A non-residential Accelerator – in Education

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Innovators in education: The Young Foundation’s third education/ incubation cohort
A programme of intensive learning sessions, the teams supported by staff, mentors and coaches and the Foundation’s network, with access to up to £150k of social investment – a model for non-residential Accelerators.

Most Accelerators have so far been residential, but the more these programmes move up the value chain, the more widely spread are the established businesses likely to be in any cohort. This is a model for such programmes in the way it brings the teams together for repeated periods of intensive development work, and with the option of using a communal space; and in the way it attaches to each team mentors in key roles.

The ‘Young Academy’ is an initiative by the Young Foundation (‘YF’) which has a long and enviable record in supporting social ventures, this one in pioneering the development of innovations in education under the aegis of Round 2 of the Cabinet Office’s Social Incubator Fund.

Its third cohort of the programme about to launch – for around ten to fifteen early-stage ventures all of whose projects are focused on reducing inequality in education. The previous two cohorts have worked with 17 projects, including one working to better enable access to employment and another to reinvigorate the careers advice available in schools. All but one of the ventures from the two earlier cohorts are surviving and thus contributing in various degrees to this objective – in terms of impact, extent and reach. The objective is to get these ventures up to a level where they are reliably revenue-generating; with a strong emphasis on rapid proto-typing and testing eg in a school.

Like YF’s earlier programmes, this one – a 6-month programme starting in late May – brings participants together regularly for (mostly) two days every two weeks at the Young Foundation offices in Bethnal Green, London – for two day-long learning sessions at a time. Of the 12 learning sessions (through May, June and July), the first 6 include the mapping of the target audience and understanding the winning of work (with commissioners, buyers and funders). The second 6 are more about turning things into reality. August is expected to be for refining and testing, including project management, future finance and pitching; and the teams will come together for Demo Day in September.

The programme provides monthly ‘Check-ins’ (progress meetings with two YF staff), a ‘strategic mentor’ (in loco chair of trustees) whom they will meet on average for half-an-hour a week, and a ‘coach’, (in loco chief financial officer, and hands on supporter of financial skills) whom they will meet on average for 2 hours a week, and access to YF’s invaluable array of contacts (and there is a mentor pool of 30 or 40 people). Like other YF programmes, it is non-residential, but unlike other programmes, though like many other Accelerators, there is now a common working space available to participants.

YF expect most of the 50 or so candidate teams will be around 1-2 years old, perhaps already have a small turn-over and have couple of members in the team, but there will be a wide range.

This ongoing YF programme is funded by £1.5mn from the Cabinet Office’s Social Incubator Fund, formally evaluated by New Philanthropy Capital, and match funded by UBS, by Bank of America, and by the Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Foundation.

Other similar YF venture support projects include The People’s Accelerator – which aims to support campaigns for social justice to become sustainable (the recent pilot was funded by Citizens UK and The Centre for Justice Innovation), ‘Transition’ – a series of workshops for a wide range of social innovation projects funded by EU; and a project to develop socially sustainable cities.

See also

US non-profit ‘Village Capital’ has a different perspective on social enterprise: objectives first, resources next
Village Capital sees capital as a resource in the service of its mission rather than as a determinant of new businesses; and puts projects and teams together on the basis of what will best achieve the social objectives it espouses. November 2013 (http://wp.me/p3beJt-6K)

Three pieces of Pixie Dust: Bethnal Green Ventures ‘accelerates’ six new social enterprises
Intensive support, lots of interaction (‘the kitchen a vital place’), and pressure to deliver make up the Pixie Dust. October 2012 (http://wp.me/p3beJt-2i)

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A new model of Accelerator – in public services

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Inventive two-stage Accelerator for creating social enterprises and services in the field of public services

Under their three-year contract with the Cabinet Office to run Accelerators for developing social enterprises, Hub Launchpad has developed an unusual two-stage approach. Rather than promoting ideas for new businesses, it aims to help participants to identify issues in public services and to form teams; and then to work together to develop solutions as social enterprises or new service models within the public sector that will be able to take root and grow.

Hub Launchpad has started its Accelerator programme – which is focusing on public services – under its contract with the Cabinet Office for social enterprises, with a pre-accelerator 16-week programme (dubbed ‘Scholarship’). A hundred and twenty people were selected (out of around 250 applicants) – to meet about once a week, to discuss their personal missions around public services, to hear lectures and make visits, to share ideas – about possible objectives, to form teams, and to talk about possible learning journeys.

Out of this process around sixty people (some independent, some intrapreneurs, and not all of them from the pre-accelerator) are to participate in a 14-week Accelerator programme whose aim is to help the 15 or so teams (each of up to four people) to tackle an issue of their choosing in specific organisations (local authorities, housing associations, charities etc.)

Meeting regularly each week, the Accelerator is an intensive programme (‘close to full time’), though some participants may have to square this with their job. The regime is based on techniques such as the Lean Startup and the Business Model Canvass, and anticipates the developing of hypotheses in their journeys to deliver solutions to the issue they aim to tackle. The programme is focused round weekly meetings at which teams present their progress etc to each other and get feed-back.

Collaboration between the teams is a big part of the process. The regular contribution from Hub Launchpad is through two facilitators attached to the programme, plus some co-optees (there are no assigned mentors), who may offer a degree of direction to what are otherwise self-managed team journeys. The facilitators will encourage participants to go out and meet end-users and will help identify and introduce participants to them. A parallel strand in the programme is about enhancing participants’ related knowledge and skills eg about leadership, business ethics, accountability etc.

Participants each receive £9,400, and the teams compete for one of several different size prizes from a Prize Pot of £45k, the largest of which is £25k. The hope is that teams will generate scaleable organisations or services that will be able to attract investments from other social investors.

Hub Launchpad hopes to recycle its investment (which is funded under its contract with the Cabinet Office) from loans to these enterprises and/or revenue sharing. And it is aiming to enable the government’s contribution to continue the development of social enterprise for as long as possible. Its second programme will tackle community businesses and will take place in Birmingham. It third will tackle open, alternative models in financial services and the fourth programme will be around the theme of open manufacturing.

The Centre for Leadership in Creativity

January 2014