As part of Echoing Green’s commitment to supporting leaders and backing them early, we often ask ourselves, “What do social entrepreneurs really need?” To help uncover the answers to that question, we go to the source: the entrepreneurs. In addition to learning from individuals, our Fellowship applicant data can reveal interesting themes in the social impact space (and also tells us about who we attract).
Every year, in addition to assessing the leadership and organizational qualities that make applicants a strong fit for our Fellowship program, we also pause to make observations on the annual Fellowship application pool. For for-profit and hybrid entrepreneurs, an important part of their leadership journey will be pursuing the skills, networks, and support they need to become investment-ready and grow their enterprises. Learning from our applicants and our Fellows, partners, and the field is an important part of supporting these entrepreneurs well and sharing learnings in how to equip them to create the greatest social and environmental impact.
In 2006, just 15 percent of our Fellowship applicant pool proposed programs that were classified as for-profit or hybrid (organizations with for-profit elements). In the years since we first noted the trend of an increase of market-based solutions to social problems, the proportion of our applicant pool proposing for-profit and hybrid organizations has grown to nearly 50 percent. In the early days of growing a social enterprise, it can be a challenge to attract risk-tolerant investment, so it makes sense that fellowships like ours represent critical patient capital that many emerging for-profit and hybrid social entrepreneurs seek.
In 2017, 47 percent of the 2,879 applications received are for-profit or hybrid business model proposals. Here are a few things we’re observing about the for-profit and hybrid pool:
This year, 16 percent of the for-profit and hybrid applications were for the Climate Fellowship. Within Climate pool, for-profit and hybrid applications make up more than 59 percent of the organization structures. We continue to be excited about this focus on innovation in addressing environmental challenges and have observed that for-profit and hybrid models may be attractive to these applicants given many are focused on products and can scale to meet the truly global scope of environmental challenges.
Of the for-profit and hybrid applications, more than half (51 percent) of the proposed organizations’ operations are national in scope, while more than a quarter (26 percent) are operating internationally.