Key Indicators for Impact Potential

By Neelam Sakaria

Debra Gitler '13, founder of ConTextos

Our criteria for evaluating Fellowship applicants—and why they’re relevant to any rising entrepreneur.

Echoing Green’s Senior Associate of Search & Selection, Neelam Sakaria, authored this article for Pace Able Foundation.

Over the past three decades, Echoing Green has supported nearly 1,000 start-up social innovators to realize their bold ideas for change. We’re raising up transformational leaders who are willing to challenge the status quo. And together, we’re on the frontlines of solving some of the world’s biggest problems.

We’ve spent 30 years refining the methods we use to identify high-potential leaders—and the results speak for themselves. Fellows are improving maternal health and reducing infant mortality, bolstering grassroots business development, and fighting to protect or regain the basic rights and freedoms we’re all entitled to. And Echoing Green nurtures their passion and perseverance for a lifetime of leadership—70% of the organizations we’ve funded are still in operation today, and 80% of our Fellows continue to work for change in the social sector.

Our search for the next class of Fellows begins again. And we’re eager to get familiar with candidates from around the globe. Our evaluators will review applicants against two sets of criteria encompassing eight key indicators for impact success. The goal? To understand each innovator’s aptitude for leading change and the potential for their ideas to better our communities and the world at large. However, these indicators hold true for assessing and guiding any entrepreneur, no matter the sector.

Demonstrating Your Potential

Purpose & Passion – Most entrepreneurs have discovered a problem or gap they just can’t ignore. And each Fellowship applicant has some sense of purpose—with a conviction and passion for the issue or community in question. Show us you care deeply about this issue or community, and help us understand why. Be clear and compelling.

Resilience – Social entrepreneurship is tough and you will inevitably face obstacles along the way. So exhibiting ‘distance traveled’—the proven ability to overcome hardship and better anticipate future challenges—is an advantage. Demonstrate how you’ve bounced back and can foresee and respond to challenges.

Leadership – You’re about to become the CEO of something important. In short order, you will need to prove you can lead your organization toward its goals. Showcase your unique skills and experiences that will help you succeed. And fill us in on how you’re constantly learning, reinventing, and exploring new ways to be a more effective leader.

Ability to Attract Resources – Successful social entrepreneurs attract money, people, and other resources to their cause. They are ‘resource magnets,’ if you will. Some Fellows can skillfully lead thousands at a rally, while others are more unassuming but still able to inspire others to care and take action. Show your style.

Innovative ideas bring about dramatic, not just incremental, change.

Pitching Your Idea

Innovation – Innovative ideas bring about dramatic, not just incremental, change. They challenge previous assumptions made by others in the field, build upon or make improvements to an existing model, or create solutions that have never been tried before. Explain how your approach is different from methods used in the past.

Importance – To be interested in a solution, we (and any audience) must first understand why the project is imperative. Articulate the problem you are aiming to solve, introduce the community it affects, and tell us why it matters on a global, regional, or local scale.

Potential for Impact – Impact is the end goal for any social entrepreneur. Illustrate how your project will directly improve many lives or change a big system. We look for the prospect of dramatic, not incremental, change. Show how your solution sets an important example that can change systems through replication by others.

A Good Business Model – Even great ideas fall flat without a plan. At the earliest stage, you won’t have solved everything. But a start-up plan—budget, timeline, staffing—should still be well thought out. Be clear and concise in the details of how your organization will run. And show how you’ve considered questions thoughtfully and realistically.

Even great ideas fall flat without a plan.

Align Your Passion, Skills & Expertise

We focus deeply on these intrinsic indicators when evaluating the potential success of a new leader, and eschew criteria like financial success or business school degrees. Because our aim at Echoing Green is to expand access to funding for all social entrepreneurs, regardless of who they are or where they’re from.

Simply put, our Fellows may not have all the answers, but they certainly have the passion and guts to change the world. And we have the knowledge to help them do it. By sharing our expertise with social innovators, we can help shape them into better leaders. Better at building and growing their organizations. Better at advancing change. Better at accelerating solutions to our biggest social challenges.

Passionate about shaping a more sustainable and equitable future? For more information about the application process, timeline, and criteria for applicants and organizations, please visit our Fellowship Application page.

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