Sustaining social and civic entrepreneurship: Let’s have an inclusive one stop shop for social innovation

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It is almost five years that Luna Shrestha Thakur, founder and director of Change Fusion Nepal started promoting, almost out of blue at that time, the idea of social entrepreneurship. In all these years lots of inroads have been made to promote a new way of social and economical development. This is thanks to Luna and of course, with her, many more other persons and stakeholders though, undoubtedly, Luna and her team have proved to be an effective “lighthouse” in an ocean of darkness in the national landscape of social entrepreneurship.

The decision of a big business house like Surya to step in and support the idea of a national award is not just a recognition of what Change Fusion Nepal has been doing so far but also a sign that a certain level of maturity has been reached by the business community in the importance of promoting and sustaining the best innovative ideas that can improve our society. In the last years also a few of venture capitalism funds have been emerged and are active in promoting sustainable, marketable ideas. Though they are still in a very initial phase, the fact that a country of Nepal can count on a group of investors ready to pool their resources, take the risks and get involved in engaged forms of investment, is a welcome step. Slowly differentiated and multiple sources of support to promote social entrepreneurship are coming up and, gradually, Nepal is building the foundations for a stronger social economy. I said social economy because sometimes I feel the terminology “social entrepreneurship” is a bit too narrow.

After all how do we define someone as entrepreneurial? Interchangeably you could define the same person as very dynamic, full of initiative and capable to take quick decisions and well as someone aware of the risks that s/he might occur while undertaking something anew. Of course an entrepreneur is normally associated with someone involved in a business, someone who is capable of making a profit. A social entrepreneur, generally speaking, is someone who offers new services and products who meet societal needs and, at the same time, are sustainable and marketable. At the same time I love the definition of civic entrepreneur: someone who is as dynamic, full of enthusiasm and as proactive and capable of out of box thinking as a social entrepreneur but with one exception: what s/he might propose or ideate does not necessarily involve a financial return but still has a high impact. Impact, this for me is the magic word.

Regardless of being a social or civic entrepreneur what matter to me most is the impact you can achieve and sustain. After all, you can use a mix of financial instruments including grants in order to sustain something that can really work and improve the living conditions of those most in need. This is one of the reasons why I am a strong supporter of Venture Philanthropy that can be defined as Venture philanthropy works to build stronger social organizations by providing them with both financial and non-financial support in order to increase their social impact. (AVPA) Venture philanthropists provide a blended and flexible support to different kind of organizations: organizational support through coaching and advising, loans or provision of more traditional grants. The power of the approach is its level of adaptability and malleability in going beyond rigid categorizations by understanding if an idea, regardless of being for profit or not for profit, can have a high chance to bring an impact. After all you are not just a social entrepreneur by simply charging a fee. You are not just a civic entrepreneur by organizing one health camp or a cleaning campaign. I believe that focusing on sustainability in terms of financial return, while it is paramount, often prevents us from thinking that most important thing is not the “medium” used but the change achieved. Let’s bring together both social and civic entrepreneurs in one platform. What we need is a sort of national incubator to promote social innovation, bringing passionate and smart people together in “one-stop shop facility” which can sustain and promote new winning ideas. Moreover it will be ideal to have a platform where passionate people about social change can meet and discuss.

Quite a few informal networking events do happen: from Udhyami Bhetghat, organized by Udhyami Impact Fund till the famous bazaars organized so successfully by Change Fusion Nepal. Is this enough? Probably the answer is no. How inclusive are they? Probably, though with the best intentions from the part of the organizers, more traditional NGOs who can think out of box and show an impact are not yet in this circuit. Just because you get a grant, it does not mean you are not a change-maker. Again, one platform to achieve multiple levels of change: I do not care about definitions, you can call it whatever you want. What I care is to make it as open, inclusive and broadly focused to capture the best out of what are now rigid boxes.

Again, one stop shop to sustain and nourish innovative thinking: to me this would be the highest achievement and the greatest legacy of the amazing efforts Luna and her team is putting, together with many other players, in supporting innovative change in the country.

Yes to social entrepreneurship, yes to civic entrepreneurship and a big yes to social innovation, in one stop shop!

Information: Asian Venture Philanthropy Forum will happen in Singapore on 14 and 15th of May, for information

Disclosure Luna is a very good friend of mine and we have been working together in several initiatives before

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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