The seed project scope


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The seed project scope

  1. 1. THE SOCIAL ENTERPRISE SEED PROJECT: Democratizing Social Entrepreneurship September 22, 2010 VISION Goal To build a connected national social enterprise sector by establishing local support ecosystems around the country. Vision Statement The Social Enterprise Seed Project believes that an interconnected, well-supported social enterprise sector can be an extraordinary catalyst for sustainable socially- and environmentally-responsible economic growth in the United States. Mission Statement The Social Enterprise Seed Project will conduct a yearlong survey of the social enterprise sector in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of existing resources and gaps in the landscape, and to construct tools and systems that will enable a consistent framework for future development. The survey will be conducted by engaging a variety of stakeholders to analyze existing conditions; understand goals, challenges and perceptions; and address opportunities for partnerships, peer networks and market growth, thereby increasing the cumulative reach of the sector. Tag Cloud social enterprise | grassroots | community tools | infrastructure | economic growth | local ecosystems CONTEXT The social enterprise sector in the United States has a long history, but it has experienced increased growth over the past two decades. According to the 2008 Social Enterprise Field Study conducted by the Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA): “the number of social enterprises launched each year has grown steadily since the 1970s, with the most rapid growth occurring during the 1990s and early 2000s.” As non-profit, for-profit and civic organizations adopt market-based business models in order to further their social missions, a fourth sector is exploding in innovative and unexpected ways. As it grows, the social enterprise sector is attempting to organize itself ad hoc. The result has been a field replete with resources and potential, but lacking in structure and access. PROBLEM Unlike in many other countries, particularly the United Kingdom, a comprehensive national survey of the sector has not been undertaken. As a result, the virtual geography of the field is still relatively undefined and, therefore, its capacity to catalyze economic growth is underutilized. Information that could lead to cross-sector partnerships exists in silos, public participation in the growth of social enterprises is limited due to lack of access, and a cohesive government plan to support social enterprise is stunted without data to help shape innovative legal and tax structures as well as funding strategies.
  2. 2. APPROACH The Seed Project endeavors to identify gaps in connectivity among stakeholders, including social entrepreneurs, government partners, funders, local communities and other support institutions. The data will be used to understand biases and perceptions that may limit growth in the sector and then to provide stakeholders with resource-rich information and tools that will allow them to more effectively pursue their goals and build partnerships. The Seed Project aims to survey the sector as a means to efficiently leverage existing resources in local communities and transfer best practices among stakeholders. As there is a great deal of existing research and conversation regarding the various definitions of social enterprise, the value of the sector and the importance of measuring impact, the Seed Project will not re-address these issues. The Seed Project also believes that the bulk of research to date has focused on well-known, well-funded organizations. This has led to an imbalance in understanding the actual diversity of stakeholders, their goals and needs, and best practices to support them. While the Seed Project will incorporate information garnered from high-visibility stakeholders into the project’s deliverables, most of team’s activities will be focused on understanding the sector starting from a grassroots perspective. The Seed Project team will travel throughout the country to gather information directly from social entrepreneurs, funders, support organizations, government agencies and academic institutions. The team will synthesize the data accrued from this cross-section of stakeholders into a variety of publicly accessible tools that will connect the disparate elements of the national social enterprise sector. METHODOLOGY Process The Seed Project team will accomplish its goal of laying the groundwork for a connected social enterprise sector by mobilizing a cross-section of stakeholders for participation; investigating their needs, practices, challenges and goals; and then strategically disseminating the aggregated information back to them. DISCOVER The Seed Project will travel to approximately 25 cities and communities across the country to investigate the existing social enterprise landscape through a combination of data-gathering strategies, personal relationship building, partnerships with social enterprise support organizations, and online tools. Participants: A comprehensive overview of the sector will be driven by the participation of three categories of stakeholders. Highly visible stakeholders: The social enterprise sector currently has a layer of stakeholders that are well known due to their high level participation in accelerator programs, conferences and public conversations. Through partnerships with select programs and national events, data-mining mechanisms will be built into registration and participation activities. Moderately visible stakeholders: Stakeholders are defined as moderately visible when they participate occasionally in some activities and conversations external to their primary business. These stakeholders appear to understand the value of collaboration and connectivity, but, for a variety of reasons, they have not increased their participation further. Because much of this category’s
  3. 3. participation is online, the Seed Project will invite them to contribute information through social media tools. Minimally visible stakeholders: Since the goal of the Seed Project is to lay the groundwork for a connected social enterprise sector, this group of stakeholders will be the primary focus of the project. It is surmised that many stakeholders in this category are unknown because they do not have the ability to take time away from their enterprises; they are not aware of the organizations and resources that are available to them; or they may not understand the value of participating in a national social enterprise eco-system. The Seed Project traveling team will gather information about these stakeholders through in-person meetings and site visits. Objectives: Efforts during the Discover phase of the project will target data gathering in order to understand the strengths and needs of local communities, as well as to develop personal connections that will facilitate cross-sector cooperation. Data gathering: The Seed Project team will design a standardized survey to identify trends, opportunities and challenges across communities. This information will be fed into a public asset map and distributed through a variety of customizable tools. Identification of Community Champions: Individuals who are recognized as community focal points in the social enterprise space will be identified as Community Champions in the context of the Seed Project. Community Champions will be the first, and often the primary, point of contact in the community for the Seed Project team. Their knowledge of the local sector will guide the team through the existing social enterprise ecosystem, and will prevent over-burdening of local stakeholders during the data-gathering process. As self- selected and self-directed leaders in the field, Community Champions will continue in their roles as “guides” for the local social enterprise sector after the Seed Project concludes, thereby multiplying the scope and the longevity of the project’s efforts. PLANT After the Seed Project team has conducted the national sector audit, the information will be disseminated publicly in the form of practical tools that are accessible to all stakeholders and to the community at large. National Social Enterprise Map: Stakeholder information will be mapped to serve as an entry point for contact and collaboration. The map will help to visually identify gaps and trends in the national social enterprise community. Community Profiles: The Seed Project will create profiles of each community’s social enterprise sector. A community will be defined as a geographic area that provides a critical mass of resources to support a vibrant social enterprise community. The profiles will include an overview of social entrepreneurs, funders, support organizations, government agencies and academic institutions that do and could contribute to the community’s social enterprise sector. The profiles will also include an overview of the perceived needs of the community
  4. 4. as identified by those surveyed as well as resources outside of the community that could be useful to integrate into the local sector. Strategic Partnerships: The Seed Project will contribute its research to partnering organizations. In particular, the Seed Project will partner with, an initiative that is creating an operating platform for the social enterprise sector. Information gathered by the Seed Project will allow partnering organizations to understand stakeholders’ needs and to identify opportunities for their programs to better serve their constituents. DELIVERABLES & INCENTIVES In an effort to build a connected social enterprise community, the Seed Project aims to gather information from disparate elements across the sector in order to disseminate comprehensive information back to the entire sector. Therefore, the project’s deliverables also act as incentives to participate. National Social Enterprise map A map of stakeholders will provide local access information, provide contact information for the community and the public, and help to visually identify gaps and trends in the national social enterprise community. Community Profiles Community profiles will include an overview of the stakeholders and resources that do and could contribute to the community’s social enterprise sector. Using the Innovative Cities framework built by Springboard Innovation, Community Profiles will consider strengths and gaps in Communication, Convening, Educational Programs, Engagement Pathways, Financial Access, Network and Member Organizations, Physical Space, and Professional Support, as they directly pertain to the social enterprise sector. (Please see Innovative Cities: Eight Elements for Building the Ecosystem for Thriving Social and Environmental Innovation for more information on the framework.) The profiles will also include an overview of resources outside of the community that could be useful to integrate into the local sector. The Seed Project will provide these profiles online to the public and strategically direct them to government officials, community linchpins and other select high-impact stakeholders who can significantly influence the development of the local social enterprise sector. Personal social entrepreneur profiles In order to insure a sufficient sample size of social entrepreneurs for the survey, the Seed Project team will provide participating social entrepreneurs with a personalized profile of their community. These profiles will empower social entrepreneurs with local, relevant information that they can use immediately to benefit their businesses. The profile will include: 1. A definition of their local community (e.g., NYC, northern Arkansas, metro Boston). 2. Local government officials responsible for development of social innovation or social enterprise 3. Selected list of other local social entrepreneurs 4. Overview of large regional events that would enable face-to-face interactions with the community 5. Overview of relevant online resources 6. Selected list of local funders 7. Resources for local operational support (responding to the needs they list on their profile)
  5. 5. Stakeholder reports Feedback gathered from the survey will be consolidated and disseminated to each of the stakeholder groups via collaborative partners such as These stakeholder reports will be available to all partnering organizations to understand stakeholders’ needs and to identify opportunities for their programs to better serve their constituents. CONTENT The Seed Project team will gather information regarding each stakeholder’s background, mission and needs in order to identity opportunities for operational support, sector growth and professional development. The survey will also investigate the perceptions that the stakeholders have of each other and of the sector. This information will help define the framework for effective collaboration and peer networks. (Please see Appendix for detailed overview of survey.) OUTCOMES By mapping the landscape, the Seed Project will create a framework over which a national infrastructure for supporting, funding and patronizing social enterprises can be built. The research aggregated by the Seed Project will provide all stakeholders with a multi-faceted understanding of the goals, challenges and perceptions of the other stakeholders, thereby increasing the cumulative reach of the sector. The Seed Project's findings will positively impact stakeholders in the following ways: • Social entrepreneurs. The task of building and operating a successful social enterprise is a Herculean task that requires intense focus while also demanding an enormously varied skill set. Social entrepreneurs must secure funding, market their efforts to the public, and balance cash flow needs with social benefits while simultaneously dealing with daily operations of a business. By providing social entrepreneurs with a resource-rich framework of the sector, they will be able to focus on training their staff, developing products and accomplishing their missions without sacrificing knowledge of and access to external stakeholders. • Funders. Social enterprises rely on capital in the form of grants, loans, or investments. The Seed Project will identify grantmakers, venture philanthropists, and investors who fund based on a shared belief in the mission, vision, and value of an organization. Particular attention will be paid to funders who support evaluation and social impact research and analysis. • Government. State, local, and federal governments struggle to provide taxpayers with high quality social services. Often facing over-burdened budgets, many government agencies under fund the services they hope to provide. Rather than looking for new solutions to solve social problems, governments rely on traditional methods of funding and ineffective models of service delivery. Instead, government should aim to support high-impact, low-cost programs through innovative public-private partnerships. By creating the infrastructure for new funding mechanisms and partnerships, government can enjoy the benefits of an innovative social enterprise sector. Specifically, the Seed Project will encourage state, local, and federal agencies to create offices focused on social innovation and entrepreneurship and advocate for changes to the tax code that will encourage the growth and effectiveness of social enterprises.
  6. 6. • Fellowship programs. Fellowship programs will be able to support a much more diverse fellow base by identifying social enterprises that have gone unnoticed due to lack of funding, • Universities. With the help of the Seed Projects findings, universities will be better able to build programs and design curriculum that suits the needs of students in social enterprise academic tracks. TEAM Core: Martin Montero, Pauline Nee, Olivia Khalili, Carol Stewart, Kyle Westaway Advisory Board Cindy Cooper, Director, Portland State University’s Social Innovation Incubator Kevin Jones, Principal and Co-founder, Good Capital Jill Finlayson, Vice President, Marketing, LikeList Aaron Strout, CMO, Powered Inc. Tim Hayden, Chief Strategy Officer and Partner at Blue Clover Elmira Bayrasli, Director, Endeavor Group Simon Salt, CEO and Foundar, International Ink Slingers
  7. 7. APPENDIX The Seed Project team will gather information regarding each stakeholder’s background, mission and needs in order to identity opportunities for operational support, sector growth and professional development. The survey will also investigate the perceptions that the stakeholders have of each other and of the sector. This information will help define the framework for effective collaboration and peer networks. SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS Organization Mission Goals Theory of change Evolution of organization What are the backgrounds of the founders and staff? How did you select your advisory board? Operations What is your operating model? What are your revenue-generating activities? What is the size of your company? Do you have partners? What methods do you use to evaluate your successes and opportunities? What are your biggest operational challenges? What are your most critical operational needs? What is your biggest daily operations challenge? Legal structure What legal structure did you choose? Why? Did you consult an attorney? If you could do it over again, would you choose a different legal form? If you could create the perfect legal structure, what would it look like? Funding What is your funding model? How do you think enterprises similar to yours are funded? Describe your experience with funders. What is your future funding strategy? Fellowships and awards Have you participated in a fellowship program or been selected for any awards? What was the experience like? How did it benefit you and your organization? How do you think fellowships, contests, and awards impact the social enterprise sector? Peer support What are your most critical emotional and mental challenges as a social entrepreneur? What support would you like to receive from a peer network? Describe your experience with peer support networks.
  8. 8. How interested are you in being involved in a social enterprise community in comparison to focusing on operating your organization? What could you contribute to a formal social enterprise community (e.g, time, services, products)? Do you have a supply chain partner? Would you be interested in partnering with other organizations to expand the scope/scale of your operational needs? Are there limitations on who you would partner with? Networks Online How much do you use online social networks for your business? Which ones do you use most? Why? Which ones do you use the least? Why? What do online networks offer that you cannot find elsewhere? What do online networks lack that you would find useful? Offline Do you attend social events for your business? Which ones? Why? What do they offer? What do they lack? Conferences Do you attend conferences? Which ones? Why those ones? Would you like to attend others? What do you find useful? Is it easy for you to get out of your office to attend events like this? Is it worth the time you have to spend away from your business? Have you found conferences to be worth the time and money that you spent to attend? Collaborations Have you ever collaborated on a project with someone outside of your organization? Has your organization ever partnered with another organization? How was the partnership structured? Describe the evolution of the collaboration. How long did the partnership last? How and why did it end? Overall, how was the experience? What were the benefits? What are the challenges? Would you collaborate with someone else in the future? If you have not collaborated with an outside partner, why have you not done so? Would you like to? Do you plan to in the future? Technology How do you use technology? What tools and programs do you use? What tools and programs would be helpful to you? What is your biggest technological challenge? Business support What external services do you use? Why do you outsource these tasks? Would you like to outsource more tasks?
  9. 9. What tasks would you like to bring in-house? Are there physical things that you need (more computers, a scanner, more desks, a bookkeeper) that you wish you had? Have you tried sharing with other social enterprises? Would you be willing to? Are there other resources (economics class, marketing assistance, a better logo) that you wish you had? What has prevented you from doing so? Prioritize the greatest business support needs for your company (i.e. accounting, legal, strategy consulting, marketing, etc.) Projections What do you see for the future of social enterprise? What are the three biggest needs for the social enterprise community? FUNDERS Funding organization What are the funding organization's goals? How did the organization evolve? What is the background of the founders and staff? What is the organization’s view on funding general operating support and evaluation? Programs What are the criteria for selection? Why do you believe some social enterprises succeed/fail? How closely do you work with the organizations you fund? What differentiates your approach from other funders? Advice What are the biggest mistakes that social entrepreneurs make when looking for funding? What are some of the best strategies you have encountered? How should a social entrepreneur's funding strategy change as the enterprise matures? Projections What do you see for the future of social enterprise? What are the three biggest needs for the social enterprise community? How do you anticipate your organization/approach will change in the future? How can funders and the government work together to strengthen the social enterprise sector? How can investing in social enterprise become more mainstream? What will it take for impact investing to be common for the individual investors? GOVERNMENT Resources Which government agencies are responsible for growing social innovation/social enterprise? Do any government agencies support social entrepreneurs? If not, are there any plans to support social entrepreneurs through grant programs or tax credits? Does government cap operational assistance at a certain limit? Funding
  10. 10. What funding programs exist currently? How successful are they? What are the outcomes? What are the primarily methods through which government funds are dispersed to socially innovative organizations? Do funds go to grantmakers or directly to nonprofits? Challenges How can government support organizations that want to provide a social service or benefit but who will eventually make a profit from those activities? What changes are in process for tax laws to make social enterprises more viable? Perceptions Do government officials understand the social enterprise field? Do they think social enterprises can offer an effective approach? Do state and local agencies want to participate in the development of the social enterprise sector? What do officials see as the strengths/weaknesses of social enterprise? What are the three biggest benefits of social enterprise in relation to government activities? What are the three biggest challenges? What would the social enterprise sector have to do for the government to want to partner with it? FELLOWSHIP PROGRAMS Background What are the fellowship organization's goals? How did the organization evolve? What is the background of the founders and staff? Program What are criteria for selection? How has the program changed from cycle to cycle? Have any of the enterprises run by fellows failed? Why? Think of your three most successful fellows. What has made them the most successful? Projections Aside from funding, what are the three biggest tangible needs for social entrepreneurs? How will the social enterprise sector change over the next 5-10 years? How has the emergence of fellowship programs/contests re-shaped the field? What are the benefits? What are the flaws? UNIVERSITIES Programs How are you shaping your academic programs to include social enterprise? What qualities and experiences does the general applicant pool have? Why do you select some applicants over others? What programs do you offer outside of the classroom to support social entrepreneurs? Do you have programs for older/mid-career professionals who want to transition to social enterprise? Advice Do social entrepreneurs really need advance degrees? How much does an MBA network help when running a social enterprise?
  11. 11. The current thought is that an MBA is not necessary but many funders/fellowships seem to have a strong preference for Ivy Grads. Is that a coincidence or are they simply better prepared in this moment due to their education? Projections How do you think the social enterprise sector will change over the next 5-10 years? How will other sectors (civic, for-profit, non-profit) change in response to growth in the social enterprise sector? How will universities change in response to growth in social enterprise/social innovation fields? COMMUNITIES Which cities/towns are most supportive of social enterprise? Which communities offer resources like spaces to work, rent subsidies, government grants, or spaces to collaborate? Are there organizations that physically bring together social entrepreneurs and funders? Are there local/regional social enterprise networks that organize events? Why have social entrepreneurs chosen to live in this community? Is it the cost of living, the quality of life, proximity to funders, proximity to transportation or other factor? Will they stay? If not, why would they leave? Which communities have not been able to effectively support a social enterprise community? How are they unsupportive? Are there social entrepreneurs in these communities despite the lack of support? What are the strengths of each community? What are the needs?