LSE launches £50m accelerator for “social unicorns”

100x Impact Accelerator, a new £50m global initiative dedicated to shaping a new generation of “social unicorns”, launches its first call for applications.

Based at LSE, ‘100x’ aims to nurture high-potential social enterprises, enabling them to achieve positive impact on the scale of billions. 

100x’s goal is to identify the combinations of expertise, mentoring, and capital that enable impact-driven organisations to think bigger and achieve more.  It emulates the successful business accelerator model from the private sector and aims to show how impact-driven organisations can break the cycle of grant-seeking and weak governance. These factors often act together to limit organisations’ growth and impact potential.

Each social enterprise selected for 100x Impact Accelerator will receive a £150,000 grant and access to the School’s world class expertise. This is in addition to a 12-week programme of bespoke support from experts and social unicorn founders – intended to help leaders determine how best to maximise their impact. The programme includes two weeks of in-person sessions at LSE, virtual meetings with experts, and an annual Summit Day, where all participants will present to philanthropists, investors, governments, and media. All expenses for ventures taking part in 100x will be covered.

100x Impact Accelerator will support two cohorts of ten social enterprises every year, with 70 per cent of these coming from emerging markets. The accelerator is looking for scale-up impact organisations that have a proven model, so it can help deliver their next big leap of growth.

Places will be offered to organisations across eight sectors which closely reflect LSE’s research priorities. These are: climate and environment; health and social care; refugees and cohesion; equitable economies; happiness and wellbeing; democracy; education; and new frontiers.

Professor Stephan Chambers, Director of the Marshall Institute at LSE, said: “A clear understanding of the best approaches for social enterprises and charities to scale impact just doesn’t exist the way it does for private businesses to scale profits. That severely curtails the impact these organisations could have, and the world is worse off for it.”

“100x Impact Accelerator aims to plug this gap. By partnering with successful social unicorn founders and providing meaningful support to a large number of high potential impact-driven organisations, we aim to highlight ‘what works’ for social enterprises, so more of them experience real success.”

Leslie Labruto, Director of 100x Impact Accelerator, said: “It’s time to level the playing field for social enterprises. Where for-profit businesses have clear endgames – for example going public or being acquired – the same cannot be said for social enterprises. Instead, they get stuck in endless fundraising loops, stunting their impact potential.”

“Ironically, the social sector is ripe with innovative approaches for scaling impact, like open-source models, digital tools, and government partnerships. We’re here to help ventures understand the best model for solving the problem they’re trying to tackle – and then work with them to develop it.”

She added: “We’re looking for bold, innovative impact scale-ups to join us as we challenge the social enterprise status quo.”

Applications to 100x Impact Accelerator are open from 9 January 2023, via the 100x website. The closing date is 10 March 2023. 

After selection interviews, a cohort of 10 social enterprises will be selected in May 2023, with the accelerator programme running from June to August. A second cohort will be announced later in 2023.

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