The Impact Hub Fellowship Program – From Idea to Impact
How did the collaboration begin?
In 2011, with the aim of supporting impact-driven entrepreneurs as key levers to transform society, the Fellowship program on climate change & environmental sustainability was launched by Impact Hub Zurich in partnership with WWF Switzerland. The Impact Hub Fellowship is a topic-focused entrepreneurial idea award and a one-year incubation program designed to attract, select and support impact entrepreneurs and help them realize their innovations for a more sustainable world. The first Fellow, Urban Farmers, was awarded in this inaugural program, and from here the story unfolds.
What was the approach of the program?
At the time, the Impact Hub network counted with a bit more than 30 Impact Hubs globally, representing an opportunity to make a difference at scale by replicating the program collaboratively within the network and inviting other organizations to partner. This step was formulated and enabled by an initial funding from WWF Switzerland, dedicated to support the initialisation of Fellowship programs in other Impact Hubs. The Impact Hub Fellowship Association, the scaling platform for the program, was born as a result and has so far enabled 31 editions of the program supporting over 100 entrepreneurs in 15 cities. All in all, though the supported ventures, the lives of over 1’2 million beneficiaries around the world have been positively affected.
Why was this only possible together?
Concretely, through the strong collaboration with WWF, we have so far implemented two additional Fellowships in Switzerland, a Fellowship in Bogota on biotrade and initiatives enhancing the biotrade value change in partnership with WWF Colombia, and one in Manila on sustainable energy solutions in partnership with WWF Philippines and the Peace and Equity Foundation. Few additional nodes of WWF and Impact Hub networks (e.g., Brazil, Italy and Greece) are currently fundraising to launch the program in 2017.
From all the Impact Hub Fellowships those 5 were fully or partially financed by WWF but only until the concept created momentum and attracted other partners, which enabled 25 additional fellowship programs. Multiple partners have been engaged locally and globally (e.g., AXA, Cordaid, Swiss Re, IDB, Mercator Foundation, Swisscom, Munich Re, Instituto Asas) on various social or environmental themes (e.g., longevity, resilient communities, ICT for good, children & youth empowerment) and the program selected 34 Fellows in very diverse places (e.g., London, Caracas, Johannesburg, Madrid, etc).
We are on a mission to improve the status-quo through entrepreneurship and social innovation, and we want to do it together. The Fellowship program offers a proven format to channel this collaborative energy. Going forward even more so, since we will soon launch the Fellowship Blueprint: a rich collection of best practices, templates and learnings to help with the implementation of the Fellowship program. Stay tuned for updates in the Tool section.
For a concrete example of an Impact Hub Fellowship, take a look at the Story of Manila’s Fellowship or for further info about the impact this program created see the factsheet or the Story of Urban Farmers.