Wednesday, 28 October 2015

social entrepreneurship akademie: an interview with christina hunn

Since September 2014, Christina has worked as Program Manager Qualification at the Social Entrepreneurship Akademie and is responsible for the roll-out of an introductory education program on Social Entrepreneurship called „ZGI:kompakt“.

Prior to her work at the Akademie she worked for two years with Nobel Peace Price winner Prof. Muhammad Yunus in Colombia where she led the strategic design and implementation of the Yunus Social Business Incubation Center. During that time she was part of a consulting team that developed “Campo Vivo”, a joint venture with McCain Foods Limited that aims to improve the quality of life of small potato farmers through a mobile cultivation center of excellence.

She gained her passion for Social Entrepreneurship while working with street-children in a local non-profi t organization in Argentina. Christina studied Business Administration and Economics at the University of Passau and the PSG Institute of Management in Coimbatore, India.

 

Q: Could you please tell us a bit about the goals and objectives of the Social Entrepreneurship Akademie?

A: As a joint initiative of the university-based entrepreneurship centers in Munich, we educate social entrepreneurs. We qualify people from across disciplinary backgrounds and enable them to solve society’s most pressing needs in a financially sustainable way.

Our objective is to inspire and support especially young people. We want them to see socially relevant, entrepreneurial initiatives as an opportunity for their career, either as a social entrepreneur setting up their own startup or working as a social intrapreneur in an organization. It is all about generating a sustainable impact for society.

In our ideal world every enterprise is social, but there is still long way to go and as a European competence center for social entrepreneurship education we strive to achieve this vision.

 

Q: What kind of support do you offer to social entrepreneurs?

A: We offer qualification programs for ongoing social entrepreneurs and individual coaching sessions for existing social entrepreneurs.

One of our core programs is the “Certificate on Social Innovation” (“ZGI”), a one-year Munich-based program for students and young professionals who want to experience what it takes to become a social entrepreneur. We take them on a journey where they learn how to set up their own social startup. The interesting part is that the learnings are very hands-on. For instance, due to the current situation we are facing in Germany, several teams want to support refugees in Munich. So we send them out to talk directly to the refugees. We want them to understand the real needs of their target group before they start generating and implementing their own ideas.   

As we want to reach a lot of students across Europe, we have developed a two-day introductory course on social entrepreneurship that we are rolling out in collaboration with the KfW Stiftung. We have noticed that there is still a limited number of universities in Europe offering social entrepreneurship education programs. At the same time, we perceive a high demand for such a kick-off program, especially in crisis-hit countries. That’s why we focus on universities without experience in this field and support them to anchor social entrepreneurship within their curricular. In the program called “ZGI:kompakt” students and young professionals can deep-dive into the world of social entrepreneurship and receive a toolbox on how to launch their own social startup.   

Moreover, for existing social entrepreneurs we provide specific programs like individual coaching sessions and networking events. For us it is essential to link them up with partners, investors and accelerators of our growing ecosystem which we are part of. In that way, we have supported early stage social enterprises like for instance “Rucksackspende”, a team of recently graduates who develop a backpack that sterilizes surgical instruments in remote rural areas in developing countries. Or digital initiatives like “AppCamps” who educate deprived children in how to code. Another young social startup we support is “Time to Wish”, connecting employees with underaged refugees to commonly organize social events that help to integrate the kids in our society.

It is great to see that more and more initiatives are evolving - not only from students, but also from young professionals who aim to “do good” and “make the world a better place”.

 

Q: Social business and social entrepreneurship are growing topics in Germany. How would you describe the German landscape?

A: Social entrepreneurship has indeed become a huge trend in Germany. But social entrepreneurship is nothing new. People like Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen or Adolf Kolping have already done so in the 19th century in the region.

Due to the strong welfare system in Germany, we have not experienced a steady rise in social startups as we have seen it, for instance, in countries like the UK or even in developing countries like Colombia, where I worked before. Still, due to cost cutting in the public sector and the demographic development among others, the social entrepreneurship landscape in Germany is growing. We experience a rising number of especially young people, who aim for a job with a purpose and who see social entrepreneurship as their new perspective, which is great!

Moreover, the German public sector has started to put social entrepreneurship on his agenda, which we also experience on a local and national level. One of our teams was, for instance, recently invited to an advisory committee with the chancellor herself to receive support in their education initiative in a conflict district in Germany.

For sure, the investments of large foundations like the Vodafone Foundation or the KfW Stiftung have also strengthened the social entrepreneurship landscape. Financing opportunities are rising and, besides social venture capitalists like BonVenture, crowdfunding has become an important source for initial funding and at the same time a great tool to test a product or service in the market.

Nevertheless, it will take time to have social entrepreneurs receiving a more recognized status in Germany. Social Entrepreneurs are still struggling in finding their role next to the large welfare organizations. And there is certainly still a lack of long-term cooperation among social entrepreneurs, the welfare organizations and public policy makers.

 

Q: Not all initiatives are successful. Based on your experience, what are the main reasons for this?

A: A social business solves a social problem but at the same time needs to be competitive in the market and, in the long run, be financially sustainable like a conventional business. That is not easy for social entrepreneurs and we experience many teams who are drifting to either of both.

Working with early stage initiatives, we often see teams that come up with an idea with which they have fallen in love. No matter what others tell them, they see it as a great solution for a social problem. But once they implement it with great effort and time, they find out that either there is no market for their product or service or they are not tackling the need of their target group. And still, they do not listen to the target group.

In the case of our student teams, we often experience a lack of knowledge in the area they want to work in. Many teams come up with the idea of an app – but is there anyone in the team who can code? Unfortunately no, but they still they insist on doing it. Teams also often come up with an idea to solve a problem in a developing country, but have never been there before.

In addition, a lack of focus might hinder success. Many teams want to solve too many issues from the very beginning with one great, holistic approach. But in the end it becomes too complex and the teams loose focus. Jean Bernou, CEO of McCain in Europe and MENA once gave us a good advice, when I was working on the design of the social business “Campo Vivo” in Colombia: “start focusing with one product or service only”!  

In any case, even if an initiative is not successful and fails, this should not prevent the social entrepreneur from continuing. We have seen a lot of initiatives that failed in the first run, but people came back with their lessons learned and an even greater idea to solve the social problem they want to tackle. Unfortunately, in Germany failure is still not very accepted in our society, but we are working on changing this mindset, too.

 

Q: What would be your advice for a social business entrepreneur who failed in the first place?

Keep going! You should never give up because you failed. Failure is a great thing when you learn out of it. Imagine Prof. Yunus had given up after failing in setting up his social businesses! But he kept going and continued believing in his vision.

Make use of the several programs that are available to receive support from professionals. Broaden your team with experts, if you lack a certain knowledge you need. Talk about your idea as much as possible and share it with whomever you can. This is the best chance to get immediate feedback for your idea. And it is especially important to include your target group from the very beginning. Listen to them and learn, how your approach can meet their needs.

Last but not least, don’t think too much about it, just do it!

 

Q: Tell us a bit about your partnership with the Global Social Business Summit 2015, what will be your role at the GSBS 2015?

A: We are happy to welcome the Global Social Business Summit and its global movement in Germany this year. As a partner of the GSBS 2015 we are happy to share our German and European experiences with the participants.

We will contribute to the summit in two ways: We will organize the Social Business Ideation Lab at the Young Challengers Meeting, where we train young challengers to generate new social business model ideas. And we will host an expert workshop together with one of our teams during the conference. At the workshop called “buntkicktgut – an intercultural football league: perspectives for refugees & migrants?“ we will work on an impact-driven international scaling strategy of the successful impact model “buntkicktgut”.

 

Q: Just a few days ago, the United Nations published the Sustainable Development Goals. What needs to be done, that entrepreneurial solutions play a larger role in achieving them?  

A: We believe that (social) entrepreneurship education is a potential tool for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. We need to offer more learning platforms and physical environments that allow students to work hands-on on solutions for the pressing challenges of our time.

Therefore, we have decided to set up a global Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on (social) entrepreneurship as a pre-qualification for our Global Entrepreneurship Summer School that we organize together with the four leading university entrepreneurship centers in Munich and our partner SAP foundation. With this MOOC we are yearly targeting over 30.000 students from all over the world to shape their entrepreneurial mindset and learn how to resolve our global issues with sustainable solutions.

Scalable programs as such will help fostering social innovation and entrepreneurial solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

 

Contact Details:

Christina Hunn, Program Manager Qualification

Social Entrepreneurship Akademie 
- a joint initiative of Munich’s four Universities



e-mail: christina.hunn@seakademie.de

 

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The Global Social Business Summit 2015 - in Berlin, Germany - has come to a bittersweet end. We thank all those who supported us throughout the process; all those who participated in the event; and all those who helped to spread the YY Spirit of the Social Business Movement in the days leading up to - and during - the event.

We can't wait to see all of you in China for the Global Social Business Summit 2016.

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