This guest blog post is the third and final written by Tomas Rosenfeld, Impact Hub Berlin’s outgoing German Chancellor Fellow from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Read the first post here and the second here.

In the recently released documentary, The Forum, we can watch the World Economic Forum from behind the scenes for the very first time. In the film, we see uncomfortable moments of interaction between the then newly elected Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, and figures like former US presidential candidate, Al Gore or Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Jennifer Morgan. I imagine that the scenes are disturbing for anyone concerned about the environment. For many Brazilians, including this author, the desire is to close the eyes, leave the room or break the television.

When our head of state and government makes us feel ashamed, we can find reasons for hope by observing the many other leaders in several sectors of Brazilian society. While deforestation grows, numerous initiatives and impact businesses have been emerging to contribute to the preservation of the largest tropical forest in the world.

Innovators on the ground

To better understand what’s happening in the Amazonian impact sector, I interviewed Juliana Teles, Co-founder of Impact Hub Manaus. If I were to summarise Juliana’s biography as an entrepreneur, I’d say that the central point for her is the ‘round trip’. Juliana says that it was only after working at AIESEC, going for an exchange programme in Uganda, and living for almost two years in São Paulo, that she started to really ‘see’ her hometown of Manaus. She says that she needed the experiences in other cities and countries to realise her desire to contribute to the development of the city in which she was born. It was only after the return that her entrepreneurial journey began.

When she decided, together with her business partner, Marcus Bessa, to set up an Impact Hub in the middle of the most populated city in the Amazonian region, it was also the round trip that helped. As one of the main sponsors of the country’s second-largest folk celebration, the Parintins Festival, Coca-Cola rents a ship every year to take groups of VIP guests to the event. After the party was over, however, the boat always returned empty. The company then invited the newly created Impact Hub, together with other impact organisations, to think about how to use it at this idle time. The idea presented was called The Boat Challenge, an event for social entrepreneurs willing to develop solutions to some of the region’s socio-economic issues. Therefore, it was the return from the festival that gave rise to the first work of the local Impact Hub.

A network for change

Among the initiatives currently hosted at IH Manaus, Juliana mentions Nakau, a social enterprise that produces chocolate from native Amazonian cocoa. By valuing a native fruit and the involvement of agro-extractive riverside communities in the value chain, the company has already contributed to the preservation of more than 3,000 hectares of forest, in addition to increasing the income of the families involved.

Nakau was also one of the fifteen businesses selected to participate in the 2020 edition of the Partnership for the Amazon Platform Acceleration Program (PPA, in the original acronym), which has the support of several local NGOs and funding from USAID, among others. Another company selected that same year was Nossa Fruits, which sells another traditional product from the Amazon rainforest: Açaí.

The Açaí is a small berry that grows on top of palm trees. Its frozen pulp is usually consumed accompanied by other fresh fruits. According to Nossa Fruits’ website, Açaí is considered a superfruit because its nutritional composition is exceptional – compared to blueberries, it has antioxidant power five times higher and is 18 times richer in manganese. The focus of Nossa Fruits is to popularise the consumption of the Amazonian fruit on European soil, where it is still less well-known. To achieve this, they implemented a value chain in which the entire harvest comes from wild palm trees in certified organic forest areas, supported by several partners, among them German Development Cooperation (GIZ).

Obviously, we won’t reverse the course of Brazilian politics simply by sustainably consuming the fruits of the Amazon (although for those who want to contribute to this mission, both Nakau and Nossa Fruits products can be purchased on the companies’ websites – and delivered in Berlin). But it’s important to amplify the local voices of the sustainable economy where we find them, to change the narrative and show the way that a better, greener and kinder society can be built. By following the work of Impact Hubs on the frontline of the climate crisis, you may find the inspiration to take action where you are, too.

About the series: This is the third and last article in a series written as part of the author’s participation in the German Chancellor Fellowship programme of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Together with Impact Hub Berlin, Tomas has been researching social entrepreneurs who are transforming the current reality of the city. The first two articles were dedicated to the physical reality of Berlin, and the third to the author’s native country, Brazil. Based on the Chinese-American geographer Yi-Fu Tuan’s ideas, where places are defined as spaces endowed with value, the three articles have in common the fact that they consider the experiences attributed to localities as a central aspect of the social entrepreneur’s activity.

About the author: Tomas Rosenfeld holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and a masters in International Economics. He has more than ten years of experience working within the social innovation field, especially in Brazil, where he was born. Tomas is also a writer and has published two novels, the first of which was a finalist for the São Paulo Literature Prize.

Interested in joining our community? Find out more or contact [email protected].

Climate change has been around for a long time – and its effects have been felt for just as long: in everyday life, on our doorstep and in the cities where we live. Then there are the challenges posed by the rapid growth of cities. By 2050, more than two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities, according to projections. In this context, the international city network C40 estimates that our cities produce more than 70% of global greenhouse gases. In order to counter climate change in our cities, the Climate-KIC “Climathon” – a marathon of ideas for urban climate innovations – has been held around the world for several years now…

…Read the full blog post (in German) on Impact Hub Germany’s website or sign up straight away for Climathon Germany, starting Friday 13th November 2020.

This guest blog post is the second written by Tomas Rosenfeld, Impact Hub Berlin’s current German Chancellor Fellow from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Read the first post here.


Berlin’s identity is based not on stability, but on change.


As we climb the stairs at the entrance of the German Historical Museum, we come across an immense moving map on our left. The succession of contours projected by coloured lights on the white wall shows clearly the result of the passage of time across the borders of the European continent.


The geometric forms representing the nation states expand and shrink as the decades go by. After a few thousand years and back on the first floor of the building, the last thing a visitor finds is the museum store. Inside, on a large wooden table, I saw for the first time Alexandra Richie’s book, The Faust’s Metropolis: a History of Berlin.


Like the map at the entrance of the museum, Richie explains history from a geographical perspective. The key point of her book is that Berlin’s identity is based not on stability, but on change. For all of us involved in this community of changemakers, it is certainly a provocative definition.


The essence of the city


Inspired by the author’s ideas, I asked social entrepreneurs and members of Impact Hub Berlin‘s community about the place that in their opinion would represent the essence of the city.


The questions were asked in the early months of 2020, a world that now seems distant. When people, goods, and capital flowed freely across borders. While saying goodbye to globalisation as we know it, this article looks at the provocations of social entrepreneurs on different aspects of the current frontiers.


The interviews are part of a research project that I’m carrying out with the support of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, on social entrepreneurs in Berlin. The question about a space in the city that synthesises its essence was not initially in my questionnaires, but I started to integrate it as a closing question for the interview.


Linguistic borders


I inaugurated the question with Franziska Hirschelmann, COO at jobs4refugees, a charitable organisation founded in 2015 in Berlin and whose mission is to help refugees find work and apprenticeships. When choosing a location in the city that represents its essence, she mentions a specific type of border: a linguistic one.



For Franziska, the Sophie-Scholl-Schule represents a central element in the immigrant integration process by offering quality bilingual education. In Berlin, there are more than thirty public schools that teach both German and foreign languages. The school located in the Schöneberg district is regarded as a quality model in the city and is named after the anti-Nazi political activist and one of the creators of the Weiße Rose movement, a non-violent, intellectual resistance group.


Matthias Scheffelmeier, partner at Ashoka Germany and founding board member at the Social Entrepreneurship Netzwerk Deutschland (SEND), was the second person to answer the question. Maybe feeling that I was still trying something new, I got a totally spontaneous answer: “In a private note,” he told me, “I would choose Berghain. This is a space from another world. Completely open, creative, almost out of this planet. It tells a lot about the freedom represented by the city.”



The name of one of the most famous clubs in the city is the union between the final syllables of two localities: Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain, “berg” and “hain”: mountain and grove. A border region between two districts that were completely separated by the wall. Nowadays the club represents a different type of border, between a real and an imaginary world.


Hybridity, dialogue, and frontier


Frank Hoffmann is the founder of Discovering Hands, a social enterprise that trains blind and visually impaired women to become Medical Tactile Examiners (MTEs), deploying them for the early detection of breast cancer.



When choosing a location in Berlin, Frank chose a courtyard, the space that by definition integrates interior and exterior. More specifically, he indicates the Hackesche Höfe, a set of buildings that stands between Sophienstraße and Rosenthaler Straße, which are connected by eight internal courtyards. The place is the largest architectural complex of closed courtyards in the country and has been protected since 1977 as a historical heritage site.


The courtyards are constructed spaces, with four walls and a floor, but no roof. Due to the absence of this elementary architectural element, generally seen as a metaphor for shelter, the courtyard integrates the sky with the built space. In that sense, it sounds like the perfect urbanist essence of Berlin, as an architectural landmark of hybridity, dialogue, and frontier. A space that allows itself to change, in the light of day, rain, and sun. An open synthesis of a city that, as Alexandra Richie points out, has never been at peace with stability, living in constant change.


About the author: Tomas Rosenfeld holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and a masters in International Economics. He has more than ten years of experience working within the social innovation field, especially in Brazil, where he was born. Tomas is also a writer and has published two novels, the first of which was a finalist for the São Paulo Literature Prize. He is currently a fellow of the German Chancellor Fellowship programme for tomorrow’s leaders at the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Together with Impact Hub Berlin, Tomas is researching social entrepreneurs who are transforming the current reality of the city.


Interested in joining our community? Find out more or contact [email protected]


This guest blog post is the first written by Tomas Rosenfeld, Impact Hub Berlin’s current German Chancellor Fellow from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.


Berlin’s identity is based not on stability, but on change.


This is a point made by Alexandra Richie in her book, Faust’s Metropolis: a History of Berlin. In the book, Richie describes the many physical and imaginary changes that the German capital has undergone in recent centuries.


For all of us involved in Berlin’s community of changemakers, it is certainly an appropriate definition. What can a city like this teach us about the past, present, and future of social transformation? We asked social entrepreneurs, artists and members of our community about the place that for them represents the essence of the Berlin and the concept of change.


The questions were asked in the early months of 2020 – a world that now seems distant – back when we could go out on the streets and enjoy anywhere we wanted. In these times of increased isolation, it seems more important than ever to exercise our imagination, to remember how things were and can be again.


Perttu Ratilainen is co-founder of Radbahn Berlin, a project that aims to transform “the forgotten space along Berlin’s famous U1 elevated subway line into a major urban thoroughfare and create a space for contemporary mobility, innovation, and leisure.”


When I ask about one place in the city, he laughs, turns the rotating chair in which he is sitting and, still smiling, responds: “Tempelhof. Berlin still has so much space. It is not such a densely populated city and Tempelhof reminds us of the existence of these spaces.”


The Tempelhof building was once of the largest on the planet, and its open space is now one of the biggest parks in the city.


On Radbahn’s website, we see seven of the founders of the project throwing paper airplanes with the former airport as a background. The Tempelhof building was once of the largest on the planet, and its open space is now one of the biggest parks in the city.


In addition to the abundance of space, Tempelhof is a symbol of the complexity of layers that the city has acquired. A place that has been a Turkish graveyard, a concentration camp, the location of the first ascent of an aluminium balloon, and – more recently – a shelter for refugees. A park with next-to-no trees and an airstrip, it occupies a unique place in Berlin’s collective consciousness.



Gema Aparicio is a graphic designer and co-founder of Eat Small, whose mission is to reinforce animal health while supporting planet Earth. Their food and treats for dogs have no trace of any fish, poultry or mammal. Instead, they offer a source of nutritive, ecological protein that surpasses any meat on sustainability and ethical aspects: insect protein.


Gema chose Tacheles as her location in the city. The place was an art centre and housed an artist’s collective for two decades, occupying the large building and sculpture park on Oranienburger Straße.


The place was a symbol of freedom and creativity.


The building was originally a department store in the Jewish quarter, later serving as a Nazi prison and finally, after the fall of the wall, it was taken over by artists, who called it Tacheles, after the Yiddish word meaning “straight-talk”. The place was a symbol of freedom and creativity, says Gema. The building is currently being renovated and under a real estate development plan, just the latest change in a long line of them.


When I ask Gunter Demnig for a place in the city, he is at first silent and then says: “it doesn’t exist. Berlin does not have an essence; there are very different districts, with very diverse histories only recently united.”



Demnig, born in Berlin in 1947, is an artist who has installed more than 70,000 Stolpersteine in 25 countries to commemorate people persecuted or murdered by the Nazi regime. He concluded: “I’m sorry, but I can’t give you an answer.”


I smile while listening to him, allowing the silence to change once again the image the city had just begun to form.


About the author: Tomas Rosenfeld holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and a masters in International Economics. He has more than ten years of experience working within the social innovation field, especially in Brazil, where he was born. Tomas is also a writer and has published two novels, the first of which was a finalist for the São Paulo Literature Prize. He is currently a fellow of the German Chancellor Fellowship program for tomorrow’s leaders of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. 

Together with Impact Hub Berlin, Tomas is researching social entrepreneurs who are transforming the current reality of the city.


Interested in joining our community? Find out more or contact [email protected]

Everybody is talking about it, things are changing and we have become increasingly aware of the impact of our daily consumption. We can do better! We have asked ourselves, how we can be more responsible as consumers and make better choices that aren’t harmful for the planet and for society.

“Achieving economic growth and sustainable development requires that we urgently reduce our ecological footprint by changing the way we produce and consume goods and resources. Agriculture is the biggest user of water worldwide, and irrigation now claims close to 70 percent of all freshwater for human use.” explains the United Nations Development Programme.

In order to stress how important change is, here are some numbers:

1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted every year, while almost 2 billion people go hungry or undernourished.

The food sector accounts for around 22 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, largely from the conversion of forests into farmland.

Globally, 2 billion people are overweight or obese.

Only 3 percent of the world’s water is fresh (drinkable), and humans are using it faster than nature can replenish it.

If people everywhere switched to energy efficient lightbulbs, the world would save US$120 billion annually.

One-fifth of the world’s final energy consumption in 2013 was from renewable sources.

The term ‘sustainable consumption’ refers to the environmental and social dimensions of how we purchase goods and services.

There are three dimensions within that concept:


Here are some tips on how to consume responsibly:


1. Chose eco-friendly transport

Ride your bike if the weather is nice. And if cars are unavoidable, why not use a car share service in order to reduce the impact on resources? In Berlin, Clever Shuttle and Berlkönig offer ridepooling via apps that provide affordable and eco-friendly door-to-door transportation. Jelbi (who participated in our Better Together Award programme earlier this year), also located in Berlin, give you a great overview of all mobility options. 😉


2. Plan your grocery shopping

What are you going to eat this week? Be as accurate in your estimations as possible before you shop for groceries. Find out in advance about special food requirements of your guests, should you throw a dinner party. As a result, you’ll be able to minimise food waste. Even better: pick up some rescued food from Sir Plus. Need something delivering? Then order a bike courier from Impact Hub Berlin members, Imagine Cargo.


3. Think before you print

6. Swap clothes or buy second hand

Most of us tend to buy too much to wear, so private sales and swaps can be a great way to get ‘new’ clothes or to get rid of the ones you no longer need or want. eBay is a great place to sell, or use apps like Vinted, which let you sell and swap clothes, shoes and accessories.


Impact Hub Berlin is a catalyst for social innovation – we are a community, a consultancy and a creative space.This is the indispensible, inspirational and practical guide to being resourceful by design within the home. Save money, save the planet and stay ahead in the style stakes. If something’s going spare, there’s a use for it somewhere.

Buy it on sustainable bookstore, ecolibri.

A network of committed entrepreneurial communities can truly create positive change at scale.

Inspiring, connecting and enabling entrepreneurs, Impact Hub is exemplary in showing how a network of entrepreneurial communities can be deeply embedded locally, while providing powerful global connections, acting as a multiplier and amplifier for the small and medium enterprise sector around the globe.

With a community of over 16,500 members in 55+ countries, we have created a series of safe and nurturing spaces that give members access to ideas, markets and collaborators around the world. Deeply attuned with the critical social and environmental issues in their respective countries, our diverse network shows how collaboration can drive impact at scale.

We all love a happy ending – when the princess is saved from her castle and marries prince charming. Or vice versa. This is exactly how we felt, after receiving a letter from one of our members, Shamala. It was the quintessential Impact Hub member story, the dream or hope of what we do here and what we work for is all worth it, and it reads like so…

“Serendipity – a word you often hear Nele Kapretz, the co-founder of Impact Hub say. It encapsulates my relationship with Impact Hub Berlin: it is serendipitous. I was introduced to Leon Reiner, another co-founder o0f Impact Hub Berlin, and after our first interaction, I had signed up to be a member – even though I did not live in Berlin. Very soon after, Leon asked me to mentor one of the teams on the F-Lane Vodafone Institute Accelerator for female Empowerment which is co- hosted by Impact Hub Berlin.

Serendipity – today, the team I mentored and I are partners in our work: I visited Mozambique because of the relationship that had formed and it is a case of upwards and onwards. Fast forward to half a year later, when an international Blockchain Hackathon was hosted at the Impact Hub Berlin. I entered my name, knowing it would be a great platform to learn more about using the technology for my project, Hanai. As the day approached for the weekend long Hackathon, I was reluctant, afraid of my lack of knowledge, and just generally was dragging my feet. I am so glad I showed up. As fate would have it, when we were all asked to pitch what we wanted to work on in a few sentences and see if teams formed around the idea, my idea of somehow engaging marginalised communities using a tool like blockchain gained the attention and three other lovely young men formed a team with me to see to the idea. We worked all weekend and ended up winning third prize, which got us a ticket to Shanghai and all the fame that comes with it:) More importantly, two of the lovely lads who approached me to work on the idea during the hackathon, continue to work with Hanai as an idea, Hanai as a concept. We formed a team which is now a team of five. And for that, I am thankful to the Impact Hub Berlin and will always be!

Moving into the future, as Hanai is now based out of the Silicon Valley with team mates in Berlin, France, London, Luxembourg, I will always, always, be grateful for the friendships that formed, the opportunities that keep coming my way, the chance to continue to contribute to the community, and for being such amazing peeps – thank you Impact Hub Berlin!”

Thank you dear Shamala, you added meaning to everything we do <3 #transitionteam

The Engineers of Serendipity 

– written by Clara Niedt, Acceleration Team


Do you remember this one time, when you were introduced to this person who told you something seemingly random – and it completely made you change your life path? Yes? That was serendipity getting at you!

For the ones that have not been this lucky (just yet), the good news is that this is exactly what we do at Impact Hub Berlin: we facilitate connections between unlikely allies and act as ecosystem builder – you could say, we are the engineers of serendipity. The implications of this work are far-reaching and stood out to me during this last year especially while managing the second edition of the Digital Imagination Challenge that we ran together with Unitymedia and Sozialhelden.



The Digital Imagination Challenge is an innovation competition for tech solutions that reduce barriers to foster inclusion of people with disability in all areas of everyday life. Rapid technological developments and the digitalization revolutionized our society and offer previous unimaginable chances and innovations, that have the possibility to touch millions of lives. Unitymedia together with its cooperation partners Sozialhelden and Impact Hub Berlin searched for innovative approaches that use technology to reduce barriers and make inclusion at home, at work and in the leisure sphere possible.



But what is ecosystem building actually and why is it so important?

In dynamic environments, where uncertainty and change prevail, players cooperate to learn from different perspectives and build on each others resources to create new forms of value. The purpose of ecosystem builders thereby goes beyond acting as hubs in centralized systems, introducing different entities to one another. It is about identifying opportunities in bringing together unfamiliar partners whose spheres of operation would usually not overlap – unlikely allies –  and encouraging them to work together (Furr, Shipilov, 2018).


Ecosystem building at the Digital Imagination Challenge

In the context of the Digital Imagination Challenge, this meant the  involvement of all stakeholders: Unitymedia as initiator, Sozialhelden and us as cooperation partners, as well as media, event and network partners, the jury, the press, relevant potential partners and investors … and as fundamental element of this ecosystem: the entrepreneurs themselves.

Taking this further, involving the teams meant more than facilitating peer-to-peer exchange between winners. Managing already the second edition of the DIC, it meant finding synergies between all previously accelerated teams to move away from a thinking of consequent and separate cohorts to building an ecosystem that comprises participants from across unfamiliar spheres and thus lays the stepping stone for further development for them.


Serendipity at work

How serendipity was engineered within the Digital Imagination Challenge is wonderfully depicted by telling the story of participating team everGuide. They developed an awe-inspiringly correct indoor-navigation system which helps you find your way around places, where GPS  fails the user. Like this, the technology enables blind and visually impaired people to navigate independently in large buildings, underground stations etc.

Their challenge during the DIC was to grow their business to the next level and get investment ready. Despite having first customers, they struggled to convince with the advantages for blind people, as customers such as airport operators cared more about efficiency gains involved in guiding people through buildings in certain ways, causing everGuide to miss out on reaching some 1.2 million blind potential users in Germany (Bertram, 2005). Eventually a use-case was found that clearly shows the gains of the navigation technology for blind people: a cooperation with the German Central Library for the Blind (DZB), who had won the challenge’s last edition with their solution to scan e-books for accessibility, was initiated through the DIC mentoring program. The DZB benefits from everGuide’s solution as it is highly relevant to their visitors. In exchange, it acts as feedback platform for everGuide and opportunity for them to get in touch with blind users. Who would have thought this would happen when everGuide first applied to the DIC?


Call to action

By focusing on the entrepreneur, identifying possible intersections and telling their stories, we hope to lay the ground work for creating more synergies (Kauffman Foundation, n.d.). If you are active in the field of inclusion, have interesting connections you would like to share or want to learn more about the teams that were accelerated through the Digital Imagination Challenge, do not hesitate to get in touch and become an engineer of serendipity yourself!


Get in touch: [email protected]



Bertram, B. (2005). Blindheit und Sehbehinderung in Deutschland: Ursachen und Häufigkeit. Der Augenarzt, 6. Heft

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. (n.d.). Elements of an Ecosystem. Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building Playbook 2.0

Furr, N. Shipilov, A. (2018). Building the right ecosystem for innovation. MIT Sloan Management Review, Summer 2018 Issue


We are lucky here at Impact Hub Berlin to have so many interesting projects and people come through our door every day – that truly span all of the Sustainable Development Goals with their work and are making an actual impact to peoples’ lives. Jobs4refugees is certainly one such case. They are a non-profit organisation with the mission to enable refugees to rebuild their lives and to become active members of German society. As we all know, bureaucracy is no easy task, and support with this is greatly needed. So Jobs4refugees are driving integration and help people who are looking for employment realise their full potential. To find out more about the people behind the organistation, we got the team to answer a few questions! 

  1. How did jobs4refugees get started?

In summer of 2015 when over a million refugees came to Germany in a very short time, jobs4refugees founder Robert Barr also wanted to get involved and help. In the beginning, he gave German classes as a volunteer. It became clear quite quickly that finding a job is one of the most pressing issues for refugees. So two of us, equipped with an excel-spread, started speaking to refugees in a refugee-shelter, taking down their information as well as job-aspirations and simply began to cold-call potential employers – asking them whether they would be open to hiring a refugee. This approach worked surprisingly well and we decided to build a non-profit placement-agency for refugees. Thus jobs4refugees was born.

  1. What’s your mission?

Our mission is quite straight forward and given our name not very surprising: to help refugees in Germany take up work and apprenticeships. We seek to drive the labour market integration by leveling the playing field and help refugees and employers overcome the cultural, language and bureaucratic barriers and biases to a successful integration.

  1. How many people have you worked with so far?

Today jobs4refugees reaches over 21.000 refugees nationwide with the job-offers of employers we work with. We have placed over 200 refugees and reached about 1000 refugees through trainings, workshops and consultation.

  1. What does Impact Hub mean to you?

On the one hand Impact Hub is a great place to work with a great working atmosphere and enough flexibility and space to consult and meet both the refugees and employers we work with. On the other hand being part of the community is great and often creates new opportunities and ideas for our work, be it intros to employers or volunteers or getting some ‘outside’ feedback on new ideas during the community lunch in the Impact Hub.

You can find more about Jobs4refugee on their website – and huge congratulations again to Robert Barr, their CEO and Founder who recently has been awarded “Top 40 Under 40” by Capital magazine 2018, for all of his outstanding work and dedication! ??

Impact Hub is not just a co-working space, a consultancy for social entrepreneurs, or a place to hold events – it’s primarily a community where people who have like-minded ideas about how the world should work can come together in a safe space. Naturally to launch Impact Hub Berlin’s themed communities for social impact — Tribes — we spoke to our home-grown freelance collective, K-Tiv. Formed around four creative professionals, K-Tiv is the Berlin-based Storytelling & Design Tribe. Read on for their story and stay tuned to learn about our other Tribes!

1. How did K-Tiv get started?

It started as many Impact Hub collaborations do — we all got to know each other over the weekly Community Lunch, Kaffee & Kuchen, and Winedown events! We were individual freelancers with the desire to collaborate on creative projects that advance social and environmental causes, as well as to enjoy the excitement and new ideas that come from being part of a team. As time went on and other members needed our support in design and storytelling, we also by chance found ourselves working on the same projects together; our first, albeit accidental collaborations. It soon became clear that we worked well together, and realising that we could together take on bigger projects with more of an impact was the catalyst for the foundation of K-Tiv.

2. What’s your aim as a group?

As a collective of independent freelancers, the aim was never to act as an established agency with clients on the books but instead to offer the collective skills of experienced and independent freelancers in solving distinct storytelling and design challenges for Impact Hub members and affiliates, alongside our individual projects. Through this, we aim to support the efforts of Berlin-based and international organisations and enterprises with whom our values align, by offering our diverse and complementary expertise: Pauline and Michael are masters of the universe of images; Aimie and I, the words’ world.

3. How has it been working so far? And what has been your biggest impact?

It’s already been a wonderful ride! We’ve so far together worked on projects ranging from designing the physical and online marketing materials of a fair fashion start-up to bringing an e-book on behavioural change for entrepreneurs to life, and we already have some new, intriguing possibilities in the works.

But the project with the biggest influence so far has to be the first ever Impact Hub Global Impact Report, which we created from scratch in collaboration with the network’s communications team. The chance to think together about how to tell the story of Impact Hub’s growth, its day-to-day work with social entrepreneurs around the world and its future — as well as to further shape its visual identity — and then see this echo internationally … That’s exactly what we aim to do!

4. What does Impact Hub mean to you?

A lot. As independent freelancers, we chose to join Impact Hub seeking for a dynamic community to be inspired by, but also to collaborate with in supporting projects which have a socio-environmental focus. While it’s true that we’ve been able to grow our individual and collective changemaking careers through the connections, collaborations  and knowledge we’ve found here, what was perhaps more important was the community we found: knowing that you have a place where everyone is in the same boat, where you can help and be helped, and where you will eat copious amounts of cake alongside lovely people!

5. Where do you see K-Tiv’s future?

We hope to build on what we’ve achieved so far and continue to help shape stories that deserve to be discovered, as the need to transition to a sustainable and fair society is getting more urgent by the day. It’s impossible to tell what the future will hold — especially as freelancers! — but along with our other freelance partners, we’re looking forward to bringing our creativity to the community and help them to communicate better.

Joe Dodgshun, for K-Tiv

With many new techniques on “how to work” entering our radar, SCRUM is not just a buzz word. It brings transparency and coordination to a team – with structures and techniques all stakeholders can benefit from. Anton Skornyakov has set out on his mission to bring SCRUM to NGOs, pro-bono. He recently delivered an inspiring workshop here at Impact Hub Berlin – providing the participants with a deep understanding of the Scrum framework using interactive tasks. The group had the opportunity to experience the different aspects of agile working and to immediately apply what they had learned. We grabbed Anton for a quick interview to find out more about SCRUM and his workshops – read on:

1. What is SCRUM Training for NGOs? 

Scrum is a framework that helps you organise the work of many people in environments with many uncertainties. Our typical work context is giving Scrum training and coaching mostly for software companies. However, Scrum isn’t confined to this area; it is also being applied successfully in sales, marketing, hardware, organisational change and other contexts.

Scrum is not only a collection of practices that you need to follow – if applied, Scrum encourages a team to use self-organisation and creates a sometimes rather painful transparency about what is being achieved and how it is happening. We believe that especially non-profits can benefit strongly from using a more self-organised and transparent working process, since their goals are often highly motivating for all stakeholders involved.

With our pro-bono trainings we want to support the non-profit community – learning about their day-to-day problems and then figure out together how we can apply Scrum in an NGO context to support their needs.


2. What’s your mission?

We believe that agility of an organisation is another world for aliveness of the organisation. We want to help creating such alive and vital working environments – where people can show up with their full selves while effectively collaborating on common goals. We believe that the tools, principles and practices from the Agile and Scrum world are very helpful for this.

3. What does Impact Hub mean to you?

First, Impact Hub is one of those organisations that is a place for people with their full selves while achieving truly world-changing goals. Second, for us Impact Hub Berlin was the perfect partner to organise such a training with. You have a great network within the NGO world and are regularly supporting them already. Thank you!

4. What are your future plans?

This first training here was great. All participants really liked it, we were able to really go into some details around some of the participants organisations. Also, some of them already told us they want to share their learnings and with their co-workers, which is great! We are planing to do this kind of pro-bono training again in beginning of 2019, so stay tuned.

Keep your eyes open for more classes with Anton here at!



Working in a global network can really open up doors, not just for you but for the people on the other side of the world too. To prove how this can really be the case, one of our members talks to us about how the network has helped him in his work in Myanmar. Our Impact Hub Berlin member Christian Koch has been working for GIZ between Germany and Myanmar for the past couple of years and after joining us at Impact Hub in Berlin, he discovered the Impact Hub in Yangon. Using these social entrepreneurship connections, he had the opportunity to introduce GIZ to Impact Hub Yangon and demonstrate Impact Hub ideology in action.

Working on the Berlin-Yangon connection – Myanmar Change Agent Network (MyCAN)

Christian is working on the Myanmar Change Agent Network (MyCAN) initiative along with his colleagues Birgit Kerstan and Thet Su Hlaing. As leadership and change management professionals working in the country, they witnessed the magnitude of challenges in the transformation of Myanmar’s society and economy since 2011.

MyCAN wants to make international best practices in leadership and make consultancy accessible to people active in change processes. The main product is an intensive, year long course with six modules. The mid-term objective is to establish a network of like-minded professionals in Myanmar in close collaboration with local academic institutions, consulting firms, NGOs, universities and think tanks.

Christian Koch at Impact Hub Berlin

When Christian visited Impact Hub Yangon it was among the first to receive a scholarship for the course provided by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

“We are lucky to have Okka Myo, tech entrepreneur, Co-Founder & Director at Impact Hub Yangon among our participants who inspires us with his drive and kindness” Christian says. “So, let’s work on the Berlin-Yangon connection and encourage those voices in the country that are striving for an inclusive, peaceful development process!”


From left to right – Okka Myo, Co-Founder and Director of Impact Hub Yangon; Klaus Oberbauer, Co-Founder and Organizational Development Lead IHY; Christian Koch, Co-Founder & Trainer My-CAN; and Lenya Bass, Strategic Design Master Student, Design Akademie Berlin (Lenya was writing her master thesis about the course and has supported this module).

“Okka’s vision for Impact Hub Yangon is to create a place or a community where Myanmar people can connect to the open world. This will be the place where people will exchange ideas, get better opportunities, innovate, incubate and create new things that will positively impact on the Myanmar social environment, education system and economic development” Quote about Okka from Impact Hub Yangon Homepage.

Impact Hub Yangon co-working, interior, with Klaus Oberbauer

During one of the modules in spring My-CAN co-founder Lwin (Investment Commission) and Mo Mo Theda (President Shan Women Entrepreneurs Association) had the chance to get to know the work of IHY and receive an introduction by Klaus Oberbauer, Co-Founder and Organizational Development Lead Impact Hub Yangon.

Seeing how opportunities like this can arise from networking and understanding that people all over the world are in the same situation, trying to work together to co-create and shape a future that we can all be proud of.








On the 20th and 21st of June 2018, 150+ thought-leaders from tech, art, and science met at Funkhaus Berlin and shared their vision on how they see the world evolving, diving deep into the tech ecosystem with inspirational storytelling, interactive panels, workshops, art installations, live music, and so much more… Our team member Maddie visited this years’ Tech Open Air fair (TOA) and wrote us a little report about all the inspiring things she saw and heard.

Since all of the above sounded in fact very promising, I decided I couldn’t miss out. But I needed a focus amidst all the talks, workshops, pitches, etc. – so, since at Impact Hub Berlin we’ve turned our attention more and more to the potentials of marrying impact with technology, my goal for the two days at TOA was to scout the conference in search for all things 
Tech For Good.

While the term Tech for Good is often used to describe any technology with a social purpose, it actually covers a broad range of concepts and ideas. The most obvious ones are of course technologies (and organizations) that actively work in the field of education, health, sustainability, welfare, community, inclusion and so on. The less obvious ones are companies like Twitter, that went from being a “simple” communication platform to becoming one of the main instruments that allowed e.g. movements like the Arab Spring in 2011 (see article).

After attending a total of 15 talks over two days, plus strolling around the different booths and stands, I drew the following conclusion: Tech for Good (at least, at TOA) can be divided into three categories:

The first two types of tech were the most commonly found, with wonderful examples coming from companies like Ecoalf, which uses plastic recycled from waste found in the oceans to produce clothing, or The Ocean Cleanup, a company that develops advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans from plastic, both of which were present through their CEOs, who gave inspiring presentations about the future opportunities of recycling and ocean cleanup.

As for the third type, however, my impression was that while many technologies and ideas presented could be used for all sort of good purposes, only a handful of cases really preached their application for the actual good of society. One example came from Mobisol, whose CEO gave insight on how they are using technology to empower millions of people globally while providing sustainable and decentralized off-grid electrification.

Blockchain for Good, held by Google for Entrepreneurs, is another happy case of the application of tech for social purposes, where the talk focused on the possibility of applying Blockchain technology to improve trade standards, focusing particularly on fishermen and subsistence farmers: in this scenario, for instance, blockchain could be used to track products back to their origins, to see whether a company was using child labor or slavery, whether the raw materials were extracted in a sustainable manner, etc.

An additional lesson was brought to us by Joachim Hedenius, Co-Founder of KRY, an app that allows users to meet doctors on video call. Joachim discussed the possible applications of technology to healthcare, arguing that tech could help breach barriers and make quality healthcare available worldwide, just one call away.

All in all, while Tech for Good may not have been the unconditional center of attention at TOA, I was regardless happy to see that our corner of the world, is not forgetting about the rest of it. For future editions, however, I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more stages and a few more events dedicated specifically to the issue of technology and how it can be applied for the good of (the whole of) society.


Our co-founder Leon spend some time in Namibia with the Deutsche Gesellschaft for Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) recently in order to find out how to help support the local startup scene. Here he writes about his experiences on this trip – read on!

“After a very long night on a plane, I stepped onto the runway into the beautiful morning light of the Namibian bush. The 40°C temperature change within a 12h time frame wasn’t as shocking as assumed – it was actually nice to suddenly arrive in summer, coming from the cold winter in Berlin. I was looking forward to the first-hand insights to be gained on this trip and to meet the people working behind scenes.

At the beginning of 2018 we were asked by one of our partner organisations, GIZ, to join a scoping mission for one of their new projects. So far we had worked on several great projects together, but this was to be the first time we’d be supporting them with their process as part of their internal team. The task seemed challenging and at the same time well placed with us: 1) Find out how the GIZ can best support the formation and successful fostering of startups in Namibia. 2) Develop the impact logic and targets. 3) Suggest how the local team of GIZ and their Namibian partners best structure the delivery.

We were thrilled: What a great opportunity to apply our learnings from the past years! And what an opportunity to learn even more. Our experience in building Impact Hub Berlin and its ecosystem of change makers came in handy as well as the learnings and support we gave and had received from other Impact Hubs around the world. Our work in developing thriving ecosystems for various projects over the past three years came into play – it all could potentially apply here! So we happily accepted GIZ’s request and I landed back in Germany just a couple of days ago after 12 days of back-to-back meetings with high-level government officials including the First Lady (who impressed me greatly), various high-level government officials, entrepreneurs, investors and foundations. All in all, almost 40 meetings in which my GIZ counterpart and I asked endless questions and answered many questions ourselves to finally suggest a high-level project outline on our last day in the country.

Here are some of my personal take-aways from the trip:

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1 – Same Same but Different

It was striking to me how similar some of the statements sounded when talking to the different stakeholders compared to what I had heard the last 6 years in Germany. For example, investors claimed a lack of projects to invest in while entrepreneurs claimed a lack of access to capital – a classic “valley of death” situation that many social entrepreneurs still face in Germany (check out the positions on this by SEND e.V.). But when we inquired further we learned that there was a general problem around „scared money“ that encompassed all sources of potential capital like banks, angels, and even fellow entrepreneurs. Similar learnings happened repeatedly and showed me that while many of the problems are similar, the roots causing these problems are often very different and thus may require different solutions.

2 – Entrepreneurs Support Entrepreneurs

During our interviews, I learned of various past and still ongoing attempts to support enterprise creation in Namibia. They all seemed to have some things in common: 1) They were run by government institutions. 2) They were built on a set of assumptions and a plan that was fixed and could to be altered. 3) The management team involved never had the possibility to try things out, learn and then adjust their offerings accordingly to fit the needs of the target group. Also, the bureaucracy that comes with the integration in government institutions often slows an operation down to the point where it is not operational anymore. After hearing all this we realized how fundamentally important it is to be able and capable to actually act entrepreneurial when supporting entrepreneurs.



Leon in Namibia

3 – Friends are all you need

Especially when talking to existing intermediaries I was impressed with what they managed to create with the limited resources at hand. At the same time in many conversations, I ended up answering more questions than actually asking them. It was somewhat shocking to realize how little access there is to a support system of experienced entrepreneurs, best practice learning and just plain orientation when it comes to everyday challenges. I had to learn again how huge the difference is between reading a blog post or best practice paper and being actually able to talk to the person that wrote it. It really was a lesson on how valuable being part of a strong network like Impact Hub is – where I can call upon peers around the world for help and be welcomed as a friend.

4 – The Outside Look

Having majored in development studies and actively decided against a job in the sector for ideological reasons, this mission also posed a personal challenge of sorts. After years I suddenly found myself in a role I had never wanted to end up in: The international consultant, hired by the government, getting high-level access and giving recommendations on how huge amounts of money should be applied. And all this after spending 12 ridiculously short days to understand the country. This being said I also realized that my experience, but also my role as an external with no direct stakes at risk, allowed me a different view and a more open approach on how a possible solution could look. In the end, the local government together with local GIZ staff will decide if and how they will implement the proposal we suggested. But the role of the outsider enabled me to present our findings and make a bold suggestion without having to fear repercussions – as a result, I can say I am still critical, but also more appreciative of the value of the outside look.

I want thank the great colleagues at GIZ from whom I learned a ton. It was extremely insightful to learn how the work and with what kind of challenges they are confronted. Finally, I want to congratulate the passionate and talented people I met in Namibia. In a country with only 2.3 Mio. inhabitants spread across a country the size of half of Europe, they are tirelessly working towards a better future. One of them said: „We look at the problems of our society and try to solve them.“ Seldom has a sentence so textbook social entrepreneur has rung more honest and true.

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With our focus for the past month being on the Sustainable Development Goal 10 “Reduced Inequalities”, we have heard from our members, and had the incredible final pitch for the Digital Imagination Challenge, we asked our team member Yaser Hammadi to reflect on his experience.

If you could not see, how would you navigate the internet? What if you could not hear? Or if you could not use your hands? For the past six months, I have constantly asked everyone I know questions similar to these. For one week, I tracked every single piece of information that I consumed. Every software, website sign up sheet, fitness tracking app, public screen advertising, tv show, radio piece, announcements about public transport, up to no end. I could not keep up with the amount of information that I thought was inaccessible. Despite the limitless potential of technology, I discovered that the digital world has an endless amount of barriers which parallel the ableism found in the offline world. The plain truth is that a vast majority of the digital world is not born accessible, unless a legal requirement to be accessible, such as the ones placed on public sector websites, is present. In other words: accessibility is not a fundamental design feature.
The reasons why are various but they include: ignorance of the presence of ableism in every aspect, willful negligence, or a false idea that inclusivity is an extra cost and not a necessity. For a country like Germany, where 10% of the population could potentially be categorized as persons with disabilities it means losing out on priceless contributions. These issues are not exclusive to Germany or Europe though. In the United States, for example, a person with disabilities is ten times less likely to be employed, four times less likely to have completed an education and twice as likely to live in poverty. The ostracization of the community from the online world is an example of the lack of empathy, understanding and outright stigmatization that is still present. Hence, when cable network provider Unitymedia approached Impact Hub Berlin to start an innovation contest to catalyse startups and initiatives that break down digital barriers, we jumped at the opportunity. Early on in the process, we realized that a lot of our own organizational structure and methodology needed to change.

(c) Andi Weiland |

The first step in what became the Digital Imagination Challenge was to acknowledge: the success of the project was dependent on the project itself being fully inclusive. Design Thinking, which powers the philosophy of our consultancy and programs, asks us to firstly empathise. Here we ran into our first major challenge – we could not empathise. We had to be honest and forthright with our privileged perspectives. Impact Hub’s consultants are vastly experienced in running socially entrepreneurial themed programs. We have run incubators, accelerators, workshops and more on topics such as sustainability, female empowerment etc., but these themes have always also directly impacted our team members. Although we had family members and close friends who are persons with disabilities, this was not enough. We realized that simply acknowledging the issue and the statistics listed above is inadequate. This is why we asked Sozialhelden, Germany’s leading activist NGO on the topic of inclusivity, to consult us through every step of the program.

If Sozialhelden helped us to empathise with the community and direct our methodology, it was still our responsibility to deliver a fully accessible contest. None of the problems we discovered were not easily solvable, but in essence we were learning as we were going along. Often it was feedback from the community to our inaccessible website or content that made us aware of these issues. Before the program, I had no idea how a screen reader would work. I had no idea what colours should be avoided, which plug ins to use to resize text, how captions should be written, the standards for subtitles and so on. In hindsight, our naivety shocks me. Consider that we had not initially budgeted for sign language translators for our events. We meticulously went over everything in our organization. Online, we took time to go back and caption every image we had, to structure our text properly and to make sure that our future videos can have audio description. Offline, we looked at how to make our space more inclusive. Although we are limited in how we can physically change the structure of our space, it is no longer something we are ignorant of. As such, the second step was to make time to fix every issue and document everything. If we are designing a new program or modifying our space, it will be a fundamental feature to be born accessible.

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It is not enough to work post facto, although that is what we have to do at the moment. We are not perfect at it, we have to still learn and understand. There is a lot that we will never understand due to our privilege. The project thus changed our understanding of what it means to fight for inclusion. It is not enough to simply be a fan of the idea or the concept. It is more than the work we do at Impact Hub. If I am on public transport, the immediate question on my mind is: can everyone access this bus, tram or train? Can everyone enter the building I am in? Is the website I am using fully inclusive? Does my cinema offer audio description? If the answer is no, why not? What can I do for a more inclusive offline and online world?


Photos by Andi Weiland |

At Impact Hub Berlin, we wanted to take a look at how our different members cross reference the Sustainable Development Goals and for goal number ten, “Reduced Inequalities” and we found that CHANCEN eG fitted that description perfectly. Florian and Olaf, founders of CHANCEN eG, started with the aim to break down the financial barriers to higher education so they created a fair financial model called “Income Share Agreements” to finance their tuition fees at University Witten/Herdecke. Over the last 3 years they have been offering this solidarity-based financing model to other schools and universities in Germany and now CHANCEN eG is a cooperative of over 280 members, mostly students, but also impact investors and private supporters, who are working towards instigating positive change in the educational sector.


Who are CHANCEN eG?

Olaf is our analytical mind and in charge of our financial forecasts, whereas Florian is constantly expanding our network by convincing more universities and impact investors of our model. Our project manager Ben is responsible for implementing our salesforce solution, and Nathalie, the latest addition to our team, is in charge of conducting selection interviews with students and organizing community events. South-African born, Batya is missing on the photo because she is currently in Rwanda to scale our financing model on her home continent. You will have a chance to meet her at the Hub in March.


LIZ_8075-2What is your mission?

Our mission is to make education accessible to everyone, irrespective of their personal or financial background. We provide tuition fee financing to students studying at non-public universities in Germany, and we are launching a pilot project with 400 students at Akilah Institute for Women in Kigali, Rwanda. Students who are part of our community can study without having to worry about their tuition fees, and as soon as they start earning a salary, they make income-based repayments to the community. In that way, members who earn a high salary contribute more to the community than members who earn less. At the same time, repayments are paused as soon as a person earns less than a minimum income, giving our members the opportunity to pursue further studies, spend time abroad, take care of their family or do community based work without having to worry about debt repayments.
With SDG number 10 “Reduced Inequalities”, how do you relate to it?

The German educational sector is still not equal. For students from working class families or with a migration background, the system does not offer equal opportunities and they are disadvantaged. Many lack parental support in terms of academic assistance and financial support. Even though the state universities offer some solutions it by no means caters for all professions or offers an environment where students from lower income households can thrive.
But we believe that the impact of our model can be even greater in countries where the state offers even less support to students. In Rwanda for the students that we’ll support, the only options they have is to hope that they are one of the lucky 9000 who are selected for a government loan or hope that a bank will approve a very expensive loan. Inequality in education is rife, we are working towards changing this be ensuring that our students have equal opportunities in their academic life and that it will bring them further with their careers.

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& what role does it play in your work?

By providing financial support to students irrespective of their background, we offer everybody the chance to study at private universities and thereby make the non-public educational sector less elitist. Our offer is especially valuable for students with modest socio-economic backgrounds who would otherwise not be able to afford the tuition fees of private universities. Actually, every third student we support has a migration background, and 60% of the parents have not studied.
Furthermore, by scaling our model to Rwanda, we contribute to increasing access to education in a country where education is even more dependent on a person’s social status. We believe that the donors who support our Rwandan students make an important contribution towards reducing inequalities both within the Rwandan society and between the global North and South.


Why choose Impact Hub Berlin?

For us, the Impact Hub is an ideal workplace that allows us to connect with like-minded people who are working towards positive change. We love meeting new, inspiring people over community lunch or wine downs. Besides, the Hub provides us with the facilities we need to work together as a team and to conduct interviews with students who apply for funding. We especially appreciate the possibility to book phone cabins and conference rooms and to have amazing photos taken by Liz.


What are your plans for the future?

We are planning to extend our university-network in 2018 and to offer funding to 200 additional students. Our medium-term plans include not only the financing of tuition fees, but also the cost of living for students. Our international plans include bringing our model to the DACH area, Uganda and South Africa. We are excited to see our network grow in the future. And of course we welcome any input or feedback from the Impact Hub community.


Thank you CHANCEN eG! See you around the kiez ?


Whether you think it doesn’t concern you or you’re already well informed on the new technology and possiblities that come with blockchain – the Blockchain Generation is here and it’s going to change everything! So without further ado, meet our member Nathan, a Canadian entrepreneur, living in Berlin. He is the founder and CEO of Minespider, a blockchain startup for tracking conflict-free minerals in the supply chain who recently appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box and won the Talent Unleashed Awards global prize for Best Idea: One to Watch. Nathan also hosts the “Analysis in Chains” blockchain podcast and the “Blockchain Unpacked” meetup here at Impact Hub Berlin.

What is blockchain?
Blockchain is a way of arranging electronic data to make it very difficult to fake, duplicate, or change. This allows us to create digital items that can hold value because you know they are unique, and not copied hundreds of times. The most famous example of a unique digital item that uses blockchain is Bitcoin. Bitcoin allows electronic money to act similarly to cash – we no longer need to trust a bank to send money for us, instead we have these unique digital “coins” that we can trade with other people directly without trusting a third party, and we can send them anywhere in the world.

What is your mission?
My mission is to apply this blockchain technology to make a positive difference in the world. Blockchain will change the world as much as the Internet did, and we are just now starting to see how it can do this. I am working on a way of using blockchain to track responsibly sourced metals to make sure that the material going into our products doesn’t fund human rights abuses, and I expect to encounter many more interesting projects in the near future. I started this meetup in order to talk with the people who are working on these projects, to get their input, and to help us all get a better understanding of this technology and how it can be applied for social good.

How does Impact Hub Berlin help you on your path?
Being at Impact Hub has helped a lot, honestly. In the early days of entrepreneurship getting a good network and good communications are some of the most critical factors for success. I found the network here to be very valuable full of like minded people, but also global people who were able to make some important introductions. In addition the team has been super supportive and I’ve found every success I’ve had has been a success shared and celebrated by the community.

What are your plans for the future?
Right now the plan is to raise the next funding round, grow the team, run a pilot project, and continue to grow the network of people interested in blockchain and its applications.

Join Nathan for his next “Blockchain Unpacked” meetup at Impact Hub Berlin on the 15th of February at 7pm – and join his meetup group!

Watch the video we made with Nathan where he tries to explain blockchain in 60 seconds….


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Lisa Strauch, has been with Impact Berlin since the very beginning and has been working for 24GoodDeeds, an advent calendar with a twist. It’s an idea that has helped raise more than €750,000 for charity since 2014. As one of the longest serving members of Impact Hub, Lisa personifies the type of dedicated social entrepreneur that works here.  In our interview, she explains how the calendar works and how Impact Hub has provided her with the ‘perfect enviroment’ for 24GoodDeeds.


What is 24GoodDeeds?
24GoodDeeds is an advent calendar that raises funds for 24 social and environmental projects around the globe. The idea is simple: you donate €24 and discover what your donation achieves behind the calendar’s doors.  For example, you might plant a tree in Uganda on one day and vaccinate a child on another. We believe that fundraising should be transparent and fun. However, many charities – especially during the Christmas season – pressure you to donate money by appealing to your guilty conscience but fail to give you concrete information about their projects and intended goals. Apart from that, the calendar also offers an alternative to traditional crazy Christmas consumption patterns and aims to raise awareness for social and environmental causes around the world.  All projects we support with the calendar are carefully selected; we make sure that each donation has a concrete effect.


What’s the story behind the idea?
The project was founded by the siblings Johanna and Sebastian Wehkamp and the idea for 24GoodDeeds was born when Sebastian was looking for an advent calendar for his girlfriend. He was walking around Düsseldorf and soon became quite annoyed by the aggressive fundraisers that tried to convince him to donate money with pictures of hurt animals or suffering children. He had the idea that giving should be fun, and that’s how he came up with the idea to combine an advent calendar with donating for aid projects. And the Impact Hub Berlin is the perfect environment for me to work in because there are always people around who can support with new ideas that I didn’t think about before.


How many good deeds have you facilitated since your founding in 2011?
In this time, we have:
Raised more than €750,000
Supported 120 projects in 47 countries.
Through this, we have enabled a lot of good deeds, for example:
66,000 people received a medical treatment
88,000 people received a nutritious meal
600,000 square metres of rainforest were protected
980,000 kilogrammes of CO² emissions were avoided


What kind of projects does 24GoodDeeds support and how do you choose them?
We support 24 projects in the fields of environmental protection, health, education and nutrition. Each year NGOs can apply to be part of the calendar – we have an open call for applications. 24GoodDeeds developed criteria to assess if the proposed projects fit into the framework of the calendar and if the organisations work transparently and impact-oriented: we examine if the organisations can clearly identify their target group, define indicators that help assess their short, medium and long-term impact and whether their projects are part of a long-term strategy. We also always check that the organisations are not motivated by religious and political ideologies.


And lastly, where can I get one?
Best of luck this year Lisa raising even more money for charity!

When you happen to stroll through the Impact Hub Munich or Berlin, you might run into Anne and Marlene. They’re the ones who just came back from South America or are on their way over there – again. We sat down with Anne in Berlin to find out more about the reason for their frequent travelling: their project Nata Y Limón.

Who is Nata Y Limón?

Nata Y Limón, that’s us: Marlene & Anne, that’s Munich and Berlin and that’s the many wonderful master weavers in Guatemala. We design handmade fabrics and lifestyle products together with indigenous artisans in the western highlands of Guatemala, where the old know how of textile weaving is still passed down from generation to generation.

We know each other from our Tournata y limon_togetherism Studies in 2005 and since then share the same motivation to work on something we care for. That is why we quit our jobs in 2015 to seek a life and work that is more purposeful . After working for different NGO’s and traveling Central America – the idea of Nata Y Limón was born. Also born out of the passion for beautiful textiles. Our handwoven fabrics do not only reflect a beautiful combination of timeless & traditional design. They reflect indigenous culture and carry the heart, soul and personal story of people behind them. In Nata Y Limón we found a project that gets us excited, passionate and fills us up with energy in the mornings.

How has IHB helped to found your project?
The Impact Hub Berlin & Munich have been inspiring places for the setup of Nata Y Limón from day 1. We appreciate the opportunity a lot and are more than thankful for being part of this encouraging network of social entrepreneurs!

What is your mission with Nata y Limon?

We believe in true beauty inside out! And part of that beauty is appreciating who makes a product and how they benefit. So, our mission is to create beautifully designed, handmade fabrics that are beneficial to everyone. The art of traditional weaving is especially done by indigenous women in rural areas, but they are the most socially marginalized people in Guatemala . We want to make weaving a regular income source for them. Reaching a long term improvement of their living situations through their traditional craft is what we are aiming for.

We work with 3 locally led cooperatives that work for the empowerment of indigenous communities. With partners like us they create economic opportunity through international market access. And as we want to leave the work where it is needed the most, we make sure that our fabrics are 100% made and sewn in Guatemala.

What are your plans for the future?

During the past 6 months we designed and developed 5 fabrics and a new home & lifestyle collection consisting of pillows, bags and blankets. We are very happy about the fusion of contemporary and traditional design and are now ready for our first production round. To fund all upcoming activities we are going to launch the collection through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. With the campaign name ‘#morethanapillow’ we want to show that every pillow, every fabric, every product has more to it than what you see from the outside. On the 19. September ‘17 we will kick off our campaign. We have 30 days to reach our funding goal. You can support us, by pre-ordering one if our handmade products for yourself, as gift for someone special or if you forward the campaign link to your friends, family and colleagues. All products can be pre-ordered at a special crowdfunding price and most packages can only be offered in limited quantities. So be fast ;)!

Thank you Nata Y Limón! 


The #eSkills4GirlsCompetition is a program that aims to tackle the gender digital divide by supporting startups, social enterprises and NGOs who are supporting women in tech. Around 200 million women still only have restricted access to the Internet worldwide and are hence highly underrepresented in digital professions. We want to change that.

So we hosted this program, together with our global Impact Hub network – namely the hubs in Manila, Sao Paulo and Accra – and in partnership with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, G20 and Google.

Here you can watch a video summary of our first round of participants from April & May 2017!


Meet Emily Casey and Maxie Matthiessen, #HumansofImpactHub, founders of Femna, a brand of natural herbal products (tea, roll on, body oil, salt scrub, massage oil…) designed for each stage of a woman’s life. We met Emily so she could tell us more about this brand new initiative made in IHB!


femna pic

– Hello Emily! Tell us about who you are and what you do…


EC: Im from Australia originally, I’m 29 and I moved to Berlin 18 months ago. About one year ago, I met Maxie, who is my business partner and we decided to join forces to create Femna.

At Femna, we do medicinal herbal products for women and we target every hormonal stage in a woman’s life. The idea is that it is a one stop shop for women to come from their first period until their last one.

We cover PMS, menstruation, fertility, we are also in the process of developing pregnancy line, we have menopause and general well-being.


– And how did Femna get started ?


EC: Maxie’s previous company, Rubycup is a menstrual cup company, so she has been in the feminine hygiene space for quite some time. It was while Rubycup that she had this idea to provide natural products for women, because she saw such a market gap.

The idea came from then and when I met Maxie she was working on it and I was working on my other project, called Naked Beans, which is natural skin care products, based on essential oils and coffee.

We just started talking and we just really got on really well and found out that we had the same mission, drive and work ethic, so we just decided to join forces and both work full time on Femna.


– You are currently rebranding and I’ve heard that you did your photoshoot here at Impact Hub. Can you tell us more about this experience?


EC: it was great. So, one of our missions is to break taboos around the female body, the hormonal stages that we go through. Let’s talk about period and menopause because it’s not so openly discussed really!


But we also want to break taboo around the physicality of the female body, so we want to use images of women in their natural form, not photoshopped in anyway.

We did our first photoshoot at Impact Hub Berlin and had twelve amazing women that came and posed for us in their underwear, which was wonderful.

It was a really nice experience because some of the women said to me “oh, I’m not confident with my body, I dont feel good about this but at the same time, this is the reason I want to do this photoshoot because it will make me feel better about my body or break that mental thing in my mind”.

So that was a really nice experience to go through with these women.


– What are your plans for the future?


EC: World domination. (laughs). Wow, so many plans! We want to touch as many women as we can. We have our online platform, that we sell from, and also in a few retail stores at the moment and were in the process of being listed on Amazon launch pad. So now, the plan is to really start selling, marketing, getting into as many retail stores as we can and reaching as many women as we can.


Thank you Emily!


We love when sparkles happen among the community! That is why we will tell you the beautiful story of Kiezbett, the “neighbourhood bed”, a result of two members work crush during community lunch… Kim le Roux, co-founder together with Steve Döschner answered our questions!

– What is Kiezbett? 

Kim: Kiezbett which literally translates into ‘neighbourhood bed,’ is a locally-produced floating-like bed of solid pine wood.

The wood is sourced from local forests in and around Berlin. The trees are felled by apprentices and for the most part pulled out of the forest by horses. A local timber mill cuts and dries the wood.The Kiezbett is then made in a socially-inclusive joinery workshop. And finally the bed is packaged in recycled materials and delivered to your doorstep by bike!

For every produced and sold Kiezbett you are supporting local businesses and are promoting conservation and inclusion projects in your area.

– How has IHB helped you to found your project ? 

Kim: In the summer of 2015 at Community Lunch at the Impact Hub Steve Döschner and I, Kim le Roux, met. Steve had just become member and we immediately hit it off.

At the community lunch Steve told me he was building his own bed from wood bought at the ‘Baumarkt’. I then told him about a bed I had designed for myself a while back also from wood. The conversation then moved to “why are there no sustainable wood beds on the market for a reasonable price?”. The idea of creating a business with a sustainable product is something Steve had always wanted to start.

So the Idea of Kiezbett was born! The forest engineer and the architect a great combo for a sustainable product.

– How was it created ? 

Kim: In February 2016 we started a Crowdfunding campagne on StartNext. We managed to raise 30.000,00 € and sell 50 Kiezbeds in the process. And that’s the moment when we knew this was going to work.

What we didn’t know was that, that was when the hard work really began. Building and creating a sustainable Value Chain. Form sourcing the right Wood to finding a socially oriented wood workshop that would build the beds for us. But after some difficulties we found the right Partners.

Our Logistic partner we found at the Impact Hub! B3 Cargo who also happened to be part-time members at the Hub.

For the recyclable packaging we had a really productive Workshop with all of our partners at the Hub.

– What are your plans for the future ? 

Kim: Our plans for the immediate future are to grow our business by bring out more Products and delivering Germany wide.

Thank you Kim!


Our Humans of Impact Hub of this month are Civocracy, a civic tech startup that has been a part of our community for a long time!

We met Héloise, in charge of the business development so she could explain us the story behind Civocracy and its relation to Impact Hub Berlin!  

Civocracy is a social startup and platform for civic engagement where they facilitate better decision making and collaboration within communities. 

Concretely, it is a tool that cities or organizations can use in order to raise as many questions as they want among their community. “With communities for example, a lot of the questions will be around the development of city center, or biodiversity…” says Héloïse. 

They want people to be more aware that they are part of a community, whether it is a private organization or a local collectivity, and that they can actually change things, invest themselves through discussion.The lack of action and participation in the social and political life is often due to this question “but what can I do?” and “who would hear us? “. Civocray enables every voice to be heard, and not only the most upset or “strong” ones.

It all began when Chloé Pahud and Benjamin Snow, the founders, met in 2014 and started working on this project together. Then, the Startup Bootcamp incubator in Amsterdam allowed them to get mentorships and to settle at Impact Hub Berlin in 2015.

Based in Berlin, they are currently working with the city of Postdam in Germany, but also with the regions of South and North of Holland and with the city of Nice in the South of France. Civocracy is mainly online but users can go further with the “take action” button. It is then possible to participate in meetings and to really engage face to face with different actors of political or social change.

“The goal is really to have the complete film of civic participation, from information, discussion to civic engagement”, explains Héloïse to us.

Impact Hub Berlin has been a big part of their growth and they decided to settle here for different reasons: “First of all, the space is very beautiful. It is full of life, and allow us to interact with different people, which is really important.

But the main thing is that we really see ourselves as as social startup, so it was meaningful for us to evolve in this world, where a lot of people had the same approaches than us, the same interest for impact. It has been really resourceful, to grow in this ecosystem where things move and people are eager to help each other. Impact Hub Berlin’s community has helped us on many levels; for crowdfunding, event’s organization, but also to get honest feedback, without any power relationship but also for hiring. We are now seven and probably growing soon”.


Our Humans of Impact Hub this month are the members of Pira, a creative studio founded by Guil, Felipe and Joriam, three friends from Brazil.

“We believe in exponential impact through the power of communication, design, facilitation and community building” is their mantra. As the newest members of Impact Hub, they introduce themselves as “social hackers disguised as a creative agency” – we like that! 🙂

Pira combines graphic design, motion, video, web design, illustration and also gaming with social issues. For them, the best way to make change happen is to be constant learners and to make peoples’ lives elegant and interesting.

At the moment the team is working on a social game to eliminate small talk from our lives – ha! Yes, this social disease is soon gonna be out of fashion thanks to Pira. The game consists of asking people questions that they are not used to – for example “You wake up and there’s an enormous chicken-shaped balloon floating in your bedroom. How do you deal with this?” It enables people to connect without having to answer the same boring questions they’ve answered a million times before. You might never know what the person does for a living – but you will definitely learn a lot more about who he or she is as a person…

Coming from far away Brazil, the founders of Pira had an urge for community building and also wanted to create an interrelational space between people – which brought them to us. At Impact Hub they feel part of a community and love that it is not just a simple coworking space, but a “conspiracy of social hackers”. The Hub helped them to connect with other social makers, for example with start-up Solar Fountain, whom they will help with their design development. For Pira it is like a home away from home; they feel the strong kinship between the different social actors and enjoy talking about what they like and how easy it is to share their thoughts.

For the Berliners: Every second Monday of the month, Pira organizes their “Creative Action Berlin” workshops at Keith Bar, Neukölln. You can find them on Meet-up, go check them out!

Creatives Abroad

A thriving graduation project at Impact Hub Berlin

By Matthijs van Son, graduation student & initiator of Creatives Abroad.

Let’s imagine you’ve decided to pursue a personal ambition: Choosing your own graduation project focusing on creating the best international working experience possible. For this you’re embarking on a working adventure abroad, travelling to 4 different European cities within 4 months. The questions is: Where do you choose to work?

We chose Impact Hub. Undoubtedly one of the best choices we could have made for our project.

We are two Communication & Multimedia Design graduation students who see that many students are facing problems like financing, the lack of connections in the foreign country and the fear of missing relatives when considering an internship abroad. This results in relatively few junior creatives actually going abroad to work. We had the ambition to create the best possible international working experience for junior creatives there is, touching on these specific problems. The goal of our project was to develop an encouraging concept by researching and designing working abroad with the shareholders involved.

We started the project in Lisbon in our own Airbnb apartment. We picked the place based on the assumption of it being a comfortable working space. Major requirement: a big working table. However, as the apartment was still relatively small, we were working in the same space we ate, slept and watched TV shows in. Not a great idea. So, not unexpectedly, we concluded that working ‘at home’ was a no go.

Then we decided to continue our experiment by starting to work in a coworking space. We experienced that change of scenery and some ‘routine’ can be key for motivation, focus and productivity. Plus, simply having a nice working table and power sockets around made the experience stand out from working in bars for example. As creatives, we are producing a chaos of sketches, notes and post-its every day, so we did need space. Besides, heavy Adobe applications run overtime, so we really needed the charging power.

Our next step was to move on to Stockholm to start working at the local Impact Hub. There we learnt that another value is also important to us and to our project: The feeling of being part of a community. Feeling welcome; working alongside like-minded people you can learn from and share your ideas with; feeling like you’re all working on similar goals, as if you’re one big company.

All of this we experienced again in Berlin. More so, Impact Hub Berlin made us realize that the efforts taken to stimulate social interactions on a more personal level are the key to achieving this sense of community. From a detailed and playful member board to Kaffee & Kuchen, Community Lunch or Wine Downs, these community events were very valuable for our project as we noticed that our concept was still lacking this real feeling of a community.

Besides being an inspiration to our project, the Impact Hubs supported us and our project in many other ways as well. They granted us access to rooms to host events and meetings, connected us to interesting contacts for our project and made us a kind deal regarding the terms of our short-term membership. We can say that regarding our financial limitations as students, this made a real difference to the project. The other project-defining decision we made in Berlin was organizing a short project pilot: a one-week internship for a team of two creative juniors to work on a local company challenge. We found a partner in crime at Impact Hub Budapest and project four started! Once again Impact Hub rocked our project by connecting us to the right people!

Find more details on their project here!

2016 – A rhyme review

To celebrate you and 2016 in all its glory,
Here a little Christmas story:
Once upon a time Santa Leon said: “Ho ho what’s up,
I think we should open an Impact Hub!”
Elves Nele and Anna were like “Yeah, why not?
And off they went scheming their plot
To empower all the great people that dare
Try to solve the wicked problems out there.
Soon they also brought Reindeer Vish on board
And sparkly locations were explored.
Quickly the crew grew bigger and more fantastic,
All together they sparked the magic!
An ecosystem of social innovators was created
Where we worked hard but also celebrated
Our successes and failures over wine and beer,
Here a glimpse of what we’ve achieved this year:
(We don’t want to bore you, so the rhyming will continue)
First of all, our amazing team grew:
Anna R., Clara, Flo and Vera now hub, too!
To make space for some weeks we chose to remove
Anna & Vish – to Indonesia & Agentina with FAB Move!
Our 180 amazing members bring us fame and glory,
Meet some of them by checking out their member story!
Here only some examples of what they’ve achieved:
High 5s to Civocracy & Teachsurfing for the funding you’ve received!
Jourvie won the Google Impact Challenge, wow!
And InternsGoPro are Ashoka Fellows now.
There are so many more Impact Hub success stories, you guys
Which we exchanged in Seattle at Unlikely Allies!
Our beautiful space also won the German Design Award,
We are so glad to have Margit & Kim on board!
The two also helped to make Kiezbett happen.
From now on you can all sleep in sustainable Betten!
We ran tons of cool programmes for our impact to grow
Including several of GIZ‘s Labs of Tomorrow.
Anna participated at the Biodiversity Camp in Peru
And we hosted the Finance For Change Bootcamp Vol I & II!
Our Safari leadership training introduced BMW to social innovation
where they experienced the power of resilience, purpose and collaboration!
Last but not least we launched F>>Lane together with SEA & Vodafone,
How many ventures empower women through tech leaves us mind-blown!

Thank you all for 2016!

impacthub berlin team

This month, Impact Hub Berlin wanted to host the first ever @Fuck Up Night with a focus on social impact. Quite a bit of effort went into preparing the event – getting in touch with the organizers of FUN Berlin, introducing them to the importance of failure in the field of social impact, and over 30 email threads, 4 newsletters, 3 social media posts and various announcements inviting #socent speakers.

The result: Pustekuchen. Only two speakers came forward, one of them cancelled last minute, and we called off the whole event two days before. We basically fucked up Fuck Up Night. Murphy sends his regards.

While “failing is sexy” has become the new mantra in the startup world, us, the social entrepreneurs seem far from owning up to our failures. Why are we afraid to speak up? When we fail as changemakers, we lose a lot of time, energy and money. On top of that, we might feel that the social purpose we believe in is unattainable. We disappointed ourselves and possibly the people whose lives we aimed to change. Failing creates the misconception that doing good and doing well is impossible.

Forget about all that! The fact is: We’ve all failed! Several times, big and small. And we’ve picked ourselves up, started over and learned a thing or two along the way. “The only thing worse than failing to achieve your dream is failing to try” – very cheesy and very true. It’s ok to fuck up and it’s ok to admit it. Talking about it should be the norm, not the exception. This month, we fucked up. Let’s see what surprises the rest of the year holds.


Over 40 potential change makers participated in our second round of Incitement on 1st November 2016. Leaving their Halloween fear in the past three courageous speakers inspired the crowd by their powerful speeches about what school doesn’t teach us.

Thanks to our host expert Robert the “thriving global movement” ( spread its magic in the Hub for the second time. Starting off with an introductory poem, Robert surprised the participants with little creative elements throughout the whole evening.


The first inciter, Florian Hager (founder of “Meinwerdung – Thrive Coaching” and organiser of the Meetup Group “Learning for Life”), focused within his performance on how tacit knowledge and implicit learning can be used in life. Conducting a little experiment with the audience Florian demonstrated in a playful way how to relax our conscious mind while finding more balance within ourselves.


Björn Lefers (Filmmaker, User Experience Designer and Instructional Designer at the Berlin School of Economics and Law), the second inciter, is convinced that the current educational system is outdated. The United Nations defined a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, hence, 21st century skills are required in order to solve these global challenges. Björn developed a blended learning concept that allows students to be prepared for today’s demanded jobs by combining the advantages of online learning with the advantages of classroom learning. They are launching this project for the first time at the Berlin School of Economics and Law within the Bachelor course ‘Business Administration’.


The last inciter, Annika Päutz (Empowerment Trainer and Coach), emphasised the significance of empathy. “Empathy is a social and emotional skill that helps us feel and understand the emotions, circumstances, intentions, thoughts, and needs of others, such that we can offer sensitive, perceptive, and appropriate communication and support” (Karla McLaren). Annika explained in a convincing way that the different stages of empathy occur in our everyday life and that only when understanding one another, harmony within societies is given. With her eye contact experiment she proved that sometimes there are not even words needed for that.


Apparently, there are a lot of skills that school doesn’t teach us. Nowadays’ challenges differ from the ones decades ago. Maybe it is time to revolutionise our current school system, maybe it is time to prioritise differently. But as one of the participants interposed: Do we really need to learn everything at school? Some things need to be taught, some things need to be experienced and maybe some things just need to be drawn attention to. In whatever way the school system is going to develop, the most important thing we have learned is that these virtues have to be lived both within and outside of school.

Thank you to everyone being involved in this inspirational evening!


Thank you Jana for your posting this on our Blog!

Unlikely Allies & Global Retreat: Taking it Home

Screen-Shot-2016-07-19-at-4.15.58-PMMayor of Seattle, Ed Murray, kicking off Unlikely Allies 2016


Debbie So from Impact Hub Islington wrapped it up for us:


It has been an EPIC WEEK for the Impact Hub Global network.

On July 5-9 in Seattle, Washington, Impact Hub hosted Unlikely Allies 2016 followed by our annual Global Strategic Retreat. We convened a diverse mix of global and local thought leaders, changemakers, inspired citizens, artists, policy makers, activists, corporate innovators, and designers around the launch of a special two-year theme: Future of Cities.

Unlikely Allies: City Solutions Laboratory

We were honoured to have the Mayor of Seattle, Ed Murray kick off Unlikely Allies 2016. He is the city’s first openly gay mayor, currently nearing his 25th anniversary with his husband and his third anniversary legally married. Under his leadership, Washington became one of the first states to legalise gay marriage, and Seattle became the first city in the country to guarantee a $15 minimum wage. Amazing!

The festival featured a broad spectrum of over 50 keynotes, think tanks, case study sessions, pitches, and round-table discussions focused on sharing insights, ideas, and best practices from across Seattle, the US, and dozens of global cities (see the full program here). Keynote speakers included the likes of Majora Carter (MacArthur Genius Fellow, Peabody Award winner), Jason McLennan (International Living Future Institute), Shayna Elgin (, and a host of our own Makers.


Impact Hub Global Retreat

After overloading our brains with new solutions, new networks, and new insights – it was time to leave Seattle and head to Bainbridge Island for our Global Retreat. Moving from the bustling, high rise city of Seattle to the spacious, green forests of Bainbridge Island couldn’t have been more symbolic of our own mindset’s transition.

Islandwood is where we, as 160 Makers (Impact Hub staff) from around the world, came together to deep dive on community, capacity, strategy, and collaboration.

Together we tackled and reflected on tough questions, including:

  • What does a strong global brand mean for us – and what impact can it help us achieve in the world?
  • How can network growth & performance efforts best inform and complement each other in a way that builds towards a thriving network?
  • How does our ideal membership community look like – and what will it take to attract it?
  • How do we best develop our business, together?
  • How do we better recognise, incentivise and develop experienced talent in the network?
  • How do we strengthen our interdependence while still supporting entrepreneurial freedom to innovate and grow locally?
  • How do we become a truly global network that embraces its diversity while keeping unity and shared purpose?

Even after three days of deep diving on these questions, we may not have all the answers – but we have the momentum of working towards solutions, and coming together stronger, more open, and closer together as a global network.

outcomes 2


Finally, we would like to express an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for all of you who who joined us at Unlikely Allies 2016. Each one of you played a role in the event’s success, and it wouldn’t have been the same without you.

Until next year, share your voice! You have the power to shape the future of cities by participating in the conversation.

>>> Thank you Debbie: you rule!


Makers Wall: The Faces of Impact Hub Global Retreat 2016

Sitting around our Impact Hub Global ‘Strategy House’


Energisers on Trust, Courage and Collaboration – our network values


Sending #HubLove to the Oakland after the officer shootings in Dallas #strongertogether

13606874_10154445215087994_5334771136055289390_nFrom Seattle to Berlin, the Gathering Hosts hand off to next year’s organisers


On the ferry back from Bainbridge Island. Until next time, everyone!

Berlin Calling: BMW Group

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 16.40.17

Yet another great blog post from the awesome Debbie So from Impact Hub Islington. Enjoy the read:


Halfway through my Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs exchange, I was thrilled to facilitate an Impact Safari with the team at Impact Hub Berlin, Leon and Anna.

Impact Safaris are customised learning journeys designed for corporates to experience how the future of business and society is prototyped in Berlin. On a safari through the city, participants were challenged to solve tasks, explore spaces and meet the people behind the scenes of the startup ecosystem. For this Impact Safari, we worked with 30 x BMW Group leaders from around the world, and they were excited to learn from us how they could be more purposeful, resilient, and collaborative in their work!

We split up into three groups, and my team named themselves “Eye of the Tiger” – complete with accompanying theme song anytime we did a group presentation. Who knew that Heads of Production and Engineers for one of the world’s largest premium mobility companies could be so much fun?

Day 1: Driven by Purpose

The first day focused on visiting early stage startups, e.g. less than 3 years old, encouraging the participants to experience what it takes to be entrepreneurial, creative and passionate from founders themselves. I was impressed how strongly my team resonated with the value of purpose, especially with how startup founders matched their individual purpose with the company’s purpose. Many understood BMW Group’s potential for societal impact, through the communities they are based in, down to the environmental impacts of production.

Day 2: Strength through Resilience

The second visit was about meeting startups that were a step further in their journey and have successfully scaled, e.g. 50+ employees and more than 3 years old. This was to allow teams to learn about the role of failure and the changes that scale bring to an organisation. Key takeaways from meeting more mature founders were on management techniques, and how to empower staff through a strong vision whilst scaling. Many participants were inspired to give more freedom for ‘waste’ and ‘failure’ to nurture innovation in their teams.

Day 3: Collaboration is Key

The focus of the third vision was collaboration, and each team explored a different social innovation hub space. The teams discovered how innovation hubs are structured, how they create strong communities, and what mindset is needed to innovate successfully. Some participants were inspired to transform their offices or build new innovation spaces back in their buildings – we look forward to the BMW Hubs of the future!

An exhausting couple of days facilitating, but absolutely worth it. This was the first time I’ve worked with such a large corporate, and it was inspiring to see how many values we shared. At the end of day, everything comes down to the human level and I’m delighted that I got to spend a few days learning and exploring with these wonderful humans.

>>>Thank you Debbie for capturing these to kick-ass days!


BMW Group leaders from around the world sharing their experience


Go team “Eye of the Tiger!”

Berlin Calling: DACH Gathering


Go Debbie So from Impact Hub Islington to capture our amazing DACH Gathering. Enjoy her blog entry:


First off, what is DACH? DACH countries refer to Germany (D), Austria (A) and Switzerland (CH).

The DACH Gathering is an opportunity for German speaking Impact Hubs to come together, learn from each other, exchange opportunities, and importantly – relax together.

It started off because a couple of Impact Hub founders wanted to go on holiday together, but talk about work at the same time (die hard entrepreneurs!). The tradition has carried on today, and this year the legendary DACH Gathering welcomed 35+ Makers from Impact Hub Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Zurich and Amsterdam (wildcard).

Hosted by the Helga Breuninger Foundation in the beautiful town of Paretz, it was amazing to be hosted in a space that lived the same values as Impact Hub (sustainable, actively hosted, socially impactful), but in a rural setting. Breuninger’s mission was to create places where people do not have to defend their positions, but rather places that invite participants to arrive on an equal footing and without fear to learn from each other. And very important: Breuninger believes that those driving positive system change need a protected space in which they can reflect on their critical processes together. Understanding that change makers often burnout, the Paretz Foundation provides a space for relaxation and reflection.

IMG_0131 (1)

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Over a long weekend, we covered topics including:

Through a combination of open space, one-on-one time, and fireside chats – it was a lot of ground that we covered, but at the same time it felt like a place we could have fun together.

A critical learning from the DACH Gathering was that Helga Breuninger was right: magic can come out of the relaxation spaces, as much as the work spaces. Photo evidence below…

>>>> Debbie you rule! Thank you for writing about the legendaaaary DACH Gathering!


Tobias Hipp (Paretz Foundation) taking a lake selfie with some Makers


#HubLove from Impact Hub Vienna to Nele


Cap it all off with boat time!

Helga Breuninger Foundation

The Helga Breuninger Stiftung GmbH focuses on innovation in education to solve deep global challenges. You can read more about projects they’ve supported here and guidelines on funding here.

Take a look at how Debbie So summarized our GreenCycle Academy:

What do you get when you take 30 students passionate about sustainability, the hottest weekend of the entire Berlin summer, and the world’s second largest retailer in the room…?

Welcome to the GreenCycle Academy!

This week Debbie from Impact Hub Islington had the pleasure of co-designing and co-facilitating the GreenCycle Academy with Impact Hub Berlin and Climate-KIC Germany. A hackathon typically refers to a multi-day event where you go through a rapid development cycle, commonly used for tech or digital solutions. This time, we partnered with GreenCycle, of the Schwarz Group (Lidl & Kaufland), to come up with innovation solutions for waste packaging and recycling. Students came from all across Germany, with a diverse range of backgrounds from product design, to business management, to chemical engineers – but all passionate about challenging the status quo of packaging.

Over three days, we used Design Thinking & lean startup principles to ideate solutions, form teams, talk to experts / customers / Lidl employees for market validation, build prototypes, iterate and refine those prototypes, come up with business models and turn these ideas into startups. And of course – lots of cool drinks, popsicles, and laughter to get through the intense summer heat!


Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 11.12.09

Prototyping packaging solutions to reduce waste

Final ideas from the GreenCycle Academy:

Winners will go on to GreenCycle’s headquarters in Neckarsulm to meet with GreenCycle’s CEO and key product engineers, operation leads, or developers to advance their product idea. These social enterprises may go on to be topics of a senior thesis, or go on to be prototyped! Our hope is that one day we will see all of these plastic innovations available at Lidl near you.

*In 2002, Germany passed a container deposit legislation known as Einwegpfand (single-use deposit) or Pfand for short. There is a standard deposit of 0.25€ for all single-use containers (cans, single-use glass and plastic bottles) and most supermarkets in Germany have a reverse vending machine to collect recycling. How great is that?

>>> Thank you Debbie for the lovely blog post!

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Our amazing students, Greencycle, Impact Hub Berlin and Climate KIC!

GreenCycle is the waste and recycling arm of the Schwarz Group (Lidl & Kaufland), the second largest retailer in the world behind Walmart. GreenCycle’s goal is zero waste, which they work towards through optimising separating of waste materials, economise logistic routes, invest in alternative energy management and create new products from waste.

Learn more here:

Climate-KIC Germany

Climate-KIC is Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership focused on climate innovation to mitigate and adapt to climate change. They bring together groups of students, businesses, entrepreneurs and public bodies to the table.

Learn more here:

Creating an Incubator/Bootcamp for BioDiversity: Emprende la Biodiversidad!

What an incredible opportunity. GIZ Lima, Proambiente and StartUp USIL kicked-off their unique accelerator for 6 start-ups dedicated to improving biodiversity and the competitiveness of traditional/local products in Lima, Peru. A pilot to empower locals and enable them to get connected, scale and increase their positive impact.

Anna flew all the way to Lima to host (in spanish!)

Marriage between Impact + Biodiversity + Business

During the intense bootcamp, Anna got all start-ups to learn new methods (Design Thinking, Lean StartUp et all) and take another (and closer) look at their individual value-chains and identify the positive impact they make. It was mindblowing to see their shift in mindset to realise that their own biodiversity start-up offered more than just being another product on the shelf – what a ride!

Building an Ecosystem for Entrepreneurs in Lima

GIZ Lima gathered all relevant stakeholders who are interested in strengthening the Eco-System to empower entrepreneurs. It was a great experience to share the experience of Impact Hub Berlin, learn what is already being done in Lima AND identify tangible steps for the future. Building a community and creating a space that enables entrepreneurs to act is a necessary step – and Lima is ready! Watch our for Lima – it’s at the beginning, but it’s got momentum!

Meet the partners and get more insights of the program:



StartUp USIL

Lima emprendedor cadena de valorLima cambiar el chipLima emprendedorbioStartUp Karem

This post originally appeared on the Impact Hub Amsterdam blog
If you’re reading this, chances are good that a) you are a social entrepreneur; b) you have heard that impact investment could be the answer to scaling your social enterprise; and c) you’ve been utterly disappointed by your experience trying to attract impact investment to your enterprise.
Impact Investment | BMW Foundation | Social Entrepreneurship | Startup | Sociaal Ondernemen


Opinion | by Ryan Little – Social Finance Practice Lead | BMW Foundation
Ryan Little | BMW-Foundation | Impact Investment | BMW Foundation | Social Entrepreneurship | Startup | Sociaal Ondernemen | Impact Hub Amsterdam
As a social entrepreneur myself who has spent most of my life on the fundraising side, I know how nauseating the roller coaster ride can be; that very elusive “yes”, the gut-wrenching “no” and, most devastating of all, the “slow no.” Now that I am on the other side of the table, working at the BMW Foundation where I am working on our social finance efforts, I’m trying my best to use my dual perspective to bridge the gap between the substantial funding looking to support social enterprise (it really is out there!) and the legion of social entrepreneurs who are trying to find a match. In this spirit, I’d like to give a few tips as to how to increase the chances of success.




Know Your Theory of Change

My first questions to any social entrepreneur are “who else is working on this problem” and “how are you different?” Based on the answers to these questions, I know if it makes sense to keep talking now or if the entrepreneur needs to go deeper first. I’ve often had a social entrepreneur explain to me in detail the crisis of clean drinking water, or the booming field of e-learning, but explaining the current situation is different from explaining why there needs to be a new organization working on the problem, and why your team is right to lead it. The most successful investment candidates have identified an inefficiency in how an issue is being addressed, and are committed to turning that inefficiency into an opportunity. They are also more open to do this in whatever way makes most sense, be it through setting up a non-profit, a for-profit or, crucially, by setting up an initiative with an existing organization, which is often an excellent, if overlooked, solution. One of the better ways to crystallize your thinking on what makes your approach unique and why it’s needed is to think in terms of your theory of change. This approach shows you’ve thought your approach through from concept to impact and is a great way to facilitate a conversation with a potential funder.

Know What You Want and Why

Make sure any pitch to a potential investor includes three crucial components: a) know how much money you are seeking; b) know what you are offering in exchange for this (equity? If so, how much and on what terms? Debt? If so, at what interest rate and on what terms? c) and, just as crucially, an explanation of how the funds will be used.

Quite often, impact investors see pitches for nice round numbers—€100,000, €500,000, €1 million—and the pitch falls apart when the entrepreneur can’t explain why he or she is raising that specific amount. Answering that the funds are for a new website and vague staffing plans is not going to get you through the finish line. The amount raised should either bring you to the point of being self-sustaining from your own operations, or to a future round of funding whereby substantial growth can be shown in the intervening period of operations between funding rounds.


Seek Professional Help!

It’s been my purely anecdotal experience that in continental Europe—as against the Anglo-Saxon world—social entrepreneurs are more likely to emerge from an area of social or environmental topic expertise, rather than from business. “Social, then entrepreneur”, rather than “entrepreneur, then social”. While this brings with it a deep understanding of the challenge at hand, it also often means a shortage of some of the “hard” skills that traditional entrepreneurs have assimilated, like cash flow planning, suitable debt and equity structures, and so on. You needn’t become an expert in this field but it’s worth recognizing there are many people out there who can help. Look in your network for entrepreneurs who have experience with this and get them to provide some pro bono support. Better yet, build a board of advisors that is committed to the work you do and include people with financial and legal expertise.

Finally, it’s important to take into account that the impact investing market is still very much in its infancy—in fact, the term wasn’t even coined until 2007. The good news is that there is an ever-increasing pool of capital that is looking to make investments in social enterprises.

The number one concern of impact investors, incidentally, is the lack of investible deals. Improve your chances of presenting an investible deal by adopting and adapting the best pitching practices of traditional entrepreneurs—and certainly don’t forget to tell your impact story!

Ready to Finance for Change? 

In cooperation with Social Impact Markets, Finance for Change (F4C) is the newest program offering at Impact Hub Berlin. It works to increase awareness and offer learning/networking opportunities around the field of impact-oriented investing. F4C targets investors, foundation/finance professionals development organizations, and others exploring new financing and support strategies for both purpose and profit. On May 13-14, F4C offers a two-day Investor Bootcamp at Impact Hub Berlin. Learn more here. 


About Ryan Little

Ryan Little leads the social finance practice at the BMW Foundation, where he is responsible for originating, vetting, negotiating and managing the Foundation’s investments in both social enterprises and impact funds. He works closely with German and international partners to import and adapt best practices from the field into Germany, where the Foundation is playing a leading role in creating the social finance ecosystem. He is a regular speaker and writer worldwide on topics ranging from early-stage investment to green economic policy.
Prior to joining the BMW Foundation, Ryan was co-founder and Vice President, Business Development of StormFisher Biogas, one of the first major initiatives in the biogas subsector of renewable energy in North America, and the developer of one of the largest biogas plant on the continent. Ryan has been involved in social enterprise and social finance since 2000, when, after exiting Avenir, his business-to-business e-commerce firm, he co-founded the charity CanadaHelps. The country’s largest online donations platform and digital knowledge source for charities, CanadaHelps has facilitated more than $600 million in charitable donations from one million Canadian donors to over 14,000 charities.
Ryan holds an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, by which he was recently awarded the Emerging Leader in Global Impact Award, and a B.A. from Queen’s University. He is Coordinator for Social Startups for the German Association of Startups (Bundesverband Deutsche Startups), and a member of the Board of Advisors for CanadaHelps, and Lions of Science (Kenya). He is based in Berlin, Germany.


We crowdfunded 38.585 EUR within 4 weeks – what an adrenalin rush.

Without our supporters we could have NEVER made this happen. Thank you so much for believing in us. Without YOU it would have never happened. Thank you. Thank you. Thank YOU!


Here’s a (long) list of things to keep in mind when running a crowd funding campaign:

  1. Plan in advance – IF you can!
  2. Be clear why you are doing it
  3. Define your kick ass target group
  4. Design suitable perks that would:
    1. Make your target group’s heart skip a beat
    2. Make sense economically
  5. Create a funky narration
  6. Write a storyboard, but don’t get caught up, start filmin’
  7. Start telling your gang it’s gonna happen
  8. Edit the footage
  9. Create a sexy tagline
  10. Start building the master’s list aka your outreach list
  11. Tell more people, it’s gonna happen
  12. Evaluate which platform to go with
  13. Tell even more people it’s happening really soon
  14. Organize a launch party
  15. Use the momentum of the launch…
  16. LAUNCH it with a bang!
  17. Make people work for you – make people share it!;)
  18. Bombard your contacts
    1. Let them know what is happening
    2. Why it’s happening, and
    3. Give them a clear call to action
  19. Be pumped 24/7 and enjoy the ride
  20. Kill the death valley: use visuals, video clips – anything to get the vibes out
  21. Be the persistent person: Follow-up #1, #2, #3… it pays off
  22. Spread the word across different media channels, at other events aka don’t sleep
  23. Don’t give up
  24. Treat your supporters and share exclusive news
  25. Fire up and go wild at the end (just before you loose your mind)
  26. Celebrate success and share it with all supporters!
  27. Organize logistics of all perks and make sure your amazing supporters are rewarded!


Biggest learnings:

  1. Running a crowd funding is like running a sprint that turns out to be a marathon
  2. Be persistent and dare to ask people for their support (at least twice)
  3. The video and the entire campaign are essential. But actually, it boils down to your amazing, marvelous, courageous list of potential supporters. It’s the folk who you have to activate – no matter what.
  4. Build a sound campaign across all channels that appeals to all target groups (take the time to customize it! It’s worth it!)
  5. Put yourself out there and believe in your funk
  6. A crowd funding campaign helps you
    1. VALIDATE YOUR BUSINESS IDEA – if people support it, they love it. If not, you gotta pivot.
    2. GROW A COMMUNITY of like-minded epic people
    3. It’s a campaign that BUILD A BRAND.
    4. RAISE MONEY which was desperately needed.
  7. No matter what, enjoy the ride. It’s wild.

Guest post by Fiona Koch, Ashoka

What if media outlets stopped referring to refugees as ‘burdens’ and instead highlighted them as the social and economic actors that they are? Two weeks ago, Ashoka’s Director of Research and Innovation, Adam Lent,argued against labelling refugees as problems and instead as “creative people who are themselves the source of the solutions” to the challenges that the wider crisis is bringing to the fore.

Social enterprise Mitt Liv (‘My life’ in Swedish) has been pioneering refugee empowerment since 2008. Designed as a mentorship programme, it matches young, entrepreneurial women who are recent refugees or immigrants to Sweden with successful business entrepreneurs. “I wanted to create a platform where people from all over the world can meet and feel included in society — and the labor market,” Sofia Appelgren, founder of Mitt Liv, toldTIME Magazine last year.

What might sound like a charity is actually a social business with mutually beneficial outcomes: Participating women gain skills and solid contacts to incubate their own entrepreneurial ideas, while the participating business leaders benefit from inside knowledge of immigrant life and markets, data from consumer research, and a unique perspective on the changing face of Sweden’s workforce.

Perceptions matter, and media outlets play a key role in shaping the narrative around Europe’s refugee crisis, which the UN is now calling a “self-induced humanitarian emergency.” At the end of last year, a report published by the Ethical Journalism Network warned that news coverage of the issue was dominated by “loose language and talk of invasions,” with tabloids often using dehumanising language to portray refugees. Earlier in 2015, the UN Human Rights Chief publicly urged U.K. media and regulatory bodies to curb incitement to hatred by British tabloids, after columnists in The Sun and The Daily Mail referred to refugees as “cockroaches” and “a plague.”

There are exceptions. The Guardian has been praised for its focus on putting a human face to the hardship endured by many refugees fleeing atrocities, while The Irish Times’s ‘New to the Parish’ article series is dedicated to telling the individual stories of recent migrants to Ireland. In August 2015, Al Jazeera’s editorial board went so far as to stop using the term “migrant”outright, arguing that the vast majority of people currently landing on European shores are fleeing war and dangerous conditions.

There exist many organisations that are actively seeking to transform public perception of refugees and recent immigrants in Europe and beyond, and their stories could do much to change the conversation around the potential of refugees as economic and social participants.

Taking a similar approach to the above mentioned Mitt Liv, but within a French context, social entrepreneur Nathanael Moëlle’s organisation, Singa, is designed as an innovation lab that “invigorates and empowers refugees” to become entrepreneurs, thereby positively reshaping the refugee image to celebrate their talents and economic, social and cultural value.

Another organisation promoting a message of empathy and empowerment is the German project, Über den Tellerrand kochen (‘Cooking over the plate’s edge’), which fosters togetherness between immigrants and German communities through cooking classes, often led by refugees themselves..

Further examples abound: Fàilte Isteach (Ireland), Welcoming America and the Interfaith Meditation Centre (Nigeria), all founded by social entrepreneurs and Ashoka Fellows, promote strategies of empowerment to build empathy toward the refugee communities in their respective countries. One limitation of this work is that the positive outcomes often flourish within small community settings, away from the public eye. The media could play a huge role in bringing the positive, inspiring message of empowerment to a wider audience.

The Hello Festival, hosted by Ashoka in Berlin from 18–20 March, brings 13 founders of refugee- and migrant-focused solutions together for the first time, to highlight their work and help them scale beyond their communities. While this collection of solutions-focused organisations may be small — it’s a start, and it reflects the shift of a movement toward a narrative of empathy and empowerment in responding to Europe’s changing reality.

Submit your idea

Impact Hub is working with the European Commission and a consortium of partners on the European Social Innovation Competition, which this year is seeking new and creative approaches to refugee integration. The three best entries will get €50,000 to develop their ideas into projects that achieve lasting change. Applications to the Competition are only open until Friday 8 April at 12:00 noon Central European Time.

Fiona Koch is Communications Manager for Ashoka Ireland. You can follow her on Twitter here. All individuals mentioned in this article are either Ashoka Fellows or members of our network on


Foundation of non-profit Solar Fountain to improve basic supply infrastructure in developing countries

Siemens Stiftung and Solarkiosk AG have jointly founded Solar Fountain gGmbH in Germany. The purpose of the non-profit organization is to give people in low-income regions of developing countries access to vital products and services. At the heart of this venture for basic supply infrastructure is a solar-powered kiosk that produces environmentally-friendly electricity, filters contaminated raw water, and offers products that are essential to everyday life. The kiosks will be run by micro-entrepreneurs who will contribute with their business activities to social, economic, and ecological development at local level.

Solarkiosk AG was founded in 2011 in Berlin. Designed by the Graft architecture firm, Solarkiosk AG’s kiosk ( product has won many awards and is already in widespread use in African countries. Six local associated companies run kiosks in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, and Botswana. By founding Solar Fountain gGmbH, Solarkiosk AG is seeking to increase its engagement in the non-profit sector in line with its company philosophy, by making the kiosks available for non-profit use. This enables even more remote areas to be supplied, and to include safe drinking water in the expanded range of products.

Siemens Stiftung is the company foundation of Siemens AG. It was founded in 2008 and takes on non-profit projects in the fields of basic services, education, and culture. Since 2010, Siemens Stiftung has been implementing water kiosks in East Africa. The “Safe Water Enterprises” provide access to clean drinking water by filtering untreated water from rivers, wells, or lakes through a membrane filter. With Solar Fountain gGmbH, Siemens Stiftung aims to establish a structure that allows further kiosks with a wider range on offer, including solar energy. This should reinforce the foundation’s objective to allow a better perspective for people in developing countries.

The partnership between the two organizations began in 2013 when Solarkiosk was recognized as the winner of the Siemens Stiftung “empowering people. Award”. The competition awards prizes to technical solutions that achieve a sustainable improvement in the basic services of developing regions. The expertise and experience of both partners is now being combined in Solar Fountain gGmbH to jointly strengthen the supply of basic services in developing countries.

Unlikely Allies (UA), an event organized by Impact Hub, will hold it’s second edition in Seattle, USA on July 5-6. Not only is it where the entire Impact Hub network comes together, it’s also a summit exploring how a diverse group of global actors can bring to life a collaborative impact ecosystem. This includes global and local leaders, change agents, enterprising citizens and “unlikely allies” (collaborators) such as hackers, artists, politicians, activists, designers, and those coming from the corporate world.

Held for the first time last year in Romania and in our very own city next year, UA explores local solutions and innovations from more than 70 cities around the world to generate new collaborative initiatives that can be replicated globally. Each edition has it’s own theme and, given the concept, the ‘future of cities’ seems a fitting one for the upcoming event.

Redefining the use of public space, the first day of the festival will transform a block within the Pioneer Square district of Seattle into an innovation showcase. Dozens of local and global companies and community initiatives will come together to enjoy an afternoon of music, workshops and presentations, highlighting inspiring initiatives currently transforming cities into more liveable and sustainable places.

After soaking in the local culture in Seattle, participants will further explore the topic. They will focus on real challenges and innovations taking place in Seattle to initiate dialogue, exchange best practices and pave the way for the emergence of new collaborations. Last year, more than 100 makers from 50 Impact Hubs and approximately 200 unlikely allies gathered from around the world. This edition will feature the participation of 75 Impact Hubs with approximately 400 attendees. Filmed at last year’s event, check out the video below exploring the future of work and society.


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Social innovation is all about bringing new ideas to bear on complex social challenges. Bright ideas are especially in need for the refugee crisis – what some are calling the biggest social challenge of a generation.

Nesta is leading a consortium of partners precisely to bring in some new ideas in this space. Funded by DG Growth, the European Social Innovation Competition was launched on the 25th February to find social innovations to support the integration of migrants and refugees.

New ideas are vital across many areas:

The scale and urgency of the refugee crisis makes it difficult to think beyond getting people safe and sheltered. But with politicians preoccupied with geopolitical manoeuvring, there’s an opportunity for Europe’s social entrepreneurs and innovators to apply their collective brains to what happens next : integration.

Three areas ripe for innovation

Here are three areas that need more innovation:

1. Education and Skills Development

Newly arrived children often get shuffled into remedial classes and fall behind. Could innovative uses of digital technologies – such as flipped learning or real time captioning software like Ai-Media help language learners keep up? How might digital making inspire children to collaborate across cultural and language barriers? It’s time to apply what we know about the best innovations in education to supporting newly arrived children.

But adults need education and training too. There are some exciting new programmes to help refugees gain in-demand skills quickly, such multilingual coding schools like Refugees on Rails or ReDI School of Digital Integration. But we need to help these spread and scale.

2. Employment and Entrepreneurship

“Brain waste” – where people can’t do the jobs they have trained for – is common among newly arrived immigrants. Sometimes people can’t get their qualifications recognised (this is especially common in middle-skilled work, or where countries have different systems). Others have lost paperwork in transit. Could what Beth Noveck calls “technologies of expertise” – such as microcredentialing and badges or LinkedIn recommendations – offer ways round this?

Another challenge is helping people find work quickly, especially if they lack basic language and literacy. There are a number of promising initiatives, such as Magdas Hotel (which employs refugees) or Mazi Mas (which employs migrant women as cooks). Could ‘gig economy’ tools like Task Rabbit and Slivers of Time give people swift access to a source of income, even while they are plugging gaps in their existing skills?

Setting up a business is another way to bridge this gap, but also one fraught with difficulty. Another untapped area is peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding – could these help newcomers, who usually lack the credit history for traditional loans, fund start-ups?

3. Access to Housing and Health

The last year has seen a whirlwind of new tech tools to mitigate the immediate effects of the crisis. These include apps to help access local services, such as tools to reunite with family  members like Trace the Face, or smart ways to expand migrants’ access to wi-fi, such as MeshPoint.

Some of the most promising ideas provide refugees with housing in families – allowing them to meet their basic need for shelter while learning about local communities firsthand. Refugees Welcome, dubbed “Airbnb for refugees” has received a huge amount of coverage. But it’s still only matched 566 refugees to shared homes. Could existing networks to match older people with spare housing capacity with people in need of housing, such asHomeshare, be tapped to help communities support newly arrived refugees?

Other promising ideas include tools for identifying and navigating services, such as Welcome to Dresden (which gives people advice on health insurance and registering with local authorities).

Assistive and inclusive tech, such as sign language apps to help deaf people access services, could also be adapted for migrants.

Submit your idea

Nesta is working with the European Commission and a consortium of partners on the European Social Innovation Competition, which this year is seeking new and creative approaches to refugee integration. The three best entries will get €50,000 to develop their ideas into projects that achieve lasting change. Applications to the Competition are only open until Friday 8 April at 12:00 noon Central European Time.

Without better ideas, the ramifications – from social rifts to wasted talent – could outlast the crisis. It’s time for Europe’s social innovators to step up.

Follow Meghan on Twitter: @meghan_benton

The Techfugees movement, set up by Techcrunch Editor at Large Mike Butcher, is helping support and organise these efforts – for instance through hackathons (the next two are in Paris and Melbourne), webinars, and digital platforms.

This post originally appeared on the Nesta blog

featured above: the “fishbowl panelists:” Harald Schottenloher, Finance and Sales at BettervestChris Bartz, Venture Partner at Finleap, Joana Breidenbach, co-founder of Betterplace and the Betterplace Lab, Pola Vainer, founder of Greenclick, moderators Sanika Hufeland of the Institute for Social Banking & Jan Bohnhorst of Save to Change with Impact Hub Berlin Co-founder Leon Reiner in between them.

Leon is currently launching Finance for Change – Germany’s premier impact investment community. Applications are now open for their upcoming two-day Investor Bootcamp. 

Guest post by Impact Hub member Tom Bley

It is not often that the words “Conscious” and “FinTech” appear in the same sentence. The burgeoning FinTech industry in Germany tends to innovate on themes along the lines of efficiency and transparency. Baking social purpose and responsibility into the core business on the other hand is happening only on the fringes. At the same time, there is a lively community of social entrepreneurs, who are all about making the world a better place, but the cliché is that they are far removed from profit motives and financial scaling. It appears that an attempt of cross-pollination between startups in the social and financial sectors could be fruitful.

The newly inaugurated meetup Conscious FinTech Berlin brought together a combination of players from both worlds, with the intent to explore links, opportunities and challenges. In a packed room at Impact Hub Berlin, an audience of 60 learned that social impact means different things to different people. It can be argued that FinTech create social impact by improving the services of finance intermediaries: speedier transactions, reduced fees, more transparency about money flows. This enables customers to do more with their money. Following this line of reasoning, it is up to the owners of the money to use it in a conscious fashion. This is finance as an enabler, as a means to an undefined end.


An opposing view is that this paradigm of financial institutions as value-agnostic enablers falls short of the need of the world, of making the world work for everyone, including the underprivileged. Following this view, more responsibility should be placed on the financial technology providers for working towards a more ethical and inclusive financing system. Think Bitcoin revolution and obsolescent banks.

How to reconcile these perspectives? It would be desirable to foster collaboration between social entrepreneurs and financial technology entrepreneurs, without causing a “bloody revolution”, as one of the panelists quipped.

The argument that finance should make the world work better for all people seemed to resonate among participants. What could be concrete action items to facilitate this? One suggestion that was made in the discussion was to define a set of values that enable identification and promotion of “conscious FinTech (as opposed to “mainstream FinTech”). However, this raises the problem of measuring “consciousness” or “impact”. Imperfections and gaps in measuring systems mean that using quantitative evaluation as a yardstick for social impact would miss critical aspects. This would render such endeavours ultimately unconscious.


It is comforting to note that the dinosaurs of the finance industry have recognized the need to put more emphasis on ethical operations in order to be attractive to the next generation of customers. My take-away from this debate is that more fruits could be harvested from continuous exchange of ideas between the social enterprise (not to forget social banking) and the FinTech sector, through challenges of each other views, while appreciating cultural and ideological differences. May it lead to a reduction of the gaps and a broadening of worldviews.

Photo credits: Matthias Rademacher & Johannes Pröhl

There are so many great local initiatives currently out there working on integration for migrants/refugees. Including some of our very own community/members. Take a look at the following profiles of Impact Hub Berlin members tackling the issue. Have your own idea to integrate refugees? Heard of the Diogo Challenge? They’re offering 50.000 EUR to make your dream a reality. And read on to get some inspiration for what’s possible when you dream up a solution for one of our society’s most pressing issues.


Ajantha Suriyanarayanan (below) & Anna Alberts, developed with the Berlin Peace Innovation Lab


Taken from their Facebook page:

“What few people know but several studies show is that migrants and refugees are an integral part of the kickstarting scene in Germany. We therefore see the current influx of newcomers as an opportunity that should be seized! How?

We want to help refugees to set up their own businesses in Germany. In order to kickstart in Germany it needs assistance – we want to provide that kind of support. We see ourselves as a platform where refugees (and residents) can come together and inspire each other, create new ideas and kickstart. We organise innovative workshops and events and help refugees to built a network of likeminded newcomers. We help refugees to test and implement business ideas and support them with legal issues, help compile business plans and search for potential investors. We offer a wide network of mentors and supporters who are able to support our entrepreneurs in the long-term with their specific concerns and questions.”

Follow their Facebook page to stay up to date on their upcoming meetings.


We connect

Coming out of a startup weekend at Impact Hub, WeConnect aims to connect refugees with local initiatives in Berlin through social activities in art, sport, music, food, and education.

Taken from their website, through personal experiences, interviews and research, we found out that many refugees have a hard time to engage socially and follow their interests and hobbies in Berlin. Many of them don’t have easy access to and lack information about local initiatives and organisations, that offer recreational activities. Furthermore, cultural and language barriers as well as mostly isolated locations of refugee camps complicate social engagement. To facilitate contact and intercultural exchange, WeConnect collects various offers of initiatives and organisations and presents them to refugees and locals alike. At the same time WeConnect gives refugees and locals the possibility to create their own activities within the five categories listed above.

ReDI School of Digital Integration, Anne Kjaer Riechert 

See the graphic below to get a sense of what ReDI is doing. At Impact Hub, we have one of their coding teams in a few nights a week to work on their projects from our space. Unfortunately, Mark Zuckerberg missed us on his recent trip to Berlin. Luckily, he didn’t miss meeting this super important Impact Hub member initiative.

1917465_10156833035805122_2606222920448102093_n        Community

Working with Travel Massive, Anna (below) recently did an event on the correlation between the travel industry and refugee/migrant integration. Not as far as a connection as you might think.


Jonas Nipkow, restART


Local social entrepreneur and founder of social enterprise T/Shared, Jonas Nipkow (below) is bringing his concept of sustainable fashion with the basic idea of spreading peace and solidarity around the world into the world of refugee/migration issues. His shirts function as a platform for arts created in collaboration with artists from conflicted parties. His newest concept restART is taking this a step further.


Here’s what he has to say about it:

“It’s good to look behind our own national borders and being interested in foreign affairs but as safe and sound Germany might (have) seem(ed), we definitely have quite a lot of domestic problems to tackle. That’s why I would like to present to you the next big thing and social business in Berlin: restART ( Together with you, I want to build up an online marketplace that truly changes lives! 

Everyone of us has a talent that is worth to be seen. So do people coming to Germany at the moment who now want to start again and establish themselves. We find many many artists among them who until recently were a lot appreciated and known for their work in their home countries. The fact of being forced to leave everything behind and quite often going through traumatic experiences has harmed their self esteem and hope for a better future.

Therefore I want to build up an online marketplace (like an online gallery) that promotes refugee artists by selling & appreciating their work (originals & prints on a range of different products). In doing so, I’m convinced of the empowering effect it can have on those artists and the financial support we will be able to provide through spreading their amazing work.

Polly & Bob, Volker Siems


Their mission is simple: to change the way we live together in the neighborhood.

Polly & Bob is about neighbors meeting neighbors. In particular, neighbors meeting new refugee neighbors. Here is the manifesto taken from their website: 

We dream of a world where social well-being is measured not by the number of Facebook
friends you have, but by the number of neighbors who greet you by your first name during a casual walk down the street.

We dream of a world heading towards localization instead of globalization, where you can find
more richness and value in your own neighborhood than anywhere else in the online or offline world.

We dream of a world where people come together in their local communities
to share their wealth, knowledge, and talents with their fellow neighbors.

We dream of a world where each and every one of us, no matter what race,
gender, religion, sexual orientation, origin, ability, wealth or age can find
a community to belong to, a door to knock on, and a place to call home.

We dream of this world, because we believe that good things happen when neighbors come together.
We dream of this world, because we believe that local offline connection is what truly makes us human.

The world needs more connected neighborhoods.

Join us in the new neighborhood movement, and let’s make this dream come true.

Do you have a dream for refugee integration you want to make come true? Check out the Diogo Challenge, a European Social Innovation Competition awarding three 50.000 EUR prizes for the best ideas to integrate our newest neighbors. And check out this video below.


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Guest blog post by Impact Hub Berlin member, Edoardo Binda Zane

7 min. read – Prefer watching the extended 30 min. video article? See below. 

I published my ebook on Amazon one night and went to bed. The morning after I woke up to this:


First thought: this is awesome! Second thought: meh, it’s probably a joke. Third thought: wow, it’s actually for real…

My book, “Effective Decision-Making” shot up to number one in two amazon categories overnight: Management Science and Decision-Making and Problem Solving. I’m thinking about a few reasons why this happened, and in this post I’m happily writing for Impact Hub Berlin I’ll tell you exactly which ones they are. I started with the idea of writing a book because I had a bunch of content already available on a blog. On paper, that content should have rocked it, because all the keyword researches said so.

Needless to say, it flunked. Badly. So, I decided to do some kind of pivot, i.e. repurposing the content I already had on the blog and present it via a different medium, that is a book. I also wanted to learn how to publish a book without investing too much time writing a new one, and given I already had some content, it seemed that using it was the right thing to do. Anyways, I said I’d give you the reasons for which I got to number one in my two categories, here are my 2 cents 😉

Take a look at your topic, keywords and competition.

I was lucky enough to have my topic (decision-making) fairly uncompetitive. It should have really been the other way around (check a topic and then, if it’s uncompetitive, write about it). I used a paid tool called MerchantWords that is basically Adwords for Amazon to verify how many searches there were for my keywords and my numbers checked out. I also checked the ranking of my direct competitors for those keywords. The numbers also checked out (the lower their ranking, the better your chances to rank in the top 10).

Build a following and be true to them

I started a Facebook page for my book and started posting book excerpts, or developments of the book. Most importantly, I shared each lesson a learnt every step of the way. I like to give back in some way to anyone that followed me, because they are granting me their trust and I have to respect that. Anytime I could, I recorded a brief video explaining where I was on my path to publication and giving out all the useful lessons I had learned in the meantime.

Build a brand

I engaged my audience right from the very beginning. In hindsight, I would have preferred to have at least six months to do everything better. Unfortunately reality happened, and all I had was six weeks. Still, in those six weeks, anytime I communicated with my audience I used a specific set of 2-3 stock photos to accompany my post. This was the main way I built my brand. Honestly also out of luck, as I just had a few images I really liked and that I could use. The concept of one of those images ended up being on the cover of my book (thanks to Lambda256 for the awesome cover work).

Engage your audience

My audience gave me trust and I tried to give back by giving them my stories and my tips via my videos. I also tried to engage them and to get feedback on my book’s title and cover from them. This has been way more important than I thought. I was in love with a specific image and a specific title for my book, but building a survey to ask people to vote on their favourite title or cover proved me way wrong, in both cases! Had I not asked about it I would have come out with a title and image they would have liked less, and had I not given back to them, I would have probably have received a much lower level of feedback.

Plan your launch right

First, I made a list of all websites, Linkedin groups, Twitter accounts and Facebook groups that offer to repost or publish offers for a free ebook. I have listed something like 70 Facebook groups and 30 websites… posted on all of them the day you launch! Second, I set my ebook to an inflated price of 7,99 € and offered it for free for the first few days. This way I was hoping to get enough downloads to climb the free Amazon charts and get enough readers that would leave me a good review afterwards. I’m still hoping for the good reviews, but I’m quite happy with the downloads I got. Third, I created a Facebook event for the launch. This is a bit less naïve than it sounds. My event runs for three-four days, meaning that for the whole duration of my event, whenever I post anything on it I cause a Facebook notification to be sent to all attendees, and that gives me a bit more exposure. Keep it up during the launch Things happened for me during the launch, and I shared every single one on my Facebook page and event, on Linkedin, on Twitter and in any other relevant group I could find. Even sharing how many downloads I had was something interesting I have shared that helped me keep awareness up.

Get your timing right

By timing I mean Amazon timing. The website takes between 6 and 72 hours to register a change. ANY change. I preferred to have everything proofread and edited at least a week before launch, then I uploaded my book at full price without publicising it, and only started saying I had released it once my free promo had started.

Have an AMAZING cover

Unfortunately, I noticed that your cover is 50% of your game at least. People see that before your content, so make sure you have a good designer on board and if you want to go the extra mile get the designer on board from the beginning to create a few images that you can use to build your brand.

This is, in a nutshell, how I managed to get my book to number one. Small disclaimer: I simplified a lot, there is more to it when you go into detail on any of the points I made! This should give you a decent overview though… If you’ve made it this far into the article, thanks for reading! And should you be interested in my book, here are the download links:





Last note: thank you Impact Hub Berlin for all the support!

Impact Hub Berlin alongside Social Impact Markets (a social investment advisory and project development firm) and a number of other partners announces the launch of the German capital’s first “investor bootcamp” for impact-oriented investment. The two-day program is part of a larger initiative dubbed Finance for Change aiming to make the nascent field of investing and financing for social change accessible to a wider audience in the D-A-CH Region and other European countries. In the near future, Impact Hub set out creating a community of practitioners to facilitate investment for financial and societal returns.

In Germany, impact-oriented investing is relatively new – taking the traditional field of venture capital investment and placing an importance on not just financial return on investment, but also on the societal impact the investment creates. While some action has been taken on a civic level, Finance for Change is working to bridge what Impact Hub Berlin Managing Director Leon Reiner calls the ‘pioneer gap.’ “There is a huge gap between the financing needs of social entrepreneurs and the resources they need from the finance community to make their ventures successful. This is mainly due to a mismatch in expectations between entrepreneurs and angel investors, funds, and foundations wanting to do impact-oriented investments.”

During the course of the two-day bootcamp, many of these issues will be addressed – laying the foundation for Germany’s premier community for impact-oriented investment.

The German market for sustainable investments has been growing at an annual rate of 28 percent since 2005. In 2011, the market constituted €63 billion (1.2% of the overall investment market). Estimated at €84 million, impact investing still makes up a tiny fraction of the market. Nevertheless, there is strong momentum; a growing number of German foundations are engaging in mission investing or are planning to do so in the near future. Social venture capital funds, such as BonVenture and Social Venture Fund, have emerged over the last decade, and a team based in Berlin is developing a social stock exchange (NExT SSE).

Download our Info Pages here.

2016 European Social Innovation Competition ‘Integrated Futures’ to award three €50,000 prizes for best ideas.

Today in Amsterdam, The European Commission officially launched the 2016 edition of the European Social Innovation Competition with the aim of supporting the reception and integration of refugees and migrants in Europe. The competition seeks creative approaches that realise the potential of refugees and migrants, enabling them to contribute to the social, economic, cultural and political life of their host countries.

Organised since 2012 in memory of Portuguese politician and social innovator Diogo Vasconcelos, the European Social Innovation Competition runs with a new theme each year, focused on addressing a different issue in Europe.

This year’s launch was hosted in part by the City of Amsterdam, with Councillor Marijke Shahsavari-Jansen introducing a discussion with leading experts on the social innovation landscape in the city of Amsterdam and the Netherlands.

Marijke Shahsavari-Jansen said: “Social innovation is a powerful force for change, as we have seen first hand here in Amsterdam. The City of Amsterdam is excited to be supporting the 2016 European Social Innovation Competition launch and I look forward to seeing the Competition use innovation to address this challenge and make it a source for growth and integration.”

Building on the significant grassroots response to the recent arrival of over a million refugees and migrants to Europe, the 2016 Competition aims to tap into the creativity of Europeans to come up with new ideas to foster integration through a bottom-up, citizen-led approach.

The diversity of its people has helped shape European common values and collective identity. The shift in population and migration therefore represents not only a challenge but also an opportunity to build new inclusive communities and the potential to grow Europe’s economy. Many refugees and migrants have the potential to be the next entrepreneurs and innovators, but without the right support, the skills of new arrivals can be wasted and they may become marginalised.

Themed, ‘Integrated Futures’ the Competition aims to find innovations in products, technologies, services and models that can support the reception and integration of refugees and migrants, including but not limited to, ideas around:

The Competition is open to individuals, groups and organisations across the European Union and in countries participating in the European Horizon 2020 programme. Applications that are led by or have been co-created with refugees and migrants are particularly encouraged.

The Competition will help the most innovative ideas to turn into real projects and achieve sustainable impact. Thirty of the most promising applications will be chosen as semi-finalists and will be invited to a social innovation mentoring academy in Berlin in July to progress their ideas.

The three most inspiring and innovative projects will each be awarded with a prize of €50,000 at the awards ceremony to take place in Brussels in October 2016.

The Competition is looking for inspiring ideas, big and small from people all around Europe! Applications are open until Friday 8 April 2016 at 12.00 noon Central European Time.

For full details please visit this website.

For questions about applications please contact: [email protected].

Follow us on Twitter: @EUSocialInnov #diogochallenge

Interview by Anastasia Markelova

Congratulations on getting into Forbes Europe 30 under 30. I am sure many entrepreneurs have a lot to learn from you! What do you consider the key elements of success for a social entrepreneur?

Thank you! It is a great recognition for the work of our team and for all our partners and supporters. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are now. It is difficult for me to break it down to just a couple of elements of success, since I don’t have a recipe for success or any rules I follow. A lot of times you just make decisions based on gut feelings, and of course from time to time you sit down and consider a lot. But here are a couple of learnings which in my opinion are very important:

1. You should create/develop the project/product with focus on the social impact and with a clear goal what problem you want to solve. There will be a lot of questions and obstacles on the road and for me it is important to make the decisions based on the question “What will help us to leverage our social impact and help the people who need the solution”. This has impact on the partners you work with, on the projects you work on and also helps you to focus and don’t start with activities which won’t help you leverage your

2. Don’t be afraid of changes, and be able to let go, accept the changes and adapt to them. Sometimes you have to react to changes when they come from outside, and this is still I believe the easier part. It gets more difficult when you have to kick off a change, because you have learned something and see that it doesn’t work the way it worked until now. As a founder I believe it is very difficult to let go of your first idea, because you have fallen in love with it, and it is hard to change the concept and pivot the development. But sometimes you have to do it, especially when you see that you have to try out a new approach to make sure it works.

3. Admit mistakes – not only in front of others, but also in front of yourself. It is inevitable to make mistakes, especially if you are working on a really innovative idea and leaving the beaten path. You can’t save yourself from mistakes or escape from them, but you can admit them and learn from them so that you don’t make the same ones again.

Tell us about your working day – how does it usually look like? What three main daily routines and habits help you to be productive and efficient in your work and maintain work-life balance?

I try to focus on the tasks that will lead to the ultimate goal and leave unimportant things aside. It is a difficult task because of the “fear of missing out” and because of always wanting to do more, to expand the activities and work with more partners, but on the other side, it is also important to focus on the important tasks to get your work done. At the end, you will be more productive. I try to practice mindfulness – and I say “try”, because it is a tough task. I have a smartphone app my phone called “Buddhify” with which I can listen to short and very nicely presented meditation and mindfulness trainings. I know that it helps me feel more balanced, but unfortunately I don’t to it as often as I would like to. I surround myself with people I can learn from – for me it is very important to be challenged and be taught new things by the people around me – the team members, external partners and supporters etc. Being in the Impact Hub is making exactly this environment possible for me.

It is mentioned on the website that you were inspired to create Jourvie because of your personal experience with eating disorders. Many people however still dismiss this problem and do not consider it somewhat significant. What would you say to them? 

As a former patient I can always speak only from my personal experience, but if I could give a piece of advice it will be: Don’t be afraid or ashamed to admit it to yourself that this is a problem and that you want to face it. Tackling this problem requires a lot of work with yourself, but it’s worth it. You learn a lot about yourself, because the recovery is focused not only on meals and eating behavior, but on many more topics – underlying thoughts, beliefs, behavior patterns. What I always tell other young people in this situation is to not give up. The road is long and hard, but worth it because you get to know yourself on a very deep level, and this is something that stays for life and helps a lot in the future.

You are a member of Impact Hub Berlin. How has Impact Hub helped/supported you in your entrepreneurial journey? What elements were/are most helpful for you?

I have been member of the Impact Hub Berlin for almost two years now, since the early stages. The Impact Hub creates a great environment for both focusing on your work and at the same time expanding your horizon through the exchange with others. Here you find a community of like-minded people, who at the same time are very diverse and possess various qualities and skills. It is very enriching to get to talk to people from different parts of the world and to be confronted with ideas which are not part of your daily work or your usual “bubble”. This always leads to new ideas and also to collaborations and it is a really inspiring place to be! I was also happy to experience a lot of support by the team and the members of Impact Hub and things like these – moral support, encouragement, honest feedback and even short-term coaching at the kitchen table – are extremely valuable.

You have created a simple tool to try to solve a complex and vast issue. I assume a lot of research and science must be behind your app. What was your approach in making the app scientifically proven? What was your path from research to the product? What is the business model?

We are creating a tool which is supposed to support the recovery process and not to replace the therapy, because we know that a smartphone app cannot “heal” the illness or replace the relationship between the patient and the therapist, but can support and enhance. We started the development of the app by identifying the everyday challenges that patients face during the therapy. As part of the therapy, the patients have to fill out food diaries on paper after every meal, where they write down what they ate, when and where, and even the more important part – their feelings and thoughts during the meal, such as fear or disgust. Having this information helps to recognize behavior patterns together with the therapist. The problem with food journals is that they are a lot of paperwork which means that they are not practical and not at all discrete. They can easily be forgotten or just not filled out because of the embarrassment of writing things down in public or in front of peers. But when the patients don’t fill out their journals, important information for their therapists is missing. We wanted to create a solution that makes it faster and easier for the users to log in the necessary data and to communicate with their therapist. We were very happy to find the support of scientific institutions like the Charité Universitätsmedizin in Berlin. Our long team goal is to motivate the patients to complete their treatment, to increase the efficiency of the therapy and decrease the drop-out rates. Another goal is to break the taboo around eating disorders in the society and support those affected in seeking support.

There are quite a few somewhat similar applications on the market. How do you think what makes yours to stand out and why is it better?

It is great that there are also other solutions on the market, because specific solutions will fit the specific needs of different patients. Our approach is to create a validated support tool for both patients and their therapists and to work not only with clinics, but also with health funds and insurances so that the tool becomes part of the course of the therapy and is integrated in the work with the therapists or in the clinic. Another thing is the understanding for the problem and the trust from our users. I was a patient and know what the challenges during the therapy are, therefore we know what other people in this situation need. And they trust us, because they know why we are doing what we do – not to prove something or to sell them something, but because we truly want to support them and believe that we can do this with the help of digital technology.

How do you measure your impact? How many users are there currently and how many do you aspire to achieve? How do you make sure that the instrument is really working for users? 

We look at different parameters for the measurement of outcome and impact. On the one hand quantitative (such as the number of downloads, duration of use, etc.) but also qualitative – for example, in what situation or stage of the illness is the application exactly used and what impact just feel patients. Together with our partners we develop questionnaires on a regular basis and we conduct meetings with patients to find answers to these questions. One of our biggest partners is the University Clinic Charité, whom we cooperate with from the start regarding the contents of the application – they are the experts that we discuss new ideas and next steps of the scientific level with. It is very important to have such an expert with us because we work in the field of mental illness, and we want to make sure that what we do helps. We are now staring also a randomized clinical trial with two partner clinics to determine how we can make the app better, and just started a cooperation with a big health fund here in Germany.

Not only has Ekaterina recently been named on Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe, she has also been nominated as a finalist for the Google Impact Challenge Awards. This means that with the financial help of the prize money (which all 10 finalists get) they can continue working on their app into the next year. Please take the time to vote for their team here. 

An answer to the never-ending search for terminology clarification?

Guest post by Impact Hub Berlin Member Laura Kromminga, originally featured on The Changer


In German academic papers, you can find at least 29 different definitions of a social business. When someone actually sat down and analysed them, they found that they represent the different angles at which you can look at a social enterprise. Some take an actor-centred approach, rather talking about the social entrepreneur and what characterises him or her, while others speak more of the business, or innovation and change (A. Jansen, Begriffs- und Konzeptgeschichte von Sozialunternehmen; Differenztheoretische Typologisierungen).

But is that actually helpful? The German term ‘Sozialunternehmen’ adds to the confusion, rather than bringing any sort of clarity. Where do you draw the line between social enterprise, social business, Sozialunternehmen, SocEnt? And where does someonone like the high-profile social entrepreneur and Nobel Laureate, Muhammad Yunus fit into this picture, when he argues that a social business never pays out dividend to investors?

These are not new questions. This is a long and ongoing debate. It is not as old, but at least as complicated, as the ‘what is social’ discussion. So how do we deal with it? Do we even need a collective definition?

One approach, which is currently creating buzz in academic research, is that of a spectrum.

On the one side, there are traditional charities, aimed at social output and not earning any revenue through their work. On the other side are companies. They are not aiming to create social impact, but rather are purely commercially driven. (Yes, thats debatable. The difference is the intention of the core business activities). The space in between is occupied by businesses with a social mission and some sort of generated revenue. When you put them into four categories, you get the following spectrum:


Definition Social Business

The businesses and organisations on this spectrum are very diverse in their legal forms, with some businesses even falling in multiple parts of the sprectrum.

Take, the donation platform, as an example. At betterplace, money is made by the betterplace solution, which works with companies and their CSR divisions. You can see an example of how this works at,  a cooperation between Hamburg-based Haspa and betterplace. The betterplace solutions makes a market-like return, so it belongs in Category IV on the far right of the spectrum.

Then there is the donation platform entity of betterplace, which essentially offers its services for free. They occasionally offer workshops which they charge for, but regardless, what they earn is much less than their operational costs. This lands them on the far left of the spectrum, a category I. The money which is earned via the betterplace solutions subsidizes the donatation platform, meaning the profit from category IV is reinvested into the category I.

Sounds simple? Notice that not once did I mention that is a social business, nor did I give any indication to their legal structure. But there is no need to! Why? Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. You need only to look at their core intention and their revenue streams.

The social intention sets it apart from commercially driven businesses and the fact that they generate a revenue differentiates them from charities.

The world of social entrepreneurship would be a lot easier if everyone was clear about this.

But in order to work, it will take a good amount of self-reflection from businesses. Are they up for the challenge?

About the Author

laura kromminga

Fascinated by a book written by Muhammad Yunus, Laura dedicated both her bachelor and master thesis on the topic of social entrepreneurship. She is part of MakeSense, a community of young enthusiasts who thrive to help social entrepreneurs solve their challenges. Previously working for, Germanys largest donation platform, she witnessed the struggle of charities and social businesses to raise funds. She has therefore decided to dive into the topic of social finance and help businesses raise Impact Investment. Her master thesis compared the Impact Investment markets in Germany and the UK in order to find out how the German market could learn from its european neighbor.

Laura is currently working at Ashoka Hybrid Finance in London. This initiative supports Ashoka Fellows to scale by finding the right investment solutions out of both philanthropic and investment capital.

As Impact Hub progresses on its membership upgrade, leveraging more and more the power of the globally connected community, the time has finally come to launch a global event series. The Impact Hub Mash Up event, which took place simultaneously across eight Impact Hubs on November 26, was the first such opportunity for our members to get together and get inspired on a global scale. Impact Hubs inVienna, Kings Cross London, Zurich, Sao Paolo, Stockholm, Prague, Bucharest and Berlin got together and shared a (almost) real­ time event experience, setting the seed for a truly collaborative, global event. Virtual windows into each of the Impact Hubs were set up so that participants could see events unfolding elsewhere; stories and reactions were collected as they happened on the #impacthubmashup tagboard;things were kept moving forward using a prescribed pecha kucha presentation format and opportunities for meaningful connections were created with a networking and Apero round to close the evening. The presentation topics varied from Open Data to Cultural Integration, from Management 3.0 to Prototyping the Future of Business, and from Conscious, Slow, Intentional Technology to topics of every other sort in between.

A Snapshot of Events

Impact Hub Prague:
They have been running successful Mash Up events for some time now and this was proved by a whopping one hundred and sixty five attendees. As you can imagine the atmosphere was simply amazing, the talks were inspiring, and multiple,meaningful connections were made throughout the evening. There was something for everyone including presentations from Prectime on how to learn a new language in three months, from Zonky on revolutionising the Czech loan market and from Capasitty on solar powered public benches. We could go on but the round of applause at the end of the evening speaks for itself.

IH Prague Jan Hromadko (1)

(photo by: Jan Hromadko)

Impact Hub Zurich:
The topic was Open Data. Can Open Data be sexy? Well, one of the speakers, Flurin Conradin of BooneaAG, managed to link Open Data to Knightrider and The Hoff, so things got very interesting, very quickly. All this after thought ­provoking presentations by André Golliez, the president of Open Data Switzerland, and Stefan Oderbolz, Open Data activist and software engineer at Liip. If Open Data is all about making data public, freely available and useful for increased transparency, innovation and efficiency, then yes, we think data is sexy.

IH Zurich Katherina Giese

(photo by: Katherina Giese)

Impact Hub London-Kings Cross:
The focus was on Management 3.0. How can founders share the drive and values that initially led to the start­up, with a team of directors and employees as the start­up organisation grows? Orfeuo Lionor, founder of Kuorom, an application to connect politicians with constituents, compared a start up business to a baby. Orfeuo said we need to nurture and raise that baby to be ready for society at large. He was joined by speakers Tobin May of Digital Unite, a company committed to supporting people to have good digital skills to enjoy and exploit, and Anna Luise Laycock of Finance Innovation Lab, whose mission is to empower positive disruptors in finance.

Impact Hub Berlin:
Mash Up participants were urged to slow down and to think about technology in a human­centric way. What’s slow technology you might ask? Well, Ben Wagner, from the Centre for Internet & Human Rights got everybody thinking about ‘The Ethics of Algorithms’ that lie behind technological advancements. And Ajantha Suriyanarayanan whose Culture& project, an online ideas salon, and collaborator on a recent Berlin Peace Innovation Lab initiative asked Mash Up participants to consider what would happen if they said ‘I will’ instead of ‘I wish’. All this in the frame of a presentation on how we can use technology to create a better world by rediscovering values such as freedom and righteousness, from Danilo Kamrad, the man behind Tech For Good. Clearly a thought provoking Mash Up evening.

Impact Hub Vienna:
The crowd was future gazing and getting inspired to prototype the future of business. There it seems that openness is the key. Mash Up participant Elodie Broussard, Community Journalist, shared her thoughts: “…during this Mash up, I understood thatopenness was the key to prototype the future of business. Openness to people, existing systems and innovative approaches.” She heard inspiring presentations by Gabriela Sonn Leitner from Magdas Hotel, the first refugee­ run hotel in Europe, Nikolaus Hutter, from theInvestment Ready Program, a collaboration platform for investors and entrepreneurs and Stefan Faatz­­Ferstl of Dwarfs and Giants, an innovative organization ­design and strategy consultant.


Be a Part of Mash Up:  If you can, join us for the next global Mash Up, which will take place on March 3 2016 and will be dedicated to the topic of Tech For Good.

IH Zurich Katherina Giese (1)

(photo by: Katherina Giese)

Guest blog post by Sarina Ruiter-Bouwhuis

From 10 September to 10 November 2015, Impact Hub Berlin hosted a weekly hub meetup called U.Lab @ IHB for co-learning and exchange in the framework of MIT and Edx’s MOOC U.Lab: Transforming Business, Society, and Self. After having coordinated and co-hosted this effort, Sarina reflects on 2 months of co-sensing, sense-making, and prototyping – and the road leading up to it.

Taking the Plunge

It’s a bright Sunday in June and I’m just relaxing at home when I receive a WhatsApp message from Vishal Jodhani, our Master Community Catalyst at Impact Hub Berlin: “You’ll never guess who I’m with right now.” He is texting me from Impact Hub’s Unlikely Allies Summit 2015 in Cluj-Napoca. “I’m with Otto Scharmer and Adam Yukelson!” I can’t believe what I’m reading: is he kidding me?! I had just completed the first U.Lab MOOC earlier in the year and I had been raving about it to anyone who would listen. Knowing that I am a big fan of their work, Vish had thought of me right away when he joined the master class on Theory U offered at the summit. “Wow! I’m SO jealous right now!” I immediately texted back. But I have to admit: I also did a little happy dance. If this had caught Vishal’s attention, that meant I had an awesome partner in crime at the hub for bringing Theory U to our community. And how right I was! Before I knew it, we were welcoming Adam to our humble monthly U.Lab Meetup in Berlin, and receiving tips from him on how we could apply Theory U principles to a hub event. Moreover, Vishal offered me the chance to host and coordinate the meetup for U.Lab @ IHB. So, off we were!

What is this Theory U you speak of?

This might be a good point to briefly touch on Otto Scharmer’s Theory U, which is actually not just a theory, but also offers a framework and a method for transformation in individuals and collectives. In addition to providing tools and a process for transformation, it rests on a foundation of how it understands the root causes of our current global challenges. Among other things, it identifies 3 disconnects: between Self and Planet (ecological divide), Self and Other (social divide), and Self and Self (spiritual divide). As you might expect, the Theory U process and tools are targeted towards bridging those divides and moving from what it refers to as Ego awareness – acting in the interest of me (little self) – to Eco awareness – acting in the interest of the whole (big Self).

For an introduction to the online course and an impression of the basic starting point for the theory, you can watch Otto’s introductory video on YouTube. The framework’s holistic approach to transformation has proven both overwhelming – due to the sheer number of tools, platforms and practices, not to mention the vastness of its scope – and incredibly powerful, as it brings deep listening and a keen level of awareness into areas where this is usually not emphasized. Theory U taps into our collective intelligence and wisdom, and as such definitely features as a potential game changer in organisations and society at large.


Well, then, what is U.Lab? Basically, this is the Massive Open Online Course that provided a total of over 35,000 people worldwide with access to recorded and live lectures on Theory U, reading materials, tools, meditations, Social Presencing Theatre practices, online discussion and interaction forums, offline coaching circles, and offline hub meetups. U.Lab @ IHB offered 2 kinds of meetups for Berlin participants of the online course:

1) a weekly Tuesday Meetup with members to practice and make sense of the material, and;

2) 4 open streaming sessions of the Live Lectures on fixed dates (the last of which will take place on 17 December).

The latter was open to anyone upon pre-registration. In total we had 75 registrations, 30 of which signed up for the weekly Tuesday Meetups.


Making the What the How

During the preparation phase for U.Lab @ IHB, I was having a chat with Belina Raffy – who, among many other things, teaches stand-up comedy for social entrepreneurs – when she touched on how important it would be to “make the What the How”. This struck me right away, as she had formulated so aptly what I was trying to do. How do you take the content and that which you want to achieve, the What, and apply it to the design and set-up of the organisation, the How?

I thus aimed to take the U process itself as the method for designing and conducting the meetups. Of course, I did not have to tackle this challenge by myself. We had a radiant group of co-facilitators working on this together, namely Benjamin Kafka, Christine Wank, Manuela BoschWiebke Koch and myself. Moreover, we had the committed support from Vishal for all things Impact Hub, Nara Pais for logistics/space set-up (with the support of Matt Beer, Bettina Hartlich and Tom Bley), and Jana Wehling and Ursel Biester for social media. Wiebke also made signs together with Naho Iguchi, which were so very helpful in the weekly meetups. Thus we already had our core tribe for making these sessions happen; all that was left, was to prototype our format.

Co-sensing & Prototyping

The prototyping phase in U.Lab is all about failing early to succeed sooner. So we probably could have anticipated the constructive feedback we stumbled into around week 3. As is usually the case with these kinds of meetups, the gathering had somewhat thinned out and a core group of committed individuals had begun to form. Although the sessions so far were fun and interesting, by week 3 it was becoming clear that there was something missing from the dynamic in the group. It was hard to get a sense of what everyone was working on and a kind of tension was clearly present. However, as a host, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was exactly.

I decided to do 2 things: 1) create a Weekly Newsletter to mirror the group back to itself and recap our collective progress week-by-week, and; 2) do a pulse check during the meetup, by way of I like, I feel, I wish… These turned out to be good calls, as the pulse check surfaced valuable feedback: many questions and things that had been unclear to the group. Our energy as facilitators had mainly been focused on covering the vast amount of new material in the first weeks, while allowing the group to get acquainted with one another, plus with their projects or interests. It was now obvious to all of us: a 2-hour meetup did not give us enough time to do either one of those things properly, let alone to co-create the meetup.

Collective Ownership

The week 3 meetup also sparked a discussion of collective ownership. Although we had already said that the hub was meant to be a collective effort that everyone was invited to co-create, in practice this had not hit home in the group. We were clearly taking on too much of a facilitating role and less of a space holding one, which could have encouraged participants more to take co-ownership and bring in their own ideas. Therefore, we went on to navigate what collective ownership could look like, and how to create space for it.

From this week on, the energy in the group seemed to shift. Everybody had gotten a chance to voice their opinion and understood that there was space to bring in more of themselves. As a host, I also noticed that I relaxed more and let go of my own sense of control. I had to learn to trust the power of the whole for the development of our collective journey. There was now more sharing going on and we made the outlines for the meetups less rigid. More sharing was going on and various prototypes eventually emerged, such as: a co-learning platform, eco-packaging ideas, a juice business, a sustainable fabrics venture, a yoga & awareness course/centre, etc. Check out the archive of U.Lab @ IHB Newsletters to see the reports of the meetups.

Movement Building

For all of the above and so much more, this was a profound learning experience for many of us. Finding new ways to navigate group experiences, to tap into collective intelligence, and to listen and provide feedback to each other and ourselves – it has been a beautiful ride! And now – a few weeks after our final meetup, and roughly one week before the final live session – the group has truly evolved into a self-organising and self-initiating movement. In fact, some of our members have gone out into Berlin and co-evolved the U.lab movement far beyond our meetups. How powerful is that?!

Curious about U.lab in Berlin? Here are some recommended links:

– Archive of the U.Lab @ IHB Newsletters

FB group of the members initiating U.Lab meetup ideas in Berlin, plus their Contact List

– Check out the Presencing Institute for more Theory U-related information and global


3 blog posts I wrote about my personal experience with U.Lab @ IHB

See you for the next round of U.Lab!

Love & Light,


Meet’n’learn, a unique learning platform that successfully graduated from Telefonica`s Wayra incubator program is hosting an event, Te(a)chology to bring the EdTech ecosystem together in Berlin on 3rd December 2015 at Impact Hub at 7pm.  

People say, it`s impossible, that there is no hope, it will never really change, students will just have to struggle and get through the education system as it is, somehow.

There is a way, though, despite the challenges and obstacles in traditional education. How can students, teachers, lecturers and EdTech professionals navigate their way through the maze?

Te(a)chology is an EdTech event that was created in Munich as there was a need to bring the EdTech eco-system together, so that startups, students, teachers and professors could find and meet and inspire each other and explore the intersection of education and technology with aim of creating new synergies. With guest speakers that are active across several fields, we have been expanding the dimensions of EdTech as we know it.

For the first Te(a)chology EdTech event in Berlin at Impact Hub, it will be hosted by Meet’n’learn that is a innovative learning platform that provides a direct access to tutors that are often difficult to find in classifieds. The platform supports connections between students and tutors in a range of subjects and discipline.

Meet’n’learn offers ease and accessibility for students, parents and tutors. Meetnlearn provides a central meeting place in a fragmented landscape.  This provides greater support, on the one hand for busy parents who are often overstretched, over-worked and underpaid– the service is free for parents—it can be very time consuming for parents to find reliable teacher. On the other hand tutors struggle to find the time to manage all their students.  Tutoring platforms such as Meet’n’learn offer ease and accessibility, consolidating and managing their students in one central platform.

Specifically for Te(a)chology Berlin it will be the chance for you to explore topics more generally around accessibility in education. More specifically you will be able to explore challenges of MOOC`s to deliver valuable learning experiences. Furthermore, what are the current challenges in higher education, especially with the influx refugees and international students. You will be able to explore how minorities as well as diversity can drive innovation and reform in higher education both on an “EdTech” and policy level.

Please register to secure your place here:

Find us here:

And here:

Algorithms shape our world(s)!

Guest post by Joanna Bronowicka and the Centre for Internet and Human Rights

Digitalization produces increasing amounts of datasets known as ‘big data’. So far, research focused on how ‘big data is produced and stored. Now, we begin to scrutinize how algorithms make sense of this growing amount of dataOur everyday life is shaped by computers and our computers are shaped by algorithms. Digital computation is constantly changing how we communicate, work, move, and learn. In short, digitally connected computers are changing how we live our lives. This revolution is unlikely to stop any time soon.

Algorithms are the brains of our computers, mobiles, Internet of Things. Algorithms are increasingly used to make decisions for us, about us, or with us – oftentimes without us realizing it. This raises many questions about the ethical dimension of algorithms.

What is an algorithm?

The term ‘algorithm’ refers to any computer code that carries out a set of instructions. Algorithms are essential to the way computers process data. Theoretically speaking, they are encoded procedures, which transform data based on specific calculations. They consist of a series of steps that are undertaken to solve a particular problem, like in a recipe. An algorithm is taking inputs (ingredients), breaking a task into its constituent parts, undertaking those tasks one by one, and then producing an output (e.g. a cake). A simple example of an algorithm is “find the largest number in this series of numbers”.

Why do algorithms raise ethical concerns?

First, let’s have a closer look at some of the critical features of algorithms. What are typical functions they perform? What are negative impacts for human rights? Here are some examples that probably affect you too.

They keep information away from us

Increasingly, algorithms decide what gets attention, and what is ignored; and even what gets published at all, and what is censored. This is true for all kinds of search rankings, for example the way your social media newsfeed looks. In other words, algorithms perform a gate-keeping function.

Example: Hiring algorithms decide if you are invited for an interview

Ethical implications: Algorithms work as gatekeepers that influence how we perceive the world, often without us realizing it. They channel our attention, which implies tremendous power.

For the full blog post, click here. 

The First Eastern European Social Entrepreneurship School in Berlin was a success.

Guest post by Maria Ugoljew

In Germany, the conversations revolving around Russia, Belarus or Ukraine are usually replete with terms like war, authoritarianism and vote rigging. Despite this negative perception, a young generation is emerging in these countries, eager to change their reality, their society and their cities.  Recently, fifteen of these youngsters flew to Berlin to participate in the first Eastern European Entrepreneurship School, hosted by the Impact Hub Berlin. For almost two weeks, they were joined by German social entrepreneurship experts. The group discussed their visions, projects and novel concepts. One of the guests, an architect Olga Solonovich, runs free guided tours for the visually impaired in her native Minsk. When this 27-year-old talks about her project, her eyes shine and her voice quickens. She is so eager to tell every detail about ‘Mivia’, she stops herself occasionally: “I hope I don’t talk too fast!”

She runs the project together with several friends out of her home office. In their spare time, the group meets to tinker with the architectural models, to be used in the excursions later on. The models represent selected parts of the city molded in plastic, which the excursion participants can touch, thus learning how their environment looks like. “The idea is very well received, and not just by blind people,” says Solonovich. For the seeing individuals, who can join the tour blindfolded, the excursion is an adventure too. But Solonovich is not just interested in creating “adventures”. “We want the visually-impaired —and the disabled people in general — to be fully established in the Belarusian society.”

Previously, the tendency was to exclude and to pity the blind. “But why?” asks Olga, enraged, “They are people just like you and me.” The young architect appreciated her stay in Berlin. Finally was she able to meet people who share her vision of a more just and inclusive society. “I’m not alone, and that’s a good feeling,” she says, giggling. Anna Bondarenko is a person with a vision too. The young, petite woman is an expert in the field of social entrepreneurship in Ukraine. She remarks the progress since the beginning of the movement, and seems to be participating in everything. Her biggest project is the Impact Hub Odessa, a co-working space for the creatives and activists alike, “for people who want more than just to earn money.”  “We want to make the world a better place,” the 20-year old woman proclaims energetically.

“The current situation in Ukraine is great for change-making and idea-generation,” she says. The Euromaidan made it possible. “People understand now that they have to do something if they want to have a change in the society.” It was demonstrated that the social entrepreneurship is a useful tool: earning money, yes — but also for a good cause. Sergey Medvedev of the iDecembrists association, who initiated the project with the support from the German Foreign Office, is certain that the social entrepreneurship can change the Ukrainian, as well as Belorussian and Russian societies. “Social entrepreneurship is kind of a backdoor for nurturing civil society in authoritarian states,” says his colleague, Anton Himmelspach, “ All these young people are seen as the new hope.”

The new hope representatives demonstrate their commitment in diverse ways. The young entrepreneurs are active in the medical care, they create spaces for artists and conservationists, analyze the labour market, establish well-maintained bike routes and push the art projects for the disabled children forward. These projects are often financed by crowdfunding. Each country has its own crowdfunding platform. In Russia, there are and, while in Belarus it’s “It is comparable to in Germany,” says Leon Reiner (of the Impact Hub Berlin) who accompanied the participants through the workshop. During the closing event he sent off the participants with the encouraging: “From now on you are the experts. Make the most of it!” We are curiously anticipating what’s next in the “far away land” of Eastern Europe. “In 2016 we are going to organize the second Social Entrepreneurship School for sure,” says Sergey Medvedev. “It only makes sense. In many post-soviet countries political involvement can be fatally dangerous. An encouragement of the social entrepreneurship can be a good alternative in creating and consolidating the civil society.”

Guest Post by Impact Hub Member Ursel Biester, who is launching her new book at our space on Wednesday, Nov. 11. Check out the event here and hear an interview we did with her on our new podcast ‘Impact Matters.’ 

I have always been fascinated about journeys. It was probably when I lived in Chile for half a year when I was 16 years old that I discovered this passion. What I discovered later in my life though, is that journeys can happen in many shapes. Metaphorically speaking, even our whole life is a learning journey.

We can take a real physical journey, travel to a far away place, and discover something new. Or we can stay at home, and dedicate a fixed amount of time, say, one week, to evaluate a specific topic. Any frame we choose, the purpose is to focus our mind on a question or a longing that we want to discover, and once we have set our aim, we let go. We open our eyes and let the aim pull us towards it.

Possible frameworks

When I talk about learning journeys, I always take that as the basic outline. Set an intention, create a framework, and then let go and trust the process.The most relevant framework for a learning journey in my work is within organizations, educational institutions, or companies. For self-directed learning journeys I create a template, often a book with guiding questions that the traveller can use by him/herself. If it is a learning journey for a group, I create a learning environment and become a facilitator.

When going on a journey, learning has no longer the meaning of transmission of knowledge from one head to another, but rather the active search and exploration of a topic, driven by curiosity and intrinsic motivation. As such, it becomes a personally satisfying and engaging activity.

Common associations

Being a member at Impact Hub, a worldwide co-working space for social entrepreneurs, I asked random strangers  to give me associations with „learning journey“ and they replied: self-discovery, ongoing learning, steep learning curve and extended amount of time. I can only agree: the learning comes in its own time, whenever we are ready to process it. It may lie dormant for some time, and suddenly take a huge leap. The times of relaxation and doing nothing are as much part of the process as the times with input.

An individual coaching process can also be a learning journey. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It requires an intention or goal of the coachee and then he/she will go towards that goal with the support of the coach. The way will unfold, supported by various tools and methods, as long as we keep walking. To stay within the metaphor: you start the travels at your home, you set your direction towards Mexico, and get going. On the way you will use various vehicles: boat, car airplane and sometimes even foot. A learning journey is no different, it is up to you to decide which means will guide you through this process.

If you google “learning journey” the first hit delivers a strategy consultancy. That makes so much sense! When I facilitate workshops in companies, we also go on a journey together. We start with an idea, an intention to explore and develop the best possible future of the company. We aim for that, and then we let go. We dive into a creative process, exploring concrete potentials, discover new ideas, involve as many perspectives as possible, until something new emerges. We pin it down, we make it concrete. It is a process of transformation.

Another association with a learning journey is a pilgrimage. We leave our home with a longing for spiritual growth. We set out into the unknown, pulled forward by the holy grail or whatever it is we want to find at the end of our journey.

The trigger of a learning journey is the same: we feel a vacuum inside us, a yearning, a longing, and we set out to fill the empty spot.

It happens when we have a blind spot in our mind, something we don´t know, and we gain knowledge and understanding, to color this blind spot.

Where do you feel your blind spot?

My favorite topics for learning journeys are leadership, social entrepreneurship and sustainability. We are living in times of huge social shifts, the future is very open and what we fix our eyes on intentionally, is where we will end up. So I suggest to fix them very firmly on hunger-relieve, people-empowerment and environmental-repair!

If you want my advice on the key factor to a successful learning journey, it would be this one:never stop trusting that you will get there. Keep the eyes half open very firmly hooked onto your intention and trust that everything you come across is a milestone. What happens on the way, that is the learning.

We’ve created a new educational partnership between & The Changer! 

Photo credit: Alexandra Kovbasko

The Berlin social innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem is starting to come of age. The Changer just launched their 2.0 platform, we’ve rolled out our new global membership, and new startup is on a mission to offer quality trainings at a lower price. Combined, we’re proud to announce a new educational partnership bringing all our best qualities together.

Besides curating a strong community of talented entrepreneurs working to create social impact, we’ve been offering event space for people and organizations including Transparency International, eBay, the Grameen Creative Lab Global Social Business Summit, and Stanford University School of Design Thinking amongst many others. It’s great to grow such a community and collaborate with global organizations. It’s even better to create new learning and connecting formats that can help not just accelerate our community, but also the greater innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.

What we noticed was a growing need in our community to offer members even better educational content. What we noticed in the greater ecosystem was an opportunity to connect local players in a more purpose-driven way. We love our weekly community events where we gather around, drink coffee, cook a meal together, or have a glass of wine at the end of the week. What we love even more is bringing people together to not just meet, but to also collectively learn.

How often have you wasted your time in workshops that didn’t really have an impact on the work you were doing?

How often have you had a workshop cancel with just one participant- without even being informed about it?

How often have you sat in a workshop thinking “this is way below my standards?”

Now, with the reach of The Changer and their new site, the innovative online platform of and the offline community and space at Impact Hub Berlin, you can be sure you never have to worry about any of these questions again. Take a look below at our offerings over the next six weeks. Finally, get in touch if there’s any content you’d like to see us program in the future.

Onwards and upwards, to future learning!

We’re participating in the New Membership Pilot Project 

We’re excited to let you know we are one of the 14 Impact Hubs (along with Kings Cross London, Prague, Sao Paulo, Vienna, Kuala Lumpur, Stockholm, Belgrade, Bucharest, Geneva, Munich, Rotterdam, and Zurich) across the globe who will be piloting an upgrade of the Impact Hub Membership experience starting late October 2015. This blog will give you a bit of background about the project and, of course, explain the new opportunities for you as Hubber.

This pilot project is about building upon local strengths and adding what you seem to miss most: better global connectivity and a sense of belonging. Therefore as Pilot Hubs we’ve worked hard to align the membership experience across Impact Hubs with the goal of being able to say: there is one Impact Hub Membership. You still have your Home Hub which is dedicated to personally hosting you, but you now have many “homes-­away-­from­-home”. The experience and support you can expect in any Impact Hub will be the same. You are an Impact Hub member, not “just” an Impact Hub Berlin member.

The pilot has three different phases and Phase 1 is just launching. What does Phase 1 mean for you as a Hubber?



In the second and third phase we will add the following concrete changes for you:



Since this is a pilot project, we will need your help to figure out what value we are creating for you. What is working? What isn’t? Which other opportunities are we missing? Please tweet at us using #ImpactHubMembership and help making your Impact Hub Membership better. Thank you very much! And welcome on board, welcome on a journey to the new Impact Hub Membership!

Benjamin Snow, Co-founder of, shared with us how the world of civic engagement is changing with technology

Interview (and visual) by Aleksandra Širec

Editing: Brock LeMieux


Who are you?

I am Benjamin Snow, one of the founders of It’s a social startup and platform for civic engagement where we facilitate better decision making and collaboration within communities.

What is your background? How did you get to what you are doing today?

I came to Berlin to do a master’s in public policy at Hertie School of Governance three years ago. Back then Civocracy was an idea that has gone through great transformation. I gained more knowledge and experience in political communication, deliberative democracy and civic tech. All these experiences enabled me to develop a tech company bridging the divide between citizens, non-profits, organizations and the government.

What are you working on right now? Why are you doing what you are doing?

We believe one of the biggest fundamental problems is not the problem itself but how we talk about it. How do we have better conversations? How do we create better decision making? How do we allow for better transparency? The way that communities currently come together to attempt to understand issues and make decisions affecting them can be inefficient. Take the local issue of Tempelhofer Feld as an example. (Editor’s note: Tempelhofer Feld, an old airport strip turned community garden and recreation space, was recently at risk of being privately sold for luxury housing.) So what do you do? If you don’t like what’s been decided, you create an opposition and march on the street. Most of the time, officials are trying to avoid people picketing on the street. Yet what they don’t do (before making a decision) is to reach out to the community.

The only people they ever hear from are the ones who are really upset. We think that the future of society isn’t just about hearing the loudest voices. Instead, it’s about creating real engagement with communities so many voices can be heard. We believe increased transparency, aided by technology, helps creates stronger civic engagement. Furthermore, it  helps citizens make more informed decisions about whatever issue it is they care about. We are building a platform, a civic network, that helps people to do this much more easily. Much the same as one has a social network like LinkedIn for professional reasons, Civocracy is connecting around: What do I care about in my community? How do I get involved with it? Who else in my community is involved? How do I form and give my opinion about the issues my community faces? That’s what we’re building.

How do you create impact?

Our goal isn’t to decide who wins. I feel people often approach problems and solutions by clearly determining what the problem is and what the most suitable solution is. Thereby they try to define their impact. We don’t aim to solve a specific problem. Our goal is to change the way we solve problems, the way we think about problems, and the way we design solutions. We see ourselves as enabling others to create impact. We are facilitators of impact.

That’s why we want to create a tool that helps experts, communities and people to come together to make better decisions about what they care about. We don’t have to know the answers. We just have to make a tool where people come come up with better questions and conclusions. I really believe that impact is about enabling others to create impact for their community.

So it’s about transparency…

Transparency just reflects what is already happening. What we aim to do is more about empowerment. We believe it’s not about finding out what is best for a community, but to help them identify what works best for them. It’s facilitating this conversation that we believe really empowers communities.

Why did you join Impact Hub?

We took part in an accelerator program in Amsterdam where we received lots of mentorship which really made us move forward. Coming back to Berlin, we didn’t want to be isolated in an office space. That’s why we are here at Impact Hub Berlin. We believe in being part of a vibrant, diverse community with our shared values.

How do you think the Impact Hub community helps you develop your project and take it to the next level?

We want to be surrounded by other people working on interesting products and services. I believe an inspiring environment fosters great ideas and innovation. It’s also important for us to be connected to the right people. These include potential partners, employers, customers, users, and people to test our product and give us feedback. This is also valuable as we hire. We started with two people, now we are seven, and by the end of the year we will probably be more.

What’s on the horizon for you?

We are currently in our second round of fundraising and preparing everything for that right now. We also just hired two new developers. We are also having really good discussions right now with one really big client interested to use our platform across the continent. We’ve got a second version coming out in the upcoming weeks, we’ve brought on some new people to add to our technical side, and we’ve got three exciting new partnerships.

How do you get inspired? What inspires you to do this project?

I am really getting inspired when I see people who really shift the way the trajectory of how something goes. That could be a social movement, where some really radical thing can spontaneously happen. Spontaneous because people were passionate about something and got involved. The way we view solar energy is a good example. A few people thought that maybe they weren’t going to succeed alone, but passionately believed they could change the way people thought about it’s potential and the possibilities. That’s kind of what we want to do. We want to change the way what people think about civic tech, about how the internet can be used for civic engagement, government decision making and transparency.

But we also want to take that thinking and make a tool to help people create their own innovations. So they can say “this muddled conversation around how we care for the elderly has being going on for two years now.” We created a tool that helps them find each other, helps them research further, and say “let’s do something to change the way people approach this problem.” This could be a technological advancement (such as an app or online course educating more people about the issue) or perhaps a government petition or campaign. Seeing results like that, that’s what really gets us inspired!


Connect with Benjamin on LinkedIn


Nele Kapretz, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Impact Hub Berlin, shared with Impact Hub Zurich how leaving everything behind freed them to finally kick-start Impact Hub Berlin.

This guest post, written by our managing director Nele Kapretz, was originally featured on the Impact Hub Zurich blog.

“We always thought of ourselves as a team with strong principles and beliefs. But this time we were convinced – Impact Hub Berlin wasn’t going to happen. After putting more than one year of work into this project, we were done.

In January 2014 we decided as a team to turn our back on this dear dream and search for new ways to channel our passion of fostering an societal change in Germany.  We drafted a goodbye email to our community and parted our ways without even bothering to send it out.

But parting into different directions only made us aware of two things: there was no appealing alternative out there and, contrary to what we had preached in our workshops,  we hadn’t even prototyped. So with a gut feeling that the best was yet to come, we got back together and identified our problems, failures, learnings and areas of actions. We compiled all of this in a visual report and sent it to our community to share our journey and implicitly ask for support – and support we got. A befriended co-working space offered us parts of their space to prototype Impact Hub Berlin for six months. The only catch? We had to open within three weeks. So we activated our network and a few hours later had 23 people willing to move in with us. Boom – we finally broke the spell.

We collaboratively built the space with our community and now had a showcase to attract investors, convince a landlord of the concept and run first educational programs at universities. We received a prize by the government, invited to the chancellor and in May 2015 open our new home in downtown Berlin. 

below: Nele, featured in a photo alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Deutschlandforum


Today, we proudly host our diverse community of governmental organisations, global NGOs and corporate innovation teams besides our ever-growing entrepreneurial member base, while organising inspirational events and running nationwide programs. 

Looking back, we are happy that persistence and resilience were our constant companions that allowed us to pivot our determination away from abandoning our dream to going full force into realisation. And yet we are certain that our old mantra remains – the best is yet to come.”

Check out this video for more on Nele’s story:


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The term “business model” is a tricky one: everyone think they know what it means, but few could

pinpoint the essential elements of one (not to mention constructing a “better” one). The matter

becomes even trickier when it comes to business with a social impact – how can one ensure both social

and economic value generations are aligned and complement each other through business model


Under the guidance of Frederike Beha, participants from five different countries gathered on 25th August

and learnt about aspects of a business model, and how to make it better. Having been introduced to the

value propositions of brands such as Warby Parker & Airbnb, participants defined their own with

reference to different customer groups. They were further equipped with different business model

patterns to challenge and improve their initial ideas. At the end of the workshop, three business models

targeting at refugees, food education and feel-good work environment were generated. Participants

also left with an outlook of what next steps to take.

Got an awesome idea for a social business and need some inspiration to bring it to life? Get inspired on or write a message to [email protected] to join the community and stay

informed about future events.


Prepared by Maxime Cheng

IMG_4037 IMG_4053IMG_4011 IMG_4008IMG_4047 IMG_4022

Two of our members, Anna Perrottet and Ina Budde, took us on an unusual tour to visit sustainable fashion labels in Berlin. We visited vintage shop Mimi Berlin, upcycling dressmakers Bis es mir vom Leibe fällt, Frau Wagner dress studio, UMASAN – the world’s first vegan high fashion brand and LNFA-Conceptstore, Agency & Events. Fun fact: you can use rhubarb juice to dye leather.

Check out all the different Green Fashion Tours  and get regular Facebook updates on their events.


Photos & Text: Aleksandra Širec

With pride we announce that our online community has now over 4000 interested members. Cheers to the fast-growing impact driven movement!

“Hard work deserves hard celebrations!” And so it happened! During the early evening of Friday, June 5th, one by one, our wonderful guests began to arrive: young and old, children and parents, business partners, social innovators, Crowdfunding supporters, members, friends, sympathisers and all the rest. Obeying the theme “[email protected]#$ the Rest, Come Overdressed,” they poured in wearing their finest attire and filling the Hub with smiles and energy.

The Grand Opening Party started with a VIP segment at 5 o’clock, to which we invited our most appreciated Crowdfunding supporters and our lovely members. The pre-party was meant to honour those who—among others—participated most actively to create Friedrichstrasse 246 from a construction site into the beautiful co-working space you see today.

Tables were covered with tasteful and supremely served canapé’s, the DJ was playing fantastic music and everyone was in their best mood to chat, mingle and dance the night away.

The peak of the evening was when our Managing Director, Nele Kapretz, and the whole team stood on the stage and raised their glasses to those in attendance, a toast to the impact we’ve made together in the past few crazy months, and look forward at what is still to come. Friends, we are home!

Cheers and a big Thank You to everyone that made it happen!

Written by Aleksandra Širec


Join Our Core is back once again to find clever entrepreneurial cookies who, not only share our values, but want to stick a spoon in and make a difference! This year, we want to hoof-start your crowdfunding campaigns – take a look below to find out how we’ll help take your idea to dizzying heights. In 2015 we’re especially encouraging organisations that are working on the issue of Climate Change… we are, however, also keen to hear from all budding social entrepreneurs whatever the issue you are addressing!

What’s up for grabs?

We’ll train five Finalists from each country to run amazing crowdfunding campaigns. We’ll then pick up to two winners and top-up your campaign with 20% of it’s crowdfunding target, up to a value of €10,000, and shout from the rooftops to get you kick-started.

Think you’ve got what it takes?

Inspired by our three-part mission we are looking to see your product, social and economic mission. So we’ll be judging ventures on your potential for:

(We’re especially encouraging entries addressing climate change, to tie in with our activism campaign ahead of December’s UNFCCC conference in Paris.)

We will prioritise our support on those ventures that have the most feasible plan for delivering these and that could benefit most from Join Our Core. But in addition you must be:

Don’t just stand there and let the grass grow! Download our application form by registering below, grab a tub to keep you company, fill it in and send it back to us by March 16th. Here at HQ we’ll then gather the herd and pick a shortlist with some help from our lead partners for the fourth year running Ashoka – world class experts in screening and selecting systems changing innovators.

Entering the competition is easy: Go to and apply online.

If you know anyone who would be relevant, feel free to forward this email on!

During the Berlin Fashion Week, our members from GET CHANGED! and The Upcycling Fashion Store launched the Green Fashion roadmap, a map that summarizes and shows you where to find Upcyling stores and concept stores for fair fashion in Berlin.

The idea behind is to make it simple for customers to search for environmentally and socially produced fashion. The map proposes a bridge between the offline shops and the online platform, GET CHANGED!

During the Fashion Week, they also held guided tours visiting stores and designers that produce upcycled products and fair fashion. I joined one of the tours to get inspiration and to learn more about where I can buy clothes are good for both  me and for our planet.

The first designer we visited was Wilfried Pletzinger who develops individual clothes using material from old sportswear, knitwear and jeans. If you like a sporty style, you would love his design.

Schmidttakahashi is an upcycling fashion concept started by the German Fashion Designer Eugenie Schmidt and the Japanese textile designer Mariko Takahashi. They initiated their brand from their own problems with wardrobes stuffed with old clothes. Now they collect clothes from other people and inspired by the story behind every donated piece, they create new trendy designs.

We hit the road again and walked into Water To Wine which upcycles old clothes in collaboration with the Berliner Stadtmission. Great initiative and a charming store.

Inspired by the designers, we were excited to visit the last stop on the tour – the Upcycling Fashion Store where you can buy cool re-designed fashion from upcoming designers.

These awesome tours are held by Elisabeth Fuckel from Klünck and Anna Perrottet from GET CHANGED!

Inspired to do some shopping and learn more about sustainable designers and brands? Contact [email protected] or [email protected] to learn about where the next tour will be. Keep yourself updated here.

Written by Moa

This week our co-founder and design thinking expert Anna Laesser held a workshop to share her knowledge in the topic. Centered around creativity, empathy and putting the user’s needs at the heart of solving a problem, design thinking is seen as an important tool to drive business and social innovation.

But what is Design Thinking, you ask? Design Thinking is a collaborative, human-centered approach to solve a wide range of complex problems. It emphasizes the user: understand their needs and you’ll find creative, innovative solutions for the problem you want to solve. The design thinking process goes through six steps: understand, observe, point of view, ideation, prototyping and testing.


Understanding is the first phase of the design thinking process. You need to understand your costumers and do 360° research around your problem. When you do that you should start to observe. Go out and talk to people about the problem you want to solve, make interviews and reflect on what you hear and see. The next step is to define the problem and understand how it impacts people’s experiences. What problem are you solving? Your user’s needs might not be what you expected. When you have done that – it’s time to get creative. Brainstorm, ideate, take risks and have fun. No ideas or solutions are stupid. You got a good idea? Make a prototype! And don’t forget to go out and test it to get feedback and find out what’s working and what doesn’t.

During the 90 minutes workshop the participants pretended being a wallet manufactory with the aim to produce the most suitable wallet for costumers that want a functional wallet that even the sloppiest person won’t drop. We are amazed of the brainpower and creativity from the teams. One team prototyped a bracelet wallet that you wear close to your body to not lose it. Another team built a purse that gives you an electric shock if you drop it and the third team had an idea of creating an experience for the buyer and do a workshop where he or she grab a coffee while the craftsman is producing your own customized purse. The design thinking process brought out the craziest and best ideas.

“I love that it is a dynamic and interactive process. It made me think deeper and analyze what I do and not just do it” – participant

Do you want to learn more or sharpen your skills in design thinking? We will soon have another round of the workshop. Check out our events here on the webpage and follow us on facebook to stay tuned!