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December 9, 2015

A training in Social entrepreneurship

I just finished a 6 weeks training for social entrepreneurship in India, organized by the amazing crew of SocialStarters. I applied for this training to get my freelancer career to the next level: I wanted to learn more about the business mindset and gain new ideas for how to focus on projects with a social-beneficial impact. I didn’t really know what to expect from this program – and I got so much out of it on so many different levels.

What is Social Entrepreneurship?

The term social entrepreneurship was first used in the 1960s and 1970s and widespread by Bill Drayton (social entrepreneur, leader and founder of Ashoka, a NGO to support social entrepreneurs worldwide) and Charles Leadbeater (author and advisor). The main idea of this concept is to combine entrepreneurial spirit with a social focus:

The concept of social entrepreneurship is centered not just on mission, but on entrepreneurship, making a social benefit-focused organization become more like a business. The idea is that nonprofits can benefit from the focus of for-profit businesses – customer focus, sound strategy, effective planning, efficient operations, financial discipline. (Source: forbes.com)

 

Why did I choose this program?

I kept talking to a friend of mine about social impact and wanting to set a focus in my freelance work, be more selective. The SocialStarter program seemed like a perfect match to help me define my path a bit better.

There were several reasons that made me decide to participate in this program:

  • I wanted to gain more insights about business thinking and the business language to bring my freelance life to another level
  • I wanted to learn more about work that has an social impact to get new ideas of how to give my work a twist and set my personal focus
  • I wanted to get out of my comfort zone as my life as a freelancer got to a very convenient point
  • I wanted to leave my routine and get new insights that would help me to see my work from a different angle

 

How was the program structured?

We spent 6 weeks in India. The first week was packed with workshops where we learned more about lean startups, how to build a business and different tools and techniques related to design thinking.

We were then split into groups of two to work on a client project for the following 5 weeks. Every project had the focus to support a social enterprise in their first start up phase. We had projects related to farming, to education and product development. Our role was a mix of being a consultant, bringing our skills and expertise to the table and being a coach to enable our clients to grow as well.

The project I was working for had the focus of helping a Gypsy community near Pondicherry to improve their livelihood by helping them to sell more of their hand-made necklaces. Part of the income will go straight to the school that our client was building for the community.

Workshop with the Gypsies

Workshop with the Gypsies

Gypsies at Work

Gypsies at Work

What did I learn?

I grew and learned a lot in these 6 weeks, and not just regarding my professional life; learnings happened on so many different levels, influenced by the workshops, by the discussions we had with each other, by sharing our different working methods and by feedback we were getting from experts and from each other.

My personal learnings:

  • I got a better understanding of how projects with a social impact can look like and what I personally want to focus on (I want to focus on projects with an environmental impact)
  • I shaped my mindset of how to approach my client work: being a coach to enable clients to do the work and share knowledge about design thinking
  • I learned how to combine my skills in design thinking with new skills in business thinking
  • I saw once again proof for the power of mixed groups – working in a team with different backgrounds helped us to identify the problems and bring the projects very quickly to another level

Thanks again for this amazing program @socialstarters!