Individuals working towards a better society in an entrepreneurial manner: welcome to the world of social entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, not enough people are familiar with this concept. A better understanding of its core, roots and opportunities is a ‘basic necessity’ to accelerate this development, as argued by Hylke van der Wal and Rutger van Weeren, lead editors of so/magazine.
Showing the great world of social entrepreneurship will help us to raise awareness and eventually lead to more knowledge of the ‘movement’. Impact journalists combine knowledge of social entrepreneurship with a critical approach and therefore are able to show necessary light at the end of the tunnel.
This article is originally published in Dutch by Hylke van der Wal and Rutger van Weeren (lead editors of so/magazine). At several international meetings, and especially at the 2018 Euclid Summit in The Hague, there was a big demand for an English version of this opinion. Many thanks to Jasper C. Kars (so/creatie editor in chief) for the English adaptation.
Ecosystems for social change: everybody is responsible
The number of social enterprises in the Netherlands is growing. More and more people want to tackle societal challenges in an entrepreneurial manner. Solving current social problems is a shared responsibility of our communities (‘civil society’), the free market and the Dutch government. In the strongly overlapping field of those three key players is where we can find social entrepreneurs.
“In a society where social entrepreneurships prosper, individuals can create and shape their own change.”
Because of their special position social enterprises are able to endorse a new way of democracy. A form of democracy that can overcome polarisation and traditional differences between for example government and the free market, and find new ways to implement common interests. In a society where social entrepreneurships prosper, individuals can create and shape their own change: less dependent, sometimes even totally independent, of government or the regular economy.
An unfamiliar concept
In its ‘Social Entrepreneurship Lab’ The University of Applied Sciences of Amsterdam (HvA) is researching social entrepreneurship. A longstanding study of the HvA shows that social entrepreneurship – unfortunately – is an unfamiliar concept to most of the public. And next to that, a phenomenon that is very hard to define.
“Social entrepreneurship is an unfamiliar concept to most of the public. And next to that, a phenomenon that is very hard to define.”
DRIFT – a well-known Dutch research institute (Dutch Research Institute for Transitions) – even goes a step further. In their ‘Manifesto for Transformative Social Innovation’ the institute claims that there is an urgent need for ‘new stories that cope against contrasts of our time and provide alternatives for a better future. Acoording to DRIFT: ‘We need alternatives and different stories that help us realising change.’ Great examples of existing successful social enterprises can be used to inspire individuals. So that people – in a very pragmatic and decisive manner – can come up with great ideas and solutions for all sorts of social problems.
Good stories on good business
All the important players, such as governments, ngo’s or corporations, profit from an independent collector, checker, reporter and analyst. It is exactly that role that journalism plays in our liberal democratic society. Social entrepreneurship has become an important player in the Netherlands – and abroad – and thus needs an independent journalistic platform.
“Social entrepreneurship has become an important player in the Netherlands – and abroad – and thus needs an independent journalistic platform.”
Such platform could help consumers with their sustainable choices of everyday life. It can inspire companies to integrate social and sustainable goals in their revenue model. And it helps governments to understand the added value of the ‘newcomers’ – the social enterprises that put impact first – on the public domain.
Not only will people talk about social entrepreneurs, they will actually talk with them. By identifying the needs of the sector and sharing successes and lessons the reputation of social entrepreneurship can be reinforced. Inspiring people, collecting knowledge and seizing opportunities will contribute to the general growth of the sector.
Call for action: #MoreValueTogether
Social entrepreneurs are working together to create ‘more value’. This means way more than just money. Unique stories, in the style of participatory journalism and storytelling, are indispensable. The powerful combination of social entrepreneurship and impact journalism can lead to a more inclusive and vibrant society.
This doesn’t just happen. To all the parties that acknowledge the importance of storytelling for the continuing growth of social entrepreneurship in the Netherlands, next to HvA, DRIFT, the Social Business Initiative of the European Commission and the province of North Brabant in their report ‘Betekenisvol Brabant’, we would like to say: translate words into deeds. Support the rise of impact journalism, both nationwide and locally.
“Support the rise of impact journalism, both nationwide and locally.”
And you know what’s so great? To achieve this we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are a few parties that are already actively spreading the word. We have been interviewing more than 100 social entrepreneurs for so/magazine since 2016. With ‘Purpose People’ MaatschapWij provides a weekly opportunity to an important social entrepreneur. Social Impact Day Noord does the same thing with social entrepreneurs from Groningen, Drenthe and Friesland, the northern provinces of the Netherlands. And last but not least: ToekomstVisies – a startup that investigates and researches local societal challenges through a journalistic approach – did a series of interviews with 12 sustainable entrepreneurs in Utrecht.
Time has arrived for these great initiatives to join forces and reinforce each other: an ultimate move towards that independent platform for impact journalism. Together we strive for a more social entrepreneurial society. #MoreValueTogether!
Over Hylke van der Wal, Rutger van Weeren, Jasper C. Kars
Hylke van der Wal and Rutger van Weeren are the founders of so/creatie. Their organisation contributes to the growth of social entrepreneurship in the Netherlands by actively discovering and solving problems within the ecosystem. so/creatie is the publisher of so/magazine, a well-known Dutch online magazine on social entrepreneurship. On this platform – by learning everything about the how and why of social entrepreneurs – a team of enthusiastic and vibrant young impact journalists creates added value for an ever growing movement. Jasper C. Kars is involved with so/magazine from the beginning and is now the platforms’ editor in chief.