Echoing Green: Developing a strategy for an ambitious new vision
After 30 years of catalyzing successful social entrepreneurs, Echoing Green had a vision of influencing the social entrepreneurial ecosystem for greater impact. The nonprofit needed a strategy to achieve that vision.
A focused yet flexible strategy, a three-year implementation roadmap, and coaching to help them lead through change
For 30 years, Echoing Green led the social entrepreneurship field, supporting visionaries around the world in transforming their communities. Because of its success in identifying and catalyzing talent and building the field of social entrepreneurship—primarily through its fellowship program—the nonprofit knew that in order to better enable its fellows’ impact, it could do more to influence the ecosystem around them to make it easier for fellows to forge the right connections and receive more capital investment. This ambitious vision needed a practical strategy that considered Echoing Green’s resources, network, and ability to implement it.
Echoing Green hired Community Wealth Partners to help create a five-year organizational strategy. Because the nonprofit wanted to maintain the strength of its fellowship program while exploring new opportunities to influence the ecosystem, the strategy needed to be flexible. Echoing Green also underscored the need for strong staff engagement and buy-in, alignment among the board and senior team, a realistic scope, an actionable roadmap to implement the strategy, and clarity around how senior team members would make decisions based on the strategy.
We led a process to confirm Echoing Green’s mission and vision; identify, test, and refine its strategic priorities; conduct market research to understand its positioning and value proposition to the field; analyze its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; and gather insight on the nonprofit’s direction from funders, investors, and peer organizations. The process helped Echoing Green grapple with questions about how diversity, equity, and inclusion informed their work and culture and how to balance their ambition to create impact through programs with the need to strengthen their infrastructure so that teams work better together and operations run more smoothly.
We partnered with Echoing Green to design an inclusive process that thoughtfully engaged the nonprofit’s staff, board, and fellows. “Echoing Green has an exceptional and large number of engaged and thoughtful stakeholders—from our board and staff, to our fellows and program participants, to our network of donors and supporters,” said Cheryl Dorsey, Echoing Green’s president. “We knew that engaging everyone would be crucial to our successful creation of a strategic plan. Community Wealth Partners acted as an incredible partner in ensuring that our various stakeholder groups were involved and communicated with regularly throughout the process, particularly our board and staff.”
From that process, we assessed the viability and potential impact of eight priorities, using criteria like market need, the landscape for funding opportunities, Echoing Green’s internal strengths and assets, and the nonprofit’s motivations and aspirations. Echoing Green ultimately selected three priorities that would balance the organization’s current work with opportunities to expand into new areas:
- Strengthen the fellowship Program, which aims to strengthen and accelerate extraordinary emerging social entrepreneurs
- Increase equitable access to capital for social entrepreneurs, decrease structural barriers to resources, and equip fellows with the resources needed to succeed
- Help social entrepreneurs take collective action by connecting fellows with each other and other leaders and enhancing their ability to navigate their current environment
Undergirding these three strategic priorities was Echoing Green’s commitment to invest in the institutional maturation of the organization in order to achieve excellence in its work, and to live the equity it wants to see in the world.
Once the team aligned on these priorities, we worked with them to develop a high-level implementation roadmap to guide the following three years of work. We also provided other tools to help them implement the strategy, including decision-making tools and a guide for further defining and aligning on their culture. We then transitioned into a thought partnership role, coaching leaders to develop detailed implementation plans including a financial model and fundraising plans, bring those plans to their board of directors, and confidently and effectively lead the organization through the changes required to implement the strategy.