Social entrepreneurs exchange
Social entrepreneurship is a ‘hot’ topic – this is undeniable. Although a social entrepreneurial approach to change processes has been adopted by a variety of organisations in Cambodia, the Dutch social enterprise sector is somewhat more fragmented and in an infantile state of exploration. As a consequence there exists a thirst within the Dutch social enterprise sector to seek and gain expertise to better understand how to develop and nurture a healthy environment for social entrepreneurship to evolve and flourish. The E-Motive exchange challenged Dutch social entrepreneurs to engage with their Cambodian counterparts with a focus on reverse development cooperation and to uncover answers to the question: how do we shape and define social entrepreneurship in different contexts? The exchange has resulted in ample learning opportunities and inspiration for the Dutch entrepreneurs to reflect on and take back to their local environment.
How do we jointly learn about social entrepreneurship?
The professional discipline of social entrepreneurship is a relatively novel concept. Although various summits, conferences and knowledge exchange forums exist at the international level, not a large number of low cost exchange opportunities were identified for young social entrepreneurship practitioners. It may be argued that this young populace is a particularly opportunistic area where the scope for unveiling new ideas and innovative thinking quite often takes. Key learning areas include exploration on how to position and facilitate a social enterprise sector, and how to develop or transform into a healthy social enterprise. Relatively speaking, the social enterprising approach to change processes seems to be gaining more momentum in some countries, including Cambodia. SmallWorld and Friends International are two examples of Cambodian organisations that have adopted social enterprising principles within their organisational models in very diverse and at times understated ways.
Five social entrepreneurs from Context and Move visited their Cambodian counterparts from SmallWorld and Friends International in August 2014. During a 10-day exchange, the Dutch entrepreneurs were able to learn a great deal through daily organisational visits, inspirational discussions with their counterparts, field visits and a co-organised masterclass. The exchange proved to be very fruitful in stimulating new thinking. From eye-openers about novel organisational forms for the Move Foundation, to insights in a ‘social solidarity economy’ for Context, and useful methodological input for SmallWorld thanks to Move and its wonderful ‘Move methodology’: all participants went home as inspired social entrepreneurs, enjoying the afterglow of an overflow of rich experiences and lessons to take home.
Together we can shape the social business sector
Social enterprises can take various organisational forms, ranging from ‘hybrid models’ in which social entrepreneurship is adopted as one of various strategies to achieve social change whilst simultaneously incorporating other funding streams in the model; to a full-fledged, ‘purer’ social enterprise that manages to pursue social change in a financially sustainable manner through income generation; and commercial enterprises that are profit-driven and business-minded, but are able to integrate social objectives into their works and aim to function ethically. In the Netherlands, various NGOs have adopted a social entrepreneurial approach; businesses have begun to see the value of embedding social value orientation into their business models as a strategic choice; and social entrepreneurship as a whole is on the rise. Through the exchange, knowledge brokering and joint learning were able to take place and have made room for cross-cultural collaborative thinking and coordination of efforts. More practically, Context and Move have learned how to stimulate the emergence of a social enterprise sector, how to position (or not position) an organisation or business on the continuum from business to charity, and how to take into account contextual factors in developing and managing a healthy social enterprise. These lessons can be used at both the conceptual and the practical level, and thus contributing to the organisational capacity of the participating organisations.
Context, international cooperation (Utrecht, the Netherlands), founded in 1998, is a development organisation that functions as a social business: pursuing a development agenda in a business-like manner. Context staff members are innovators who use business principles in their pursuit of achieving fundamental social change. Context is convinced that an entrepreneurial approach and the enhancement of learning potential of people is a crucial force to create social change and a more just and equitable society. The organisation works at an intersection between the corporate sector, not-for-profit and government; the domains of policy, academia and development practice. Context services include: hands-on support to social entrepreneurs; practice-based research, including collaborative action research and exploratory research; training & coaching; organising learning trajectories; conducting evaluations or assisting self-evaluation; facilitation of organisational change processes; organising seminars, workshops and lectures; publishing reports, journals and books, including working papers, known as Contextuals. Context works on a number of strongly interconnected thematic areas, like social business, civic engagement, new methodologies for measurement and learning, global citizenship and capacity development. Underlying these themes is the desire to contribute to innovative approaches to development.
SmallWorld Cambodia is a collaborative workplace designed to ensure that passionate, business minded youth have access to an enjoyable and productive work environment. It serves as an education, networking, and small business resource and support centre where students and budding entrepreneurs can learn and network with others to discuss, test, and launch new business ideas. SmallWorld Cambodia encourages social entrepreneurship, leadership, self-determination and self-expression. Its aim is to create productive livelihoods for itself and its neighbours, to reduce poverty and to increase productivity and prosperity for all. SmallWorld believes each small action in the right direction contributes to the one big final push needed to make big things happen. SmallWorld’s vision is to build a platform for young people to test, refine, and launch their ideas, improve their abilities, and create a business portfolio that will help them secure funding for future business developments. SmallWorld’s mission is to facilitate and create innovative business and employment opportunities for idea-oriented youth in an open and casual work environment where they can meet, network, share, learn, collaborate, and have fun with other like-minded individuals. SmallWorld engages the public in social and environmental awareness through promoting sustainable homegrown enterprise and sponsoring public events which are educational, inspiring, and community uplifting. Its aim is always focused toward helping struggling people and building an environmentally sustainable nation.
Move Foundation is a social enterprise from Utrecht that encourages students in the Netherlands to become social entrepreneurs and set up projects in local communities, connecting with children and local companies and government employees. Together they make a plan to improve their community and subsequently they realize these plans. Move’s approach is small-scale, local and action-oriented. Every project has a tangible end result. The projects use collective action to unlock individual potential. A Move project aims to be a start of building trust-based local relationships, to open up new individual opportunities for all participants and increase social cohesion in the area. In every community where projects are started, it is the final goal for the organization to make itself redundant. A Move project connects students, children, businesses and local governments. Every project consists of four steps:
- Build personal connections, preferably by doing sports together
- Create a joint success experience, by making a plan to improve the local community and realize it
- Raise awareness of personal potential of participants, by celebrating a tangible end result
- Trigger a chain of joint initiatives, by building on potential of movers in the community
Move believes that local people, the students and children, know best what to improve in their neighborhood. Therefore Move has a bottom-up approach in all its projects; the students are the project leaders, the children are the creative leaders. Together they decide what to improve they make a plan and realize their idea. They are thereby supported by businesses and local municipality that provide funding and expertise. Move recognises the strengths, talents and power of the children and students and believes that by giving them the responsibility and ownership of the project it will increase and unlock their individual potential of becoming active citizens within their local community or society.
Friends International is a champion in the social entrepreneurship sector of Cambodia, with a long and successful experience in establishing social business and a well-documented record. It is a leading social enterprise working with marginalized children and youth, their families and their societies across South East Asia. Friends International began supporting children and young people who were living and working on the streets of Phnom Penh as early as 1994. Over the years, Friends International has expanded its operations and activities and, thanks to its 15 years of presence in Cambodia, has contributed to the promotion of various alliances and networks. Friends social businesses generate high social profit and sustainable financial returns. Friends International started its first vocational trainings in 1995 as a way to rehabilitate and reintegrate youth. Today, it runs restaurants (3 in Phnom Penh and 1 in Siem Reap), beauty salons, showrooms and shops (2.5 million USD generated in the year 2012) in a commercially sustainable manner. Friends trainees undergo a “real-life training”, learning a vocation the “hard way” with real clients and real prices (as opposed to centre-based trainings). Trainings, services and products are market-driven, offering both future placement opportunities for trainees as well as appealing products. Good examples are the extremely appealing and high quality products sold in Friends’ shops and showroom and the Trading Support for Employment and Entrepreneurship programme, which offers start-up support to trainees. Alongside its robust case management system, a well-defined and solid internal structure and a dedicated team of professionals, the organization can count on a clear vision and strong leadership.
Fons van der Velden