• Exploring the Field of Social Entrepreneurship

    As the climate gets hotter, wars get closer, and disasters grow bigger. many people, especially young, are turning their heads towards the field of social entrepreneurship. Opportunities are increasing and connecting one’s purpose with their work is an attractive selling point.

    Unfortunately, many still don’t know where to start. Our field is not well advertised across Central and Eastern Europe, or in Africa and Central Asia. Becoming aware of existing opportunities is a challenge. And when someone does become aware, they often don’t know where to get involved, or with whom.

    It’s no secret solving these two issues is a big reason why Social Impact Award (SIA) exists. They guide our activities, and most recently led to the creation of a new series: the International Social Impact Weekend. 

    A 3-day, fully immersive experience into the world of social entrepreneurship, it’s a place where people can come and try themselves out as social entrepreneurs. The most recent edition took place in April, and brought together participants from over 25 countries. On Friday, participants were given the opportunity to learn and exchange directly with past SIA alumni from Germany, Serbia, and the Czech Republic. They were then invited to share the problems they are interested in building solutions to and joined teams with others interested in the same topics as them.

    The weekend focused exclusively on coming up with an idea for a venture and laying the groundwork for this idea to grow into a full-fledged venture. Participants were able to explore different types of business and impact models, understand how impact is measured, create and present a short pitch, and much more. 

    Another common issue for newcomers is the lack of opportunities to connect with experienced professionals from our field. For the first time ever, SIA collaborated with the Skoll World Forum, the world’s most important conference on social entrepreneurship to change this. By offering the International Social Impact Weekend as an ecosystem session to participants of the Skoll World Forum,  young people from under-represented ecosystems such as Kenya were able to learn and connect with professionals from experienced ecosystems, such as Sweden. Not only is this a valuable learning exchange for both groups, it allows inter-personal connection across countries at a time where xenophobia and nationalism are rampant.

    Having this kind of safe space to explore the field is crucial. If you’re looking for similar opportunities, stay up-to-date with our local events and workshops on our facebook page. And if you’ve decided you’d like to build a venture, you can already apply to your local incubation for support.

  • SIA x Miro final

    SIA x Miro – Unleashing our global community

    We’ve partnered up with Miro, the leading online collaboration company, on their start-up program to provide SIA alumni with access to their digital tools. We’re big fans of Miro and regularly use their tools for our work at Social Impact Award. In a previous article, we showed how we use Miro in our operational and strategic processes. This time around, we’ll share a little bit about how we use their tools to organize our community elements.

    Team retreats

    A few times a year, we get our diverse SIA teams together in one place to connect and plan. With a team spanning across 19 countries, these spaces produce some of the glue that holds us together as well as keeping us motivated and organized. Miro has become an important part of setting up these retreats and running them successfully. We use a wide range of personal and community-built boards for brainstorming, structuring, and more.

    We use creative boards to energize people to connect with one another.

    Community Gatherings

    Our international SIA team runs yearly community gatherings bringing together hundreds of young people from around the world online and in-person (depending on Covid-19 restrictions). These gatherings allow our international community to meet and feel part of something much bigger then their local program. They are also spaces for deepening knowledge and acquiring new skills to take their ventures forward. We use Miro to organize these gatherings, and often use it during skill-building sessions. For example, our Summit requires months of planning, which Miro allows us to centralize and organize as we see fit.

    Our global gatherings are some of our community’s most memorable moments.

    These are some of the ways we use Miro for our work. These tools have helped us in many ways, and we’re excited for SIA alumni to make the most out of their offerings.

  • Aleš-Bržan, mayor of Koper, sitting on a chair with legs crossed in a suit. SIA is working with municipalities like Koper to ensure our program is accessible to all young people.

    Making SIA accessible to rural areas: In conversation with Aleš Bržan

    Our work at Social Impact Award (SIA) is deeply rooted in local realities. We strive to make our offerings accessible to all, by working with partners embedded in local communities. Whether living in rural areas or larger cities, this approach allows us to appropriately meet the needs of young people across all our regions of activity. 

    Our work with municipalities has played a crucial role in making this approach successful. Local government institutions have very strong and personal ties with the communities they serve, and witness first hand the value of supporting young people to build careers with purpose. By working with SIA, they invest in the future of local youth and send a clear signal that they believe in young people’s potential to make a difference. 

    Last year, SIA Slovenia and the municipality of Koper in Slovenia worked closely together in order to give all young people in their community access to the SIA program. We sat down with Koper’s mayor Aleš Bržan to discuss the importance of investing in young people at the local level. 

    In 2021, you worked closely with SIA to bring the program to your municipality in Slovenia. How did this collaboration come about?

    Support for social entrepreneurship is one of my key campaign promises and I always keep a close eye on any program empowering young people to develop and implement innovative business solutions. I firmly believe social entrepreneurship is a very effective way for young people to create improvements in society.

    How can social entrepreneurship contribute to a more just, sustainable, and prosperous future for your region?

    The City Municipality of Koper is at a crossroads, both literally and figuratively. With several main road entry points into Slovenia, rail connection to Central and Eastern Europe and with the Port of Koper, the major contributor to the economy, Koper is dealing with the social and environmental impact of transport. At the same time, Koper also has important natural resources with our unique ecology and biodiversity. To protect our economy, environment and future, we need to develop new sustainable transport systems, we need new ideas, new solutions. We need young people to get involved in creating new sustainable business models and young people need to have their say in how to limit current environmental, social and economic costs for our economy. 

    How do you see Social Impact Award contributing to the future of your municipality?

    We are glad Social Impact Award has raised awareness for social entrepreneurship in our municipality and believe it will steer us towards an economy built for prosperity, not just profits.

    For a deep dive into our work with municipalities, take a look at our Global Impact Report 2021

  • Ronja Kötzer, our new communications support, sitting on a sofa smiling,

    Meet Ronja Kötzer, our new Communications Support

    Ronja Kötzer is a fresh face at Social Impact Award (SIA) International. She recently joined our team as Communications Support to take communications for SIA Austria and SIA Germany to the next level.

    We sat down with her and spoke about her journey before SIA, what motivated her to apply, and what she’s most excited about in her new role. She was kind enough to also share her most embarrassing professional experience, which involves one of the most important women in the world. We hope you enjoy the conversation!

    Let’s start from the beginning. Where are you from, and how did you end up at Social Impact Award? 

    I grew up in Stuttgart, in Germany, and moved to Passau for my studies. Passau is quite small so I knew everyone and was in this great little “student bubble”. I really enjoyed it but was looking to expand my horizons, so I moved to Berlin and did an internship at the German parliament. 

    Coming from the countryside, Berlin was a bit too crazy for me. I applied to study in Vienna and have been here since October. I came across the opportunity to join SIA shortly after moving and the rest is history!

    What motivated you to be a part of the SIA international team as Communications Support? 

    I want to empower people to do good around them. Our world is very broken, so I think it’s important to give young people opportunities to see that making a change doesn’t have to be complicated. SIA walks people through their first experiences in this field, showing them how to make a difference. I really believe that every venture has the potential to make an impact on a large scale, and this belief is what motivated me to join SIA. 

    What excites you most about this new experience? 

    I’m most excited about exploring our community. SIA is the biggest community of young social entrepreneurs in Europe, and I’ve never experienced anything like it before. Getting to connect with young people from around the world is a unique opportunity. Many members of the community are one step ahead of me in social impact work, so I’m looking forward to learning from them. 

    My work is mostly focused on Austria and Germany, so I’m also looking forward to understanding the differences between the two ecosystems and learning more about what makes youth in both countries unique. The two countries are so geographically close and the language is pretty much the same, but people are still very different. What do their ideas and their plans for the future look like, and how different are they? 

    Let’s switch gears a little bit. The world wants to know, what’s an embarrassing fact about you? 

    I’m quite a clumsy person, so I fall and make things fall quite often, especially in front of other people. My worst bout of clumsiness, however, was when I spilled coffee on Angela Merkel’s shoes while working at the German parliament. I was tasked with giving someone next to her coffee and accidentally made some fall on her shoes. It was very embarrassing, but nothing bad came from it!

    Want to know more about other members of our team? Check out our most recent interview with the new Managing Directors of SIA.

  • Ana Janosev and Jonas Dinger sitting next to each other

    Meet Jonas Dinger and Ana Janošev, SIA’s new Managing Directors

    In December, we announced that the long-time Managing Director of Social Impact Award (SIA) Jakob Detering would step down to make space for Ana Janošev and Jonas Dinger, who will lead SIA into the future. 

    The pair has been with SIA for years, and is already working hard to take SIA to the next level. We sat down with them to discuss the experiences that shaped their journey with SIA and get some insight into how they envision the future of the organization. 

    Can you tell us a bit about your personal journey and how you ended up at SIA? 

    Jonas: Originally from Germany, I moved to Vienna in 2015 and began working as a junior researcher at the Social Entrepreneurship Center for the Vienna University of Economics and Business. This new job included work with SIA, so I pretty quickly took part in workshops all over Austria. After seeing how much the workshops impacted participants, I “officially” joined SIA as country coordinator for SIA Austria and later became our Development Lead, responsible for pushing SIA forward geographically, programmatically but also financially. 

    Ana: I got involved in the social entrepreneurship field in Serbia in 2015 and soon after became the coordinator of SIA Serbia. I found myself passionate about building this international community and building connections across borders among our partners, so I gradually increased my engagement with SIA’s international community. I offered to support the international team in Vienna with these efforts and joined the SIA international team in 2018. The rest is history! 

    Ana, middle, country coordinator of SIA Serbia.

    Having been around for a while, you know SIA inside-out. How have your experiences shaped how you’re approaching this new role?

    Ana: We spent so much time working as and with local SIA hosts that we fully understand local realities, team structures and resources. A big part of what we do at SIA is deeply rooted in these local realities and depends on the strength of our hosts. Having a hand on the pulse will play a big role in how we grow and expand our work and our network in the future. 

    Jonas: SIA has greatly evolved as a community in the past years. Ana and I have always been part of this evolution, which has played a defining role in our personal development and journeys. I think we have both seen from up close what SIA is capable of and how it can transform lives. We want to give everyone the possibility to experience that for themselves. 

    What was a defining moment in your journey with SIA?

    Ana: The first community gathering of all SIA hosts took place in 2017. I was struck by how down-to-earth and “human” the gathering was. We were all invited to be vulnerable and share our feelings, fears, and failures. This approach enabled real connections between us and I came away knowing I would always want to work in such an environment.

    Jonas: In 2016, I facilitated a workshop in Vienna, where a group of five girls met for the first time and decided to work on an idea together. They came back to the next workshop, and the next, and applied with their idea. They were selected as finalists and won the Social Impact Award at the end of the year. Of course, the story would be perfect if their venture was still up and running. While that isn’t the case, this experience had such a strong effect on them that most of the former team has gone off to build a career in the impact field. Being able to witness their personal journey and their venture’s growth was eye opening, and showed me what SIA is all about: helping young people realize their potential as agents of change.

    Jonas, right, country coordinator of SIA Austria.

    You guys are taking over against the backdrop of a global health crisis, an unfolding climate crisis, shifting political tides, growing polarization, and much, much more. What is SIA’s role in this reality?

    Ana: Social Impact Award provides a stable and supportive space for young people to build on their passions, learn new skills, and explore their own potential in these uncertain times. This support is invaluable in giving every young person an opportunity to build solutions to the problems they care about. 

    Jonas: The world needs the ideas and engagement of youth to face these challenges. Social enterprises and social innovations play a crucial role in shaping the future, essentially modeling ways that we as a society could organize ourselves, work, live and interact with each other in a more just, equitable and sustainable way. Social Impact Award’s role is to enable young people to explore and build the solutions of the future.

    Speaking concretely, what’s on your agenda for the next few years? 

    Ana: Our priorities for the next two years are fully in line with our 2023 strategy. We are heavily focusing on scaling and deepening our offerings, namely by expanding to new countries and by improving the quality and reach of our offerings locally. Our strategic partners play a crucial role in this and we are very excited to see our partnership with SAP Global continue to unfold. 

    Jonas: If we want to build the world of tomorrow, we need to bring more diverse voices and supporters into our movement. From including more young people that have been left behind, to establishing our support offers in underserved areas of the world, we’ll work to make our field more inclusive, more resilient, and more impactful. 

    Learn more about Ana and Jonas’ predecessor Jakob Detering and his experiences leading SIA.

  • Sara Çortan - international coordinator standing in front of a table with arms crossed

    Meet Sara Čortan, our new international coordinator

    We’re proud to introduce our new international coordinator, Sara Čortan. She’s hardly new to Social Impact Award (SIA): she coordinated SIA in Serbia for years. She’s now moved on to our international team and is ready to build a strong community of SIA hosts around the world.

    We sat down with her to discuss how she first got in touch with the social entrepreneurship sector in Serbia, and what she hopes to bring to her new role. Enjoy!

    How did you first get involved in the social entrepreneurship sector? 

    I had always been interested in the social sector. I studied social work and social policy at university, and started working in that sphere after graduating. A friend told me about a volunteering opportunity at the SIA Summit in 2017, and without knowing anything about social entrepreneurship I decided to help out. The energy was immense. Seeing like-minded people from all over the world come together made it clear that I wanted to be a part of the community. I became a volunteer for Razlivaliste, the SIA Serbia host and became coordinator of the SIA program 2 years later.

    You speak about energy. What about the energy made the difference for you here? 

    I’m always focused on the energy, it’s a guiding principle in my life. The energy in our community is different. It’s young, dynamic, centered around having fun and making a difference. It’s hard to describe, but it’s what got me interested in SIA and what gives me a sense of belonging here. 

    Your new title is international coordinator. Can you describe this role? 

    As international coordinator, I am here to enable hosts to deliver the highest quality program possible. To do so, I build connections between countries, share important information and content, as well as nurture a strong community among hosts. 

    How does your experience as local coordinator in Serbia shape how you approach this new role? 

    Local hosts have very specific needs, which I’ve personally experienced. Now that I understand the international perspective, I’m well prepared to build tailored support offerings that not only address these personal needs but also create spaces for hosts to grow and learn on their own. 

    The pandemic has been pretty crazy for you with work. You ran the SIA program and made a career move during Covid-19. How did you handle all of this? 

    I had lots of personal struggles during the pandemic. I took some courses around personal development and did lots of work on my mental health. This made me realize I spend so much time caring about others that I have a tendency to forget about myself, so i’m working on changing that. 

    You’re a proud Serbian. What do you think is Serbia’s gift to the world? 

    Going back to energy, I think Serbia has very unique and beautiful energy. Our country’s struggles have made us resilient, warm, and sometimes a bit crazy, but mostly in a good way. That resilient spirit is very special. Also, our famous liquor Rakia

    You can keep in touch with Sara’s work via Linkedin

    Interested in meeting more members of our team? Check out our recent interview with Lisa Schnägelberger, our SIA Germany coordinator.

  • Ana Janosev with BBC presenter Kasia Madera when SIA takes gold at the Future of Emerging Europe Awards 2021

    SIA Takes Home Gold at Future of Emerging Europe Awards 2021

    Photo credit: Octavian Carare, Emerging Europe

    We took home 1st place in the category “Inclusive Entrepreneurship” at the Future of Emerging Europe Awards 2021 for our work with marginalized groups during the pandemic.

    The start of the pandemic in 2020 coincided with the beginning of our ambitious 4 year strategic plan, which included a key target group for our support activities: “marginalized communities”. This group grew substantially over the year due to the economic and social ramifications of COVID-19.

    From 2020 onwards, we actively expanded our programmatic elements to rural areas, made them more accessible to people with disabilities, and started building local and international partnerships to access these communities. Just one example of this was SIA Georgia’s partnership with UNDP Georgia, which allowed us to provide internet to participants living in remote villages. This allowed marginalized communities to participate in the program and build their ventures.

    Fast forward to 2021 – we got nominated by Emerging Europe for the award and competed with 2 other organizations for first place in a public vote. We received the most votes and took home the Gold in Bruxelles. Other winners included Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the leader of Belarus’ opposition movement; the leaders of the All-Poland Women’s Strike against abortion; Youth Cancer Europe, a community of young cancer patients and survivors working to improve the lives of those suffering from the disease; and more.

    Social Impact Award was nominated for strengthening support for young entrepreneurs from across the Southeast Europe region in building social enterprises that solve most challenging issues in the time of a global pandemic.

    A big thank you to Emerging Europe for nominating us and to the general public for voting for us. This award goes out to all the marginalized groups we’ve had the chance of working with these past two years: you are all amazing and deeply inspirational.

  • Is Social Entrepreneurship About to Change Forever?

    With in-person gatherings kicking off once again, European heads of state and government officials met in Portugal for the Porto Social Summit. The Summit aims at setting the European agenda for the next decade to ensure Europe faces the challenges of the present and of the future without leaving anyone behind.

    For the first time ever, members of the European social entrepreneurship ecosystem were invited to attend. One of these lucky invitees was Neven Marinovic, President of Euclid Network and Executive Director of Smart Kolektiv in Serbia. As Neven is also a member of Social Impact Award’s advisory board, Jakob Detering, Managing Director of SIA, had the pleasure of sitting down with him (over zoom) to discuss his experience at the Summit and how policy-makers envision the future of social entrepreneurship.

    We hope you enjoy.

    If you prefer listening to the 20 minute conversation rather than reading through, we uploaded it to youtube.

    Neven, thank you so much for taking the time! A few weeks ago, you had the chance to participate in a pretty fancy conference. Before we dive into the content of the Summit, I’m curious to know: how was the atmosphere at the conference, considering it was one of your first in-person conferences since the start of the pandemic?

    For me personally it was very exciting because it was not only one of my first in-person events but also my first opportunity to travel abroad in a very long-time. From the start of the journey, not just at the conference, you can sense that things have changed. There is tension in the air already at the airport. Although the event was a unique opportunity to get together, it was heavily influenced by the COVID protection measures. We needed to keep distance from one another, which stopped us from having informal one-on-one conversations with people.

    It did take away a lot from the purpose of the event, since such a big part of these events is meeting and interacting with people directly, which we could not do as easily.


    Now, as for the content. The summit resulted in the adoption of the Porto Declaration on Social Affairs, which, as I understand it, puts emphasis on an inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. What is meant by that?

    I think the main point being made at the event, with the heads of state of all European Countries, leaders of the Parliament, of the European Commission, and all others is that Europe will not abandon their welfare state model. They acknowledged that even when facing this economic crisis and all kinds of other issues, what makes Europe unique and strong is its welfare state model. It will not only be kept but upgraded and improved with modern trends in mind.


    The fact that you, in your role as the President of the Euclid Network, were invited to this event makes me think that these leaders are considering social entrepreneurship as an important part of the recovery. What do you think is these leaders’ expectations of the social entrepreneurship field?

    First of all, to be quite honest, Euclid and other members of the social economy are newcomers at working with high-level political leaders. This is the first time members of our ecosystem were invited to this kind of event, which is a big step forward. Unfortunately, since these relationships are so new, we are not yet fully integrated in their understanding of policies and they don’t fully understand why we are relevant to their goals.

    Second, I think they see social entrepreneurship more as a tool to address other issues like inclusion, unemployment, skills development, the green transition, etc. They don’t understand that the social economy should be a goal in itself, that it should not be marginal but rather mainstreamed and its principles should be brought into the European economic model.



    To build on the last part of your statement, what are your demands for the social entrepreneurship ecosystem?

    I think social entrepreneurship as a philosophy has much more transformative power than is being recognized. For the long-term health of our society, if we want to live in a healthy environment, with an economy that functions well, without putting too much pressure on people and the planet, the principles we preach as an ecosystem are the way forward. For now, it seems like social entrepreneurship is still too marginal for people to recognize its power.

    When politicians think about labor rights or marginalized communities, they think of compliance. They try to make businesses more compliant with a set of issues. It should, however, be the other way around. The social entrepreneurship model already embeds these issues at the core of its work, which should be supported by governments and institutions through funding and policies to solve the issues at hand.


    I want to focus on one element that is particularly important to us at SIA: youth. French President Emmanuel Macron emphasized the role of youth in the recovery effort. What do you think youth’s role should be in this and how can SIA support?

    I think there is much more recognition on why it’s important to work with youth at all different levels than why it’s important to support young social entrepreneurs. SIA is in a good position because it works directly with young people, helping them build important skills and knowledge that will play a key role in the transition. It’s really crucial for SIA and other members of the ecosystem to keep engaging with young people on the implications of this transition and help them build the necessary skills that will help them stay valuable over time.



    What would be your message to our more than 1000 alumni ventures working across the world whose business and impact models were and still are under substantial pressure from the pandemic? Can they be hopeful that leadership will recognize their importance and value?

    I don’t want to sound unrealistic and say that everything is going great. However, I do think that social entrepreneurs across Europe should be hopeful, because there is definitely a clear understanding both at the country level and at the EU level that there should be more instruments out there to support and fund social ventures.

    On the negative side, the wheels of EU bureaucracy move quite slowly. I am still quite hopeful after seeing how quickly they moved during the pandemic to mitigate the crisis. There are already policies in place, so it is just a matter of time until they become more comprehensive.

    Finally, this leaves me with what we need to do as actors. We need to push harder. Some of the stakeholders were very well prepared and have been in the conversation with policy-makers for a long-time. Our goal should be to come together as an ecosystem to ensure our voice is heard and put positive pressure so the entrepreneurs we work with get the support they need.

    Photos sourced from 2021Portugal’s Flickr

  • What Does It Take To Internationalise A Social Venture?

    This article comes from the Enabling Social Entrepreneurs Scale Their Impact Internationally (ESESII) project, which includes a number of different actors from the global social impact ecosystem. More details can be found here.

    This article was written by Peter Vandor, Magdalena Winkler, and Martin Mehrwald.

    Recent years have seen a rapid increase in the number of social enterprises across the world, introducing a broad range of innovations to different industries. Recent estimates suggest that already 21% to 26% of start-ups in Europe operate with a social, community or environmental goal as a primary organizational purpose. Many of these ventures innovate and create novel approaches to address such challenges.

    However, even the best innovations can only unfold their impact potential when they are brought to scale. In light of the many pressing challenges global society is facing and the limited availability of resources, time and attention to solve them, scaling of the most effective and efficient solutions has been argued to be an ethical imperative. As popular quote, attributed to former US president Bill Clinton, puts it:

    Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The challenge of the 21st century is to find out what works and scale it up.

    In spite of this clear need for internationalising innovative social enterprises, the vast majority of social entrepreneurs operate only on a local scale. A survey of social entrepreneurs we conducted in the global Impact Hub Network showed that only 5.7% of early-stage social entrepreneurs declared having been actively internationalising their work in the past year, and only about 17% of organizations reported attempts to scale their activities overall (locally or internationally).

    Why is internationalisation a challenge for social entrepreneurs?

    The small numbers of internationalisation and scaling efforts among social entrepreneurs can be attributed to a number of reasons. First, there are fewer monetary incentives for growth in social entrepreneurship than in commercial entrepreneurship. Unlike for-commercial entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs often serve disadvantaged groups and address problems affecting disenfranchised groups or future generations – in these cases the need for their services does often not translate into (financial) demand. Second, in comparison with commercial enterprises, growth is not as strongly driven by investors and shareholders, who often have more space-bound interests or mandates. Similarly, founders’ motivations can be hard to scale as well, as they often stem from a sense of responsibility towards their local community and the desire to fix a problem that they experience themselves.

    Social entrepreneurs who aim to scale nonetheless also face a variety of challenges. Social ventures are often embedded deeply in complex and regulated service systems (e.g. secondary education) which are organised along the bounds of federal or state-level administrative units. In contrast with commercial markets, these systems are often less permeable for non-local actors, which provides another barrier to internationalisation. The broader ecosystem perspective shows that international support networks are disjointed and differences between countries’ policy frameworks can hinder SE internationalisation. Finally, current research has identified a lack of skills and competences as well as templates about modes of internationalisation for social entrepreneurs. In their study of social enterprises across Europe, Weber et al. (2015, p.53) make the rather pessimistic prognosis that “scaling across national borders is a major challenge for the social entrepreneurs of Europe and will remain so for the immediate future”.

    Key competences of social enterprise internationalisation: first impressions

    Against this background, Euclid NetworkmaterahubSynthesis Center for Research and Education, the International SEPT Competence Center at Leipzig UniversitySocial Impact Award and the Social Entrepreneurship Center at WU Vienna have teamed up in the framework of an Erasmus+ KA 2 Project. The main objectives of this project are to identify the skills and competences gap impeding social entrepreneurs to internationalise. Building on these insights, we aim to develop an innovative training curriculum for internationalising social entrepreneurs, as well as support national social enterprises support organisations’ and advise European and national policy-makers to enhance the capacity of social entrepreneurs’ to internationalise.

    As a first step, we used the past months for a deep dive into the topic. While data collection and analysis are still on their way and will help us gain a deeper understanding of the competences needed for internationalisation, some first insights are already worth noting.

    Amongst others, we build our analysis on a reading of over 150 research papers, seven case studies and an analyses of 579 social enterprises from the Impact Hub network, as well as insights and experiences in the consortium.

             1. Internationalisation is mastered by generalists and teams, not savants

    Internationalisation is a complex process that can take several years and requires a lot of attention. Rather than being yet another job to be done, internationalisation can present a set of new tasks and processes that remain with the organisation, including understanding one’s own services on a very deep level, building and maintaining relationships abroad, impact measurement, managing distributed workflows, and more. In addition, entrepreneurs face a myriad of new questions associated with working in a different country, from language, social and legal differences to the big and small cultural differences.

    Given the breadth of these demands, internationalisation is fairly demanding. As one of our interview partners, a social entrepreneur in the field of social inclusion put it:

    We were facing questions like ‘how do we build a working micro-climate with our partners’, ‘how do we navigate cultural differences’, ‘how do we develop strategy’… we never received external support, we had to learn these skills the hard way.

    Our reading of prior research confirms this point, with dozens of (sometimes very different) skills and competences highlighted as “important” or “critical” by respective articles that look at the phenomenon from their respective angle. This suggests that, as it often is in entrepreneurs, there is no one single silver bullet. Instead, expanding a social enterprise across borders requires a broad set of different competences in the entrepreneurs’ team and ecosystem.

            2. It takes a village to internationalise

    Given the many different competences needed for successful internationalisation, social entrepreneurs typically seek external support to make it happen. This support is not limited to funding, but often includes aspects of learning and building social capital. Our survey of internationalising social entrepreneurs in the Impact Hub networks provides us with some valuable clues (Table 1). Respondents indicated many areas in which external support was very important, including “building visibility and credibility” in the target country as well as its ecosystem, “feeling part of a larger community and network”, “find and keep good talent and staff” and “accessing new clients and beneficiaries”.

    Accessing these resources and competencies requires a broad network of relationship. Some resources can be best provided by expertise in the respective target market, others by training institutions, again others by advice from strong peer-networks. Therefore, any intervention aimed at supporting social entrepreneurs in international scaling will need to provide access to diverse networks of skill and expertise.

           3. Different paths require different vehicles

    Internationalisation can take different forms. Social entrepreneurs can decide to openly disseminate their knowledge by open sourcing their information and sharing their learnings live with anyone who wishes to replicate their learnings. A good example of this is provided by Cola Life, a successful innovator in health and development who has recently codified and shared freely their key insights in an open source “playbook”. Social entrepreneurs can also disseminate their knowledge internationally by offering trainings, advocacy and consulting, as exemplified by the Viennese food bank Wiener Tafel, member of a European network of food banks, which has provided consulting to dozens of entrepreneurs replicating their approach across borders.

    Other paths to internationalisation can provide more control and participation in the upsides of the venture. For example, the Styrian social enterprise atempo has pioneered franchising as a tool to grow their innovations in the field of inclusion and learning beyond country borders. Setting up and managing a franchise relationship requires a lot of investment and risk-taking from the entrepreneurs, but allows scaling atempo’s services and the tacit knowledge embedded in them while providing opportunities for mutual learning and quality assurance.

    Our survey data shows that these different approaches call for different competences. Organisations that internationalise though branching (i.e.: open subsidiaries abroad) reported high levels of support needs in many areas, in particular with respect to “gaining visibility and credibility”, “accessing new clients and beneficiaries” and as “finding and keeping new talent”. Entrepreneurs who chose more open approaches to internationalisation showed different priorities. While gaining access to communities and networks was reported as highly important by many respondents, topics related to funding and human resources were important to only a few respondents.

    Taken together, these findings underline the need to provide targeted support for internationalising social entrepreneurs. Support provisions need to be tailored to the respective internationalisation path chosen by the entrepreneurs, as well as to the challenges that arise from the fact that they scale impact and not merely commercial operations. Such support structures need to embrace different forms of learning, including learning from experts as well as successful peers. Doing so can have an essential effect on entrepreneurs, their ventures and their subsequent social impact.

    As one respondent put it in an interview:

    What would I do differently if I were to do internationalisation all over again? I would allow myself or the team to reach out to people who have done it before, instead of thinking we need to go through the process all by ourselves.

    Going forward, creating and communicating such learning opportunities will be the main goal for the ESESII consortium.

    Supported by:


  • Global Impact Report 2020 is out now!

    A year of crisis filled with uncertainty and hardship, 2020 saw the loss of many lives and livelihoods. The international Social Impact Award community faced an unprecedented threat – the business and impact models of our alumni, the access to our offerings for participants and more were in danger. However, by coming together as a community, we were able to not only adapt to the challenges but also improve our work and our offerings.

    The success of this approach was quite significant. From stories about providing internet access to marginalized youth in Georgia, to launching a social venture in COVID-19 times, the report showcases all of the incredible challenges that our community took on during this difficult time.

    Our experience during the crisis made one thing clear:

    Social innovation does play a vital role in rebooting our economies and societies, and this world’s youth is ready to take on the challenge.

    Jakob Detering, Managing Director, Social Impact Award International

    A big thank you to all those who supported us in these difficult times and who took part in our offerings. We hope this report gives you strength and confidence to keep marching onwards knowing that you have the support of this amazing community.

    Click the cover below to explore the report