The title of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s recently released 2020 annual report says it all — Resilience. Remaining resilient this year has, without a doubt, been the common theme throughout all of our center’s programs including this year’s GSBI In-residence accelerator. If we were to go back in time to January 2020 when planning for this event began, we would never have guessed that what was intended to be a seven-day in-person event at a beautiful offsite Northern California venue for 80+ participants, would pretty much be thrown out the window. After the initial panic of “how do we host an in-residence when convening in person is not possible?” wore off, we did what all of us this year have had to do in the face of the pandemic. We went back to the drawing board and brainstormed ways to translate planning to a virtual format. Not one to back down from a challenge, Miller Center was determined to host not one but two virtual In-residences in 2020, less than a month apart.
The Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins (SEM) cohort in September was Miller Center’s first ever Virtual In-residence. While certainly not the same as being together physically, the SEM In-residence proved that it was still possible to foster in-depth accompaniment, relationship building, and networking, alongside feedback panel sessions to help the social entrepreneurs (SEs) dig into the details of their impact, growth plans, and financing needs.
Miller Center’s 2nd Virtual In-residence launched on October 7 and wrapped up on October 21. The feedback received from the participating SEs was that it was a helpful and constructive experience, as well a great source of grounding as they worked through the challenging impacts that COVID has had on their businesses this year.
This year’s cohort of 13 social enterprises came from a variety of Miller Center programs. SEs from the GSBI Women-Led cohort, Pathways Out of Poverty (POP), Alumni Mentoring Program (AMP), and partner-led Innovation Works in Baltimore were invited to participate. Global Glimpse, Agroma, AntHill Fabric Company, Cropital were in the Women-Led program. Keheala, Jiro-Ve, CoSchool, and BuildX came out of AMP. Streetwell, Thrive for Life Prison Projects, and Medhaul were POP participants, and Fenly and Thread Coffee Roasters came from Innovation Works.
The areas of impact and sectors in which these enterprises focus are as diverse as the programs they went through, making this one of Miller Center’s most dynamic In-residence experiences to date. The Philippines, Kenya, Madagascar, Brazil, Colombia, and the US were all represented in this cohort. Sectors spanned education, health, agriculture, energy, artisan, financial services, infrastructure and facilities development, affordable housing, and job training.
After seven days consisting of three mock-investor feedback panel sessions, networking discussions, and one-on-one meetings with panelists and mentors, the Virtual In-residence culminated with a Flipped Funder Showcase. In line with thinking of innovative ways to translate the In-residence experience in a virtual event, we decided that rather than have the SEs pitch to funders, a group of funders would pitch to the SEs. The intentions were for SEs and funders to start to build relationships with each other and for SEs to gain insight into the funding facilitation process. Among the funders present at the showcase were DRK Foundation, Mulago, Greater Impact Foundation, Social Venture Fund, Mercy Corp, Beneficial Returns, Alpha Mundi, MCE Social Capital, and Open Road Alliance.
In addition to translating this year’s In-residence to a virtual space, the associated marketing materials have also been re-imagined, enabling Miller Center to leverage digital media in new ways. In lieu of printed Investment Profiles, we are excited to share the online profiles of this cohort. If you’d like to learn more about any or all of them, we encourage you to watch their pitches here or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Virtual In-residence has certainly been a testament to the resiliency of Miller Center and our mentors — demonstrating the capacity and nimbleness to adapt our programs according to the world’s circumstances and to accommodate the needs of our participating social entrepreneurs. Most importantly, this In-residence has been a testament to these women and men who are committed to eradicating poverty, systemic injustices, health crises, and climate change, all the while enduring a global pandemic. The pandemic has reinforced Miller Center’s dedication to accompanying our social entrepreneurs in creating resilient communities for a more just, humane and sustainable world.
Please join us in welcoming the most recent graduating Virtual In-residence cohort to the Miller Center family of alumni.