Blog & News.
Blog & News.
Following the previous publications on our blog in the BASET project’s site let us remind you that our definition of an educator in the context of social entrepreneurship was the following: he / she is a person who acts professionally as a trainer, teacher, mentor, coach, adviser, consultant, facilitator or some other kind of a professional, who works with social entrepreneurs in order to facilitate and support a start-up and the development of a social business (venture).
So, what questions such a person (educator) will ask at his/her first meeting with social entrepreneurs, who would like to be supported (trained, mentored, etc.) in doing business with a social mission. The ten group of questions below are included in our Social Entrepreneurship Development Model (SEDM) (read the draft version) as one of the main outputs of the Project BASET. All these questions are taken from good practices of consultants, trainers and advisers on social entrepreneurship. Therefore, the educator should get an initial impression of the entrepreneur's personality about his / her: Motivation, Inherited Mentality, Competencies, Skills, Experience, Empathy, Leadership, Integrity, Social Intelligence, Social Business Model.
10 Groups of Questions
The proposed ten groups of preliminary questions neither exhaust all possibilities nor claim universality. Any trainer and consultant (educator) could ask more or less of these questions, which are listed below depending on his/her experience. We believe that it is quite important for any educator, however, at the beginning of his/her work with the entrepreneurs to sketch a general picture of the social business idea or case and the profile of its owner.
First group of questions concerns the motivation of the persons who are interviewed. The educator has to understand what is the motivation of these persons and why they would like to start their own business in the areas of tackling social challenges and problems. The entrepreneurs have to be asked if they know what impact they would like to achieve and whether they rely on sustainable decisions. What is their vision and mission? What leads them to the realization of their idea?
Secondly, it is commonly accepted that the inherited mentality of people is an important factor of their decisions to become entrepreneurs and to help other people. The educator would ask them to share with him/her whether they have in their family entrepreneurs or people who have led other people and/or managed projects, and if they have received tips and good examples from them? Or maybe they have been instructed or influenced by other leaders or concrete examples in a national or a global context?
Next, the third group of questions concerns important competences. Do they know the social issues they will have to deal with as entrepreneurs and can they share what knowledge and competences they still lack about this area as well as for the economy and management of a company or organization? Do they know well what difficulties and challenges await them in the course of their journey?
The questions for competences are followed by questions on skills, so the forth group of questions are related to important skills. For example, the educators could ask them on what skills they would be able to rely so the creation and/or development of their social venture / project / enterprise is successful? Whether they know what skills they lack for being successful social entrepreneurs?
The fifth group of questions are about the social entrepreneurs' experience. The educator will ask those interviewed whether they have personal experience of working with social projects and / or doing classic business? He/she may ask whether they already have work experience in a social enterprise or they have been in a network supporting social causes? Any question that can give more information about the experience of the potential social entrepreneurs can be very supportive for the educator?
The sixth group of questions is about empathy. If the interviewed claim that they are involved in solving social challenges and problems the educator has to ask them what is the reason for this. Whether this is a philanthropy, social responsibility, the belief that everything is in their hands, or it is their philosophy of life, the understanding that every business is social when it is innovative, the understanding that the social business model is more efficient in comparison with the classic one, or this is a good approach of searching for justice, or they would like to support solving global problems, or all these things or/and something more? Are they ready to achieve their goal despite the anticipated difficulties and losses, or do they believe that they can and do they intend to work towards reducing the risks of failure to a minimum? And /or maybe both?
The seventh group of questions concerns leadership and is one of the most important. Do they think that they have the qualities of a leader that can also engage other people in solving the tasks and achieving social impact? Would these qualities be useful so they become business leader as well? Do they know the difference between the two types of leadership?
Next, the eighth group consists of questions that concern the integrity of social entrepreneurs. Do they know the moral and ethical norms of doing business with regard to users, investors, customers, beneficiaries, competitors, suppliers, consultants, etc.? Are they ready to give up of their ideas and goals for achieving financial and social impact, if this overrides these norms?
The ninth group of questions is about the social intelligence of the entrepreneurs. Do they have stakeholders, supporters, partners and / or a network of contacts that support their mission and intend to achieve specific social effect? How do they plan to include them in their initiative / project / enterprise to increase their chances of success?
And finally, the tenth and may be the most important group of the preliminary questions concerns the business model. Do the entrepreneurs have an initial idea of how they will create and sell something useful to the users, and how they and their target group will benefit? The educators would like to expect that the entrepreneurs could simply answer the questions: who, why, what, how, to whom, and where? Can they develop a more detailed operational business plan and do they know where they would seek some help?
The newspaper Le Monde has recently (22/10/2018) reported the trend of business students who are more and more seduced by social entrepreneurship. Indeed, some students no longer hesitate to enter a large business school to develop a project with high social content. Here is a sentence from one of these students who seems to sum up this new state of mind: "When you have the chance to study, you have the responsibility to do something that you like and that animates you. " Kevin Berkane, a 28-year-old HEC graduate.
Thus, many are interested in associative engagement, specialization in social entrepreneurship or the creation of positive impact structures, and therefore correspond less and less to the cliché that we can make of these schools. But what happens after school? Indeed, for many of these students it can be difficult to make a career choice oriented towards social entrepreneurship, as this student explains: "It can be complicated to have invested in a school, for a certain standard of living, and finally to give it up. Personally, I tell myself that I prefer to take more time to repay my studies than to deny myself. But it's not an obvious choice either". For these young people, seeking to be accompanied is quite difficult as they emerge from 5 years of study: difficult to imagine redoing specific trainings in social entrepreneurship. Therefore, it is tempting for some of them to embark directly on the adventure when they have made their choice.
However, more and more European business schools are investing in the Hult Prize contest. Each year, the Hult Prize designates and accompanies a student start-up. In association with the United Nations, the Bill Clinton Foundation and the support of Education First, the winning team is awarded $ 1 million for its innovative and social project. This is enough to have the tools to get started, both in funding and support.
But what about others? Unfortunately, there are still no clear statistics on these students who have become social entrepreneurs. In Belgium, for the past decade, there have been platforms such as Coopcity, which offers tailor-made support programmes: discovering social and cooperative entrepreneurship, knowing the ecosystem, using specific tools to get started, finding financing adapted to the activity, choosing the appropriate governance, communicating on a project, etc. These kinds of platforms are especially useful for their willingness to create important networks, which is one of the biggest challenges for the social entrepreneur. These platforms create a link for actors who wish to engage in social entrepreneurship: project leaders, citizens, local authorities. They develop a rich community.
From the point of view of the Belgian public sector, social entrepreneurship is now completely ingrained in people's minds. Indeed, whether at the local level or at the regional level, the local authorities integrate into their policies and administrations the notion of social entrepreneurship.
Just look at the amount of calls for projects and grants issued by the state. But what about today's positioning of the social entrepreneur in the business world? The multiplication of links between start-ups and large groups shows a clear message: it is a source of innovation, on which the survival of companies depends today. For start-ups, it's about accelerating their growth by building on the strengths of their elders. In exchange for a source of youth and inspiration for groups that need to inject agility and flexibility into their model, to stay at the forefront of innovation. A win-win situation, called "open innovation", in which everyone finds his account.
According to an article by La Libre (03/07/2017), a forgotten element in this collaboration between start-ups and large groups is the social entrepreneur. Yet, present in the programmes of the largest business schools, social entrepreneurship is still struggling to make its way to the directions of innovation and strategy of large companies. Not enough "business", not enough strategic, not-for-profit and therefore no interest for a company?
A symbolic barrier and some prejudices seem to persist between the start-ups of the social and solidarity economy and their digital cousins, who at first glance appeal to them. However, the success stories of the social and solidarity economy exist and continue to demonstrate the strategic potential of collaborations between social entrepreneurs and large groups. Businesses have a lot to learn from the social entrepreneur's "toolbox". Social entrepreneurs design bottom-up strategies, know how to analyze concrete needs, on which they build agile strategies, and react to rapid changes in social contexts. A fluidity guided by a meaningful mission, which also attracts and retains the young talents of Generation Y, in search of fulfilling professional experiences. Finally, the social entrepreneur is by nature hybrid: he responds to the general interest, while ensuring the economic sustainability of his model. This ambivalence results in an ability to invent economic and financial models that shape the contours of the economy of tomorrow.
It is time to consider social entrepreneurs as levers of innovation for large companies, like classic startups. So far we have seen the positioning of social entrepreneurship in business schools, public sector, support platforms, and the business and industry sectors, but what about the public opinion? In the face of societal challenges, more and more citizens see values as a priority and question the meaning, ethics and responsibility of their actions. Although there is general awareness, the messages criticizing the current economic system are perceived as too negative. It is now time to move towards positive communication, more inspiring and mobilizing. It is important to give more visibility to concrete initiatives that already respond to various societal problems and that show that even small-scale change is possible.
By responding in an innovative way to societal challenges, social enterprises can re-link economic activities and society and provide a vehicle for transition. In conclusion, there is still some way to go about social enterprise, its image and its positioning. It should be noted that during a recent visit to Portugal, the King of Belgium argued that "Social entrepreneurship is now fully integrated into our Belgian economy". So be it!
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The Boost Aid for Social Entrepreneurship through Training /BASET/ Project No. 2017-1-BG01-KA204-036360 has been co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.
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