The last time we interviewed Echoing Green (in 2009) we spoke to Lara Galinsky, Senior Vice President of Echoing Green, who described the "moment of obligation" that incited successful leaders at General Atlantic, a private firm focusing on venture capitalism, to create Echoing Green, which invests seed funding to social entrepreneurs with new and innovative ideas for solving critical social problems.
As we learned, instead of concentrating on any specific program areas, Echoing Green welcomes and supports any idea that is new, visionary, and addresses the root causes of societal challenges. This flexibility has allowed Echoing Green to support and respond to shifts and trends.
Wondering what the organization was working on in 2013, we wanted to revisit the work of this innovative organization. We found that by year two, the majority of Fellows raise three times their Echoing Green support. By year five, after the completion of their Fellowship, funded organizations raise, on average, thirty-seven times their Echoing Green seed investment; two out of three Echoing Green-funded organizations reach sustainability.
In addition to their signature Echoing Green Fellowship program, featuring alumni giants Wendy Kopp and Van Jones, the organization also now offers The Black Male Achievement Fellowship, established in collaboration with the Open Society Foundations and created in response to a growing body of research that reveals the intensification of black males' negative life outcomes.
Poverty alleviation and economic development remain among the top issues applicants for each program hope to tackle, but Echoing Green is noticing more and more projects addressing issues of global health and food security around the world.
The biggest shift Echoing Green continues to notice from year to year, however, is the number of applicants launching for-profit and hybrid organizations. According to recent calculations, "This year, these two business models make up forty-one percent of the applicant pool—an increase of ten percent from just two years ago."
That shift is aligned with the Institute's research as well — the number of private companies focused on social issues is rising. We have recently written about a number of them, including Sskeo Designs and Warby Parker.
Gender and Social Change
In the blog post Where are the Women? Echoing Green raised concerns about the decrease in the number of women Fellows selected relative to men.
While the gender balance among nonprofit Fellows has stayed fairly even, the organization found that Fellows launching for-profit and hybrid models—enterprises on the rise—are predominately male.
"We're finding that the reason the majority of these enterprises are led by men has a lot to do with education. For-profit social enterprises tend to be more technology-driven—and more often than not, led by MBAs. More men than women obtain MBAs and are more likely to come from technology or engineering backgrounds."
However, Echoing Green is committed to creating an ecosystem for more female social entrepreneurs, focusing on increasing opportunity and cultivating and recognizing the potential of women. "With women's collective wealth, intelligence, buying power, and influence, they—at the very least—deserve our recognition."
The organization is challenging themselves to push past the rhetoric of "we need to invest in women because they yield results"—and focus on "the how, the why, and with how much money. The why should no longer be a question."
Of the twenty social enterprises Echoing Green supported in the 2012 Fellowship class, nine include leadership teams with women — including Carrie Ferrence and Jacqueline Gjurgevich, co-founders of Stockbox Grocers, who are improving access to fresh food and produce in urban food deserts, starting in Washington. Five of the 2012 Fellows who are women have MBA's, three are lawyers, seven are married, and two are mothers.
Resources for Social Entrepreneurs
Echoing Green's Work on Purpose program inspires and equips Millennials interested in the social sector by providing an online platform that includes proven best practices of Echoing Green's Fellows, stories of social innovation, and resources to help identify next generation leader's unique role within the ecosystem of social innovation.
The Hesselbein Institute research validates this growing audience, whose attitudes, beliefs, and expectations have been shaped by a range of economic and social influences: the 9/11 attacks, the wreckage of hurricane Katrina, and low employment rates during a recession. We write about how Millennials are not only volunteering at home and abroad in record numbers, they are looking for meaningful career opportunities.
Advice for Social Enterprises
For Peter Drucker, measuring results — emphasizing impact, not activities or processes — was a leadership imperative for any organization. According to Drucker, "Measurements need to be measurements of performance rather than of efforts."
Echoing Green agrees becoming a data-driven social enterprise is a powerful way to profile measurements in performance. "From The New York Times to the McKinsey Institute, all signs point to a future where social enterprises challenge the status quo not only with their ideas and innovation but with their data." Their tips on becoming a data-driven organization?
"Ask big questions, embrace big (and small) data and make big changes." You can read more about these tips in detail on Echoing Green's blog.
For more information on Echoing Green
Please visit http://www.echoinggreen.org/
The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute connects the public, private, and social sectors with curated resources and relationships to serve, evolve and lead together.