Building on Milestones in 2022 to Grow the Social Enterprise Ecosystem in 2023

Alexandra Nemeth

Senior Manager, Content Marketing & Storytelling at MovingWorlds

For over a decade, MovingWorlds has been working to support a new type of business entity that is pioneering a green, inclusive society and economic system: the social enterprise. In particular, we focus on helping social enterprises cross the pioneer gap – that stage between the initial idea and achieving scale, in which social enterprises are not able to access needed capital and support to help with growth because they are considered too new or too risky.

Social enterprises need more than just financial investment to achieve their world-changing potential. Non-financial support plays a catalytic role, and in 2014, we launched the MovingWorlds “Experteering” platform to help social enterprises around the world connect with skilled professionals willing to volunteer their expertise. Since then, over 1,450 skilled professionals have joined the platform to volunteer their expertise, completing over 1,850 projects in 126 countries, and unleashing over $28.4 Million USD worth of pro-bono expertise. 

As the social enterprise movement continued to grow, and the Experteering movement alongside it, other ecosystem actors (particularly from the private sector) approached us to help support the social enterprise movement AND help make their own businesses more responsible. In early 2022, we partnered with SAP, TRANSFORM, and Unilever to launch the TRANSFORM Support Hub: a global platform that connects social enterprises with corporates, peers, impact investors, learning content, and a network of pro bono professionals to deliver market-based solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals. And we knew that to grow this movement in a sustainable way, we had to think in systems rather than silos

Erik Erikson quote that reads, "Life doesn't make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all."

The impact created by the TRANSFORM Support Hub in the less than 9 months since its launch is a testament to the power of collaboration over competition. And although we may have planted the initial seed of the idea, it has taken an entire ecosystem to bring it to life. Only by embracing our interdependence have we been able to collectively accelerate progress towards our shared goal of a more equitable and sustainable future. 

The highlights shared below belong to all of us: social enterprises, socially responsible companies, purpose-driven individuals, accelerators, investors, and supporters alike. By coming together across sectors and geographies in service of the social enterprise movement, this incredible network is truly transforming business as a force for good.

🌸Accelerating World-Changing Social Enterprises

Nearly 700 social enterprises from more than 120 countries have joined the MovingWorlds platform, and over 200 social enterprises have been accepted into the TRANSFORM Support Hub since its launch. Of those organizations:

Statistics about the most common industries and ownership structures of social enterprises on the TRANSFORM Support Hub

We know that the path to scale is a long and winding one, which is why the TRANSFORM Support Hub is an on-going, on-demand accelerator: a place that social entrepreneurs can return to again and again to access the kind of support they need, when they need it. Whether that’s working with a pro bono consultant to build internal capacity, taking learning courses, attending live learning events, or making new network connections, the hard work these social entrepreneurs have put in over the past year is paying off. Here are just a few examples of the big strides social enterprises in our network have made in 2022:

  • Caare Healthtech Services was selected to participate in the IMMpact program conducted by Villgro Innovations Foundation, and also received the NGO Leadership Award for supporting NGOs with the enablement of their health programs across India with its innovative app and telehealth model
  • Bambuhay was recognized as the Grand Winner of Shell LiveWIRE Philippines, and Bambuhay’s CEO Mark Sultan Gersava was recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year 2022: Circle of Excellence by Asia CEO Awards
  • Ronald Mugaiga of Ecomak Recyclers, Dieudonne Kwame Agudah of WASHKING, and Lieselotte Heederik of Nazava Water Filters were each recognized on the Meaningful Business 100 List 2022 for their leadership combining profit and purpose to achieve the UN SDGs
  • OneSeventeen Media received the award of a National Science Foundation Phase I grant for its reThinkIt!: Intelligent Mental Health Companion app, and was selected as a “Best for The World Company” by B Lab
  • BURN Manufacturing was selected as the recipient of the first-ever investment by the Spark+Africa Fund to accelerate its multi-country expansion across Africa

In addition to internal capacity building support, the TRANSFORM Support Hub also helps social enterprises access the ecosystem connections needed to grow through new sales and partnership opportunities. Through a combination of corporate sponsored support, live learning events, and networking on the platform, a number of new partnerships were formed, including:

  • Blue Dot, a sustainable branded merchandise social enterprise, became an official vendor to SAP
  • Arqlite, a social enterprise that upcycles plastic, built a partnership with Cemex to pilot more environmentally responsible building materials by upcycling recaptured plastic into sustainable construction inputs.
  • Makers Unite, a textile based creative agency, partnered with Patagonia to launch an Amsterdam-based textile repair center
  • Meridia, a land-rights technology, built in-roads to Unilever for partnership and TRANSFORM for funding
  • Folia Water, the world’s most economical water filter for those living in poverty, built investor and accelerator connections for its open Series A
Testimonial quote from Chandramouli Samatham, Founder of social enterprise Caare

Behind the scenes, our small but mighty team has continued to live our values of keeping the entrepreneurs we’re serving at the heart of our work, doing what’s right over what’s easy, and continuously improving. Working hand-in-hand with early adopters and current users, our team has introduced a number of new features to make the platform experience even more seamless: 

  • The ability to toggle “on/off” each of the core support pillars so that social entrepreneurs only receive nudges and notifications for the pillar(s) most relevant to their current needs
  • A streamlined onboarding process, significantly reducing the time required to get started leveraging the benefits of the platform – here’s the demo video.
  • A priorities form during the onboarding process, shortening time to value for new users by only sending information, next steps, and helpful advice related to their top priority upon joining
  • An easier and more effective way to submit requests for support from our global network of professionals

We’ve got a number of exciting product updates coming early 2023, so stay tuned!

🌸Building More Socially Responsible Corporations

The collective impact created by the TRANSFORM Support Hub would not be possible without our corporate partners. The TRANSFORM Support Hub takes a systems-approach to helping companies achieve ESG targets by activating their core resources: primary products/services, employees, and network. Many companies try to launch their own CSR and ESG initiatives, but this approach is often siloed from core operations. Beyond that, these corporate-led initiatives dilute others already in the market, making it confusing for social enterprises who have to apply to each program separately.

Our corporate partners share our belief that a more equitable and sustainable way of doing business is possible, and are willing to work across silos and sectors to bring that vision to life. SAP has been a catalytic partner to the TRANSFORM Support Hub since its launch, and is a powerful example of how TRANSFORM Support Hub can be used by corporations to launch, pilot, and scale programs that create a sustainable social impact across lines of business, engage and retain employees, and develop the next generation of company leaders. (To learn more about how SAP partnered with the TRANSFORM Support Hub, powered by MovingWorlds, to scale its ESG, employee engagement, and leadership development efforts, check out our full case study here.)

Screenshot of where SAP pro bono consultants are located and where social enterprises they supported are located globally.

These partners are driving meaningful progress not only in terms of the direct support provided to social enterprises on the platform, but also by modeling a new approach to holistic social responsibility for other corporations to emulate. Earlier this year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation named SAP as Best Corporate Steward 2022, a well-deserved honor that recognizes its work facilitating a more inclusive and sustainable economy through both its core business, as well as its innovative social responsibility strategy – something that we’re honored to have played a role in bringing to life at scale.

We’re currently working with a number of global corporations to pilot and launch similar programs rooted in shared value. The TRANSFORM Support Hub for corporations is helping Unilever improve supply chain traceability, SAP improve the accessibility of its technology, and EY educate its up-and-coming leaders to center ESG into internal and client-facing discussions. Combined, we’ve helped unlock millions of dollars worth of professional services to social enterprises, and in the process, have helped corporations make progress toward their own ESG targets, too.

Promotional image for the EY x TRANSFORM Support Hub Coaching Impact Enterprises Across the Globe Program

🌸Helping Impact Investors & Accelerators Empower their Networks Over the Long-Term

In most sectors, organizations that specialize in your niche are viewed as competition. The existing paradigm is: success means outperforming those around you. But for mission-driven organizations committed to advancing the social enterprise movement, that paradigm is flipped on its head: no single organization can solve our world’s most pressing global challenges in isolation. Moving from a competition to collaboration mindset unlocks new opportunities for impact at scale, and by working together, we can compound the impact of our individual contributions in service of the ecosystem as a whole.

After launching the TRANSFORM Support Hub, the World Economic Forum’s Global Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship, a group connecting 100 mission-aligned partners collectively reaching more than 1B people globally, recommended the TRANSFORM Support Hub as a go-to platform where organizations could convene to better support social enterprises, and also benefit from social enterprise successes.

Quote from Francois Bonnici about the importance of ecosystem collaboration to accelerate social enterprises

Over the past year, we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming 9 accelerator and impact investor partners. The portfolio enterprises of these partners can access ongoing pro bono capacity building support, certifications, and networks for new sales opportunities through the platform, while at the same time leveraging it to amplify the latest research, opportunities, and application cycles related to their programs.

Individually, these partners are all doing incredible work to advance the social enterprise movement. For instance, just in the past year:

  • ChangemakerXchange partnered with and SAP to launch The Possibilists Directory, a global repository of 500+ support offers for changemakers, including grant-making, capacity building and support organizations. 
  • Global Distributors Collective published new research about the State of the Last Mile Distribution Sector in 2022
  • Mercy Corps Ventures launched its Venture Platform to provide a suite of services beyond capital to ensure portfolio companies achieve impact at scale, and piloted programs to improve access to financial services for both smallholder farmers and small enterprises
  • Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship published a whitepaper exploring the role of business acceleration programs in helping social enterprises optimize impact and business performance, as well as thought leadership about the value of a portfolio approach to ESG and CSR for corporations
  • Yunus Social Business published new research into social procurement in the textiles & fashion sector
  • Upaya Social Ventures partnered with Indian gig platform PickMyWork to fight underemployment and made its most significant investment exit to date from its long standing equity position in Tamul Plates

Together, on the TRANSFORM Support Hub, we can take that work even further, sharing insights and leveraging our unique offerings to fill in support gaps and strengthen the social enterprise support ecosystem as a whole. 

🌸 Facilitating Purpose-Driven Career Development For Individual Professionals

By providing capacity-building support to social enterprises through the TRANSFORM Support Hub, individual professionals (either on their own, or as part of a corporate program) are able to make a meaningful difference with the skills they use at work every day, broaden their perspectives and facilitate a two-way exchange of business innovation.

And when people give, they get, too. It’s why our tagline is “Create Change, Be Changed”. Across our programs, employees that were sponsored by their companies (like SAP – see the full case study here) reported similar gains, both in terms of their own career development and for the company as a whole. Supporting social enterprises through the TRANSFORM Support Hub has opened their eyes to different issues impacting their industries, and allowed them to gain new insights from the innovators on the front lines that shift their perspectives in their own full-time roles. 

Screenshot of MovingWorlds living impact report

Mauricio Chapa, a Business Technology Platform Senior Account Executive at SAP who supported Arqlite, shared that “The experience really opened my eyes to the innovative ways that social enterprises are finding solutions to the problem of plastic waste. It was inspiring. This experience really shifted my mentality in terms of looking into sustainable options.”

Reflecting on the effectiveness of these programs, SAP’s Volunteer Strategy & Employee Engagement Global Lead, Erin LaBarge, shared, “We believe that pro bono consulting and skills based volunteering with social enterprises are really some of the best experiential learning we have to offer, and leaves our employees empowered and inspired to consider other ways they can help create positive social impact through their jobs, and through the evolution to even more inclusive business models. That has a direct impact on the development of future leaders, which in turn also has an impact on the entire leadership culture at SAP.”

Testimonial quote from SAP employee Baubak Askari about skills-based volunteering with a social enterprise

2022 showed us that our TRANSFORM Support Hub is as effective at supporting social enterprises as it is at building future-forward leaders within companies. By engaging with social enterprises, these employees return motivated and equipped to help their companies operate in a more environmentally and socially responsible way – leading to important innovation that helps the company innovate and grow into the future. We can’t wait to welcome new partners in 2023 to further scale this community that is empowering social enterprises, while also equipping itself to lead social innovation within the private sector, too.

In Closing

“Where there are no flowers there are no bees, and where there are no bees there are no flowers. They’re really one organism. And so in the same way, everything in nature depends on everything else. So it’s interconnected! And so the many many patterns of interconnections lock it in together into a unity.”
Alan Watts

Since inception, MovingWorlds has recognized that supporting social enterprises at scale is not possible in isolation – just as plants cannot grow from a seed without soil, water, and sun. The new crises of 2022, layering on top of the lingering wounds from the challenges faced in 2020 and 2021, further cemented our belief that the only way forward is in partnership with others. 

Beyond needing each other for strength, we also recognize and find beauty in these interconnections. Through our growing network, we not only found more effective support for social enterprises, but we also found and amplified more reasons for hope, too. While we acted in 2020 and 2021 with a growing urgency to address immediate challenges, something started to shift in 2022 – inspiring us to act out of renewed hope and optimism, as opposed to fear and survival responses. 2022 proved to us that social impact is not a zero-sum game: when the entire ecosystem succeeds, we all succeed. 

We’re excited and energized to keep building on the momentum of 2022 to further grow and strengthen this ecosystem in 2023 – if you share our belief that a better future is possible, we hope you’ll join us