Updates in April
This Week’s Update
PDF Version with Hyperlinks: CSIL Weekly Update 14
FMS Alum Taking “Giant Steps” to Use Music as a Tool for Social Change
Frontier Market Scouts alum Drew Foxman is the founder and chief creative officer of the organization Giant Steps. The flagship program of Giant Steps is the Music Action Lab—an international platform which brings together musical innovators so that they can collaborate creatively and produce original music and art that to address and advance global social issues. Drew spoke with CSIL’s Outreach Associate, Clare Margason, about the connection between music and impact, and the potential for social entrepreneurs to utilize music as a vehicle for social change.
Please describe yourself/background.
I grew up in a jazz family. My dad is a scientist, but, outside of his professional life he had over 12,000 jazz albums, and contributed to a lot of publications. These were classic records that came before bebop. I was raised with these incredible jazz musicians, but over time I began to reject that world. I started playing sports and got really into hip-hop, reggae, and rock music. However, my sophomore year of college I had the opportunity to study abroad in Paris and this is when things started to shift. While I was there, a friend of mine introduced me to John Coltrane’s album “Giant Steps,” and it was like I was hearing jazz music for the first time. From that point forward, jazz became a fundamental part of my life.
Besides the time I dedicated to studies and immersing myself in French culture, I listened to as much jazz as possible. I even met John Coltrane’s son and had the chance to work with him. When I finished my undergrad, I had very little direction other than my love of music, culture, and travel. I tried working as a musician, but then shifted to the tech world in order to pay the bills. Serendepitously, that didn’t pan out, but it funded a year abroad where I split my time playing music in Europe and doing volunteer development work on the Tibetan plateau.
When I returned to California, I was connected to the San Francisco Jazz Festival right after they had decided to become a non-profit, now called SFJAZZ. They set up an education department, and I was hired as the third employee. I had a rare opportunity to build out the community development through a variety of outreach and education programs, working with everyone from privileged, talented, and high-performing young musicians, and also with at-risk youth in the violent neighborhoods of San Francisco.
Tell us about your current work/position?
I decided to launch Giant Steps with the concept that is closest to my heart.
To me, the Music Action Lab is about creating a new global musical language that challenges and inspires, and works to address and advance global social justice.
In the Spring of 2017, we will release our debut album, “Foundation.” It is perfectly titled because we focused our first year on laying the necessary foundation for doing social justice work in the first place. Without this groundwork, social justice wouldn’t be able to take place. In the future, the albums and curricula that come out of the Music Action Labs could be about refugees, immigration, or other pressing issues. We will work to build a catalog of Social Action Recordings, and every album will have a specially designed curriculum that goes along with it. Giant Steps has the vision of creating a new global music genre dedicated to advancing social justice and a whole generation of musical social entrepreneurs and activists. During the Lab, they incubate their work with Music Action Projects (MAPs), social action projects that they take home to their communities and are supported by Giant Steps. People may come in as fellows and musicians, but they walk away as artistic changemakers. Take the example of one of our current members Derek Beckvold, a conservatory-trained saxophonist who spent the last four years doing music reconciliation work in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan, and Sri Lanka. Since joining Giant Steps, he has been heading education programs at the Boston Philharmonic and has launched his own MAP called Teach to Learn, a free video-based music lesson initiative connecting talented instructors from the western world to learners in the developing world.
What is social impact to you? How did you first realize the potential for social innovation and music to collide?
There is an undeniable connection between music and impact. Historically, slavery, oppression, forced migration, all played a prominent role in music’s evolution and in fact led to many of the western world’s music genres, especially jazz and reggae. Music has also been a huge catalyst in all the human rights movements—whether it’s the civil rights movement in the US, apartheid, the fall of the Eastern Bloc, or the Arab Spring.
For me, I was really interested in creating and expanding movements with music. While there is such a thing as “music for good” it’s not yet a sector or field; it’s just a collection of rather disparate practices. Some of these practices are very effective and some of them are not. A lot of these practices come from the music industry, which means there is a lot of scope and opportunity for impact-led initiatives in music.
I liken this to the creation of SOCAP. Yes, it’s a conference, but it was designed to take this disparate field of impact investment and develop a platform for knowledge sharing and ideation in a meaningful and collaborative way. This is the ultimate vision for Giant Steps—building an infrastructure for “social impact music.”
Finally, a story. I was in Visitacion Valley during a time when a lot of murders were happening. We were working at a school on a project that combined the concepts of jazz and language arts, and one student used the project to express what it was like to stand over his brother’s grave. Everyone that was there could see the power of music for the healing process after a traumatic event, and for sharing deep personal stories.
What inspired you to work in the impact space?
On the one hand I think that music is such a powerful tool that is being underutilized. Half the time artists don’t make money to support themselves, even with so much consumption of music happening all over the world. There is huge potential for making a contribution through this vehicle which is completely overlooked in the impact space. There really aren’t many people working on this, and I want to change that.
On the other side of the coin, we have to look to the current political landscape in this county. We are seeing our leadership undermine the core values that, in my opinion, are what define humanity. If we were successful in embracing and progressing certain value systems, things like human trafficking, the conflict in Syria, and so many other crises and intractable problems wouldn’t be happening.
In response to these global phenomena, we have large scale, multi-lateral, target setting entities that are attempting to solve problems by a certain date. It sounds nice and gives people motivation and hope, but clearly the periodic re-setting of these targets mean we are stuck on a kind of “poverty alleviation treadmill.” If the folks behind the biggest networks of money and aid are only making marginal improvements, it seems we as a collective community need more creative and innovative approaches. So, I say, let’s look at these issues through a different lens.
Let’s use music, a tool that has now been scientifically proven to have positive impacts on our neurological, as well as psycho-social development.
Who has been particularly inspiring to you?
John Coltrane, the Dalai Lama, Bob Marley, Bill Belichik are a few that come to mind immediately. However, over the years I’ve had to build a lot of inspiration myself because I haven’t benefited from long term mentors. I’ve been fortunate to have some great mentors take me under their wing, but the majority of those relationships were transient. I feel like I’ve drawn most inspiration out of experiences that I’ve designed for myself. For example, when I wanted to learn about Tibetan Buddhism, I just went to Tibet and did it. The same goes for music.
I do recall an experience that was particularly inspiring to me. I was in the field with the American India Foundation. This was in western Orissa—a landlocked and very impoverished area in India. We were doing site visits and I remember being so moved by the continuous stream of music that greeted us wherever we went. The music was non-stop. It was multi-generational. And, it seemed like the music was part of the reason that people were so opening and welcoming. I’ve never seen or heard anything like it. Music ever-present, and with so much warmth and acceptance. I’m sure that experience helped me along the path to starting Giant Steps.
How would you describe your FMS experience?
Every year I try to do something intentional for my professional development. My choice in 2016 was Frontier Market Scouts. First, the focus on social enterprise was very attractive as I was close to launching Giant Steps. And I didn’t know much about impact investment, and felt that this would help build out my knowledge of the social sector. I guess you could say that I’ve become a generalist overtime. I’ve worn many different hats working as the director of marketing, development, programming, but I didn’t necessarily have a specialization. This is probably due to the fact that I am constantly yearning to create new things and to keep moving. I always want to learn new skills and hope to never stop being innovative and creative.
I really thought both aspects of the program, the instructors and their curriculum, as well as the cohort, were very valuable. The cohort was outstanding. It was representative of multiple backgrounds and experiences. One person had been running USAID projects for 20 years, there were graduate students with experience on every continent, I could go on and on. Additionally, everyone helped build a really supportive community. I liked how open people were, and how willing they were to learn from each other. I felt like the FMS was a microcosm of what development and impact work should be like.
During the FMS training, I connected with our first instructor, Morgan Simon. She is the founder of multiple organizations such as the Responsible Endowments Coalition, Toniic, and Transform Finance. I needed to complete my fellowship with Morgan’s firm, Pi Investments. I was actually able to use some of the financing from this work to launch Giant Steps!
Note to reader: Wondering how you can be involved? Giant Steps is raising funds for the 2017 Music Action Lab. You can learn more and support their work here. Applications will go live in Spring 2017. Like them on Facebook and visit the website to learn more.
“PULSE OF IMPACT MANAGEMENT” REPORT RELEASED ON IMPACT MEASUREMENT, MANAGEMENT AND REPORTING PRACTICES
The Pulse of Impact Management report released in partnership with the SVT Group to provide a shortcut to practical information about how impact investors are tracking and reporting their social and environmental impact today.
The report includes a snapshot of current practices at the impact due diligence, monitoring and reporting stages among impact investors based on a scan of 257 publications, interviews with 17 firms in the impact investing arena, and SVT Group’s empirical experience in the field over the past 15 years.
“Thus far in the relatively brief history of impact investing, the field has reached consensus about the definition of the term ‘impact investing,’ but not about what the term ‘impact’ itself means,” said Jerry Hildebrand, Director of CSIL. “This report highlights some of the ways that the term is interpreted and accounted for by active impact investors and can help newcomers to the space get up to speed more quickly.”
“We’ve reached a milestone in the impact management profession: so many reports are coming out that look at impact measurement and reporting practices that most folks just don’t have time to keep up. This report provides a one-stop synopsis that helps readers quickly identify the resources most relevant to them,” said Sara Olsen, Founder of SVT Group and coauthor of the report along with CSIL Research Associates Aislinn Betancourt and Courtney Kemp.
Erina McWilliam-Lopez, Social Impact Programs Director at CSIL added: “Academics and emerging professionals with an eye on the social sector will be thrilled to find that we made an entire list of 257 resources that the research team identified available to the field for free on a creative commons license.”
Opportunities identified by the Pulse of Impact Management include:
- Understanding the opportunities to generate value from periodic impact measurement and reporting.
- Enhancing the manageability of impact data with IT systems that enable capture and sharing of data all along the supply chain.
- Addressing how best to account for impact that occurs after the investor exits.
The report offers advice from impact investors to those new to the field, and summarizes the history of impact investing, key terms and concepts in impact measurement, and trends, and provides a practical guide to the most relevant publications. Download the full report here.
The Center for Social Impact Learning (CSIL) was founded at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in July 2014 to proactively advance millennial engagement in the emerging fields of Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing through three interrelated lenses: Academic, Experiential, and Action Research. CSIL stands out among today’s impact-driven career programs because it’s designed to serve the full spectrum of emerging social entrepreneurs—from undergraduates to graduate students to accomplished professionals, offering them both valuable learning experiences in the social enterprise field and seamless transitions from one stage of professional development to the next. With a focus on social enterprise management and impact investing, CSIL offers world-class experiential learning opportunities including a unique career launch pad program named the Ambassador Corps, and the award-winning Frontier Market Scouts fellowship and training program. CSIL acts as a vehicle for positive impact in communities around the world by partnering with small and growing social sector businesses and responsible investment funds seeking new talent, and then matching them with globally-minded and diversely-skilled professionals. Visit go.miis.edu/csil
SVT Group is “your outsourced Chief Impact Officer,” an impact management firm that provides investors, companies and social enterprises support to measure, manage and communicate their social and environmental impact (e.g. theory of change, impact metrics, impact IT systems onboarding and support, retrospective impact analyses and more). As pioneers in the social capital markets, Sara and SVT’s team of subject-matter experts have measured the social and environmental value of approximately $9.08 Bn in private equity, debt and grants in dozens of countries and issue areas. Recent clients include Yo Yo Ma, Restore the Earth Foundation, Fair Trade USA, Global Fund for Women, Beneficial State Bank, and CalPERS’ Environmental Investment Advisor. SVT recently celebrated its 15th year in business. @svtgroup
Partner Profile: Altruist Partners
“When you give a non-profit the right entrepreneurial tools and growth strategies, that non-profit can become incredibly powerful”
We are excited to share this feature of Donald Summers, Founder and Managing Director of Altruist Partners in Seattle, Washington. Altruist Partners recently became a Frontier Market Scouts partner organization and fellows from future cohorts will have the opportunity to help support their work with clients around the world. Donald tells us about Altruist Partners and the new partnership with FMS:
Tell us about Altruist Partners
Altruist Partners was founded in 2006 to transform non-profits into powerful social enterprises. Generally speaking, non-profits aren’t aware of the management and financial tools and strategies that have long driven organizational performance and growth. Non-profit leaders are idealists and programmatic specialists, not business or management experts. So their organizations struggle with funding and performance. Consider that are over 2 million non-profits in the US alone. Most are tiny–$500K is the average annual budget—but the problems they are addressing are huge. Fewer than a handful have scaled past $50 million in the last 50 years. But 70,000 for-profits have. So we asked, what do the for profits know that the nonprofits don’t? What’s applicable, and what isn’t? And we set about to close that performance gap. Because if we can figure out a common platform to help nonprofits scale, to bring together the best tools from both sectors, there’s an incredible about of good that can be captured. So after a decade of work with over 100 nonprofits of every size and shape, and lots of mistakes, we’ve arrived at a system that’s delivering very encouraging and consistent results. Our nonprofit clients are growing 25% a year. Now we have the job to reach scale ourselves and serve the many thousands of good organizations that need this help.
How does the process work?
First of all, we aren’t consultants—we are business partners, and we join out clients as part-time executives. We are player-coaches, if you will. We start by measuring the client’s business performance with a very targeted assessment tool. And then, over the course of 6 to 12 months, we guide our clients through a step-by-step process that embeds three essential management features:
- The Business Plan: This is very different from the strategic plans that non-profits usually work with. A business plan is very short and specific. It details the problem being solved, the proof the organization can solve it, and a concrete, exciting vision of success. Then we detail strategy, metrics, milestones, staffing, and a complete financial projection, with a hard focus on revenue. It has to be good enough inspire confidence in a finicky and impatient investor.
- The Revenue Pipeline: We don’t do “fundraising,” “development” or even “advancement” or “capital campaigns.” Those concepts and practices are outdated and largely ineffective. Instead, we provide our clients a step-by-step process to building and staffing a revenue development engine, based on an approach we call “Investments and Partnerships.” From recruiting and hiring staff to detailing strategy to organizing the meetings, we set up an entire office to generate revenue from individuals, foundations, corporations, and government agencies. And we consider earned income as well, including things like intellectual property and fee-for-service. And we are excited to move aggressively into the impact capital markets. Most nonprofits suffer from a poverty mindset, but the truth is, if they have a valuable program, there are billions of dollars our there. We’re proving it.
- The Dashboard: After a client has a business plan and an Investment & Partnership pipeline, we bring it all together with an executive dashboard, a 1-page report that captures the organization’s key performance indicators. Every month, it gives the board and staff an exact picture of everything important. Knowing what to include and what not to include is critical. Too many nonprofits are drowning in data and they lack focus and discipline around the truly important stuff. We help fix that.
High-performing organizations use these elements, whether they are for-profit, non-profit, L3Cs, Social Purpose Corporation, Certified B-Corp, whatever. Your tax status is irrelevant. And importantly, it’s an interdependent system. The Plan fuels the Pipeline, and the Dashboard ensures everything is executed well. Leave one piece out, and the org remains stuck.
Can you tell us more about a specific organization that Altruist has helped?
Treehouse is our favorite example. They work here in Washington state to help foster children graduate from high school. In Washington, like other parts of the country, the foster youth high school graduation rate is only 40%. Compare that to 80% for kids in general and you start to see the problem. These high dropout rates lead to lives with very high rates of homelessness, incarceration, self harm, illness, and even suicide. Treehouse recognizes that the foster children aren’t at fault. It’s the system that doesn’t support them. So they hired us in 2012. They had 75 staff in 25 schools working with 200 foster students, but they couldn’t get that 40% graduation rate needle to move. And they wanted to help all 800 foster youth in middle and high kids in the entire city. So we went in and, 9 months later, we had a new business plan and program model, a new fundraising platform, and a 1-page dashboard. Their donors responded very well to the ambitious vision and the tight plan. In the first 6 months alone, they raised about $7 million, and 4 years later, Treehouse has 150 staff working in 125 schools and serving over 700 students. The long-term high school graduation rate is now at 78% and they are reaching every 6 through 12th grader in the metropolitan area. It’s the most successful educational support program for foster kids in the country, and we are now helping them expand state wide.
Today we are working around the world with a set of ambitious and high performing nonprofits, most of whom prefer to think of themselves as “social enterprises,” a much more powerful and accurate term. We’re proud to be working with them. It’s exciting to help drive the leading edge of the change the sector needs so badly.
Why did Altruist choose to partner with FMS?
I met one of your Frontier Market Scouts at the Skoll World Forum and was immediately impressed with her description of your work. I am a Middlebury grad and social entrepreneur, so there’s obvious fit. So I’m excited about the Center for Social Impact Learning and the Frontier Market Scouts which is helping to grow the sector by equipping passionate individuals with the necessary skills to make a significant impact. And we need the help—we are accelerating social enterprises around the world, and Frontier Market Scouts is a perfect place to find the talent our clients need. We are excited to onboard FMS fellows from future cohorts who can work with our global partners. These are brilliant people with enlightened values.
What is on the horizon for Altruist?
We are working hard to produce an online version of our process, one that we can deliver thousands of nonprofits simultaneously. We are in beta testing now, but if the online version delivers even a fraction of the benefits our process has delivered in person, we have exciting potential to transform the performance of the entire social sector. Our goal is to be the largest business partner for non-profits worldwide.
The Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) program seeks purpose-driven professionals to join its award-winning social enterprise management and impact investing certificate trainings in Monterey, California (June 6-17, 2016), and Washington, DC (Winter 2017). Founded in 2011, FMS has trained more than 300 professionals since its inception. FMS received a 2013 Cordes Innovation Award from AshokaU and has now become the flagship program of the newly launched Center for Social Impact Learning at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. If you are interested in becoming an FMS partner organization, contact email@example.com.
Fellow Feature: Sarah Sterling
“Having an Impact Officer shows our commitment to impact. Social Entrepreneurs really do want to make a difference, so they are creating new systems in an effort to track data and set benchmarks and goals.”
Sarah Sterling is an FMS Alumna (and MIIS MPA alumna) who participated in our 2015 Amsterdam Training. Her current FMS fellowship is with Pomona Impact in Antigua, Guatemala where she works as the Social Impact Metrics Officer. She has found her home there, working out of the Impact Hub, and indulges in her passion for impact as she attends conferences around the world. She worked for the Center for Social Impact Learning (CSIL) while studying at the Middlebury Institute and will be joining us in June for the first FMS Hard Skills Clinic. We are excited to share her updates from Antigua:
Why did you join FMS?
As a student at the Middlebury Institute in Monterey and working with CSIL, I constantly heard great things about the FMS program and knew that it was a perfect launchpad for a career in impact post-graduation. I planned to take FMS training right before graduating with my Masters in Public Administration so that I could start a fellowship right away, and it worked out perfectly. I gained incredibly valuable skills, enhanced my network and made connections I wouldn’t have otherwise. Today I am working in a dream city with amazing co-workers doing very rewarding work. Joining FMS was a great decision and I couldn’t be happier.
What was your biggest takeaway from FMS?
FMS is a really amazing opportunity, not only to have a very supportive and diverse environment for those wanting to be exposed for the first time to social enterprise and impact investing, but also for experienced professionals coming from other spaces and who may have exposure but want to fully pivot into the impact space and find deeper connections in the network. It can be intimidating to take a course as a professional student in something that you don’t have background in. Learning about investment in general is intimidating to most of us. FMS was a great introductory course and a space where I felt comfortable asking questions that I may have been too intimidated to ask if I were in a room full of seasoned investors. I was able to gain much more knowledge this way and I’m grateful for that. With such a diverse cohort of participants, you find yourself learning much more than you expected, because you are not only learning from the instructors, but from your peers as well. In addition to that, the fellowship option is of course extremely valuable. It helps fellows develop professionally and really put that introductory knowledge and the newer skills to use in an important way.
Tell us about Pomona Impact and your current position
Pomona Impact was founded in May 2011 and is based in Guatemala. It is an impact investing fund focusing on deploying capital for good and supporting social entrepreneurs in Central America. We’ve made 16 investments to date and our portfolio is growing. In my role as Social Impact Metrics Officer, I have helped create a system for Pomona to measure and evaluate the social impact of our investments. In order to do that, I interviewed a number of other companies that do similar work and have used a variety of different tools, such as Acumen Lean Data, to assess the metrics that our companies are already using to measure impact. From there, I’ve been creating a system that is very simple and focused on the impact that we want to see and how to measure that impact by collecting specific metrics. Many of our portfolio companies report with IRIS and so we in turn also often use IRIS.
What metrics is Pomona Impact using now?
We have three key metrics, which I call umbrella metrics. These are all from our perspective, to measure the impact that is created when we make investments in other companies:
- Number of Jobs Created
- Revenue Generated
- Number of Lives Touched (direct and indirect beneficiaries)
Do you see the role of Impact Officer becoming more common?
For Pomona, having an Impact Officer shows our commitment to impact. It helps our portfolio companies also see the importance of tracking and monitoring data. While other companies have begun to focus on social impact for marketing purposes, social enterprises naturally put impact as a top priority. Social entrepreneurs really do want to make a difference, which is why they are creating new systems in an effort to track data and set benchmarks and goals. I am starting to see these roles more and more and I highly encourage enterprises to embrace this position. Where monitoring and evaluation is crucial in the nonprofit space, impact measurement should be expected in the social impact space. Having a dedicated role for that purpose will greatly benefit a company and allows for real insight and honest conversations about the actual impact that is achieved.
What are your next steps?
My fellowship ends in the coming months, but I have been hired for the next year with Pomona, which I’m really excited about. I absolutely love it here and intend to stay in Antigua long-term if it works out. The measurement system that I work on is constantly updating, so I continue to focus on that. I’m also working on our annual report, which will be tracking data from 2011 when we were founded. I have been talking to our early portfolio companies and gathering impact data from them to combine with our current company data. We hope to release the annual report this May.
What are your top three tips for those looking to start an impact career?
Join FMS and network intentionally. Participating in the FMS training and fellowship opportunity are the best direct ways to launch an impact career. Many of the fellowships turn into long-term contracts and you’re sure to be working in an exciting location. Also, make a point of network with intention and putting your interests or needs out there so that others can lead you in the right direction. Be sure to connect others and help them find their path as well, because networking is always a give and take.
Be flexible and a self-starter. Take initiative in your positions and in the fellowship instead of waiting for someone to give you tasks. Lead a variety of different projects if you have the option. This way you are capable outside of the title you are assigned and you’re creating value both for yourself and your company.
Keep an open mind. Even if you are new to this sector and especially after taking FMS, you do have a lot of skills to offer. If you are willing to learn and intentional about learning and creating impact, then you will go far. Everyone will be learning from one another in different ways, so don’t feel intimidated to ask questions and offer help to others where they may need it as well. No one knows everything about this space yet, even the “experts” aren’t experts.
Sarah Sterling | Social Impact Metrics Officer
Sarah has several years of work experience in Central America, serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in El Salvador from 2010-2012, where she focused on rural education and small business development. She previously worked for the Center for Social Impact Learning at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey, and brings her skills in project development and management, impact metrics, fundraising, and outreach to her current FMS fellowship with Pomona Impact. She has a BS from the University of Vermont and a MPA from the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey.
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The Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) program seeks purpose-driven professionals to join its award-winning social enterprise management and impact investing certificate trainings in Monterey, California (June 6-17, 2016), and Washington, DC (Winter 2017). Founded in 2011, FMS has trained more than 300 professionals since its inception. FMS received a 2013 Cordes Innovation Award from AshokaU and has now become the flagship program of the newly launched Center for Social Impact Learning at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. The application deadline is April 29, 2016. Learn more and submit your application here.
Partner Profile: Fledge
“We work with a lot of young companies in the developing world. More and more of these companies are run by young entrepreneurs, and they need support from individuals with skills that FMS training provides.”
We spoke with Luni Libes, the Founder and Managing Director of Fledge, the conscious company accelerator out of Seattle, Washington. Fledge is a new partner of the Frontier Market Scouts and will be looking for fellows from our current and future cohorts to work with the enterprises that Fledge accelerates, also known as fledglings. Luni tells us more about Fledge and the new partnership with FMS:
Tell us about Fledge
Fledge is a for-profit business accelerator focusing on impactful companies. Nearly all other accelerators working with socially conscious startups are non-profits, and this sets us apart in various ways. We are a mission-driven for-profit working with for-profit startups that have a strong environmental/social mission. We don’t discriminate based on sector or location and anyone who fits the description can apply. Although we receive hundreds of applications- more than 250 in this last season- we pick only seven. Each of the seven receives $20,000 and come to the Impact Hub in Seattle to work side-by-side for eight weeks.
How does the accelerator work?
We call our participants fledglings, and while they are in our accelerator, we enlist a lot of help from mentors. This was a model invented nine years ago from TechStars, one of the inventors of the modern business accelerator, and we’ve adapted their program for the impact space. Because we have so many companies together at the same time and in the same place, it becomes a draw for experienced professionals to share their time and to learn more about the companies. We currently have over 330 volunteer mentors and while they don’t all come at once, over the two months the teams are in Seattle, they collectively provide serious support to our entrepreneurs. The fledglings benefit from the wide range of expertise from mentors in various sectors. It’s very inspiring; we will often see mentors attach themselves to a specific team and continue to advise them regularly past the accelerator stage. For the mentors, it is a way to connect to early stage ventures and provides them with investment opportunities or otherwise, based on their interests.
How many companies have graduated from Fledge to date?
Fledge began four years ago and to date we have completed 6 sessions with a total of 52 graduates. All but six of those graduating companies are still in business and growing. Of those 52 companies, about half are from the U.S. half from other countries around the world, with over a dozen based in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Why did Fledge choose to partner with FMS?
We work with a lot of young companies in the developing world. More and more of these companies are run by young entrepreneurs, and they need support from individuals with skills that FMS training provides. We have mentors who work with the companies and who dedicate hours and hours of help, and this is fundamental to our accelerator process. We know our companies will benefit a great deal from fellows who can dedicate months once the companies have finished the accelerator. We’re excited for the partnership and to see the fellows in action.
What does impact mean to Fledge?
For us, our impact lies in helping these companies succeed because we truly believe that the world is a better place if these companies exist. We take great care in choosing the company and assessing their missions. They are all working to solve very important issues in their city and country. We support them to help make that work possible and sustainable, and that is our impact.
What is on the horizon for Fledge?
FMS Fellows in country with our fledglings, for one!
Our next accelerator starts Monday, April 25th and runs through Friday, June 17th. We have seven teams coming from five countries: two from Uganda, two from Malawi, one from Tanzania, and one from the Philippines, plus one already based in Seattle. Moving forward, we plan to replicate the success of Fledge Seattle in other major world cities, one new city per year, as far and wide around the world as possible. With that goal in mind, if anyone is interested in bringing Fledge to their city, we welcome them to contact us.
The Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) program seeks purpose-driven professionals to join its award-winning social enterprise management and impact investing certificate trainings in Monterey, California (June 6-17, 2016), and Washington, DC (Winter 2017). Founded in 2011, FMS has trained more than 300 professionals since its inception. FMS received a 2013 Cordes Innovation Award from AshokaU and has now become the flagship program of the newly launched Center for Social Impact Learning at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. The early application deadline is April 29, 2016. Learn more and submit your application here.