Developing a Theory of Change for a network of Clean Energy support programs

Entrepreneur support programs (and particularly networks!) are interesting beasts from an impact measurement and management perspective. We can think about impact from a number of different dimensions;

The impact startups have on their communities or the impact New Energy Nexus has on startups? New Energy Nexus’ impact on an entrepreneur, or their company, or the wider ecosystem of support that creates an enabling environment for that company to succeed? New Energy Nexus’ impact at a program level or New Energy Nexus added value as a network of clean energy startup support programs?

Of course, it’s not a question of “or”, but “and”, and the journey for the New Energy Nexus team is to navigate, define, measure and communicate our approach to impact, our specific contribution towards an abundant world with 100% clean energy for 100% of the population.

It is not enough to count the GHG emissions mitigated by companies, the jobs created, or the number of entrepreneurs we have supported. We need to define our impact across multiple dimensions in order to become an organisation that is impact and goal driven, and that is continuously adapting our approach to meet demand. We also hope to find partners who are looking to join us in that journey.

We are not the only organisation supporting entrepreneurs and thinking about impact management, and we’ve taken inspiration where we can from incubators, accelerators, impact investors, as well as from initiatives such as the Impact Management Project and IRIS+ (who have done a lot of work recently in the theme of clean energy). Gaining others’ perspectives on such a complex topic is invaluable. However, we weren’t able to find anything that addressed all the questions I shared up top, so some ingenuity was also required!

For those Theory of Change geeks out there, let me introduce our first attempt at capturing the complexity of New Energy Nexus’ impact into a digestible hypothesis.

The Challenge we exist to address: There are currently not enough diverse and thriving clean energy entrepreneurs to match the scale of the clean energy transition. And across the globe, those innovating in this space face significant hurdles throughout their journey to market and scale.

The entrepreneurs and their teams are creating the impact. They are creating new jobs (including for women and underrepresented communities), mitigating GHG emissions, increasing energy efficiency, installing renewable energy capacity, and commercialising groundbreaking energy technologies and business models.

New Energy Nexus aims to contribute to our vision by improving the impact of enterprises. Some of the ways we do that is by inspiring new entrepreneurs to launch, building capacity of leaders to sustain and grow their companies, plugging the valleys of death for commercialising new technologies, engaging ecosystem stakeholders to create welcoming environments for startups, and more. All under the broad goal of strengthening entrepreneurs and strengthening ecosystems around the world.

Importantly, the programs and activities delivered by New Energy Nexus are designed around the achievement of these goals.

And why a network model? The New Energy Nexus network of programs, currently spanning eight countries, is greater than the sum of its parts. Through peer learning, shared knowledge and resources, and interconnected programming, we generate a network effect that adds value to each program, and ultimately the entrepreneurs they support.

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