Last summer, over 100 social entrepreneur supporters and young social entrepreneurs from across Europe gathered in Lisbon to celebrate the launch of the European Learning for Youth in Social Entrepreneurship Report, a publication by the Global Social Entrepreneurship Network , in partnership with three GSEN members – CEDRA HR from Croatia, Project Ahead from Italy and Social Entrepreneurs Agency from Portugal – and Youth Business Poland. The report features key-findings and concrete examples of best practices collected from young social entrepreneurs and practitioners working with youth across Europe. The ELYSE project was launched in May 2015 with the support of the Erasmus+ program of the European Union.
Attendees came together over two days for inspiring speakers and lively discussion, to share insights, to deal with challenges, create solutions and, in the words of Michael Niman – a young social entrepreneur supporter, “network like crazy”. He reminded all the social entrepreneurs attending of the importance of “meeting as many people as you can, seriously. Don’t burn bridges and start making meaningful relations from day one! They could be the game changer in what you do, four years from now!”. Leading a social venture is a powerful personal development experience and Saeed Atcha, the co-founder of Xplode Magazine travelled to Lisbon to say it loud. An early experience of social entrepreneurship can boost your confidence, and confidence can deliver change. Indeed, it didin his case: Xplode Magazine started as a project run by a group of friends to combat negative stereotypes of young people in the press, and it is now a magazine with 35,000 readers and a registered charity providing training to over 2,000 young people in the UK.
Practitioners discussed the challenges they encounter working with young people, such as time-commitment, the struggle to get young people to take themselves and their projects seriously, and the lack of imagination – as Roxanna Locke, another young social entrepreneur supporter, said “It is a shame parents encourage their kids to abandon their invisible friends” – a result of educational and social pressure. Organising pitches and hands-on activities, reinvigorating the role of imagination and creativity, avoiding formal and academic approaches plus highlighting the importance of ‘failure’, have all been mentioned as effective tools to hook young people in and accompany them in their social entrepreneurial journey.
“As a practitioner, you need to find the right balance: young social entrepreneurs look for a supporter, as well as a critical friend. At the same time, you need to give them the space to test their idea and, perhaps, fail, even a hundred times,” recommended Krisztina Tora, GSEN Lead.
Matt Boyd – founder of Exceptional Individuals – and Ahmed Al-Aagan – Award Manager for Tower Hamlets SEEN program by Young UnLtd – agree that success can be measured in terms of number of young individuals who get involved in a programme, those who are brave enough to get their hands dirty and pilot their entrepreneurial idea, taking leadership and gaining confidence through the process. Failure does not exist in their dictionary. Measuring success is certainly a hot topic for entrepreneurs and their supporters. Emeline Stievenart, social impact specialist at KiMSO, recommended “being humble and transparent. When it comes to impact evaluation, measurement helps to give evidence and to prove that you are going in the right direction, achieving the impact you aimed for. It is not only about writing a report, the result of your evaluation needs to be embedded in your activities, in order to improve your results and strengthen your position when talking to stakeholders.”
Projects such as Programa Escholas run by the Alto Comisariado pasa as Migraciones in Portugal, I-Linc supported by the Telefonica Foundation across Europe, social entrepreneurship courses embedded into the business curricula at the NOVA SBE, shows how social entrepreneurship is an international movement, well-nurtured in countries such as the UK, or emerging in countries such as in Croatia or Portugal. Young people are experiential entrepreneurs, who come to social entrepreneurship through diverse routes, strongly motivated by the desire to make change happen for other young people and the broader community. Participants at the event agreed that financial opportunities are “often out there, but not easy to spot”, and that mentoring, business support and networking are additional opportunities extremely valued by young social entrepreneurs.
Discover more success stories and find out more about the kinds of support young people need most, alongside some recommendations about the best tools to reach out to young people and inspire them, reading the ELYSE report.
This post originally appeared on GSEN, and is republished here with permission.