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Join us in wishing a sincere welcome to the newest member of Euclid Network family, SYNTHESIS Center for Research and Education in Cyprus. Founded in 2002, SYNTHESIS creates and implements research and educational projects for social impact, primarily in the fields of employment, entrepreneurship, migrant integration and social inclusion. It also launched HUB Nicosia, a social innovation hub that connects support organisations, entrepreneurs and enterprises with a social mission.

We interviewed the founder and executive director of SYNTHESIS, George Isaias, who is also the creator of HUB Nicosia. George is a pioneer in the social entrepreneurship movement in Cyprus, and organiser of the first initiatives in the field.

The Beginning

SYNTHESIS when founded in 2002, their primary goal was social inclusion. Although the terminology and legal framework didn’t exist yet in Cyprus to call themselves a social enterprise, George had a clear direction: “As the founder of SYNTHESIS, I always wanted to do something that would have a social impact. I wanted people to have a salary but it was never meant to be a profit maximisation company. The seed of the social enterprise was there, even without using the term.”

As time went on, the Center continued its work, partnering with other organisations within Europe, but still not defining itself as a social enterprise. It wasn’t until later that they would begin to define themselves as a social business and actively sought to promote itself as such.

The Heart of the Cyprian Ecosystem

SYNTHESIS plays a crucial role in the social enterprise ecosystem in Cyprus as it represents the first organisation to promote and support social enterprises. Of their role George says, “We are the main driving force for the development of the social enterprise ecosystem in Cyprus and we work on different levels. We work on the ground level to create an incubator—Hub Nicosia; and we work on the research and policy levels.” SYNTHESIS has advised both the European Council, mapping the social enterprise ecosystem in Cyprus, and the Cyprian government, creating the National Action Plan which would have served as the guiding policy for ways the government could legislate, fund, and support social enterprises. Unfortunately, the Plan is not in effect, so to this day there is no legal framework in the country for the sector. However, SYNTHESIS is undeterred. The government may see social enterprises as a low priority, but SYNTHESIS will continue to rigorously promote their cause.

Current challenges

George worries that the current situation regarding COVID-19 will most likely negatively affect the incipient social enterprise sector in Cyprus, “Understand that now there is no recognition of social enterprises within the government. They can understand volunteer organisations and non-profits; they can relate to those, but not to social enterprises. This situation will negatively affect the development of the sector because the government has put aside money for development and the National Action Plan. It’s very challenging.”

Joining Euclid Network

SYNTHESIS decided to become part of the Euclid Network in order to continue its mission to promote social enterprises more effectively on their home soil. George explains:

“A lot of what we do in Cyprus to be relevant, to be up-to-date is to be connected to other organisations in the field of social entrepreneurship in Europe. The benefit is that we have the connections and best practices from other European organisations. For example, with the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs (EYE) programme, when we go to promote it on the radio or television, we inevitably have the opportunity to also talk about what social entrepreneurship is and what a social enterprise is. Our involvement in this project also becomes a vehicle for us to promote social entrepreneurship on the island.”

We look forward to working with SYNTHESIS and, as a network, will continue to create opportunities for all members to work together and learn from one another.

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