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LSE launches £50mn accelerator for ‘social unicorns’

Melanie May | 10 January 2023 | News

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A new ‘social accelerator’ scheme based at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) has launched to test whether ‘social unicorns’ work as well as tech unicorns by supporting high-potential social enterprises to maximise their impact.

Launching today, 100x Impact Accelerator is a £50mn global initiative dedicated to shaping a new generation of ‘social unicorns’, and is seeking applications. Based at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), 100x aims to nurture high-potential social enterprises, enabling them to achieve positive impact on the scale of billions. Impact areas for applications include climate and environment, health and social care, education, refugees, and democracy.

100x’s goal is to identify the combinations of expertise, mentoring, and capital that enable impact-driven organisations to think bigger and achieve more. It emulates the business accelerator model from the private sector and aims to show how impact-driven organisations can break the cycle of grant-seeking and weak governance that can limit organisations’ growth and impact potential.


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What’s on offer

Each social enterprise selected for 100x Impact Accelerator will receive a £150,000 grant and access to LSE’s expertise, plus a 12-week programme of bespoke support from experts and social unicorn founders – intended to help leaders determine how best to maximise their impact. The programme includes two weeks of in-person sessions at LSE in London, virtual meetings with experts, and an annual Summit Day, where all participants will present to philanthropists, investors, governments, and media. All expenses for ventures taking part in 100x will be covered. 

100x Impact Accelerator will support two cohorts of ten social enterprises every year, with 70% of these coming from emerging markets. The accelerator is looking for scale-up impact organisations that have a proven model, so it can help deliver their next big leap of growth.

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Places will be offered to organisations across eight sectors which closely reflect LSE’s research priorities. These are: climate and environment; health and social care; refugees and cohesion; equitable economies; happiness and wellbeing; democracy; education; and new frontiers.

Professor Stephan Chambers, Director of the Marshall Institute at LSE, said:

“A clear understanding of the best approaches for social enterprises and charities to scale impact just doesn’t exist the way it does for private businesses to scale profits. That severely curtails the impact these organisations could have, and the world is worse off for it.


“100x Impact Accelerator aims to plug this gap. By partnering with successful social unicorn founders and providing meaningful support to a large number of high potential impact-driven organisations, we aim to highlight ‘what works’ for social enterprises, so more of them experience real success.”

Leslie Labruto, Director of 100x Impact Accelerator
Leslie Labruto, Director of 100x Impact Accelerator

Leslie Labruto, Director of 100x Impact Accelerator, said:

“It’s time to level the playing field for social enterprises. Where for-profit businesses have clear endgames – for example going public or being acquired – the same cannot be said for social enterprises. Instead, they get stuck in endless fundraising loops, stunting their impact potential.


“Ironically, the social sector is ripe with innovative approaches for scaling impact, like open-source models, digital tools, and government partnerships. We’re here to help ventures understand the best model for solving the problem they’re trying to tackle – and then work with them to develop it.


“We’re looking for bold, innovative impact scale-ups to join us as we challenge the social enterprise status quo.”