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The Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society


A resilient and tenacious community : 17 years of impact entrepreneurs surveyed

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The Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society

A resilient and tenacious community : 17 years of impact entrepreneurs surveyed

A resilient and tenacious community : 17 years of impact entrepreneurs surveyed

Participants from INSEAD executive programmes for impact entrepreneurship surveyed by a core team of INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Programme (ISEP) graduates, to craft an Impact Entrepreneurship Community.

Last year, against the backdrop of ChangeNOW 2023, INSEAD hosted a three-day structured learning expedition for over 80 graduates of INSEAD executive programmes for impact entrepreneurs*. Leveraging the connections made during this gathering a core team was formed by INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Programme graduates**. Their mission? To craft and solidify a global community of impact entrepreneurs. This new consolidated group, with all INSEAD impact entrepreneurship graduates, would be called The Hans Wahl Impact Entrepreneurship Community (HWIEC).

The Hans Wahl Impact Entrepreneurship Community primarily comprises of entrepreneurs who took the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Programme. ISEP ran for 15 years on both Europe and Asia campuses (28 sessions) with global cohorts - all continents and regions represented within graduates. It was co-directed by Hans Wahl, Professor Filipe Santos and Professor Jasjit Singh. The INSEAD impact entrepreneurship community currently stands at over 900 impact entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs globally. With such a vast pool of impact entrepreneurs, the ISEP core team *** decided to survey the community, to better understand the ecosystem. The survey was sent to graduates on August 1st 2023, of which 25% of the community responded. Every impact entrepreneurship cohort, spanning 17 years, from the first ISEP in 2006 through to the first Hans Wahl Programme cohort in 2023 was represented. The geographical distribution of survey respondents demonstrates just how global the community is.

Figure 1. Global Distribution of survey respondents from INSEAD impact entrepreneurship executive programmes

The results? An engaged and very much thriving global community. This is exemplified by 3 main findings from the survey:

●        100% of survey respondents noted they were interested in becoming part of an activated community. Of which a further 80% said they were most interested in connections with other social entrepreneurs, which further highlights the need and demand for community like HWIEC.

●        The identity of the community has remained stable across all 17 years. There appears to be little fluctuation in what role or roles the respondents identify as occupying within the impact ecosystem. On average, respondents across cohorts identify as holding a dual role within the impact ecosystem; that of a social entrepreneur (64% on average identify as this) along with one other identity. There is a slight trend to indicate those that have taken the course earlier occupy more roles in the ecosystem as their ventures have developed and matured within the ecosystem.  The general stable identity across 17 years of impact entrepreneurs could be seen as surprising given the development in the impact space over the past two decades with a shift from the term ‘social entrepreneur’ to ‘impact entrepreneur’, and a world in which every corporate is expected to do good.

Figure 2. Number of identities entrepreneurs hold in the impact ecosystem

●        The consistency within the community doesn’t end there. Across all cohorts there is a recurrent engagement with SDGs related to socio-economic issues. The 4 key SDGs were:

⮚      SDG 3 - Good Health and Wellbeing (38% working on this), SDG 4- Quality Education (37%), SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth (39%), SDG 10 -Reduced Inequalities (34%).

Figure 3. Total percentage of respondents working on each SDG.

Whilst a lot of corporate sustainability talk is currently skewed toward the environment, only an average of 14% of the community were working on SDGs related to climate and biodiversity. SDG13 - Climate Action (25%) is beginning to trend in the higher for those taking the course more recently but the engagement is still lower than other SDGS.

This continued focus on particular SDGs within the community aligns with the SDGs which are reported as globally having made the least progress or have been noted as stagnating in progress.  According to the UN Department of Social and Economic Affairs, only one in six countries will meet SDG 4 and achieve universal access to quality education by 2030. Progress towards achieving SDG 8 has been challenging and, like SDG 4, the world is far from reaching most of the targets. In mid-2022 it had been reported that 1 in 251 people worldwide was a refugee, the highest proportion ever documented. To provide decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), alongside reduce inequalities (SDG 10) will require redoubled concerted efforts to address the root causes. It is clear that the INSEAD entrepreneurship community matters as they are working on issues (SDGs) where there is the least progress overall. Professor Jasjit Singh further highlights this point in his article ESG is not Impact, stating that sustainable business and ESG “leave behind a lot of holes in what really needs to be done to get the world to where we need to be. And that's where impact entrepreneurs are important.” Impact Entrepreneurs have a “commitment to the impact goals as an end in itself”.

Figure 4. World SDG Dashboard at the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda’ taken from the ‘Sustainable Development Report 2023’ by Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)

Within the survey we heard from those that are working on closing the gap to achieve some of these SDGs and how their programme at INSEAD has aided them. Working on SDG 5 (Gender Equality), 10 (Reduce Inequalities) and 11 (Sustainable Cities/ Commutes), is Irfan Keshavjee, who founded Karibu Homes, based in Nairobi, Kenya in 2009. Karibu Homes’ mission is “transforming the provision of housing in Kenya by setting the standard for the development of affordable, thriving communities for hard working families.” It took an initial three years of planning and researching Karibu before Keshavjee undertook ISEP in 2012 on the Singapore campus. After the programme there was a 5-year development phases raising equity, purchasing land, gaining approvals to build. Karibu Houses have now housed over 1500 lower-income individuals in a 570-home gated low density community built with amenities such as 24-hour security, roads, and streetlighting. Those that own a Karibu Home are majority female, and over 70% of homes are owner-occupied by families previously excluded from home ownership. To take their work further Karibu Homes has open-sourced its IP in a case study by the Centre for Affordable Housing finance (CAHF) and in so doing has catalysed the industry, and set the standard for dignified affordable housing communities across the region

In the Middle East, 2021 ISEP graduate Malak Yacout founded The Volunteer Circle working on SDG8. The Volunteer Circle is a skill sharing platform in Lebanon that matches volunteers with roles in the areas which need them most. The platform has facilitated more than 8,000 matches between 10,000 volunteers with diverse skills and have 300 partner organisations. This matching system has impacted almost a million direct household, which has saved close to 3 million dollars in costs. Since Yacout undertook ISEP in 2021 the Volunteer Circle launched two additional revenue streams and scaled impact. They have helped 81 volunteers into formal jobs, across all fields based on their skills and volunteer experiences.

After undertaking ISEP on our Asia campus in 2008, Oanh Kieu Pham founded CSIP in 2009. CSIP was Vietnam’s first and leading non-profit organisation that promoted the social enterprise ecosystem. “In the last 15 years, we have accelerated about 300 social enterprises and social businesses, we have advocated for legislation of social enterprise in the corporate law in 2014 and developed the Social Entrepreneurship ecosystem in the country.” Being a first mover is something that many graduates of the community have in common. Serra Titiz has been working in sustainable development since 2003 and founded Mikado Sustainable Development Consulting, a social enterprise that crafts models for sustainable development. In 2008 Titiz undertook the ISEP on the Europe campus. 4 years later Mikado became the first B Corp Company in Turkey. In addition to Mikado, Titiz founded, “Future is Brighter” Youth Platform; an online and offline platform, targeting youth unemployment and enabling knowledge and experience sharing. Working on SDG 4: education, SDG 8: work/economic growth, and SDG 10: reduced inequalities, the platform is there to enable youth to make more informed decisions about their education, career and life. The e-mentoring module is a tool developed to enable volunteers (over 2000) to meet and share professional expertise with students.

Figure 5. Gathering for graduates of INSEAD executive programmes for impact entrepreneurs at ChangeNOW 2023

The power of INSEAD impact entrepreneurs can be seen in the wide-ranging global activities of the graduates. With a strong collective identity, there is an optimism that an engaged and alive impact entrepreneurship community can work to support each other as they shift the needle on several core SDGS. Even with the rapid evolutions in the impact space it is a reassuring and positive sign to see a stable and thriving community.

To be added to the HWIEC community or to find out more information, contact [email protected]. If you are interested in receiving their regular e-newsletter, please confirm interest when you e-mail, and you'll be added to the mailing list and please join the LinkedIn Group which already has 126 members!

* Programmes include INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Programme (ISEP) and participants Cartier Women’s Initiative-INSEAD female impact entrepreneurship programme and Hans Wahl Impact Entrepreneurship Programme (HWIEP)

**The Core ISEP team is comprised of Caroline Diehl, MBA (2006 Fontainebleau), Nastassia Romano (2014 Fontainebleau), Zuhair Imran (2015 Fontainebleau), Alia Zafar (2016 Fontainebleau), Reto Wey (2017 Fontainebleau), Michelle Garnaut AO (2017 Fontainebleau), Indra Kubicek (2019 Fontainebleau), Laurence Nguyen (2021 Online).

***Survey by Indra Kubicek (2019 Fontainebleau) and Nastassia Romano (2014 Fontainebleau)

The ChangeNOW Impact Entrepreneurship Forum will be held on March 25th. To view the full programme: 

The Hans Wahl Impact Entrepreneurship programme will next run in 2025. If you wish further information, please contact [email protected]

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