A recently published survey by The Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI) provides an overview of startup accelerator landscape in many regions of the world including India. I read through the report and one of the biggest takeaways for me from the report was the following:
Given that future financial returns will not serve as the measure of success in such cases, accelerators and incubators with philanthropic, government, and corporate funding have a stronger burden of proof to show that they are making an impact.
Social Accelerators Need To Demonstrate Their Impact
Over last 7 to 8 several hundred startup accelerators have been launched in various parts of the world. There is a growing interest in understanding their effectiveness and ability in finding the best innovations and solutions to some of the world’s complex problems. This makes it especially imperative for social accelerators to show that they are making a difference.
A technology venture, developing a new software application, can prototype and launch in three months at an accelerator location. The same cannot be expected of a social venture; social problems are large, complex, and ‘wicked’ (Dorado and Ventresca 2013), and supporting an entrepreneurial venture with a social objective may require longer durations of support and extended direct engagement with venture beneficiaries.
– Source: The Appeal of Social Accelerators: What do Social Entrepreneurs Value? By Sheela Pandey, Saurabh Lall, Sanjay K. Pandey and Sucheta Ahlawat
Clearly, the job of a social accelerator in supporting social enterprises is more difficult than a technology accelerator. Convincingly demonstrating real world impact on target beneficiaries or improvement in existing social parameters further adds to this.
Social Accelerators Should Use Storytelling To Show Real World Impact
In an earlier article titled, Here Are 4 Stories Impact Incubators Should Tell, I have stated
As incubators and accelerators you are aggregators of physical, intellectual and monetary resources for entrepreneurs. Typically, you run annual cohorts or multi-year fellowships and thus have direct access to a pool of ideas and insights and a community of innovators. All this serves as rich material for storytelling.
Storytelling is a very effective tool in communicating a message to your key stakeholders in a real and meaningful way. It uses true human stories that emerge as a result of your pivotal role in the process of development and sustenance of social impact entrepreneurship. These stories come from multiple sources- your cohort program, participating entrepreneurs, their beneficiaries, partners, customers and even your own leadership.Stories can define complex issues and showcase optimum responses required to address the issues.
Storytelling is not about corporate videos or cheeky animations. It’s not about product demos or founder’s speech. It transcends fancy advertising, sleek slide shows and data-laden boardroom presentations.
Social accelerators are the chief enablers of the social entrepreneurship ecosystem. While this makes their role pivotal, they have a stronger burden of proof to show that they are making an impact. Storytelling is the way ahead.