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State of Social Entrepreneurship 2014

By Liza Mueller

Each application cycle, our Fellowship and Knowledge Management teams work together to sift through thousands of Fellowship applications so that we can compare them in aggregate with submissions from previous years. The aim is to recognize trends and benchmark our own growth as an organization – often easier said than done. Some of the numbers are not surprising, either because they reflect shifts in the global population at large or specifically within the social enterprise sector, or because we’ve targeted our programs and outreach in order to broaden our applicant pool in a strategic way (e.g. sector based outreach to prospective applicants, or search partner cultivation to promote the application to particular ethnic or regional categories).

Some of the data we analyze, however, does surprise us – which is the kind of data I personally love to dig into. My team will continue to look at this information in different ways, calling on the perspectives of senior leadership, Fellowship, and impact investing experts on staff, to try to understand where the social entrepreneurship field is headed, and how we might respond in the coming years to best find, select, support, and catalyze the next generation of social entrepreneurs.

With that, I offer a few tidbits about the applicants for the 2014 Echoing Green Fellowships.

Applications from For-Profit Enterprises: Trending up
As a proportion of the applicant pool, we saw a significant increase in applications from for-profit enterprises, which made up 20% of all Fellowship applications. We had the largest number of applications from for-profit enterprises in our history: 556.

Applications from Nonprofits: Trending down
Relatedly, there was a decrease in applications from nonprofit organizations. We saw more than a 14% decrease in nonprofit applications from last year. While there was little change in the number of hybrid model enterprises applying, the decrease in applications from nonprofits is something that we have been noticing for several years.

Gender: Number of Female applicants trending down
The 2014 applicant pool gender split is 59% Male, 38% Female (compared with last year’s 58% Male, 39% Female). The remainder identifies in another way, or left that question blank. We will continue our efforts to try to find new ways of reaching female social entrepreneurs and support initiatives to promote social entrepreneurship amongst female youth.

Program Area: Environmental trending up; Arts & Culture, Education, and Poverty Alleviation trending down
Applications categorized as Environmental are up 35% over last year, while we see significant decreases in Arts & Culture and Education applications. We can infer that the introduction of the Climate Fellowship had significant impact on this change.

Ethnicity: Asian ethnicity trending up, WAY up
There is a striking increase (31%) in applicants choosing “Asian (including Indian Subcontinent), Asian-American” as their Ethnicity. Asian applicants now make up 16% of the overall applicant pool compared with 9% in 2012 and 11% in 2013.

Area of Operations: National trending up, Local trending down
Echoing Green asks applicants whether they intend to serve one community (Local), multiple parts of one country (National) or more than one country (International). Applications choosing Local continue to decrease. Over time, most applications are moving towards self-identifying as National or International.

Length of Operations: More than two years trending up
We saw a 30% increase in applications from organizations in operations more than two years, while applications from organizations not yet operating is down by nearly 20%.

Operational stage: Proof of Concept trends up
A 12% increase in organizations who self-identify as being at the Proof of Concept stage of operations.  The fact that the shift was fairly evenly spread amongst the other stages: Early Idea, Written a Business Plan, and Begun Pilot Testing suggests that stage and length of operations (see #7) are closely correlated.

Citizenship of Applicant: India, Nigeria, and Pakistan trending up; United States, Kenya, Uganda trending down
The largest shift from last year is actually in the applications from within the United States, with 14% fewer applications from United States citizens this year over last.

Funds already raised: Trending up, ever so slightly
Given the length of operations and operational stage trends, one might expect to see a larger rise in funds already raised by applicants. This is one place in particular where more research is needed. Our Knowledge Management Coordinator and Impact Investing Manager, in particular, are digging in to learn more about where this shift might be coming from.

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