Reflections on SOCAP


In mid-September, CSIL representatives attended the Social Capital Markets Conference, along with business leaders, impact investors, social entrepreneurs, and other inspired individuals who are using business as a force for social change. The conference made a big impression on our team and we are excited to incorporate what we learned into our work. Check out what CSIL’s Strategic Initiatives Assistant, Ben Grimmig, has to say about his experience.

What did you learn about “social impact” that surprised you, or that you didn’t already know?
I attended a session on the intersection of impact investing and social movements – particularly the Black Lives Matter movement. What I found very interesting about this session was the assertion by one panelist that SOCAP attendees are more likely to invest in Africa than they are to invest marginalized communities in the U.S. He claimed that Africa is “sexier” – despite the need for investments at home. I found this to be an incredibly powerful statement. This same individual also stated that the most important investment will be made in educating minority students in how to use technology, because if they do not have this opportunity, technology will be used as a tool of oppression. This was the most personally impactful session that I attended.

What did you find particularly awesome about the conference?
One of the sessions that I particularly enjoyed focused on the future of food – particularly engineering plant-based proteins as alternatives to meat. I had initially only attended this session to support Seth Goldman, the founder and CEO of Honest Tea, but I found the discussion to be incredibly illuminating – and its such an important subject because we all make decisions about food several times a day. The panelists discussed how our society is currently grappling with two food trends – on one end of the spectrum is the un-doing of food (with companies like Honest Tea marketing their simple, organic ingredients); while on the other end of the spectrum companies are re-doing food (engineering meat substitutes using technological advancements). While the two trends seem to be at odds with one another, they both depend on transparency, and the panelists argued that GMOs will be “sexy” in a few years as long as companies are honest and transparent about their use. The panel also drove home the importance our food decisions have on climate change, and how a meat-based diet has negative environmental consequences. Lastly, the panel touched on a theme that was prevalent throughout the week in SOCAP – how do we democratize these solutions and make them available to everyone? Essentially, how do we get these alternative protein options available not just in Whole Foods, but in all stores? The panelists believe that scale and price efficiencies are attainable with time.

What is the biggest challenge that you noticed?
Something I discussed with some other participants was the overall effectiveness of a conference like SOCAP. The conference is quite expensive, in a beautiful venue, with amazing food and drinks – and I asked myself whether or not this money could have been spent elsewhere (actually investing in marginalized communities). However, SOCAP certainly helps to legitimize the industry and the connections made have a lot of value. A big theme for the conference is metrics, and I think it would be really neat if SOCAP published some sort of impact report about the value derived from hosting the conference.

What are your key takeaways from the conference?
This was my second time attending/volunteering at SOCAP and I would just like to say how at home I felt at the conference. MIIS and FMS has such a large presence, and its really special to know that we really are considered leaders. I really felt tapped into the network. While at the conference, I reconnected with Pomona Impact and Agora Partnerships – discussing potential FMS fellowships with both organizations.

FMS Fellow Feature: Ben Grimmig

Ben Grimmig, MBA ’17

Ben Grimmig (MBA ’17) has worked with Ambassador Corps in the CSIL offices while completing his degree at at the Middlebury Institute. He also participated in the FMS Training as part of the January 2016 cohort, where he found a passion in impact investing. Current Partnerships Associate Christina Lukeman caught up with Mr. Grimmig in Washington, D.C. this summer to hear his thoughts on fair trade, his top mentors in the field (looking at you, Mr. Hildebrand!) and how his love for the environment has optimally affected his trajectory in the impact sector.

Tell us about your current work/position. What are your next steps?

BG: Currently, I am a Mission-MBA intern at Honest Tea. My main responsibility is to write our mission report (kind of like a sustainability report which tracks Honest Tea’s mission-related initiatives over the last 12 months). They use four main metrics: organic purchasing from a pounds-perspective, fair trade purchasing from a pounds-perspective, fair trade premiums generated from a dollar-perspective, and servings sold (this shows scale and scale equals impact—Honest Tea sells more after being bought by Coke). For example: They converted to 100% fair trade sugar (but my role is to demonstrate what that means from a fair trade perspective?)

My next moves are going back to school at MIIS (and working at CSIL!), meanwhile I’ll continue to work at Honest Tea in a project-oriented sense—I’d like to see it my work through to publication of online report and distribution.

In Spring 2017, my plans are to do a FMS placement in Latin America working for an Impact Fund.

What is impact to you?

BG: Impact is giving people the tools so that they can autonomously best improve their community or situations. Obviously, my answer is very influenced by working in fair trade where you pay a premium so that the community can democratically decide what to do with that extra money. In essence, you give people the tools to do what THEY think is best, not necessarily what the money-holder thinks is best for the community.

We are so naïve to think we can step into a new situation and think we can change it, but often times where you can move the needle is not necessarily what is the sexier job position. So, impact from a personal perspective is knowing what you are good and moving [the needle] there. That’s why I love impact funds—you are supporting different grassroots initiatives and letting the community decide how to best allocate capital. Something I would really like to see grow in the impact investing space is improving the lines of communication between the funds and the community so that there is way more community involvement in the decision-making process of allocating funds.

What inspired you into impact? 

BG: My trajectory is heavily influenced by the environmental space because I love the outdoors; I wanted my career to be environmentally focused. I thought the best way to get involved was with CSR. A lot of that can be attributed to Adam Werbach – who was the youngest president of the Sierra Club, but later left controversially and went on to consult both non-profit and for-profit companies (like Walmart) on how to green their business. He gave this speech where he said “While there’s a certain activist romance in the David vs. Goliath story, I began to get more comfortable with the odds of working with Goliath in the spirit of a David.” And I think this idea that you could actually work with big companies really influenced me.  So I went on to do communications consulting, with a focus on CSR, for large companies. My whole belief system when getting into public relations was that company’s could do well by doing good – that consumers actually seek out environmentally or socially conscious brands (i.e. B-Corps!) – but that brands often fail to communicate their initiatives and therefore miss out on a big opportunity. I wanted to help companies tell their sustainability story. I wrote sustainability reports and other communications assets related to brands’ CSR efforts. Ultimately, while I still firmly believe that business can be a force for good, I was frustrated with my role. I was seeing a company’s environmental or social initiative after it had already been implemented – and my job was to communicate. While, telling a story is very important to in engaging stakeholders with your values, I didn’t always find it genuine and I thought I could have more of an impact if I could get involved earlier in the process of formulating an initiative.  That’s what led me back to school. I wanted to get a deeper background in finance and impact investing. I thought if I could get to the source of the money, I could have more influence over social or environmental initiatives in the private sector compared to when I worked in communications and only saw initiatives after they had been implemented. I am now more interested in the finance side – particularly helping smaller enterprises access capital.   

How would you describe your FMS experience?

BG: There was never a dull moment. During the experience you are exposed to people from so many backgrounds. The curriculum covered a wide swath of material; the facilitators presented many problems. My favorite part was getting in my group every day and creatively solving those problems. From a networking perspective it is all the people you could hope to see in that space; it made me feel very much in the inner circle.

What did you learn from working with CSIL?

BG: I’ve learned a lot from the individuals who work there. The staff genuinely care about what they do, even “impact” aside and really how to live a good life. They’ve created a family feel in the office. Jerry is a mentor and great example of what I want my work to feel like: he demonstrates the power of relationship in the workplace. I remember walking into SOCAP the first day and I felt like I was walking in with Brad Pitt—everyone wanted a hug from him and he made everyone feel special. The business we do with Ambassador Corps is so relationship-based, so this is essential. Also, I’ve also learned the back-end on how to run a lean-organization: long hours and how to make choices when resource-constrained.

Ben and Jerry at an Ambassador Corps meeting in Spring 2016.

Who has been a “pillar” mentor to you?

BG: First and foremost, Jerry! Also, due to my interest in the private sector, Yvon Chouinard (Founder of Patagonia). But probably the most influential to me has been Adam Werbach, who has the youngest president of the Sierra Club, quit and went to work for Walmart (a nod to the metaphor of David and Goliath). He found that he had more impact working from within. He went onto found Saatchi & Saatchi S (a Public Relations firm focused on sustainability). He, to me, was a defining person that got me into CSR from a communications-perspective.

 How has your life changed since getting involved in impact?

BG: I’ve become not so idealistic and more into realistically taking a more holistic approach to business. I’ve taken my focus off solely the environment and become more focused on social issues as well, understanding that impact is interconnected.

Tell us something that no one knows about you.

BG: I was prom king!

Editor’s Note: Ben makes the best homemade chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever tasted—and yes, I realize that is a big statement.



Breakfast with the Padrino and other Thoughts on “Impact”

Breakfast with the Padrino and other Thoughts on “Impact”
Slater Matzke shares his thoughts on a life of purpose
Slater Matzke (MPA ’16) shares his thoughts on “impact,” the pursuit of purpose, and the future.

Slater Matzke (MIIS MPA ’16) has worked at a leadership level for the past couple of years in the CSIL offices as Partnerships Associate in conjunction with his graduate studies at the Middlebury Institute. In this capacity, he tripled the number of hiring organizations in the CSIL partner network, strengthening our reach around the globe, and cultivating a robust pipeline of career opportunities with small and growing businesses in the impact sector. Slater also contributed to CSIL on a strategic level by producing a 5-year growth strategy for the award-winning Frontier Market Scouts (co-authored by MIIS graduate Joshua Zimmerman). Current FMS Partnerships Associate Christina Lukeman caught up with Mr. Matzke and got on his take on what it means to pursue purpose-driven work, his favorite regional networking opportunities, and secured a few tips for breaking into to the impact sector. 

What is “impact” to you?

SM: There really is no standard definition; impact means different things to different people. The private sector says that all business is impact, but I would [obviously] argue that. For me impact is shifting away from traditional paradigms, looking deeper at qualitative and quantitative systems…it’s not necessarily about how to make the world better, but how to make systems better in order to have a positive impact.

In a sense, impact is efficiency—it is improvement and evaluation of what we’ve been doing and how to improve it. Impact is never stopping – never thinking there is a finish line and always finding ways to build a better mouse trap.

What inspired you pivot into the “impact” sector?

SM: Working in the private sector for 10 years, I was focused on single bottom line return and improvement of the business was seen solely from a financial standpoint. I found myself continually thinking, “We are making money, but why doesn’t this feel as good as everyone said it was supposed to?” I got this feeling that the single bottom line is not the only way to evaluate for success and it was an itch that I wanted to scratch. Simply increasing revenues and maximizing profits is an archaic way of looking at things in the current, multidimensional world, where single actions can have tertiary effects.  As my awareness grew, I started to ask big questions: What does it mean to really help other people? What is public service? What is ‘civics’? [So I left the private sector] to see what “impact” looked like on the grassroots level: I joined Peace Corps and lived in Latin America for three years. After getting a taste of what it meant to make impact at the base of development, I came back to the United States and tied all of my experiences together in an academic overarch through my MPA, focusing on Social Venture Management.

Tell us about your current work? What are you next steps?

Right now my front burner is politics and working on the 2016 Presidential Campaign for Hillary Clinton; this is the most revolutionary election of our lifetime and the most important thing right now that I can get involved with to make a difference.

You worked primarily in partnerships at CSIL, facilitating placements between participating fellows and organizations around the world. What is the biggest value added you see from FMS training and placement?

SM: The training is unparalleled – there is nothing out there that is like FMS, from a training perspective. [You are] getting not only high-level practitioners who are working in the impact sector, but also a diverse group of participants from around the world. The knowledge-sharing that occurs and the unique perspective that everyone brings is like a primordial soup of where great ideas are born.

The FMS fellowship is not an internship—it is real work. Our hiring partner organizations have been vetted by the program as high-impact, early or growth-stage (and often resource-constrained) enterprises with pressing needs. The fellows are given the opportunity to deploy their acquired knowledge gained from the training in order to make these organizations even better and stronger. As an FMS fellow, you are exercising the tremendous service of getting out there and applying your knowledge and skills  to really helping early-stage enterprises using business as a force for good.

What did you learn from working with CSIL?

SM: Working with CSIL is working for a start-up: putting in long hours and pouring everything you have into [the organization] to further the mission of what the Center is, which is to develop programs and conduct research to advance the impact sector. Every hour that you can allocate is to the benefit of the students at the Institute, and the trainees, fellowship candidates, impact investors, and enterprises that connect to our programs. 

What are your top three tips and tools for those looking to start an impact career (and fellows about to start the training)?

1)     Take the time to reflect and take a values-inventory. The term “social impact” is so loaded and charged right now; it’s so sexy and glamorous. A lot of people want to jump into the sector without understanding what it really means, and without knowing where they fit in. The reality is that impact falls on each individual: you need to know where and how you want to make impact in order to do so.

2)     Field experience is huge and there are plenty of ways to get engaged on any level. Use your own local community to develop your tools and make a change. Jump in the sandbox and start playing around wherever you are, and you’ll see yourself start to build castles.

3)     Don’t discount government; you can create impact through the public sector as well. People may or may not realize it, but the largest driver of social impact in the world is government (and they also have the deepest pockets of anyone). There is so much potential with what can be done—do your part to be engaged on a civic level, pay attention on a policy level, and advocate for law makers that share your values.

What are your favorite regional networking opportunities? 

SM: My absolute favorite are the Peace Corps Conferences as they are a great place to learn about development and they share the same values as me (side note: Nor Cal Peace Corps Association has 5k members). SOCAP is a no-brainer—it is like the Olympics of the social impact sector. Further, ANDE is fantastic—all of the heavy-hitters in the impact sector are part of this network and the association is always has networking events in metropolitan impact hubs domestically (think: Washington, D.C. and San Francisco) as well as internationally—great for the FMS crowd.

A few important personal questions to tap into who the real Slater is…

Who has been a guiding force for you?

SM: I was really inspired by a friend of mine named Tim McCollum (who also did the Peace Corps). Tim used his PeaceCorps service to fill a social gap and came up with the chocolate company MADACASSE. I am just more generally inspired by entrepreneurs… raising capital and taking the risk to leave your job…that’s bold.  Often times the profit model is the trickiest part. Your beneficiaries are not able to pay so you have to get very creative in your business models. It’s inspiring to see people getting out there and generating new business, especially when it’s good business.

Tell us something that no one knows about you:

I make strong impressions on people. I met a couple at a coffee shop in Lima, Peru and 2 weeks later I was the godfather “Padrino” to their daughter.”


Announcing a New Social Impact Learning Research Fellowship

The Center for Social Impact Learning (CSIL) is proud to announce a new way for the MIIS community to engage with emerging markets: the CSIL Research Fellowship. The research fellowship combines a placement with a local partner in a frontier market and an independent research project to create an opportunity for CSIL to explore global business innovation more deeply than ever before. The inaugural Fellowship was granted to Molly McKeon MAIEP ’15 to conduct research on the future of micro-finance in Mongolia. Molly will be based out of Ulaanbaatar with the Executive Excellence International Business Center working on local small and medium business development, while exploring the link between micro-finance and entrepreneurship in larger Mongolia.

During her time at MIIS, Molly developed a keen interest in and research portfolio on Mongolian economic development. After participating in the Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) program she began to explore the nascent social entrepreneurship field in Mongolia. Now, in preparation for her project, Molly is currently a Title VIII Fellow in a summer intensive Mongolian Language program. The CSIL Research Fellowship will allow her to build off the skills she acquired in the FMS program while leveraging her background in research methods, and pursuing her fourth language. We know Molly will make a great addition to the CSIL family and we can’t wait to see what she will accomplish!

FMS Fellow Feature: Megan Vose

FMS taught me great techniques and frameworks for thinking through our challenges as we grow and has enabled me to employ more creative models for success.”


Megan Vose is a Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) Alumna, recent Middlebury Institute graduate and social entrepreneur who participated in the FMS  2016 Monterey Certificate Training. She is returning to Panama to manage her business, El Motete, with her best friend and business partner, Will Riddlehoover who served with Megan in Peace Corps. She tells us more about her FMS experience and El Motete’s impact:


Why did you join FMS?

Moving into a growing business environment that is becoming more socially conscious in Panama, I knew it would be a great opportunity to apply FMS skills to our business and further expand our network of people that could possibly support us as we grow.

What was your biggest takeaway from FMS?

Networking: I met incredible and creative people. It was also really eye-opening to learn about how vast the space still is, and how much there is still room for growth and involvement. I enjoyed learning about the key players and the people who are really building the space in very unique and interesting ways.

Tell us about your current work

I am co-founder of El Motete, a specialty grocery store located in Panama City, carrying 100% locally-made and locally-grown products. We carry items such as fresh produce, value-added products, and artisanal goods all made by local producers that we work with through a direct producer-to-market supply chain. We launched in March of 2016 and are excited to be expanding our customer base in the city.

As Peace Corps Volunteers in Panama, Will and I realized that the greatest barrier to access for small-scale producers was access to retail markets. As we noticed a growing culture of not only food-conscious but also socially-minded and progressive food-based businesses opening in Panama, we saw a great opportunity to bridge the gap between rural communities and the city by giving them a space in El Motete to share their products and their stories, spreading the value of buying local.

What were some of the greatest challenges that you faced launching your business?

Financing was challenging, but we were fortunate enough to reach our goals through a successful Indiegogo campaign and with some money from our own pockets. It was a lot of work, but we were able to start without being indebted to anyone, and that gave us a great foundation for growth. Another challenge was navigating the legal and bureaucratic framework of starting a business in a foreign country. With the help of friends and fellow business-owners in the city, as well as our amazing lawyer, we continue working through these challenges. Support, patience and an open mind have been key to our perseverance and we are excited for the new challenges as we continue to strengthen the presence of small producers in Panama City.

What does impact mean to El Motete?

The whole basis of our business is to build a system that has a positive and sustainable impact to small-scale producers outside of Panama City. These are the individuals that we met and worked with in Peace Corps and they are the motivation for everything that we do. We’ve been very busy and have had great success in our first two months since opening. We realize that first and foremost we need to build a lucrative and sustainable business in order to best support our mission moving forward and this is our focus today. From there we will be able to impact more and more small-scale producers and hopefully continue to encourage buying local.

How are you using the skills you learned in FMS?

The tools I learned in FMS have helped me think about ways of moving forward to ensure that we stay true to our current mission. It taught me great techniques and frameworks for thinking through our challenges as we grow and has enabled me to employ more creative models for success. I’d highly recommend FMS to anyone working in this space.

What are your top three tips for those looking to start an impact career?

  • Follow your passion
  • Take risks
  • Value the relationships and networks around you!


Follow El Motete:  Website  Facebook  Instagram

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.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Contact Altruist

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

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:

  1. Number of Jobs Created
  2. Revenue Generated
  3. 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. 

Follow Pomona Impact:  Linkedin  Blog  Twitter

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 collectfldgeively 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?fldge2

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.

Feature Profile: Hunter Sebresos FMS 2015

Hunter & Woman 12-4-2013 copy“We’ve found that market penetration and cultural understanding are the biggest challenges, because it can make or break the entire venture, no matter how business savvy the team is.”

Hunter Sebresos (FMS ’15) is the Founder and Lead Designer of Concept Hunter, a growing consultancy focused on emerging market penetration. Hunter met his business partner Jeff Hicken while they were working in Kenya with MOTIIS, a market innovation team. Jeff is now Director of Business Development and Strategy at Concept Hunter. At MOTIIS, Hunter and Jeff researched markets and had the opportunity to participate in the creation of Bamba Water. Working in Kenya was the turning point for Hunter, where he was able to directly apply his traditional design education in the impact market. Right out of Kenya, he applied to FMS. Hunter and Jeff connect with us on their current work in the impact space-including a free e-book which teaches how to successfully penetrate a market by building an effective brand, marketing plan, and sales team. You can pre-order now for the June 2016 release.

Hunter, why did you decide to join FMS?

I wanted to legitimize my experience in Kenya and was attracted to the certificate because it focused on impact. I also wanted to make connections and meet others who were interested in the space and it was highly recommended by another member of the MOTIIS innovation team, Kevin Lehr, an FMS Alum. I knew that the training would give me a good overview of social enterprise and impact investing. Now, I feel like I can really speak to the two sectors whereas before, even though I was working in the space, I wasn’t as knowledgeable. Thanks to the FMS training, I am confident in my understanding of the key concepts in the social impact sector as well as the skills that I can contribute.

What was your biggest takeaway from FMS?IMG_5746

The due diligence training was extremely useful. Learning how a good investment deal is structured has informed many of my decisions since the training. Now, when we look at potential clients with Concept Hunter, we also go through aspects of the due diligence process. This helps us assess what stage the clients are in with their project and how we can best help them. It’s surprising how many companies turn a blind eye to this process and how useful it can be across the board.

What is Concept Hunter focusing on today?

After FMS, we connected about some of the challenges we see in the impact space. Through our experience working in Social Enterprise, we have observed that companies struggle with two debilitating problems in particular. The two problems are (1) attracting investment capital and (2) penetrating markets through effective branding, marketing, and sales. The investment capital problem is overwhelming, however, we believe we can help solve the market penetration problem for social ventures. Not only that, but we believe effective market penetration will help them attract investment capital. Think about it, we haven’t seen a Facebook or a Twitter in the Social Enterprise industry. Once we see one or two Facebook-like companies emerge from Social Enterprise, that is when we will also see serious investment capital flood for these ventures.

Today, Concept Hunter helps clients build a powerful brand, marketing plan, and sales team to penetrate emerging markets and generate high returns. We specifically focus on the following:

  • How clients can find a brand that will be adopted and spread in the culture they are addressing.
  • How to market in a way that will resonate with the local culture and communities.
  • How to create sales teams that actually drive results, also paying attention to the local culture.

The one thing we find to be absolutely crucial to a venture’s success is to have an understanding of the local culture and to know which aspects are challenges and which are opportunities. We call these opportunities “anchors” and they allow for a solid foundation upon which the company can prosper. The reality is, when it comes to business, it is REALLY difficult to work upstream against culture. Culture must be taken into account and Concept Hunter works to identify ways that companies can incorporate cultural factors into their market penetration strategies to ensure greater success.

IMG_3155Even for teams who are already on the ground and who already have their services or products in use, crucial mistakes can be made when it comes to market penetration that will compromise the health of the venture. With help from MOTIIS, Bamba Water went from selling 3,000 units daily to now selling 90,000 units daily, and this in a matter of two years. They have also expanded to Nairobi and we know that increasing sales by 30x was only possible because of how seriously we paid attention to culture and the specific market. Using our experience with Bamba Water and our team’s success, we want to help other enterprises incorporate the benefits of truly understanding the market they are working in and applying that knowledge to branding, marketing and sales. Better yet, we know that if we can help ventures be more successful- such as increasing sales by 30x in two years- it will automatically address the first issue of finding funding because impact investors will undoubtedly be more attracted to these successes.

What are the key aspects of market penetration that your book will address?

We note that a sound market penetration strategy will cover the process, methods and expected outcomes for the following aspects of a venture:

– Cultural / Market Awareness

– Brand building

– Marketing strategy

– Sales Team building

These techniques are useful for both for-profit and nonprofit companies. In fact, we urge nonprofit companies to begin paying more attention to this topic and know that it can greatly benefit them. People tend to think that business principles won’t apply to nonprofits and that focusing on sales or branding isn’t where they should put efforts. We know, however, that by focusing on branding and marketing and localizing to specific markets can be immensely beneficial to their operations. The Red Cross does a great job of branding and marketing themselves in a way that is similar to for-profit models, and it works to their advantage. We encourage individuals working in the nonprofit space to read our book and to focus on market penetration techniques.

Will your book address market penetration in multiple regions?IMG_2957

We will be using experiences from the multiple cultures we have worked in and we will also be using experiences from other individuals working in the impact space around the world. These stories will help give context to the key points we emphasize.

It is important to note that we find similarities in market penetration challenges to have more to do with an economic divide than a regional divide. We are writing the book specifically for people working in emerging markets and in fact would not suggest the same tactics to someone working in the U.S. or bigger markets. These tactics may work, but our advice is not tailored to large markets. Most of the book is coming from our experience in Kenya with Bamba Water, and we will be incorporating insight from others who have worked in different countries and with different ventures. While the inspiration for the book came from our experience in Kenya, the formula we have developed in the book is one that can be applied to any emerging market. When we think to our experiences in other countries such as Ecuador and the Philippines, we remain confident in our formula and are excited to share it with everyone in this book.

Are there any stories you can share with us now?

Hunter: One of my favorite stories is the experience I had creating Bamba Water’s tagline. First, I’ll note that Bamba Water sells water sachets and not water bottles. Water bottles were twice the price of what we were offering and well water was not a safe option for many people, so we had a great advantage. In the beginning, working with branding, we came up with “bottles are for babies”. As Americans, we loved the tagline, we felt it applied right away. However, I started to notice that Kenyans weren’t actually appreciating the tagline the way we did. It wasn’t funnyStevenHawking the way it was to Americans because…Kenyan babies don’t drink from bottles. The tagline ended up only coming off as if we were making fun of individuals who drink bottled water. Fortunately, after noticing the reaction and before placing “bottles are for babies” on every poster, we came up with “Bambika na Bamba Water” which resonated much better with Kenyans. Not only did it make sense- translating to “refresh yourself with Bamba Water”- but it also had the alliteration and it rolled off the tongue in a way that felt good when saying it. The reaction we got from Kenyans to the new tagline was similar to what we were getting from Americans with “bottles are for babies”, and this solidified for us that it was a perfect fit. This experience proved how important it is for companies to pay attention to the market culture and customer preferences. If one were to travel to Mombasa today and ask ten people about Bamba Water, they will all respond with ‘Bambika”. That’s how well it works.

Another quick example is our decision to put up a billboard at the entrance of the ferry between the island of Mombasa and the city of Likoni. Whereas in the U.S., this decision would have been for the purpose of marketing and awareness, in Kenya, it was for the purpose of gaining credibility. We knew the culture and the appreciation of status when a company obtains a large billboard, and therefore knew that it would be an advantage with customers to place that ad in such a prime location in a way that proved our status.

Jeff: On the sales side, everything has to sync with culture, just like on the brand side. With your sales team, you have to develop simple, consistent, repetitive standards. Sales culture—and company-wide culture for that matter—is not something that comes because you wrote it in a mission statement. Rather, culture comes from the accumulation of your standards exhibited through habits and behaviors over time. When we started with Bamba Water, the sales team wasn’t very developed. I spent the first weeks moving around with the sales team, learning how they worked and taking notes. I quickly realized they had many challenges and from there was able to identify the obstacles and opportunities. Some of the obstacles we found included opinions about positions and status. At Bamba Water, each team had a sales manager, a sales clerk in charge of inventory and a mkokoteni pusher- the individual who pushed the cart and delivered the product. In Kenya, a manager is generally seen to be sitting behind a desk and directing people on what to do, but not engaged much further. On the flip side, within the context of Kenya, pushing the cart as a mkokoteni pusher was one of the lowest positions and was the most labor-intensive job. There was one mkokoteni pusher in particular, Simon, who really caught my eye and who I often traveled with. One day we went to a school and I watched Simon work very hard and play with the kids while his manager would only sit on the truck and fill the role he felt he was meant to play. Shortly thereafter, the manager himself left and we put Simon in the manager roleIMG_6563. This was a defining moment; it was amazing to see him going from what was seen as a bottom position to be working as manager and because he understood the cart pusher experience, he was right away an effective manager. For us, the single most important leadership training for the sales managers was to teach them ownership of their team’s results. They had a tendency early on to blame everything but themselves for poor performance, i.e. weather, their team, their superiors, the product, etc. We had no tolerance for this lack of ownership, and trained all sales managers to take full responsibility for the performance of their team. If their sales were down, it was the sales manager’s fault and no one else’s. This was something that Simon took very seriously, and did very well.  This critically changed the way his sales team operated. Simon went on to lead the top-producing area in Kenya for Bamba Water and I’m so proud to have witnessed that progression.

Where can we access the e-book once it is published?

The book will be available on our site and is projected for publication in June 2016. We encourage everyone to pre-order today. Our goal is to help social enterprises get over the common problem of market penetration issues and we believe all entrepreneurs should have access to this knowledge, which is why we are providing our book for FREE online.

Follow Concept Hunter: Twitter  LinkedIn

Hunter Sebresos served in the Marine Corps out of high school and was deployed to multiple locations where he grew an appreciation for people and cultures. He spent two years on a religious mission in the Philippines and then worked in advertising in cities including New York, Salt Lake City and Miami. Hunter then became interested in other aspects of communication and design which led him to apply to graduate school in order to find ways of blending his love of international cultures and design. After graduate school, he worked at NASA and helped communicate the various complex activities of scientists and astronauts to the public. Shortly after NASA, he moved to Kenya and worked with MOTIIS before joining FMS.

Jeff Hicken lived in Ecuador for two years on a religious mission after high school. The experience marked him as it was his first time living outside of the United States. He then studied Economics at BYU in Utah and worked in business development. When he moved to Kenya to work with MOTIIS and Bamba Water, Jeff focused on innovative ways to develop the sales team. His background in economics and business compliments Hunter’s design background, which is a unique aspect of the Concept Hunter Team.

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.

Announcing a New Impact Investing “Hard Skills” 2-Day Clinic: Financial Analysis and Modeling for Social Businesses, Projects and Impact Investing Funds

ClinicWhat hard skills are required for a career in the impact investing? For starters, you are going to need to know the difference between debt and equity. You must be able to understand financial statements and how to create a financial model, analyses, and forecasting.

What is a social enterprise? What does “impact” really mean? The “impact space” spans across all industries. It is an exciting new approach that uses finance and business as a tool to address pressing environmental and social needs. Many purpose-driven people have worked “close to the impact” through the Peace Corps, or with a local nonprofit. However, the essential frameworks for social business design can be challenging to distinguish for those who have little or no background in basic finance.

We’ve designed a 2-day intensive clinic focused on the essential frameworks for financial analysis and modeling for social impact. The clinic is a comprehensive introduction that will break down key concepts. It has been designed as a primer to the Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) certificate training in social enterprise management and impact investing.

The clinic takes place the weekend prior to the FMS Monterey training—June 4 & 5, 2016. It is ideal for incoming FMS participants as well as past alums who lack a solid background in finance. This course is also an excellent opportunity for professionals interested in gaining a foundational starting point for understanding how impact investing and social enterprise works. Check out the schedule for a break down of each day.

Workshop Fee: $450 (Special pricing available for FMS participants)

To apply, submit your information here –


Course Instructor

Kim Kastorff founded both Kimpacto, Inc. and Global Success Fund, after many years in banking, investments, social responsibility & education, and understanding that social entrepreneurs & global businesses need affordable financial services, funding and greater collaboration, plus the increasing importance to demonstrate social impact. Today, there is an increasing trend for ‘Maximizing financial + social impact.’  Kimpacto further supports impact investors in connecting their personal mission with impact funds and social investment opportunities.

Kim’s goal is to promote financial inclusion and push for a more educated and financially sustainable global environment.  As a Benefit Corporation and Certified B Corporation, Kimpacto, Inc. is held to our global mission and a higher level of social, environmental, community and governance standards.
Kim is fluent in English & Spanish and brings her global finance, investment banking and Big 4 Consulting experience (U.S., Europe & Latin America) and holds an MBA in Finance, and a Masters in Research – Impact Investing and FINRA Securities Licenses (7, 63, 65).



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