This report looks at strategies for social venture incubation in challenging places.
- In India, the types of incubators working with social ventures - from Government-funded incubators to privately funded social innovation specialists - and support models used are very diverse. Like social ventures, however, Indian incubators are still mainly clustered around hotspots in higher-income states.
- Good social incubation programmes are designed around the needs of social entrepreneurs, built from their insights and experiences, deployed, tested and continuously improved.
- While good programme design is important, there are other success factors including, for example, the experience of incubator managers and teams, good governance processes, or developing new funding models to achieve sustainable business models.
- Incubators operating in challenging contexts need an extra set of competencies like networking and stakeholder management; facilitating, collaborating and connecting; problem-solving and creativity; influencing policy; and regional language skills and cultural sensitivity.
Throughout the last year, we’ve been working in partnership with DfID India to carry out a landscape study of social incubation in India and provide a set of recommendations for DfID’s INVENT programme, which aims to support social venture development, ultimately benefiting India’s low-income states and the poorest fringes of the population.
Building on Nesta’s 2014 Good Incubation report, this research draws on case studies to highlight strategies for good incubation in challenging environments. It focuses on weaker entrepreneurial ecosystems, not as dense as metropolises like New Delhi, Mumbai or Chennai. Our report offers advice to incubation managers and other ecosystem players, from policymakers to funders alike. We hope our recommendations will speak to incubation communities worldwide, and that India’s experience will inspire other low-income countries around the world.
To further strengthen support for social enterprise in India, we recommend that DfID, and organisations with similar aims, could consider the following:
- Help incubators to develop better support offers by encouraging peer learning and collaboration. Research has shown there is real appetite for peer learning among Indian incubators. Initiatives could include supporting incubators in low-income states to link to existing networks and build their regional social enterprise networks, or facilitating the dissemination of tools and resources for incubator managers.
- Work with incubators to establish a more sophisticated set of success metrics and monitoring criteria for incubation in low-income states. There is a real need to establish metrics that are able to capture a wider range of incubation outcomes for social enterprises and entrepreneurs, as well as to work with incubators to use them for reporting and monitoring, and to shape or adapt programmes in real time. Metrics should increasingly reflect the ecosystem-building role incubators play and their social impact, particularly in low-income states.
- Beyond incubation, there is a wider role of government partnerships in improving the ecosystem for social enterprise. Bilateral funders and NGOs can work with local and national governments to help them exploit the full range of ways they could support social entrepreneurship, far beyond the supply of capital, including through regulation, taxation and demand-side interventions to grow public markets for social enterprise.
Madeleine Gabriel, Florence Engasser, Kirsten Bound