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An honest and intense look inwards and outwards

Strategic planning is a fascinating process. It forces you to zoom out of your day-to-day operations and to take an honest and intense look both inwards and outwards. When developing […]

Strategic planning is a fascinating process. It forces you to zoom out of your day-to-day operations and to take an honest and intense look both inwards and outwards. When developing SIA’s strategy for the upcoming four years (2020 to 2023) we did both. We directed our attention inwards by reminding ourselves of SIA’s core principles and by reflecting on the path we have taken over the last ten years. What we looked at was highly encouraging: over the past decade, SIA has grown from a small initiative in Vienna to a globally active community empowering thousands of young social innovators to turn their passion into impactful ventures

However, it is not only the sheer scale of our activities that gave us a sense that we are heading in the right direction. It is also the individual feedback we have received and the stories we have witnessed throughout the years. Looking into the evaluation results and impact data collected from our community (learn more about these results and impact data in our annual impact reports), we can state with confidence that we are perceived as a truly accessible entry door to the field of social entrepreneurship that not only inspires youth to take action but also guides young innovators from vague intentions to concrete and sustainable action. That is an incredibly high expectation, but also a great base to build our future strategy on.

At the same time, we looked outwards trying to better understand if SIA’s propositions are still relevant and up-to-date for the youth in an ever faster changing world. This perspective was frightening at first sight: Youth unemployment rates reach new records, the polarization of society has increased around the world and civic spaces are shrinking in many of our core regions. Nevertheless, this constant state of crisis also bears its opportunities. Confronted with a growing distrust in the functionality of our economic, political and social systems our society begins to accept that “something has to change”, as our board member Hinnerk Hansen points out in our Global Impact Report 2019. It needs fresh voices to weigh in on the discussion. Voices that point us to new ideas that tell of progress being made, that get us excited and inspire us to hope again. SIA is dedicated to not only making those voices heard, but to amplify them into actions with an impact. Every year, it seeks out young people with bold, new ideas, and nurtures them to develop solutions that will make a positive impact on the world.

Based on all these observations we initiated our strategy process in early 2019 on SIA’s board level. From the beginning, SIA’s international management included all key stakeholders in the strategy process. Hundreds of meetings and calls as well as several multi-day retreats took place over the course of 2019. Whether it is SIA’s licensees in all 15+ countries we operate, our Global Advisory Board, the team of SIA International, or our strategic partners from foundations to academia – all of their voices were heard and their ideas and suggestions integrated.

If you ask me how we will apply this strategy in our daily work in the upcoming years, I would probably use the metaphor of a compass. It is not a roadmap that informs us on how we get from A to B. It is rather a compass that provides us with a sense of direction. It is a tool to help is in making critical decisions and trade-offs. In uncertain and dynamic times like these, I believe that a compass is probably a more useful tool than a roadmap to navigate through the complexity of our societal challenges and opportunities.

When SIA was founded back in 2009, the world looked very different than today. How will it look like ten years from now? What will be the role of social entrepreneurship in that future? How will the youth contribute to social change? And how will SIA be able to support them in doing so? We are not able to answer these questions today. However, – with this strategy, with this compass, in our hands – we feel ready to continue our journey by exploring the future with clear intentions. 

We invite all of you to join us on this journey. At least for the next four years, we have a clear idea of where we want to go. We might not know exactly how the way will look like, but we know for sure that we will walk it together – as a diverse international community dedicated to SIA’s mission.


This is the eighth, and last, article of our blog series on the topic of SIA’s strategic approach for the period 2020-2023. Find the links to all other blogs here: 

Beyond the crisis: A post-pandemic world needs social innovation more than ever
Raising awareness among the youth: Why we won’t bring the Silicon Valley to Nis
Education and training: Local roots for global content
Supporting nascent social enterprises: Preparing the best ventures for flying high, not burning out
SIA’s alumni community: Building a peer-community of young leaders 
Deepening our impact: Stronger collaboration to achieve a common mission
Scaling our impact: Growing in an ambitious, yet healthy way
Strategizing with multiple stakeholders: An honest and intense look inwards and outwards