Legend has it that Echoing Green was born during a road trip when our founders, the leadership of General Atlantic—a leading global growth private equity firm—were brainstorming how to maximize their philanthropic impact. Someone suggested that the venture capital investment model they employed so wisely at General Atlantic could be repurposed to drive social change, and with that, Echoing Green was established.
In 1987, General Atlantic officially launched Echoing Green, naming it after a William Blake poem about creating a better world. We supported our first promising young entrepreneur, Diana Propper de Callejon, to create an alternative economic base for Amazonian residents that was not based on deforestation, and the organization was off. Today, General Atlantic continues to be one of Echoing Green’s strongest advocates.
In 2002, Echoing Green Fellow, Cheryl L. Dorsey, took over the leadership of Echoing Green and reshaped the organization into a global nonprofit. Read Echoing Green’s Harvard Business School case if you want to learn more about this key moment in our history.
A decade later, the Echoing Green Fellowship Programs continue to be Echoing Green’s cornerstone, providing seed funding to social entrepreneurs launching bold new organizations to generate positive systemic change. We believe investing in and supporting the right people relative to the right ideas and ability to execute, rather than specific business plans, results in a lifetime of leadership. Echoing Green has invested over $36 million in seed-stage funding and strategic assistance in more than 600 world-class leaders driving positive social change in over sixty countries. Echoing Green Fellows include the founders of Teach For America, City Year, College Summit, Citizen Schools, One Acre Fund, and SKS Microfinance. We continue to support our Fellow community long after their initial funding period with ongoing programs and opportunities at critical inflection points in their organizations or careers.
Over the course of our history, something happened: Social entrepreneurship became a field. Stories of social entrepreneurs’ struggles, successes, failures, and abilities to find ways to create change despite obstacles began to mount, but there were few outlets for sharing them—especially with those who wanted to follow their lead. So, in 2006, we published our first book, Be Bold. This book tells the inspiring stories of twelve of our Echoing Green Fellows and what it took for them to create substantial impact. Be Bold introduced Echoing Green to new audiences, and suddenly, we began to hear from high numbers of young people who didn’t want to start new organizations, but who wanted to have the kinds of lives and careers that the Echoing Green Fellows featured in the Be Bold book had. Yet, when we searched for tools to offer these young people, we found very few. And so, we decided to create them.
In 2011, Echoing Green launched Work on Purpose, our program to help young people build careers that are right for them and good for the world. A quarter century after General Atlantic's pioneering role in helping launch the field of social entrepreneurship, Echoing Green proudly continues to support this growing, vibrant field, and innovate how to best support next generation talent in solving today's toughest social problems.