Learn to Fly

How We Work

We provide a combination of financial capital, training and mentoring, and access to markets and networks, to enable our portfolio to plan for, start up, or expand social enterprises.

Our Portfolio Process

We recognize that every social enterprise is different. Our portfolio process and support is designed to respond to the unique needs of each social enterprise through the various stages of development.

We provide support for social enterprises in the planning, incubation, and expansion phases. Each phase builds upon the former, and each has specific goals and indicators to determine a social enterprise’s eligibility to progress to the next:

Planning Phase: social enterprises plan for and develop their business idea.

NESsT provides support (typically over 9-12 months) to build the organizational capacity of our portfolio to assess their readiness for social enterprise; and to identify social enterprise ideas that are aligned with their capacity, social and financial goals.

We provide the tools, templates, training and mentoring (and occasionally “venture planning grants”) to our portfolio to complete a rigorous feasibility study process to test the viability of a social enterprise idea; and a business planning process to define a practical strategy for implementing a social enterprise.

Our goal is to help our portfolio to prepare for and mitigate potential risks in starting up a social enterprise, to develop core financial and management skills, and to become “investment ready” and to attract additional donor and investor support to enable them to start up their social enterprise.

Incubation Phase: social enterprises implement their business plans.

NESsT provides long-term support (typically over 2-4 years) in the form of both financial capital and training and mentoring to our portfolio to build their capacity to start-up and manage a social enterprise. Our financial support is typically provided in multiple installments of venture grants and/or loans for start-up or working capital, tied to specific benchmarks in the business plan. Our portfolio team is highly-engaged with each social enterprise, providing on-going training and mentoring on business management, systems and strategy. Our Business Advisory Network (BAN) also provides hundreds of hours of professional volunteer support to our portfolio.

We work closely with our portfolio to develop a set of metrics and indicators to measure their financial and social impact, and work with each to implement our Performance Management Tool to monitor and capture these data.

Our goal is to help our portfolio to overcome the typical challenges of starting up a social enterprise; to development the management capacity and systems to better manage their enterprise; to ensure each is achieving their financial and social goals; and to identify and prepare the most promising social enterprises for expansion.

Expansion Phase: social enterprises scale to increase social impact.

NESsT provides on-going, higher levels of support to those social enterprises in our portfolio that demonstrate the capacity and potential to expand to achieve larger-scale social impact.

We offer long-term (typically over 5 years) financial and capacity-building support to enable social enterprises to grow, replicate, or otherwise scale their activities. We provide higher levels of financial support in the form of venture grants, loans and, occasionally, equity investments, or a combination thereof. Our portfolio team and BAN continue to closely support each social enterprise to develop an expansion strategy, to manage growth, to monitor performance, and to attract additional investment needed to scale.


Our Investment Criteria

NESsT applies rigorous criteria to select our portfolio. Among others:

  • social impact: realistic but ambitious idea and plan with potential for high social impact;
  • leadership: proven, committed management team;
  • role model: potential to create replicable social enterprise models;
  • sustainability: potential for full/partial financial sustainability;
  • values: shared commitment to values of ethical, environmental, and social responsibility;
  • NESsT fit: opportunity for NESsT to add value, willingness to work with highly-engaged philanthropic investor.

  • Our Geographic Focus

    NESsT currently supports social enterprises in the following 10 countries:

  • Central & Eastern Europe: Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.

  • Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru.

  • Our Priority Issues/Sectors

    NESsT does not have a specific sectoral focus. Our portfolio includes social enterprises working on resolving critical social problems in many areas, including: agriculture, democracy & civil society, disabilities, environment, health, human rights, rural economic development, youth & education.


    Joining our Portfolio

    Our portfolio team is constantly seeking social enterprises that fit our investment criteria. We identify our pipeline of prospective portfolio members primarily through our national social enterprise competitions. We do not accept unsolicited proposals or business plans. For further details, visit Joining our Portfolio.