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Building a start-up is always a bold and challenging decision, in particular for those who want to create a positive impact through it. Social Entrepreneurship Switzerland (SENS), one of the newest members of Euclid Network, has embarked on its journey to becoming the national force of supporting and raising those impact-driven initiatives.

SENS was founded in 2017 as CooperativeSuisse and last year decided to rebrand itself with the objective to bring together entrepreneurs with cooperative, participatory, and impact orientation. Through our interview with Stephanie Frick (Head of Startup & Innovation) we shed light on the process and purpose of rebranding as SENS. Stephanie explains that “with our new brand we show that we stand together with other social enterprise networks to create a more powerful movement for impact-driven entrepreneurs”. Stephanie highlighted from the beginning that SENS is not only connecting entrepreneurs across industries at the national level but also pursuing a bigger goal of collaborating with other networks across borders, such as Social Entrepreneurship Network Germany (SEND), to spread the awareness of business for the well-being of society.

As the need for a national network that builds a socially responsible economic system became more and more relevant, SENS gradually developed its strategies and started drawing together social impact-driven entrepreneurs and initiatives across industries and scales in Switzerland.

“For me personally, it is important to have a programme ensuring that great initiatives are there and are able to scale impact rather than profits.”

Stephanie is excited to share that their members cover a wide range of industries, such as banking and media among others. They have contributed to SENS tremendously and helped shape a new perspective: there is more that SENS could do other than simply connecting established socially responsible enterprises. They believe that cooperative and social entrepreneurship is essential to increase social impact brought by enterprises. Through supporting participatory ways of work in the established companies, SENS expands its belief and ambition to more people and organisations. This wide range of activities not only has helped facilitate cooperation within enterprises to strengthen their initiative but also transformed into a gathering spot for new-coming and fresh like-minded entrepreneurs.

Working with more than 40 enterprises and partners, SENS not only helps newcomers to settle in the new environment but also builds up their confidence and enables their unexpected performance on creating a positive impact in society. As Stephanie notes, SENS members are guided by five principles of social entrepreneurship. It is very important for SENS to make sure the determination of social enterprise is recognised among the members and civil society.

The principles include: impact orientation as the centre of economic activities, at least 50 % of the proceeds generated by the enterprises’ services and products, surplus earnings reinvesting to social impact, autonomous authority and decision making, as well. These ensure their members who meet these criteria are socially responsible, self-sustaining, impact-driven, independent, and cooperative.

Closing the Gap

SENS is working on distinct projects that stand out as one of the most aspiring and ambitious entrepreneurship programmes: Interactive Map, Monitor Social Entrepreneurship Switzerland, Swiss CoopStarter, and Social Impact Accelerator.

These projects not only enable the exchange of knowledge and information between social entrepreneurs, but also inform civil society and government with a collective voice of impact-driven initiatives. Stephanie stressed that for example SENS is launching the first Social Entrepreneurship Monitor Switzerland on 11 November 2020 with the goal  to be part of European Social Entrepreneurship Monitor in the future, pursuing the same purpose of bridging the information gap within the whole social entrepreneurship sector.

SENS is also actively guiding through impact measurement and management in which social enterprises are being examined and held accountable for their performance. They provide clear guidelines as well as a toolbox for social entrepreneurship, where individuals and organisations can quickly examine their corporate performance and delivery. Undoubtedly, participants’ experience with social entrepreneurship can be dramatically improved with tailored advice and support. Having this kind of access to knowledge helped build a larger pool of prospective individuals and organisations that pursue an impact-driven business model more confidently and effectively with clear guidelines.

“Our ultimate goal is to raise awareness on the topic of social entrepreneurs and change conditions (for impact-driven enterprises) because right now they are rather poor. There is a great support system for technological start-ups but there is rather little support for social entrepreneurs.”

— Stephanie Frick

What is next for SENS?

By providing diverse support programmes, the organisation places itself and its responsibility in representing social enterprises, an initiative never done before in Switzerland. They believe that social enterprises need a collective mechanism to connect with and support each other, in particular at these difficult times in the face of a pandemic.

SENS is tirelessly working on building a better environment for the new-comers in the entrepreneurship field, supporting aspiring initiatives in achieving their big goals that seem impossible.

While we have those startups that function primarily based on profits, growth and disruption,– so-called unicorns, there is an alternative coined as a zebra companies that focus on profitability, as well as solving societal problems. Stephanie pointed out SENS strongly believes that “we can move away from this unicorn start-up understanding to encourage more zebra companies to build a more resilient economy”. (Read more about Unicorn and Zebra Start-ups)

SENS brings together the zebras and their differences in terms of industry-focus, scale, and social impact to build a new vision on a better world we could live in, shaped by social entrepreneurs and their remarkable contribution.

“In the end, we don’t want to be a huge organisation but we just want to make a huge impact with as little resources as necessary.”

— Stephanie Frick

Expanding the horizon and fostering partnerships

SENS is ready to share their knowledge and experiences with other EN members.

The reason why they joined Euclid Network?

– To contribute to creating a larger movement for the impact-driven community!

SENS is about to start a new chapter in their story of success and growth. By collaborating with and learning from our other members who represent social enterprise support organisations and impact practitioners, together we can continue to disseminate resources, ideas, and interests, shaping policies and ultimately bolster everyone’s confidence in an improved social and environmental wellbeing.

Having embarked SENS in our impact-driven journey, Euclid Network is looking forward to new challenging projects that can drive positive change and help achieve all UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Want to join Euclid Network?

If you would like to find out more about how you can become a member of the Euclid Network please contact the team!

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