At the end of last month, the second annual gathering of European Impact Hubs took place in Odessa from 19th-21st September 2019. What a diverse and interesting experience it was! A total of 74 Impact Hub Makers from 19 countries and 29 different European Impact Hubs joined, each contributing their stories and visions for the future of the global network. We’d like to share the four main inspirations from this year’s gathering: 

The power of storytelling: Impact Hubs share a common sense of belonging. We come from the same roots, going back to 2005, and collectively make up the DNA of the global network. We each bring our local flavor to the wider community and collectively strive to empower social entrepreneurs across the globe. Sharing that story and our work within our network inspires new collaborations and enables us to grow beyond borders and cultures. 

Diversity and empathy: We are all part of a global framework, share the same values of trust, collaboration and courage, and believe in the power of community to create change. Nevertheless, while the global framework gives us our overall sense of direction, it also allows for sufficient space and freedom to shape our local Impact Hubs and culture. As a result, each Impact Hub offers unique local programmes, decides on a thematic focus and has its own business model. Locally, we are able to adapt to the challenges of the people we work with, offering tailor-made programmes, while having the support and backbone of a global network with almost 17,000 members. 

Creativity through co-creation: We do not have to reinvent the wheel! Sometimes, we get stuck in our daily hamster wheel of to-do lists and meetings, not being able to rethink our ways of working. Spending quality time with other people working at Impact Hubs and sharing our experiences was truly eye-opening. The ability to learn from each other’s mistakes enables us to fail faster and iterate better. 

Human connections: In light of the climate crisis that affects us all, we’ve had several discussions around the value of real-life human connections. While we are aware of the carbon impact that our travel to Odessa has on the planet, we also know the value of connecting with each other to share and learn together in person (you can read our collective climate resolution here). Though technology gives us the opportunity to stay in touch throughout the year, we truly believe that meeting face-to-face has brought us closer together and strengthened our bond. 

A warm thank you from Berlin to the entire team at Impact Hub Odessa who created a unique and impactful experience for us all. Chapeau! 

Are you eager to connect with the network and kick off a project with us in Berlin or beyond? Then reach out to Sophie via [email protected].

Bethmann Bank and Impact Hub Berlin collaborate in event series “Rethinking social responsibility”

In September, in collaboration with our Impact Partner, Bethmann Bank AG, Impact Hub Berlin launched the event series “Bethmann Forum: Rethinking social responsibility”. The  series aims to rethink the spectrum of social engagement – from traditional philanthropy to Corporate Social Responsibility – and encourage collaboration between unlikely allies.

Nicolas von Loeper, member of the Board-Bethman Bank AG, holds his opening speech

The evening kicked-off with Nicolas Löper, Member of the Board at Bethmann Bank speaking about his personal motivation to commit to sustainable practices. Next, Dr. Verena Schuler, Member of the Advisory Board for Sustainability at Bethmann Bank, shared her perspective on the importance of rethinking how we do business. Finally, our own Leon Reiner, Founder and Managing Director at Impact Hub Berlin transitioned the conversation to social entrepreneurship and explained how it can be a tool to tackle some of the greatest challenges of our times.

In the second half of the event, we invited  four social enterprises from the region of Lower Saxony to pitch their work in shaping a sustainable future: Mobile Retter e.V., Avoid Waste, UNTER EINEM DACH gUG und WirGarten e.V. Each one concluded with a challenge they currently face, encouraging event participants to collectively ideate possible solutions. 

Working together, attendees brainstormed an array of solutions and next steps for the challenges presented by the startups. The diverse professional backgrounds and expertise of the audience were key to fruitful discussions, expanding horizons and networks throughout the evening. It was an event full of mutual learning and inspiration for Bethmann clients and impact startups alike. 

The Bethmann Forum series is part of the Impact Partnership between Impact Hub Berlin and Bethmann Bank – aiming to inspire customers and employees of Bethmann Bank around the topics of social entrepreneurship and sustainability. By becoming an Impact Partner of Impact Hub Berlin, Bethmann Bank is actively integrated into the ecosystem of the Impact Hub global network. Through this partnership, Impact Hub Berlin and Bethmann Bank show how unlikely allies can collaborate to shape a future that works for all.

If your company is interested in becoming an Impact Partner of Impact Hub Berlin or hosting an event with us, please contact Sophie Münzberg for further information.

In the first two articles of this series we have made the claim that partnerships are like start-ups. But how can we translate this spirit into practice? We suggest a five-step process rooted in the Design Thinking methodology, with strong facilitation taking place on “neutral ground”, i.e. in a creative space, hub or lab.

Setting assumptions aside in the Download phase // The process starts by encouraging key actors to reflect upon own assumptions and prejudices about the other party or parties involved, as well as upon own motives and goals. Here, each party is given a safe space to articulate their assumptions through the use of templates and guiding questions. These are not shared yet, but merely serve as a reflection tool before entering the process.

Building empathy and personal relationships in the Discover and Define phase // The Discover phase enables participants to shift perspective by viewing the collaboration opportunity or challenge addressed through the eyes of the future partners. Here, we usually implement site visits, similar to “transect walks” in participatory action research The “unlikely allies” visit each other or go on a “safari” together to explore the topic in the field. An example would be a tour through Berlin to visit and interview different actors of the social innovation scene. The visits are enriched with team building exercises and sessions on topics such as leadership or collaboration. After the safari, there is time to synthesize insights and to reflect upon assumptions collected in the Download phase: 

Were my assumptions confirmed? Are my own views challenged? Have I learned anything new about my partner or stakeholders? Are there overlaps in our mission and goals? 

In our experience, exploring topics outside of the usual working environment and away from desks creates a first feeling of trust, openness to listen, and, equally important, excitement.

Creating space to prototype and learn in the Develop phase // In the Develop phase, participants are enabled to build the foundation of their partnership by co-developing and prototyping solutions they want to create together (products, services, process innovations) in a design sprint. During the sprint, which usually lasts three to five days, the startup spirit is especially relevant and is enhanced through an open, inspiring space and supporting materials and methods. Again, a safe space is provided to create, prototype, learn, and iterate together, especially during the first days. Having all parties co-create the content of their partnership in a space that allows playing with ideas before shaping them to reality, allows the creation of understanding and trust. This creates the foundation for a sustainable, long-term partnership, as a common language is created in the process.

Supporting change agents in the Deliver phase //  In addition or as part of the Design Sprint one to two days are always dedicated to go into implementation, including business modeling, roadmapping, and to create clear commitments from all parties involved. Translating the spirit of the Design Spring into outcomes that are tangible and implementible is crucial to support the change agents in selling the partnership opportunity to their internal stakeholders. 

 

Success factors in implementing the process:

  • Download phase
    • “Homework” is essential to bring everybody on board quickly – we usually advise the future partners on how to prepare their self-presentations, which data and information is needed and how it should be processed. Otherwise, alignment and understanding between participants takes too long and creates frustration
    • When sharing assumptions, some hesitation to share own views that might be perceived as critical can arise, depending on the cultural context. Our recommendation is to take a playful approach (e.g. a role play)
  • Discover and Define phase:
    • A site visit or similar “rich” experience is key for the discovery phase and cannot be substituted – make sure to plan this step properly, brief contact persons within the organisation, let the participants develop interview guides and the like to make maximum use of this excursion
    • The safari is important as a team-building intervention for the working group, too, especially if participants don’t know each other well yet
  • Develop phase
    • Endorsement and formal opening speeches by upper management are helpful to put the participants into the right mindset – if leadership encourages openness and demonstrates this attitude, it gets easier for participants to engage in the process
    • It is crucial to involve managers and operational staff (and not just the communications team) during the design sprint, eg. by inviting them over for a pitch of the ideas to get a first feeling or direct feedback on the ideas during the process
  • Deliver phase
    • Use tools from start-up methodology such as the business model canvas, and have several peer pitches to prepare “change agents” for pitching the idea within their organization
    • Ongoing coaching and backstopping after the workshop is advised to keep up the momentum, see below

 

Additional challenges in implementation – joint decision making, conflict management and the like

When it comes to implementation, additional challenges surface that reach beyond the scope of our “start-up” metaphor. E.g., decisions in partnerships can’t be taken through hierarchy, it requires agreements on decision making processes, well designed formats for negotiation and the like. Conflicts are unavoidable side-effects of dynamic and innovative partnerships and need to be handled, results need to be jointly monitored and other challenges will always suface. Successful partnerships usually develop steering mechanisms (e.g. boards, committees, working groups) that provide social spaces for these joint negotiations, decision making and learning processes. Also, sufficient support resources (e.g. in the preparation of meetings, in controlling and monitoring) should be available to keep up the dynamic.  

As a result of our work towards this 5-step process we had many aha moments and learnings. But one of the main takeaways was the urgent need to look deeper into the implementation phase. Enabling the great innovations are created in these partnership settings to succeed is a topic that we are currently working on. So if you have any suggestions or would like to part of this effort do not hesitate to contact us.  We are always looking for partners and project ready to learn with us.

Every partnership starts with the realisation that an objective could be better achieved by working together, leveraging each partner’s strengths. This realisation can happen based on personal encounters, strategic analysis or simply coincidence. Nevertheless, it can be a long way from having an idea for a partnership to successfully implementing it.

Key aspects in the pioneering stage of cross-sector partnerships:

 

Setting assumptions aside
When different parties join the table, they bring different motives, goals and strategies. During the first phase of building a partnership, seemingly simple things such as setting aside assumptions and really listening to each other’s perspectives are crucial to lay the groundwork. People from different organisational cultures with their respective “languages” and organisational cultures need to learn to understand each other and to overcome prejudices to do so (“Government is always slow and bureaucratic”, “Private sector is only interested in profits”, etc).

Building empathy and personal relationships
To produce the hoped-for outcomes, individuals must be ready to question their own hard-won beliefs and ways of thinking. Dynamic partnerships are based on a thorough understanding of what the others at the table need and want to take out of the joint project; of what are their  strengths and where their pain points are. This requires empathy, which is based on personal relationships and connections that need to evolve over time. But in practice, there’s little space for empathy and team building: cross-sector partnerships are often top-heavy, involve extensive planning exercises that drain energy in the very beginning, and are thus not thoroughly rooted in a sufficient understanding of each other. 

Supporting change agents
In most partnerships, there are discrepancies in power and authority that need to be balanced. Often it is not enough that the people at the table love the idea – they also need to sell it to their internal stakeholders. Underestimating approval processes is an easy trap to fall into: Many times change agents need to convince superiors, search for like-minded people, build alliances and lobby for support within their own organisation. All this also needs to be considered before jump-starting joint projects.

Creating space to prototype and learn
Once personal relationships are built and common goals are agreed upon, things should get practical fast. In most cases, there is limited time allocated to foster innovative project proposals and limited space allowed to prototype and to practically learn from mistakes. Different parties try to stick to their pre-formulated goals and success matrices (like for example KPIs), and get lost in planning instead of creating a flexible space that allows for common action. Trial and error includes risk, but provides the opportunity to understand the challenge addressed more deeply.

 

Partnerships are startups!
Here, startups are an interesting learning field for us. How do they start? Somebody has an idea and convinces others that the idea is something the world needs. Slowly, the founding team elaborates ideas into plans, convinces supporters and stakeholders and – hopefully – financiers. In the best case scenario they improvise a lot, fail, learn from their mistakes and adapt their solutions. In the process, the team gets to know each other much better, builds trust and develops its own modes of communicating and organising. In the beginning, this form of working together is very informal, spontaneous, non-hierarchical and intimate. It encourages prototyping and out-of-the box thinking rather than the fear to fail or restrictions to success matrices. This creative vibe and team spirit is one reason why this form of working is so popular amongst younger job-seekers, and explains why team cohesion is so strong in young startups.

5 things we can learn from startups to make partnerships work:

In our next article, we will take a closer look at how partnerships between unlikely allies can be practically implemented and facilitated, keeping our learnings in mind.

> The corresponding event to this article happened on May 16 at this year’s Asia Pacific Week where we hosted a workshop as part of their “Corporates meet start-ups” track.

> 1 more article for Volume 2 coming up! It will answer the question of the HOW – so check back here again.

To deep dive into the topic, find our handbook on co-creating successful projects between public sector, private sector and civil society here.

This article is part of our THE BEYOND series – a series we brought to life to take you on a journey beyond the known allies, the countries we live in, the current methods and tools, the new technologies, the digital transformation and the unicorns. Beyond the buzzwords.  This edition of The BEYOND has been co-created with Christian Koch, Impact Hub member and cooperation management expert.  

We’ll be sharing insights, learnings and research from our work and from within our ecosystem. Each volume of THE BEYOND will bring you up to speed about a core topic through a series of articles and a closing event. We want to inspire you to take a look beyond: step out of the framework, identify new opportunities, discuss the challenges of tomorrow and find solutions to create a future that works for all. We are on the transition team – we invite you to be part of it.

It’s time to explore BEYOND!

Why do we need partnerships between unlikely allies?

Already in 2001, acclaimed economist and educator Peter Drucker stated: “The New Economy may or may not materialize, but there is no doubt that the Next Society will be with us shortly” (Managing the Next Society, P.Drucker, 2001).

In the industrialised world, mega-trends like an aging population, digitalisation, the importance of knowledge or the new protectionism increasingly affect organisations and their relationships to their stakeholders. To provide meaningful solutions, organisations need to adapt. These trends are clearly reflected in the emphasis put on innovation, sustainability, new management paradigms and the debate around “new work”. 

Value creation in networks is the “new normal” of Peter Drucker’s “Next Society” – especially in networks that span across sectoral, cultural and topical boundaries. In these networks, partnerships between unlikely allies are one of the most effective ways to adapt existing approaches, to co-create solutions, and to prototype new business models.  This does not only create value, it also supports the transformation of organisational cultures: e.g. government agencies that cooperate with start-ups to improve a service for citizens; NGOs that partner with corporates to address a societal issue; an activist group that becomes an active player in developing a neighbourhood together with local businesses and the city administration.

We understand partnerships between unlikely allies as cooperation projects between actors in the public sector, private sector and civil society, in which the participating organisations cooperate transparently on equal terms to achieve a common goal in sustainable development. For this purpose, the partners contribute their complementary competencies and resources, and agree to share the risks and benefits of the joint project.

We believe that people are essentially cooperative by default. The anthropologist Michael Tomasello has shown in extensive studies that our ability and the will to cooperate are at the root of our unique form of cultural organisation and a key driver of the evolution of tolerance and trust. To deal with the growing complexity of our problems, we need to raise the complexity of our solutions as well.  What is a better way of doing this than bringing diverse perspectives to the table? 

Unfortunately, partnerships are never easy – especially when they are built between organisations, not individuals. Unlikely allies differ on an organizational level in objectives, structures and processes, but also on a cultural level in their language, values and attitude towards cooperation. These differences are instrumental to the quality and success of the outcomes. At the same time, they create many challenges, especially in the early stages of a collaboration. 

Partnerships between unlikely allies – and this is a claim of this series – are actually somewhat like startups in the “pioneering stage”: often fragile, based on personal relationships and improvisation, exhausting and exhilarating. And all too often we are already talking about “scaling-strategies” even when the foundations have yet to be laid.

In our next article, we will take a closer look at those challenges and what it is that we can actually learn from startups when building partnerships with unlikely allies.

> Join us for the corresponding event to this article! We will host a workshop at this year’s Asia Pacific Week on May 16, 3:30pm as part of their “Corporates meet start-ups” track.

> 2 more articles for Volume 2 coming up! Those will answer the big questions of the WHAT and the HOW – so check back here again.

To deep dive into the topic, find our handbook on co-creating successful projects between public sector, private sector and civil society here.

 


This article is part of our THE BEYOND series – a series we brought to life to take you on a journey beyond the known allies, the countries we live in, the current methods and tools, the new technologies, the digital transformation and the unicorns. Beyond the buzzwords.

We’ll be sharing insights, learnings and research from our work and from within our ecosystem. Each volume of THE BEYOND will bring you up to speed about a core topic through a series of articles and a closing event. We want to inspire you to take a look beyond: step out of the framework, identify new opportunities, discuss the challenges of tomorrow and find solutions to create a future that works for all. We are on the transition team – we invite you to be part of it.

It’s time to explore BEYOND!

Our Co-Founder Anna Lässer has recently joined newly founded publication Delphi – Interdisciplinary Review of Emerging Technologies, as their Associate Editor. She’s heading the Startup Digest section for Delphi and has for her first contribution taken a closer look at the whole topic of “Blockchain4Good” – interviewing three startups from Impact Hub Berlin’s network to gain deep insights on the status quo. Here’s the intro to the feature – find a link to the whole article down below!

The Startup Digest section of Delphi introduces startups and grassroots initiatives from around the world that push the boundaries of emerging technologies. Most conversations around emerging technologies are stuck in silos and are quite hyped, making it hard to understand their actual impact on businesses, society and governance. The Startup Digests aim to demystify what is happening on the ground by establishing a discourse via case studies and interviews with startups and grassroots initiatives. Each edition will take a critical look on how these movements apply emerging technologies to achieve a specific purpose – facilitating a discourse that makes the (new) thinking, the approach and potential impact become more tangible.

This first edition of the Startup Digest focuses on the nascent blockchain technology that is strongly driven by startups. These enterprises are exploring new opportunities and business models that may have the potential to transform many existing processes in business, society and governance. According to the World Economic Forum, blockchain technology can be a game-changer in how the 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are tackled: It enables a shift towards ‘cleaner and more resource-preserving decentralised solutions, to unlock natural capital, and to empower communities’ and thus incentivise new behaviour. This edition features three startups that pioneer blockchain technology, exploring new business models designed to create a positive impact.

The startups that have been sourced via the global network of Impact Hub Berlin are: (1) BenBen – land & real-estate market, Ghana,(2) Minespider – mineral supply chain, Germany and (3) SolarLux – solar energy, Thailand. Each interview will give insights on opportunities for growth, challenges and risks to reveal what is happening on the ground. Additionally, possible spill over effects to other emerging technologies will be taken into consideration.

Read the full article here!

Also, you can find the complete first issue of Delphi here.

Enjoy the read!

Every day we work hard to create a future that works for all – solving wicked problems around the the SDGs.

THE BEYOND is a series we brought to life to take you on a journey – beyond the known allies, the countries we live in, the current methods and tools, the new technologies, the digital transformation and the unicorns. Beyond the buzzwords.

We’ll be sharing insights, learnings and research from our work and from within our ecosystem. Each volume of THE BEYOND will bring you up to speed about a core topic through a series of articles and a closing event.

We want to inspire you to take a look beyond: step out of the framework, identify new opportunities, discuss the challenges of tomorrow and find solutions to create a future that works for all. We are on the transition team – we invite you to be part of it.

It’s time to explore BEYOND!

 

Our topic for Volume 1 is “The missing link: Where the support ecosystem for social entrepreneurs in Germany is failing” –   featuring articles on:

The closing event of Vol.1 happened on November 13 – we presented all our findings again and had a panel discussion with Naomi Ryland (tbd*), Prof. Florian Hoos (HEC Paris, TU Berlin), Christoph Raethke (Berlin Startup Academy), Christian Kroll (Ecosia) and a great audience. Check out pictures from the event!

> Also: Stay tuned for Volume 2, coming up in early 2019! <

 

Where to find Community for social entrepreneurs in Germany

From the past three articles, we have already established that social entrepreneurs face a specific set of challenges, including, but not limited to, finding funding, knowledge and consulting opportunities. What we haven’t looked into so far is their need for community.

While social entrepreneurship and other impact-oriented forms of work have been gaining traction over the past decade, this movement still largely consists of young and first time entrepreneurs. Especially for these rather inexperienced changemakers, knowing that someone out there has been through similar issues and challenges and made similar mistakes, can be a huge factor. Being able to actively count on the support of peers to actually solve problems at hand can be a real game changer. Being part of a community, thus, is not a “nice to have” – but rather a fundamental success factor.

In this article, we set out to highlight the main ways to join a community for social entrepreneurs in Germany – from platforms and meetups to networks and hubs.

Here are the main findings from our research:  

Among all the opportunities to connect and network we encountered, these are our top 3:

Ashoka. A global network for creators of our society who, with an entrepreneurial attitude and innovative approaches, try to solve social problems – in partnership with institutions and committed people worldwide. Ashoka played a fundamental role over the past two decades in pushing the agenda of social entrepreneurship in Germany and is therefore recognized as one of its key players.

SEND. The Network for Social Entrepreneurs and social startups in Germany, SEND e.v., promotes the visibility of social entrepreneurs* and their solutions to the public. Having been part of Bundesverband Deutsche Startups e.V., it was founded as an organization in its own right in 2017.

Impact Hub. As the largest network of social innovators worldwide founded 2005 in London, Impact Hub focuses on building entrepreneurial communities for impact at scale. Impact Hubs around the world are home to the innovators, the dreamers and the entrepreneurs who are creating tangible solutions to the world’s most pressing issues. In Germany there are Impact Hubs in Berlin, Munich, Dresden and the Ruhr Area.

Overall, Germany seems well, but not great when it comes to the topic of Community. While the networks may seem hustling & bustling in the major cities, everything further away is rather silent – and even within the bigger cities, it is still hardly possible to satisfy the very diverse needs of social entrepreneurs. However, this is a topic that could move forward quickly: According to the Global Impact Report 2018 – which surveyed social entrepreneurs from 71 Impact Hubs around the globe – 84% had the most urgent need to “feel part of a larger community and network”. This is a higher number than the need for funding (45%), and the need for skill development (70%). We can imagine that private entities that have been trying to satisfy this desire for community, will step up their game  – and new organizations will try to thicken the web.

When it comes to social entrepreneurship and getting your sustainable business started, funding is, of course, one of the main concerns. In 2017 the international Impact Hub network (15.000 members in over 100 countries) conducted a Global Members Survey enquiring after the support needs of social entrepreneurs: unsurprisingly, it turned out that 45% of the Members “sought support in obtaining financial capital and investment” (Global Impact Report 2018).

 

Click here to see a map of all social founded ecosystems in Germany

 

> Also read our other articles of volume 1 on:

Please let us know if there are any great offerings we have missed and give us your input!

 

This article is part of our THE BEYOND series – a series we brought to life to take you on a journey beyond the known allies, the countries we live in, the current methods and tools, the new technologies, the digital transformation and the unicorns. Beyond the buzzwords.

We’ll be sharing insights, learnings and research from our work and from within our ecosystem. Each volume of THE BEYOND will bring you up to speed about a core topic through a series of articles and a closing event. We want to inspire you to take a look beyond: step out of the framework, identify new opportunities, discuss the challenges of tomorrow and find solutions to create a future that works for all. We are on the transition team – we invite you to be part of it.

It’s time to explore BEYOND!


Where to find knowledge for social entrepreneurs in Germany

For those who want to drive social change through business, knowledge and education are as essential as in every other sector. Research, reports, news, guides, practical information, university courses: for a normal entrepreneur, these are a given. Open a search tab and browse through endless sources, read any business journal, or attend a management seminar – even online and free of charge: you will be able to obtain a wealth of information that will teach you the business fundamentals. The question is – do social entrepreneurs enjoy the same abundance of knowledge resources?

While the basis for all sorts of entrepreneurs are roughly the same, as we have already discussed in the previous two articles on Funding and Consultancy, social entrepreneurs differ in their objectives, legal status, funding hurdles – hence also in their knowledge requirements.

In this article, we offer an overview of what sources of knowledge are available in Germany, from research to reports and platforms.

Three main findings from our research are:

 

Here are our must-go-to entities if you are looking for knowledge sources in Germany:

BMWi. In the past few years, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has published reports on the topic of social entrepreneurship, ranging from a practical guide with tips and pointers to an insight into the challenges and scaling processes for SEs. The website existenzgruender.de offers a number of tools, from financing and support links to procedures and financial and legal status information for SEs. Available for download on this platform are also a sustainable business canvas, reports, and practical guides for SEs.

Tbd*. A digital hub that supports those who are determined to make a career out of changing the world. Here people can find a job, hire the right team, discover workshops and courses, locate funding opportunities, connect with mission-driven companies, share best practices, or learn from others who are using their careers to make an impact.

SEA. The Social Entrepreneurship Academy is an initiative of Munich’s public universities and specializes in education for societal change. The SEA:mooc “Enabling Entrepreneurs to shape a better world” is open the everyone and designed to cater to future social entrepreneurs, delivering basic knowledge, methods and tools.

There are also other great courses for social entrepreneurs like the Changemaker MOOC by the University of Kiel and the Copenhagen Business School course offered on the Coursera platform. For later stage and especially with regards to investment readiness & social finance, the Social Finance Academy by Germany based Roots for Impact is a great resource.

One fact becomes quite obvious to us: There is a real abundance of reports, materials and courses out there – but the vast majority is provided in English. All things considered, even though the quantity of information material in German may not be huge, the quality of what is available is fairly good. This can certainly be considered a valuable asset to paving the way towards a more established social entrepreneurship sector.

 

> Also read our other articles of volume 1 on:

Please let us know if there are any great offerings we have missed and give us your input!

This article is part of our THE BEYOND series – a series we brought to life to take you on a journey beyond the known allies, the countries we live in, the current methods and tools, the new technologies, the digital transformation and the unicorns. Beyond the buzzwords.

We’ll be sharing insights, learnings and research from our work and from within our ecosystem. Each volume of THE BEYOND will bring you up to speed about a core topic through a series of articles and a closing event. We want to inspire you to take a look beyond: step out of the framework, identify new opportunities, discuss the challenges of tomorrow and find solutions to create a future that works for all. We are on the transition team – we invite you to be part of it.

It’s time to explore BEYOND!


Where to find consultancy for social entrepreneurs in Germany

 

Limited understanding of social entrepreneurship and the value it generates can, on occasion, cause business environments to be less than favourable for social entrepreneurs. Given that in addition to profit they (we) have to worry about the impact on people and the planet, this additional complexity means that social entrepreneurs will often have to be more tenacious than other entrepreneurs. They will need to be equipped with a notable set of resources and capabilities, also taking into consideration that the act of accessing capital is much more difficult for them (for more on this check the first article of this series).

While it is undoubtedly true that finding funding can be a big challenge – to gain access to it, social entrepreneurs will need to be able to build a strong, convincing case for their business ideas. To do so, coaching and training around business models, legal and regulatory frameworks, access to markets, and many more topics are key. As a matter of fact, the Global Impact Report 2018 – which surveyed social entrepreneurs from 71 Impact Hubs around the globe – found that while 45% of members look for funding opportunities, 52% of them feel the need to learn how to start a project or a venture, 70% are interested in developing their skills and capabilities, and 73% are seeking connections to advisors and experts.

In this article, we want to offer an overview of what is available in Germany when it comes to actually coaching social entrepreneurs on how to set up a social business – who are the key supporters and what forms of assistance are available.

Three main findings from our research are:

 

 

 

Here are our must-go-to entities if you are looking for formation and consultancy opportunities:

Social Impact Labs. Part of Social Impact’s work is focused on supporting early-stage social entrepreneurs via their Social Impact Labs in 7 cities across Germany. Social startups receive scholarships and qualification programs via various programs like Social Impact Start, which typically include professional counselling, coaching, networking, workshops, and coworking jobs.

Investment Ready Program. Investment Ready is a unique 4-month program for entrepreneurs which runs out of Amsterdam, Munich and Vienna. The aim is to support the creation of scalable solutions to societal problems. A cohort of around 15 selected ventures systematically works on their business strategy and builds an attractive investment case. Participants will work with experienced mentors, content experts, investors and powerful business tools.

Project Together. Project Together supports young social entrepreneurs from the early phase of their ideas, through a coaching program and an active community of founders and experts. They specifically work to support the achievement of the UN Goals for Sustainable Development.

Impact Hub. As part of the biggest global network of social innovators, Impact Hubs provides access to a global community, training and peer to peer support, workspaces, lectures and a variety of incubation and acceleration programs. In Germany there are Impact Hubs in Berlin, Munich, Dresden and the Ruhr Area.

All in all, Germany has a number of formation & consultancy programs targeting social entrepreneurs. Nonetheless, in terms of their reach and offering they are still nowhere close to what is at disposal for other entrepreneurs, especially those in the tech space. Even if the regulatory framework and the business environment should become more welcoming towards social entrepreneurs, their challenges still remain quite unique. Thus providing tailored support will be of growing importance to pave the way into the mainstream for social entrepreneurship.

> Also read our other articles of volume 1 on:


Please let us know if there is a great offering we have missed and give us your input to [email protected]


This article is part of our THE BEYOND series – a series we brought to life to take you on a journey beyond the known allies, the countries we live in, the current methods and tools, the new technologies, the digital transformation and the unicorns. Beyond the buzzwords.

We’ll be sharing insights, learnings and research from our work and from within our ecosystem. Each volume of THE BEYOND will bring you up to speed about a core topic through a series of articles and a closing event. We want to inspire you to take a look beyond: step out of the framework, identify new opportunities, discuss the challenges of tomorrow and find solutions to create a future that works for all. We are on the transition team – we invite you to be part of it.

 

It’s time to explore BEYOND!


Where to find funding for social entrepreneurs in Germany

When it comes to social entrepreneurship and getting your sustainable business started, funding is of course one of the main concerns. In 2017 the international Impact Hub network (15.000 members in over 100 countries) conducted a Global Members Survey enquiring after the support needs of social entrepreneurs: unsurprisingly, it turned out that 45% of the Members “sought support in obtaining financial capital and investment” (Global Impact Report 2018).

In this article we highlight the most important sources of funding available for social entrepreneurs in Germany. This can come in the form of awards, prize money, or investment (such as crowdfunding and by VCs).  

Three main findings from our research are:

While the opportunities are numerous, we pre-selected 3 must-go-to entities if you are looking for funding:

Ananda Impact Fund and BonVenture. Two of the leading venture capital investors for impact enterprises and social change in Europe, supporting companies that combine humanity and profitability and contribute sustainably to the resolution of concrete social and ecological problems.

FASE. The “Financing Agency for Social Entrepreneurship” connects social entrepreneurs and investors in order to maximize the social impact of outstanding projects through growth financing. Their main impact themes are education, inclusion, ageing population, long-term unemployment, health and sustainable consumption, but they remain open to other high-impact areas, too.

Google Impact Challenge. Targeting both local and broader projects, the challenge supports ideas that can improve our society through the help of technology – whether with an app, website or something completely different. Winners receive free training and prizes in the value of 20.000 €, 250.000 € and even 500.000 €.

For the moment, we can conclude that while Germany is certainly not barren land when it comes to funding opportunities for social entrepreneurs – it still has some steps to go. Moreover, with neighboring France pouring millions from public and private money into social innovation businesses, we are somewhat left with a feeling of that what has (arguably) been good until now, will not be enough in the future.

If sustainable businesses want to be a standard in the future, Germany must indisputably step up its game – ideally paving the way for support solutions where private entities work hand in hand with governmental ones.

>> 3 more articles for Volume 1 coming up! Topics will be consultancy, knowledge and connections – check back here again.

Please let us know if there are any great offerings we have missed and give us your input!

 

This article is part of our THE BEYOND series – a series we brought to life to take you on a journey beyond the known allies, the countries we live in, the current methods and tools, the new technologies, the digital transformation and the unicorns. Beyond the buzzwords.

We’ll be sharing insights, learnings and research from our work and from within our ecosystem. Each volume of THE BEYOND will bring you up to speed about a core topic through a series of articles and a closing event. We want to inspire you to take a look beyond: step out of the framework, identify new opportunities, discuss the challenges of tomorrow and find solutions to create a future that works for all. We are on the transition team – we invite you to be part of it.

It’s time to explore BEYOND!

Every year a different Impact Hub from our global network hosts founders, managers and team members (we call ourselves makers) from Impact Hubs around the world to discuss the future of our network. This year we all traveled to Montreal & Ottawa in Canada. Our Co-Founders and Managing Directors Nele and Leon represented us as Impact Hub Berlin (and as the only German Hub!) at this years’ Global Gathering and these are their thoughts about the intense couple of days with the international Impact Hub family.


Imagine three days of intense discussions with people you are doing business with, share many experiences and challenges with – but who you might never have met before. On the other hand for us it is always also an experience of coming home, of a shared excitement, constant exchange and embracing the huge opportunity to create impact at scale together. Since our network is co-owned by all Impact Hubs and we operate under the 1-Hub-1-Vote rule, these yearly face to face meetings are a unique occasion to talk through strategic initiatives, relationship building, collective decision making and other core needs of all us makers.

After hosting the last Global Gathering ourselves in Paretz, close to Berlin last year, we were more than happy to attend as participants this time – rather than being the hosts, and to fully contribute to many really interesting initatives and decisions. We felt that there are some learnings that could be great input also for others when it comes to the challenges of scale, diversity and impact driven business models – so this is why we want to share some of our key take-aways.


We are still a network of relationships
Even though we have grown rapidly, we are still a network that relies on personal relationships as a key driver of our development and success. Having realized and intentionally made this a principle of how we work together was definitely the right step and is starting to pay off. For us this shows that no matter how much an organization scales – the power of relationships is unparalleled and can be supported, but not supplemented by rules, principles or values.


Growing Pains
With now over 100 locations in more than 50 countries it feels like we are finally stabilizing. In order to improve the way we work together on a global level and strengthen our relationships, we are looking deeper into the principles of trust, empathy and co-responsibility. This comes in an effort to drill down to the core of what makes us function as a global network. We are hoping to share a Maker’s Manifest that captures how we work together on a global level in the coming year.

With this growth happening now, we are also looking into the global business model. Currently all Impact Hubs pay their membership fees through their Membership and Venue revenue – because when the network started it was essentially about co-working and community. In the past years though, local business models have diversified significantly and many Impact Hubs are playing key roles in building local eco-systems, supporting innovators to create impact in all parts of society and much more. So for us the process of adjusting our business model has been a challenging one that we still haven’t finished. We are only starting to learn what pivoting in a huge organization can mean.

 

Collaboration as a diverse network
Impact Hub Makers are a community in its own right and we constantly prototype ways of collaborating with each other across the globe. But collaboration is hard. And it gets harder the more diverse you grow as a network – as it requires common understanding, and all stakeholders need time to be heard. Culture plays a huge role and local realities differ wildly. For us, consciousness about this diversity and its challenges is the first step – the key is to create and nurture a culture of trust. Trust that everyone brings their best to the table is key for respectful and appreciative conversations. Protected spaces for controversy are just as important. In the end collaboration is never easy, but it holds huge promise for impact at scale! In this spirit we will soon be kicking off a new global strategy to develop more multi-location programs that span countries, cultures and communities.

 

The old board welcoming the new board into office.

It was especially impressive to see how once again makers from around the globe took responsibility, especially when bringing on our new global board for the coming three years: Alberto Masetti-Zaninni (Impact Hub Kings Cross), Katie Miller (Impact Hub Ottawa), Monica Hidalgo (Impact Hub San Jose), Patricia Lopez (Impact Hub San Salvador) and Sara Anjargolian (Impact Hub Yerevan). In addition, Tatiana Glad (Impact Hub Amsterdam) is extending her term by a year to insure smooth transition of the board.

If you want to know more about our history check here.

 

 

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What unites us and The Hague? You guessed right: impact, baby! The Hague is the first ImpactCity in the world designed to support impact entrepreneurs in succeeding and scaling. With their soft landing, housing and financial support programs, they have created a vibrant support ecosystem for impact ventures that work towards the SDGs – connecting NGOs, research centers, knowledge institutes, companies, governments and many young and creative entrepreneurs who are ‘doing good & doing business’.


While the social innovation scene in Berlin has been growing constantly and is becoming more and more visible, also thanks to initiatives such as the Social Entrepreneurship Network Deutschland (SEND e.V.) amongst many others, our local governmental institutions are still struggling to provide an infrastructure for social entrepreneurs that enables them to succeed and scale. Especially bureaucracy and affordable housing are key barriers (impact) entrepreneurs face.

To address this issue and to discuss how and to which extend cities and governments can foster impact entrepreneurs, we hosted an open Fishbowl discussion together with the ImpactCity Den Haag on June 20, 2018. Our panel consisting of Nele Kapretz, our Co-Founder & Managing Director, Erik van der Rijk, Director of Urban Economy, and Anna Menenti, Program Manager of Impact Economy, both responsible for ImpactCity, was joined by Katrin Elsemann from SEND as well as members from the audience. Birgit Leverenz from the Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises also joined us in the audience.

 

The key findings were:

 

  • Innovative power comes from cities rather than countries. City governments should realize their responsibility to foster local innovation ecosystems that are attractive for impact startups and impact investors. Job creation is the key term here!
  • Cities can play a crucial role in promoting the visibility of impact entrepreneurs. By offering a platform to explain and display the role of social enterprises, they become visible to impact investors and talent. As Berlin is becoming more and more popular, it was suggested to use this visibility to promote social entrepreneurship.
  • Impact entrepreneurs can fill gaps that cities struggle to address and local governments should take advantage of that. With their Startup in Residence program, the ImpactCity manages to bring the government and entrepreneurs together to solve local problems. Every year, the city posts challenges addressing local issues such as waste management, access to information or political engagement, which citizens can create and hand in innovative solutions for. Once selected, the municipality of The Hague slips into the role of the customer and helps to bring the idea to life. The concept, which is also used in other cities such as San Francisco, has proven to be very successful in fostering collaboration and understanding between governments and citizens / startups. Might be an interesting idea in Berlin, where problems pile up and there are not many incentives for citizens to step in yet!
  • Bureaucracy is a major burden for most (social) entrepreneurs. “It takes 1 day to found a startup in The Hague and 300 days to do so in Berlin.” Let’s change this – so that impact startups can concentrate on what they do well: doing good and doing business!
  • It is not a city’s task to invest in social startups, but to facilitate investment. Investing in infrastructure to attract investment and encouraging private-public partnerships were mentioned as the key ingredients for a supportive ecosystem.
  • Partnerships between cities should be encouraged to make scaling for impact entrepreneurs easier. Soft landing programs such as the one in The Hague are great baselines for that. As our guests pointed out, creating a welcoming environment for startups is not stealing entrepreneurs away, but rather helping them to succeed on a larger scale!
  • We have to be able to find a common language that translates between city governments, entrepreneurs, corporates and investors to deepen an understanding of the needs and collaboration opportunities.
  • Involve the universities to get students interested in impact entrepreneurship.

 

Thank you to everyone who participated in our Fishbowl discussion!

If we have forgotten to include key findings you noted or if you want to be connected to someone at the event, please get in touch with Vera.

 

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F-LANE is a six-week acceleration programme focused on making impact driven startups investment ready that leverage technology to empower women. Initiated by the Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications, it is run in cooperation with the Social Entrepreneurship Akademie and Impact Hub Berlin with the goal of creating gender-inclusive technology and promoting women’s participation in education, workforce, entrepreneurship, leadership and ultimately, digitalization. The following is a thought piece by Clara Niedt, Programme Coordinator of F-LANE.

In May 2018, the third cohort of F-LANE, our accelerator focusing on female empowerment, successfully pitched their ventures at re:publica. This moment when everything culminates that startups, partners and us have worked on throughout the last seven weeks is very special. With goosebumps we watched one finalist after the other walk on stage – and were positively surprised over and over again by their strong, coherent and thought-provoking pitches, all whilst having great fun on stage.

I keep asking myself what it is that makes the ventures thrive so well.

It surely is due to their passion and hard work. But when comparing the pitches from week 1 to their final performance during the Demo Day, I realize that we can also attribute it to the programme we provide to them during the 6 weeks, that evokes such a steep learning curve within such a short time frame. Looking at the programme, it entails two main areas:

But it is especially this activation of our network and opening of doors for the startups that fascinates me. Where a startup would usually need to invest much effort and time, we use our global and local network of innovators, mediators and investors to make strategic introductions to assist each startup in growing their business much more quickly. While it can be as easy as me shooting an initial email to a contact of ours to connect two bright minds, the power of this connection is really only visible months later to us when you hear over a coffee from the startup how the relationship developed further.

The story of Good On You from Australia, finalist of batch #2, perfectly illustrates this for me: During the acceleration phase, we introduced them to a contact of ours at Zalando. 6 months later, Sandra, co-founder and head of development of Good On You, shares with us how Zalando has turned into a major partner of theirs and acts as a gateway for them to enter the European market. “It is really important to make the effort of meeting those people whilst in Berlin, being concrete about what you want and then investing the time and cultivating these relationships. You never know how great the potential of an introduction might be. For us, it was really successful, we secured our first big corporate client from one of these introductions!” says Sandra.

Also this time round, for our third cohort, the networking introductions were an important element of our work.

In total, 20 introductions were made, out of which 60% are ranked as possibly high potential by the startups. This time the contacts were mostly in the field of banking, healthcare and development projects. We took both requests from the startup side into account, as well as evaluating ourselves, who they should meet with whilst being in Berlin. Most introductions immediately led to meetings and follow-up introductions. For example, Free-D – a startup supporting women at risk, giving them long-term, high-value employment through 3D printing training – an introduction to Adidas, was highly promising. The co-founder Katherine is enthusiastic: “At the beginning of the six weeks I wasn’t quite ready to speak to them, but F-LANE has helped me redefine my business model and storyline. I was especially excited to learn that the contact has experience working in the impact space and I expect we’ll have lots to talk about.”

Of course it is not all as simple as it sounds. For the startups there is a considerable amount of follow-up work involved. To turn an introduction into a sound deal takes a lot of valuable time to nurture and sometimes the contact even turns out to be a dead end. Therefore, communicating the value of those networking efforts is not always easy, especially considering the long timespan until the effort pays off. But when it does, the reward is visible for all parties. Impact Hub enriches its network with fresh minds and ideas, and the ventures can lay the groundwork for promising growth and business development.

Fostering the right mindset among the ventures to make the most of the six weeks in Berlin is therefore crucial. This is why stories like Sandra’s are important to tell as they inspire and motivate. Not only the startups but also us – they show the incredible potential that sending a simple email has, that it is worth to invest in building a strong network and that our work – the “soft” side of the accelerator programme – results in an outstanding learning curve for the participants that really creates impact.

If you want to be connected to someone of this program, please get in touch with Clara!