In 1997, Nicole Etchart sensed a gap in existing resources for social enterprises and hoped that she could fill it. Over fifteen years later, as co-founder and CEO of NESsT, she’s well on her way to achieving her goal.
“We really feel that people need to focus on developing early-stage social enterprises, and we really need to get the financial services and capacity support services to allow these enterprises to grow,” said Etchart during the final lecture of the Spring Speaker Series. Etchart explained that although established social enterprises can find funding fairly easily, they often lack adequate startup capital.
This is where NESsT steps in. NESsT provids planning, incubation and scaling advisory services, in addition to venture grants, loans, and what Etchart calls “quasi-equity,” as some loans are only repaid if the enterprise meets its goals.
Their portfolio currently includes about 90 social enterprises, all of which are located in countries categorized as “emerging markets.” The enterprises tend to focus on three primary impact areas: labor inclusion, sustainable income, and affordable technologies, and each receives an average funding package of around $300,000. NESsT derives approximately 20 percent of its funding from returns from the enterprises themselves, while the rest comes from foundations, corporations and public sector donors.
Etchart sees a “beauty” in social enterprises, which she defines as “a business created to further a social purpose in a financially sustainable way.” Continue reading
While Middlebury offers dozens of courses each semester, some students choose to access resources outside of the established curriculum. Genevieve Dukes ’13, an economics major, and Bronwyn Oatley ’13, a political science major, asked the MCSE for an opportunity to examine social impact bonds (SIBs) through an academic lens.
“This is a place where faculty and administrators say yes to projects,” said Oatley.
Oatley and Dukes were both enrolled in Faculty Director Jon Isham’s winter term course, “Social Entrepreneurship in the Liberal Arts.”
“We were both really fired up at the end of our J-term class,” said Dukes. “And we felt like we still hadn’t covered all the content — we hadn’t dug deep.”
During a furious brainstorming session at — where else? — Carol’s Café, the two developed what Oatley called “a dream list” of books for a syllabus that covered various topics relating to social entrepreneurship. They brought their ideas to Isham, who recommended additional titles and helped the seniors zero in on the focus of social impact investing and SIBs. Most importantly, Isham agreed to advise them on an independent project, which would allow them to explore the topic as part of a for-credit course during the spring semester. Continue reading
The cultivation of empathy is often seen as a foundational step in spreading social entrepreneurship. Methods of nurturing empathy have cropped up everywhere from small educational initiatives, such as the MindUP Program, to large foundations like Ashoka.
These initiatives leave room for debate: can empathy be nurtured, or is it inherently part of our biological nature?
Visiting Associate Professor of Psychology Jennifer Sellers’s research on empathy, testosterone, and leadership supports both sides of the debate. As Sellers explained to a full room of students, faculty and staff on Friday, April 12, all humans are capable of empathy, but some of us are better equipped than others. Continue reading
Often, students at Middlebury can easily forget that we are our own greatest resource. Through MLab sessions, the MCSE hopes to cultivate an atmosphere where students can re-discover the power of connecting with one another.
From 1:30-2:30 on Friday afternoons, students can gather in the Center at 118 South Main Street for an informal discussion centering on a certain aspect of social entrepreneurship. These topics are solicited directly from students.
MLab gives students a chance to practice pitching and describing their own ideas in an informal setting. Best of all, these discussions provide a supportive audience and a forum for exchanging strategies, techniques and advice. Much like a scientific laboratory, students who attend MLab discussions are given resources and connections to test out their hypotheses.
This past Friday, following her lecture, Jihad Hajjouji ’14 led a discussion of challenges and possible solutions to teaching youth about social entrepreneurship.
Participants ranged from those who also had experience teaching youth to those who had heard Hajjouji’s talk and just wanted to learn more.
Often, Fridays’ speakers are far removed from life on a college campus. These professionals offer a valuable glimpse into projects we might model in the future, but not necessarily something we can achieve here and now.
Jihad Hajjouji, however, is one of us. The junior from Morocco is an international politics and economics major at Middlebury, and even more encouragingly, she believes anyone can adopt the spirit of entrepreneurship.
“Entrepreneurship is a lens through which you can look at the world,” said Hajjouji at the start of her presentation on Friday, April 5. “Entrepreneurs no longer see challenges or problems — they see opportunities.” Continue reading
Three Middlebury alumni stood out to me during this fall’s speaker series at the Middlebury Center for Social Entrepreneurship,: Chris Lloyd ’83 (Executive Director, Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility at Verizon Communications), Lindsey Franklin ’07 (Program Manager, New Media Ventures), and John McKinley ’04 (Global Fellows Manager, Acumen Fund).
They were standouts because I found a common thread of wisdom that stitched together their separate commentaries about the entrepreneurial spirit. This unifying strand is a useful guide for the Middlebury student looking to lead a life of meaning.
In the constant search for funding and support, it’s easy for social entrepreneurs to look at an audience and autopilot into “pitch mode.”
During his presentation on Friday, March 15, Eli Wolff was not pitching his idea. Instead, Wolff’s presentation, “Uncovering the Power of Sport: Navigating the Field of Sport for Development and Peace,” asked audience members to simply listen and reflect.
Perhaps due to his humility and respect for others, Wolff carries an impressive resume. He’s a Brown grad who now directs the Sport and Development Project at Brown University. Wolff is also Director of the Inclusive Sports Initiative at the Institute for Human Centered Design in Boston, and manages the SportsCorps program for the Fitzgerald Youth Sports Institute. He is a former member of the U.S. Paralympic soccer team.
Wolff’s presentation began with two questions: What is at the root of the power of sport? What is at the core of sport for development and peace?
“Almost 1 billion people around the world lack access to safe drinking water,” Kate Clopeck announced at the beginning of her talk, titled “From Rocket Science to Rural Africa: My Journey to Ghana.”
“We already have the answer to this enormous challenge,” she continued. “The technologies already exist … and yet people are still dying every day from water-borne diseases.”
With long, blonde curls and a polka-dotted button-down, Kate Clopeck looks like the typical Middlebury student from just-outside-of-Boston. But Clopeck’s educational experience and entrepreneurial vision — not to mention her atypical jump from a technical engineering career to a social enterprise — set her apart from the crowd.
When Writer-in-Residence Julia Alvarez and her partner Bill Eichner traveled to deforested areas in the Dominican Republic in 1996, Alvarez thought she would complete a quick writing project for The Nature Conservancy and then return to her home in Middlebury. Instead, Alvarez and Eichner remained permanently tied to the region. The two started Cafe Alta Gracia, a coffee company focused on bringing environmental, economic, social and political sustainability to the small coffee farmers who live in the mountains above Jarabacoa.
Today they’re still asking themselves, was it worth it?
Guest Post by Kathryn DeSutter
Jan. 26 — As has happened during many — if not all — of this symposium’s events, Saturday morning’s panel discussion, featuring Billy Parish, Majora Carter and Bill McKibben, began with reflection.
Professor Isham challenged the audience to reflect on what these past days during the symposium have taught us. In notebooks provided by the MCSE, we completed the phrase, “for me, a life well-lived is…”