Social Edge: The Global Social Benefit Incubator

Social Edge is a fantastic program from the Skoll Foundation. “By Social Entrepreneurs for Social Entrepreneurs”, Social Edge is a global online community where social entrepreneurs and other practitioners of the social benefit sector connect to network, learn, inspire and share resources. The site has some great blogs, discussion forums and resources for social entrepreneurs.

Currently Social Edge is hosting the Global Social Benefit Incubator. Through the program, 15-20 people will be selected to receive a full scholarship to a two-week intensive program (sometimes called a boot camp or mini MBA for social entrepreneurs) at Santa Clara University.

Here’s what I really like about the incubator program:

After registering, applicants go through a series of three exercises. The rigorous application is rewarding, with many applicants commenting that they learned a tremendous amount by going through the process. “Social Edge community members, GSBI mentors and business school students from Santa Clara University will log on to help aspiring social entrepreneurs, and offer them advice on their business proposition, their strategy and their application,” says Victor d’Allant, Executive Director of Social Edge. This feedback helps them to compellingly tell their story and clarify their impact and strategy for scaling their ventures, which will in turn help them to secure future funding and support.

I’ve often been told by people in the public benefit sector that they don’t like to think of other organizations in their space as “competitors”. The idea I think is that organizations with similar missions should encourage each other instead of competing. This is true in the sense that a really mission focused organization should want to see their mission completed and not care whether they or another organization achieves the goal.

But I think that there is a lot to gain from healthy competition in the public benefit sector. I don’t mean the cut-throat competition that tries to knock other organizations out of business, I mean the kind of competitive spirit that is a joy to engage in. The kind of competition that two  world class athletes at the top of their game might find with each other and credit with pushing each of them to new heights. But also the kind of competition that eliminates competitors who waste precious resources.

I bring this up because I think the Social Edge incubator highlights the way that all participants in a competition can benefit from the process. This was also the message at NetSquared last year. Putting yourself to the test forces you to operate at the highest level you are capable of, and gives you feedback about how you can improve or whether maybe you should find a different area to compete in.