Preparing to scale up a social venture is fraught with tough decisions. Having created, tested and piloted the idea, then worked out how to operate on a small scale, an organisation is faced with the question of how to take it to the next level and really broaden their social impact.
Our Accelerator programme helps guide social ventures through this often choppy water. First, we unpick all aspects of their business model. After that, we go on a 12 week journey, rebuilding or refining the model through a series of workshops, expert Q&As, financial coaching sessions and strategic mentoring meetings. Through this process we often uncover areas of the business model that have been neglected or not fully developed. We also highlight areas that are going to need to be addressed before the social venture is really going to be able to grow on a stable footing. Several of the issues that arise can be grouped into one, perspiration-inducing word: legal.
Faced with complicated legal matters (be they personnel issues, structural decisions, governance queries or something completely different), many social ventures wilt at the thought of protracted, convoluted and above all expensive discussions with a law firm. Good quality, affordable legal support can be hard to come by and lawyers (unsurprisingly) often don’t have hours of free time to devote to a swarm of hopeful social ventures. But even though it might be difficult, it’s important that the venture steps up and faces these issues head on.
Ignoring potential legal pitfalls at the relatively early stages can lead to a huge amount of complex unravelling further down the line, restricting decision making, limiting funding opportunities and generally holding an organisation back.
One resource we’ve found useful on is TrustLaw Connect, whom we’ve formed a partnership with to benefit our Accelerator participants. TrustLaw Connect is the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono service that connects NGOs and social enterprises with top law firms around the world. The Trustlaw Connect team spends considerable time with each social venture to help define the legal issue and find the best way of presenting it to their 300+ top law firm members. Once a law firm has been found that is interested in assisting, they are connected to the venture directly and a relationship is formed.
We’re grateful for the hugely valuable pro bono legal support that TrustLaw Connect facilitates and the difference it has made the participants on The Accelerator programme. With this legal support, numerous participants have already been able to address significant issues and resolve them before they started to hamper their ability to grow. Now they are in a great position to go on and expand the social impact they are looking to create.
Because of the partnership between The Young Foundation and TrustLaw Connect, all ventures within The Young Foundation’s portfolio are fast-tracked for membership. To apply for membership, please contact Greg Winfield via firstname.lastname@example.org or Branka Juran via Branka.Juran@ThomsonReuters.com. Learn more about the TrustLaw Connect service.
If you would like to know more about the work we do to support social ventures or to apply for our next Accelerator programme, visit growingsocialventures.org.