Euclid Network continues to grow as we welcome our new member, Social Entrepreneurship Network Austria. We were happy to sit down with the Managing Director of SENA Constanze Stockhammer to talk about the Austrian impact ecosystem, their national social enterprise network and plans for a (bright) future.
History of SENA
SENA is a young organisation, founded at the end of 2018 by seven well-established Austrian social entrepreneurs. It was started as a network for Austrian social entrepreneurs as well as an interest-representative organisation for the topic of social entrepreneurship. These seven members are still – to some extent – part of the board. In the begging of 2019, SENA started to be fully operational when the Managing Director Constanze Stockhammer entered the organisation. She has worked set up the network, raise funds and increase the membership.
Mission and Activities
The overall priority of SENA is to support Austrian social entrepreneurs by creating a functioning network and communication streams with all the stakeholders in the impact ecosystem. SENA also supports social entrepreneurs in form of consultations and education, particularly with regards to financing opportunities. SENA offers a matching service where social entrepreneurs can find co-founders and a job market where they can find employees.
Constanze says that in Austria, and particularly in Vienna, there is a very good support structure for social entrepreneurs, in the form of for example Impact Hub Vienna and Ashoka Austria. SENA is also Vienna-based but they act as a nation-wide network. In Vienna, they work as an umbrella organisation to inform about the exciting support structures. In the provinces, SENA tries to establish support infrastructure for social entrepreneurs.
We want to support all social entrepreneurs, not only the bubble which is taking place in Vienna. I think that is always the case, the big cities have a bubble of favourable support structures. We deem ourselves as a lighthouse for everybody who wants to do something in the field of social entrepreneurship, whether it is founding a social business or supporting one.
Last year, the SENA team carried out the first survey about social entrepreneurship in Austria, as a response to lack of available data regarding the national landscape. Research and knowledge-creation is particularly important for SENA’s activities in the areas of lobbying and awareness-raising for the topic of social entrepreneurship. They are working together with policymakers and the Ministry of Economic Affairs to increase awareness of the significance of social entrepreneurship as an economic factor. SENA has succeeded in including the topic of social entrepreneurship in the current government program of the Austrian government.
We are working on how to increase the general awareness of the topic amongst the general population because currently, most Austrian citizens do not really know what social entrepreneurship is. It would be helpful if social entrepreneurs would not have to always explain themselves and what they are doing. It also becomes contra productive when fundraising.
About Their Members
Currently, it is estimated that there are around 2300 social businesses in Austria. SENA has around 80 members and they are aiming to continue growing their membership. “We have tried to provide criteria for membership that are as inclusive as possible and only as exclusive as necessary. Our criteria are based on the criteria provided by the European Commission, but not so strict.”
All members of SENA pursue a social or ecological impact, often aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. The contribution to solving a societal problem has to be at the heart of the organisation. The primary goal of the business is creating positive impact, the secondary goal is to carry out commercial activities as a source of profit then reinvested into creating positive impact. The network is growing daily with committed social entrepreneurs, innovative social solutions and funding partners from business and society.
The Future of SENA
SENA is aiming to increase its membership to 300-400 members. The team is also working to establish a more secure, financial cushion to ensure all their attention is directed to supporting their members. SENA aims to establish a database of social entrepreneurs and well as funders to increase their matching activities in the field. According to the Austrian Social Enterprise Monitor, the main pain point is the financing situation for the social entrepreneurs. There is very few funders and impact investors, and they are not as open to invest in social enterprises. SENA is working to improve the situation. SENA also focuses on strengthening their lobbying position and raising awareness.
The ideal scenario in 5 years would be that when you go to the street and ask about social entrepreneurship, people know what it is and associate positive things with this topic.
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!