As Director of Fellowship Programs, Echoing Green’s Erica Lock Munsky, W’04, helps early-stage social change leaders get the support and community they need to start and scale. Interviewed by Megan Foo, W’19

Erica Lock Munsky, W’04, is the Director of Fellowship Programs at Echoing Green, an international nonprofit that provides fellowships, leadership development programs, seed-stage funding, and strategic support to social entrepreneurs. She manages the three verticals of work, setting the strategy and building partnerships for Search & Selection, Individual Fellow Support, and Fellow Community.

Erica also served as one of the Round One judges for Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship’s Startup Challenge.

You are currently the Director of Fellowship Programs at Echoing Green. How did you come to join Echoing Green and can you tell us about some initiatives you’ve led?

Erica Lock Munsky: I went to business school specifically to learn more about social enterprise – the field and the career options for someone with my background. I leaned toward entrepreneurship because I found the work super interesting and dynamic. However, I know that at this point in my life I am not the entrepreneur, but rather the enabler.

Stemming from my past career in advertising, I like to call it being on the “agency” side of things. Echoing Green was the exact opportunity to work with entrepreneurs and help them grow their ventures, and my role in the Fellowship program has allowed me to utilize both the tactical business acumen and the leadership development practices I’ve gained in school and my past work experience.

Since I started at Echoing Green in 2010, I’ve helped to triple the size of the Fellowship team and led on two major internal restructures. I also led my team to formalize and standardize the support that we give to our Fellows into a leadership development framework that plots and drives the development of these early stage entrepreneurs along a series of competencies. Another significant process improvement has been our annual Fellowship selection process, which I believe now is one of the most rigorous but also supportive applications among start-up social enterprise competitions. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve shifted focus and resources to strengthening the power and impact of our community of Fellows and peers.

In this sector, collective action is what will be the tipping point to realizing social change, and Echoing Green has the network of past and present Fellows that can come together to move the needle on society’s most pressing issues. We’re just at the beginning stages of this, but I’m optimistic that large scale, cross-sector collaboration will be the linchpin to systemic social change.

What are some of Echoing Green‘s unique programs and resources for its Fellows?

Erica Lock Munsky: The Echoing Green Fellowship is a leadership capacity building program that selects and supports high-potential start-up social entrepreneurs for a two-year period. Fellows receive an unrestricted grant plus technical and leadership development support from a dedicated portfolio manager on the team. They also have access to the community of over 700 Fellow Alumni, plus our sector peers, corporate supporters and other friends of the organization, all of whom are dedicated to the Fellows’ success.

There are two main aspects to the program that I think are unique among similar granting organizations:

Echoing Green focuses on the leader. We believe that by instilling skills and competencies within the entrepreneur themselves, we are investing in long-term social change. We know that historically a good percentage of start-up ventures fail, but even so we are confident that our investment in the leader will pay off with every subsequent endeavor.

Echoing Green fosters community. Social entrepreneurship is often a lonely gig. It’s not even until quite recently when it’s becoming more accepted as a career option. What started out as camaraderie (or commiseration in many cases) has led to communities of practice – both formally in groups of founders reaching out to each other for assistance and best practices, and informally in online communities (we use Slack, which is great not only for peer learning but also for amassing resources for future founder challenges). Mentorship often blooms from these relationships, and that can be the driver behind a leader’s success.

What do you love the most about your job with Echoing Green?

Erica Lock Munsky: I love that there is always something new to learn and accomplish. By working with these entrepreneurs, I’m constantly listening and learning what their challenges are in building their organizations. Not only is their work inspiring and exciting, but the context and landscape they are operating in is always new and changing. Then in terms of the program that we’re running, I’ve been at this long enough to understand what works and what doesn’t, and I think I have a good idea of what early-stage social change leaders need to start and scale.

I’ve been lucky enough to have the runway in this organization to keep improving the offering – adding or shifting programs and initiatives as needed. I’m currently enjoying my role of building partnerships – expanding the reach of our influence beyond the social sector so as to strengthen the ecosystem that will support our entrepreneurs.

What is your advice for the next generation of social entrepreneurs?

Erica Lock Munsky: Be creative, collaborative, and uncomfortable.

This interview was conducted as part of the Inspirational Women Series, conducted by Megan Foo, W’19. Read the full story on Megan’s site.

Posted: August 22, 2017

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