Siemens Stiftung and Ashoka: An Innovative Partnership is Born

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Source: Ashoka

When one of Germany’s biggest corporations, Siemens, decided to create a foundation, its leadership knew social business models were a key tool in achieving community impact. Their early research led them to Ashoka, and the innovative social change Ashoka Fellows are making all over around the world.

Siemens Stiftung approached Ashoka’s Germany office for help identifying specific Fellows for investment. But those conversations soon turned to a new possibility: Instead of a few, why not help many? And instead of one-off, direct investments, why not connect Fellows with the strategic resources and network they need to make their impact even more sustainable for years to come?

A partnership between the Siemens Stiftung and Ashoka Germany was born. The program selected 10 Fellows from Africa, Asia, and Latin America for the program’s 2010 pilot year. During that first year, the program group jointly defined the terms of “social business” and “social investment” and crafted messages in media outlets like Social Edge to give a public voice to their ideas. Additionally, they worked with informal advisors to refine their financing needs before meeting potential investors and partners in Munich last October. (See the 2010 investment brochure from participants.)

All partners learned a lot in that first year; in 2011, the partnership re-named itself the Community Impact Development Group (CIDG). CIDG’s goal is to support leading social entrepreneurs working on impacting local communities in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America with the help of a technological product or service.

The program increases community impact by working with leading social entrepreneurs on three levels:

  • Business Plan Refinement: Elaborating on and refining participants’ social business plans, establishing clear paths towards the financial sustainability of their social ventures.
  • Knowledge Exchange: Facilitating knowledge exchange among participants as well as development of methodologies on how to impact local communities.
  • Finding Partners and Investors: Mobilizing external resources to enable social ventures’ impact growth by introducing potential replicators, investors, and partners to participating social entrepreneurs.

In May 2011, six new Fellows were added to the program. The partners have also developed a new preparation process, involving pro-bono consultants from McKinsey & Company and from the Ashoka Support Network, to help new and returning Fellows think strategically through their business plans before this year’s event in Munich in September. The Ashoka Germany team also worked to identify over 100 potential funders and 30 multinational companies as resources for the Fellows as they spread their impact throughout their regions and beyond.

While the outcomes for the Fellows in the CIDG program are still being defined, the engagement between Ashoka and the Siemens Stiftung can serve as an example: When two civic-sector organizations with complementing core competencies come together, strategic partnerships and innovative programs can be created whose reach is far greater than what each organization could do on their own.

Read more about the partnership on Ashoka Germany's CIDG page.