Social Enterprise in Focus : Who gives a crap? Australia

We’ve mentioned them before, and we’ll talk a bit more about them this time.

who gives a crap? is a social enterprise in Australia who sells toilet roll. Yes, toilet roll. They have a fitting name, an excellent mission and if you keep an eye on their social media sites, some hilarious marketing. They’ve since spread their operations to the U.S. and the U.K., and we hope to see their products in a supermarket near us all very soon.

They’re a great example of the triple bottom line, and deliver an interesting operation with elements of both the integrated and external social enterprise models:

People – with more people having mobile phones than toilets, they recognised the problem in in worldwide sanitation. Their mission is to reduce the -roughly- 40% of people who don’t have access to a toilet and improve the health and wellbeing of these people.

Planet – all the materials they source are forest friendly or recycled. This means they significantly reduce their carbon footprint and yours too – think about how many trees you flush down the toilet.

Profit – they donate 50% of their profits to partners also working in the field of sanitation- currently WaterAid and Sanergy.

If you want to find out about their more recent impact and good work – check out their ‘crap update‘. Otherwise, pop to their web shop and stock up on some toilet paper.

Social Enterprise in Focus : BAM Essentials, U.S.A

This week, whilst browsing LinkedIn, we came across some very useful (and free) tools and resources for social entrepreneurs at socialgoodimpact.com. So check them out! They were posted by Beth Palm who is also the founder of BAM Essentials, a social enterprise that produces organic personal care products benefiting programs for young women from disadvantaged backgrounds in Minnesota. We caught up with Beth to find out more.
How did BAM Essentials start and where is it today?

I’d been creating organic personal care products for friends and family for years, and started getting more interest in where people could buy these items. I wrote a business plan and vetted partners for about a year before formally launching in May 2015 with an online shop and 4 SKUs. Now BAM Essentials has over 30 SKUs, is sold on two online platforms, and 4 retail shops in Minnesota.

What legal entity did you choose for BAM Essentials and why?
BAM Essentials is an LLC, and I chose that legal structure because even though this would qualify as a nonprofit, I didn’t want the loss of control and red tape of nonprofit operations when starting my self-funded business. I’m happy to pay taxes on my profitable social enterprise, and have full control of reinvesting in the social enterprise where I see it’s the best. I wanted to leverage an existing network of supporters and expertise at a nonprofit organization, rather than start from scratch.

Can you give us an idea of one of the challenges you face at the moment?
One of our largest challenges is the competitive landscape and low barriers to entry in the personal care product market. It’s tough to stand out in a crowded marketplace!

Finally, what would be the piece of advice you offer to social entrepreneurs at the beginning of their journey?
My number one most important piece of advice to budding social entrepreneurs is to WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN. The social enterprises I’ve seen fail do so because they don’t have a business plan and/or don’t run their social enterprise with a profitable mindset.

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So perhaps you have a hobby or a skill that you think could grow into a social enterprise. Check out her tools or drop us a message and we can work on taking it to the next level, just like Beth did!

Social Enterprise in Focus : Ghana Bamboo Bikes, Ghana

You may read about the blue economy. The main goal is to source solve problems through what is available locally, without creating waste. This social enterprise from Ghana did just that.

Grown in Ghana, used in Ghana

With seven native species of bamboo locally, Ghana Bamboo Bikes has taken this readily available material and turned it into a social and environmental solution. They build and sell bikes as well as run a bike academy.

Socially, they create employment by first training people, most often women and some areas with a focus on youth, in how to assemble the bikes. Some of these individuals are employees whilst others have the chance to open their own bike shop anywhere in the country.

Meanwhile, on an environmental level they employ ten farmers to manage their bamboo plantations. Bamboo is as an alternative for existing fuel sources which can improve local forests and reduce soil erosion.

With one material they are doing so much for their country, you can read more about their impact here.

Your turn

Now think about what you have locally. Is there something growing in abundance that can be used to replace something man-made? There are lots of examples on the blue economy website so have a look and learn more.

Social Enterprise in Focus : Pinnguaq, Canada

This month we head all the way to Nunavut, the largest and most northern region of Canada. A unique place in the world has a special social enterprise called Pinnguaq, a nonprofit tech startup that aims to provide tech education to young people in the region. We were fortunate to catch up with Ryan Oliver, the owner of Pinnguaq, to learn more about the organisation.

How did you identify the need for Pinnguaq?

I grew up in a small settler town in Ontario, Canada that is about 1.5 hours away from Toronto. We were fortunate in high school to have a complete and complex computer science program. Many of my peers went into the growing Canadian industry at the time (I didn’t, I gave up on math too young!). I moved to Nunavut in 2004 and realized how fortunate I had been to grow up where I did. Computer Science was not only a rarity in Nunavut, but in all of Canada. As my kids grew up, because of my love for video games we had many in the house and their peers starting coming over on a regular basis to play games. At the same time my own peer group from when I grew up was 10+ years in the gaming industry and it was clear that the Canadian games/tech industry was going to be a huge part of the future of our country.

That’s the basics. An underserved market/population, connections of my own that I could leverage back into the territory that I loved, and kids growing up that I wanted to do what I could to help bring them the same opportunities I was given.

What is or are the key ingredients to you being so successful and winning so many awards?

The communities we’re serving.

If not one cared about what we were proposing, we would have stopped a long time ago. However, with each release, each educational session we run, the interest grows and the way we do it changes and grows. We’re far from perfect in our implementation and constantly learning with each step we take. The community has grown with us and been fantastic at keeping our mandate and our mission on track. To that effect, another key to our success is to not be satisfied with anyone iteration of what we do. Each time we go out we aim to improve upon what we did before and when that stops happening, we will have worn out our usefulness.

How is the social enterprise scene in Canada developing?

I think a formal definition of ‘social enterprise’ in Canada, and the support systems one would anticipate having around that is still largely still undefined. While there is much support for not for profit and for-profit companies alike, it relies on the companies themselves to define how that support can shape what it means to be a ‘social enterprise’. That said, I could be missing something. I knew what we were trying to do, but didn’t have a name for it until we won the award as “best social enterprise startup” in Canada. I get it now!

My immediate comparison point is our neighbors in the US, and to that extent, Canada has a ton of support for growing businesses, artists, and not for profits. With the current government, we also have a significant amount of support now for technology and coding as a whole. That said, we are a settler defined country with significant inequality and a long history of colonization. What is available from a Government support standpoint often requires an ability to navigate a complex application process and red tape. There are indications this is shifting but the reality is that often those who can benefit the most from a strong social enterprise system are not provided with the experience and education to navigate the mandatory bureaucracy.

All of that said, there are many good people here who want to do good things and increasingly, it seems, we have a system that is adapting and figuring out a way to empower and enable that action.

Can you tell us one of your favourite stories, maybe the impact you’ve had on one of your users?

With each passing month, I have new favorites that emerge. When we first started the company and created a language app called “Singuistics”, it was incredible to see it being used in my kids daycare and by their peers. From there we started hosting te(a)ch sessions (computer science camps across Nunavut communities) and seeing a participant go from having no experience with programming to an employee who designs and teaches future courses has been a pleasure to watch.

That said, each passing month brings new highlights and the past few have been among the best. We recently completed our newest te(a)ch sessions in Rankin Inlet and Arctic Bay, Nunavut. Four years of refining our curriculum and our teaching style has been incredible and these sessions were among our best ever. Our goal with te(a)ch is to offer something to Nunavummiut (people of Nunavut) that isn’t currently available through the traditional education system, and the impact of that is more and more evident with each session we run.

What advice would you offer to new social entrepreneurs or social enterprises?

It’s too easy to say, “do what you love”, because a lot of people love things that won’t allow them to also be successful. I’m still figuring it out myself. I know for Pinngauq it was a combination of our luck, timing, and privilege that led us to this place and we acknowledge and work towards sharing and growing that with each project we undertake. My recommendation would be to expose yourself to everything relevant to your field. Don’t insulate yourself, meet everyone, get to know every project, every idea. Follow things that have nothing to do with what you’re doing as you’ll learn plenty from every walk talk of life. Never stop learning, never be satisified.


A great example of how a social enterprise can succeed in the most remote of areas by meeting the needs of the community. It also goes to show how red tape and bureaucracy affect both developed and underdeveloped countries in the world, and therefore how important it is for us to play a part in shaping the sector.

Social Enterprise in Focus : Pana, Albania

We were recently at #Impact2018, a conference in Zagreb, Croatia sharing the regional heroes and heroins in social entrepreneurship, impact investing and corporate social responsibility. As part of this conference, a few social entrepreneurs got the chance to pitch their idea, and Pana‘s story stuck with us, so we thought we would catch up with Pezana to find out more.

There’s a special story behind Pana – can you tell us how the social enterprise started and what inspired you?

Everything started 5 years ago in my home town Tirana. A mix of events were happening in my personal life. Working with orphans and children with disabilities made me understand that projects don’t change their lives, but a profession CAN! My father was a mechanical engineer and he had golden hands. He was able to produce anything with wood. After he retired he wanted to give his knowledge to others, but most of the people look at those retired as not being able to work. As an architect, I saw the gap in the market of unique design furniture, since most of the actual products come from China and Italy and are not tailor-made. There was also a problem in two different areas – losing the heritage of carpenters and also a drop in Albanian manufacturing. In April 2013, Pana was created as a result of all these factors, by taking part in a competition for green ideas and social enterprise organized by an Albanian organization, where surprisingly we won the first place. This was our way to bring Pana to life.

What are Pana’s plans for the next five years?

This is a very tricky question and actually very important. As most of you know, Albania is a very small country and of course has limited resources when it comes to such a niche product like ours. In fact, we do have a lot of orders and usually our clients wait for 2-3 months to get their products, but still this is not enough for us. Our products have totally another monetary value in European countries. Today we sell our product in Albania with lower prices than they should be sold, due to the capacity of Albanians of paying. That’s why we want to expand to other European countries so we can give a real value and price to our products, an element that would help us to grow the number of employees and the value that Albania as a country can have in the European community. So we are working hard in different directions to expand the production and begin to sell our products internationally. Our big dream is to sell our products outside Albania, we see it as the only way to manage to have a bigger impact, a bigger impact on the clients, and to bring the Albanian name to the foreign market. What is more important is having more family members, as the people we are working with are not just employees but part of the big family of Pana.

As a social enterprise, how do you balance your triple bottom line of people, planet and profit?

Pana is only about that, making a balance between the social and ecological mission. Its one of the few cases where both the impacts are equally as important and take the same weight inside the enterprise. Profit is only a mechanism to make the whole structure work. For us, it’s important only to make the structure work properly, living in a country like Albania where the social and ecological part is not something important for our clients, has made us work very hard to have the stability that we do have today (economical). Most of our clients don’t even want to know with whom we are working and what are we saving, that’s why our work and value is underestimated, but this has been another fight for us to educate our clients. We do work hard as just another enterprise that is trying to gain some points in the chaotic Albanian market, but in the mean time to have the balance between social and ecological. During those 5 years we have trained more than 70 people to become carpenters, because for us it doesn’t matter if they are going to work with us, for us it matters for them to have a profession. The family of Pana is so diverse you can find people from 19 years until 73, those coming from Roma community, orphans, retired, returned emigrants, people with disabilities, the list goes on, but we all work together with the same mission and vision.

What’s the current state of social entrepreneurship in Albania and how are you a part of developing it?

Things are going very slowly; and I know the reason why. It looks like there is no collaboration between different entities in Albania. The government is not there to help and manage to give a hand to the new startups and the ecosystem is very aggressive. It’s now an organized market which makes things go wrong sometimes, not because of the entrepreneur but because of corruption, high taxes, lack of financial support and even training. There are some entities trying to make a change, but even the entrepreneurs are very sporadic. There’s a whole generation that is missing the desire to create new things and this could be because the education system is not supporting them to become entrepreneurs. There is a lot of work to be done. In my case, wherever there is a possibility to inspire and give my knowledge, I do it, of course if they gave me the opportunity to make more I would have loved to do it, but until now this is not the case. I am doing my best in the Albanian conditions.

What advice you would give to wannabe social entrepreneurs around the world?

Being a social entrepreneur its one of the most difficult things in life (at least for me) , but when it goes right then the result is outstanding. If you like difficulties and adventure take this trip, it’s a life-changing experience for you and the people that you are trying to change. Besides how hard it is, I can continue forever like this, as Mother Theresa said once: It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.


A very honest and informative interview from Pana, and one that many of us can relate to. How collaborative are the government in your country? The need for strong cross-sector relationships can ensure social entrepreneurship expands and succeeds, however many people working in the ministry of education or work don’t know much about what social entrepreneurship is. We try to change this through holding lectures and workshops, and if you’re a social entrepreneur, offer your knowledge too!

Social Enterprise in Focus : Dastadast, Iran

As part of our goal to showcase social enterprise from all around the world, we’re off to Iran this month, for a short interview with the team at Dastadast.

Give us a brief overview of what you do.

We founded Dastadast 4 years ago, becoming the first Iranian online non-profit social enterprise. We started with a small budget provided by Dastadast founders and can currently survive with small funds because we are volunteer-based. Our volunteers contribute their skills, time and knowledge to create change.

We run an online market for handicrafts made for individuals who don’t have fair access to market, including immigrants, villagers, women, youth who recently started working and the creators of traditional heritage crafts which are in danger of extinction.

What are your main goals and how do you achieve them?

The most important mission is to empower handcraft producers and we do this by selling their products online. One of the main intentions of Dastadast is the empowerment of women. Our social impact so far is that we currently cooperate with 400 women from 15 provinces of Iran. These make up approximately 90 percent of our producers.

 

In order to achieve this goal, we currently do the following:
•  Provide a vast market —  e.g., online and seasonal markets
•  Exclude large dealers
•  Introduce producers and giving them full control on prices
•  Cooperate with empowerment groups, rural cycles and environmental NGOs
•  Use professional designing to re-design the products and achieve higher quality

 

What is the current situation for social enterprise? what advice would you offer anyone who wants to become a social entrepreneur?

There is currently no model for social enterprise in Iran. This said, there are few groups who use social entrepreneurship to create impact. Entrepreneurs should be very patient and believe in their goal. They need to study and know the effects they may make and make sure the solutions they propose are according to sustainable development principles and do not cause any damage.
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This is another example of social enterprise developing in a place where social entrepreneurship is little known or developed. No matter where you live, there are always others trying to develop this field, so reach out, share ideas and help it grow.

Social Enterprise in Focus : FINACOOP, France

Since the recession and banking crisis, consumers have been a lot more proactive in choosing where they shop and what they buy. This has supported social enterprise in its growth and long may this continue! In this blogpost, we want to show you that it’s not only social enterprise products but also social enterprise services that are offer. So we’ve made our way to FINACOOP in France where we spoke to their Director, Mathieu Castaings. It’s well worth the read in both English and French!

Can you give us a brief background as to what led to FINACOOP being established?

As soon as I got my chartered accountant diploma, I started working on the project of an accounting firm dedicated to the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE). The legal status matter soon arouse and according to me, the most accomplished in terms of democracy and inclusion of stakeholders is the SCIC (Société Coopérative d’Intérêt Général), the French form of a social cooperative. Today, among the members, in addition to the chartered accountants, FINACOOP include also employees, bénéficiaries, and partners. All of them being divided in 5 categories, 2 of which are chartered accountant thereby guaranteeing the valuable independance of the profession. Being a regulated profession, FINACOOP had to subcribe to the Ordre des Expert-Comptables and its registration was… refused! The Ordre des Experts-Comptables considered the SCIC as incompatible with  its professional ethics. An appeal and a political battle later, FINACOOP was finally registered and since July 2016, the cooperative has been rising steadily for the greatest happiness of all and has been progressively generating greater adherence by our beautiful profession.

Le diplôme d’expertise comptable en poche, j’ai travaillé le projet de monter un cabinet dédié à l’ESS. La question du statut juridique s’est vite posée et selon moi, le plus abouti en termes de démocratie d’entreprise et de démarche participative de l’ensemble des parties prenantes est la SCIC (Société Coopérative d’Intérêt Général). Du coup, parmi les sociétaires, FINACOOP d’intègre en plus des expert·es-comptable, les salarié·es, les bénéficiaires et les partenaires. Tout ce petit monde réparti en 5 catégories dont 2 d’expert·es-comptables totalisant la majorité des votes en assemblée générale ; et ainsi garantissant la précieuse indépendance de la profession. Sauf qu’en bonne profession réglementée, FINACOOP a du s’inscrire à l’Ordre des Experts-Comptables, et là c’est le refus ! L’OEC considère le statut SCIC comme incompatible avec la déontologie du métier. Lol ! Un recours et une bataille politique plus tard, l’inscription de FINACOOP est validée ! Et depuis juillet 2016, le cabinet ne cesse de grandir pour le plus grand bonheur de tous et toutes suscitant au fur et à mesure une plus grande adhésion de la part de notre belle profession.

You’re the first SCIC accounting firm, how has this been received by other companies in the industry and the general population?

In a general way, we receive enthusiastic support, as we are the first accounting social cooperative and therefore the ‘trend-setters’. The innovative approach in both in the legal form and our « specialisation » in the SSE is met with a certain amount of enthusiasm. That said, it is true that for people and professionals who are not familiar with the cooperative sector or SSE, that our approach is absolutely incomprehensible. Their entrepreneurial model is far too reduced to the image of a « boss », associates who are exclusively chartered accountants, a pyramid hierarchy, a profession reduced to tax optimisation with some big associations and foundations as clients so as to bring a little extra soul. For sure, setting an example is necessary! And we love the idea!

De manière générale, l’accueil est assez enthousiaste, nous sommes la 1ère SCIC d’expertise comptable et il est vrai, nous faisons figure de précurtrice (précurseur). L’approche innovante tant dans la forme statutaire que dans notre ‘spécialisation’ pour l’ESS rencontre un certain engouement. Après, il est vrai que pour les personnes et professionnel·les très éloigné·es du milieu coopératif et de l’ESS, notre démarche est juste incompréhensible. Leur référence entrepreneuriale est bien trop réduite à un patron, des associé·es uniquement expert·es-comptables, une organisation pyramidale, un métier réduit à de l’optimisation fiscale avec quelques grosses associations et fondations comme clientes pour gagner un supplément d’âme. Pour sûr, un travail pédagogique est nécessaire! Et on aime ça!

What is actually involved in being a SCIC?

It involves having a shared governance with all the categories of members, and making sure that they are able to participate according to their wish. They must be given the opportunity to reflect and participate in the strategic decisions of the firm such as the selection of bénéficiaries, partners, the hourly rate (Currently of 70€ /h) or the remuneration of chartered accountant. Basically every matter that aims to improve the commercial offer, the eco-system as well as working conditions. All of this requires working daily on the position as well as on the collective intelligence and decision making methods which is no simple matter, and it has been a preoccupation since our founding (hiring of an employee dedicated to the cooperative life, training and accompaniment on shared governance). Democracy with everything that goes with it in terms of transparency, power sharing and engagement also requires emancipation and reversing conditioning from a social and psychological perspective. There is much to do!

Cela implique d’avoir une gouvernance partagée avec l’ensemble des catégories de sociétaires, que ces dernier·es puissent participer selon leur souhait et possibilité à la réflexion et aux décisions d’enjeux stratégiques sur le développement du cabinet, le choix des bénéficiaires, des partenaires, le taux horaire (actuellement de 70€ HT/h) ou encore la rémunération des expert·es-comptables et toute autre question pouvant améliorer tant l’offre commerciale, l’éco-système que les conditions de travail. Tout cela nécessite de travailler au quotidien tant la posture que les techniques d’intelligence collective et de décision, ce qui n’est pas chose aisée, et a été une préoccupation dès notre création (embauche d’une salariée dédiée à la vie coopérative, formation et accompagnement sur la gouvernance partagée). La démocratie avec tout ce qui va avec en terme de transparence, de partage du pouvoir et d’engagement nécessite aussi un travail de déconditionnement et d’émancipation de représentation et comportement tant sociaux que psychologiques. Et il y a du boulot!

How do you think being a social co-operative can improve the sector?

For an accounting firm, the advantages of becoming a social cooperative are many. Facing the problems of turnover, people quitting the profession and demotivation, by choosing the cooperative and along with it participatory management should have a significant impact on employee involvement, the desire to work well and perpetuate the firm. The social cooperative makes the general interest even more alive, with an interest that is higher than the sole individual interest. Last but not least, to be in a social cooperative implies a limited pursuit of profit which puts forward the question of a fair wage policy and a more disciplined remuneration for the capital, a delicate issue.

Les avantages pour un cabinet à devenir une coopérative sont à mon sens multiples. Face aux problèmes de turnover, d’abandon de la profession (chiffres) et démotivation, faire le choix de la coopérative et avec cela d’un management participatif et de la propriété collective aurait un gros impact sur l’implication, l’envie de bien faire son métier et le désir de pérenniser le cabinet. La coopérative rend encore plus vivant la notion d’intérêt général de l’expertise comptable. En effet, là aussi et même particulièrement, il existe un intérêt supérieur aux seuls intérêts individuels. Et puis, autre notion déterminante, être en coopérative suppose une démarche de lucrativité limitée ce qui pose la question d’une politique salariale plus équitable et d’une rémunération du capital plus encadrée, point plus que délicat, vous en conviendrez.

What advice would you have for anyone wanting to set up a social enterprise?

I would advise them to consider that starting up a social business means a change of their entrepreneurial paradigm. This does not only mean having a social activity but actually changing the way we all work as a whole, with your community on every floor. There is the project in itself and the way you run it. We are fond of the idea that “the ways prefigure the end” rather that “the end justifies the means”. It also requires a strong financing plan and a system that puts the human being at the very centre, yourself, employees, partners, or the neighbour above. This requires a certain exigency which demands us to rethink our priorities, time management, emotions and ask ourselves about power and money sharing.

Je leur conseillerais de considérer que créer une entreprise sociale c’est changer de paradigme entrepreneurial, ce qui ne veut pas juste dire avoir une activité sociale mais belle et bien changer la façon dont on travaille dans sa globalité, avec l’ensemble des parties prenantes à tous les étages! Il y a le projet et la manière de le mener. Nous sommes adeptes de l’idée que “les moyens préfigurent la fin” plutôt que “la fin justifie les moyens”. Une démarche sociale efficace et pérenne nécessite tant une gestion et un plan de financement solides qu’un fonctionnement mettant l’humain au centre, soi, les collaborateur·rices, les bénéficiaires, les partenaires et la voisine du dessus. Cela demande une certaine exigence et cette exigence demande de revoir nos priorités, de revoir notre gestion du temps, de nos émotions, et d’interroger le partage du pouvoir et de l’argent !
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When you’re shopping for both products and services, check to see if there’s a social enterprise that offers the same, as then you’ll know what you spend is being invested and reinvested in social good.

Social Enterprise in Focus : Auara, Spain

We took a break from blogging in August. Now we’re back with a splash, quite literally, to talk to you about this social enterprise from Spain – Auara.

A twist from the traditional bottled water

‘The water with values’ has taken quite a huge step forward by placing itself as a social enterprise selling bottled water. Auara reinvests 100% of its dividends in providing safe drinkable water to those who need it as well as watching their environmental impact by using only bottles made from recycled plastic. The water itself is ‘homegrown’ from León in northwest Spain.

Furthermore, they don’t simply donate their profits to NGOs working in the field of safer water. Instead they involve themselves and work with local partners, providing them with co-financing. This way they can be there on the field, be a part of and see the social impact first hand. This allows them to be more confident and transparent when reporting to others.

Social and environmental impact

You may have heard that some companies are water grabbing or getting concessions on underwater reservoirs. Sometimes even underneath populations who don’t even have access to clean drinking water. Well here is a social enterprise working to provide everyone with access to that very thing. You can even stock their water if you want to or become an ambassador, so find out more on their ambassador page.

Social Enterprise in Focus : Electra Energy, Greece

Greece has been in the news far more than it probably wanted to over the past few years. Everyone knows about the beauty and history of the great country, however recently the focus has been on the economy and refugee crisis. In response to this, a number of initiatives have started, and the social enterprise sector has taken off. We managed to talk in-depth to Ignacio Navarro, general manager of the social co-operative Electra Energy, a Greek cooperative enterprise that focuses on the development of renewable energy social investments, aiming to produce, manage and commercialise renewable energy to it’s members and other communities.

Why and how did you start Electra Energy?

Back in 2016, the team of Electra worked together to set up investment plans for residents and farmers communities of the Region of Lamia (a rural town in Central Greece) aiming to replace their oil burning furnaces with biomass systems that burn leftover olive trees cuttings to produce heat and hot water. As a result of this promotion, the Municipality proposed the development of the first bio-energy school community of the Region, turning the old oil boiler into a biomass combustion unit, and engaging the local community to clean their forests and provide their feed-stock to the school. The project served as inspiration to the founding members in the ambition of setting up a legal enterprise and promote initial services, technical consultancy and networking.

Electra Energy was thus launched in September of 2016, and the main purpose is to create job opportunities through the promotion and development of collective investments on renewable energy. Electra forms part of an Eco-system of social enterprises related to the promotion of sustainable energy, and it is co-partner of the organization SEYN (Sustainable Energy Youth Network) a non profit organization established in Belgium, who act as a mentoring and educational body for new entrepreneurs interested on the promotion of sustainable energy transitions.

What legal form did you adopt and how does this help or hinder you?

In Greece there are many different cooperatives enterprises which operate under different frameworks and operational rules. Electra Energy Cooperative was launched as a “KoinSEp -Koinonikes Sindeteristikes Epixiriseis N4430/2016”, defined as an economic, business, productive and social activities undertaken by companies or associations, whose purpose is the pursuit of collective benefit and service general social interest.

Compared to other existing frameworks, this legal form is the most flexible and involves less financial and legal risks to its members, a fact that was crucial during the constitution since the founding members wanted to test the business approach by running the minimum cost and risks at least during the initial steps, and it was also the form requiring less amount of administrative work and time for it’s constitution.

What are the social and environmental goals that get funded through your profit?

Our goal is to find collective investments to develop and produce renewable energy in Greece, and to be able to be launched as an energy supplier to compete in the local markets, always aiming to the social added value of giving open membership, participation and support to new and existing members.

During the first ten months of operation, we have focused on community engagement, networking with potential stakeholders, and identifying project opportunities that align with the principles and objectives of the organization. Right now the cooperative is initiating the permiting process for a small wind turbine in North Greece and participating in the legal work to allow better legislation to allow an investment on solar self consumption for multiple tenants.

The cooperative aims it’s economical activity to grow and attract social investments based on the principle of “renewable energy as a common good”. A common is a shared resource managed by a community who create rules to make the resource durable. The resource cannot be monopolized by one or a group of individuals. We aim to create business models that preserves these principles while contributing to create innovative and smart products and services to improve the quality and efficient of the Greek energy market. Electra Energy business activity aims to be aligned with three basic principes of the cooperatives enterprises (International Cooperatives Alliance): Fair and Easy Access to Common Goods, Energy Tranition in the Hands of Citizens and Fair Supply.

How have you managed to cope through this difficult financial time?

First steps are never easy and specially for a new enterprise. We also find obstacles in working with public authorities and speeding up licensing processes for the development of first projects that could bring us income. Out of the 9 founding members, 4 are unemployed, only one is part time employed in the cooperative and all the rest work on volunteer basis. However, from the beginning we all planned a two year grace period until we expect any substantial incomes that could cover at least some full time jobs within the organization. We currently have support from a German social investor, a lady aware of the Greek situation who liked our model and ambition and decided to cover some of the operational expensive until the cooperative can become self sustainable from it’s activities.

What advice would you have for would-be social enterpreneurs?

If there is anything I had to choose to say to them, (it would be to) work with people you like, have fun doing what you do, even if the idea is full of risks, always ask for help and advice but most importantly, don’t listen to all advice. Taking risks is a part of the activity and social entrepreneurship is full of risks and unknown paths. We may find that sometimes people tell us that what we are aiming to do is not possible, but it is, so remember to be open to advice but, always learn to trust your gut.

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A special thanks to Ignacio for a very informative interview about Electra, providing us with a few links to find out more about commons and the International Co-operatives Alliance. Feel free to join the SEYN network as well if you are involved in the field of sustainable energy.

Interview with Michael Freer, founder of ensoco

ensoco wants to build both a local and international presence and support social entrepreneurs wherever needed. However, as with any legal entity it has to have a base somewhere, and therefore was founded in Split, Croatia by Michael, a British national.

Split currently has an underdeveloped social entrepreneurship scene and therefore ensoco has been working with local partners in promoting and developing the sector. More recently, ensoco founder Michael attended Shift, a conference that focuses on professionals and businesses in the IT sector, to network and learn about how they’re actively promoting the sector and to share experiences.

ensoco is now working closely with startup.hr to encourage more startups to Split, and in turn hopes to see more role models and mentors that can encourage people to develop their own business ideas here. Here’s Michael giving a bit more information about why you should come to Split, with your idea and see what you can develop in this beautiful place on the Adriatic coast.