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January 30, 2024

Accelerating Social Change: Learning What Changemakers Need

World-changing ideas can emerge from leaders anywhere.

At Panorama we recognize that outsized impacts are possible when social entrepreneurs—particularly those who come from systemically excluded communities—are supported in their journeys from vision to impact.

Through the Accelerating Social Change Leadership initiative, Panorama Global is working to increase equity for early-stage entrepreneurs from historically excluded communities and address sectoral gaps. We support emerging changemakers, activists, and social impact leaders from a variety of fields to launch and scale their social change initiatives.

Human-centered design to identify the unique needs of early-stage social entrepreneurs.

In 2023, Panorama convened the first cohort of eight early-stage leaders. Over 12 months, we facilitated 40 strategic coaching sessions by industry experts and six peer learning sessions focused on leadership resilience, community growth, and organizational operations like scaling.

As we look ahead to working with the next cohort of leaders, we want to reflect on and apply what we learned in the first year of this initiative.

We listened to emerging entrepreneurs from diverse fields and backgrounds and gathered insights through empathy interviews, strategic coaching sessions, surveys, peer learning communities, and a landscape analysis. Utilizing the equityXdesign framework, we embraced inclusive and intentional design practices, and in the process, identified the nuanced needs of social entrepreneurs and tailored our programs to meet those needs.

While Panorama's learning journey continues as we support social impact leaders, here are three key insights:

1. ‘I don’t know what I don’t know.’ Early-stage social entrepreneurs face challenges in identifying the resources and support they need.  

It's hard to find what you need when you're unsure of where to start, and when you're overwhelmed by trying to navigate a fragmented landscape. Keep an eye out for an exciting announcement from us later this year, as we’re developing an open-access product to address this pain point!

Stephanie Lopez
It’s been helpful knowing that we have this community to lean on and that it's okay to not know everything. Sometimes, as a social entrepreneur, it feels like you have to have all the answers.

2. Funding, time, and operational support are often the biggest barriers to scale and wellness.

While the observation related to scale is not surprising, the impact on social entrepreneur wellness is important to make explicit. For individuals and organizations looking to support early-stage social entrepreneurs’ wellbeing, we recommend pivoting away from a model that relies on self-care, and towards a model that connects them with pro-bono and unrestricted funding resources.

Nakita Devlin
I realized I need to be intentional about forming the group of funders that will support the work that I do…. I don't need to apply and pitch to 1,000 different VC's. I need to pitch to the VC's that see the value in the work that I'm doing.

3. Operations and organizational growth are the top learning priorities for early-stage social entrepreneurs, and they prefer to learn from and with others.

The most requested coaching topics were fundraising, board and governance, finance, general management, and organizational structure. In alignment with the Center for Creative Leadership’s 70-20-10 framework, we found experiential and social learning opportunities to be the most impactful for the cohort’s learning and development. One-on-one coaching, for example, was especially effective in growing our cohort’s operational skills whereas social learning through peer learning communities nurtured leadership “intangibles” like community, motivation, and normalizing failure.

Kelly Hallman
One of the main things that I take from this program is knowing that other people go in feeling the same way as I do, and that failure is the norm and not the exception. This was incredibly valuable.

This initiative centers the voices of social entrepreneurs to improve our program development and strengthen the broader social entrepreneur ecosystem. As we put these insights into action, we will continue sharing what we learn and invite you to join us in supporting changemakers to succeed.

Meet the social change leaders from the first Accelerating Social Change Leadership initiative cohort.

We are grateful to our partners in this work, including the dedicated cohort members for sharing your leadership, feedback, and journeys with us; our strategic advisors for your time and expertise; and to the Phillips Foundation for your leadership in seeding this critical work.

About the Accelerating Social Change Leadership initiative

Powered by Panorama Global, with seed funding from the Phillips Foundation, the Accelerating Social Change Leadership initiative supports early-stage social change entrepreneurs on their journeys from vision to impact. The initiative aims to:

1. Shorten the learning curve of social entrepreneurs by ensuring equitable access to knowledge, community, and skill-building resources.

2. Minimize the barriers to entry for early-stage entrepreneurs, as well as barriers to achieving sustainability across the project lifecycle.

3. Create a collaborative hub for leaders to connect, learn, and scale impact.

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