All Ideas
Ideas on Leadership
September 30, 2015 | Kate Hayes

Direct Impact on the Social Change Ecosystem

When you think about solving the world’s biggest problems, a young corporate leader might not be the first person that comes to mind.  At Echoing Green, we know that in order for social entrepreneurs to thrive, they need a strong ecosystem of support - we believe that includes young private sector professionals.  As a corporate professional, one of the most impactful ways to contribute to the success of the social sector is through nonprofit board service. Board service is often a catalyst for a lifetime of meaningful support as a partner to the social sector.

With this in mind, we designed a new program to prepare the next generation of young corporate professionals for board leadership. Direct Impact transforms these individuals into catalysts for social impact who help provide more benefit to society as a whole. Through four months of intensive personal and group leadership development, workshops on strategic issues, and immersive site visits, each young professional emerges inspired and prepared to meaningfully support a social entrepreneur and the sector.

What does it take to prepare individuals for nonprofit board service and a lifetime of social impact? The answer lies in four fundamental proficiencies that we believe prepare a rising private sector leader for their role in social change.

Leadership That Lasts

Direct Impact gives individuals with the tools they need to fully understand themselves and their leadership. Our research has helped us to define six core competencies that exceptional leaders must embody, including a developed personal mission and purpose, openness to change and disruption, and the ability to attract and influence others. 

 Strategic Governance – The Rule, Not the Exception

Nonprofit board service should be a meaningful experience for private sector individuals, where their skillset and passion meet and help fulfill the needs of nonprofits. Yet, nonprofit boards are largely ineffective. To move beyond responsible to exceptional, boards should be strategically engaged and operationally distant—but not operationally ignorant. Governance is a practice, and Direct Impact allows future board members to train before stepping into the role.

Valuable Philanthropy: How to Fundraise Effectively

Fundraising can be one of the biggest pain points in the social sector. Many board members are ill-equipped to fundraise, and both CEO’s and Board Chairs indicate that it’s the top area f0r improvement within their boards. It’s crucial to equip board members with the skills and opportunities to practice fundraising. During the program, Direct Impact candidates will develop fundraising tools for an Echoing Green Fellow.

Social Entrepreneurship & How Change Happens

Since many corporate board members have not worked at a nonprofit, it’s critical for them to develop a deep understanding of how social change happens. We’re working to create a shared language and mutual understanding of processes, opportunities, and constraints between the private and social sector. Direct Impact candidates will delve deep into an organization to think through these questions during a site visit to a social impact organization. 

Direct Impact in Action

Earlier this month, we kicked off our inaugural cohort, starting to put these four proficiencies into practice. Over the course of this first retreat, candidates participated in programming that introduced the four core proficiencies. They explored key inflection points in their lives to better understand their own stories, and engaged in content-driven sessions with Echoing Green Fellows that established a framework for understanding nonprofits and social entrepreneurship.

Over the next several months, candidates will go through a series of workshops focused on nonprofit governance, fundraising and philanthropy, and strategy, and immersive site visits with an Echoing Green Fellow. Site visits will take place at Atlas: DIY in New York City, ConTextos in El Salvador, and FundiBots in Uganda. 

At the end of the program, the cohort will reflect on these experiences, designed to unleash their lifetime commitment to social change, in a final retreat. After completing the program, our goal is to match each candidate with an Echoing Green Fellow who needs a prepared and excited board member. The organization and the candidate will receive close support from Echoing Green through the first board meeting.

To learn more about Direct Impact, partnership opportunities, and the application cycle for spring 2016, please contact directimpact@echoinggreen.org.