Generating Ideas

Generating ideas is the first hurdle to starting your own social enterprise, therefore here are some methods we suggest to help you get going:

  1. Family – Often entrepreneurs can find inspiration from their own family. Spend some time talking with your family, asking them questions and see what happens.
  2. Friends – Equally, your friends can be just as valuable a resource as family.
  3. What annoys you? – There have likely been many times where you have been annoyed by a product or service. Think about those times and ask yourself why you were annoyed, then brainstorm ways you could fix it or do it better.
  4. Hobbies – What hobbies or interests do you have? Could one of these be something you could earn money from and turn into a business?
  5. Travel – Travelling will give you a better perspective on the world and will grow you as a person. You may see something you think could work in your own country or region, or you might meet someone you could forge a partnership with.
  6. Keep your eyes open – Conversely, just being more aware of your local surroundings may give you the inspiration you need, it may even be right in front of you.
  7. Examine existing products – Innovation comes from developing everyday items. Look at what is around you and ask, what could I do to make this better?
  8. Sleep on it – We are often at our most creative when we’re sleeping. When you wake up in the morning, write down what you remember.
  9. Internet research – You have a tremendous wealth of knowledge at your fingertips, use it!

Managing Stakeholders

DEFINITION: STAKEHOLDERS

Stakeholders in the context of business refer to anybody with an interest in the business or is affected in the operations of the business. In social enterprise, this also includes the beneficiaries, the people your enterprise exists to help.

As a social enterprise, you will have to manage a more diverse group of stakeholders than a regular business. This is because you will have beneficiaries who are just as important as your customers, therefore it can sometime be difficult to balance the needs of the beneficiaries with the needs of the customers.

Whatever decisions you have to make regarding your stakeholders, it is vital that this does not disrupt the financial stability of the business. Putting the financial stability of the business at risk also ultimately puts the social mission at risk, and the impact of the social enterprise failing would likely be higher on your beneficiaries, who can afford it the least.

Ultimately, you should be honest and realistic when discussing your ideas with beneficiaries. Whilst you want them to approach the business with positivity you do not want them to get discouraged if progress does not match expectations. This could lead to beneficiaries becoming disengaged, which is bad for the business and more importantly, themselves.

Where possible, the beneficiaries should be involved in the operations of the business, these will enable you to have the greatest impact. By providing practical learning opportunities it will empower your beneficiaries far better than by keeping them separate.

Working with Partners

Most social enterprises work closely with various other organisations, whether in a formal partnership or in a more informal manner. It is especially important that when working with your beneficiary group, you find organisations who can support you. In many instances, this will be charities or Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) who already offer some services to the beneficiary group. This will ensure that you have the knowledge and understanding of how to best support your beneficiaries, because you are partnered with people who work with them every day, and perhaps have been doing so for years.

When researching the social issue that you want to tackle, you should also research organisations who are already working in that field and make contact with them. You could start by asking for a meeting to discuss your idea and try and get some feedback. This could then develop into a formal partnership as you make progress on the business, or they could stay as informal partners. However, making contact will give you access to more knowledge and experience than you would have otherwise.

ACTIVITY

In this exercise, you will practice combining social issues with types of business and then expand on those ideas.

Social IssueBusiness
HomelessnessTour Guiding Business
Youth UnemploymentCafé/Restaurant
Refugees and MigrantsGrocery Store
Disabled AdultsMagazine/Newspaper
Vulnerable Elderly PeopleUpcycling Shop
Indigenous PopulationsArt Gallery

New methods to identify opportunities for the development of employment generating projects in the frame of the social economy

No project or program promoting cooperatives has ever been successful when it is exclusively promoted by external actors to the people supposed to be the components of these cooperatives, be they governmental agencies, trade unions, universities, NGOs, or foreign institutions or experts, without a clear participation of the actors themselves.

Obstacles

A top down dynamic should always be combined with a bottom up one in cooperative projects. Indeed, the essence of social economy is to meet ordinary citizens’ socio-economic needs through an enterprise which the same ordinary persons control democratically. In order to promote cooperatives, it is necessary to enter the cooperative logic. If this fundamental factor is absent and is not consciously promoted, there is a high risk that an initiative to promote social cooperative enterprises and the social economy in Greece may fail, with a substantial waste of financial resources and, even worse, a bad experience which may take years or even decade to be overcome in public opinion, as has happened in a number of countries already. In addition, there is lack of visibility and understanding of what is social economy as well as there is a confusion between a sector and the civil society movements. Finally, there are a lot of case that there is an unwelcoming or unprepared environment (social and/or institutional) when it comes to help the development of new forms of self-organized initiatives.

Identify opportunities

Thus, there is a need to identify the different actors who could contribute to cooperative development in Greece. Some methods in order to achieve the development of social economy with new projects are:

  • Development of centres dedicated to the development of cooperatives and of the social economy, with few pilot project areas being chosen, with a handful (at least 2-3 persons) of dedicated full-time personnel in each of the project areas. The centres should see the participation of persons and institutions committed to the development of cooperatives and the social economy. Connected to these centres, a financial mechanism should be devised in order to provide seed funding to cooperative start-up or restructuring projects.
  • The operators of the centre and sub-units should receive intensive training in other countries for one to two months (accompanied by an interpreter if needed) in selected areas where concrete and immediately utilizable knowledge can be learnt.
  • Foreign specialists from the technical fields in which the operators will have undergone training abroad should then be available to perform regular visits on the pilot projects in order to pursue the training of the project operators and provide follow-up and advice, including, in the beginning, on the specific cooperative enterprises being established.

How social entrepreneurship can be reached out to the “invisible” talents.

It is clear that local entrepreneurial talents should be nurtured and developed. In order to do so, the field of social entrepreneurship must reach out to the ‘invisible’ social entrepreneurs whose talent remains untapped. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to achieve that.

Promote Your Business Idea at Community Events and Festivals

Festivals, conferences, open markets, business expos, health fairs, and other community events are all good opportunities to promote your business idea locally.

Such an example is SKOLL WORLD FORUM. The Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship is the premier international platform for advancing entrepreneurial approaches and solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. Its mission is to accelerate the impact of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs by uniting them with essential partners in a collaborative pursuit of learning, leverage, and large-scale social change.

People often spend time and money in promoting their ideas and proposals online or by emails. However, if you’re not taking advantage of nearby festivals and community events to promote your business idea, you’re likely missing out on a valuable opportunity to find support and investments.

Festivals and community gatherings enable businesses to connect with members of their own cities and towns. Not only can you find allies that will help you to materialize your ideas but you can also interact with current and prospective customers, letting them know what it is you have to offer. Additionally, owners can form potentially valuable relationships with other local businesses, searching to recruit possible talents and get advantage of their fresh ideas.

Here is some advice for promoting your skills and ideas successfully at local festivals and events:

Do Your Homework

Before attending your first festival, it’s important to do your research. Communities offer a broad array of events. Before taking part, take time to consider the target audience and what types of events you are most likely to attend. If you want to create something targeted to families with small children, you will likely focus on different events than those targets young citizens.

Dive into the content

Absorb everything around you. Make the most out of each session. Bring a notebook and take down all your observations. Ask questions during the Q&A portions. Then, go back to your team with actionable insights and takeaways based on it all.

Introduce yourself to speakers after the sessions

One of the best connections you can make at a conference is with the speakers themselves — that is, if you introduce yourself properly. Take the time to greet them after their sessions and be sure to ask them thoughtful questions (which shouldn’t be hard if you were zeroing in on the previous point).

Gather Emails

When you attend local festivals, the marketing opportunities don’t stop when you pack up for the day. On the contrary, usually there is the option to sign up with your email for interaction. In addition, collect the email addresses of the connections you made in a database and use it to networking in the coming months. Only contact prospects when you have something of true value to say.

Leave if you really need to

We all have limits when it comes to networking. Know yours, and be honest with yourself when you’ve hit it. If you’re uncomfortable after spending 20 minutes circling an event without one conversation, it’s okay to leave. As long as you’ve made an honest effort and you’re getting value out of the conference in other ways, it’s okay to head back to your “home base” when things get to be too overwhelming.