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Ideas on Leadership
April 27, 2017 | Cara Lee

An Investment in Social Entrepreneurs is an Investment in Social Change

Although Echoing Green has served as a social innovation fund for hundreds of emerging social entrepreneurs since 1987, we have always prioritized our investment in the individuals we support rather than the organizations they launch. We don't just invest in business plans. We believe investing in and supporting the right people, with the right ideas and the ability to execute, results in a lifetime of leadership. In other words, we like to say, “bet on the jockey, not the horse.”

When selecting applicants for our Fellowships, we keep a “leader first” mentality. An important indicator of leadership potential we look for is passion and purpose for the social issue applicants are addressing. Even if Fellows do not remain with the organizations they launch, we want to select individuals committed to bettering the world no matter what. This dedication to making positive social change is why Echoing Green offers public health fellowships, education fellowships, justice fellowships, environmental fellowships, and more. We know that providing social entrepreneurship grants is not enough to catalyze leaders. To help leaders reach their full potential, a robust and connected fellowship that brings together equally dedicated impact leaders nurtures that quest for positive social change.

More Than a Social Innovation Fund
 

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As our portfolio of Fellows grows—now with more than 700 and counting—it is clearer every year just how valuable our community is for emerging social entrepreneurs. Connecting, gathering, and convening our community of leaders is essential because we know the power of collective impact. While we do provide funding, tools, and resources, Fellows say the most beneficial component of an Echoing Green Fellowship is the peer connections that would not be made through another social innovation fund. Our events and convenings are intentionally crafted to help social entrepreneurs grow both as individuals and as a cohort of social change leaders. Well beyond their two-year Fellowships, these leaders remain connected to each other and cheer each other on. We know that the stronger our Fellows are as individuals and as a community, the stronger the impact they will make on the world.

Along with access to our community and networks, an Echoing Green Fellowship is designed to provide a 360° model of support to our social entrepreneurs. Like all social innovations funds, we provide a stipend. Fellows receive $80,000 of unrestricted funding ($90,000 for partner Fellows) over two years. Seed funding is critical for anybody launching a startup; however, we know that money is not enough to help early-stage social entrepreneurs get started. A social enterprise will not reach as far if its founder is not getting the full menu of support needed to launch an impactful organization. Over the years, we have prioritized listening to and learning from Fellows to better understand what emerging social entrepreneurs need to succeed. Along with funding, our two-year Fellowships include hands-on technical support, a dedicated portfolio manager, an Individualized Fellow Plan, pro bono partnerships, ongoing secular support and guidance, and health insurance. These key benefits go beyond the offerings of a typical social innovation fund.

Lifelong Leaders

When it comes to emerging social entrepreneurs, we know that tailoring our investment to emphasize the leader's needs makes a deeper impact in solving the world’s biggest problems. This is why Echoing Green's approach to support includes guidance and resources that exceed the necessary tools and skills to launch an organization. We want to help social entrepreneurs become the most impactful leaders they can be. By continuing to evaluate, seek feedback, and customize our programs to better serve social impact leaders, we strive to prepare and equip Fellows to lead wherever they may go.

2016 Echoing Green Fellows at their New Fellows Retreat
Go Deeper

"Having the ability to lead with the lens of human empathy is something I know is very significant to this organization’s work. Recognizing that in order for us to be the best possible organization, you have to find ways to empower each other to be a collectively strong team."  

Jordyn Lexton, founder of Drive Change