Starting a new enterprise is difficult, and expanding it can be even more challenging. Analysis of a database of 10,000 commercial startups from around the globe paints a bleak picture: fewer than one in a hundred enterprises grow substantially.
The challenges intensify for social enterprises, whose goals are measured in social and environmental impact rather than profit. Social entrepreneurs are driven by questions of how to increase their impact so their positive effects can spread, whether that means reaching new people or deepening the impact with those they already serve. They often work in tough, isolated locations facing constraints in government policy, infrastructure, and financial and human resource limitations.
As the largest and most successful university-based social enterprise accelerator in the world, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship—one of three Centers of Distinction at California’s Santa Clara University—has learned a great deal about how to help social enterprises thrive. Still, we noticed that even among our Miller Center Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) alumni, only a small fraction of the social enterprises that complete our programs grow significantly.
We recognized two opportunities to multiply social impact through replication and scaling. First, many social entrepreneurs were trying to build a business in the same sector (e.g., last-mile distribution [LMD], energy, water, education, agriculture) without learning from more established models. This ‘reinvention of the wheel’ slows growth and often causes failures. Secondly, established startups were starting to expand into new countries but had little experience or support to efficiently execute and raise the funding for scale.
The result of our exploration is our Replication and Scaling Initiative. The Replication and Scaling Initiative is now a core part of Miller Center and contributes to our broader goal of accelerating entrepreneurship to end global poverty and protect the planet. In this paper, we outline some of the challenges and opportunities facing social enterprises globally and describe how the Replication and Scaling Initiative is prepared to assist. We introduce current offerings from Miller Center, notably replication playbooks and scale-out master classes, and provide some examples of social enterprises that are embarking on their own replication or scaling endeavors.