3 Lessons CASE Hopes to Learn through the F. M. Kirby Impact Prize

As a research and education center based at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the CASE team is always asking – what impact trends and insights can we surface and share with the field to improve practice? This mindset is exactly why we have been reflecting on what we can learn from our pilot year of managing the Fred Morgan Kirby Prize for Scaling Social Impact (F. M. Kirby Impact Prize). While we are not a traditional funder, this new annual $100,000 unrestricted global prize provides us with the exciting opportunity to experience the scaling-stage funding process from the inside and share our learnings. Below, read more about three of the lessons that we hope to learn through the F. M. Kirby Impact Prize this year and stay tuned for our reflections in 2021. We look forward to learning with you!

1. How do we invest in equity?

In 2018, CASE began investing more in racial equity by engaging a Senior Fellow for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to guide our efforts in addressing the systemic barriers faced by impact entrepreneurs of color. We have explored how social entrepreneurship can be a lever for social justice when it centers the work of activist entrepreneurs and, this year, with the blatant racial injustices plaguing our country, we knew that we needed to do more to commit to action against racism. As part of this commitment, we are adding an equity lens to our projects, including how we allocate funds through the F. M. Kirby Impact Prize.

As we build the prize’s selection criteria & process, application, and marketing strategies, we have been learning from research and lessons from Camelback Ventures, Echoing Green and others about the systematic barriers to racial equity that exist in philanthropy. As we build out the F. M. Kirby Impact Prize, we are specifically asking ourselves what CASE can do to encourage and support applications from enterprises that are led by those who have lived experience with the issues they are addressing. How can we ensure that those most impacted by the problem have real power in the solution, and apply a DEI lens to all of their work?  Additionally, what best practices can we implement and learn from in terms of marketing, selection and adding value for all applicants – not just the winner of the prize?

2.  What strategies are impact enterprises using to scale their impact?

Social entrepreneurship prizes often focus on recognizing new or early stage ideas. However, in order to effectively solve social issues, much more focus is needed on ideas that already have traction and are ready to scale their impact. This is why CASE focuses on scaling impact in our research – from our seminal works to the more recent Scaling Pathways – and in the unique focus on scaling stage enterprises in the F. M. Kirby Impact Prize.

With the prize’s distinct emphasis on scaling, we recognize that we have the opportunity to better understand how enterprises are tackling scale. Through the application process, we hope to learn how the enterprises define their scaling strategies and if these strategies are similar based on impact area, geography, legal model or organizational stage. We want to know: How are enterprises defining their scaling goal? What strategies are they using to achieve that goal? Are they pursuing policy change? Training others to implement their model? Expanding their organization into another region? We hope to learn about all of that and more.   

3. Beyond funding, what else will help?   

CASE’s mission is to prepare leaders and organizations with the skills that they need to achieve lasting social change. As part of that mission, our team is dedicated to producing tools, resources and thought leadership to help impact enterprises learn tactical lessons about how to focus their time, energy and resources to create the greatest impact. Through the Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke (SEAD) and the Growth Readiness Assessment (GRA), we’ve learned that, while funding is critical, the scaling journey is also supported by other factors, such as peer cohorts and mentored coaching.

Knowing this, we identified other tools, resources and services that might be beneficial to F. M. Kirby Impact Prize applicants, including connections to the Duke ecosystem, such as by receiving consulting from MBA student teams through the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP) or CASE Initiative on Impact Investing Consulting Practicum (CASE i3CP); access to online tools and resources, such as Scaling Pathways or CASE Smart Impact Capital; marketing support, such as through organizational profiles or videos; executive education; and so much more. This leads us to ask, in addition to funding one enterprise, how can our research, tools and university network add value for all applicants involved in the selection process?

Learn more about F. M. Kirby Impact Prize and register for one of our information sessions.