Compendium 2.1.3 Role models

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2.1.3. Role models and the media

The challenge

All too often, communications professionals, such as journalists, advertisers, graphic designers, image libraries and programme producers, seek to position themselves in the mainstream by using stereotypical and shorthand images: the suited white male business executive, the full-time housewife with her children, the contented grandparents. This is in stark contrast to images of migrants or asylum-seekers, who are generally associated with negativity or, worse, illegality. If people from all sections of society are to be inspired to go into business, they must feel that the business community is for them – and yet often business events are designed with just one type of businessperson in mind.

How EQUAL has approached the issue – examples

EQUAL partnerships have tested effective ways to promote positive role models of entrepreneurship, including:

  • disseminating promotional leaflets, posters and organising publicity campaigns showing people who are confident, energetic and fashionable
  • organising contests and competitions for entrepreneurship among particular groups to reinforce the idea that the businesses are far from marginal
  • pooling resources with various actors to make a wider impact and achieve larger scale initiatives, such as TV series

Of particular interest are the following types of activity:

  • dedicated days and weeks
  • ambassadors
  • awards
  • professional marketing campaigns
  • media production

Dedicated days and weeks

An effective way used by some governments during EQUAL to raise the visibility of inclusive entrepreneurship is to concentrate a large number of activities into a short period, and use the critical mass to create a sense of a special event. This is the tactic behind the UK’s Social Enterprise Day, which occurs in mid-November each year. It forms part of Enterprise Week, and from 2008 coincides with the first Global Enterprise Week, which happens from 17-23 November and involves more than 60 countries. This is fully in tune with the inclusive entrepreneurship agenda, and describes itself as “a worldwide celebration of enterprise, which aims to unleash young people’s enterprising ideas and address some of society’s biggest issues, from poverty reduction through to climate change”. The linked Make Your Mark campaign website uses the power of example by featuring a number of ‘inspiring stories’.


Britain and Belgium are two countries that have raised the profile of social enterprise by appointing official social enterprise ambassadors. In Belgium, the Secretary of State for Sustainable Development and Social Economy sponsored a Social Economy Week at federal level, which in 2007 took place from 9-16 March with the slogan Everybody Wins. Events included the nomination of five Ambassadors of the Social Economy, the choice of a Social Economy Manager 2007, and a Social Economy Festival (9 March)

Britain’s Social Enterprise Ambassadors scheme makes full use of new media as well as celebrity endorsement. The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, launched the programme in July 2007. The first 35 ambassadors have been chosen for their passion and charisma, and for the powerful stories they have to tell about how social enterprise can change people’s lives. They are appointed for a three-year period, during which they will meet key audiences, appear at events, give interviews, write blogs and record podcasts.


Britain’s Enterprising Solutions Awards, which started in 1999, have become a glittering annual event. The 2007 competition was launched in celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant and the award ceremony was held in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and hosted by Faisal Islam, economics correspondent for Channel 4 News. They reward “the most imaginative, entrepreneurial, and sustainable businesses that are passionate about social change” and in 2008 three categories were open: Best Social Enterprise, Best New Social Enterprise and Social Enterprise in Schools.

Social firms (work integration social enterprises) can compete for recognition at European level too, in the European Social Firm of the Year Award 2010.

The European Commission directly promotes role models of inclusive entrepreneurship. The enterprise DG sponsors the European Enterprise Awards, which were initiated in 2005 to reward outstanding initiatives that support entrepreneurship at the regional level. It has attracted a lot of interest, with over 300 entries in 2007, and inclusive and social entrepreneurship initiatives score well. In 2007 Ethnic coach for ethnic entrepreneurs, of Vejle in Denmark, received the special award as an entrepreneurial trailblazer. This category recognises “actions that promote an entrepreneurial culture and mindset and raise awareness about entrepreneurship in society”. Eigen Werk, which encourages entrepreneurship in over-45s in Amsterdam, was runner-up in the “investment in people” category.

The tool is also used by global organisations. In April 2007 NESsT, backed by the Citi Foundation, launched national Social Enterprise Competitions in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia (and operates a similar scheme in South America). It provides capital and business development support to enable nonprofits to increase their self-sustainability by starting social enterprises. Awards go to the strongest social enterprise feasibility studies from each country. As well as giving the winners a $10,000 boost, the awards raise public awareness of the possibilities of social enterprise.

The Gepetto childcare project in France won the Schwab Foundation first prize as ‘social entrepreneur of 2007 in France’, which itself became a promotional news article published on the Commission’s EQUAL website in February 2008 (

The Duurzam van Start (‘Sustainable from the Start’) project in Tilburg, Netherlands, used multiple channels to promote entrepreneurship among unemployed over-45s. It formed an innovative partnership with organisations in the social-economic field to support a business centre for a dozen women from different cultures, coached them and provided after-care. It built a website [1], gained coverage in regional and national newspapers and magazines, gave lectures to other municipalities, and organised a "meet & greet" seminar for all the starting entrepreneurs, with the cooperation and support of the Dutch Entrepreneur of the Year 2005.

K'cidade, in Lisbon, presents positive entrepreneurial role models by organising contests and competitions for entrepreneurship among particular groups such as young people.

Second hand – second life: Each autumn since 2003 the Brussels-based social firm [Petits Riens/Spullenhulp] has organised a fashion parade featuring creations made from the second-hand clothing which it recieves as donations. At the event, which is sponsored by Sotheby’s, Belgium’s top designers compete to make something out of nothing. The event brings coverage of this work integration social enterprise to the fashion magazines.

Professional marketing campaigns

Professional marketing campaigns are not out of place in changing the behaviour of labour market actors. Verbund Enterprise, based in Berlin (Germany), started its project by carrying out a series of campaigns in local schools and through the media to change young people’s image of entrepreneurship. It used a series of competitions, a travelling photo exhibition, a poster campaign and adverts in the underground and in cinemas to put over messages about ‘changing perspectives’, ‘the courage to leave the nest’ and ‘experience teaches you how to fly’. It was careful to present images of people who are confident, energetic and fashionable. Another action was to set up four outreach centres for young people in urban neighbourhoods of around 300,000 people recognised as being deprived by Berlin’s Soziale Stadt (‘Social City’) urban redevelop-ment programme. Here the central issue was not just getting physically closer to young people but creating a style that positively attracts them. The project also used its partnership links to develop good referral networks from both social services and youth groups.

Pirkanmaan Syke, in the industrial region around of Tampere in southwest Finland, aimed to tackle structural unemployment and meet pressing labour shortages, particularly in high-tech sectors, by getting more disabled and long-term unemployed people into jobs. It launched a savvy marketing campaign, targeted not at potential employees, but at the firms who could benefit from employing them. Armed with the weapon of the state’s wage subsidy for employing disabled and long-term unemployed people, the project obtained a list of 10,000 companies from the regional federation of enterprises and conducted a campaign of telephone interviews. These functioned as both a selling tool and a research tool for social enterprise. The project asked whether the companies were hiring staff, and whether they had any objection to hiring disabled people. Only a very small proportion said no. The survey resulted in 700 contacts who were interested in pursuing the idea. This is turn led to the creation of 30 social enterprises, half the national total at that time, each of which by definition employed at least 30% of disabled or previously long-term unemployed people.

Media production

Mira Media in the Netherlands took matters into its own hands by setting up community radio stations and producing multicultural television programmes for broadcast on the national networks. With EQUAL funding, the foundation also trains ethnic minority media professionals and publishes a quarterly magazine in Dutch, 2,200 copies of which are distributed to ethnic minority programme makers, journalists and other media workers.

Also in the Netherlands, the Reis langs culturen (Journey through cultures) partnership ran the Wie doet wat? (Who does what?) campaign on gender equality in employment. Compriing television and radio adverts, press conferences, a website, a talk show and several one-off events, it gained 55% awareness among the Dutch population. The website is no longer active, but the project is described at

Recommendations for mainstreaming policies

EQUAL’s experience shows that in the field of promoting inclusive entrepreneurship, it is relatively easy to make a media splash. The field is rich in engaging human interest stories which the media – newspapers, radio and television, local, national and global – will pick up if they are presented to them. The practice of inclusive entrepreneurship is a lot more interesting to the public than the intellectual policy debate might suggest.

A key recommendation would therefore be that pubic authorities should not flinch from adopting professional communications techniques in order to influence the behaviour of the public. The examples given – of dedicated ‘enterprise days’ and ‘enterprise weeks’, of ambassadors with stories to tell, of awards, marketing campaigns and media production, show that a little professionalism in communication can go a long way.

Links to EQUAL case studies

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