Tom Rippin: For the next generation of social entrepreneurs

By Eliza Villarino 12 October 2011

Tom Rippin, founder and CEO of On Purpose. Photo by: Sam Judah

Tom Rippin is on a mission to create the next generation of social entrepreneurs.

In August 2009, Rippin founded On Purpose, which facilitates two different six-month paid placements in London-based purpose-driven organizations such Comic Relief and HCT Group and offers what he calls “a mini-MBA,” a program covering commercial basics, social sector knowledge, professional skills, and personal development.

Rippin is one of today’s most influential development leaders under 40 in London. He and his peers have inspired change that transcends borders.

Devex is recognizing 40 of these young London-based trailblazers in international development. They are social entrepreneurs, government leaders, development consultants, business innovators, advocates, development researchers, nonprofit executives, philanthropists and investors.

We asked Rippin what exactly he does to boost social enterprise, and how others can do the same. Here’s what he said:

How did you leverage your network of business contacts to start On Purpose?

On Purpose only managed to get off the ground because of a lot of time that colleagues and friends from all kinds of organisations invest in us free of charge – and we still rely on this today. Business contacts in particular contribute to several areas including providing training, mentoring and coaching to our associates (the programme participants) and also helping with more behind-the-scenes work.

Your goal is to make On Purpose self-sustainable by 2015. What’s your business model?

We have three main revenue streams: First, the organisations in which our associates do their 6-month work placements not only pay the salary of the associate, they also pay On Purpose an annual fee to be part of the programme. This works because the associates take a significant pay cut in return for the experience, networks, development and training they gain. Second, placement organisations who hire associates on a more permanent basis after the programme pay us an additional fee.

Lastly, we also provide training to third parties; we either provide a customised course or some staff come and join in with the training that our Associates are participating in.

What can traditional donors and aid organizations do to boost social enterprise?

There is a shortage of people who have the skills and experience to work well across both the social and the business world – a lack of “bi-lingual” people. This is one area that we are trying to address. In addition, many social enterprise initiatives focus on entrepreneurs rather than people who will take organisations to scale; again we are different in this respect.

Traditional donors and aid organisations should also think about how to create a generation of professionals who can manage and grow organisations that span the commercial-social space and so invest in the health and medium to long term prospects of this space.

Read more about the Devex 40 Under 40 International Development Leaders in London.

About the author

Eliza villarino 400x400
Eliza Villarino

Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.


Join the Discussion