Last week in part six of this series on Making Impact Work for Startups, we discussed impact opportunities in supply chains—this post is part seven. To see the entire playbook with a full background on using Founder Institute's For Progress impact metrics framework, we recommend you start at part one.
If you're an impact startup founder, enter your 1-minute pitch video at PitchForProgress.com by May 28th for a chance to pitch live to impact investors in the July online Demo Day event + win prizes!
We do not have to go at it alone, or build world-changing impact initiatives ourselves starting from scratch. In fact, this type of thinking might be counterproductive in many cases. One great aspect of For Progress companies is that they are inherently collaborative in nature—there are so many existing projects already underway, and everyone can benefit by learning, giving, or sharing with one another to achieve greater impact across the SDGs. We are stronger together.
Potential partnerships may help your company in terms of sourcing supplies, expertise, networks, talent, tools, data/metrics, technology, or even entire existing impact solution frameworks for solving SDG challenges. Partnerships can also help tremendously in terms of accountability: in partnering, you will not only have to answer to your impact initiative progress internally, but external parties will be relying on you too! Leveraging that kind of motivation to drive yourself internally can often help amplify an existing impact initiative you already have and feel dedicated to helping solve.
The ideas behind the Effective Altruism and Rationalist movements also lend themselves toward For Progress companies forming such partnerships, including with nonprofits. Many ‘direct impact’ organizations have established and optimized frameworks in place, and are already achieving a maximal impact output, per financial input - such charitable organizations are inherently limited by the fact that they do rely upon the generosity of outside parties to sustain any impact momentum. But they are also often perfect partner candidates for For Progress companies, to achieve a maximum and measurable impact initiative outcome together.
Set aside some time to research local and national initiatives and organizations matching the SDG targets you have selected, and your potential lines of action. Reach out personally to local community centers, social organizations, and charities and listen to what they have to say. They know better than anyone else what their own communities truly need, and how to get there. If possible, partner with them on a pilot project, or help them bring an incipient idea to fruition.
What can you offer them that can be turned into a scalable and measureable iKPI? Specialist talent to mentor youths at local learning centers? A state-of-the-art technology that can be used in a workshop for budding entrepreneurs without higher education degrees? Or simply a dedicated portion of your earnings where you measure your discrete iKPI contribution towards a dedicated partner’s larger direct impact initiative?
One way of finding public and private partners is by joining organizations, such as Social Value International, a global social impact network where members from 45 countries come to connect and learn together. The Effective Altruism Hub also hosts a list of dedicated organizations that are each their own jumping off point towards quantified impact initiatives.
Regardless of what strategies you decide upon, you should approach any potential impact partnership the same way you would another business partnership. Bring it into your networking activities, and scout out the organizations with the most interesting and relevant impact projects. Once you know more about a potential partner’s initiatives, consider formulating a quick tailored pitch on potential collaborations around a specific mutual iKPI.
Do not forget your customers in all this. They may be one of your best barometers on what a local or aligned community already needs—and because they know your business too, they may offer especially helpful ideas on how you specifically can help.
So consider your customers as an organic partner on your own impact journey: ask them for suggestions, and to flag great initiatives they say you should be pursuing or organizations you should get to know.
Also remember that governmental partnerships and funding streams exist to further positive impact created through businesses. In the United States, you can check your local Small Business Administration and Economic Development Administration offices for relevant opportunities, and you can learn from this overview about US government grant funding programs like federal non-dilutive SBIR and STTR grants.
Next in this series on Implementing iKPIs and making impact work for startups, we will discuss best practices for sharing about your impact mission and progress to date—because meaningful work should be celebrated, and wherever possible, measured.
Making Impact Work for Startups: the iKPI Playbook
In 2015, the UN released 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an urgent call for governments, businesses, and organizations to align efforts towards “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet.” As business leaders, it is past time to assume our share of this indispensable responsibility. We cannot rely solely on governments and large organizations to act without our support.
The biggest problems of humanity can and must be solved by entrepreneurs, who are currently the most effective catalysts for change in the world. We are therefore calling on entrepreneurs to form “Impact Companies” that address SDGs such as eradicating extreme poverty, ending world hunger, and achieving gender equality. To be successful, we believe entrepreneurs should weave sustainability into a concept we all understand - KPIs. That’s why we’ve come up with “impact” KPIs, or iKPIs.
The Founder Institute has put together a free Progress Planner tool to search and generate iKPIs, as well as a playbook for startup founders to work towards becoming an Impact Company through realistic, trackable steps. To help guide entrepreneurs, we will provide supporting resources, including practical iKPI recommendations, real-life applications and metrics, and example case studies, through 10 key steps - this post is #7 in that 10-part series.
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The Founder Institute believes we cannot rely solely on governments and big organizations to fix the world's problems - the time is now for entrepreneurs to also do their part.
Use our free For Progress planner to search iKPIs (Impact Key Performance Indicators) by keyword, or browse iKPIs by the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Don't be intimidated by seemingly impossible impact metrics - instead, find specific SDGs that your business can positively influence.
Try the Progress Planner tool at FI.co/Progress, or learn more startup impact initiatives across the FI global network at FI.co/Impact.