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Catalyzing change: the social enterprise accelerator

Discover the power of social enterprise accelerator - Building impact management capacity
Best Practices
Written by
Hetal Sheth
Published on
May 31, 2022

Miller center offers social enterprise accelerator programs and runs cohorts for building impact measurement and management capacities of enterprises.

Impact investors and social impact accelerators want to change the world. Through their impact portfolio, they must tackle the most critical social and environmental issues of our time. What concrete actions can they take to maximize the impact of social enterprises in their impact portfolio? One crucial way is providing the right tools, mentorship, and expertise for impact measurement and management (IMM). 

Impact management and measurement is a quite complicated and daunting process for a social enterprise.

  • Social impact accelerators are uniquely positioned to foster impact measurement and management (IMM) in a social enterprise ecosystem by building the IMM capacity of social enterprises.
  • Social impact accelerators offer crucial tools, mentorship, and technical expertise in the field of IMM.

Impact Investing Accelerators 

The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is a social impact accelerator that recognized the challenge and the need for IMM within its impact portfolio and in its own organization. This is their story.

The Challenge - Social Enterprise Accelerators

When Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship supported Oorja (a Farming as a service (FaaS) company working at the intersection between agriculture and clean energy) to know if farmers find the service costs from Oonnati fair and affordable or if the income of the treatment group is increasing compared to the control group they need to have continuous data in the dashboard. When Kidogo wants to know how the quality of childcare is improving for their centers, especially mompreneurs, they need continuous data. The same goes for the latest cohort of Fargreen, AIDFI, The Harvest Fund, Streetwell, Optimal Wellness Community, Consultivo, and 100s of other social enterprises that undergo growth training. 

The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University has been accelerating social enterprises since 2003.  According to the Miller Center, “scalable and replicable social enterprises led by local leaders are best positioned to provide lasting solutions to Sustainable Development Goals of gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, and decent work and economic growth.”

The challenges for the Miller Center were twofold: 1) improving IMM for Social Enterprises in their impact portfolio; and 2) improving their own IMM.

For the Miller Center, impact measurement focused on outputs and required manual data aggregation. They were not yet tracking the full impact of their mentorship program, nor did the program focus enough on data strategy and impact learning.

As for the social enterprises in their impact portfolio, the challenges depending on their stage were:

  • The basic theory of change
  • Lack of data collection
  • Lack of focus on outcomes
  • Lack of alignment with frameworks
  • Overemphasis on qualitative data

Lessons Learned by Impact Accelerator & Social Enterprises

Sopact partnered with the Miller Center to improve IMM for an initial cohort of 10 social enterprises in August 2021. This was followed by 6 more and 8 more till the summer of 2022. To address the challenges for the Miller Center and the social enterprises, Sopact brought several tools to the table:

  • Mentoring and advisory on data strategy, collection
  • Learning management system
  • One-on-one support
  • Impact Cloud technology
  • Webinars
  • IMM's capacity for mentors and student interns

The journey from impact strategy to impact data dashboards

  • Selected social enterprises completed a 3-month process with the Miller Center and Sopact team. Most of them started with step one: establishing a Theory of Change
  • Social enterprises followed the Sopact Impact Experiment framework and prioritized the most critical outcomes for the organization. Learn more about the Impact experiments. 
  • Meanwhile, the Sopact team trained fifteen students on Impact Cloud® and selected five student interns from Santa Clara University to have hands-on experience with social enterprises and their impact data needs.
  • Next came identifying data sources for prioritized outcomes and finding the data gaps. Together, they collected and connected available impact data sources to Impact Cloud® to build dynamic dashboards.

What changed? Impact Portfolio Outcomes

After working with Sopact, Social enterprises reported increased knowledge of:

  • data strategy
  • data gaps, outcome survey building
  • data collection tools
  • building data dashboards
  • using data to show the impact
  • using impact data to raise funds

All of these are critical to not only reducing the burden of impact reporting but also using data to scale the business. All the participating enterprises improved their impact learning strategy, collected data, and presented their learnings with live impact dashboards. 

One program participant said, “This is a mind-blowing program, and it has impacted me greatly. I needed to learn how to demonstrate the social impact of my for-profit and nonprofit. I need to scale.”

Data is a key part of business intelligence (BI). For social enterprises, IMM is the understanding, learning, and strategic decision-making capability they need to scale. Miller Center accelerates social impact by providing social enterprises with the tools and resources for IMM.

A data-ready organization is also investment-ready. IMM is the start of the investment-readiness process for social enterprises. It helps them refine their product-market fit to ensure they are creating real change for the stakeholders they serve.

"Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship facilitates Behavioral and Value Additionally with Sopact partnership. By building the impact data capacity of social enterprises, we go beyond a transactional mindset to sustainable impact."


Additionality and Impact Portfolio Innovation

Additionality is a way of considering factors beyond financing. It isn't easy to measure and is not widely accepted. However, it contributes to a sense of confidence that Impact Accelerator is making a difference. As the Impact Management Project defines additionality, Miller Center facilitates Behavioral Additionally with the Sopact partnership. Building the impact data capacity of social enterprises has broader and more sustained effects. Investing in corporate-ready and investment-ready social enterprises will be highly impactful in the years to come. 

The Miller Center is helping social enterprises innovate and maximize their social impact by prioritizing IMM. Silicon Valley start-ups and for-profit businesses know that data is the key to business growth and scaling. For social enterprises, it’s also the key to creating a lasting impact on stakeholders. Contact Sopact to start your IMM journey or learn more about the Miller Center here

Social Enterprise Accelerator Case Study

Miller case study


  Image: Miller Center Case Study  

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