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Nurturing Impact: Paul Basil’s Vision of Pollinate Impact within the Global Impact Incubation Landscape

“Entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs can be catalyzed in a significant way by incubators”- Paul Basil

“Entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs can be catalyzed in a significant way by incubators”- Paul Basil

In this interview, Paul Basil (Founder, Villgro) discusses what led to the creation of Pollinate Impact, and how this network will address the challenges that incubators and other impact enablers face.

How was the idea of Pollinate Impact conceptualized? What was the thinking behind creating a global network of impact incubators?
At Villgro we have been incubating early stage social enterprises for over 2 decades. The next phase of our growth was expanding geographically in India. We then piloted a replication in East Africa and the Philippines. All of this went well. We then decided to start training more and more incubators across the world. As we did that we started realizing that the Villgro methodology of incubation was only one of the many successful models. To really catalyze a powerful ecosystem, we realized that a systems change approach is required. This can happen only if various prominent global incubators come together. Thus was born Pollinate Impact.
Why does this network have a focus on the Global South?
The Global South has acute challenges across the SDGs. Developmental aid and governments have a big role to play in addressing the issues. However equally important is the role for entrepreneurship & in specific social entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs can be catalyzed in a significant way by incubators. Our experience has been that incubation in the low and middle income countries has reached a certain level of momentum. However these incubators struggle to attract resources, learn from each other, get their voices heard etc. Hence, the focus on the global south.
How do you think this network would address the challenges that incubators and other actors in this ecosystem face?
Initially I see this network being more of a learning network, then growing to become an action network to finally build a movement. I see incubator members and their staff gaining through training, learning sessions, communities of practice, learning circles across sectors, themes and geographies. Once there is considerable learning, I see collaboration and action emerging. The first phase of learning also would have created the trust to collaborate more and deeper. In this phase, I see incubators collaborating and bidding for global RFs, running joint incubation programs, exchanging talent, coming together to advocate for new policies, building a stronger case for impact incubation funding from governments and donors etc., At the next stage, I see this network driving movements, collaborating with other networks, globally and locally to catalyze and strengthen the impact of incubation. For eg: a global collaboration between this network and ASME to discover and celebrate inventions globally. a collaboration between this network and GIIN to educate incubators on setting up investment funds. a collaboration between this network and Impact Frontiers to deepen impact measurement and management. These cross network partnerships, we believe, can generate significant value to impact incubators. This I feel is when big shifts are likely to emerge and can transform the impact incubation industry.
What role do you envision Pollinate Impact to play in the impact ecosystem at large?
We are inspired by Ashoka and what it is today in social entrepreneurship, AVPN in Venture Philanthropy, ANDE in SGBs & GIIN in Impact Investing. We aspire that this network will be a similar name in impact incubation. We believe that such a network can contribute to systemic changes that will catalyze entrepreneurship, grow the impact incubation field, accelerate more resources into early stage incubation & create stronger pathways that will ultimately grow the field of impact incubation.

Paul Basil

Paul Basil is co-founder & Partner of Menterra, an impact investment fund. He is also the Founder and former CEO of Villgro Innovations Foundation, and an Ashoka Fellow. Over the last decade, Paul and Villgro has incubated over hundreds of innovative enterprises.

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