This past fall, the Social Enterprise Institute (SEI) introduced a new annual grant program in honor of the late Tom Moore, former Dean of the College of Business Administration and strong supporter of the social entrepreneurship curriculum at Northeastern University. In collaboration with the Northeastern Honors Program, SEI created the Dean Tom Moore Honors Program Investment Pitch, an opportunity to provide a select social enterprise with $10,000 worth of grant funding each year.
The Northeastern University Honors Program challenges its scholars to immerse themselves in one of four interdisciplinary thematic areas, one of which being social development. Voices of Development: How One Person Can Change the World, a course offered each fall by Professor Dennis Shaughnessy, introduces freshman honors students to the field of global economic development by means of social enterprise. Within this course, students familiarize themselves with Muhammad Yunus, Paul Farmer, Jacqueline Novogratz and Geoffrey Canada, amongst a host of other revered social entrepreneurs. Of the spectrum of topics covered in this course, the emerging field of impact investing particularly stood out to many students enrolled.
Impact investing is a relatively new strategy whereby individuals, corporations or government entities seek to invest in enterprises striving for more than financial returns. These enterprises — be they for-profit businesses, NGOs or non-profit entities — provide investors with the opportunity to generate social and environmental value in addition to financial return. In order to effectively demonstrate the potential of risk-tolerant, socially driven investment, Professor Dennis Shaughnessy created the Dean Tom Moore Social Enterprise Fund. This Fund will allow students enrolled in Voices of Development to provide $10,000 of grant funding to one worthy social enterprise each fall.
After careful research, analysis and debate, the honors freshmen collectively agreed upon a list of four high-impact social enterprises with ideal missions, business models and several other important characteristics of social enterprises. The four enterprises included in this list were One Acre Fund, Children and Family Wellness (CFW) Shops, Esperanza International and Njabini Apparel.
On December 13 2011, students pitched all four social enterprises to a panel of industry specialists, including Dr. Denise Horn, William Barker, Professor Gordon Adomdza, Professor Frank Spital, Denise DiCenso, Bob DiCenso, Dr. Maureen Kelleher, and Professor Daniel Gregory. This group of judges was charged with deciding which of the four social enterprises was most worthy of the $10,000 grant from the Dean Tom Moore Social Enterprise Fund. It came down to One Acre Fund and Njabini Apparel, two Kenya-based social enterprises. One Acre Fund provides agricultural inputs to poor, rural smallholder farmers throughout Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi. Njabini Apparel, founded by Northeastern junior Mike Behan, employs disabled Kenyan women, otherwise unable to participate in agriculture, in handcrafting apparel sold in and out of country.
In the end, both One Acre Fund and Njabini Apparel received funding. One Acre Fund received the $10,000 grant from the Dean Tom Moore Social Enterprise Fund, with which they plan to provide an additional 500 Kenyan smallholders with their services. Thanks to SEI and two of their supporters, Bob and Denis Dicenso, Njabini Apparel received $5,000 to fund a microfinance and financial literacy program for the women it employs. An additional $2,500 from the Dean Tom Moore Social Enterprise Fund was awarded to Allison Smith and Gail Batutis, SEI’s 2011 Honors Scholars. With this $2,500, Allison and Gail will measure and evaluate the impact of both the $10,000 grant to One Acre Fund and the $5,000 grant to Njabini Apparel.