Expert session: Social entrepreneurship

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Expert session: Social entrepreneurship

The necessity to give access to tender city makers to finance their initiatives

This expert session occurred during the New Europe City Makers Pre-Summit on the 4th and 5th of February at Pakhuis de Zwijger, Amsterdam.

On the one hand, a City Maker has to face some obstacles in their daily basis. One of them is clearly the way in which they obtain funds to finance their ideas when it comes to social/cultural innovation. On the other hand, the task of the City Maker is to encourage and involve society in urban social problems creating awareness and also getting involve those who are vulnerable in the current system. Social entrepreneurship seems to be one way to promote City maker’s initiatives. But How should we do it?

What is most important is to understand what social entrepreneurship is and how City Makers can take advantage of it. Stefan Panhuijsen opened the session defining Social Enterprise as how important it is to generate social impact rather that profit for owners or shareholders according to the EU commission. It should be managed in a transparent and accountable way by involving volunteers, stakeholders, business community, etc.

“An entrepreneur brings the machine to peal the shrimps, a social entrepreneur brings people with disabilities, low skills or people unemployed for a long time and integrates them into work. They stimulate these people to work and sometimes there are subsides for their salaries” – Stefan Panhuijsen

Among the social enterprises in The Netherlands we found second hand shops, beer social enterprises, peeling shrimps companies, etc.

Audience: How do you identify these social enterprises?

“Social entrepreneurship is entrepreneurship with a social mission. A social enterprise delivers just like any other company product or service and a business model. Making money is not the main goal; it is a means to accomplish the mission. The purpose of social enterprise is to create social value, also known as impact” – Stefan Panhuijsen

Stefan described the different business models that social enterprises can perform. The relationship between government and social entrepreneurs makes relevant the public procurement model where social entrepreneurs sell their products or services to the government. This public procurement is relevant for City Makers and social entrepreneurs. The struggle arises when social entrepreneurs intend to finance these initiatives as a social enterprise, in other words, the struggle to obtain this public procurement. The non-existent finance model to encourage city makers (social entrepreneurs) in some countries in Europe makes this issue an important point within the City Makers agenda. The paradox between impact and economic profit is still uncertain and some sectors are reluctant to invest in social actions. The speaker insisted that the main problem is that the social value is not rewarded in the procurement process.

“The beer itself does not have anything special but the way in which is made is what makes it different. There is the social value.” – Stefan Panhuijsen

In The Netherlands as well as other countries in Europe, as mentioned before, do not have a government policy regarding social entrepreneurship at the national level. On a local level there are some municipalities interested in supporting these initiatives. Social Enterprises in The Netherlands are consultants and advisers who coach, help to measure the impact of the social business, organise workshops, and provide information about how to have access to finance, market and legal structure. They are working together with different political parties to create a legal structure in The Netherlands. There are 4 main principles to be discussed: protecting societal mission, involving stakeholders, transparency and profit allocation (set some points to establish what to do to the profit that has been made from a legal way added Stefan.

Three different European platforms introduced their work and how they incubate social entrepreneurship:

Karen Hiergens from Sociale Innovatiefabriek explained that innovation is not just all about technology but also for civil society. She described how in Belgium there are not that many social impact investors. With this idea social innovation factory was created: “We help social innovators and social entrepreneurs with the development of their ideas. We find very important the social entrepreneur minds, those who are starting. (because they are not social entrepreneurs yet), we stimulate them to become solid and in a long term actives”

Martin Barry started a non profit in Prague and is considered a social entrepreneur. “Pague is an example of how there is no model for non profit. The funding available for non profits is very bad” he added. ReSite tries to bring a lot of people together to educated and inform them about these issues and find a way to get a model to fund non profits.

Thandi Dyani works at KPN-Copenhagen. The space, they provide, is meant for cooperation and co-creation. They advise start ups as well as more developed firms. They only host impact entrepreneurs and start ups (Social, cultural and environmental entrepreneurs).

© Jitske Schols

Audience: Which one is the profile for a social business?

“You have it already! Giving the space for a social economy makes you one” – Thandi Dyani

The fact that it is not easy to participate or find funds when it comes to talk about financing social initiatives and managing public spaces made the audience wonder about the strategy took by Martin: “Bringing co-creation to an international level where organisations could see profit in these initiatives”.

Audience members looked interested in how to start an enterprise and how to become a member of the different platforms.

“Mostly about meeting people and co-creating with others. Approach your local project company. Talk to somebody who already set or had the experience in this the situations” – Karen Hiergens and Thandi Dyani

From these words we are an step closer to  creating a path for social entrepreneurs, starting from co-creation, incubating awareness, learning from others and also sharing our experiences. As a general overview, the session reflected how there are still some issues that should be discuss more in depth.


In deze steden zijn nu stadambassadeurs actief. Dat worden er snel meer.


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