Social Enterprise Capacity Building Labs

Social Enterprise Capacity Building Labs are intensive year or multi-year special interest projects directed at strengthening the capacity of participants while solving complex technical questions in social enterprise.

Capacity Building Labs are comprehensive programs that involve working directly with practitioners in developing countries to build capacity of social enterprises through methodology development and implementation. Similarly to Practitioner Innovation Communities, the Labs produce technical resources for social entrepreneurs. However, unlike Practitioner Innovation Communities much of the work is conducted offline and expert technical assistance is an integral part of the program.

In some cases, Capacity Building Labs may be launched as an implementation phase following the work of a Practitioner Innovation Community, in others Labs may be created as stand alone initiatives.

Capacity Building Labs are comprised of a select group of social enterprise practitioners and are convened based on a multifaceted theme (i.e. social enterprise business models, scaling approaches, social impact, cross-sector collaboration, organizational performance measurements, etc.). Comprehensive solutions are then sought though a highly engaged process intended to build participant capacity in an expert technical assistance-supported “learning by doing” process and to generate a suite of practical and analytical social enterprise resources for the community.

The Philippson Foundation's Capacity Building Lab (Francophone West Africa)

Capacity Building Lab objectives:

  • Build capacity of The Philippson Foundation’s investees—3 social enterprises in Mali, Senegal and Burkina Faso—by engaging them in a 16-month participative strategic and business planning process (ending March 2012);
  • Build and implement collaboration, planning and management tools to strengthen self-help and collaborative technical assistance among social enterprise investees;
  • Create a ripple effect, strengthening social enterprise capacity by sharing lessons, outcomes, products, and processes developed under this project with the global social enterprise community.

To achieve its objectives The Philippson Foundation’s Capacity Building Lab uses a multifaceted practitioner-driven process whereby program components are mutually reinforcing.

At the core of the process is the ALINIHA project, an initiative of 3 West African organizations integrating their respective expertises (microfinance, environmental protection and women empowerment). Each organization provides technical assistance in its respective expertise to the other two organizations, and together they seek an ever-increasing integration of all three components towards a true blended-value methodology.

The Lab involves both expert technical assistance and peer-learning to develop, apply and refine new resources intended to improve Philippson Foundation investees’ social enterprise performance and subsequently increase their social impact. Lab outcomes include strengthened organizational capacity of social enterprises as well as tangible technical products.

The Lab takes a holistic approach toward capacity building, integrating capacity strengthening activities in nearly every phase of the project through a hands-on peer learning and expert supported process. Experience, lessons, processes, and technical tools generated from this project will contribute to advancing social enterprise methodology as well as potentially helping many other practitioners improve their social enterprise performance. Finally, the project leverages Virtue Ventures’ extensive experience and intellectual resources, as well as other financial investments and brands to further the work of the Philippson Foundation and to increase its impact.

The proposed project seeks to achieve its objectives through the following key activities:

  • Create and field test social enterprise performance tools;
  • Facilitate an interactive and supportive peer learning (“working group”) process;
  • Provide direct expert technical assistance to Philippson investees to apply performance tools within their organization;
  • Document lessons, processes and products, and accompanying support resources (i.e. “how to” manuals);
  • Share lessons, products and outcomes broadly within the social enterprise community;
  • Conduct regional scan and due diligence of potential local technical service providers that can support ongoing employment of social enterprise performance tools.