Social Venture Partners International: The Challenge of Growing a Network

Abstract

The case begins in Spring 2007 with Paul Shoemaker and Ruth Jones, the respective executive directors of Social Venture Partners (SVP) Seattle and Social Venture Partners International (SVPI). It chronicles the history of SVP Seattle and the subsequent formation of SVPI, the international network of SVP affiliates. The case contrasts the ambitious goals for the exponential growth of SVPs in 2001 to the moderate growth it had actually achieved by 2007. In doing so, it presents positive and negative opinions from affiliate and network leaders on the organization's past choices and future potential. These perspectives help to frame questions about the organization's development since formation related to replication and scale, sustainability, and leadership.

The purpose of this case is to analyze the challenges of nonprofit organizational development in the context of an international membership organization. It specifically looks at a network moving from early, internally focused stages of development toward a stronger focus on scale and a higher level of sophistication on the impact level. This case is applicable to courses focused on nonprofit management and/or organizational development that seek to explore program design decisions for replication and scale of national or international organizations. It provides opportunities to evaluate the organizational strategies, capacity, and structure of an affiliate membership organization balancing local and network-wide needs. The case can also be used for classes that focus on entrepreneurship and human resources issues around shared leadership and management. It encourages discussion of challenges and opportunities in areas of leadership, infrastructure, capacity building, affiliate service delivery, determination of brand standards, funding, and expanded programs in achieving higher levels of scale.

Additionally, this case provides information and history for the venture philanthropy model utilized by Social Venture Partners. It offers some background on different types of grants, unrestricted funds to build capacity and restricted funds (primarily for programs or projects).

This case was prepared by Leslie Dozono, MPA, under the supervision of David S. Harrison and Cory Sbarbaro at the Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington. The author and the Electronic Hallway are grateful for the cooperation from the staff and leaders of the Social Venture Partner organizations.

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