As the largest & most successful university-based social enterprise accelerator in the world, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship has learned a great deal about how to help social enterprises thrive. But even among Miller Center Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) alumni, the future is not always as bright as one might hope. In fact, only a small fraction of the social enterprises that graduate from the GSBI accelerator program grow significantly. The Replication and ScalingInitiative is one of the ways that Miller Center is tackling this issue.
One of the key challenges of social entrepreneurship is the risk of unnecessarily “reinventing the wheel”. There are many social enterprises competing for a limited pool of funding, and many of those enterprises are attempting to solve the same pervasive global issues, like poverty. The natural outcome of this system is that there will be multiple organizations raising money trying to solve a single problem. And worse, perhaps, is that they often pursue the same, or highly similar, solutions to those problems. There is a great risk of inefficiency in this paradigm, because fractional amounts of financial resources are typically doled out to a plethora organizations tackling one issue. Each has the challenge of inefficiencies at small scale, and each exists in a stovepipe of domain knowledge, largely unable to access the expertise of the other enterprises wrestling with the same issue.
The Miller Center’s Replication and Scaling Initiative seeks to change this situation, beginning with a simple question: what if we could create a knowledge base so that each emerging social enterprise could benefit from work that has already been done to solve the same or similar issues? If this could be accomplished, it would be a perfect fit for the GSBI Accelerator mission. What could be a better “accelerator” than having access to a set of proven tools, technology, and techniques, as opposed to having to invent and build them yourself?
As an organization focusing on market-based solutions to alleviating poverty, this initiative fits the CapCon mission perfectly. “Attacking the scaling problem is a consummate market-based initiative”, said Jon Freeman, Founder and Owner of CapCon corporate parent, Stonecrest Financial. “The market is the best indicator of what works and doesn’t work in the field. Social enterprises would benefit from having ready access to proven, market tested solutions. They should have the advantage of knowing what has been effective in the past. That will get those new enterprises to market faster and approaching profitability in a shorter window. That’s a win for everybody.”
That potential reduction in cost, R&D, and time to market would allow more social enterprises to thrive and grow. As such, it drew the interest of the team at CapCon, which makes grants to companies creating financially sustainable, market-based programs to fight poverty. CapCon has issued a grant to the GSBI Accelerator program targeting this effort. “We feel very good about directing our support to this specific initiative amongst the Miller Center’s many worthy programs”, said CapCon’s Executive Director, Erika Luitjens. “Its a perfect fit for our mandate and our mission. But beyond that, we believe getting this right could be a real game changer in the fight against global poverty. And that’s the sort of return that we are ultimately looking for.” In addition to financial support. Jon Freeman, Luitjens and the CapCon team will provide advisory support & counsel in steering this critical initiative going forward.