GSBI Xchange: 7 Cities, 7 Partners, and 5 Key Takeaways in Transferring Social Entrepreneurship Expertise

Originally posted May 5th 2016 on Medium

Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) has worked with more than 570 social enterprises in 65 countries around the globe helping social entrepreneurs build and scale their enterprises. To extend our impact and meet our vision of helping social entrepreneurs to positively affect the lives of 1 billion people by 2020, we recognized the need to engage in-country partners. To address this need and with sponsorship from eBay Foundation, Miller Center launched a new program, GSBI Xchange, which systematically transfers tools, materials, and methodology to our partners to use in their local contexts.

Training More Than 100 Social Entrepreneurs in 6 Months.

From June to December of 2015 — starting in Tel Aviv and ending in Florianopolis, Brazil — we launched our first GSBI Xchange project. We collaborated with 7 partners in 9 countries to train more than 100 early-stage social entrepreneurs. The training consisted of localized versions of GSBI Boost, an intensive, 3-day workshop designed to teach social entrepreneurs business fundamentals and improve their strategic thinking. Through eBay Foundation’s financial support, we supported these partners to transfer knowledge, share best practices, and develop sustainable programs.

“eBay Foundation partnered with Miller Center with a clear purpose in mind,” said Amy Millington, president of the eBay Foundation. “We share a common view that innovation and entrepreneurship can unlock solutions to big social problems. We were extremely pleased to support the GSBI Xchange seven-city, worldwide tour to help scale the impact of social enterprises and improve livelihoods. Partnering with Miller Center on this program allowed us to jointly build a network of change and make a larger impact around the world.”

We emerged with 5 key takeaways about collaborating and transferring expertise within the social entrepreneurship sector worldwide.

1. Select the right in-country partner.

The right partner is crucial for successful social entrepreneurship training. Understand your partnership goals and identify what you need to successfully collaborate. We had the most success working with partners that had established local networks to source social entrepreneurs and mentors, and that had outlined a clear vision to sustain our work together.

2. Be flexible.

There is no one-size-fits all model for transferring knowledge. The more flexible your support, the more you increase the likelihood of success. Each of our partners required that we customize our support based on their priorities and competencies. This approach makes sense, because our partners are in the best position to evaluate their local entrepreneurs’ needs and limitations. For example, several partners asked us to play a larger role in adapting materials, co-facilitating workshops, and speaking with local stakeholders.

3. Promote peer interaction.

Our partners want to learn from each other, and the growth of the social entrepreneurship sector relies on strong connections and shared knowledge. By collaborating on a specific project, we provided a platform that enabled partners to formally share what they learned. Many of our partners also leveraged our support to engage their local networks by setting up meetings while we were in-country. Each of these opportunities helped us understand the local context, improve our materials, and build lasting relationships.

4. Make the knowledge transfer last.

Sustain the knowledge transfer by developing deep relationships based on trust and commitment. We did not provide one-time funding and have pre-conceived expectations about results. Rather, we provided advice and feedback to our partners, which were responsible for their workshops. As a result, many of these partners developed plans to continue using our materials and running programs based on GSBI Boost.

5. Need for more advanced training.

We helped strengthen our partners’ skills in training early-stage social entrepreneurs. But as more social entrepreneurs prepare to navigate the investment process and expand into new markets, their support and training needs change. In particular, they need high-quality accelerator programs to help address gaps in their ability to scale. Some of our partners are already recognizing this need, and we plan to continue developing the infrastructure to sufficiently support our partners and their social entrepreneurs as they all evolve.

We are also experimenting with other GSBI Xchange models, such as providing training remotely, and working with multi-national corporate partners to build local networks of accomplished mentors for the social entrepreneurs where their headquarters are located. Most importantly, we are co-planning additional projects with several of the 7 original GSBI Xchange partners, evidence of the deep relationships forged.

Check back to see the impact of our collective work!