• Local roots for global content

    While the strategic objectives around the impact field “awareness” are explorative in nature (see the previous blogpost), SIA’s educational strategy is based on ten years of successful activities in this domain. Since 2009, we have been active in 25 countries, offering over 1,000 educational workshops and events for 31,000+ young people. Through these educational offers, SIA provides its participants with the necessary tools, skills, and mindset to unfold their potential as innovators and social entrepreneurs.

    However, reflecting on our educational work, we identified several key impact drivers that proved to be instrumental in enhancing the entrepreneurial competencies of our young participants and helping them unleash their creative potential, which set the direction for the next four years.

    Most importantly, we try to reduce all barriers that keep youth from participating: lack of information, disciplinary and language barriers, geographic constraints, prejudice, and many others. We pursue a low-barrier approach by running workshops and events all across the countries in which we operate – not just the capitals. We continue offering our formats in the local language, choosing barrier-free workshop locations, avoiding business lingo where possible, answering all requests fast, etc. Most importantly, we spread our information broadly among the youth of all disciplines and geographic locations.

    We will also continue our efforts in transforming from an education program focused on students to one that reaches youth of all educational backgrounds, including underprivileged and marginalized youth people. Until 2023, we aim to have 30% of our workshop participants coming from disadvantaged backgrounds than tertiary institutions. As for the content of our educational interventions, we will continue to combine know-how with practical training and to provide opportunities for team formations during our workshops.

    What will be the role of online formats in our curricula?

    During the last ten years of providing social entrepreneurship education, we have learned that face-to-face education, interactive group work in a physical space, and live emotions are substantial in transforming vague intentions into concrete and feasible project ideas. Then, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to move all our education formats into the virtual space. We developed new webinar formats, partnered up with global players in the field of online education, trained our staff in online facilitation, built new features into our in-house support platforms, etc. In many aspects, this rapid transition has been a great success. However, it also showed the limitations of online interventions for achieving didactical objectives such as inspiration, co-creation, or enabling a sense of belonging among participating peers. The key learning is that online interventions are very helpful additions to the “toolbox” of capacity-building organizations. Nevertheless, they can only unfold their full potential if they are embedded and integrated into offline curricula and program designs. In light of these very recent experiences, we will offer our program in a blended learning format, interlinking newly developed virtual formats and web-based offers with in-place interventions.

    Photo credits: Alexander Gotter

    A few other key areas of SIA’s development around the topic of education should be highlighted. One is the objective to not only focus on promoting the founder role through our workshops and events. There are other roles that are as relevant as the founder to create impact – both within venture teams and as change agents in other roles in the corporate world, NGOs, or public institutions. We aim to use our educational interventions to raise awareness on the variety of ways a young person can use his or her talent to achieve impact. We will do so through case studies, the illustration of exemplary careers of SIA alumni, inspiring event speakers, etc.

    Connected to this broader perspective on impactful careers, we aim to build a competence model as an integral part of our 4-years strategy. This competence model shall illustrate the full set of skills one can obtain during our workshops. This is essential as it allows us to understand, measure, and communicate the development of our participants beyond the evolution of their venture ideas. Such competence developments are instrumental in increasing the employability and job-readiness of our young participants – a crucial dimension considering the high youth unemployment rates and brain drain challenges in many regions where we operate.

    Overall, we aim to reach and empower 12,000+ young citizens (18-30y) through our educational formats on an annual basis by 2023, reaching youth in 100+ cities/locations. Such interventions will annually support the creation of 1,000+ project drafts, which SIA will provide with individual and constructive feedback.

    In the next blog post of our series “Rebooting Social Innovation”, we will focus on the development of our incubation program in a post-pandemic world. The article will elaborate on how SIA will annually provide 230+ innovative social enterprises a seamless path from the idea generation to a market launch based on validated impact & business model – and what role wellbeing plays in all of that!


    This is the third 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 (coming up in the following weeks)
    SIA’s alumni community: Building a peer-community of young leaders (coming up in the following weeks)
    Deepening our impact: Stronger collaboration to achieve a common mission (coming up in the following weeks)
    Scaling our impact: Growing in an ambitious, yet healthy way (coming up in the following weeks)
    Strategizing with multiple stakeholders: An honest and intense look inwards and outwards (coming up in the following weeks)

  • Why we won’t bring the Silicon Valley to Nis

    It has always been a key objective of SIA’s work to raise awareness among youth (18 to 30 year-olds) about social entrepreneurship as a potential career path and vehicle for civic engagement. So far, we understood this part of our efforts primarily as a means to attract workshop participants and applicants. However, as much as it is important that SIA offers such educational and supportive opportunities, we should understand awareness as a stand-alone impact field. We need the youth’s talent and inspiration in rebuilding our societies and economies in a post-pandemic world. The COVID-19 crisis bears a unique opportunity to put social innovation and impact-driven entrepreneurship at the top of young talents’ career options.

    Those working in the field of social entrepreneurship for longer might assume that social entrepreneurship is already a topic that is well known among young people. Some might even think it’s a hype. Such an assumption, however, does not match our daily experiences in working with youth through SIA. The vast majority of young people are not aware of social entrepreneurship as a potential career path. The underlying reasons for this are manifold:

    • Low emphasis on self-efficacy, autonomous action, and problem-solving in public education (e.g. Chamard, 1989).
    • A narrow understanding of institutional responsibilities, with certain institutions perceived as main, or only legitimate actors to address social challenges, hampering civic action and social entrepreneurship (e.g. Defourny and Nyssens, 2010).
    • Weak support systems or even hostile environments for civic action and social entrepreneurship (Stephan et al., 2015; Vandor et al., 2017).
    • Lack of access to high levels of education and required economic or cultural resources, which are associated or even required for operating social ventures (see e.g. Estrin et al., 2016).

    We see a massive impact potential in strengthening our role as an inspirational platform that raises awareness among youth on the opportunities that social entrepreneurship bears – both as a vehicle to form and scale impactful businesses, but also a tool to enhance the competencies and empowerment of youth in a world in crisis.

    Thanks to our core program activities and ten years track record, SIA has the content at hand to inspire. In having supported the creation of more than 700 impact ventures throughout the last ten years, working with more than 1,000 partner organizations worldwide, and conducting impact measurements on an ongoing basis, we are exposed to an incredible wealth of inspiring venture stories, encouraging case studies, paradigmatic career paths, and convincing impact data. All we need to do is to translate this content into accessible and digestible content for youth.

    Not only can we directly access a vast amount of inspiring stories at hand. We can also rely on our well-connected network of licensees and partner organizations to contextualize it. Why is this so relevant?

    Think of a young person – let’s say a student from the Serbian city of Nis – and imagine this person watching a story of a Silicon Valley venture while scrolling through Instagram timeline. Will such content – as amazing as it might be – really inspire this young Serbian to get active? More likey, he/she will conclude that one should be on the US West coast (or at least in London or Berlin) to start his/her own project or initiative. Now, imagine instead of yet another US-based story, a video of a young social entrepreneur from Nis who started by winning the Social Impact Award, talking about how the venture is growing despite the difficult circumstances in Serbia. This might at least make the viewer think twice whether social entrepreneurship could be an interesting career path. It is this contextualization of content – combined with the use of local language – that we believe is key for growing the awareness of social entrepreneurship beyond our current bubbles.

    Thus, we have set ourselves an ambitious goal: in 2023, we aim to reach ten million young people through our awareness-raising efforts. To achieve this objective, we will use the next years to build effective systems for collecting, curating, and disseminating inspiring content. We will do so in collaboration with individuals, organizations, and networks from both within and outside of our current community. In addition, we will grow our internal capacity for storytelling and communications. We will use all relevant channels available for reaching our young audience; with a strong focus on social media. Depending on both our resources and the feedback from our audiences, we might even start exploring stand-alone products for awareness-raising such as podcasts, books, or similar.

    In the next blog post of our strategy series “Rebooting Social Innovation”, we will focus on the importance of social innovation education to unfold the youths’ potential as innovators and entrepreneurs in a post-pandemic world. The article will elaborate on how SIA aims to annually empower 12,000+ young talents by 2023 through our highly qualitative and accessible education formats.

    This is the second 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 (coming up in the following weeks)
    SIA’s alumni community: Building a peer-community of young leaders (coming up in the following weeks)
    Deepening our impact: Stronger collaboration to achieve a common mission (coming up in the following weeks)
    Scaling our impact: Growing in an ambitious, yet healthy way (coming up in the following weeks)
    Strategizing with multiple stakeholders: An honest and intense look inwards and outwards (coming up in the following weeks)

  • A post-pandemic world needs social innovation more than ever

    The immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the social innovation sector are alarming. Not only is it more difficult to reach and support beneficiaries as well as nascent social entrepreneurs, but also business models of many social businesses and capacity-building organizations – including SIA’s alumni ventures and SIA Hosts – are threatened by the economic downturn. In such difficult times, it is important to focus on what is right in front of you. This is why in the course of 2020, SIA International focuses its attention on the immediate support of its constituencies by developing new online formats, supporting the fundraising of SIA hosts, and building closer relations to our alumni.

    While being focused on navigating through these difficult times and trying to be a helping hand to those who are affected the most, we should not lose sight of the long-term perspective. How will the post-pandemic world look like? What role shall an international, youth-oriented community like SIA play in such a world? In exploring answers to these questions, we can go beyond the immediate “crisis mode” and regain our proactive approach to creating the future with our own hands and minds.

    In doing so, we realize that this crisis bears a unique opportunity for the field of social innovation and impact-driven entrepreneurship. Rebooting the social innovation sector will be a tremendous challenge that needs young talent and effective capacity-building programs such as SIA more than ever. It is disruptive times like these that enable social innovation and bear numerous entrepreneurial opportunities.

    This is why we are committed – hand in hand with the next generation of change makers – to play a vital role in making the post-pandemic world, one that is more just and inclusive.

    This blogpost series aims at outlining SIA’s strategic approach to put social innovation at the core of the rebooting process of our economies and societies. Together with more than 1,000 partner organizations, we will co-create a post-pandemic world that is juster, more sustainable, more caring, and more inclusive. In this series, we will elaborate on how we’ll do this. Each blog post will shed light on a specific aspect of this strategy. The first focus will be on the topic of awareness and inspiration: How can we inspire 10 million young talents to take an active role in shaping our post-pandemic world through social entrepreneurship?

    This is the first 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 (coming up in the following weeks)
    SIA’s alumni community: Building a peer-community of young leaders (coming up in the following weeks)
    Deepening our impact: Stronger collaboration to achieve a common mission (coming up in the following weeks)
    Scaling our impact: Growing in an ambitious, yet healthy way (coming up in the following weeks)
    Strategizing with multiple stakeholders: An honest and intense look inwards and outwards (coming up in the following weeks)

  • 7 reasons why you should NOT join SIA


    Have you ever heard of SIA before? No? Yes?

    Well, here is a short bio: Founded in 2009, the Social Impact Award conducts education and incubation programs in more than 15 countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Its mission is to support social entrepreneurs in the early stages of both developing and implementing innovative business solutions to address key societal challenges. SIA  organizes events and workshops to raise awareness of social entrepreneurship and to provide the necessary skills for young entrepreneurs. 

    Twice a year, we the SIA team based in Vienna recruit new volunteers to support us with various tasks. As we are currently recruiting new volunteers, we thought it is of great importance to inform the newcomers about the real-life of a SIA-volunteer. We asked the current volunteers about the last half-year they spent with SIA and these are the 7 reasons they mentioned, why you should NOT join SIA:

    1. You will have to meet a bunch of cool, creative, diverse, and caring people from different countries, work, and go out with them on a REGULAR BASIS. No, thank you!

    2. You will have to take on responsibility from day one in a team that believes progress is always a team effort. And they always talk about creating impact and becoming a part of something bigger. Nobody told me that beforehand!

    3. You get to work with people from various fields who can teach you a lot about what social entrepreneurship means and how to create social impact. And who would like that?

    4. You will have to be open to the possibility of shaping your own learning experience by focusing on the development of your current skills or learning new ones. Is this really necessary?

    5. You will have to learn about Holacracy, a new horizontal management technique that requires your participation in the decision making progress. Whaaat?

    6. You will have to take part in interactive tactical meetings, with a team that loves to reflect and always tries to achieve higher goals. Even the Coronavirus can´t stop them!

    7. You will have to become a “real” part of the team, they don’t treat you “just like another volunteer”. That is new to me!


    And most importantly: you definitely shouldn’t join SIA if you are allergic to “Gute Laune”.

    What do you think now? If you still haven’t changed your mind and want to join the team, then hurry up, the application period for SIA volunteering team ends on the 31st of May


  • SIA is nominated for TRIGOS 2019 Award!

    We have been recognized for our efforts to engage youth internationally!

    Social Impact Award is happy to announce that we are nominated for this year’s TRIGOS Award, out of 147 submissions.

    Social Impact Award aims at supporting aspiring young social entrepreneurs in the development and implementation of their innovative ideas. In the past, we have reached over 25,000 young people in Europe, Central Asia, and East Africa.

    The jury was impressed by our social franchising system and our ability to build the capacity of the organizations on the ground. This proven process also includes several control and feedback loops as well as regular evaluations by WU Vienna.

    TRIGOS is a prestigious award for responsible businesses, awarded in six different categories. The award recognizes companies who are role models, contributing to the sustainable future of Austrian society, economy, and environment. Since 2004, more than 2,200 Austrian companies have submitted a wide variety of exemplary and trend-setting projects, out of which around 270 have been awarded with TRIGOS.

    We will find out whether SIA has won in the category International Engagement on June 12 at the TRIGOS Gala. We are looking forward to it!

  • Youth Hostel Abrašević

    Redesigning shipping containers into living space for travellers

    Amar Maksumić and the rest of the team have worked hard to gather needed resources for the hostel, and in doing so they applied for Social Impact Award 2016 and won.

    Travelling around the world is a wish we all humans are guilty of, because who can resist wonders of travelling and seeing and experiencing the culture, nature and lifestyles of different places and countries. Those who travel want to live the local experience and immerse themselves into their treasures. They want to eat where the locals eat, party in best party locations, experience places not offered in tourist booklets. They want to feel at home, or at least like they are visiting a friend.

    Unfortunately, not everyone has a friend in every place of the world, but luckily there are places where everyone is welcomed as dear friends instead of guests. Those places are often hostels, and even more specifically – youth hostels.  If you want to feel like at home – Youth Hostel Abrašević is your go-to place. It’s located in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the heart of City of Mostar, only ten minutes walking distance from old town and less than five minutes from city center.

    This hostel was born as a project of young people from Mostar.  Amar Maksumić and the rest of the team have worked hard to gather needed resources for the hostel, and in doing so they applied for Social Impact Award 2016 and won. They built the hostel themselves and with the assistance of the locals, provided through few “volunteer working actions”, thus engaging the local community as well. The hostel was built from recycled shipping containers, which were repurposed and adopted to serve as lodging and accommodation for friendly travellers. Hostel is equipped with functional kitchen and bathrooms as well.

    The hostel is located on the roof of Youth Cultural Center Abrašević, and is part of the wider cultural local ecosystem created by this organization for all Mostar and youth visiting their city.  They describe themselves as a safe space for young people, for art and creative self-expression, for open discussions and exchange of ideas. Ideas that promote discrimination, or abolishing of any human right are not welcome here. Youth Hostel shares the same vision and values, which is why Youth Cultural Center was the perfect  spot to build the hostel.

    Although tourists are highly relevant to hostel’s work, the space is actually designed to serve a higher local purpose: to connect youth from a deeply divided City of Mostar. Youth Cultural Center hosts over 80 cultural events over the year and the Youth Hostel is a response to the need which already existed and which was an open space to create new jobs. Hostel staff and employees would be given to students of Mostar, as a support to student and youth employment in the country where more than 60% of youth is unemployed.

    Youth Hostel is a unique place in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but they hope to inspire others to join the philosophy behind their social business and mission.

    So, what are you waiting for? Check the calendar of events and weather forecast and pack your bags, Mostar and Youth Hostel await you!


  • Be prepared for the future: start your own venture!

    Today’s youth is made up of incredibly talented individuals with the potential to use their knowledge and creativity to make the world a better place. Indeed, it is the most knowledgeable generation that has ever lived; moreover, completion of tertiary education keeps increasing. However, the job market is changing and a significant number of these students will never be employees in the traditional sense. The traditional concept of the full-time, permanent job in which a worker is contracted to work for a single employer in return for a guaranteed salary – as experienced by baby-boomers – is long gone.

    When is the perfect time to have your first entrepreneurial experience? The answer, in our opinion, is: during your studies!

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, the average person born between 1957 and 1964 held 11.7 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48 and nearly half of these positions were held between 18 and 24. Millennials and, even more so, Generation Z are predicted to change jobs at least twice as many times as their parents did. Furthermore, a PwC report on the future of work indicates that 46% of HR professionals expect at least 20% of their workforce to be made up of contractors or temporary workers by 2022. Finally, the integration of technology and artificial intelligence (AI) in most, if not all, economic sectors will lead to further disruption of the current job market.

    In this environment, where employment is less secure and in general less available, with machines performing most of the repetitive tasks, there will be a greater interest in entrepreneurial knowledge as humans’ competitive advantage will lie in creativity, soft-skills and problem-solving skills. Veronica Colondam, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of YCAB Foundation, who is an expert from the Forum’s Young Global Leaders community, declared that the most important skill of tomorrow is an entrepreneurial spirit – and the skills to know how to apply it: “It is not enough to be innovative or collaborative, it is also about knowing when to apply each of them, and how they can be used in a business context.” Indeed, corporations only have interest in recruiting young entrepreneurs as they bring in new perspectives and ideas as, in the end, even large corporations won’t exist in the future without innovation.

    A 2012 study of 11,000 MBA graduates from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business showed that a career in entrepreneurship, more than any other business- related job, correlates with happiness independently of how much money was made. One of the primary reasons for the happier career is the perceived greater control over one’s own destiny.

    So now that you have all decided to start a career in entrepreneurship, the question that remains to be answered is the following: when is the perfect time to have your first entrepreneurial experience? The answer, in our opinion, is: during your studies! Not really a surprise, as we are the organizers, implementers and supporters of the Social Impact Award. Below you will find 5 generally accepted reasons that support our Claim.

    1.A valuable experience to add on your resume: the normal path to employment -study hard, get good grades, graduate and land your first job – is nearly non-existent. Now, more and more employers expect students to have at least one work experience, yet few are offering such first job experiences. A possible solution to these missing opportunities is for students to develop a small business or a side project during their studies. So, by starting your own project you will have gained valuable experience to put on your resume. Moreover, if your business is extremely successful, then you won’t even need to worry about getting a full-time job after graduation.

    2.Low risk: the objective of creating a social venture for a student does not lie in financial profits nor does (s)he have a family to maintain. The reason why the majority of start-ups fail is that most people never try to implement their innovative ideas! But even if students do fail, the experience gained is invaluable and well worth the time invested. Indeed, by becoming an “entrepreneur” student you learn to be accountable for your actions, nurture your creativity and develop your communication, teamwork and sales skills. In addition, the sooner you can test your ideas, the better; perhaps from an unsuccessful idea, a better one will be born and with the knowledge and experience learned, chances of success increase.

    3. An easily accessible customer market: family, friends and teachers are perfect potential clients. It is very likely that people will be interested and encourage the young adult to pursue his/her entrepreneurial project and support him/her along the way. This will also come in handy when doing market research as getting feedback from friends and teachers is relatively easy. In addition, trends spread quickly in a school environment and everyone is aware of them: creating a small business in response to a current trend can be easy and at the same time, meet a real demand. For example, Thomas Suarez, a 12-year-old app developer, created his app Bustin Jieber, a “whack-a-mole” game in which you pummel the Biebs. When asked why he created it, Suarez stated that “a lot of people at school disliked Justin Bieber a little bit, so I decided to make the app.

    4. Access to knowledge: Successful entrepreneurs love to give advice to young would-be entrepreneurs. They will be happy to find some time and give you their best tips as they will see you as a student trying to learn more about their project(s) than a competitor trying to steal their recipe for success. Furthermore, Universities and other educational institutes offer an increasing number of entrepreneurship courses, incubation programs and funds for student start-ups. In addition, there are plenty of networking opportunities on campus. Conferences on issues or themes addressed by your start-up, companies scouting the best students, guest lecturers are among the best opportunities to make a first lead which might in the end turn into your first client.

    5. Access to company first needs: workspace, internet connection, meeting areas, printing tools, etc. Nearly all your basic needs as an entrepreneur can be met on campus. This will allow you to get your project running more quickly and with fewer initial operational costs. In addition, it will be easy to recruit volunteers or first employees as you have access to a pool of students working in different fields, with some free time on their hands and interested to have a first job experience.

    It is not enough to be innovative or collaborative, it is also about knowing when to apply each of them, and how they can be used in a business context.

    So by now you are ready to start creating your first entrepreneurial venture, right? Then, why not starting a social venture to do good for others at the same time? This social aspect to your start-up could also become part of your unique selling proposition and be used as a way to differentiate your start-up from competitors. If you are still not sure of what a social venture is, then don’t hesitate to take part in one of the 210+ events & workshops organized by the Social Impact Award throughout Europe and beyond during the next year. 



  • 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


    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.

  • 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