FIP 93: Scaling Pathways with Erin Worsham of CASE, Duke University

This week we’re kicking off a three-part series on how social enterprises can partner with governments to achieve greater scale and impact. We’re talking with Erin Worsham, Executive Director of the award-winning Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Erin shares her views and insights from the Scaling Pathways research study around scaling impact through government partnerships. The Scaling Pathways study, of which Erin is the lead author, surveyed over 100 social enterprises to understand the hardest barriers and challenges encountered by social enterprises and gathered cross-cutting lessons and best practices to shed light on how to overcome those barriers and challenges.

On this podcast, you will learn:

  • Why working with governments has been identified as one of the key challenges for scaling impact by social enterprises. The Scaling Pathways study focused on uncovering some of the best practices and lessons from 11 social enterprises across geographies and sectors, such as VillageReach, Partners in Health, Code for America, and Pratham, to name a few.
  • Why as a first step, it is critical for social enterprises to set their vision for engaging with governments and define clear goals of the partnership and why funding from governments, while important, shouldn’t be the key driving goal for social enterprises.
  • What are the 4 recommended government partnership goals and the roles that social enterprises need to play in meeting these goals:
    1. Clear the path: engaging with governments to seek informal permission or permits and avoiding potential barriers.
    2. Outsourcing: having the government partners outsource the delivery of a certain product/ service through a contract.
    3. Adoption: working with the government partners to transition or transfer the management of a service or solution over a period.
    4. Change policy: influencing the government to change policies, allocate resources or change regulations.
  • Why social enterprises need to adapt their staffing based on the needs of the government partnership. Having local staff who understand the local context and who ideally have already existing established relationships with the governments, is critical to having a successful social enterprise-government partnership. Erin talks about specific examples from NGOs such as WSUP and Village Reach that have adapted their staffing model to address local contexts, government relationship management, and leadership to influence policy change.
  • Why it is important for social enterprises to know when to start engaging with government partners, i.e. start with a fully formed solution based on evidence that it works (building and proving the model first) or start with an idea of building together with the government? Build first or build together?
  • Finally, we look at the risks and challenges that could become stumbling blocks for social enterprises while engaging with governments, such as slow pace of government, political and leadership change, corruption, decrease in impact, etc., and how should social enterprises deal with such challenges or mitigate the occurrences of such risks.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Erin: