Spotlight: Funda Sezgi

Funda longWhat drives you?

“Working with people and organizations that share my values around society, and the world. At the same time, I’m disciplining myself not to burn out; I feel I am making a difference and that is a strong driver.”

Biggest SocEnt trend you have seen in the last 5 years?

“It has certainly become more institutionalized. Take Stanford, for example: if you go to work for a nonprofit or social enterprise after you graduate, you are forgiven your student loans. The UK has proven that they are pioneers in changing the legal structure enabling social enterprises (which I wish we had in Sweden!). If you look at the EU, it seems that the message “We can’t solve it all through business and charities” has finally landed, they are pouring some good funding into social entrepreneurship and innovation. So yes, a lot is happening in the space!”


Funda grew up in Turkey and focused on business administration during her undergraduate studies, with a semester abroad in Melbourne, Australia. Her master’s in European Business and Law took her to Lund in Sweden before she decided to pursue her Ph.D. in Strategy and Management at IESE in Barcelona, Spain. “I was so sure that was my path” Funda says,, “but a year and a half into the program my dad passed and I took a break to re-think what I really wanted to do with my life.” It was around that time that she met Johanna Mair and they talked about Aravind, a social enterprise that fights cataract diseases which often lead to the loss of eyesight. “I ended up going to India and it all came together: studying social enterprise and recognizing its potential for social change”. She finished her Ph.D. and returned to Turkey just to find out that the shoe didn’t fit anymore. Instead, she applied for consulting jobs in Sweden, and within three weeks was hired as a strategy consultant at IMEP Group. “When I started doing my Ph.D., I collected my data and it was very hands-on which I enjoyed. But if you want to stay in academia, you have to be very conceptual and theoretical. Doing a Ph.D. helped me but at the same time, it disconnected me from the real world, I prefer working with real organizations. After all the studies I had done, I felt like I was missing corporate experience to meet my theoretical expertise.” she explains. “I was going to do it for a year and half or so, I knew I wasn’t going to do it forever.”

About finding the he job at Impact Hub she says today “This is where it all came together for me, my passion for social change and the skills I had gained over the past years.”




Impact Hub Stockholm

Welcome to Impact Hub Stockholm, a coworking space that is “part business incubator, part innovation lab, and part social enterprise community”. Now, that sounded promising when I first looked up Impact Hub Stockholm. I didn’t get a chance to visit these guys in person and if you have followed Social Venturers you know that I prefer seeing the real action but as it happens from time to time, life gets in the way and so I found myself skyping with Funda Sezgi from my room in Copenhagen overlooking the city from the 9th floor.

Impact Hub Stockholm

Impact Hub Stockholm’s event space

You would not assume from the variety of programs that Impact Hub Stockholm as such has only been around for two years. Among others they offer

Not to mention their Business Lab and Accelerate Programs; the latter one was put on hold at the end of 2015 in search for new partners.

Impact Hub Stockholm in fact has its roots in an organization called R17, Funda explains. “A few creatives got together around the same time as the Hub in London came about. It started out as a coworking space that offered events and seminars, over two years ago they added incubation programs.” Funda Sezgi is Program Manager at Impact Hub Stockholm. She says “To be fair, we didn’t invent all this from scratch. We adapted the model pioneered in Vienna and adapted it to the Swedish context. Others in our network had a lot of experience that we could tap into. Here at Impact Hub Stockholm our mantra is ‘You can’t do it all alone’. We are creating partnerships with different stakeholders from the business, higher education and governmental world. We encourage entrepreneurs to go knock on doors and seek different perspectives from within our diverse ecosystem. After all, being a shy entrepreneur is not going to get you very far. I think it helps being surrounded by other entrepreneurs that are driven by a social mission.”

Impact Hub's coworkers

Impact Hub’s coworkers

And this community aspect seems to be enhanced by their emphasis on founder-friendliness. “We try to be as flexible as possible and to provide tailored support to the entrepreneurs we work with. Right now we work with small groups of founders and looking ahead, we hope to leverage peer-learning while maintaining the individual support from our side. Working with startups in different sectors and at different stages of their development helps them cross-pollinate.” says Funda.


Spotlight: Alessandro Palmieri


What drives you?

I believe in the power of people and communities to change the world for better.

Biggest SocEnt trend you have seen in the last 5 years?

I have only been in London for under a year but I would say that we have a great number of support offers for social entrepreneurs here in London, more than anywhere else. Many corporates have started to give support to social enterprises through programmes and contests. They’ve increasingly recognized the benefits of reconnecting their people with their social purpose. However, there is a need for a safe space where corporates and social enterprises can come together to get to know each other better.

Currently reading

Leading from the emerging future, by Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer


“Back in Italy, I worked at an agency for internationalization before joining a startup that helped users find the right roommate. After graduating from my masters in business management, I went to Australia to take some time off and figure out what I really wanted to do. In October 2014, I obtained a scholarship to start working at Benisi and I have since transitioned to being community manager here at Impact Hub King’s Cross.”



Impact Hub King’s Cross

On my last day in London in April I made my way to another impact Hub – this time in King’s Cross. Established in 2007, it is one of the first hour in the now 1,000-member-strong Impact Hub network in London alone.

I met with Alessandro Palmieri who used to work as BENISI coordinators before joining Impact Hub as community engagement manager. Having visited with Hub Westminster two days prior, I couldn’t help but compare. Impact Hub King’s Cross is a three-storey open space with a cafe on the ground level. Again, I had to be buzzed in and walked into a very quiet co-working space that urged me to whisper as I approached Alessandro. It was crazy busy and we had trouble finding a place to sit down. Finally, we settled for the stairs in front of their glass-wall meeting room.

Impact Hub King's Cross

Impact Hub King’s Cross

Since their Educckate program had already finished we started chatting about their Fellowship For Longer Lives  program whose objective is to “create innovative solutions to the challenges and opportunities presented by an ageing society.”1) Together with AXA and Swiss Re Foundation, Impact Hub launched the Fellowship to enable entrepreneurs with innovative solutions to address the challenges increased life expectancy and demographic ageing. The Impact Hub Fellowship for Longer Lives, implemented in four different cities (Oaxaca, Milan, Madrid and London), nominated up to three initiatives for each city and awarded one of them with a one year fellowship, gaining access to seed funding, focused skill development, valuable networks and a stimulating workspace at Impact Hub. Impact Hub King’s Cross launched the London stream of the Impact Hub Fellowship for Longer Lives in January 2014.  The first price went to Speakset, a service to help older people video call doctors, family and friends. Since their  initial idea (awarded in 2014) Speakset has

  • secured £345K investment;
  • hired six new team members (sales);
  • improved the quality of hardware and software;
  • managed to break even – a sustainable business in three months time.

BENISI and Impact Hub Scaling

Impact Hub King’s Cross is also involved in BENISI and as of April 22nd, 2015, is part of the Impact Hub Scaling initiative as part of which eight Impact Hubs across Europe support up to 100 social enterprises to scale their across Europe using the Impact Hub network.

BENISI is a trans-European consortium that aims at building a Europe-wide network of incubators for social innovation, meaning new ideas, products, services or models that simultaneously meet social needs and create new social relationships or collaborations. “Social innovations are not only important for the new specific solutions to societal needs, but they can furthermore impact society’s capacity to innovate.”, explains Alessandro. BENISI aims at identifying 300 of the most promising, impact-ful and employment-generating social innovations with high potential for scaling successfully. The program provides them with support services tapping into its network of competent partners throughout Europe. BENISI is led by i-propeller and implemented by six Impact Hubs in Europe: Amsterdam, Bucharest, London King’s Cross, Milan, Stockholm and Vienna. In collaboration with: DIESIS (European Research and Development Service for the Social Economy), EURADA (European Association of Development Agencies), Fondazione Cariplo, and PEFONDES (European Network of Foundations for the Social Economy).

Impact Hub King's Cross - second floor

Impact Hub King’s Cross – second floor

Impact Hub Scaling is a programme that supports 100 social entrepreneurs to scale-up locally or internationally through eight Impact Hubs across Europe. Within one year, the selected social enterprises will work closely together with Scaling Managers located in Amsterdam, Athens, Bucharest, London, Madrid, Milan, Stockholm and Vienna. These expert mentors provide them with knowledge, skills, access to investor networks and advice throughout the program.

More recently, Impact Hub King’s Cross and the Presencing Institute offer U.Lab. which is a massive open online course (MOOC) on EdX offered by MIT. The twist of signing up for U.Lab at one of the 45+ Impact Hubs around the world is becoming an Impact Hub Connect member and working through the course with the local Impact Hub community. If you have ever taken a MOOC, chances are you have felt a bit isolated and lonely in your learning experience. Check out their Facebook group to get a feel for how the program is coming along.

As a member at Impact Hub King’s Cross you can take advantage of two acceleration programs as part of Impact Lab. In Take Off, idea-stage entrepreneurs receive three months of support in developing their business model and working through operational details like accounting, legal structure, communications etc. The five-months Fly High program is geared towards entrepreneurs that have been running their business for up to three years and are looking to build their capacity in all matters scaling (adapting the business model, increasing scales, financial forecasting etc.).


References   [ + ]


Spotlight: Richard Brownsdon


What drives you?

Life. I am passionate about having an impact, teaching and sharing, exploring the world, living a healthy life.

Biggest SocEnt trend you have seen in the last 5 years?

The sector has grown a lot over the last year, in terms of both social entrepreneurs and support organizations. Also, I think the work-life-culture in the sector has shifted. The younger generations are increasingly working in dynamic ways, they want a job with purpose and if they can’t find that, they will start their own business.

Currently reading

  • Influence, by Cialdini
  • Value Proposition Design, by Osterwalder et al.
  • Civilization and its Discontents, by Freud


Richard has worked in the social startup support sector for about five years, including with organizations like ClearlySo, Unltd, and Ashoka.

“Much of my work has focused on helping social entrepreneurs raise money. About three years ago, I went freelance and started testing out my own entrepreneurial ideas, while supporting other social startups too. My main client has certainly been Impact Hub Westminster, where I have been a long term contractor, helping them to develop and deliver social startup support for their ecosystem.”

Richard runs his own company Inspiring Adventures, and launched several projects through it, including social enterprise learning tours for which he won an award:“I love testing ideas of my own, whilst also working to help others with their businesses. I think it helps me understand the needs of the entrepreneur, from the inside out.”

When he’s not working at Impact Hub Westminster, he loves to explore social enterprises and responsible travel opportunities around the world.  This has included 3 months on a not-for-profit cruise ship called Peace Boat circumnavigating the world, to writing an ebook about his responsible travel in Brazil (to be published in November 2015).

Learn more about him here.  



Impact Hub Westminster

I first visited Impact Hub Westminster during my London visit in January 2015. I had met Richard Brownsdon back then who was just about to fly off to work on his own venture – Inspiring Adventures – in a social enterprise retreat in Bali. I figured that interesting people work in interesting places. Back in January we had gotten around to a match of table tennis but not much more and I was keen to follow up with him on this second trip to London.

Impact Hub Westminster is located on a large floor on New Zealand House in Mayfair, close to Piccadilly Circus. You sign in with security, receive a visitor pass and already feel like you are about to witness something important. That day, 180 people (conservative estimate) were working away when I walked in. It was a busy environment that urged me to get going with the interview, too. Time is money.

Impact Hub Westminster was founded in 2011 and is one of the four Impact Hubs in London. I was surprised to find that both programs running at the time were free of charge for the entrepreneurs. Raise Impact is a crowdfunding program that coaches entrepreneurs through the process of setting up and running a crowdfunding campaign. It offers free classes in PR & marketing, creation & logistics, deal structuring and pitching.

copyright by Impact Hub Westminster

copyright by Impact Hub Westminster

Secondly, Richard and his team only just finished the Impact Investment Ready Program – a two-day course on assessing your investment readiness and approaching impact investors successfully. Both programs are funded by the European Union and therefore free to participants. For the first time it occurred to me that offering programs for free is great if you can afford it. At the same time it sets the tone within this sector that some support is for free while other programs may charge for a similar service. I stand by my view that support programs for social entrepreneurs represent a quality service that is worth investing in from the side of the social entrepreneur.

I ask Richard what he thinks makes a good support program. “Give entrepreneurs what they need, when they need it. During their startup phase, founder teams have so much else on their plates, they need to balance their priorities and any good program should be able to provide just in time learning.”

Since my visit in April, Impact Hub Westminster launched Impact Scholarship 2015 – a scholarship program for social entrepreneurs developing clean energy solutions. This is the start of the support that Impact Hub Westminster will be offering to cleantech companies in the coming months and years, with a new cleantech accelerator scheduled to start in 2016.

Impact Hub Westminster is a great example of a local and global community alike, and a co-working space built around it. If you are ever in London and need a co-working desk, make sure to stop by Impact Hub Westminster! With 12,000 square foot it’s huge and you are guaranteed to meet great people!


Cartography: Germany I

Cartography [n.]: Mapping, review

My trip through Germany in April 2015 gave me the unique opportunity to speak to eight support organizations in all four corners of the country: North, South, East and West. Six of them focus their activities on Germany and selected cities within (Social Impact Labs, Heldenrat, Impact Hub Berlin), two work with social entrepreneurs internationally (Yunus Social Business, The DO School), and Social Entrepreneurship Akadamie in Munich caters to both national and international social startups offering different programs.

Local & national programs

Social Impact Labs are very similar in the services and benefits they provide as part of their support program Social Impact Start. Locally, though, each Lab has strong local partners and runs pretty self-sufficiently. I wonder if any plans are in place to make use of their Lab-network across Germany (not to mention their program-partnerships with Impact Hub Zurich and Vienna!). The Impact Hub network sets a great example for sharing knowledge and experiences among their Hub facilitators and members (though I still don’t exactly know what that looks like behind their closed doors. Did my Honorary Membership invite get lost in the mail?).

Though still young, Impact Hub Berlin is gaining a lot of traction and seems to have found their niche in the German capital. Their new space is great, no question. Let’s see what kind of programs Leon ad his team manage to line up in the months to come and I shall check back in to see how things are going.

Impact Hub Berlin 2

Impact Hub Berlin

When I first started my research into the field of social venture support organizations, I insisted on the category of pro-bono consultants solely because I had heard of Heldenrat. Strictly speaking I am looking at structured support programs for social entrepreneurs and one could argue that they only partly meet this definition. At the same time, they have a process in place of helping out struggling social entrepreneurs and charities. They are able to fill gaps in the support landscape and connect startups in need with relevant support organizations. I have tremendous respect for the team of volunteers around Tom and Birgit for devoting their free time to being volunteer advisers for startups and nonprofits in need.

International Programs

As far as internationally-oriented programs go I spoke to Yunus Social Business, the DO School and Social Entrepreneurship Akademie. Yunus Social Business is headquartered in Frankfurt and manages their core operations from there. There was little opportunity for insights into their programs at work which take place in seven countries around the world. However, their attempt of using their participants’ feedback to inform their program is remarkable even without my field visit. This seems like an easy and obvious mechanism for many of us who I’m sure have at least heard of the Lean Startup Approach, yet Yunus Social Business was the first social venture support organization who was able to make concrete statements about the effectiveness and relevance of their training schedule and services by gathering feedback from their participants.


DO School Fellows of the Green Store Challenge

While working at the DO School over the period of 18 months I was lucky to work closely with several cohorts of social entrepreneurs. Their one-year program goes beyond supporting them in developing a plan for a social venture (during their ten weeks in Hamburg) and implementing it (ten months after) in their home communities. A lot of work within the program is dedicated to ideation, facilitation and developing participants’ personalities. After all, for the ten weeks in Hamburg, they live and work together 24/7. It’s fair to say that the dedication of Romy and her team make the difference in this program.

How many #SocEntSupport programs assess their relevance and effect through participant feedback? Click To Tweet

Social Entrepreneurship Akademie at the opposite (South) end of the country sets a good example of building up strong partnerships to secure the financial sustainability. Speaking to Kristina I realized what energy (and philanthropic capital) mutually-beneficial partnerships can bring to the table. With their active engagement with the European Venture Philanthropy Forum and the Global Social Entrepreneurship Network I think of Social Entrepreneurship Akademie as one of the agenda-setters in the field in Germany, and Europe.


Spotlight: Leon Reiner

Leon long

What drives you?

The will to do something good with the things that I do well: enabling, networking and sales. The Impact Hub gives me the framework to do that, combining business and something good.

Biggest SocEnt trend you have seen in the last 5 years?

I’d say the first German-speaking incubation program was a milestone. I worked with Norbert Kunz when he initiated Social Impact Start four years ago. More recently, we had the ‘Deutschlandforum fuer Gesellschaft & Innovation’ – an annual forum by the German Chancellery on the issue issue of the year. In 2015, it’s Society & Innovation. If you google social entrepreneurship these days chances are you will end up on the websites of Zeit or Sueddeutsche Zeitung – mainstream media is covering it! When I started teaching at Humboldt University Berlin, I was the only one offering a course in social entrepreneurship in Germany, and students were flooding the lecture hall! Today you see many young talented Germans with entrepreneurial drive who are not scared to give it a go!

Currently reading

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr 


During my studies in development economics I spent most of my time analyzing the constant failures of top down approaches, everybody was complaining about what was wrong with the world but no-one offered practical solutions. I grew frustrated with the culture of complaint and started looking for alternatives. Due to my family background with both parents running businesses I soon started researching concepts like fair trade, micro-credits and after a long search social entrepreneurship. I was intrigued by this pairing of the “go and do” attitude of entrepreneurship with the vision to build a practice oriented alternative to the top down development models I had studied.

Additionally, I couldn’t imagine going to a foreign country to tell people what to do. I wanted to find something new to solve the problems on here on our doorstep – I found social entrepreneurship.

After writing my final thesis, I started interning at a consultancy for social entrepreneurs in Berlin. I got lucky, and shortly after I started there, they kicked off the first German-speaking incubation program to support social start ups, and hired me. In my time there, I got to see many ideas in an early phase. I saw what could be done and what couldn’t, and after some time set out to start my own business. After teaching social entrepreneurship at university and some smaller consulting gigs, I met my co-founders Anna, Nele, and Martin. I can’t believe it’s been two years since we first started working on Impact Hub Berlin.



Impact Hub Berlin

In late March I visited Impact Hub Berlin, back then still hidden away in a corner of the Kreuzberg neighborhood. The entry takes you through a cafe which was packed with people. I walked up to the third floor to find their main work space rented out for an event (one of their income sources). I called Leon who was hiding out somewhere in the building to get some work done. Measured by the noise level of social innovation in the cafe-slash-alternative co-working area, I couldn’t blame him. We squeezed in on a sofa and jumped right into an exciting conversation. I had met Leon on a couple of occasions before. Even though Berlin to Hamburg is less than two hours by train, I had no idea what he and his team were up to at the newly founded Impact Hub and I couldn’t wait to get his inside-view of the social innovation space in Berlin, Germany’s start-up epicenter. Side note: If you agree to meet me over lunch, be prepared for a rapid one. I am good at asking questions in between bites, how good are you at answering?

It was difficult finding investors for something that had previously failed, but we did it! Click To Tweet

In early 2013, Nele, Anna, Martin and Leon found each other; with different backgrounds but a shared passion for enabling social entrepreneurship. I was surprised to learn that Berlin used to have an Impact Hub that couldn’t sustain itself and closed down in the late 2000’s. “It was difficult finding investors for something that had previously failed, something in which other investors had lost their money. None of them came on board and we had to cast our web wider. At some point we were tired of waiting, balancing the pros and cons. We put out the word that we would set up an Impact Hub in Berlin, and went for a walk. When we came back four hours later, my inbox was full. People wanted to get involved, they wanted an Impact Hub. So we got to work.”

Impact Hub Berlin

Inside Impact Hub Berlin’s new space F246


Two years later Impact Hub is moving from Kreuzberg into the heart of Berlin, expanding their space by the factor six in a large space in Friedrichstrasse. “We learned a lot in these first two years. Most of all, we came to understand that you need to practice what you preach. In our case that’s user-centered design, fast prototyping, design thinking. That’s why the new space is designed after the needs of our members.” If you’re interested in some of the lessons Leon & team learned from starting up an Impact Hub, check out “Failing Forward“.

Over 11.000 Hub members and makers connect online to exchange experiences across countries. Click To Tweet

I ask Leon what makes a good support program (one of my favorites): “A strong and effective program needs to be comprehensive. To me, that means covering living costs, grant network access, and bringing in great mentors. Often, programs only focus on one or two of these factors instead of seeing the whole picture. Oh, and a program should make sure that everyone involved has a stake in the startup’s success.” Leon also lets me in on some more information about the Impact Hub network (25 Hubs in Europe alone!). Over 11.000 Hub members and makers connect on an online platform to exchange experiences across countries. Learning on the platform happens in communities of practice that host up to 100 people. On top of that, hub-makers meet once a year to learn from each other and discuss challenges and ways forward. Hmmm… Can I borrow someone’s Hub hat for once and sneak in? I dread picturing the vast knowledge and expertise these hub-makers exchange behind closed doors! Knock knock, let me in!

Impact Hub Berlin offers its members a co-working space, structured peer-to-peer learning, a number of events and workshops, opportunities for networking among founders, as well as personal tailored consulting. Their programs cover innovation workshops and bootcamps, an intrapreneurship program and a one-year Impact Hub Fellowship. Until these launch, here’s an example to see what they are up to:

Impact Hub Berlin 2

Focused Area

One of the support programs Impact Hub Berlin offers is the Impact Academy Climate, which is an ideation program for a Climate KIC – a startup competition for innovative startup ideas to fight climate change. The Impact Academy Climate takes place at 26 universities around Germany and focuses on ideation and business model development delivered in two workshops. Participating startups can apply to the final pitch night at Impact Hub Berlin and the two best ideas move on into the Climate-Kic Greenhouse program –  the first of three phases of Europe`s biggest climate innovation accelerator. It supports them through coaching and input-sessions on topics such as market testing business modeling, the three finalists receive a one-year membership at Impact Hub Berlin.

I can’t wait to see what other programs will kick off at Impact Hub Berlin over the next year. When I visited, it was still somewhat early days. Since our interview in March, they have moved to their new location and held a number of events. Let’s see which programs spring from that dwell of innovation!



Field study: Germany

Field study [n.]: Preliminary research

First things first: Apologies for the excessive use of footnotes in this post. I want to give credit where it’s due and not get into trouble for plagiarism. I worked through a number of studies – some of which are great to dive deeper into the topic – and have summarized their main points. You will find MY observations at the end of this series in the Cartography post.  

My trip through the Netherlands and Belgium was followed by a month in Germany which gave me some time to freelance and the opportunity to visit support organizations in Frankfurt, Berlin and Hamburg. Having worked in the German social enterprise support sector, I had to challenge myself to step out of my preconceptions and try to see the sector for what it is.

I was astonished to find how much research had already been done on social entrepreneurship in Germany – it was almost daunting to even start diving into the topic for fear of what I would find, and how much. Here are some key insights from the studies I looked at:

Social Entrepreneurship is not new to Germany, some #SocEnt are as old as 30 years. Click To Tweet

… but they often don’t identify as such. The five most relevant social issues in Germany – according to a SEFORÏS report1)Wolf, Myriam (2014). The State of Social Entrepreneurship in Germany SEFORÏS Country Report. (based on another study by the German Ministry for Education and Research2)Müller, Susan, Dominik Rüede, Kathrin Lurtz, Hartmut Kopf, and Peter Russo (2013). Deutschland 2030: Herausforderungen als Chancen für Soziale Innovationen. World Vision Center for Social Innovation, Wiesbaden.) are

  1. Labor market: unemployment and skill shortage
  2. Education: coupling of socio-demographic background and level of education
  3. Income and wealth: increasing division between rich and poor, failure to generate income to secure existence
  4. Environment: Coupling of resource use and economic growth
  5. Health: healthcare provision (aging society) and lifestyle diseases.

Unexpected findings

Apparently, strong welfare organizations make it tricky for social entrepreneurs to find their niche and establish themselves as a unique field. It’s almost like the “market for addressing social issues” is already among organizations like Deutscher Caritasverband (German Caritas Association), Arbeiterwohlfahrt (workers’ welfare association) or Diakonie, making it difficult for new-comers such as social entrepreneurs to position themselves and try out new approaches.3)Wolf, Myriam (2014). The State of Social Entrepreneurship in Germany SEFORÏS Country Report.

Risk-aversion of Germans: “German society tends to be risk averse. Risk averseness is one of the major cultural factors impeding entrepreneurial activities and ultimately also influencing availability of funding for social enterprises.”4)Brixy, Udo, Rolf Sternberg, and Arne Vorderwülbecke (2013). Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) – Länderbericht Deutschland. Hannover. I will add that in former East Germany – having been born and bred there myself – individual behavior was not necessarily encouraged. Under socialism, the market was heavily (if not exclusively) regulated by the state – going the extra mile didn’t pay off in most cases. During the first 19 years of my life, I didn’t know a single entrepreneur.

Under socialism, entrepreneurship was not encouraged. Does it show in today's #SocEnt sector? Click To Tweet

I believe this mindset is still deeply rooted in East-Germans and hampers their entrepreneurial spirit. I wouldn’t assume this is true for all Germans that lived on the Eastern side of the wall, but it is one influencing cultural factor.

Other Influencing Key-Factors

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2013, Germany ranks high in terms of physical infrastructure, government programs and protection of intellectual property – factors which create a nurturing environment for entrepreneurs – while ranking low with respect to entrepreneurial education in primary and secondary schools, labor market conditions, and knowledge and technology transfer – factors that don’t create this kind of favorable environment.5)GEM. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2013. Social enterprises can choose from over 20 different legal forms within the German system, none of which is exclusively dedicated to, nor apparently suitable for, social enterprise.6)Wolf, Myriam (2014). The State of Social Entrepreneurship in Germany SEFORÏS Country Report. Instead, social enterprises register as

  • Stiftungen (foundations),
  • Vereine (voluntary associations),
  • GmbHs (limited liability companies) and
  • Genossenschaften (co-operatives)7)Zimmer, Annette & Bräuer, Stephanie (2014). The Development of Social Entrepreneurs in Germany. Westfälische Wilhelms University, Germany.

which makes a head-count very difficult. There also is the legal form of a charitable limited liability company (tax exempt status) which is not mentioned in this study. In 2011, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin counted

  • 580,000 voluntary associations
  • 18,000 foundations
  • 9,000 limited liability companies with tax exempt status, and
  • 8,000 cooperatives in Germany.8)Priller, E., Alscher, M., Droß, P. J., Paul, F., Poldrack, C. J., Schmeißer, C., & Waitkus, N. (2012): DritteSektor-Organisationen heute: Eigene Ansprüche und ökonomische Herausforderungen. Ergebnisse einer Organisationsbefragung. Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung. Berlin.

This leads to a total number of 615,000 organizations in the Third sector. Not bad for a country with a population of 80 million. However, the lack of a separate legal form for social enterprise results in them remaining un-differentiated from other third sector organizations such as charities or even parental or neighborhood initiatives. To be honest, this troubles me.

How important is a legal form for #SocEnt in Germany? Click To Tweet

On the one hand, this lack of differentiation makes it difficult to promote the social enterprise concept in an environment that is already heavily influenced by strong welfare organizations. On the other hand, I argue that legal forms don’t make social enterprise. I believe that mission and impact will dictate legal form, not vice versa. Thoughts anyone?

Scheuerle & Bauer give an insight into financing mechanisms of social enterprise in Germany arguing that certain issues lend themselves more to earned income generation ( e.g. related to environment) than others (social services).9)Scheuerle, Thomas, and Albrecht Bauer (2013). Social enterprises as an investment? Frankfurt.


Financing structure of social enterprises in Germany. Source: Scheuerle, Thomas, and Albrecht Bauer (2013). Social enterprises as an investment? Frankfurt.


What social enterprise support?

None of the reports I studied mentioned support organizations. The only reference to our work, my dear readers, is the last sentence of chapter 4.2 in the SEFORÏS study (2014, p. 11): “Entrepreneur support models, however, only recently started to emerge in Germany but are perceived as highly important for the further development of social entrepreneurship.” Amen. Though I wonder how the authors define “recent”. After all, Germany has a number of strong players in the support sector for social entrepreneurs (swing over to The Changer via google translate for a longer list):

Reason enough for me to visit some of them and learn more about their different approaches to supporting social entrepreneurs around Germany and abroad.

References   [ + ]

1, 3, 6. Wolf, Myriam (2014). The State of Social Entrepreneurship in Germany SEFORÏS Country Report.
2. Müller, Susan, Dominik Rüede, Kathrin Lurtz, Hartmut Kopf, and Peter Russo (2013). Deutschland 2030: Herausforderungen als Chancen für Soziale Innovationen. World Vision Center for Social Innovation, Wiesbaden.
4. Brixy, Udo, Rolf Sternberg, and Arne Vorderwülbecke (2013). Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) – Länderbericht Deutschland. Hannover.
5. GEM. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2013.
7. Zimmer, Annette & Bräuer, Stephanie (2014). The Development of Social Entrepreneurs in Germany. Westfälische Wilhelms University, Germany.
8. Priller, E., Alscher, M., Droß, P. J., Paul, F., Poldrack, C. J., Schmeißer, C., & Waitkus, N. (2012): DritteSektor-Organisationen heute: Eigene Ansprüche und ökonomische Herausforderungen. Ergebnisse einer Organisationsbefragung. Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung. Berlin.
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