Back for another conversation this time with a very inspiring woman, Kate Hayes of Echoing Green. Kate discusses her incredibly interesting journey and love for health human interactions and support. She is a current leader in the impact investing and social enterprise development space.
Welcome, welcome, welcome, to the Bonfires of Social Enterprise. Romy here back for another conversation with a very inspiring woman, Kate Hayes of Echoing Green. Kate discusses her incredibly interesting journey and love for health human interactions and support.
First, let’s see what Natalie has prepared for our Fun Fuel for this episode.
I’m Natalie Hazen and I am bringing you this episode’s Fun Fuel
Leadership takes all kinds of forms and has many different styles. After all, we are all uniquely made and don’t respond the same way to things.
Let’s take a listen to some top leader’s motivational quotes of all time according to Inc. Magazine because according to them, “Sometimes the most powerful and meaningful things come from words that touch our heart and lead us forward to our potential.”
So Author Ernest Hemingway kicks us off with his quote: "When people talk, listen completely." --Ernest Hemingway
I need to work on that one myself!
Retired four-star general in the United States Army, Colin Powell said, "Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand." --Colin Powell
But I will wrap up with a motivational leadership quote from Harold R. McAlindon. He said,
"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." --Harold R. McAlindon
Let’s tune in with Romy as she interviews this episode’s latest trailblazer.
Thanks, Natalie! So many great leaders have gone before us in history. Let’s turn our attention to a current leader in the impact investing and social enterprise development space, Kate Hayes of Echoing Green and her program, Direct Impact.
Romy: Let's talk about Echoing Green. Let's talk about Echoing Green. It had a unique start.
Kate Hayes: Yes. So, Echoing Green was founded 30 years ago by a group of individuals working in the private sector who wanted to see what would happen if you took the principles of the private sector and applied them to the social sector, and so they started investing deeply in early stage social entrepreneurs, and that has really been at the heart of everything that Echoing Green has been about for the past few decades. So, the core of our work is our fellowship program, where we search the globe to find amazing early-stage social entrepreneurs who have incredible ideas that have the potential to really change the world and solve big social, environmental problems, and we provide them with funding, with support from our staff, from our ecosystem and our community, as well as the community amongst one another where they are each other's best resources as they work to take their organizations to the next step and begin to really grow and scale the solutions that they've identified, and over the past 10 or 15 years, one of the things that we've become more intentional about is building out our ecosystem of support.
So, we know that social entrepreneurs are incredibly important. They're close to the work. They're really dedicating their lives to solving really big problems that exist, but they can't do it alone. So, we wanted, as an organization, to become more intentional about how we create an ecosystem of support for them to really help with making that change come to life. So, with that, we started doing work in the impact investing space, as we saw more for-profit social enterprises join our fellowship program, and we wanted to connect those early-stage organizations with impact investors that were interested in supporting for profits at a very early stage, and from there, we've then developed the direct impact program, which is what I lead, and I can certainly talk quite a bit about, which is intentionally developing the next generation of board leaders to support our social entrepreneurs. So, we're very carefully thinking about every role that needs to exist in working together to solve some of these big problems.
Romy: And Kate, just undoing all of that, I feel like we could probably do about 10 episodes on what you just said, all those interesting things, but for Echoing Green, how does Echoing Green define early-stage entrepreneurship?
Kate Hayes: Yes. We are one of the earlier stage. So, we define that as the idea stage to about two years of operations. So, we will, if somebody has an incredible idea and a very compelling way of stating it, and stating how they're going to solve it, we will fund at that idea stage. We also will fund proof of concept or at a couple years of operations, which makes us really unique in the space, and I think part of what differentiates us is we're really focused on the leader first. We know that by investing in somebody who is proximate to the work, they've lived the challenges that they're trying to solve, they know the communities incredibly well, and they're so deeply embedded in the solutions that they're trying to create, that they're going to, no matter what, be successful.
So, while we, of course, look at the organization, we primarily will focus on the individual and what they bring to the table, and then we'll look at okay, is this an innovative solution to a longstanding problem, is it a pressing problem, what does the business model seem like? It does not need to be perfect because that's an area that we can really support in, but we are very much leader first, and every year, we get somewhere around 2500-3000 applications from social entrepreneurs all over the world. It's one of the most fun parts of my job is getting to read a lot of those applications alongside my colleagues, and we're ultimately selecting around 30 each year. So, we also work to support those social entrepreneurs that apply throughout every step of the process. Whether or not they ultimately get a fellowship, we want them to receive some sort of value from going through that, especially since they're coming in as early as an idea. So, we have a lot of opportunity to help them think through and articulate what they're trying to do.
Romy: That's so thrilling. So many folks in the, I'd say impact investing space broadly, will often make comments like there just isn't deal flow, but it takes a firm like yours to go in and develop the deals so that they can invest in them. That's so exciting. We want to involve you more in Detroit. I just want to raise my hand right now.
Kate Hayes: Absolutely.
Romy: We want to involve you more here. So, back to your firm. Many, many have not figured out this early stage piece, and I love what you said about leadership because we feel the same way. One of the taglines we have is "Supporting people first from inspiring places with productive ideas," but it's the people that make all this happen. We want to support the persons that are leading the efforts and getting them all what they need. How did you guys come to land on what seems obvious, but there's a lot of distractions around the idea sometimes, and people forget about the leadership?
Kate Hayes: You're absolutely right. I think it has just been so deeply ingrained from the start that it's hard to pinpoint exactly when the organization decided that that was the goal. I'll provide an example of one of our very first social entrepreneurs that is no longer with our organization, but I think provides our continued reasoning of why we focus on the person first. So, Cheryl Dorsey was the founder of The Family Van, a mobile healthcare clinic in Boston, which actually will tie back a little bit to my story.
I spent a few years volunteering on this mobile healthcare clinic, and that was what first got me interested in Echoing Green because I learned that that organization and Cheryl had been funded and supported by Echoing Green, and she stayed with the organization for some time, and ultimately, about 8 years later after that initial funding from Echoing Green, Cheryl actually took the reins as president of Echoing Green, and so we're continuously reminded of no matter what our fellows do when they start at the organization, and we do find that many of the organizations last with their original founder, who's our fellow, or with somebody else that takes the reins, but they continue to go on to do incredible things. I think a great example is Van Jones, who was a fellow in the 90s, and many people will now see him on CNN.
So, we have all of these stories of our fellows going on to continue to do incredible things. It's about 85 percent of them remain in leadership positions within the social sector, and so that reminds us that no matter what that idea is, what the person goes on to do is going to have impact that we could never even see at the point of application, and at the point of that first idea, but many, like Wendy Kopt, who was a fellow in the early 90s, continues to stay with Teach for America, and now Teach for All. So, it's pretty incredible seeing the varying paths, but that's really what brings us back to this investment in the individuals first.
Romy: Wow. That's incredibly exciting, and so before we stay on this track of you guys pouring into leadership, I want to talk about healthy boards and governance in a minute. Let's dip sideways for a minute and tell people a little bit more about your journey, Kate because you referenced it briefly, but what's been your journey about getting into the field? Was that your first experience with the mobile healthcare clinic, or had you been out in this type of work before you joined?
Kate Hayes: Yeah, so it was one of my early experiences. Like many in the non-profit and social sector, my path has been winding but has landed me to exactly where I feel like I'm supposed to be. So, when I was volunteering on The Family Van, that was in college, and I was studying neuroscience because I'd always been deeply interested in human behavior and why people do the things that they do, and also a huge science geek, so I thought I'd bring those two things together, study neuroscience, and go on to medical school. That experience with The Family Van really opened my eyes. Social entrepreneurship was just a very early field. It was happening. Social entrepreneurship has been happening for decades, and even centuries, but the naming was just starting to come about, and it was not something that I was familiar with at the time, but when I learned about Echoing Green and learned about the work that similar organizations were doing in the space, it got me really thinking about the type of systemic impact that I wanted to make.
So, I ended up graduating, took my MCAT, decided to put med school applications on hold while I tried working in the non-profit sector, and so started out at an organization focused in the education space, and fell in love with the space and could really see how I could make what I hoped and continue to hope will be transformative impact over time, or at least supporting pushing the needle on a lot of these things that I really care about, and so ended up not applying in the end and stayed in the space, and over the years was working at quite a few youth-serving organizations but was trying to narrow down to exactly what I cared most about, and it kept coming back to leadership development and this time with neuroscience, with human behavior and understanding how people grow and change, and don't change, but how you can influence that as well as this social entrepreneur field and the power of innovators that can disrupt, really positively disrupt on some of these big issues, as well as cross-sector collaboration. When I was at my previous organization, that was something that I was working within a lot, was catalyzing the power of corporate professionals to engage in the social change ecosystem, and there came a point where I said okay, I guess the best way for me to make an impact is to become a social entrepreneur.
I think that many in the social sector go through this moment, and so I wrote a business plan, submitted it to Echoing Green because that's what you do when you have an idea, and made it pretty far in the process but didn't ultimately get the fellowship, but certainly reconnected me with the work of Echoing Green, and soon after, found a role working here that was really tying in those three things that I cared most about, and so I had the opportunity to join the team just about four years ago, and really rethink the way we were doing leadership development, especially for people in the ecosystem, not just our social entrepreneurs, but the other key players, primarily those in the private sector that have a critical role to play, and so have been here ever since.
Romy: Wow, and you had an opportunity to see some of the social entrepreneurs around the world. I mean, we exchanged some pictures, and you've been everywhere from Rwanda to all of these places that I've seen some pictures. Can you give us a little tour of the sampling of places you've gotten to learn about entrepreneurship?
Kate Hayes: Sure. So, I'll tell you first the why around those particular travels. As part of Direct Impact, the program that I run, we take cohorts of individuals from the private sector who are interested in deepening their engagement in the social sector have a lot of interest and intent and want to do it in the right way, and in a really intensive experiential leadership development driven way. So, we put them through a few retreats and then also site visit, which is where the pictures come in.
We'll take a small group of individuals from across the private sector and across ... Mostly New York is where we primarily been focused, but we're starting to expand across the US and, ultimately, globally in working with corporate leaders, and we'll bring them to spend a few days shadowing our social entrepreneurs, and really experiencing social entrepreneurship firsthand. Ultimately, at the end of the days, we're preparing these individuals to join the boards of our fellow organizations, the non-profit boards.
One of the things that we know to be true is that board members often have not worked in the non-profit sector. They don't have the deep, nuanced understanding of what it's like day in and day out, the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, the exposure piece of this program is where these site visits come in. The social entrepreneurs we visit, they're not putting on a show. They're just doing their day-to-day work and engaging our group in what they're doing so that they can learn. We've gone a couple of times to African Entrepreneur
Katie Hayes: Collective in Kigali Rwanda and that example shows one of the most exciting through lines that we've seen with the program, and that African Entrepreneur collective now has three Direct Impact graduates on their board, including their board chair. So, the transformation in this full circle ecosystem that we've been able to see from our fellows to our Direct Impact [inaudible] has been really incredible.
We've also brought people to accountability lab in Nepal to Contextos in El Salvador to the Center for Civic Innovation in Atlanta because we also focus on US organizations. There's certainly a ton of value in seeing the different sides of the cities right here in our own backyard. At the end of the day, the site visits really offer this transformative moment where people are deeply out of their comfort zone. They're experiencing social impact and the work that non-profits do in a firsthand; this is the good. This is the challenging wave that really becomes a reflection point in their lives. Not only are they able to learn and becomes immersed in the work, but they're also able to really step back and think about the impact that they want to have as they join the boards of these organizations, and more broadly think about as corporate sector leaders how they can influence the social sector for the good.
Romy: You know, we have a saying around here that we say, "Let's take it from the paper to the eyeballs, like, "Let's take it from [inaudible] due diligence to go and to meet them in person," because there's just a different interpretation that can't be expressed on paper as much as you can have talent in your writing and all of that. That's just different, and when you saying you're immersing them in these experiences when they get a chance to look into the eyeballs of those, you can see the heart of what they're trying to do, and they're able to engage more human contact. So, they're able to get it easier and understand it. We always say social entrepreneurship is best understood leaving the paper for a minute, and looking at the eyeballs and going back to the paper, just because-
Kate Hayes: Absolutely.
Romy: Just because you need to get out and get on the front like so you that you can really understand all the nuances and all the intricacies that won't prevent an entrepreneur from going forward, but they require understanding if you're going to partner or fund those on the frontline. Well, that's really exciting. Just for our listeners, many for-profit organizations also have boards. We don't want it to confuse any of that. Mostly what Kate works with is the non-profit boards, the more formalized boards. Would that be correct, Kate? I don't want to misspeak.
Kate Hayes: Yes, that is. Our primary focus through Direct Impact is on non-profit boards, but what I've found to be true, especially with the...