IBL 05: Getting your foot in the Door | Nell Derick Debevoise

In this episode of the IBL podcast, we interview Nell Derick Debevoise, Founder of Inspiring Capital. Inspiring Capital accelerates the integration of profits and purpose by aligning talented business professionals and high-potential, purpose-driven organizations. Nell discusses how her career has progressed from working abroad to an MBA to founding her own social enterprise. Nell also shares great advice for anyone interested in getting their foot in the door at an exciting social enterprise.

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In this episode we cover:

  • Why telling a social entrepreneur “let me know how I can help,” doesn’t get you anywhere
  • The benefits Nell has gained from building a diverse network beyond social enterprise
  • The new full-time role Inspiring Capital is hiring for

Mentioned in this episode:

Inspiring Capital Website

Nell’s interview with Devin Thorpe

Resources Nell listed: Stanford Social Innovation Review, Co.Exist, Conscious Magazine

Help us get the word out about this podcast and exciting careers in social enterprise by leaving the IBL podcast a rating and review on iTunes

IBL 04: What it Takes for Passion to Shine Through | Tom McDougall

tom McdougallIn this episode of the Impact Business Leaders podcast, we interview Tom McDougall, Founder of 4P Foods. 4P Foods is on a mission to create a just and equitable food system in the United States by ensuring that all people have access to farm-fresh, healthy food, grown using sustainable and humane practices and that the people who produce that food are able to earn a fair and dignified living doing so. Tom discusses the career transformation that has led him to become a food justice advocate and explains why he hires for passion over skills at 4P Foods.

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In this episode we cover:

  • How Tom went from selling promotional products to becoming a food justice advocate
  • What Tom learned about hiring while working at his wife’s staffing firm
  • How Tom assesses whether a job candidates’ passion is enough to make them successful

Mentioned in this episode:

4P Foods Website

Tom’s email address

Help us get the word out about this podcast and exciting careers in social enterprise by leaving the IBL podcast a rating and review on iTunes

IBL 03: Aligning with the Ethos of a Socal Enterprise | Kalsoom Lakhani

kalsoom lakhaniIn this episode of the Impact Business Leaders podcast, we interview Kalsoom Lakhani, Founder of Invest2Innovate. Invest2Innovate supports startups and the broader entrepreneurship ecosystem in developing markets, beginning in Pakistan. Kalsoom discusses the roles she has played in building start-up ecosystems – which she views as critical to start-up success – in tough regions around the world. Kalsoom also shares the somewhat unconventional criteria she uses to assess each new hire at Invest2Innovate.

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In this episode we cover:

  • How Kalsoom leveraged her Conflict Management degree in founding a social enterprise
  • Kalsoom’s Holstee-inspired approach to hiring
  • Who Invest2Innovate is hiring next and other upcoming opportunities

Mentioned in this episode:

Invest2Innovate Website

Invest2Innovate facebook Page

Kalsoom’s Twitter Handle

Holstee Website

Help us get the word out about this podcast and exciting careers in social enterprise by leaving the IBL podcast a rating and review on iTunes

IBL 02: Love the Mission and Love the Work | Alex Fife

alex fifeIn this episode of the Impact Business Leaders podcast, we interview Alex Fife, Director of Operations at Village Capital where he leads the execution of peer support programs that enable entrepreneurs to solve the world’s largest problems. A veteran of the social enterprise space, Alex shares a candid perspective on where he sees the future of social enterprise, and what it takes to stand out to an impact investing organization like Village Capital.

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In this episode we cover:

  • How Alex turned great conversations over drinks into a full-time role
  • What Alex thinks is more important than functional skills in a new hire
  • New job opportunities on the horizon for Village Capital

Mentioned in the episode:

Village Capital Website

Village Capital twitter Handle

Alex Fife’s Email Address

Village Capital Job Inquiries Email Address

Help us get the word out about this podcast and exciting careers in social enterprise by leaving the IBL podcast a rating and review on iTunes

IBL 01: Welcome to the Impact Business Leaders Podcast

Welcome to the very first episode of the Impact Business Leaders podcast, the show which reveals how leaders in social enterprise build their careers and their teams. In future episodes, I will be interviewing leaders in social enterprise on their personal journeys and hiring philosophies. But for this first episode, it’s just me.

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I explain the three fundamental “whys” of this show.

  1. Why now is the time to build a career in social enterprise.
  2. Why you should listen to this show if want to build a career in social enterprise. And,
  3. Why I am the one hosting this show.

I hope you enjoy and stay tuned for weekly interviews with leaders in social enterprise.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Social Enteprises: d.light, One Degree Solar, SEED Schools, Wedu Fund, Sanergy, Waste Capitol Partners

Ecosystem organizations: Acumen, Village Capital, The Unreasonable Institute, The Hult Prize, Ashoka, The Aspen Institute of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE)

Help us get the word out about this podcast and exciting careers in social enterprise by leaving the IBL podcast a rating and review on iTunes

Stand Out in Impact Investing by Starting in Social Enterprise


At least half of the professionals we talk to about transitioning into careers in the social impact space start the conversation by asking about how they can land a job in impact investing. There are many appealing reasons to work with impact investors, from interacting with a diversity of social enterprises, to wanting to work where the money is, to having the opportunity to work at a more strategic level.  And there is no denying it: many people really enjoy working in impact investing.

If you have already built a career in finance and investing or launched a successful social enterprise, you have a relatively better chance of getting into impact investing because both are highly valued by impact investors. If you do not have either of these experiences, however, impact investing can be a difficult entry point into a social impact career. This is because there are fewer jobs in impact investing than with social enterprises. In our experience, the few impact investing jobs are pursued by many professionals with prior finance and social enterprise experience, not leaving much room for professionals with experience that is less directly applicable.

Our Advice: First Build Experience in a Venture

At IBL, we advise professionals without finance and investing or entrepreneurship experience to first focus on landing a job in a social enterprise and then, if you are still interested in impact investing, to transition after you’ve proven yourself in the sector and developed relevant skills and experience in finance. We advise this approach for a few reasons:

Become A Better and More Competitive Impact Investment Applicant

From what we have seen, impact investors want to hire professionals with experience working in startup social enterprises, especially if that experience includes financial management. They believe that you have a better understanding of what it takes to successfully grow a company if you have been a part of a startup before. They assume that you will bring this knowledge to bear when you evaluate companies for potential investment. They also assume you will have more credibility in advising their investments if you have been a startup employee yourself.

By first working in an operational role in a social enterprise, not only will you gain entrepreneurial experience that makes you more competitive, you also have the possibility to gain regional or issue area expertise sought by some impact investors. In the case of one IBL alumnus, Sudhanshu, prior experience with the social enterprise, Teach For India, combined with an MBA, made him an attractive hire to an impact investor seeking to build a portfolio of education-related start-ups.

Another approach is to build regional expertise that will be valued by investors. Another IBL alumnus, Calvin, leveraged his professional experience as an entrepreneur in Botswana and a real estate investment analyst in Uganda to successfully land a job with GrowthAfrica advising their entrepreneurs in East Africa.

Take Advantage of the Greater Quantity and Diversity of Jobs In Social Enterprises

In addition to having more jobs overall, social enterprises have a much greater diversity of types of jobs. This means it is much more likely you will be able to apply your previous experience in a similar function (e.g. financial management, human resources, marketing, sales/business development, external relations, IT, etc.) in a social enterprise.  And landing a job which leverages your proven strengths and experience should set you up for faster career advancement than if you were to begin at the bottom of a completely new field, like impact investing, where you will need to develop and prove an entirely new skill set.

Several of IBL’s participants have followed this route, using past experience to secure new jobs in social enterprises. For example, IBL alumnus Alex leveraged his past experience working with government stakeholders to land a role in Policy and Government Relations with Sanergy. IBL alumnus Ethan also followed this route, using his skills in financial management to become Director of Finance at RevolutionCredit. IBL alumna Amy joined the BitPesa team thanks to her foreign exchange experience at JP Morgan was quickly promoted from role as a Trading and Risk Manager to CFO in a few short years.

Prepare for the Transition And Make the Leap When You Are Ready

If you remain interested in a career in impact investing after landing a role in social enterprise, seek opportunities to build specific skills that position you well for a role in impact investing.  Ask to be involved in or at least exposed to the financial management of your company. If you have a strong aversion to finance, investor relations and fundraising experience can also look good to impact investors.

Although there are no guarantees, once you have gained experience in an operational role in social enterprise, you should be better positioned to leverage your new knowledge, experience, and networks to identify and apply for jobs in impact investing.

Do you have other advice on getting hired in impact investing? Let us know below.

The Demand for Talent in African Social Enterprises

IBL_Africa talent

Social enterprise is booming in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Over the past 12 months, Impact Business Leaders has sourced 558 open middle and senior management roles in social enterprises and impact investors around the world. Nearly 250 of those roles are in Sub-Saharan Africa. That’s almost double the number of open roles we’ve sourced in any other region. Granted, we focus on sourcing roles from regions where we operate, but we think the trend is clear – there’s a huge demand for management talent in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The jobs we’re sourced cover a huge variety of titles, functions and industries. They also represent ten countries across East, South and West Africa. But, what they have in common is the need for professionals with serious business experience who are interested in using their skills to make an impact in the region.

Why so much demand? From the sheer quantity of jobs that are out there, it is evident that growing numbers of entrepreneurs are connecting their desire to create lasting social impact with their urge to launch and grow world-class businesses. Some of the biggest success stories in social enterprise – such as d.light, Sanergy, and M-KOPA – have their roots in Africa. These companies, and others like them, are growing.

But companies often struggle to recruit the right talent to scale. The 2014 Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) Impact Report found “the talent challenge continues to hold back SGBs [small and growing businesses]. It is a root cause of the inability of many SGBs to access finance and grow.” While companies would prefer to hire local talent, they often tell IBL they have a difficult time finding the experience and skills needed among regional business professionals with the risk appetite for a quickly growing company.

To meet this demand, IBL launched a program in Nairobi last year and will continue this program in 2016. But our programs alone won’t even come close meeting the talent needs of our social enterprise network in Africa.

More talent is needed to quench the thirst for business talent in emerging social enterprise hot spots like Nairobi, Kampala and Accra.  We think this creates a huge opportunity for professionals in the African diaspora, who may have an advantage over other expat talent. A study of social enterprise in Ghana found that “a significant driving force of social enterprise activity seems to come from the returned diaspora community.” With both international experience and knowledge of a local region and/or language, members of the diaspora are often well positioned to help social enterprises scale.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in social enterprise or impact investing in Africa, we suggest you: reflect on your goals, research your options, and take the plunge by applying for open roles. If you get stuck, seek guidance from organizations like IBL or access resources from networks like ANDE and the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN).

We believe there’s never been a better time to pursue a career that creates a better world. And, right now, there’s no better place to do it than Africa.

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.

Podcast: How to Get into a Career in Social Enterprise and Impact Investing


IBL founder, David Kyle, was interviewed on the Career Farm podcast about his personal social enterprise journey, and how he now helps experienced professionals build careers in social enterprise. If you’ve ever wondered about how David ended up founding IBL, this podcast is worth a listen. You can find the podcast below and check out the Career Farm blog post for more details on David’s interview. A special thank you to Jane Barrett, host of the Career Farm podcast!

Making 2016 Your Year of Social Enterprise


Maybe you started the New Year with an itch to find a new career. If you did, you’re not alone. At least for Americans, getting a new job is one of the top 4 most common new years resolutions.

If exploring a new career path is on your list for 2016, I encourage you to consider the social enterprise sector. There are a host of career-building roles in fast growing companies that are making a positive impact on the most pressing challenges of our time. It is an exciting time to join this movement. To get you started, here is an overview of the sector and some steps to take.

First Things First, What Exactly Is Social Enterprise?

Impact Business Leaders defines social enterprises as entities that directly address social needs through revenue-generating commercial activity. However, in this seemingly simple definition you’ll find a lot of variety.

Social Enterprise Business Models

Social enterprises can be established as for-profit companies, nonprofit organizations or a hybrid. The options for how a given social enterprise is structured depends on the laws in the country where it is founded. For example, UnLtd UK and DLA Piper review nine different legal structures available to social entrepreneurs in the UK and Morrison & Foerster outlines eight options for social enterprises in the US.

But beyond legal structure, it is important to understand exactly how a given social enterprise intends to make an impact while generating revenue. In IBL’s experience, social enterprises generally take one of the following approaches:

  • Targeting poor or underemployed populations as producers to create jobs and improve livelihoods
  • Targeting poor populations as consumers to provide affordable, quality goods and services for underserved groups
  • Creating products or services that result in improved environmental outcomes

As is the case for the for-profit sector, social enterprises adapt a variety of business models. Some common examples include:

  • Pay-per-use: Rather than owning an asset, consumers are able to pay to use what they need, making an offering more affordable
  • “No Frills”: removing extra services to create access to affordable services
  • “Deep Procurement”: connecting low income producers directly to markets
  • Leapfrog solutions: Developing new technology that is more affordable or environmentally beneficial (i.e. clean energy, mobile banking, etc.)
  • Employing traditionally underemployed populations to produce a good or service
  • Cross subsidies: Leveraging revenues from developed markets to subsidize lower purchasing power in emerging markets

For more information and other models, see, Monitor Group’s Emerging Markets, Emerging Models: Market-based solutions to the challenges of global poverty.

Sectors Where You Will Find Social Enterprises

While it varies region by region, IBL has found social enterprises tend to cluster in certain sectors around the world.

  • Access to energy/clean energy
  • Agriculture
  • Financial inclusion and financial technology
  • Mobile technology
  • Health, water, sanitation
  • Livelihood development
  • Education

Some companies straddle several of these sectors. For example, d.light, which started as a solar lantern company, has found itself in the business of financial inclusion as it develops new models to help its customers finance the purchase of their products. Or Specialisterne, which employs a team of specialized IT business consultants all of whom have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum – providing education and jobs.

Three Steps To Kick Off Your Social Enterprise Job Search

So we’ve caught your attention, but you’re not sure where to start? Try these three steps:

1) Reflect: What kind of organization and job are you seeking?

You might be most compelled by working in an organization that makes its impact through employing underemployed groups, or you might seek a consumer goods company with a positive environmental impact. Depending on your past experience and career goals, you may want to find jobs where you can leverage your functional expertise, knowledge of a specific issue or sector, and/or experience in a given region. Whatever your preferences, start to narrow in on the business models, jobs, sectors, and locations that interest you.

2) Research specific companies and roles that interest you

Working from your interests, identify jobs and companies using online research and published reports. Sign up for job boards and backwards map companies from conference materials and impact investors’ portfolios.

This research can be difficult due to the fact that most social enterprises are quite small (As of 2012, “Taking the Pulse” reports that 58% of all social enterprises in its survey had less than $500k in annual revenue) and can take so many different forms. If you get stuck, seek career guidance from organizations like Impact Business Leaders. Or access resources from networks like Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs or the Global Impact Investing Network, to name just a few.

3) Confirm your findings

While it is important to do initial online research about the companies and roles you might be interested in, it is crucial to get first hand perspective on what you’ve learned. Use your networks to meet with people who can tell you about the most credible players, possible career paths, day-to-day realities, and how you will be perceived as an applicant. Ask your contacts what they read and what events they attend to keep up with developments in the field.

Good luck jumping into this exciting space. Have you come across any other tips on learning more about the social enterprise sector? Share them with us below.