Social Impact Labs

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Social Impact Labs

Norbert Kunz has been involved in initiating successful projects in the field of social entrepreneurship since the 1980s, e.g. a car-sharing initiative, start-ups for young people, social Incubator for people with disabilities who would like to be entrepreneurs, microfinance model project for organisations offering business support.

In 2010/2011 Norbert and his colleagues established a Social Impact Lab in order to enhance social innovation in Germany. Today there are 8 Social Impact Labs across Germany and new Labs will soon open in Bönn, Dortmund and some rural areas in Germany.

Social Impact Lab is intended for start-ups that are interested in making social impact rather than profit. These social start-ups go through a Social Business Incubation Process, during which 10 to 12 projects are invited for assessment, 8 projects are given the opportunity to ‘pitch’ their business idea, and the final 5 projects are able to work on different themes for 4 months in order to develop their business idea. To date they have had over 3000 applicants and more than 2,500 jobs have been created as a result of learning development in the Social Impact Lab.

Examples of start-ups developed in the Social Impact Lab include: Auticon (for autistic consultants in IT), KIRON (online university for refugees), Original Unverpact (supermarket without packaging), CADUS (support models for people in war areas), Gemüse Academie (gardening education for schools).

Questions/comments from participants

Who are the partners in the Social Impact Lab? - More than 90% of financing comes from private partners with some financial support from the Ministry of the Family. The first ESF partner was SAP which offered mentorship on social innovation. There is also close cooperation with welfare organisations in Germany for whom training on social innovation is offered.

How many staff does Social Impact Lab have? - There are freelancers, a master coach, a community manager (person for community development), a trainer and a person for administrative tasks.

Does the ‘start-up’ team need to approach Social Impact Lab first? - We started by approaching individuals with an interesting social business idea but today we mostly work with start-up teams.

Did you have any issues in receiving state funding? - Except for small support from Ministry of the Family we don’t receive state funding.

How do you involve the local level? - We involve local level projects but don’t focus only at the local level.

Do you form any partnerships with organisations working with people with disabilities? - Yes. E.g. Action Mensch is such an NGO.

How do you outreach to your target group? - People involved in social start-ups are usually highly skilled people who don’t have a problem in finding a job while, for example, young entrepreneurs or people with disabilities need more support.

What arguments do you use for persuading potential partners to support Social Impact Lab? - We try to persuade with ‘real-life’ examples showing the added value of the project.

Source: minutes of ESF Partnership Thematic Network meeting in Berlin, 14-15 June 2018