What is the situation in the impact sector during these trying times?

What are the main strengths and challenges facing impact-driven practitioners?

How can we move together towards a fairer, more sustainable future?

These and many more questions were debated during the 3-day ImpactFest 2020. The event brought together social enterprise experts to discuss the current happenings, share knowledge and explore opportunities for the future. Here are the main takeaways and lessons-learned we curated specifically for the impact sector.

Partnering to Accelerate Innovation

ImpactFest is an annual event organised by Euclid Network’s (EN) long-time partner ImpactCity. Driven by the motto ‘doing good & doing business’, ImpactFest demonstrates that creating positive social impact and achieving economic success go hand in hand. It brings together impact-minded organisations from all around the world and gives them a platform to present themselves, exchange knowledge and scale up together.

ImpactFest 2020 was the 5th edition of the event, with the theme ‘Accelerating Innovation for the New Economy’. Organisers uncovered the possibilities offered by the digital sphere and created the biggest online impact meetup. Stakeholders shared lessons and good practices, investors met innovators and impact-makers got to make new steps in their mission and accelerate innovation.

Finding a Common Voice

ImpactFest 2020 is just one of the examples demonstrating the expansion of social economy across Europe. Social enterprises are being increasingly endorsed by governments and contributions by impact-driven organisations are being acknowledged by the public. Their potential is being recognised by investors world-wide. Despite this boost, the market remains fairly fragmented. There are many entities and types of actors across all countries that operate alongside each other without collaborating effectively. EN’s CEO Suzanne Wisse – Huiskes said within the session celebrating Launch of the European office of the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation that the market is “like a box of Lego with 10 different colours and never-ending shapes that is scattered all over the floor.”

The way to strengthen the social enterprise ecosystem is to focus on common goals and impact. People and organisations form various backgrounds and expertise can develop and drive a successful agenda. Academics, social innovators, public officials, impact practitioners – all have a unique perspective and can benefit from sharing knowledge and best practices. Intermediary organisations, investors, governments and social enterprise support organisations need to step up their game to enable impact-driven organisations to flourish. Euclid Network leads the way as we connect practitioners, build long-lasting partnerships and provide opportunities for social entrepreneurs.

“We are creating an ecosystem in Europe for social enterprises to rally around a common goal and unite the currently scattered scene.” – EN CEO

Data-driven decision making – ESEM

Smart decisions require in-depth knowledge about the processes in the sector, as well as understanding of the experiences of the actors in the field. As of now, the macro-intelligence about the European enterprise ecosystem is fairly limited. In response to this gap of knowledge, there has been a rise in research efforts by European institutions – such as the European Commission’s Social Economy Diaries initiative. Some individual countries (i.e. Germany, United Kingdom and the Netherlands) have already conducted Social Enterprise Monitors at national levels. In 2020, the first Social Enterprise Monitor at the European level is launching its survey, in an effort to obtain and compare cross-border data.

Recognising the essential nature of research-based decision-making, ImpactFest 2020 dedicated a session to the European Social Enterprise Monitor (ESEM). Partners from Social Entrepreneurship Network Germany, Social Enterprise UK and Social Enterprise NL joined a session hosted by ESEM project lead, Wieteke Dupain of EN. They explained that gathering data on social enterprise and start-ups in their countries has led to important changes in policymaking, investment decision-making and contributed to increased visibility and understanding of the social enterprise model. ESEM aims to do the same on the European level by collecting participants’ insights on social entrepreneurship and making them available for decision makers, government officials, investors, researchers and impact practitioners.

Wieteke said: “ESEM will lead to important changes in policymaking, investment decision-making and contribute to increased visibility and understanding of the social enterprise model as well as its crucial role in achieving the UN SDGs.”

Crisis Driving Innovation

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a lot of uncertainty and economic instability. Nevertheless, sessions during ImpactFest 2020 made one thing clear: crisis has a way of empowering positive change and we need to seize the opportunity. Historically, economic downfalls have paved the way for social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs are additionally aware of the social losses brought on by these periods of economic disruption. In the short time since coronavirus made its rapid appearance, social enterprises have stepped in to pick up the pieces. Francois Bonnici from the Schwab Foundation and chair of the Covid Response Alliance for Social Enterprise for Social Entrepreneurship pointed out that

“Some social enterprises expanded exponentially because their services are needed. They demonstrated there are real opportunities in the sector.”

There is hope for increased social innovation in these difficult times. Social innovators have the ability to take into account the complexity of social problems and foster solutions, resilient enough to adapt and survive. Intermediary and support organisations have to provide resources to boost innovation in the coming years as social enterprises are a key to address global challenges. Ulla Engelman called attention to the need for innovative solutions as the European Commission plans the recovery period.

“We need to include digital and green transition in the process of recovery to make our economy resilient.”

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our partner ImpactCity for a highly successful event! 

ImpactFest 2020 showcased that collaboration across the sector is required as we look to build a new economy together. However, it was also a celebration of the up-to-date achievements. In line with their missions and values, social enterprises have stepped up to fight the Covid-19 pandemic by continuing to provide vital services and resources to the society’s most vulnerable. Together with our members, we will continue to support social innovation and build strong partnerships across the sector.

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