Why Pro-Bono? Driving the Engines Behind Human Progress

A few months ago, I attended one of the most powerful workshops of my social impact career.

I was sitting at Acumen’s Beyond Dialogue Workshop, an ecosystem event at the The Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, when Doug Galen of RippleWorks revealed the preeminent problem facing social entrepreneurs today — the need for adept advisorship.

Galen found that as social enterprises get bigger, they’re less satisfied or benefitted by broad mentorship. Out of 600 social entrepreneurs surveyed, only 22% were highly satisfied with their mentors at the later stage of growth, compared to 53% at the earlier stage.

Why? More often than not, a founder’s existing mentor (often a successful CEO or high-ranking executive) who previously guided them on how to establish their organization can no longer offer relevant or niche-enough advice on how to scale beyond the start-up phase. Say… in low-resource countries, emerging markets, or under complex economic, legal, or environmental circumstances. Galen says that what social entrepreneurs need at those pivotal moments is access to advisors who can provide circumstantial knowledge that their existing mentors can’t.

That’s when it clicked. As the Social Impact Manager of Knowledge for Good (KFG), AlphaSights’ social impact business unit, I realized that KFG addresses this very gap. We provide our knowledge search service to influential impact investors and social entrepreneurs — at the same speed and quality as to all of our clients — but at low or no cost. We connect them with experts who can supply the crucial information they need when they’re at the brink of big decisions.

For instance, take Nicole Rycroft. Nicole is the Founder and Executive Director of Canopy, an award-winning nonprofit that works with large companies to take endangered forest fibers out of the supply chain. When Nicole was devising a strategy to scale Canopy Planet, she had mission-critical questions like, “What would it take for big-name clothing producers to move to next-gen fabrics?” “How can this transform the impact on forest ecosystems?” “How ambitious can we be?”

Ashoka, a Knowledge for Good long-standing partner coordinated with AlphaSights to provide Nicole our service. Through KFG, Nicole connected with a former Vice President of Global Production and Distribution at an American worldwide apparel and footwear company. Based on Nicole’s conversation with the expert, she was able to benchmark her goals against industry standards and gained deeper insight into which players in major companies need to be involved to drive sustainability. AlphaSights’ speed and relevance helped Nicole make time-sensitive executive decisions to increase Canopy’s impact.

So why pro-bono? By donating our services, we contribute directly to solving hard-hitting challenges in the social impact space. AlphaSights chooses to place our trust directly in these leaders.

Putting our resources behind pro-bono over other forms of support (corporate grants, matching employee donations, sponsorships), goes further than funding an initiative. We build their capacity to sharpen thinking, improve decision-making, and scale impact.

KFG partners with innovators whose culture and values align with ours, including Acumen, Ashoka, CDC Group, Nesta, and TechnoServe. Our partner types include:

  • Catalyzers — organizations advising clients, driving initiatives, building programs or influencing policy
  • Investors — organizations evaluating companies and nonprofits alongside their commercial and social impact potential and making financial investments
  • Scalers — organizations supporting existing social enterprises at a point where they are ready to scale

As I sat in Galen’s workshop, surrounded by top players in corporate philanthropy, foundations, research, and social enterprise, I felt at home. These are the engines of social change and we’re in a prime position to accelerate their progress and help drive change forward.

AlphaSights found its part to play and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Natanya Meyer is the Social Impact Manager of Knowledge For Good, AlphaSights’ global social impact business unit that partners with innovative organizations tackling some of the most difficult challenges the world faces today. Natanya is based in New York, NY and can be reached at natanya.meyer@alphasights.com.

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