[TC-I Changemakers]: Echoing Green’s Cheryl Dorsey

Editors’ note: The ThinkChange India staff is committed to providing our readers with first-hand insights from groundbreaking changemakers. Readers will be able to see other conversations under our TC-I Changemakers tab.


Cheryl Dorsey is the President of Echoing Green, a leading global nonprofit which “invests in and supports outstanding emerging social entrepreneurs to launch new organizations that deliver bold, high-impact solutions.” Since its inception in 1987, Echoing Green has awarded more than $27 million in start-up capital to over 450 social entrepreneurs. Unlike typical venture capital firms, they are authentic collaborators in the process of effecting social change:

We consider ourselves active investors-not just providing funding, but also helping our social entrepreneurs achieve their maximum potential through a range of support services, including training, networking opportunities, consulting, and championing. Similarly, we view our fellows as investment partners, with whom we collaborate as they build and grow their organizations and with whom we hope to have a long-term relationship.

Cheryl became President of Echoing Green in May 2002, ten years after being awarded the Echoing Green fellowship herself for “Family Van,” a community-based mobile health unit for at-risk residents of inner-city Boston neighborhoods.

ThinkChange India’s Prerna Srivastava and Shital Shah spoke with Cheryl about Echoing Green’s path-breaking work, and solicited her insights regarding the future of the social entrepreneurship sector. Special thanks to Shalena Broadnax for her unflagging spirit during the process of arranging this interview.

We were struck by Cheryl’s groundedness and passion for this field. Overall, Cheryl emphasized the importance of being embedded in the local community, sticking by one’s core values, the “human capital” side of the equation, and the ability of anyone to get involved in social change even if they are not an entrepreneur.

The full interview follows below.

The following questions were discussed over the phone. The answers are not verbatim.

ThinkChange India (TCI): Can you start by briefly describing the work of Echoing Green, including its history since inception? How has the organization evolved since 1992?

Cheryl Dorsey (CD): Echoing Green was started in 1987 by the founding members of a private equity firm, General Atlantic, LLC. The idea was to bring meaningful venture capital principles from the private sector to philanthropy. They provided wraparound technical support services to give the organization the best chance of success and be on the cutting edge of social entrepreneurship for positive social change. The organization started as a private foundation with secure revenue from many sources, but has since evolved into becoming a public charity. Now, Echoing Green is a social venture fund. Continue reading

An Analysis of Rising Social Entrepreneurs

Echoing Green released a report with the results from a survey of their semi-finalists for the 2008 Echoing Green Fellowships (which Santhosh previously featured here).  The report reveals the characteristics of these rising social entrepreneurs, with some interesting findings, as highlighted by the Echoing Green Blog:

1) Innovative Models: Almost 30 percent of them were proposing hybrid nonprofit/for-profit organizations – echoing a trend of innovative models

2) Serial Entrepreneurs: A full 40 percent have already founded a previous organization

3) Thinking Big: Half of the organizations they proposed to launch will be on a global scale.

The survey is also shows that being a social entrepreneur is not an easy undertaking, with 30 percent dedicating more than 51 hours per week, even before the organization officially exists.  Clearly, this field requires a robust combination of perseverance, dedication, and vision.

2008 Echoing Green Fellowships Finalists

Echoing Green recently announced its 2008 Fellowship finalists – forty-one highly-talented rising social entrepreneurs now remain and will gather in New York City this spring to meet with a panel of judges. Below are the finalists, whose profiles explicitly mention that their projects are focussed on India:

  1. Yasmina McCarty and Nandini Narula, GreenMango: Bringing the power of online marketing technologies to poor business owners in developing countries to enable them to grow their businesses and increase their income
  2. Adarsh Kumar, Livelihoods Equity Connect: Investing in and supporting businesses that are owned by or employ poor producers, thereby creating successful enterprises in India
  3. Aditya Natraj, Indian School of Education: Training principals to turnaround failing rural public schools in India
  4. Sandeep Ahuja, Operation ASHA: Developing a cost-effective pipeline to deliver tuberculosis treatment to the most disadvantaged patients, at a convenient time and place, to ensure complete treatment

We hope to bring you more coverage on the finalists in the coming weeks.

Echoing Green 2008 Fellowship Finalists

Echoing Green has announced its Fellowship Finalists for 2008, a pool of organizations chosen from a whopping, record-setting, 1500 applications.

You can see the list here. The below video provides a good introduction to what Echoing Green does.

If you are one of the finalists and working in India, get in touch with us and we would love to feature you.