Tristan Pollock

seToolbelt Equips Social Entrepreneurs with Knowledge, Research, Support

As the business revolution known as social entrepreneurship rises and the population of social entrepreneurs grows, so does the need for efficient and effective tools, resources and support. This reasoning became the mainstay behind Virtue Ventures, a consulting firm focused on furthering social ventures that was founded in 2000.

In order to address the high demand for assistance in the rapidly growing citizen sector, Virtue Ventures began compiling consulting solutions, research papers, social impact metrics, business plans, marketing templates, financial forecasts and myriad other documents useful for social entrepreneurs. This database became, an on- and off-line initiative to arm change makers with the tools they need to succeed.

“From our Skoll Foundation-funded research, we found that over 65 percent of practitioners couldn’t find the resources they needed, and, if they had completed research, didn’t know where to share it,” explains Kim Alter, the managing director of Virtue Ventures.

seToolbelt allows social entrepreneurs, practitioners and overall do-gooders to, in essence, “work outside the box.” The platform is a free and open community where anyone can search and access more than 1,300 resources. Users also can collaborate by sharing their own best practices and go-to tools.

“We’re in the process of expanding [the site] and creating new partnerships with lots of new functionality,” says Caroline Young, project manager of seToolbelt. “In the last year site traffic has increased by 200 percent.”

Even as seToolbelt expands online, focus is not taken away from sharing the practices learned in local communities, says Alter. “One of the key things we learned in the research from the Skoll grant is that you need a foot on the ground.”

Virtue Ventures, with help from USAID, plan on continuing their discovery exercises, and offline, continue on-the-ground research in places like West Africa and India.

“We want to find out how we anchor ideas in the local context,” explains Alter. “Online resources are great, but there still are big gaps for small local organizations.”