Echoing Green

Echoing Green is one of the most established support organizations for social entrepreneurs not least because they have been around for almost 30 years and come with a long track record of supporting social entrepreneurs. Established in 1987, Echoing Green has worked with nearly 700 emerging leaders, working in more than 70 countries, looking to launch initiatives to create change in their communities.  In recent years, Echoing Green’s reach and impact has grown significantly: Application numbers rose from 941 in 2009 to 2077 in 2016 Headquartered in New York City, I had the opportunity to speak to Camila Pazos who directs the search and selection process for the Fellowship program at Echoing Green.


Xiaoyuan Ren and her team wit her My H2O campaign

Selection & Program Outline

Every year Echoing Green holds an open call for applications for their Fellowship program and receives thousands of applications from self-identified early stage social entrepreneurs. “We work closely with Outreach Partners such as universities, peer organizations, foundations, incubators and accelerators to spread the word about our opportunity and find the best applicants. Echoing Green’s mission is to track down the best and brightest leaders, bringing them together, and launching them on a path to success.”, Camila explains. Echoing Green offers four different programs

  • Fellowships
    • Global Fellowship: flagship program for emerging social leaders, across the world, working on smart solutions to challenges in their communities
    • Black Male Achievement Fellowship: supports leaders who are dedicated to improve the life outcomes of black men and boys in the United States.
    • Climate Fellowship: program for aspiring social entrepreneurs who develop innovations to mitigate and adapt to climate change
  • Direct Impact: experiential board leadership program to prepare exceptional young business leaders for high-impact nonprofit board service
  • Work on Purpose: a program designed to guide young professionals in creating impact in their careers
  • Impact Investing: supports Fellows seeking or receiving investment, and produces research that elevates the profile of global early stage social entrepreneurship and impact investing and the field level.

Camila and I mainly spoke about the Global Fellowship whose parameters are identical across all Fellowship programs. Selection criteria focus on both the individual (passion/purpose, resilience, leadership, ability to attract resources) and their organization (innovation, importance, potential for impact, business model) (website).

If selected, participants benefit from

  • A stipend of $80,000 for individuals (or $90,000 for two-person partnerships) paid in four equal installments over two years
  • A health insurance stipend
  • A yearly professional development stipend
  • Leadership development and networking gatherings
  • Access to technical expertise and pro bono partnerships to help grow their organization, a dedicated Echoing Green portfolio manager, and support from Echoing Green chaplains
  • A community of like-minded social entrepreneurs, public service leaders, and industry leaders including the Echoing Green network of nearly 700 Fellows working in over sixty countries all over the world.

“We are not just a grant making organization but a Fellowship program.” Camila clarifies. ”We look to accelerate leaders with purpose creating change in their communities. While we work with them individually, one of the main strengths of our program is that we convene them within the greater Echoing Green network.”


2016 Climate Fellow Radwa Rostom at Hand Over

Fellows are selected in June, and come together for a New Fellows Retreat in July. Together with their portfolio managers, they develop their Individual Fellow Plan (IFP) outlining what it is they want to achieve throughout the Fellowship, and how to get there. Fellows also benefit from a leadership development fund to invest in their training, and access to service partners to work on specific aspects of their ventures.

How Echoing Green is Unique

What surprised me about Echoing Green is that they have been managing this large program from one headquarter in New York City. I realize they work with partner hubs at the West Coast of the US, India and some African countries. But still, stemming this kind of operation with participants from all over the world out of one location sound challenging.

At the same time, Echoing Green’s model lends itself to this central management not least because their system is built on Portfolio Managers who take on a number of Fellows and guide them through their Fellowship with the help of their Individual Fellow Plans. Portfolio Managers may be able to serve on one or more of the five following roles::

  • Connector -Is the best positioned to help a Fellow access the tremendous resources in the Echoing Green Community;
  • Expert Advisor – Can, where possible and justified, drawn on personal experience and expertise to help a Fellow solve key organizational challenges;
  • Thought Partner – Serve as an extra brain to think critically, as smart generalists, through any sort of issue a Fellow may face, such that they don’t have to do it alone;
  • Confidant – Will listen, without prejudice, to professional and personal challenges; and
  • Advocate – Promote a Fellow to potential donors and peer institutions, awards or even for opportunities within Echoing Green itself.

The Individual Fellow Plan is an “informal written document that identifies [Fellows’] current strengths and weaknesses and identifies the areas where Echoing Green is best placed to be helpful over the course of the two years and beyond.” It hones in on leadership skills that will affect the Fellow’s ability to

  • Raise money in appropriate amounts for their stage and size of need.
  • Operate according to clear, written short-term plans and goals.
  • Internalize a philosophy of regular measurement against a documented theory of change
  • Remain committed to keep working on their issue and/or organization, at a high level of passion and energy, in the years after their Fellowship.
  • Identifying and mapping solutions for two to three additional areas that may only be relevant to that particular Fellow at that time, such as hiring an executive team or building a thought leadership capacity.

Dive into their support philosophy here.

At the time of publication (June 2016), Echoing Green just announced their latest Fellow cohort. Learn more about them here.



Yunus Social Business

The interview with Yunus Social Business (YSB) was one of the first I ever held. It was in January 2015 during the Big Social in London. I remember meeting Daniel – executive and program director at Yunus Social Business – for the first time and being positively surprised by his genuine honesty about the opportunities and shortcomings of social entrepreneurship and the support sector (check out his spotlight!). A few months later, I was lucky to also speak to Bastian Mueller, head of partnerships, and get a detailed understanding of their program and objectives.

Program Insights

Yunus Social Business operates in seven different countries (Albania, Brazil, Colombia, Haiti, India, Tunisia, Uganda) and is headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany. They support social entrepreneurs that have a prototype of  a startup and need help in growing their business, look for partners and financial support. Participants are selected based on their written applications and face-to-face interviews. “We are trialing a bootcamp-style assessment center that resembles a two-day version of our accelerator. As part of our selection process, this allows us to see participants interact in a group and perform under stress.” says Daniel. Successful candidates benefit from a program consisting of training in business skills and social impact by external experts, mentoring, infrastructure support, access to third party support (e.g. legal local assistance), to markets and networks. The local staff of YSB acts as a program facilitator and supports on a process level rather through content and expertise. On average, eight to twelve out of 150 applicants make it into the accelerator. While programs are run locally, the team around Daniel and Bastian works from the German headquarters in Frankfurt.

At @Yunus_SB #SocEnt receive training, mentoring, infrastructure & network access. Click To Tweet

The program is facilitated during evening courses and – where location allows – in-person. Participants from remote areas participate online and via skype. “In general, our social entrepreneurs receive two days of training, one day of coaching and one day of mentoring per week.” explains Daniel. “In total, they go through six intense program weeks followed by two months of working in the field and testing their products during which they are mainly support by mentors and coaches. After the end of that phase, they receive two weeks of additional training that leads up to pitch day at the end.” Yunus Social Business invests in four to eight accelerator enterprises. On a non-dividend basis they invest between EUR 50.000 and EUR 200.000 through equity and debt-financing.

Making Impacts Comparable

One of the central topics Daniel and I got to chat about was impact assessment. “Everybody has a different idea how to assess impact and talk about it. It creates a lot of effort and extra work. If we agreed on a more standardized method with common reference points, we could speak the same language with investors, public agencies and corporates. We are trying to re-define business, not to make profit but to re-think society. By making our impact measures comparable, there is so much we can do to evaluate business on a whole new level and re-define capitalism.”  


Yunus Social Business locations outside Germany

Being critical with yourself

During my conversation with Bastian, I ask what he thinks makes a good support program for social entrepreneurs. “First of all, it needs to be customer-oriented. When offering support, always ask yourself what participants  really need at the stage they are in at the time of joining, and along the life cycle. Beyond that, I think it takes a) good mentoring, b) access to an international network and markets, and c) local supporters in the local scene.”

And they take that part seriously. Yunus Social Business recently ran a survey with their participants to understand how their fledgling entrepreneurs rated their program. The outcome included issues that participants feel they need most support with:

  • Deal negotiation
  • Access to Alumni and other Social Entrepreneurs
  • Access to other investors
  • Financing

As well as skills needed as an aspiring social entrepreneur:

  • Branding & communication
  • Accounting
  • Legal services
  • Talent sourcing/recruiting
  • Web design
  • Co-working

While I think ANY support organization should have these assessments in place, YSB is in fact the first one I have come across to actually do it. As soon as the white paper is published, check back here to learn more! 

The charming aspect about YSB – I find – is their ability to invest in start-ups they have worked with very closely. It allows for more informed investment decisions that factor in the entrepreneurs’ personality and business context which can be crucial in volatile environments such as Tunisia or Haiti. In the pipeline of social enterprise support, YSB works with more mature entrepreneurs guiding them on their way to investment readiness. But how do you find these mature entrepreneurs in countries with historically weaker support systems such as Albania or Uganda? I see great potential in formalizing pipeline partnerships in recruiting participants especially when working in several countries.

Mark your calendars!

Yunus Social Business is organizing this years’ Global Social Business Summit on 5 & 6 November 2015 in Berlin:

The Global Social Business Summit is the worldwide leading forum for social business. This event globally accelerates the awareness of social business, fosters discussion and collaboration between practitioners and stakeholders, as well as presents and develops best practices.