Impact Investing: How One Foundation Empowers Social Entrepreneurs
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Name: Echoing Green
Big Idea: Echoing Green offers grants to social entrepreneurs and changemakers — it’s referred to as “impact investing.”
Why It’s Working: By investing in people rather than ideas or business plans, Echoing Green has empowered more than 500 innovative individuals to turn their visions into a reality, ameliorating social ills in the process.
“Capital is always a problem,” says Echoing Green Finance Director John Walker, adding that “the first thing any entrepreneur thinks about is raising money.” That’s where Echoing Green comes in — it’s a seed-funding foundation that has disseminated $31 million to ambitious social entrepreneurs.
Echoing Green was launched in 1987, named after a William Blake poem about creating a better world. In 2002, Echoing Green was recast as a global non-profit by one of its alumni fellows; to date, Echoing Green has funded the ideas of more than 500 fellows. What sets these fellows apart from most grant-receiving entrepreneurs is that they were chosen not necessarily for their business plan, but for their personality and ambition — they were selected by Echoing Green because they are perceived as effective changemakers.
“We’re looking for people who have the maximum potential to create social change,” says Walker. “It really is about that single individual person.”
The team at Echoing Green is so convinced of the importance of the entrepreneur’s personality that it’s researching the attributes and experiences that shape successful social entrepreneurs. The statistic the researchers are pinning down has been deemed the Social Entrepreneurship Intelligence Quotient (SEQ).