Lack of coordination often means that actors within the social enterprise ecosystem do not have a full view of the resources or activities happening within their region. Organizations that convene and coordinate a region’s assets in the social enterprise space can leverage those assets to dramatically accelerate the growth of the ecosystem.
“People are naturally drawn to this work. They thrive when their careers align with their personal mission. As a result, the social enterprise sector is exploding in Philadelphia and ImpactPHL’s role is to keep adding fuel to this fire.”
Most actors in the social enterprise ecosystem, from philanthropic funders to investors, educators to policy makers, entrepreneurs to established enterprises, are focused on their organization’s mission and its corresponding component of the ecosystem. Because holistic and strategic ecosystem development are not the role or responsibility of these individual actors’, it rarely achieves the priority it requires.
ImpactPHL’s primary goal is to develop the social enterprise and impact investing ecosystem in the Philadelphia region. By connecting, collaborating, supporting, and educating, ImpactPHL is leveraging the existing assets as well as recruiting new assets and actors in Greater Philadelphia and beyond. Convening key stakeholders to strategically analyze and actively support the growth of the ecosystem enables this growth to accelerate. ImpactPHL began when a group of stakeholders in the Philadelphia impact community convened in a series of meetings with the common goal of accelerating the growth of the social enterprise ecosystem. Tom Balderston, managing principal of SustainVC and ImpactPHL co-founder, explained, “Impact PHL is meant to be an impact clearinghouse. As an example, social entrepreneurs don’t always know about the resources available to help them build their businesses. ImpactPHL is helping to change that by connecting them with funding, customers, philanthropies, etc. that are interested in the social benefits of the business in addition to the positive financial outcomes.” Its goals are to increase investment in impact-oriented companies and organizations in Greater Philadelphia by accelerating development and awareness of the region’s impact economy ecosystem and potential, and provide that “front door” for the region’s impact economy efforts and interests.
Because of ImpactPHL’s leadership, Philadelphia is one of the first cities to launch B-Lab’s, Best for PHL Challenge, which helps established companies assess their impact on Philadelphia’s workers, communities, and environment. The program provides resources to enable businesses to improve the impact area they choose. By creating community around areas of social impact and celebrating the progress participating companies make throughout the annual program, Philadelphia’s business community will significantly increase its cumulative social impact. ImpactPHL will have 250 companies go through the Best for PHL program during this launch year and has already engaged with 100 companies. The companies that have participated to date have already taken some significant steps forward, such as switching their purchased electricity to renewable sources, shifting one of their purchased products to a local vendor, and instituting a diversity and inclusion policy.
Also, ImpactPHL coalesced over $10 million from local angel impact investors, universities, and corporate venture investors to fund start-ups with a social impact.
How it applies to your city:
Convening the actors in a city’s social enterprise ecosystem is the first step in aligning on a common approach to promoting social entrepreneurship. Investors, accelerators, wealth managers, universities, and policymakers should consider formalizing these networks with the goal of creating an entry point for similarly-minded actors and entrepreneurs and building relationships that can amplify impact.