Talent Opportunities in African Social Enterprise


Sitting in an airport terminal, I am tempted to leave my experience at Sankalp Africa 2016 behind as a fond memory. the two-day conference that attracted more than a thousand social enterprise practitioners to Nairobi, has left me wondering, “now what?” The overwhelming number of ideas, discussions and introductions, is a little paralyzing.

But after following up with several IBL alumni who attended Sankalp on their reactions to the conference, a few key insights have emerged. Here are the three that particularly resonated with me, and what I believe IBL can do about them.

Social is converging with enterprise: I’ve never heard the word “commercialize” used so often at a social enterprise conference. In presentations by social entrepreneurs about the market for low-cost healthcare products, retail solar panels and education technology platforms, the line seemed to blur between “social” and “enterprise.” They aren’t trying to change the world. They are building desirable products for a target market.

I believe this trend will attract more talent to the space that wants to build and execute profitable business models. In many ways, social enterprise represents a more complicated and rewarding business challenge for entrepreneurs by featuring the added complexity of targeting a consumer group in the traditional economy that has low social and economic power. At Impact Business Leaders, we are creating pathways for corporate professionals to transition into social enterprise, and we’re excited to see the space maturing as a result.

Demand for local leadership: The attendance at Sankalp spotlighted how big the expat community is in the African social enterprise space. These foreign professionals bring new ideas and technical skills to the space, but attendees almost unanimously agreed that the lack of local leadership was a major setback to further growth. An expat supported, rather than expat led, ecosystem is viewed as more sustainable and grounded in the needs of African society.

At IBL, we’re dedicated to finding in-country professionals and supporting their transition into regional social enterprises. We agree with the consensus at Sankalp that local talent can best meet the needs of African social enterprises. Many of our African participants lack typical “western credentials,” but are still more than capable of taking on challenging roles in social enterprise. Our mandate is to educate employers on how and where to recruit top local talent.

Build opportunities for personal and professional development: As the space matures and more practitioners look to build their entire career in social enterprise, a demand for personal and professional development opportunities will continue to grow. The scope of Sankalp itself demonstrates a demand for professional development. Attendance has dramatically increased over the last three years as social enterprise practitioners look for opportunities to learn, network and discuss issues in the space.

Impact Business Leaders hosted a packed session on talent management in social enterprise at Sankalp. Over 60 practitioners joined us in brainstorming and discussing which personal and professional development opportunities would be most valuable to them. The most common needs were not surprising. These include functional training, mentoring, and access to online resources. The biggest questions that came out of the session were how to tailor these needs to the social enterprise ecosystem and how to pay for it given resource constraints. These are questions that Impact Business Leaders is committed to addressing.

Obviously my insights are colored by my work at IBL. While I gravitate toward rethinking opportunities for talent development, others may focus on building solutions that address access of capital, impact measurement, policy reform or inclusive technology. All were present at Sankalp. I’m excited to read and discuss what others took away from the event. Together, we can use Sankalp as it was intended – a platform from which we will consciously and collaboratively direct innovation in social enterprise.

Press Release: Impact Business Leaders at Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center


Building Careers for Future Leaders of Social Enterprise and Impact Investing

24 June 2014

Summary: Impact Business Leaders (IBL), a company dedicated to building the social enterprise sector, announced the launch of their [email protected] program in Salt Lake City, hosted by the James Lee Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center (SGII), with further support by The Shell Centenary Scholarship Fund and Hitachi Foundation. The program aims to provide skills, mentorship and job opportunities to professionals looking to kick-start their career in social enterprise.

Around the world, social enterprises—for-profit businesses that produce a good or service to solve a social problem —are proliferating as more entrepreneurs connect their desire to create lasting social or environmental impact with their urge to innovate and build world-class businesses. But these social enterprises often struggle to find the right talent to scale, and it can be a surprisingly hard sector to break into. It is estimated roughly 40 percent of U.S. social enterprises have fewer than five employees.[i] Yet many young professionals are eager to use their business skills to make a tangible difference in the world.

“We have found that globally it is difficult for young professionals to break into social enterprise careers and equally difficult for social enterprises to find the right experienced talent needed to grow,” said IBL’s Executive Director, David Kyle, who has built start-ups on several continents and worked with Citibank, Acumen Fund, and Calvert Foundation. Impact Business Leaders is filling the market gap by training business professionals, thoroughly vetting both fellows and job opportunities, and matching candidates into social enterprises. By 2015, they aim to have placed 250 professionals into social enterprises globally.

“Our experience shows that our process is very effective at connecting people with jobs in a way that both sides can be excited about, and we expect the vast majority of fellows to secure placements with our partners,” said Kyle.

The [email protected] program begins in September 2014 and will offer up to 30 fellows an intensive two-week course exploring social enterprise and impact investing at the University of Utah’s James Lee Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center (SGII). Unlike other training courses, the IBL program will be taught by leading practitioners such as Ross Baird of Village Capital, Lewis Hower of SGII, Andy Lower of ADAP Capital, and others.

IBL fellows will learn the hands-on reality of building and sustaining innovative businesses and working with investors. They will also gain an enhanced skill-set that will help them add immediate value to social enterprises. SGII’s Executive Director, Lewis Hower, noted: “IBL fellows leave the training with practical knowledge they can leverage from day one in their job placement. We have a great network of investors and entrepreneurs to provide top-notch workshops, so fellows should come ready to engage and learn.”

IBL fellows are also provided with valuable support in getting their first job in a social enterprise. IBL’s wide network of social enterprises and impact investors enables IBL to find and place fellows so that they can gain practical experience for up to a year. IBL’s partners are also excited about the program as it provides a source of strong talent to grow their businesses. Previous fellows have been placed with IBL partners around the world: Village Capital, SOCAP, Waste Capital Partners, Unreasonable East Africa, and others.

Corey, an IBL Fellow with a consulting and international development background, discussed her placement with a company in Kenya: “IBL facilitated a placement for me at One Degree Solar as a Project Manager. I still have to pinch myself each day that I am working for such an incredible social enterprise. I would not have been able to get to where I am today without IBL and I highly recommend IBL to any early to mid-career professionals.”

IBL is looking for professionals with 3-5+ years of experience, an undergraduate degree, and a genuine interest to pursue a career solving major global challenges. Mr. Kyle encouraged potential applicants to learn more and apply at