Women of Impact is a training, mentorship, advisory and accelerator programme for social enterprises which empower women and girls. It provides a mechanism for corporate women – in this case a team of lawyers and business services employees – to up-skill and gain knowledge on the social impact and social enterprise space, provide strategic and/or legal advice to social enterprises, benefit from collaborative mentorship, network with like-minded people and effect immediate impact for causes they care about. With its CSR, professional development and employee engagement components, the programme benefits the corporate women by growing their internal networks and allowing them to broaden their experience and understanding of diverse areas of practice around the firm, while complementing law firm’s existing gender diversity initiatives. The current Women of Impact cohort includes five social enterprises and 23 members of staff (Associates, Partners, and CSR as well as L&D and marketing) and has been operational since February 2017 until December 2017. The third cohort is set to begin in January 2019, and will run for 12 months.
How it works for Enterprises
Professional service firms (law firms, banks etc.) are mentoring, advisory and acceleration partners (‘MAAPs’ ) providing pro-bono support to WESEs throughout the programme. MAAPs are teams of junior and senior staff who support each WESE through a critical stage of its growth cycle. These teams are usually mixed gender but with a strong emphasis on providing professional opportunities for junior female professionals.
Thanks to these MAAP relationships, Women of Impact provides WESEs with:
Strategic growth support and mentorship
Mechanisms for building professional and investment networks
Free access to legal, financial and business services
Bespoke specialist training on vital business and impact topics
The programme runs for 12 months. Time commitments can be flexible, but WESEs are encouraged to meet the MAAP teams approximately once a month. Objectives are set at the start of the programme, and Prime Advocates monitors progress to ensure these are met. The next cohort will start in January 2019.
Prime Advocates sources and screens the WESEs, brokers the relationship with the professional service firm, runs networking events and creates and delivers the bespoke acceleration modules which complement and underpin the mentorship. Prime Advocates also provides ‘backstop’ support to MAAPs.
How it works for MAAPS
Prime Advocates sources and screens the WESEs, creates and delivers bespoke acceleration modules, brokers the relationship with the professional service firm, and runs networking events. Prime Advocates also provides ‘backstop’ support in instances where the professional service firm is unable to assist.
Professional service firms provide support to WESEs as mentoring, advisory and acceleration partners (‘MAAPs’ ). MAAPs are teams of junior and senior staff who support each WESE through a critical stage of its growth cycle. These teams are traditionally all female, but can include men depending on the companies’ diversity policies.
Women of Impact provides a platform for these MAAPs to:
Up-skill and gain knowledge on the growing social enterprise and social impact space
Provide strategic business advice and legal pro bono support to social enterprises
Effect immediate impact for causes they care about and contribute to the development of the social impact sector
Cultivate cross-departmental collaboration and internal mentoring relationships
Develop external professional relationships with other MAAPs participating in the programme
By pairing junior staff with senior staff as part of each mentoring team, Women of Impact creates an opportunity for MAAPs to promote skills development, advancement and networking for all members of staff.
The benefits to MAAPS involved in the programme include:
Access to Prime Advocates’ social enterprise acceleration modules and skills training
Ability to sharpen commercial and advisory skills through exposure to live business scenarios
Satisfaction of engaging with and helping ambitious and innovative WESEs in a practical way
Opportunity to learn from, and be inspired by, organisations whose missions effect positive social or environmental change
Platform to develop cross-firm and corporate partner working networks which support mentors’ own professional development.
The programme is underpinned by acceleration modules developed by Prime Advocates and delivered with its partners. The training curriculum is developed in line with the needs of the WESEs; the current offering covers:
Governance – ensures an understanding of various corporate responsibilities and their significance for enabling growth, scaling and investment.
Theory of Change – methodology for application and development of social mission.
Optimising Structure – informs social enterprises about various legal structures and the optimal ways to set up their organisation to achieve their strategic goals.
Investment readiness – builds on the “theory of change” and “optimising structure” sessions and explains how social enterprises should prepare for potential investment from ethical and non-ethical investors.
Resourcing – legal requirements and basis for managing human and IP resources and supporting the enterprises growth.
Effective mentoring –
Equips MAAPs with key tools to develop and make the most of their mentoring role.
Equips WESEs with tools to develop and take advantage of effective mentorship opportunities.