• Updates about the Social Impact Award and its impact in society

    SIA relaunch in Switzerland: how it fits in the ecosystem

    The Global Innovation Index ranks Switzerland as one of the most competitive and innovative countries in the world. Few of these innovations, however, transform into entrepreneurial output. Indeed, Switzerland Total Entrepreneurial Activity (7.2%) is below the average for innovation-driven economies (11.4%) according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.

    In addition, entrepreneurship is not yet considered by most people in Switzerland a good career path: “only 40.0% see entrepreneurship as a good career choice compared to 79.2% in the Netherlands, 64.5% in Israel and 63.4% in Portugal”[1].

    Switzerland has, nonetheless, several support programs for entrepreneurs. At the central government level, the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) has been successfully supporting innovative individuals since 1996 with CTI start-up, CTI entrepreneurship and a variety of funding instruments. Moreover, in the last 5 years we have seen a drastic expansion in the number of entrepreneur support activities: co-working spaces, incubation and acceleration programs for start-ups, financing opportunities, University programs focused on entrepreneurship as well as the creation of University-based incubators including, but not limited to: Impact Hubs, Climate-KIC, EPFL Innovation Park, Fondation Inartis, Fongit, Innovaud, MassChallenge, Venture Kick, and Seedstarsworld.

    SIA is also taking the opportunity to engage with young entrepreneurs who are from other countries and now live in Switzerland with a goal to encourage entrepreneurial interest and support the growth of participants and their respective projects.

    Few of the available programs, however, focus on fostering social entrepreneurial activities. One of the possible explanations is that because of the confederal structure of Switzerland there is no specific policy or legal framework that applies to social enterprises across the country which means that social enterprises are not considered separately. Moreover, there is no nationally adopted key performance indicators or measures to assess social impact and their legal form can vary extensively from associations to public limited companies.  In recent years we have seen the rise of Certified B Corporations label. These are companies “who meet the highest standards of verified, overall social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.”[2]

    Organisations that focus on social entrepreneurship in Switzerland include Impact Hubs (currently in Zurich, Bern, Geneva and, soon, Lausanne and Basel), Euforia, Ashoka and the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative and Foundation (seif).

    In response to the low amount of entrepreneurial output and with a strong belief in the potential of youth to positively impact the world, Impact Hub Geneva has decided to relaunch the Social Impact Award (SIA) in Switzerland this year after taking 2016 off to restructure and redesign the program. In order to be more inclusive of all Swiss regions, the SIA is now being implemented in Romandie for the first time ever.

    To reinforce the impact of the new SIA Switzerland, Impact Hub Geneva has partnered with Euforia, to bring inspiration and encourage the engagement of the next generation in social entrepreneurship. Euforia has developed highly engaging training events that offer young people, aged 16 to 35, unique learning opportunities, introduce them to great examples of young change makers to whom they can relate, create a unique, non-hierarchical safe space to jointly succeed, fail and reflect on the learnings from “trying out” change making.

    Indeed, we hope that participants in Euforia’s imp!act program, which engages youth in the development of inspirational ideas and projects to address global challenges locally in 3.5 days, will be able to grow their initial concept, prototype it and make it economically viable through SIA.

    SIA Switzerland aims to mobilize students and young professionals from all the Romandie region and the organizers – Impact Hub Geneva and Euforia – are conducting workshops not only in Geneva, but also in Lausanne, Neuchâtel and Fribourg. Furthermore, the SIA Switzerland jury members come from Bern, Fribourg, Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich.

    As Geneva is a cosmopolitan and diverse city, SIA is also taking the opportunity to engage with young entrepreneurs who are from other countries and now live in Switzerland with a goal to encourage entrepreneurial interest and support the growth of participants and their respective projects. Hence, in this year’s edition nearly a third of SIA Switzerland Finalists have projects that will be developed partially or entirely in other countries such as Brazil, Ukraine and Vietnam.

    In addition, we aim to exploit a distinctive advantage of Geneva: access to a rich community of international development organizations that may leverage the potential of social entrepreneurs to expand and scale internationally. We are happy to be the connectors and facilitators of these relationships. The first possible connection is with workshop facilitators during the summer incubation period as these are experts coming from a range of different fields and working for different organizations.

    With the SIA summer incubation just starting now, we look forward to seeing how these young social entrepreneurs will be able to develop their projects throughout the summer and hope to see all their projects implemented by the end of the year!

     

    [1] Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2015/2016 Report on Switzerland

    [2] About B Lab: https://www.bcorporation.net/what-are-b-corps/about-b-lab

  • Updates about the Social Impact Award and its impact in society

    THE CIVIC SECTOR AS A JOB CREATOR

    An interview with Barbara Sadowska:
    The Team Leader of the Project “Fostering Social Entrepreneurship”, Macedonia
    Co -Founder of the Barka Foundation, Poland
    An Ashoka – Innovators for the Public Fellow, USA
    A Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur, Switzerland

    Q: First to say “hello” to Barbara Sadowska- a co -founder of the Barka Foundation, Poland, an Ashoka Fellow, a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur and now a Team Leader of the Project “Fostering Social Entrepreneurship”, Macedonia. Can you tell us more why you decided to work in the area of social entrepreneurship?

    A: Actually, I need to go back in time in order to draw my pathway towards developing a true passion for social entrepreneurship. It was around 30 years ago that my family and I have started community support initiatives for the marginalized groups of citizens in Poland. Basically, the idea behind the Barka Foundation began in 1989, after the fall of Communism in Poland. My husband Tomasz Sadowski and I were psychologists from a small village near Poznan in Western Poland who saw the new political landscape as an opportunity to make a real change for the most vulnerable members of our society. As a couple, we had many years of experience working within the prisoners and people with psychiatric diseases  and were concerned about how the changes would affect people on the edges of the community – especially those with the substance abuse issues, the unemployed, elderly and homeless people who may have been overlooked in such a tumultuous political climate. Our family decided to make a life-changing decision to act upon these concerns so we all have moved (including our 3 daughters) into an old and disused school building in rural Wladyslawowo near Poznan (western Poland).

    Gradually, we had gathered a group of people who had nowhere else to go and we all lived together under one roof. The group included men, women and children who were homeless, unemployed, or suffering from some form of addiction or disability. The driving force behind this was sheer hope of creating an environment in which the ‘forgotten and unwanted’ could have a chance for personal growth and social development. Each member of the household had a specific role or duty within the group and the old school house became a small but thriving self-sufficient community. It quickly became clear that by giving these people an opportunity to belong and contribute to something worthwhile, their sense of self-belief and confidence steadily grew. These were actually our first steps towards creating social entrepreneurship initiatives in Poland and later in Europe.

    Throughout years to come, we established connections with various CSOs, local municipalities, Ministries, cooperatives and started acting out of sense of empowerment of socially marginalized groups, rather than offering them a short-term material assistance. Our belief in the self-reliance power and the potential of each individual brought us to the path of social entrepreneurship.

    Q: A couple of words about yourself and the Barka Foundation.

    A:  The word ‘Barka’ means ‘lifeboat’ in Polish and the Barka Foundation has certainly been a lifeboat for the thousands of people who have benefited from its support and guidance over the past 20-30 years. Based on our experiences of building and empowering local communities from the scratch, we have managed to create more than 10 international Barka’s over the years located in Poland, UK. Germany, The Netherlands etc. Barka did not only work locally in creating action-oriented projects, we made efforts to act nationally and so have impacted the laws on social entrepreneurship, have established social enterprises and eventually positively affected unemployment rates in Poland. Our good practice model was taken over by several other Western European countries for the needs of social integration and unemployment reduction.

    We are proud to say that we have managed to create a global impact and have established over 200 local partnerships for social entrepreneurship all over Poland, 1200 social enterprises (due to creating legal and financial framework), 7000 work places, 100 social houses for recovered families – obviously, our Barka experience has been a valuable source of inspiration for many other CSOs and social entrepreneurship initiatives in Europe, Canada and in Africa too. Hopefully, my position of a Team Leader in Macedonia will be inspirational enough for CSOs, institutions, communities of citizens who want to see social changes happen in the spirit of unity and solidarity.

    Q: What is your role in Macedonia?

    A: Being a Team Leader of the EU funded  project called “Fostering Social Entrepreneurship”, run by EPTISA is a great opportunity to share our Barka experiences to Macedonia and show that it is not only about transferring knowledge, expertise and good practices but it is also about creating positive changes within Macedonian society by making people believe that they can do it too in their own country. Social entrepreneurship with time becomes almost a passion that needs to be passed onto new areas as people need to know that every change for the better is possible, despite your own “local” circumstances. Macedonia too is in the transition period to the EU process as Poland was years back – we have managed to find our own ways of empowering the most  needy in the society, Macedonians can discover own potential and contribute to the development of social entrepreneurship. With this project, we want to create a Law on Social Entrepreneurship that will be a solid framework for empowering CSOs and encouraging them to register as social enterprises, creating job opportunities for the youth and the most marginalized groups of citizens and eventually to stimulate financial institutions to create a climate of social change and economy of solidarity.

    Social entrepreneurship does not force us to choose between freedom and solidarity, but shows that true solidarity comes from liberty and it cannot be arbitrarily imposed.

    Q: Why do you see potential in the CSOs (and why they should transform themselves in social enterprises)?

    A: I see a full potential of developing social entrepreneurship concept in Macedonia via the work of civic organizations as their basic preoccupation is assisting the citizens in need in the local community. They are close to people, they have potential to understand their obstacles and constrains and they have human and ethical potential to serve the society and focus first on people instead of the capital only. So they can build foundations for the economy of solidarity in Macedonia. Instead of focusing on short-term projects lacking continuity, they can build strategic approach and empower both themselves and the communities that they are working with and design long-term solutions for the unemployed, youth, single parents, Roma communities, substances’ addicts etc.

    Q: Can the CSOs solve the issue of unemployment? Why?

    A: Eradication of unemployment is not a matter of solely “solving an issue” and only having one social actor who is “in charge or has the total responsibility”. It is about an overall integrative approach and creating a spirit of collaboration where all social actors are changing previously established own mental codes and raising awareness on the importance of the economy of solidarity. Such a concept should be introduced on all levels of social care – starting with institutions, municipalities, corporations, banks, CSOs and citizens.

    CSOs can play a great role in the process of introducing social entrepreneurship ideas into the society and so become the initial agents of change who will, by continuing their specific role of supporting the citizens in need surely contribute to the reduction and gradual eradication of poverty.

     Additionally, they can assist young people by encouraging them to participate in social entrepreneurship internship and scholarship programmes and so instill a spirit of self-reliance  self-empowerment and self – employment with youth.  

    For this reason, the “Fostering Social Entrepreneurship, Macedonia” project is empowering CSOs and leads them in their own development towards becoming strong social enterprises in the future. Subsequently, they can contribute to a long-term job creation for the marginalized groups of citizens who will be supported and protected by the new Law on Social Entrepreneurship that we are currently designing together with the MLSP members, CSOs, local municipalities and other relevant stakeholders such as the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economy  and the National Employment Agency. Despite the current hardships, the potential of Macedonian CSOs is very significant; working with very small resources, a handful of staff and volunteers will not stop them in their trying to develop social innovations and to enhance a system-based approach. Therefore a spirit of collaboration and a solid institutional support will be highly appreciated in the future.

    Every country in the World has the climate for development of social Entrepreneurship. … Raising awareness about the social entrepreneurship and its importance is the first step, in which the active role of the Government of all levels, NGO sector and private sector should be seriously taken.

    Q: Apart from supporting CSOs in their transformation you also work on reestablishing the eco system in Macedonia. You work on the legislation but you also work with the youngsters. Can you tell us why you think that the youth are important part in the whole story?

    A: Macedonia needs some serious improvements in existing legal acts and to create a new generation of enterprises called Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISE), which provide an opportunity for job training of the excluded groups of people. Second type of SEs  would provide services of general interest in the fields of health care, psychology, mental health care, education and training, ecology  etc. reinvesting their profits back into the communities. 

    There is a need to further examine the Act on Association and Foundations towards the inclusion of more ‘enhancement tools’ for the CSOs to start centres for social and professional integration e.g. start-up capital or tax exemptions when employing the disabled or the unemployed individuals. Such examples exist in France, Belgium and Poland. The mechanisms to strengthen the entrepreneurial approaches of the CSOs are required. In Macedonia, the Special Fund which financially supports the companies working with the disabled should also support the CSOs to create work places for the disabled.

     In Austria, Slovenia and in Poland, public benefit organizations can benefit from a new source of financing; namely each individual tax payer can chose a public benefit organisation to pass on to a 1% of their tax. This gives the CSOs more independence to invest resources from “the 1%” into projects aimed at the development of entrepreneurship and thus help them generate own resources and strengthen their statutory activities. It would be recommended that Macedonia applies a similar solution. 

    The law on social enterprises needs to get adopted, but only after it gets the proper „shape“ to meet the requirements from all partners – the  public authorities and social enterprises. The majority of CSOs support the idea of creating a special legal status for social enterprises. The Law would provide a consistent framework that would apply to all enterprises pursuing social aims regardless of their legal or organizational form.

    Youth employment is also important integral part of the Law  offering future employment perspectives to the youth and developing a spirit of social entrepreneurship can only bring positive social changes for all in the future Additionally, stimulating youth to participate as interns within the SEs or writing a business plan could have long-term effects for the SE development in Macedonia and for the economy of solidarity as a new concept in the region. What is more, a new generation of social entrepreneurs might be created both with the Social Impact Award Initiative and with the EPTISA SE internships and educational business opportunities.

    Q: In the last couple of months, you collaborated closely with the team of Social Impact Award Macedonia. Can you describe this experience? What are the benefits from this type of collaboration?

    A: This is a great type of collaboration where people with passion and dedication create synergies in order to promote a positive social change, including young people, who very often cannot find their place in the society. Working with Mladi Info, the organization with the significant experience on youth integration and social entrepreneurship, visiting high schools and universities was an immense opportunity to reach out to pupils and students who are willing to explore their own potential in terms of developing social entrepreneurship ideas. By visiting several private and national schools and Universities, as well as CSOs working with youngsters we have managed to reach out to more than 200 students who will hopefully be encouraged and inspired to make the first significant steps in realizing their own SE ideas. Civic sector is a pillar stone in the process as they will open their doors in creating a significant social impact rather than maximizing private profit. Some of them can become  social entrepreneurs creating their own work places supported by Mladi Info within the Social Impact Award or can gather a knowledge and experiences thanks to the internship and scholarship programmes offered by the Project “Fostering Social Entrepreneurship, Macedonia” .

    By creating synergies with the NGO Mladi Info and Eptisa we have the potential to influence young people to in the future think more in terms of awareness raising when it comes to create their own work places within the concept of social economy, where not only individual personal development but a concept of solidarity will be a light motive for developing future businesses in Macedonia. Both the EPTISA and the Mladi Info representatives believe that the meetings held with students will be fruitful and will have concrete results due to the fact that many students in the visited cities have evaluated the presentations and the workshops as very inspirational and useful for their future personal career development.

    Q: How to motivate other people, organizations, institutions to join us on this journey?

    A: All the parties involved will need additional education and expertise regarding the social entrepreneurship. This could be an eye-opener and an additional motivation for other organizations, institutions, companies etc. Mladiinfo and Eptisa strongly believe that the concept of SE starts with education, so the education tools and methods of trainings have to be prepared in terms of raising awareness and competences of local partners and staff. It is important to work on capacity building and create experience of working with disadvantaged individuals as well as working in the business sector. There are many competences required:  animation of local partners for cooperation, organising mutual exchange, supporting business side of social enterprises and networking with local businesses and municipalities. There is an additional need to gather experienced experts, people who have practical and not only theoretical experience in the field. Additionally, introducing and implementing the Law on Social Entrepreneurship could be an extra stimulus and a motivation for CSOs, institutions and companies as it could be a solid a base and a pathway to the SE development in Macedonia.

    Q: Message for our young future change makers and potential social entrepreneurs?

    A: Every country in the World has the climate for development of social entrepreneurship. Human potential among people, especially young people in Macedonia is significant and it only needs to be awakened and integrated within own society. Raising awareness about the social entrepreneurship and its importance is the first step, in which the active role of the Government of all levels, NGO sector and private sector should be seriously taken. The lack of awareness on this topic is the first obstacle in „healthy“development of social entrepreneurship and social enterprises community. Social entrepreneurship does not force us to choose between freedom and solidarity, but shows that true solidarity comes from liberty and it cannot be arbitrarily imposed.

    As there is no dedicated special policy or budgets available for social entrepreneurship in Macedoania now, it is extremely important to involve the relevant ministries, CSOs, private companies (with  corporate social responsibility agendas)  and local municipalities and to create legal possibilites, financial tools and partnerships for social entrepreneurship and to prepare a common SE strategy. Therefore, it is extremely crucial to build new forms of partnerships which fall within the rules of the modern management philosophy. These emphasize that networks of institutions and a mutual collaboration are more important than traditional and hierarchical management models.

  • Updates about the Social Impact Award and its impact in society

    Starting a Social Impact Business from a Founder’s Point of View: Ideation, Mentoring & Networking

    by Shayna Prunier, Impact Hub Budapest Co-founder

     

    I will start this blogpost with a quick DISCLAIMER: I am not Hungarian, I am originally from the United States and have been living in Budapest, Hungary for about 5 years.  Therefore, my views on this topic will be influenced by my upbringing in the US, where social impact, mentoring, and entrepreneurship exist in a very different landscape.  However, I do speak from experience in Hungary as I am currently a co-founder of Impact Hub Budapest, a community driven co-working space designed to inspire, mentor, and help social and environmental impact entrepreneurs and businesses bloom and grow.  

    An innovative idea that will positively impact society is merely the first step for any social impact driven venture. The next step is finding the right resources that can help budding entrepreneurs think outside the box and break through cultural norms. BUT… where does one look for seasoned mentors to curate and develop a project? Are there any pro bono mentoring networks that support others in the same position?

    Starting a business that addresses a pressing societal challenge is not an easy task, especially in a former socialist country like Hungary, where impactful organizations tend to go against the general business mindset. Social impact or social change will only be the result of focused action, lots of time, and deliberate work. Entrepreneurs also must be willing to commit to a healthier, more transparent, and more sustainable way of doing business.

    Networking: Connecting to Your Community

    Once you have your kick-ass idea, you’ll find that connecting with like-minded people is essential in bringing it to life – we, like all other Impact Hubs, are here for this reason, but if you need more convincing, read these blogposts on the why and where to network in the social impact ecosystem.

    Networking will bring you a wide range of connections, but you’ll also need expert advice from a few select professionals – and that is where mentoring comes into the picture. In our experience, “mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction.”

    Yes, You Need a Mentor

    We are proud to be launching a new mentoring program this year. Our Mentor Hub will connect entrepreneurs with mentors, resources, programs and competitions for funding, and creating sustainable business models.  But we are not the only ones; in most countries business leaders from all sectors and non-profit organizations are offering their time, energy, and expertise to young entrepreneurs.

    Keep in mind that mentoring (and mentoring programs) depend and differ on many factors, the phase of your project, your time commitment, areas for improvement, but in the end, the mentoring always needs to be tailored to the mentee. Don’t forget that a project solely looking for investors is not ideal for mentoring, but it would be a mistake to dismiss expert help as unnecessary on the path to successful investment.

    How and who to approach first?

    If there is a specific target group related to the business, ask for feedback from them and/or hold focus group meetings.

    If there is a professional group, like lawyers or doctors or government officials that could be helpful, find a link to these professionals and don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

    If there is a company related to your idea, contact them and meet with someone in a prominent position at the company. You’ll find that often they are more than happy to share their experience with a young prodigy. If it applies, volunteer your time to work with them as well. The more hands-on experience you acquire will only strengthen your own business approach and end results.

    If you are creating a social media campaign or marketing strategy or communication outreach, find mentors that have these specialized skills to focus ideas and pinpoint keywords that will fuel the fire and get attention from target audiences.

    Most importantly, if you are looking for investments, find a coach to help you adjust your pitch to attract the right investors and present a kick-ass business plan that will WOW them out of their socks!

    Current Trends in Central and Eastern Europe

    Encouraging young minds to start social impact businesses is definitely trending right now. There are a few notable European-wide organizations that could be helpful such as Ashoka, working internationally to cultivate ideas using their network of fellows and partners. NESsT is also working in Hungary and many other European cities to develop sustainable social enterprises that solve critical social problems in emerging market economies. The ERSTE Foundation is active through many programs. (The latest in Hungary is their customized ERSTE Seeds program as a multistage development process for the most promising enterprises to receive ‘seed grants’ and build relationships for growth). The European Union is also offering social enterprise opportunities in many different channels. Just recently, they held a social innovation competition for companies all over Europe to ‘reboot’ equality by inspiring fresh and energetic approaches to digital inclusion, connectivity, and skills development.

    To end this post on a collaborative note, let me remind you to get more involved with the social impact networks and join forces to collectively support each other for co-creation. In my opinion, searching the city for related organizations, meet-ups, academic groups or professors, or visiting the local chamber of commerce for business information will provide a worthy start. Subscribing to newsletters and blog sites related to your cause will help inform you of events and gatherings.

    Don’t forget that impact does not happen in isolation. Together, we can all make a difference in our cities, countries, the CEE region and beyond.

     

     

  • Updates about the Social Impact Award and its impact in society

    How unexpected life could be – MyBeeLine

    MyBeeLine combines traditional beekeeping processes with modern IT solutions, data mining, IOT and systematic approach in order to achieve better beekeeping on both micro and macro levels. Read their success story!

    The beginning…

    MyBeeline is the winner of SIA Croatia 2015. The team back then (Alen and Zoran) won the hearts of the jury with their AgTech startup idea aiming to modernize how beekeepers manage their beekeeping process and their Resource Management.

    MyBeeLine’s CRM (Web + Android) or popularly called BeeRM is a sophisticated system designed and developed for beekeeping businesses that introduces a modern approach supported by ICT in a traditional and very important agricultural sector. Using modern software and hardware solutions, MyBeeLine allows beekeepers to have aggregated statistics about the performance of their apiaries together with global changes that impact their business (nearby diseases, weather, market info etc.)

    The story continues…

    However, becoming winner of SIA is only the beginning of the team’s journey to success. Almost like in a fairytale Alen and Zoran approached Luka – winner of SIA 2014 (just a coincidence?) and fellow from the same faculty – in October 2016 and offered him to join their team and bring the idea to the next level. All of them quit their regular jobs a couple of months after that and founded their company at the beginning of 2017. Currently Mybeeline is an early stage start-up with over 1.200 active users (honey producers) from all around the world (mainly US, New Zealand, Australia and UK).

    Besides managing the CRM for the beekeepers Mybeeline is offering high-quality content for over 35.000 readers monthly on their blog & magazine. Topics cover tips and tricks for production of pure organic food and the blog is currently ranked on 2nd place on Google search.

    Their “modest” plans for 2017 include the validation of the business model from commercial beekeepers (large producers) and the build-up of customized features to solve various challenges for large honey producers.

    As of 2017 the company is fully bootstrapped and financially self-sustainable. However, in order to realize their future ambitions the team plans look for a strategic partner or an angel investor who will help them expand in three key new markets – Hungary, Italy and Romania.

    And as in every fairytale everything comes back to the right place. Same with Mybeeline team which recently rented an office at Impact Hub Zagreb and closed the cycle that it started more than two years ago with SIA. Their potential, however, and future growth opportunities are just starting to roll out since EU happens to be the 2nd largest honey producer in the world after China.

     

    Bees are identified as species that are threatened with extinction at the European level. MyBeeLine thrives to solve this problem with proper bee caring approach, early detection and prevention of disease spreading and overall protection of bees.  Homepage: mybeeline.co/en/     //     FB: @mybeeline

    Interested in other success stories? Find more inspiring corporations in our Book of Inspiration!

     

    Author: Emiliya Angelova

    Global-Editor: Tizian Müllritter

  • Updates about the Social Impact Award and its impact in society

    “Believing it works for me it will work for others, too” – RefugeesWork

    We´re pleased to present you one of the greatest SIA Austria winners of 2016, who moreover won several grants like Get activeEuropean Youth Award and a listing on Forbes 30 under 30, European Youth Award. A group of Austrian social entrepreneurs knew exactly what to do in terms of effective integration of refugees in the Austrian society! This is not only a success story of RefugeesWork.at, but about the user and its experience with the platform!

    The social entrepreneurs of RefugeesWork.at aimed to build an easy-to-use online platform to help refugees find legal working and education opportunities which are in line with their skills – and they truly succeeded! To enable closer insights of this project, which was launched in the summer 2016, we are pleased to present to you an interview with Ali Almoualem from Syria, who was lucky in finding the right job through the platform and who was willing to share his story with us!

     

    Dear Ali, thanks for taking the time for us today! We’re interested in your story, could you briefly introduce yourself – where you come from and what your occupation is? 

    My name is Ali, I come from Syria, and I am 27 years old.
    I have been in Vienna since October 2014. I studied Business Information Technology BIT in Syria.
    During my studies I worked for 4 years as IT support at a big company in Damascus.
    At that time I was very happy and I have got good experiences which helped me to start my new life here in Austria. Now I work at Xerox Austria as a Support Analyst.

     

    Please give us a brief description how you got to Austria and how the public services supported you to make your first steps here.

    In 2014 I had to leave Syria, because I was called to the military service and I didn’t want to be part of the conflict, so I decided to flee to Europe. I have chosen to stay in Austria because I heard and read about it, I liked the life style and the various opportunities to continue either my studies or my career.

    When I arrived in Austria I was depressed: new language, new culture and a new beginning almost from the scratch. What made it even harder for me were the people I met – many people who have been living in Austria for years.
    They all told me it is very hard to get a job in my fields right now. I should´ve worked anything at the beginning till I learn the language and get to know how it works then.
    I didn’t listen to them because I knew myself better than everyone else, and I knew that IT is IT everywhere.
    The AMS (labor bureau) didn’t actually help that much, they helped me only with a German course (A2). The other courses (A1, B1) were from the ÖIF.
    My consultant at the AMS did not know that much about IT, so I had to look for another way by myself.

     

    What was your experience with using the platform RefugeesWork? Which services did you enjoy on it?

    I started to look for a job about a year ago on the popular job platforms, such as Karriere, Hokify… also on the AMS website.

    Then I heard about RefugeesWork.at from a friend. At that time, there were no jobs on it, it was in the Beta phase, only a registration was available.

    I was interested in the idea, because it sounded good to me as a refugee. Two months later the website started to offer some jobs. I applied for the first job  which was at the mobile service provider „Drei“, and I got my first job interview in Austria.

    Even though it didn’t work out I was really happy and got my power back, because it was the first job interview after about 15 job application rejections.

    A big thanks goes to the RefugeesWork team, I have a job now!

    I like the search engine on the platform, the filtration works good, I can choose my language level, in which state I want to work and in which fields do I look for a job.

    My favorite service is the news broadcasting over Telegram. This is really a good idea because no one has to login to websites in order to get news. This has become an old fashioned way, we get the news nowadays directly on our smartphones as notifications!

     

    Were there many firms that suited to your profile? How was the interaction with them?
    I applied for more than 20 times and the only interviews that I had were through RefugeesWork.

    The interaction with the firms was great: I always got a reply – either a rejection or an interview invitation, unlike other platforms where I several times got no reply at all.

    What I also like about the platform is that there were/are not only small firms but also the big ones such as (Drei, Xerox, Allianz…) which look for employees in many different fields.

     

    Would or did you recommend the platform to others and why?

    I had 5 job interviews before I found the one at Xerox, all of them were through RefugeesWork, so I will indeed recommend RW to others. Because I believe it worked for me and will work for others.
    Another important thing about RW is that the firms, which are looking out for employees through this platform, know already that newcomers have some language difficulties and so on, and this is a thing that I appreciate!

     

    Perfect, Ali! We really appreciate you were sharing your experiences with us, thanks once again and all the best!

    Thank you for sharing the good experiences, and I hope I helped!


    Refugeeswork.at has yet won several prizes and grants such as Get activeEuropean Youth Award, Social Impact Award and a listing on Forbes 30 under 30, European Youth Award.

    They have an active number of +300 employers and +6000 refugees using the platform. Since Autumn 2016 RefugeesWork.at has conveyed over 70 jobs, amongst Ali was one of them.

     

    Author: Tizian Müllritter

    Proof-Reading: Jakob Detering

    Global-Editing: Tizian Müllritter

  • Updates about the Social Impact Award and its impact in society

    5 (and a half) books every Social Changemaker should read

    Whenever I came to a point in my personal or professional life where I wasn’t sure if I am doing the right thing or what should my next steps be in order to achieve my goal, I always found help, comfort and peace in books. Inspired by a quote of Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur and motivational speaker – “The book you don’t read won’t help”, I decided to read a dozen of books recommended by friends, youth workers, leaders, entrepreneurs so that you don’t have to, and help you find the right ones in the sea of inspirational, motivational and practical books.

    1. How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and The Power of New Ideas, by David Bornstein

    It is called the Bible for social entrepreneurs, and for a good reason I may add. This is not a “how-to” guide, even though the title might suggest otherwise. It is rather a collection of stories of social entrepreneurs around the world.  It is very factual and informative, but also has very personal and emotional stories.

    How To Change the World is not just for (aspiring) social entrepreneurs – it will help you find inspiration and motivation in the strength and persistence of the people described, no matter what is it you do in life. Caution: it might change your life forever.

     

    1. Start something that matters, by Blake Mycoskie

    You’ve probably heard of, or might even own a pair of TOMS, but do you know the story behind it? It is a social enterprise, one of the pioneers of ‘one for one’ movement. For every pair bought, TOMS donates one pair of shoes to the child in need. This easy-to-read book is a testimony of how and why Blake founded TOMS. It is also full of practical advice on how to include giving in your business model, why building trust is important, how to deal with and overcome fear and many others. Blake shows the successes but also failures they survived, and draws on lessons learned from both.

    The book will probably be more useful for purpose driven people and those already in the field of social entrepreneurship, as it is written as a set of short lessons. However, the book is such an easy read, I would actually recommend it to everyone.

     

    1. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, by Ashlee Vance

    This is probably not a typical book you will find in the book recommendations for social changemakers, however, I found it quite edifying. The book doesn’t portray Elon Musk (entrepreneur and innovator behind PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity) as a perfect manager, CEO nor husband. It doesn’t hide the scandals and controversies over his takeovers and ownerships of the companies.

    Than why is it a must read? Because he is one of the rare actual visionaries of our time. His mission to put people in Mars, and the efforts to actually achieve this, has inspired me and left me in awe so many times throughout the book. The persistence he showed, even in the toughest times (at one point he almost declared bankruptcy), will definitely make you question your reasons for quitting on your dreams and aspirations.

    Probably one of my favorite Elon’s quotes from the book is – “I think there are probably too many smart people pursuing internet stuff, finance and law. […] That’s part of the reason why we haven’t seen as much innovation.”

    This book is for all social changemakers, no matter the field and industry (and for space enthusiast for sure). It will shift your perspective from short term to long term thinking, and also offer some valuable lessons along the way. Truly inspiring!

     

    1. Start with why, How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek

    Start With Why will not inspire you into action as previous books might. It will however provide you with a useful tool you can use in your life, business and impact making. Simon did not discover something revolutionary, and some parts of the book might seem too obvious while reading. However, it is a thing we often forget or disregard to communicate to other people. His model for inspirational leadership – the Golden Circle, will make you think about Why. Why you do what you’re doing, and how to then channel that towards your audience to inspire them to follow your vision.

    The book is very clear, with lots of examples, and although at times it might seem a bit repetitive, I urge you to carry on. There is also a website that follows the book, where you can find some useful free tools to embark on the journey of discovering your Why. I would recommend it to everyone, especially to those on the leadership positions within organizations.

     

    1. The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries

    Okay, if you haven’t heard of the book, go straight to the bookstore/library and pick it up. It is a must for anyone entering the startup world today. Why? Because it will change your thinking of business as rigid, hard-changing system that works forever. The Lean Startup methodology pushes you to test your product or service cheaply and quickly, and make better business decisions (or recover from bad ones quicker).

    The Lean Startup book can be chewed up in couple of hours, but the lessons you learn along the way will stick with you for a long time. Don’t hesitate to read even if you are not entering the world of entrepreneurship. It can also be used as a way of thinking in various non-business projects, as the next book will expand on.

     

    5½. Lean Startup for Social Change: The revolutionary path to big impact, by Michel Gelobter

    To be clear – I am not suggesting you should read only half of this book. On the contrary! However, as Lean Startup for Social Change builds up on the previous book and I honestly recommend reading it right after.  Gelobter takes Ries’s concepts of Lean Startup and unpacks them into valuable tools for experiments and value drivers in non-profits and governments.

    This is a great read for changemakers looking for ways to go Lean in their work for a better and more sustainable impact.

     

    Have you read any of these books? What are the most valuable lessons you got from them?

    Are there any other books you would recommend?

     

    Author: Ana Janošev

    Global Editor: Tizian Müllritter

  • Updates about the Social Impact Award and its impact in society

    How to professionalize the PR efforts for your next event

    If you want to promote an event/program, it is very important to develop a PR action plan in the very early stage. The best strategy: Start as early as possible!

    To make a clear picture you might divide the whole campaign into three phases 1) before, 2) during, 3) after the event. The most part of your work you will have to do before the event.

    1) Before an Event

    a) Define your story

    Everything a journalist cares about is the story! If you want that the media covers SIA, you have to define and create a great story. Media channels don’t like to cover one and the same story, they love to be special.

    • Give the media exclusive stories
    • Pack stories in different ways for different TV programs (use morning shows, talks, news, etc.)

     

    b) Develop personal connections

    As emotional as journalists are about stories they are about people. So, don’t work with media organizations but with the individuals that work in them.

    • Make a list of most valuable potential media partners and call them
    • Meet journalists face-to-face and build a personal connection (don’t forget to bring an impact report!)
    • Don’t be afraid of getting in touch with mainstream media such as TV and larger newspapers or radio stations. SIA is a sexy product with attractive stories. If you do it right, they will love it!
    • Consider the right day time for journalists when scheduling an event.

    c) Create a press release

    Journalists are busy people. The more organized and clear press releases they receive from you, the bigger your media coverage will be. You will have to prepare two separate sheets. The first one will be an announcement of the event, which you will have to send in advance to the event to invite media representatives at the event. The second one is a press release that should be sent straight after the event.

    Announcement:

    • Start with an attention-grabbing headline in bold font
    • Begin the body with the date and the venue
    • Summarize the subject in the lead sentence
    • With two sentences describe the program/event
    • Put the logos of event/program, partners, stakeholders

    Press Release:

    • Start with an attention-grabbing headline in bold font
    • Begin the body with the date and the venue
    • Summarize the subject in the lead sentence
    • Describe the important details of your story for the rest of the body
    • Add quotations of key stakeholders
    • Do not forget to include your contact information
    • Do not make the press release too long (max 2 pages)
    • Put the logos of event/program, partners, stakeholders
    • Attach a photo of the event to the press release

    2) During an Event

    When the big day has come, make sure to host the journalists well and provide them with all the information they might need. The best way to do so is by distributing a media kit. Such a media kit should come in a branded folder and include:

    • Press release
    • Facts and figures about SIA in a form of a factsheet
    • Photos of team members, partner representatives, and other relevant stakeholders; event photos
    • SIA information brochure or flyer
    • Business cards of representatives
    • (Ideally branded) USB stick with all that information (plus a SIA power-point presentation)

    Moreover, there are a few tips&tricks that will make your PR efforts throughout the event more successful:

    • Journalists are busy people, so they might not stay until the end of the event – put the most important things in the beginning;
    • Prepare all the speakers who are going to give a comment for the media in advance. For media representatives it is more convenient to take the interviews before starting the event;
    • If the budget allows, hire a professional photographer to capture your event and record it. To have a high quality photos is particularly important to share with the media;
    • Have a prepared list of invited guests and media representatives in the entrance to check who is attending – you might use the list for upcoming events;
    • Start the event on time – nobody likes waiting;
    • After finishing the event try to contact the journalists directly building on the personal relationship.
    • Do not forget to say special thanks to the media representatives;
    • Ask media representatives where they are going to broadcast their story; otherwise you will have to spend the following days searching for the coverage.

    3) After an Event

    It’s not over yet. To make your PR efforts really professional, follow up on the event with this:

    • Send the press release to your media mailing list straight after the event, or even before finishing it;
    • Collect all the media coverage and archive, you will need it in the future to show your (potential) partners how you increase their brand recognition;
    • Put the most interesting TV stories about the event on your Social Media channels (tag people);
    • Start all over again and plan your next event!

     

     

    This blogpost has been created by Ketevan Ebanoidze from SIA Georgia. Ketevan is a public relations and media communications specialist with extensive experience working for wide range of TV programs in different Georgian televisions. Prior to Impact Hub, since 2010 she lead Media and Communication Division at the Ministry of Culture and Monument protection of Georgia, where she managed high standard media communication and public relations for the Ministry, Ministry officials and for 80 entities working under the ministry. She graduated Journalism from Tbilisi state University and did her Master’s degree at Georgian Institute of Public Affairs in Journalism and Media-Management. She is an alumni of London School of Public Relations.

    Chief-Editor: Tizian Müllritter

  • Updates about the Social Impact Award and its impact in society

    Four IT social enterprises from SIA Russia

    When you come into a subway car, the first thing you see – that every second passenger looks at his or her smartphone screen. Someone chats, someone looks for a present for their relatives, someone does both things simultaneously. A smartphone is a key to a world filled with opportunities – you just need to click “connect to Wi-fi”.

    The Internet as the opportunity to help – residents of Impact Hub Moscow and SIA members consider in this way. We have prepared a list of  4 “good” enterprises, which keep up to date and solve social challenges online.

    Teddy Food, Social Impact Award 2016 finalist

     

    It helps those who cannot ask for help.

    Interactive service for help to homeless animals, which makes this process not only useful for pets, but also fascinating for the supporters. Each user has a personal account in the system and can donate money for animals’ needs. Everyone can choose a pet and the need to pay: food, care, treatment, etc., what significantly reduces shelters’ expenses. The most active users receive titles for their purchase. And, of course, the highest reward goes to those who took the pet to his home.

     

    Brainify, Impact Hub Moscow residents

                                                         

     

    It helps those who got lost and tired from routine job.

    The educational project Branify is a four-week online course, which aims to help people discover their strengths, to realize what they wants from life. The project will be useful for those who just graduated from the university and the representatives of older generations, who fear major changes. Each participant receives access to the program with various tasks. An important component is the support of the curator – a specialist who can help to make correct conclusions from the program. You can sign up for one of the 8 sections for free. The full package involves a monthly paid subscription. In this case, the project offers different types of membership – basic and with advanced functionality in the form of additional checklists and reminders. For those who want to support the project financially, there is a special crowdfunding subscription “I love Branify”.

     

    BuySocial, Social Impact Award 2016 winner

                                                       

     

    It helps those who are in need.

    BuySocial — the first Internet shop, which sells goods of the Russian social entrepreneurs and charitable organizations. Buying these products, customers are involved in charity work, give work to vulnerable categories of citizens, contribute to  the environment and culture. The project live due to the commission at the represented goods.

    Another task, which the founders have had – the formation of a special community of people who share the values of responsible consumption. Now BuySocial gathers more than 10 partners, who solve different social problem: whether it is support for people with serious diseases or the employment of vulnerable segments of the population.

     

    Teplitsa of social technologies, Impact Hub Moscow resident

                                                        

     

    It helps to help effectively.

    Non-profit educational project which promotes cooperation between NGOs and the IT-specialists and also explains how social problems can be solved with the help of information technology. In the Teplitsa they have different educational programs for NGOs. For example, the program which explains how to seek funding or to make a website. Besides, the Teplitsa realizes online initiatives. Their portfolio includes projects profitable for NGOs : IT-volunteer — a service for online sharing of knowledge and skills in the field of information technology; Online-leiсa — the system for crowdfunding, fundraising and donations; Paseka (Apiary) — the search system of the best IT-companies and independent professionals, who are interested in work with nonprofit organizations.

     

    Author: Maria Kogan

    Proof-Reader: Ksenia Usanova

    Chief-Editor: Tizian Müllritter

  • The stories of some of the best projects from the previous years

    5 Reasons for Opening Healthy Food Restaurant as a Social Business Enterprise

    Freshys – the first take-out restaurant with a social business model in Macedonia

    – SIA winner 2016 –

     

    1. There are people that stay hungry for more than 24 hours (even in your local community)

    Can you imagine that in the 21st century there are still people that don’t have access to proper meals for more than 24 hours? In our local reality, in Skopje, homeless people have an opportunity to visit the open public kitchens that offer free meals only from Monday to Friday. So basically, throughout the weekend these homeless people are left without food. This affects their dignity directly – meaning they must beg for food or do dumpster diving. The restaurant Freshys, together with the organization Kindness and the informal initiative Retweet A Meal, decided to partly solve this problem by giving free meals to the people in need every Saturday in the center of the city.

    The food business is natural way of solving the lack of food for homeless people

     

    1. Restaurant – a great place for promoting social entrepreneurship

    Macedonia is a small country with many social challenges. And we are still at the beginning of the journey called developing social entrepreneurship eco-system.  Many of the young people, and population in general lack the knowledge of what the social business is truly about. As a place visited by a lot of people on a daily base, Freshys is a perfect location where people can taste wonderful food and get better insight into the world of social business. Healthy food and education is a win – win solution for all youngsters.

    It’s a business where a lot of people come every day as a customer/client, plus is a good way of promoting social business and social entrepreneurship

     

    1. Work integration of deprived people can easily happen here

    Future plans and social goals are also directed towards work integration of these targeted groups. As no one needs high education and special skills in order to prepare food, these plans could turn into realization quite easier. A couple of trainings, patience and a lot of passion – and Freshys will be able to employ homeless people, single moms, youngsters that are long-term unemployed, people with disability…

    Work integration project for homeless people or other deprived people, easy to train potential employees from these groups

     

    1. Positive influence on people’s healthy lifestyles

    In Skopje, all fast food places that you can visit in your busy daily life are not really offering healthy food. A couple of years ago, there were only one or two places of this kind, though the food prices they had were high. Opening a healthy fast food restaurant with affordable prices shapes the behavior of people in the local community. It helps them to stay healthy, save money and still not spend their time on cooking! 

    Skopje doesn’t offer affordable healthy food options/ The owner, Ljubomir Stojcheski, is a big fan of healthy food

     

    1. Grab the market share

    With busy agendas nowadays, people don’t have much time for cooking and preparing their favorite dishes and meals.  Having healthy fast food restaurants as an option, they can save their time and do other favorite activities while still enjoying the healthy food. The market for ready-to-eat foods is constantly growing and this gives a chance for growth and a capture of a bigger market share.

    Market shares of food industry is getting bigger/ you don’t have to cook at home

     

    So, don’t hesitate – go for it… open your own healthy food restaurant, work on the habits of people around you, integrate the people in need and do something good for you and your society! 

     

    Author: Marija Matovska

    Editor/ proofreader: Dimitar Chatleski

    Chief-Editor: Tizian Müllritter

  • Updates about the Social Impact Award and its impact in society

    They don’t understand, that social business must earn money too

    Young entrepreneurs, high-school students or NGOs. That all defines Juraj Kováč, the founder of Rozbehni sa!, speaker of Social Impact Slovakia, and expert volunteer for LEAF – we could definitely go on with his other roles. He will tell us, what are the most common mistakes done by the starting businessmen and what NGOs lack.

     

    Dear Juraj, do you focus on startups or rather people who are just about to start their career as entrepreneurs?

    I understand startups as a global technology oriented and scalable company, that has potential for a fast growth and generate revenue of million or billion euro in a short term. But I do focus more on ordinary people.

     

    Who is that?

    Someone with lack of experience, lack of starting capital and maybe even without an idea. Let’s take Jane, a girl from a small town in Slovakia without any real experience from a business world. And there are thousands of people like her.

     

    There are many jokes about communication between a marketing agency and a client who can’t understand each other. How is it in your case, when talking to people without any experience? Do you sometimes go crazy?

    No, because I am trying to use tools that will work without me as well. For example I have the e-learning or StarteR!. It would be more more difficult if I had to deal with each and every person individually.

     

    What’s your goal?

    The whole Rozbehni sa! is basically a social business. On one side I do want to help, that’s my priority, to push entrepreneurship more into educational system, so that every child can go through our course at the high school. Similar to swimming course at the elementary school, where you get basics of how not to get drowned, we would like children to get to know how to swim in the world of business and not get drowned at the labour market.

     

    When we get back to Jane, we guess she does not have broad business literacy, right?

    True, she does not. And if she does, usually it’s an old-style. That means she thinks she needs to write a business plan and take a loan. Unfortunately she doesn’t think global and lean. That’s why I am creating tools to understand that every small problem can turn into an opportunity. The idea is to think in ANTO mode – to be able to offer your product or service to anyone tomorrow. There are three basic but key principles. How to generate an idea, ideally one per month, how to find the business model and to diagnose the idea in two hours and test it in 100 hours. Because the first stage of the business is testing whether the idea is worth starting.

     

    How to test the business idea if I want to open a café in my hometown?

    Firstly, it’s not the best idea, because it’s an old-school business with huge investment and operational costs included. The idea can be good but it can be too risky you could end up beaten.

     

    So you can’t teach me how to get rich in a month?

    No. I am not making a tutorial how to become a magnet for money. This is much more about microbusiness, about making a living. I am learning people how to skate, not play in NHL, however many people would prefer that. Playing there can be a dream for many of us, but skating is much more feasible for most of us.

     

    What’s the answer? Do people understand there is a satisfying alternative to the popular “American dream”?

    I don’t have proper statistics, but when they hear it, they seem to understand. There’s no magic behind it.

     

    What are the most common fails people do at the beginning?

    They usually focus on wrong activities. Create a logo, fundraise, find offices etc. They use the road of costs instead of revenues. The philosophy is to explain them to get on the road of revenues and not focus on building the complex product, but the prototype they can pre-order, get the feedback, implement it and repeat.

     

    What happens then? Will I skip the bankruptcy and succeed?

    Most of the project fail, that’s reality. But the lean startup methodology is about starting small and testing the ability to succeed in small as fast and cheap as possible.

     

    So you save people money…

    In a way. I want they will save not only money, but time and ego, too.

     

    Ego?

    Sure. Usually you fall in love with your idea. If it doesn’t work, people think they failed, not the idea. It is important to get up and try it again, not to lose self-esteem. Everyone is afraid of the failure, but you need to be aware, it is not about you. I would compare it to going on a first date and thinking about marriage, but you have to test it, first, find out whether it can work.

     

    Do you also help to those in later stages of their business?

    Yes, the tools I am developing work for all. You can create a new product or innovate an existing one. 

     

    What are the results?

    Last year we cooperated with 80 high school in Slovakia. We created a know-how video presentation and anyone could organize a screening. And who was interested in more, would get a StarteR!, could join the e-learning or apply for our incubator program. We have tested it and would like to launch this year again, but bigger.

     

    Do you work with students the same way as with entrepreneurs?

    Yes, all of them are the same – starters of their ideas. But students need a bit more critical thinking and idea generation skills.

     

    Is it true, that only some percentage of people have the ability of being entrepreneurs? Can the other group of people change it in their favor?

    That was the topic for my PhD. thesis. It is true it can be harder for some, but still I think it’s “only” a skill that everyone can, and should learn.

     

    How did you create your tools? Did you start couple companies before and failed?

    I did use my previous experience from consulting. About 30-40 projects have gone through and approved it. I think having a personal experience with leading a company is fine, but wouldn’t make you a great consultant. It is the same like being a great football player won’t make you a great coach.

     

    Do NGOs and third sector work different than corporate field?

    Yes, people in nonprofit sector are dependent on grants. They create a project, count the number and look for people who will pay it. That’s the fundraising way. Business is based on looking for someone willing to pay for the value he or she gets. The idea needs to be self-sustainable. Earn on itself.

     

    So it is mainly the question of money?

    Yes, it is completely turned around. There are experts for writing projects, but usually too weak to find the way how to earn them.

     

    Your wish, as I get it, is so that companies and people will help 3rd sector more and the ecosystems will be more connected, right?

    Not so much. I want to be helpful for others. It makes me happy, when my work helps. For example, when an NGO has a new product or service and it works, when 20 hours of my time have a value of 2000 hours for someone and I can help them to succeed. That is also why I am working as an expert volunteer for the Slovakian organization LEAF.

    Thanks for the interview, Juraj!

     

    Author: Jakub Pediač

    Chief-Editor: Tizian Müllritter

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