 2017 and beyond.

“As social entrepreneurship evolves, we need to continually be creative about how we address our ultimate goal, which doesn’t change—and that’s to discover the best ways to help social enterprises worldwide collectively lift billions of people out of poverty,” said Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., executive director, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University.

Measuring Impact of Social Entrepreneurship

One of the big challenges is how to measure the impact of social enterprises on the communities they serve, as well as how to attribute what factors lead to particular outcomes.

“Is social entrepreneurship really making a dent in the big problems facing the world today? 2017 would be a good time to talk about this,” said Harvey Koh, managing director of FSG.

Sasha Dichter, chief innovation officer for Acumen, oversees the organization’s work in leadership and the spread of ideas, including Acumen’s work in impact measurement, called Lean Data. He said: “In 2016 we saw huge strides and appetite for impact measurement that was fast, cost-effective and useful to entrepreneurs. My belief is that in 2017 we will start to see widespread adoption of Lean Data and similar nimble approaches to impact measurement—and for the first time we will start to hear, at scale, the voice of the customers we are serving.”

“In any given year, financial returns can go up or go down. Up, we feel great; down, awful,” said Adam Bendell, CEO of Toniic. “Measured impact also has volatility, whether you look for social impact or carbon reduction. But values alignment—the process of aligning our investments with our values, across asset classes—that can go up each and every year, until it reaches 100%. And that steady progress is a source of tremendous psychic income to the conscious investor—one that mitigates the emotional volatility of investing and brings lasting joy.”

On the other hand, Lisa Kleissner, co-founder of KL Felicitas Foundation, observed that the notion of impact washing became more prevalent in 2016. Impact washing is when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “impactful” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices or producing investable products that truly deliver positive social and environmental impact. “To avoid impact washing, impact networks such as Toniic become so much more important—to provide clarity on what is and what is not impact,” she said.

One of the “goal posts” that Miller Center and others have identified for benchmarking the impact of social enterprises are the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs, which celebrated their one-year anniversary in 2016, provide specific goals for ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity and well-being for all.

Marshaling Capital from Across the Investment Spectrum

Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), acknowledged the crucial role of financing in the success of social enterprises. She said: “CRS has taken some bold steps to become an active participant in the impact investing landscape, focused on leveraging resources, taking risks in new financing models, and helping to unlock entrepreneurial capital in the sectors and geographies in which we work. We see a number of trends that continue to inform our forward momentum on impact investing, including an increased interest from our traditional donors to catalyze the sector.”

As an example of these trends in impact investing, Woo described a CRS partnership with USAID to develop a fund that will make grants and loans to community organizations in Guatemala’s Western Highlands. This fund will be paired with technical support for communities to develop robust, inclusive development plans and projects—and it will be augmented by $50 million of additional public and private support for the target communities.

“As we move into 2017,” Woo continued, “we are looking forward to new partnership opportunities to create similar innovative financing solutions. We have also committed our own funds to make mission-aligned investments that create sustainable solutions for the poorest and most vulnerable worldwide.”

KL Felicitas Foundation’s Kleissner noted that 2016 saw “a remarkable uptick across the ecosystem in the increase of financial product offerings, impact intermediaries and new capital moving in. Impact investing definitely arrived in 2016,” she said.

To help explore new ways to address the funding of social enterprises, particularly as they scale, Miller Center has identified the “Transformative Frontier,” which spans the entire investment spectrum from approaches focused purely on investment returns to pure philanthropy.

“The trend line for social entrepreneurship has never been more promising,” said Sally Osberg, president and CEO of Skoll Foundation. “Increasingly, investors across the spectrum—commercial, impact and philanthropic investors—recognize the imperative for innovative solutions to societal challenges, knowing that the very future of democracy and free enterprise hang in the balance.”

Focusing on Replication and Taking a Systems Perspective

One potential avenue for making investment in social enterprises less risky, while creating pools of talent to expand the reach of social entrepreneurship, is to replicate validated social enterprise technology solutions and business models.

“We see strong potential in efforts to scale tried and tested models, while reaching deeper into the strongest pools of entrepreneurial talent. That would be great for accelerating impact, and it should also be interesting for investors,” said FSG’s Koh.

KL Felicitas’s Kleissner expressed a new urgency for impact investing and social entrepreneurship: “It has to be mentioned that the recent U.S. election underscored the importance of our work and that we are not working fast enough to solve domestic issues such as lack of access to education and sustainable job opportunities, both of which are key to a healthy democracy,” she said. “The relative ease with which Russia and social media manipulated U.S. voters laid bare how fragile our democracy is. My hope is that in 2017, the fourth sector—the emerging ‘for-benefit’ sector of the economy combining the private sector’s market-based approaches with the public and nonprofit sectors’ social and environmental aims—will strengthen and become a force in healing our democracy.”

Skoll Foundation’s Osberg highlighted the challenges to social entrepreneurship from larger cultural issues: “Knowing the imperative for innovative solutions to preserve the future of democracy and free enterprise, those stakes raise the ante for social entrepreneurship. If social entrepreneurs are to fulfill the promise of their innovative solutions to social challenges, then more social entrepreneurs must be able to demonstrate results at scale, and more investors must be willing to make bigger and more sustainable bets.

“When one adds in populist uprisings in both developed and developing world countries—fueled by globalization, demography, climate change and automation—it’s easy to see just how much more challenging the task of the social entrepreneur becomes,” Osberg continued. “It’s incumbent upon all of us who seek out and support social entrepreneurs to appreciate that their work has become all the more difficult, to step up our commitments and to join forces for the future we know is possible.”

FSG’s Koh emphasized that “we need to move into systems thinking, which is a departure from the impact enterprise approach. As we push to overcome barriers, we realize that what’s needed is bigger than working with just the social enterprises. It also includes governments, societies and other pieces that are part of larger systems.

“The systems people and the social impact people have different starting points and they don’t interact, but they should be connected,” Koh continued. “For example, the world of governments and big bilateral donors and intermediaries might work to improve agricultural markets—a very systemic, top-down approach. Social enterprises might work from the bottom up with individual farmers. It’s difficult to connect these two ends because they live in such different worlds, but we need to tie them together by thinking about the end goals. Is it to get more social enterprises going, or is it to grow more capital, or is it to have economies that are more inclusive?”

“In my mind, the only effective path forward for social entrepreneurship is through collective action that achieves collective impact: identifying and replicating lots of similar innovations, while aggregating a full range of capital and applying it intelligently so that all the efforts add up to making a huge difference,” said Miller Center’s Kreiner.

Miller Center is a pioneer and leader in this field, having started its Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) social enterprise accelerator programs at about the same time the Skoll Foundation was founded and that Acumen was launched.

“Successful trailblazers see where to go before others know the path,” said Kreiner. “Miller Center has embarked on a number of experiments in replication, new capital approaches, and building a network to spark greater collective efforts across the entire ecosystem. Our hope is that this experimentation, along with thoughtful analysis and continued conversations, will lead to best practices that can be applied to communities in need.

“In the end, this is not just about entrepreneurship or investing or philanthropy,” he said. “It’s also about understanding how societies function, and how societies are affected by ever-changing environmental conditions. The call to action for all of us is to mobilize the capital, the innovation and the passion that will make it possible to achieve our ultimate goal of eradicating poverty on a global scale.”

As Pope Francis wrote in his Laudato Si’ encyclical: “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis, which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded and at the same time protecting nature.”

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Tags:  CSR  leadership  Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship  Skoll  Social entrepreneurship 

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G20 Platform launches Inclusive Business Survey

Posted By Kathleen Mignano, International Finance Corporation, Friday, February 26, 2016


On behalf of the G20 Global Platform on Inclusive Business (GPIB), I would like to invite you to participate in the GPIB Inclusive Business Survey. The survey will take less than ten minutes of your time, and your input will help us to build the conversation with policy-makers around inclusive business. We want to hear what policies have helped you to engage with people living at the base of the pyramid (BOP), as well as what policies you think need to be changed. 


The G20 has recognized inclusive businesses as having the potential to be a driving force for inclusion and sustainability. These are companies that extend last-mile water, power, and mobile phone service to customers in rural areas, or that train, finance, and create markets for small farmers. They treat low-income patients or teach low-income students. If this sounds like you, we encourage you to give us your input. Whether your experience is as a multinational corporation, a local business, or a start-up social enterprise, if you are a commercially-viable organization providing goods, services, or livelihoods to the BOP, we want to hear from you.

The GPIB was endorsed by the G20 in 2015 and is jointly implemented by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the UNDP. Designed as a global partnership, the GPIB connects policy-makers and business behind a mission that is both pro-poor and pro-business. GPIB strives to help governments support inclusive companies more effectively and to facilitate the adoption of inclusive business policy.
Survey results will not only be discussed at the G20 Development Working Group, they will also inform GPIB’s future research efforts. You can find the results on the upcoming GPIB website.
To take the survey, click here:

Tags:  CSR  G20  GPIB  IFC  Inclusive Business  Policy  Shared Value  Social Enterprise  Survey  UNDP 

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Career Accelerator: Social Innovation Management Fellowship - Call for Applications

Posted By Geraldine Hepp, Amani Institute, Monday, December 14, 2015
Updated: Monday, December 14, 2015

Change someone's life - share this opportunity for aspiring changemakers to join a global Fellowship and take their career to the next level! 

We have received some of our best applicants thanks to people like you, and we would love to see the power of our community once again - so we can find the changemakers who are looking to build the professional skills and global networks needed to lead change effectively.

You can learn more about our Post-Graduate Certificate in Social Innovation Management and its changed structure here
Amani Institute Graduates now have an exciting opportunity through our partnership with Lynn University, where our program counts 25% towards a new MBA in Social Innovation Management that can be completed both on campus or online.

The most effective way to share this is via direct 
recommendation and shouldn't take longer than 3 minutes of your time but could mean a life-changing opportunity for someone in your network.

Fellows who have benefitted most from this program have been:

  • Career-switchers
  • Recent Graduates
  • Social change sector professionals 

committed to taking their work to the next level. Selection criteria:

  • A University degree (undergrad or masters)
  • At least two years of practical experience (either working or volunteering)
  • Evidence of commitment to social change through your personal and/or professional life
  • Strong desire to develop yourself further both professionally and personally
  • Interest in gaining a further global perspective to your previous experiences

Find a sample text, an infographic and a video for you to pass on below but also feel free to directly nominate and connect us via Email, allowing for a no-strings attached conversation with someone you nominate as a potential Social Innovation Management Fellow

Feel free to use the below infographic about the different phases of the program and the following sample text for easy sharing:

Dear [Name],

Considering your passion for meaningful work, I highly recommend Amani Institute'scutting-edge 10 month Post-Graduate Certificate in Social Innovation Management: 4 months field immersion in Kenya or Brazil, 10 professional skill-building courses taught by global experts, a customized apprenticeship, 3 inspiring field trips, 20+ like-minded classmates from around the world, and much more. 

In 10 months, expand your professional network, get global experience in how to tackle some of the toughest challenges, and learn how to change the world! Apply now:

Learn more about Amani Institute's partnership with Lynn University if you are interested in an MBA in Social Innovation Management

Application Deadline: January 11th, 2016
Program start: February 1st, 2016

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Tags:  Base of the Pyramid  business training  capacity development  career in social changeSocial Entrepreneurship  CSR  diaspora  East Africa  education  emerging markets  fellowship  impact evaluation  innovation  Latin America  social entrepreneurship  social innovation  talent 

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Assessing the role of CSR in India’s sanitation challenge

Posted By Perzen Patel, Ennovent, Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The recently launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has trained the spotlight on India’s severe sanitation problems. Changes and progress in the sanitation area require strong partnership with Government, Corporations, NGOs and other like-minded individuals and agencies working together to develop a framework for creating sustainable CSR interventions within this sector.


The first steps towards creating this framework were taken earlier this month at a workshop organized by Ennovent in partnership with GIZ that was attended by over 50 sanitation experts and representatives from NGOs, corporations and donor agencies. Key attendees included Mr. Sujoy Majumdar – Director, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Mr S. Sen – Director, CII, Dr. KK Upadhyay – Director, FICCI and Mr. Manu Prakash – Director, TARU.


The workshop provided an excellent opportunity to raise the issue of open defecation and highlight the state and size of the sanitation problem affecting the country. Mr. S. Sen, Director – CII, spoke of the urgent need to bring about a behavioral change among the masses. The focus on ‘behavioral change communication’ is considered a critical component in changing the attitudes of users towards toilets.


Detailing further challenges in achieving India’s sanitation goals, Mr. Sujoy Majumdar, Director- Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India said that a new structure was being prepared within the sanitation ministry, giving more flexibility to implement sanitation programs.  He also requested corporates to list out the facilities and resources required from the government to surpass sanitation challenges and create the atmosphere necessary to facilitate these goals. Elaborating on what he was looking for as an outcome to the workshop, Mr. Majumdar stressed the importance of utilizing the vast funding available for CSR by creating a structure that generated the most effective results.


It is evident that groundbreaking new technology, management, and operational models are required to solve India’s sanitation crisis. To showcase, what is already being done within this sector, innovators in the sanitation space namely Eram Scientific Solutions, Stone India Pvt. Ltd., Ekam Eco Solutions and Toilets For All also presented their solutions. By exposing representatives from corporations and government agencies to such market based interventions, attendees further explored how they could collaborate to rapidly scale impact.


GIZ gave the discussion further impetus by stressing the need for a partner network and ecosystem, facilitating corporate engagement in incubation and detailing ways to utilise CSR funds to scale up the right solutions. It was further highlighted that to meet India’s sanitation goals in convergence with CSR, it is important to not only connect startups with corporates through programs like hackathons and boot camps but also to create learning networks between corporates on how they can better engage with startups and assist their incubation.


This workshop by Ennovent and GIZ provided a platform for a critical first debate on how efforts can be united to achieve a clean, healthy India by 2019. A key next step that is planned is the creation of an e-platform, which acts as a knowledge exchange facility and allows field innovators can connect with various market players. There was also keen emphasis on taking these focused discussions forward with concerned stakeholders and conducting similar workshops to evaluate how which available CSR funds can be utilized to scale up the right solutions.


Do comment below if you'd like to share your insights and be involved with the next steps - leading on from the workshop Ennovent is working on a report to highlight further findings and is also creating an online working group to discuss these interventions further. 

Tags:  CSR  sanitation 

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CSR and Shared Value: What's the Difference?

Posted By Carol Moore, Heifer International, Thursday, May 29, 2014

"What is the proper role of business in society? The question isn’t new. Debates about the private sector’s responsibility for its economic, social and environmental impacts have been raging since the dawn of capitalism. What is new is the emerging global consensus that business is the engine of economic growth and international development, and that business can and must play an indispensable role alongside government, civil society and communities to solve complex, global challenges like hunger, poverty, inequality, unemployment and climate change.

At Heifer International, we know the role of business in society is highly contested ground...."

I invite you to read the rest of the white paper attached to this post, and welcome your comments!

Carol Moore

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Tags:  agriculture  Corporate Responsibility  CSR  Philanthropy 

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Mandatory CSR in India?

Posted By Joanna Herrmann, Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, Friday, April 5, 2013

The lower house of the Indian parliament has passed a new Companies Bill that requires companies above a certain size to ensure that they spend at least 2 percent of annual profits on corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. The upper house of the parliament is likely to pass the bill into law soon. If passed, India would be the first country to mandate CSR expenditures.  

 Ernst & Young estimates that the law would cover about 3,000 companies in India and about $2 billion of expenditures on CSR activities. Aneel Karnani, an associate professor of strategy with the Ross School of Business, argues that this law contradicts the fundamentally voluntary nature of CSR.  He looks at the law from all sides of the political spectrum and declares it as universally bad.  Read full NextBillion article.

Tags:  CSR  India 

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Musings on inclusive business, CSR, and sustainability...

Posted By Joanna Herrmann, Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, Monday, March 11, 2013

As I did my routine scan of articles on sustainability and corporate value chains, a few articles recently caught my eye.

I'm personally a big proponent of making the distinction between corporate social responsibility activities - which typically involve philanthropy and are not necessarily correlated with the core business of the company - and inclusive business practices, or the concept of shared value that Michael Porter and Mark Kramer coined in recent years.  In this article on the Business Fights Poverty blog, author Caroline Ashley begins a thoughtful conversation about how it is actually a continuum - CSR activities can pave the way or be a necessary asset for inclusive business. It is the interplay between the two that may be the recipe for success.  In a related post, Manish Shankar (Associate Vice President at ANDE Member Intellecap) demonstrates a concrete example of this relationship.

Another interesting article posted on Ethical Corporation's site poses the question: is there an optimal degree of sustainability within a corporation?  The authors conducted a study in which they compared two sets of 90 companies each.  The 180 firms were virtually identical, except that 90 were classified as "high sustainability firms" while the other 90 were "low sustainability firms," based on corporate policies, adopted practices, and stated goals.  The authors analyzed the performance of these sets over the period of 1993-2010...and found that the "high sustainability firms" significantly out-performed the "low sustainability firms."

Tags:  CSR  inclusive business  supply chain  sustainability 

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