LSE seeks to create ‘social unicorns’ with £50m accelerator programme

London university aims to back high-growth social ventures that have proven models, particularly in emerging markets, with grants and support through its 100x Impact Accelerator. 

The London School of Economics and Political Science has opened applications for a new £50m accelerator programme to support not-for-profit social ventures to scale their impact.

The 100x Impact Accelerator will provide 10 successful social enterprises or charities from around the world each with a £150,000 grant and a 12-week programme of bespoke support and mentoring. The programme is free and expenses will be covered. 

The accelerator, expected to run for 10 years, will each year support two cohorts of 10 organisations in scale-up stage – with a proven business model and a high potential to grow their activities and impact. As many as 70% of the participant ventures will come from emerging markets.

Leslie Labruto, director of 100x Impact Accelerator, said the social sector was “ripe with innovative approaches for scaling impact, like open-source models, digital tools, and government partnerships”. 

“It’s time to level the playing field for social enterprises. Where for-profit businesses have clear endgames – for example going public or being acquired – the same cannot be said for social enterprises. Instead, they get stuck in endless fundraising loops, stunting their impact potential.” 

She added: “We’re here to help ventures understand the best model for solving the problem they’re trying to tackle – and then work with them to develop it.”

The social sector is ripe with innovative approaches for scaling impact

The accelerator will focus on organisations tackling issues in climate and environment; health and social care; refugees and cohesion; equitable economies; happiness and wellbeing; democracy; education; and new frontiers.

LSE is promoting the concept of high-growth social ventures, saying the programme is designed for “social unicorns” – referring to the term used for privately-held startups valued at $1bn or more, but applied to social ventures able to “achieve positive impact on the scale of billions”. 

The programme is only open to social ventures that reinvest any profits into the organisation to create further impact.

Similar accelerator programmes that use private-sector expertise exist around the world, for example the Dela programme, run by Ashoka in partnership with Ikea Social Entrepreneurship, which has so far supported 35 social entrepreneurs to develop an impact-scaling strategy, with help from employees from Ikea and Microsoft among others. 

Between 2016 and 2021, the Philips Foundation ran a programme, also in partnership with Ashoka, to support healthcare social ventures establish and grow their impact thanks to expertise from healthcare company Philips.

Meanwhile has invested millions in incubator and accelerator programmes for social entrepreneurs in Europe.

The deadline to apply for the first cohort is 10 March 2023.


Top image: Freepik

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