January 15, 2016

From Start-up to Scale Compendium

Visit this page to download a PDF version of the compendium From Start-up to Scale: Conversations from the Harvard Business Review-Bridgespan Insight Center on Scaling Social Impact

Moving from start-up to scale can mean helping African farmers to improve their yields, providing affordable health care to families in South Asia, and giving the working poor around the globe access to capital that can change their business returns and fortunes

These are just a few of the accomplishments of social enterprise— entrepreneurial ventures purposed to help society. It’s a field on the rise, manifest in dramatic increases in recent years of relevant course content at leading MBA programs, and in the growing number of applicants—from hundreds to thousands—to longstanding social enterprise fellowships like Echoing Green. In parallel we’ve seen a rise in venture philanthropy since early pioneers, like Ashoka, launched the field more than 30 years ago, and count dozens of modern-day “impact investors” across continents investing capital in promising solutions while taking a long, patient view on returns.

A measure of success is our current inflection point, where industry is becoming a platform for change, recognizing where investments in society create value for all: employees, customers, suppliers, and shareholders. Unilever helped launch the Marine Stewardship Council—sustaining ocean fisheries that supply its frozen foods; Starbucks invests in coffee co-ops and fair trade; and telecommunications firms like Ericsson and Millicom are building out wireless spectrum in a promising market, Sub-Saharan Africa, where cell phones provide a vital link to bank transactions, weather forecasts, and market intelligence for farmers.

It’s a critical time to ensure that the most important questions and best insights regarding social innovation are widely shared with all in the movement. To that end, The Bridgespan Group joined forces with Harvard Business Review (HBR) in January 2013, supported by impact investor Omidyar Network, to launch a three-month series on HBR.org around scaling social impact. The resulting HBR-Bridgespan Insight Center curated blogs from practitioners and researchers, both upcoming and veteran, around a different theme each month.

  • Month 1: What to do and how to fund it
  • Month 2: The talent required to create change
  • Month 3: Using technology and data to scale what works

We benefited in the curation and sharing of Insight Center content from a team of advisors and network nodes. From them we garnered the notion of a "best of" collection of 15 blogs most relevant to newcomers to the field. What follows is the result, handpicked by those involved with equipping them. We hope it will serve to spark valuable discussions in training fellows, coaching grantees, or prepping a team of employees to serve the common good.

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