Empowering Social Entrepreneurs to Scale Their Impact Globally

A woman in a hijab looks at the camera

The International Social Enterprise Observatory’s (ISEO) mission is to support social entrepreneurs and enterprises in their journey to create lasting, positive change on a global scale. Internationalising any social venture presents unique challenges and opportunities, and we are committed to providing the tools, resources, and networks needed to help those that want to expand internationally, or expand into Scotland, succeed.

The importance of this support is something that we explored in great depth in our most recent webinar: Resourcing Early-Stage Social Enterprises: Insights from The Ventures Lab. In it, we were joined by Ross McKenzie, Director of Venture Support for The Challenges Group, Eoghan Mackie, CEO of The Challenges Group and Isadora Quay, Founder and CEO of the Gender in Emergencies (GiE) Group.

If you missed it, you can watch the webinar here, and learn about the support that The Challenges Group, one of the 8 partners in ISEO, can offer to early stage social enterprises through The Ventures Lab. GiE Group originally contacted ISEO to seek assistance in growing their organisation. As an enterprise with an international focus, we used our unique collaborative approach to social enterprise to support GiE Group in achieving their goals.

A Collaborative Approach to Support

We have a unique Team Scotland approach when it comes to supporting enterprises. Each of our eight partners is ideally placed to help entrepreneurs regardless of which stage their organisation is at.

Our partners include leading development agencies and support organisations, all working together to provide a comprehensive range of services to social enterprises looking to scale their impact internationally.

Through our one-stop-shop approach, we offer tailored support in areas such as business development, financial modelling, market research, and showcasing opportunities. But really, this only scratches the surface of what we can offer. To get a better flavour of the kind of support we can offer, visit our ISEO services page.

With years of experience, we’ve found that by working closely with our partners and leveraging their strengths, we can provide a holistic support package that meets the specific needs of each social enterprise we work with.

The Ventures Lab: Accelerating International Impact

The Ventures Lab by The Challenges Group is a unique programme that we’re delighted to support. It is designed to help early-stage social enterprises with global ambitions to validate their ideas, prepare for launch, and scale their impact internationally.

Through The Ventures Lab, successful applicants can access patient capital of up to £100,000, along with a full-service package that covers key business functions such as finance, HR and marketing. This allows social entrepreneurs to focus on their core mission and impact while the Ventures Lab team takes care of the operational aspects of running a business.

As Isadora Quay, founder of the GiE and one of the first investees of the Ventures Lab shared during our recent webinar, the support provided by the programme has been invaluable. “It’s been like a warm hug,” she said, describing the comprehensive assistance she received in areas ranging from legal registration to business planning and financial management.

Isadora emphasised the importance of having access to patient capital, which gave her the breathing space to focus on developing her venture without the constant worry of cashflow. She also highlighted the value of having a team of experienced professionals to turn to for guidance and support, noting that “it can be quite lonely starting your first business, so just having a whole team around you who’ve done it before is kind of awesome.”

The Ventures Lab represents a new model of support for international social enterprises, one that combines funding with hands-on mentorship and a commitment to long-term partnership, and we’re very proud to support it at ISEO. By working closely with The Challenges Group and other partners, this allows us to offer this unique opportunity to social entrepreneurs with the potential to create significant global impact.

Navigating the Challenges of Internationalisation

As covered in previous ISEO webinars, internationalising a social enterprise comes with its own set of challenges, something Isadora keenly shared during the webinar. From navigating cross-border payments to understanding tax liabilities in multiple countries, social entrepreneurs need to be prepared for the complexities of operating in different legal and cultural contexts.

Isadora noted that Brexit has made international trade more difficult, particularly when it comes to receiving payments from the 50+ countries GiE Group works with. She emphasised the importance of seeking expert advice and working closely with partners like The Ventures Lab to navigate these challenges.

The unique Team Scotland approach of ISEO puts us in a position where we can utilise not just our own extensive network of contacts nationally and internationally, but also those of our partners, to provide support. This means that we can provide advice and guidance on a range of issues related to internationalisation, from legal and financial considerations to cultural adaptation and partnership building.

We also recognise the importance of measuring and demonstrating impact when scaling a social enterprise internationally. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to impact measurement, we work with social enterprises to develop tailored frameworks that align with their specific goals and theory of change. By engaging with clients and beneficiaries and collaborating with research partners, we help social enterprises to build a robust evidence base for their impact and drive continuous improvement.

Supporting the Well-being of Social Entrepreneurs

Running a social enterprise can be emotionally and mentally taxing, particularly when scaling internationally. That’s why we place a strong emphasis on supporting the well-being of the social entrepreneurs we work with.

Isadora’s advice to those starting their own social enterprise included prioritising self-care and seeking support for mental well-being. Drawing from her own experience, she candidly shared, “I’m not even joking, I’ve actually found that starting your own business, the first six months also required a bit of counselling and support.”

“I’d say get some help,” she noted, whether that’s through counselling, coaching, or surrounding yourself with a supportive team.

We believe that by taking care of themselves, social entrepreneurs are better equipped to take care of their ventures and the communities they serve. Through our partnerships and programmes, we aim to provide access to wellbeing resources and support networks that help social entrepreneurs build resilience and avoid burnout.

Building a Supportive Ecosystem for International Social Enterprises

Ultimately, our vision at the ISEO is to create an enabling environment for international social enterprises to thrive. We believe that by working together with governments, investors, and support organisations, we can develop the policies, funding mechanisms, and capacity-building programmes needed to unlock the potential of social entrepreneurship on a global scale.

Through our events, research, and advocacy work, we aim to build a supportive ecosystem that recognises the unique contributions and needs of international social enterprises. We are committed to sharing knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned, and to championing the role of social entrepreneurship in driving positive change and contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.

An Invitation to Join Us

If you are a social entrepreneur with aspirations to create positive impact beyond borders, we invite you to get in touch with the ISEO and explore how we can support your journey. As Isadora shared, having access to the right support and resources can make all the difference when scaling a social enterprise internationally.

Whether you are just starting out or looking to scale your existing venture, we are here to provide the tailored support, resources, and connections you need to succeed. From the “warm hug” of The Ventures Lab to the expertise of our wider network, the ISEO is committed to empowering social entrepreneurs to turn their vision into reality.

Together, we believe that we can build a future where social entrepreneurship is a driving force for positive change on a global scale. Join us in unlocking the potential of international social enterprises and creating a world where business is a force for good. Get in touch now if you want to grow your business.

To find out more about GiE Group, visit https://www.giegroup.org/about-us or watch the recent interview we conducted with Isadora Quay.

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