SEF interviews. Supertramps.

By |Monday, January 16, 2017|Categories: SEF interviews|Tags: , , , |

Read what Teresa from Supertramps has to say about homelessness and social business in Austria.

 

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Driven all-rounder

What problem do you solve?
Even though Vienna is always cited as world‘s most liveable city, the number of homeless people is growing. Once living on the street, finding the way back is challenging due to a complex set of reasons: Often, homeless people have little opportunities because they have no one who believes in or trusts them anymore, they unlearned social competencies and reliability, and they often have mental problems. These factors all lead to a very low self-esteem. At the same time, most people have prejudices and are not very familiar with homelessness.

How does your business model work?
SUPERTRAMPS offers adventurous walks through Vienna, developed and led by homeless guides. At carefully chosen public places, they connect knowledge about homelessness with their personal stories. With the walks, we aim to empower our guides and build awareness about homelessness. SUPERTRAMPS was founded in 2015 by Katharina Turnauer who supported a similar project in Prague with her private foundation. At the moment, SUPERTRAMPS is organised as a non-profit. The foundation supports SUPERTRAMPS with expertise and funding. However, the aim is to be self-sustaining in the long-term.

What is Social Entrepreneurship to you? And what is it not?
To me, Social Entrepreneurship means tackling societal and environmental challenges in an innovative way whilst striving to be financially independent. In every step Social Entrepreneurs make, they act in a respectful and morally reasonable way. The applied practices are led by a social mission and not by profit goals. For them, impact is their main priority.

What are the toughest challenges you have to face by running a social business?
I personally think that there are two main challenges: Does my business truly have a sustainable impact? Is my business really able to operate without external financiers?

What is your vision for Social Entrepreneurship in Austria?
Social Entrepreneurship is not only seen as a current hype but as a long-term interest by the state and as a respected and applied business model by the private, public and NGO sector. At the same time, conventional businesses acknowledge the added value of Social Entrepreneurship and recognise their social and environmental responsibilities.

A little piece of advice for social entrepreneurs to be?
In your ambitious pursuit of goals and success, don’t forget you as a person. If you feel good, the business will flourish.

If you could put up a huge billboard anywhere – what would it say?
Everyone has a talent. If you recognise the talent, honour and encourage it.

 

For more information, please visit http://supertramps.at/.

On a personal note, a few of us from the SEF Team have had the pleasure to take part in a tour led by one of the supertramps, Ferdinand, and we can sincerely recommend it. It was incredibly interesting and we walked away with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the complexity of what it means to be homeless.

 

SEF interviews. Younited Cultures.

By |Thursday, August 11, 2016|Categories: SEF interviews|Tags: , , , |

Another interview, another social enterprise: Andra and Younited Cultures.

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Optimist, creative, fighter.

What problem do you solve?
Raising awareness towards the positive role of im/migrants for the society and economy.

As a migrant myself, I am disappointed to see how the negative image of migrants is being constantly promoted, yet, the positive side of migration is never really shown. I want to bring more awareness towards that. The press plays a big role in influencing society. Migration has been misrepresented for far too long. We need new ideas to show that migration is positive.

How does your business model work?
Storytelling scarves. Wear a story!

Together with the im-/migrant role models and through a creative process we transform their integration journey into unique scarf designs, that express their character, diversity and cultural heritage. In order to make our message impactful for everyone, we also created the “Celebrate Migration” signature scarf, which aims to become a symbol for cultural diversity. By wearing it, we make the positive image of migration visible, a topic rarely promoted and spoken about.

We sell these scarves/ stories as gifts online, via fairs, events, shops as well as companies. Additionally, we now offer a teambuilding workshop for companies to create their own signature scarf with their employees. We capture their story, vision and values and put them on a scarf that they or customers can receive on special occasions.

What is social entrepreneurship to you? And what is it not?
Creating value for society no matter your business, product or service. Overall, social entrepreneurship is not a charity activity. It’s creating value, purpose and impact by putting people before profits.

What are the toughest challenges you have to face by running a social business?
Finding state funds that concern social entrepreneurship, which are equal to none. We are registered as a GmbH (eng. company with limited liability) but act as NGO, which means that we reinvest the earnings to bring awareness towards our vision, to celebrate cultural diversity. And for that, there is no subsidy, because we are for-profit, but our focus is social.

It saddens me that all I hear about is tech funds, digital app funds, fast growth, fast job creation. There’s always money for that, but nothing for social entrepreneurship.

What is your vision for social entrepreneurship in Austria?
That all companies act more social. I hope it will become a standard form of doing business.

A little piece of advice for social entrepreneurs to be?
Network with other social entrepreneurs, learn from their experiences and be aware that, in order to make an impact, you also have to develop a sustainable business model. Don’t get dependent on external money (sponsors, etc.) but make sure you have a viable product that can sustain you long-term.

Andra is founder and CEO of Younited Cultures. For more information please visit http://younitedcultures.eu.

SEF interviews. Peter Vandor on Social Entrepreneurship Education.

By |Tuesday, July 12, 2016|Categories: SEF interviews|Tags: , , , |

University is where most of us from the SEF Team first heard about social entrepreneurship. Hence, we are very thrilled to have Peter, a real pioneer on the field of social entrepreneurship education in Austria, answering our questions.

Why should social entrepreneurship be taught and which role do universities play here?
Social entrepreneurship education meets a rapidly growing demand among students. More and more students are seeking competences and classes on social entrepreneurship and related topics. They see that the world is not exactly running out of problems and wish to do something about it in an entrepreneurial way. In Austria, we see this interest every year at the Social Impact Award, where hundreds of students participate in workshops on social entrepreneurship and develop their own ideas and projects. At WU, such interest has also materialised in the start of student-led initiatives around social and sustainable entrepreneurship, such as 180 Degrees Consulting, oikos and SEF.

How early should we start teaching about social entrepreneurship?
From an educational standpoint, the earlier the better. Research suggests that experiencing pro-social behavior in your youth increases the likelihood of such behavior for the rest of your life. Being able to help others is a powerful experience and those who experience it early are probably more motivated and develop the self-efficacy to become successful social entrepreneurs later in their life.

What are the barriers, if any, when implementing a rather new field like social entrepreneurship into school/university education?
Social entrepreneurship education is a pretty new field, so many of its tools and concepts are still under development. Much of the current teaching borrows heavily from entrepreneurship. While that is often very useful, sometimes the entrepreneurship instruments and concepts do not fit the reality of social entrepreneurs and can be a barrier. For example, many financial instruments and concepts taught in entrepreneurship are heavily venture-capital- and exit-oriented. This is far from the reality of social entrepreneurs in Austria, where social venture capitalists hardly exist and only a fraction of social enterprises chose a legal form that would allow external investments. We should avoid copying concepts blindly, but adjust the teaching to the social realm, the ecosystem we are in and the actual needs of people.

Which tools do you provide your students with?
In our courses, we first provide a brief theoretical background on social entrepreneurship and try to carve out similarities and differences between social entrepreneurship, commercial entrepreneurship as well as traditional third-sector organisations. The larger part of the semester is then focused on experiential learning. Students either work on their own idea for a social enterprise or work with other social entrepreneurs on their challenges.

Which advice do you give your students?
Try it out for yourself! The best way to learn about social entrepreneurship is by getting involved in social enterprises or starting your own social venture. For the later, I founded the Social Impact Award in 2009, which offers free start-up workshops for young social entrepreneurs in 10 countries and is operated in partnership with the Impact Hub Vienna. During these workshops, students from all disciplines can meet peers, develop a new idea for a social venture, improve and structure it and get expert feedback.

What is your vision for the future of social entrepreneurship (education)?
10 years ago, the coolest thing to do for a WU student was to become an investment banker or a consultant. This changed. Currently, entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs seem to be the rockstars on campus. It is likely that this hype will eventually fade a bit, but in terms of substance, I think, the best is still to come. Since we started the first course on social entrepreneurship in Austria in 2009, more universities have included the topic into their curriculum. Moreover, an ecosystem started to grow, including support organisations, co-working spaces, new funding instruments and an increased number of social enterprises. Since 2015, also public institutions have launched funding instruments for social entrepreneurs. The recent announcement of the government to reduce labor costs for start-ups could provide further positive impulses for social enterprises – but of course only, if they are included in the target groups of the proposed measures. I am curious to see the next steps and am optimistic about the development of this sector.

About:
Peter Vandor is senior researcher, co-founder and manager of the NPO & SE Competence Center at WU, the Vienna University of Economics and Business. In his position, he has been leading 50+ collaboration projects with organisations such as CERN, UNDP and the Roland Berger Foundation. His research interests lie in the areas of social entrepreneurship, migrant entrepreneurship and innovation. Peter is founder and academic director of the Social Impact Award, a learning program and idea competition for budding social entrepreneurs in 10 countries. He also initiated the first academic and award winning course on social entrepreneurship in Austria.

SEF inspires. How to not Change the World or Why Doing Good is not Good Enough.

By |Friday, June 24, 2016|Categories: SEF inspires|Tags: , , , , |

The reason you started reading this blog article is probably because you have an interest in social entrepreneurship, social change and the like. Maybe you even set it as your career goal to work in the field, address a social or environmental problem and bring about change. Maybe you are already doing it. Or maybe you are even a critic of the work of social entrepreneurs. This article is for all of you. Because let’s face it – every concept has its shortcomings – even the work of social entrepreneurs. Nobody is perfect applies to almost anything, not just on a personal level: economic systems, politics and of course business practices. The only exception probably being the new single of Mumford & Sons which is as close to perfect as it gets, but that’s a whole different story.

I highly believe in the strong potential that lies within social entrepreneurship, within tackling nowadays challenges with innovative approaches and business models. We are faced with complex problems that require us to engage in innovation processes and new ways of thinking. By doing business differently i.e. acting more responsibly with regards to social and environmental aspects, we can change the system inside out. I am a strong believer that we, as individuals, have more power in us than one might believe – that we can impact a great deal with our own, seemingly small, actions. We have the ability to create whole new ways of thinking and doing business. We can contribute to a society that prefers collaboration over competition, common welfare over money, trust over control, and people over profits.

However, social entrepreneurship practices are not always perfect – they don’t always run as smoothly and are not as world-changing as one might hope for them to be. We have to be realistic when evaluating the work of social entrepreneurs – their good intentions are not enough to solve the problems at hand. It is the result of a social business’ activities that counts the most. If you haven’t watched the movie Poverty Inc. yet, do it now. It provides you with a shocking insight in the industry of NGOs and self-appointed social entrepreneurs. There are many examples of NGOs and social businesses that have made the problems they are trying to solve actually worse or have created other problems through their intervention. This blog post is neither to judge those organisations nor to point any fingers or support any conspiracy theories revolving around the charity industry.

It is much more a wake-up call, an insight and a call to action for (social) entrepreneurs to reconsider their business practices and take their whole supply chains into consideration – with all the consequences that come with it. It is on the one hand about realising that some of our old practices don’t work anymore, that we need to re-think and re-build our business models. On the other hand it is about evaluating the work that you do and the impact that you have. How Albert Einstein nicely put it: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

So let’s stop being insane and engage in more effective ways to come up with sustainable solutions that will once and for all eradicate the most pressing problems of our society today. Common sense as well as research suggest to go about this whole thing differently; rather than creating solutions FOR, we should create them WITH our target group by taking their environment, culture, economy, social ties, behaviours (the list goes on) into consideration. The design thinking process is a viable tool for coming up with new business models. It puts the human component in the center of its approach, meaning that the solution you will create is first and foremost desirable by your target segment before taking other factors like feasibility and financial rewards into account. It does not mean that the business model cannot be viable just because the product is desired – it means that we have to build on what is desirable and adapt the business model accordingly. I know – easier said than done.

In a second step, it is important to track your impact so you don’t end up like one of the many organisations shown in Poverty Inc.; publicly shamed and criticized for their (unintended) strains they put on the environment and/or their target groups.  This is why social impact measurement is not just a buzzword, but a powerful and inevitable tool for every social entrepreneur and NGO – it’s a thing. The first and foremost goal of a social business is tackling a social/environmental issue rather than solely making a profit. Now imagine you have a social business that doesn’t meet its aim of alleviating the problem at hand but much rather making it worse. Wouldn’t that take away the whole legitimacy of the business’ existence?

It’s time to make a shift – a shift towards a more effective way of tackling nowadays challenges, a shift towards sanity. It’s not enough to develop products and services that we think will help solve the challenge at hand and hope for the best. It’s not enough to give a fish. It’s not even enough to teach how to fish. Time for disruption of the fish industry and measuring our progress along the way.

For more information see:
http://www.povertyinc.org/
http://ssir.org/articles/entry/design_thinking_for_social_innovation
http://ssir.org/articles/entry/how_impact_investors_actually_measure_impact
https://medium.com/the-development-set/the-reductive-seduction-of-other-people-s-problems-3c07b307732d#.nsttue8xs
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/one-one-business-model-social-impact-avoiding-unintended-consequences/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCIHPdx1OAs