LGT Venture Philanthropy tackled its portfolio’s talent gap with impact fellowhip programme
LGT Venture Philanthropy is an independent charitable foundation that supports organizations and companies operating mainly in developing countries, who implement solutions that contribute directly to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Its mission is to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged people, contribute to healthy ecosystems, and build resilient, inclusive and prosperous communities.
Give us the nuts and bolts of the LGT Impact Fellowship. Who can apply and what can they expect to give and gain as a fellow?
Our fellowship programme is open to professionals from across the globe with a university degree, at least two years of full time-work experience and fluency in English. An additional maybe less explicit, but by no means less important eligibility criteria is an intrinsic motivation to apply one’s skills to create positive social or environmental impact.
Candidates can expect to gain hands-on work experience in dynamic entrepreneurial business environments with carefully selected founder or management teams in an emerging market context. This is usually exactly what professionals with a desire to transition from, let’s say, the private sector to a more purposeful career with a more direct impact are lacking—relevant on-the-ground experience and operational skills. This is where our fellowship programme has proven to be a successful steppingstone into the social impact space. Confronted with everyday challenges these entrepreneurs face in addition to cultural immersion, fellows get a real taste for what this sector has to offer.
Since fellows are usually appointed mid-management roles, they are formally expected to drive projects and workstreams and build capacity. Having said that, almost equally important as their formal tasks and responsibilities is that fellows are flexible and willing to jump in and provide a helping hand when and wherever it is needed.
Who are your portfolio companies? Are they all purpose-driven?
Across LGT Venture Philanthropy and LGT Impact we currently have about 30 active portfolio organizations including non-profits and for-profit companies. Some of the more well-known ones include M-KOPA, Educate Girls, mothers2mothers, Varthana, dr.consulta and more recently Last Mile Health. They are all purpose-driven in the sense that they make a significant contribution to a social and/or environmental problem—which is a must for us to engage in a partnership and provide funding and support.
How did the fellowship programme come to be? Were you finding that your portfolio companies were running into similar obstacles?
The programme was launched 10 years ago with the first cohort of fellows. Soon after LGT Venture Philanthropy became active in identifying and supporting high-impact organizations mostly at an early growth stage, we realised that among the top challenges they all seemed to have, no matter in which part of the world, was access to the right talent to support their growth journey. Limited outreach to talent markets and not yet fully established brand or reputation proved to be a major barrier in landing much-needed talent. Hence, we saw an opportunity to leverage LGT’s international presence and reputation, act as an intermediary, and establish our own strategic capacity-building platform. Until today, the programme has remained the cornerstone of our non-financial support that not only adds significant value to our portfolio, but also promotes talent market development more widely in the regions where we are active.
Who are your partners? Are there other programmes or organizations that are tackling the issues the fellowship programme aims to address from other angles?
In terms of programme management, we have done everything inhouse until about a year ago. In order to keep the programme management efficient, while at the same time keeping the programme competitive and attractive to talents as well as portfolio companies, we felt the need to up our game. As a result, we recently engaged in a very fruitful partnership with Shortlist Professionals, a leading recruiting technology provider with roots in the social impact space based out of Mumbai. More broadly speaking, we have seen many great initiatives and programmes emerging to tackle the talent gap in our sector over the last couple of years, each with a slightly different approach. There is a lot of potential today for collaboration and tapping into synergies.
To “bridge the talent gap,” could the LGT Impact Fellows Program be scaled?
We discussed exactly this question a few years ago internally and decided not to go for scale with our fellowship programme, but to keep it strategic and exclusive for several reasons. First and foremost, the triangular relationship between the fellow, the portfolio organization and us as an investor or funder is a unique setting with special appeal since we have skin in the game and are deeply involved with the organizations in which the fellows are being placed. This is part of our programme’s unique selling proposition and promise towards candidates. A prerequisite for scaling would have been to open up the programme for other organizations to participate, hence requiring us to let go of this promise to a large extent.
Having said that, the number of providers and the ecosystem around social impact fellowships has grown tremendously over the last years, which is fantastic to see. In order to support this positive trend, we are always keen to collaboratively engage or share insights and learnings with others.
As the inclusive business sector turns its attention to scaling, what advice do you have for social entrepreneurs who need more business skills and management know-how?
Get the right investors or partners on board to help you with this.
Is there anything you would still like to add?
Yes, we would like to express our appreciation and respect to all former, current, and future fellows and applicants who have taken the critical step of leaving their comfort zone and transitioning their professional careers towards purpose and positive impact on people and the planet—we are only the facilitator.