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700 Votes for Social Innovation

Posted by Will Poole

2011 Crowd ShotWhen we kicked off the SIFP program in May, none of us imagined we’d have 120 social innovators apply, nearly 100 people volunteer in various capacities, 700 people attend the fast pitch event to see 14 excellent innovators pitch, and that we would receive such overwhelmingly-positive feedback on the entire program from all .  But we did!  And we learned a ton, all of which will go into next year’s program and into our “in-a-box” effort for exporting SIFP to even more cities.

Seattle’s v1.0 event was made so much better by leveraging learning from LA, Phoenix, Dallas, RI and other SVPs; our partners in local angel groups like ZINO; and from UW and SU business plan competition leaders and many others.  We thank them all for their help.  notwithstanding the excellent feedback, we SVP partners and others on the CoreTeam have a list as long as our arms of things we want to improve in 2012. We recently posted our “Donor Report” which discusses the impact innovators have reported already from the program and provides details on what we’ve learned from one-on-one discussions as well as from three in-depth surveys.  Since all paid attendees on October 3 were donors, we encourage everyone to read the donor report to see how you money was put to work.

Impact

Helping the social innovators achieve more impact is of course why we are all so committed to this effort.  A finalist who didn’t get money or investment said to us that despite the disappointment of not winning, “…the SIFP competition has been nothing short of transformational.”  20% of innovators report they have received or are confident they will receive more than $5,000 in additional funding (separate from SIFP awards) as a result of participating in the program.  Two expect to receive $25k+ or more each.   This result is amazing – showing so much leveraged financial impact so quickly.  Key learning for next time:

  • Provide more opportunities for networking with program leaders and judges as well as donors and investors.  For true impact, the participants need both the training from the program and access to those who can financially support them as they get their ventures going.

Attendees to the Fast Pitch Event

VotingThey loved the event.  They especially liked text-message voting and connecting with the finalists and semifinalists.  82% are likely or highly likely to attend in 2012 on October 18th – mark your calendar now!  SVP partners and staff are great at spreading the word, with nearly 60% having heard about SIFP via SVP.  “Emails from friends” was the #2 source of reaching attendees. The audience was very favorable to seeing the broad range of innovators, from high school through polished for-profit through established non-profit ventures. Key learnings:

  • Solve the wireless connectivity problem so everyone can vote.  Those on AT&T and T-Mobile didn’t enjoy the voting process as much as those on Verizon…

  • Keep up the breadth of innovators.  We were concerned that showing high school through for-profits would be too much, but the audience poll and comments show they valued this greatly.

Program

Looking forward to 2012, we asked many questions about how to improve the specifics of the SIFP program and/or about what new things social innovators would value.  86% of innovators want the same or more mentoring, with 25% rating their mentoring as “exceptional”, while 65% rated mentoring between good and very helpful.  We also identified three new workshops that were highly desirable to the innovation group (business modeling, marketing/PR on a budget, measuring social impact). A few key learnings for next time:

  • Offer formal training around business models and org sustainability.

  • Start mentoring program earlier, giving more time before quarterfinals for contestants to engage with mentors and rework plans and/or improve their pitch.

Volunteers

Coaches

Net satisfaction with the program was 91%, with 78% rating the program 5 on a scale of 1-5.  One representative comment was “My overall experience was exceptional and I believe the SIFP approach will greatly expand its impact in years to come.”  In the volunteer survey, 100% (!!!) said they “look forward to spending time on SIFP again in 2012.” A few key learnings for next time:

  • Find a way to manage volunteer matching and assignments better than using Excel coupled with the limited gray matter of the program organizers.  If anyone knows of software to help determine optimal mentor pairing and manage the process, please tell us!

What’s Next?

We’ve completed our surveys and debriefing across the CoreTeam.  Next steps are to continue our “SIFP-in-a-Box” development work and starting booking our 2012 program, this time with many more weeks allocated for training and mentoring social innovators and also more time for the volunteers to keep things going without neglecting the rest of their life.

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