At Impact Hub, we believe in the power of circularity to create a more sustainable present and future. That’s why we are currently on a mission to mainstream circular principles across our global network. For our second story of the Circularity Tales series, which is showcasing great examples from entrepreneurs taking action on the theme, we spoke with Line Didelot, Co-Founder of ANKAA Project, a Luxembourgish and Greek non-profit organisation that stands for equitable pathways towards education and employment from a holistic perspective on sustainability.

Impact Hub: Thank you very much for joining us, Line! Going straight to the point: why does ANKAA exist? What is it about?

Line Didelot: ANKAA Project is a non-profit organisation that stands for equitable pathways to education and employment. Our approach is holistic and we offer educational programs for vulnerable communities (refugees, migrants, asylum-seekers, people out of employment) in Athens. So far, 1300 students have already benefited from it.

In addition, we create high-quality upcycled products, like backpacks, accessories, aprons, etc. Our social business model advocates for sustainable products created under fair and ethical working conditions. As social and environmental challenges are interconnected, we include a positive approach towards the environment and the principles of circular economy in all of our activities.


Impact Hub:
So you’re addressing relevant challenges from different angles – that’s super interesting! On the topic of circularity, what is its place at ANKAA?

Line Didelot: At ANKAA, we do not consider circularity to be a nice-to-have contemporary concept, but something that we believe that needs to be implemented in all operations of a business of today. Circularity cannot be an addition to a current business model but must lay the foundation of the business in all aspects; from the product itself, to the design, the business operations, and functioning – that’s why it’s part of ANKAA Project’s DNA. Basically, since we started in 2017, we have had a circular approach to all aspects of our venture.

For instance, if it was about sourcing materials and furniture, we were scavenging items from the streets of Athens or refurbished materials that would otherwise be thrown away. Our products are made from upcycled materials, like the boats with which refugees arrive on the Greek islands of Chios and Lesvos. In our tailoring classes, we use old fabrics or scrap fabrics to create smaller products (earrings, keychains, etc.), so we make sure to utilise all parts of our materials. 

Even our approach towards education and employment is circular, as the tailors employed in our project have been former students and/or trainees. Food waste of our kitchen is composted so it can later be used in our garden to close the loop.


Impact Hub:
That’s amazing – let’s hope that more and more ventures get inspired by initiatives like yours! And talking about inspiration, which circularity practices would you recommend to any impact businesses out there who want to start implementing it?

Line Didelot: A shift in our mindset is needed, as the planet of today is at risk and all actors have to bear the responsibility of it and work towards a better tomorrow. So a simple practice I would recommend to people starting on that journey would be related to procurement. 

Before purchasing anything for your venture, ask yourself: do you really need it? Are there any possibilities to get it second-hand? Could we continue using what we have before buying something new? And if you really need to purchase something new, think about your impact. Instead of buying the cheapest item that might break after a short while, why not research durable, better-quality, local alternatives?

Our actions might seem like a drop in the ocean, but each drop causes a ripple effect.”

Impact Hub: Following up on this theme and considering that ANKAA is already well-placed in this circularity journey, what have been your biggest challenges throughout that path? How has Impact Hub Athens been supporting you on that quest?

Line Didelot: ANKAA is a non-profit organisation that has developed social business activities since 2020. The constant biggest challenge of ours is fundraising – we still need to invest a lot of resources to upscale our activities. 

On the other hand, participating in the ClimAccelerator program led by Impact Hub Athens has been a valuable experience. Being part of it has helped us to learn and implement new useful tools to overcome certain challenges and to take a more strategic stand on our social business activities.


Impact Hub:
Talking about the ClimAccerator program, what did you enjoy the most from it and why?

Line Didelot: I enjoyed the networking opportunities and the possibility to connect with other inspiring ventures. Getting to know other projects that have the same mindset when it comes to the environmental challenges of today has been very inspiring and affirmed that there is no strength without unity.


Impact Hub:
Cool stuff! So looking ahead, what’s in store for ANKAA Project?

Line Didelot: We are working towards growing and diversifying our social business activities. We do not only want to work on one collection but become the go-to partner for designers and ventures regarding sustainable and ethical manufacturing in the region.

We realised that the fact that ANKAA Project has become a hybrid model between nonprofit and social business activities is an opportunity for us. Our social business model supports the non-profit model and vice versa. Additionally, growing our activities in terms of customer acquisition would help us move one step closer to financial sustainability for the entirety of the project.


Impact Hub
: Line, this has been a great conversation, thank you very much! Any final words for a more circular world?
Line Didelot: There is a climate crisis. Our governments and policy makers are not taking the necessary drastic measures that are needed. We, as founders of various ventures, need to be part of the change and cannot wait until the big players take their responsibility. We need to push circularity and solutions to environmental and social challenges first. Our actions might seem like a drop in the ocean, but each drop causes a ripple effect. We may never know how far our simplest impact action could go, but they surely make the difference.

Stay up to date with ANKAA Project by checking their website.

Circularity is part of our broader Environmental Strategy – discover how Impact Hub Global Network is addressing our time’s most pressing issues here. For more inspiring stories like this, head to our blog.

2022 is part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science and this year’s World Oceans Day theme is “Revitalization: collective action for the ocean”. Why is it important to put the oceans in such a spotlight and talk about their future?

Well, we could say that it’s because they cover over 70% of the planet. We could say that it’s because they produce at least 50% of the planet’s oxygen. Or because they are home to most of Earth’s biodiversity. Well, the right answer is: all of these reasons combined. Milestone dates like June 8th (the #WorldOceansDay) exist to spread awareness and remind us that the oceans need urgent support to survive.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, at least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, and the material makes up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. Also, “with 90% of big fish populations depleted, and 50% of coral reefs destroyed, we are taking more from the ocean than can be replenished”, states the United Nations. “We need to work together to create a new balance with the ocean that no longer depletes its bounty but instead restores its vibrancy and brings it new life”, they add.

At Impact Hub, we are proud to support collective action and impact ventures that are moving in that direction, the oceans revitalization one. Get inspired by three stories of social enterprises from our network that are restoring our hopes and solving the plastic problem affecting our seas.

turtle in the clean ocean

Gravity Wave: community engagement for the oceans cleanup

Gravity Wave is a Spain & Greece-based social enterprise that believes that taking care of the seas and oceans is the only way to build a future with a clean and vital planet. To fulfill that vision, their mission is to gather and involve companies, entities and people in the process of cleaning the oceans up. 

As almost 50% of all the plastic waste that exists in the sea is made up of abandoned fishing nets, that’s their biggest target. In partnership with Enaleia – a foundation that works with traditional fishermen from the Mediterranean Sea -, they collect the plastic fishing nets from the bottom of the sea and give a new life to the material. 

Thanks to all the fishermen and support from 75 companies, they have already collected more than 25 thousand kilos of plastic waste from the Mediterranean and more than 31 thousand kilos of prevention plastics from ports since 2019. To avoid that the collected waste returns to nature, they empower companies and entities to take action in favor of the oceans through different campaigns and by upcycling it into valuable products for people.

Gravity Wave is a member of Impact Hub Madrid.

D3Aak: leading the innovation way buy building recyclable boats

D3Aak is an Amsterdam-based company setting the example in the water sports industry by making it more sustainable, innovative and environmentally friendly. What do they do? They develop and sell 3D-printed and 100% recyclable open boats made from recycled plastic. 

The materials used by the venture to build the boats are collected from initiatives dedicated to the retrieving waste from the oceans, such as the Ocean Cleaun-up Project, and they use no chemicals to process them. Additionally, they guarantee that at the end of their product life cycle, the boats are retracted from water, transformed into raw material again and completely reused again. 

D3Aak participated in the Business Model Challenge | Plastics program run by Impact Hub Amsterdam.

Green Ecoworks: turning plastic waste into everyday useful materials

Over 2.58 million metric tonnes of raw plastic is imported into Ghana each year and 73% of this ends up as waste. With only up to 5% of plastic waste being recycled, the rest accumulates in the environment or ends up in landfills and nearly 30% ends up in the Atlantic ocean. As a result, Ghana is one of the top 10 most polluted countries in the world. 

Founded in 2019, Green Ecoworks was born as a solution to tackle waste management and plastic pollution in the country. Their mission is to transform waste into profitable and valuable everyday products, reducing environmental pollution and creating better economic outcomes across the commercial wood value chain.

The Ghanian-based venture recycles collected plastic waste into beams, blocks, slabs and sheets for temporary structures like kiosks, furniture and segregation bins. In terms of process, the company buys collected plastic waste from aggregators, shreds it, processes it into sheets and sells them to artisans, furniture makers and real estate companies for construction and home use.

Green Ecoworks participated in the 2019 edition of the New Economy Booster program.

Did you know that waste generation is not an accidental phenomenon, but a major result of how things are designed? According to scientific sources*, 80% of environmental impacts are determined at the product design stage. Today, most of the decisions taken at that stage directly reflect the linear economy principles and the consumption habits instilled by capitalism – which takes us back to waste generation.

To avoid some catastrophic 3.40 billion tonnes of waste lingering out there by 2050 (World Bank), our current system has to change: we need to re-learn how to manage resources, rethink how we make and use products, and reflect on what we do with the materials afterwards. A thriving economy that is sustainable to all forms of life and that operates within the limits of our planet is only possible if we do that. 

The Circular Economy (CE) offers a viable way to overcome these challenges moving forward. Designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems – based on these restorative principles, the circular model redefines growth and presents benefits not only for the environment, but also to companies and households. 

At Impact Hub Global Network, mainstreaming circularity across our programs and local hubs is a central priority in our mission to support better businesses for a better future. As part of our efforts, we are currently piloting a process of embedding CE principles and activities at different Impact Hub locations in Europe and Africa. 

In this Circularity Tales series, we are bringing action stories from entrepreneurs in our network that have been taking part in this circular journey and leading the way by implementing the principles in their businesses. Inaugurating the series, we spoke with Costantine Edward, Managing Director of AgriLife, a Tanzania-based business dedicated to recycling organic waste into a protein source for animal feed.

Impact Hub: Constantine, thank you very much for taking the time to share your inspiring experience with us! To get us started, tell us about AgriLife – what is it about?
Costantine Edward: Since its creation in 2021, our mission at AgriLife has been to make a difference in the world through sustainability. We do this by pioneering a waste-to-nutrient technology using black soldier fly larvae to convert organic waste into sustainable protein for poultry and organic fertilizer for crops.
We began with a problem: the majority of livestock feed comes from fishmeal and soy, but these are low-nutrient options that require large amounts of land and water to produce. At the same time, there’s so much organic waste (food and yard waste) that ends up in landfills and contributes to greenhouse gasses.

By using black soldier fly, we’re able to offer a sustainable alternative that reduces pollution, lowers consumption of fishmeal and soybeans, and generates more nutritious food for livestock while also reducing total demand on food resources”.

The process is also simpler than other alternatives, which means it can be implemented at any level.
In a nutshell, we are creating protein from waste by leveraging nature’s recycling agents – insects – through a natural and easily scalable process that is labor-intensive, perfect for Africa, where we are currently based. In addition, we target businesses that generate a lot of organic waste, like restaurants and grocery stores, offering them a way to turn their trash into a cash cow. It’s a win-win for us and our customers: we offer great service, and they get to do something awesome with their waste.

Impact Hub: That’s amazing! Now speaking on a more subjective level, what does circularity mean to you? And why is it so important today
Costantine Edward: In the past, circularity was not a major concern. But that is no longer the case. As the world population increases and resources get more scarce, it’s important to make sure that we’re using all of our resources wisely, or risk running out of them entirely.
So, to me, circularity is the idea that any resource can be used again and again in a sustainable way. By providing a new life to organic waste, I am putting this concept into practice with AgriLife – it’s efficient, sustainable, and just makes sense.

Impact Hub: Right on point. Recently, you had the opportunity to participate in Impact Hub Dar Es Salaam’s pilot program focused on implementing circularity practices into businesses. Considering your venture’s stage at the start of the program and looking at it now, how has this circularity implementation journey been going for you?
Costantine Edward: When we started the program, our business wasn’t very circular in large portions. While we had always recycled our organic waste with black soldier fly larvae, we never really considered what else could be done to make AgriLife more circular.
After just a few workshops, we were able to brainstorm some ideas together and come up with a plan for how to apply the knowledge to our business model. We’re now using upcycled plastic in our packaging instead of paper, and we’re in the process of converting the rest of our packaging to cardboard, which will be made from 100% recycled material.

Agrilife's alternative proteins
Agrilife's alternative proteins

Impact Hub: We’re impressed by how fast you were able to apply the knowledge into tangible action with AgriLife! When you look at that progress, what were challenges that stood in your way? And how did Impact Hub Dar es Salaam support you in overcoming them?
Costantine Edward: We’ve been a part of the Impact Hub Dar es Salaam community for quite some time now, and we’re always learning from them about new opportunities to grow. The training on investment readiness that we attended recently was particularly helpful because, as a startup, it’s hard to know when and how to bring in investors. After attending the training and learning more about what investors are looking for in companies like ours, we have a better idea of where we are in our growth stage and what we need to do next.

Impact Hub: Supporting better business for a better future – that’s why we are here. Reflecting on your trajectory, what did you enjoy the most from participating in the circularity program?
Costantine Edward: The most enjoyable part of the circularity program was getting to learn more in depth about circularity. Dealing with black soldiers fly, we are 100% doing circularity. But it is important to know the history of the Circular Economy and how the movement for circularity has grown over the decades and spanning to all over the world.

Impact Hub: Great to hear that it contributed to enlarging your perspectives on how the Circular Economy has been key to make this world a more sustainable place. Moving on to what lies ahead, what does the future hold for AgriLife?
Costantine Edward: We’re very excited about our future! We’re currently in the process of building a large insect breeding facility with a capacity to process more than 4 tonnes of black soldier fly protein per month. In the next 3 years, we are looking to recycle more than 180 organic waste into 60 tones of alternative protein per year.

Impact Hub: That’s absolutely amazing, we’ll be rooting for you! To end this conversation on a good note, please share with us your ultimate advice on circularity practices that any venture could implement as well!
Costantine Edward: We recommend ventures to implement sharing models. With them, it’s possible to share your products and services with others in order to create a network that is circular. This is a great way to reduce waste on packaging and production of certain materials.

 

Follow AgriLife on Instagram to discover their next steps in the circularity embedding journey.

* K Ramani et al (2010) 

The Circularity Program is part of our broader Environmental Strategy – discover how Impact Hub Global Network is addressing our time’s most pressing issues here. For more inspiring stories like this, head to our blog.

Within the framework of the European Union-funded “Coworking spaces for social innovation” program, Impact Hub is joining the Greek Higher Incubator Giving Growth & Sustainability (HIGGS) and other key organisations from the region in a hybrid conference to wrap up a whole year of activities.

On May 25th 2022, from 3pm to 5pm (CEST), participants will gather in Athens to present good practices and reflect about the learning potential of coworking spaces, addressing their impact in local communities and discussing young people’s roles and opportunities in this universe. If you’re interested in joining the conference, register here.

Social innovation through empowering coworking spaces: the context


As part of the EU-funded initiative, representatives from different local Impact Hubs across Europe previously got together in Lisbon to take part in an immersive training. Called “Management systems of coworking spaces for social innovation”, the training was organised by Developing Youth Participation at Local Level (
DYPALL Network), which is a “European platform of over 70 civil society organisations and local authorities from more than 30 countries, that aims to involve young people in decision-making processes at the local level, and thus enable municipal and regional authorities to address the needs and interests of youth, engage young people as active actors of problem-solving and increase the level of ownership, commitment and involvement of an essential part of our communities”.

Talking about the importance of initiatives like this, Éva Vörös, Social Impact Award Coordinator at Impact Hub Budapest, points that it’s fundamental to address “the impact of coworking, which can be much broader if we create a plan to combine youth participation, social impact, and promotion of youth entrepreneurship, both inside and outside of our coworking spaces”.

Besides the various networking, capacity-building and learning sessions, the training also aimed at sharing and analysing good practices that were identified during the research phase performed by partners of the project – DYPALL Network (Portugal), Centrum Rozwoju Inicjatyw Społecznych CRIS (Poland), Sende (Spain), Social City Wien (Austria), HIGGS (Greece) and Impact Hub. The study focused on mapping practices that:

  • could boost the learning potential of coworking spaces; 
  • have the potential to make them more inclusive and adjusted to the needs of youth;
  • have the power to foster the development of social innovation and increase its impact at the local level; 
  • could trigger and/or build cooperation between a private, public and non-governmental sector; 
  • strengthen coworking spaces sustainability.

The fact that we are facing the same challenges, in different contexts, helped me realise how we are interconnected and how important it is to establish a relevant level of constant cooperation” – Gianluca Latocca, Community Manager of Impact Hub Vienna.

Straight from Austria, Impact Hub Vienna’s Community Manager Gianluca Latocca pointed that, over the course of this process, he “had the chance to explore new innovative ideas, learn basic concepts on how coworking spaces can make the difference when it’s about social entrepreneurship and youth participation and, most importantly, to build a new network that could help me and Impact Hub Vienna in scaling our impact”.

Besides learning about the different possibilities for youth to be involved in innovation processes, Gianluca shared that by “talking and exchanging experiences with all the participants that came from different sides of the civil society, I was able to expand the pool of solutions to those problems that we are sharing due to the current global condition. The fact that we are facing the same challenges, in different contexts, helped me realise how we are interconnected and how important it is to establish a relevant level of constant cooperation”.

Register to the final event of the “Coworking spaces for social innovation” program and learn how you can also take part in this impact-led and cooperative environment.

Vienna, March 27, 2022. As the climate crisis intensifies and biodiversity loss accelerates, the work of nature conservation non-governmental organisations is becoming increasingly urgent. To tackle this matter, Impact Hub partnered up with the Luc Hoffmann Institute and the IUCN CEESP* to launch the Future of Conservation NGOs Innovation Challenge.

The pace of change is driven both by external and internal forces. Structural and systemic issues are at play within the sector, which are impacting conservation effectiveness. To remain relevant and legitimate, in addition to effectively dealing with the present global ecological crisis, conservation NGOs need to radically shift.

The three organising institutions driving the challenge are now inviting changemakers to apply for the chance to reimagine possible futures of conservation NGOs and to explore what their new roles can be in effectively approaching and managing nature conservation.

The challenge is calling out for solutions that proactively address the deep-rooted issues facing conservation NGOs are welcome. This might be by addressing legacies of discrimination, equalising voices and resources, dismantling existing power structures, reframing narratives or challenging the approaches that perpetuate existing social and economic inequalities.

Anyone, from any sector, experience or background, with a transformative vision for the ‘future of conservation’ can apply. Concepts at all stages of development, from ideation through to prototyping or beginning to scale, will be considered. The ideas or projects may include new business model innovations, partnerships, networks, structures and/or tools and tactics. 

Selected participants stand a chance to win €5,000, receive a place in a tailored incubation programme and gain access to a community of conservation practitioners, fellow change-makers and potential investors.

Applications for the challenge are open until May 22, 2022.

For further details on criteria, benefits and applications, head to the Innovation Challenge Portal.

 

* International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy

Did you know that, in Europe, only around 30% of women account for top positions in agricultural and livestock farms? In addition to that, rural women still face serious disadvantages compared not only to rural men, but also to urban women.

Despite policy efforts to reduce these differences, recent studies show that the progress has not been sufficient. Female leadership and entrepreneurial potential remain – no doubts – an untapped source of economic growth that should be further encouraged and supported.

To change this scenario, Impact Hub and European-based partners are taking part in the Better Incubation program. As part of the initiative that aims at a more (and truly) inclusive entrepreneurial environment in the region, thematic Communities of Practice (CoP) were created for participants to share their experiences on how to best support entrepreneurs from under-represented groups – for instance, women. When evaluating the peculiarities of this target group in terms of barriers, opportunities and available support programs, Empowering Women in Agrifood came about as one of the best practices in Europe dedicated to triggering the much-needed systemic changes and supporting female entrepreneurs.

Fostering Innovation to Support Female Entrepreneurs


Europe’s leading food innovation initiative,
EIT Food, has been working to make the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted since 2016. Building an inclusive and innovative community to “foster innovation at all stages of business creation” is one of their main goals – and for that end, supporting female entrepreneurs is a must-do. Which leads us to Empowering Women in Agrifood (EWA).

EWA is one of the projects supported by EIT Food, which focus on supporting female entrepreneurs through education, network building, and dedicated programme resources. It is present in 8 countries and has supported 80 entrepreneurs all around Europe throughout a 6-months long entrepreneurial journey. EWA’s ultimate goal is to overcome the existing gender gap in the agrifood sector with a special focus on less innovative European regions. How do they plan to achieve it? By promoting inclusivity and diversity between business founders, and increasing female founded start-ups.

Bringing EWA to Romania: a journey led by Impact Hub Bucharest


For the implementation of Romania’s chapter of EWA, EIT Food partnered up with Impact Hub Bucharest. The first edition of the program in the country was successfully run between May and November of 2020 – thanks to the great satisfaction of participants and growing interest of stakeholders, EWA has the potential to keep opening new (and more) doors for women in the Romanian agrifood sector.

Empowering European Women in Agrifood_Impact Hub

Differently from the original approach, Impact Hub Bucharest followed a particular path in tracking the mentorship sessions, allocation of resources and the communication and engagement of the team project and the entrepreneurs, which was mostly based on the participants’ needs. By using a special form, they tracked the monthly evolution of the entrepreneurs and were better prepared to support them. Improvements were also said to be made regarding the training within the masterclasses, as they replaced hard skills training with mentorship on real problems that the entrepreneurs face.

In a nutshell, the program offered the participants relevant capacity-building sessions, several funding opportunities, mentorship and ongoing support, and a network within a supportive community and high-level stakeholders.

As a result, some significant – and positive, indeed – developments were made with the 10 participating businesses. The collected data on the program’s impact provide an accurate picture of the results: 30% of the start-ups had their first clients during the programme; 40 % have improved business operation; 50% have expanded their teams; 40% have improved their marketing strategy; 60% have established new partnerships; 40% have improved their pricing strategy; and 20% have created new products.

In the context of Better Incubation, Impact Hub joined forces with the European Business and Innovation Centre Network and the European Venture Philanthropy Association to achieve systemic change through enhancing Business Support Organisations’ skills, methods and tools towards entrepreneurs from different social backgrounds. If you are eager to learn more about action stories related to this initiative, check this interview with Syed Hasnain, who took part in one of the program’s CoP and advocates for refugees and migrants socio-economic inclusion in Europe.

Although entrepreneurship is presented as an opportunity and alternative form of employment, people with disabilities face considerable challenges related to business development. According to the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica (2021), more than 90% of the people with disabilities in Spain indicate the existence of barriers to find adequate employment – mostly due to health reasons, but also due to lack of opportunities, lack of qualifications and experience, and to societal bias

Aiming at unlocking the entrepreneurial potential of people with disabilities and to address the difficulties these individuals face when starting or growing their business, Fundación Prevent launched an academic-entrepreneurial program called Aula de Emprendimiento: Aprende y Emprende (which translates to “Classroom of Entrepreneurship: Learn and Undertake”) in 2014. 

Looking to accelerate inclusiveness in Europe’s entrepreneurial and incubation environment, Impact Hub teamed up with partners to enhance Business Support Organisations’ skills, methods and approaches towards different under-represented groups. For that end, Communities of Practices (CoP) have been developed and are taking place as a space for participants to share their knowledge and experiences on how to best support entrepreneurs from different backgrounds – for instance, Aula de Emprendimiento has been appointed as an exemplary good practice to be replicated targeted at the inclusion of people with disabilities in the sector.

Inclusion In and Out of the Classroom


Aula de Emprendimiento: Aprende y Emprende is the result programme of a collaboration between Fundación Prevent and
ESADE Business School. This partnership is based on the complementary expertise and experience of both organisations – while ESADE Business School and its faculty brings academic rigor and quality, Fundación Prevent offers advice and guidance on how to ensure the curriculum and classes are adjusted to the needs of the people with disabilities. 

The 7-months long training programme takes a holistic approach to professional, personal and interpersonal growth and is specifically targeted at people with disabilities. It offers academic tutoring, mentoring, networking opportunities and practical learning experience from prestigious companies, ensuring that participants are exposed to different aspects of knowledge necessary to venture into the entrepreneurial process. 

With an estimated cost of €6000 per student, the programme is free and fully funded for all students – which makes it as inclusive as possible. The program also has an economic fund offering to provide financial aid for the implementation of best valued projects. In addition, as an incentive, those who finalise the academic programme have the opportunity to ask for financial support to develop their projects.

“Learn by doing” is Aula de Emprendimiento’s philosophy, and in order not to leave anyone behind and ensure a smooth process, their support approach is customized and individualized. The accessibility of the content and sessions is also a guaranteed point (e.g. through the use of sign language, providing interpretation support, transcription of classes, accessibility to facilities for people with reduced mobility etc.), which enables participants from different contexts to fully emerge into the learning process.

Promoting (personal and professional) growth and social impact


In order to understand exactly how Aula de Emprendimiento contributes to the improvement of the participants’ socio-economic standings and evaluating if they are really unlocking the entrepreneurial potential of people with disabilities, Fundación Prevent has begun its recent journey towards measuring Aula de Emprendimiento’s social impact. During the process of assessing it by means of interviews, most of the entrepreneurs who participated in the program shared their tales of change and growth, and above all, how the opportunity to experience Aula de Emprendimiento added value to their personal and professional lives. 

After 15 successful editions and 202 supported entrepreneurs, Aula de Emprendimiento is set to make a great difference for people with disabilities that are both interested in joining the entrepreneurial universe and looking to improve their employability prospects.

In the framework of Better Incubation, Impact Hub joined forces with EBN and EVPA to trigger systemic changes and achieve a lasting inclusive entrepreneurial and incubation environment in Europe. Interested in reading more action stories related to the program? Then head to our Impact Blog and get to know Syed Hasnain, Larissa de Moura, and Monica Moldovan, who are making the difference by advocating and leveraging opportunities for under-represented groups.

supporting seniors’ entrepreneurship_Impact Hub

When facing retirement, around 10% of people dream of starting their own business and 73% need to continue working for financial reasons in Portugal. No wonder there is a growing number of people considering a second career and looking to create start-ups. In view of this panoram – and inspired by the successful pilots of the programme in other European countries -, the Instituto Pedro Nunes launched in 2020 the Portuguese version of Empreendedorismo 5.0

In the framework of Better Incubation, Impact Hub joined forces with European-wide partners to achieve systemic change towards a more inclusive social entrepreneurship environment in the region. For that end, thematic Communities of Practice (CoP) were developed as a means for participants to exchange their knowledge and share their experiences on how to best support entrepreneurs from under-represented groups. Empreendedorismo 5.0 was one of the CoP’s programmatic approaches appointed as an inspiring best practice devoted to supporting seniors’ entrepreneurship.

How are they supporting seniors’ entrepreneurship?


Developed within the scope of
EIT Health,  a ‘knowledge and innovation community’ of 150 partner organisations created in 2015, Empreendedorismo 5.0 is aimed at people over 50 – employed, unemployed, retired or inactive – who have a business idea and want to develop entrepreneurial skills, as well as enhance their experience, strengthen their network of contacts, share and learn. Its overall goal is to support the creation of startups aimed at healthy living, reducing the risk of financial vulnerability and active aging, providing new perspectives, tools and knowledge through courses. 

Empreendedorismo 5.0 is supporting seniors’ entrepreneurial endeavors through an eight-week entrepreneurship capacity-building training and mentoring programme delivered in a mixed format. The format provides a combination of 3 face-to-face sessions and remote online sessions.

In this way, regardless of their place of residence – and level of knowledge, as it does not require prior experience -, participants can engage in the most convenient way for them and adapt at their own pace, whilst maintaining permanent online access to content, trainers and mentors.

What I appreciate the most is the sense of community involved and the trust that the group has been able to build when it comes to programmes. – Empreendedorismo 5.0’s participant

With a previously defined training trajectory including a vast array of topics, the progreamme’s participants learn to explore the market, and receive permanent personal specialized support in various subjects related to entrepreneurship and the world of business.

Despite the fact that Empreendedorismo 5.0 is a recent initiative and is still ongoing, the results achieved so far are worthy of recognition and reveal a promising future: among the more than 50 selected participants, over 40 seniors have been highly involved in the process together with 33 mentors. In addition, three start-up projects have already been created and supported within the programme’s framework.

Better Incubation is an effort fomented by Impact Hub along with the European Business and Innovation Centre Network and the European Venture Philanthropy Association. The program aims to  promote knowledge exchanges and achieve systemic change through enhancing Business Support Organisations’ skills, methods and tools for a more inclusive incubating environment in Europe. Read more about other inspiring Better Incubation-related best practices and action stories from the CoP participants in our Impact Blog.

With over 100 languages spoken daily within its borders, the West Midlands is considered to be the most diverse and heavily urbanised area in the United Kingdom, outside of London. For the same reason, it is also believed to be the second most diverse region in Europe. As one might imagine, all this diversity brings with it an untapped resource of skills and ideas.

Untapping the potential of diverse communities


In October 2017, the
European Union’s Urban Innovative Actions fund awarded €4,2 million to Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton for a 3-year initiative called MiFriendly Cities. The project looked to develop innovative, community-led and sustainable approaches to enhance the contribution of refugees and migrants across the region. 

In a nutshell, the aim of MiFriendly Cities was to build stronger communities and promote innovation for more inclusive urban spaces. How? By encouraging employers, health services and the wider public to come together and drive change at both city and regional level. While some of the developed activities were tailored to specific groups, the overall programme involved a broad range of residents in the region, including the ones who define themselves as ‘migrants’.

In the context of the Better Incubation’s Communities of Practice targeted at understanding migrants’ challenges to entrepreneurship and leveraging learnings from successful inclusive experiences, MiFriendly Cities was appointed as an inspiring best practice that supports vulnerable entrepreneurs in the European region. Promoted by Impact Hub along with partners, Better Incubation is an Europe-based initiative dedicated to achieving systemic change through enhancing Business Support Organisations’ skills, methods and tools towards a more diverse entrepreneurship environment.

innovation for more inclusive urban spaces_Impact Hub

MiFriendly Cities: Approach and Methodology


To reach their goal, the innovative programme of activities delivered by MiFriendly Cities focused on five main themes. For the first one –
jobs -, a network called ‘Migration Friendly Employers’ was created. The Network’s aim was mainly centered in strengthening the workforce of the West Midlands by creating a robust infrastructure which offers ongoing support and increases contact between communities in the workplace.

The second axis, skills, aimed at identifying skills gaps in the region and creating pathways towards further education and employment opportunities for refugees and migrants. They put together an innovative training programme that could benefit all communities and acknowledged the region’s aspirations to become the centre for advanced manufacturing in Europe.

Similarly, by supporting local and refugee and migrant entrepreneurs to start new businesses, MiFriendly Cities hoped to expand job opportunities and strengthen the wider economy. The region also faces many social challenges – in areas such as housing and healthcare – they wanted to meet these challenges by nurturing and funding creative grassroots projects, which are aimed at improving the quality of life for everyone.

Most critically to our vision, refugees and migrants were involved at every step of project development. – MiFriendly Cities

innovation for more inclusive urban spaces_Impact Hub

By combining these three fields of action, the project envisioned to empower refugees and migrants to aid in driving the economic success of the region by creating new job and work placement opportunities, engaging with employers about hiring from within this community, and highlighting the skills and passion of everyone in our cities.

Additionally, MiFriendly Cities also focused on supporting refugees and migrants active participation in the civil society and encouraging them to use their voices – to spread a message, share a story, or simply to get to know other people in their city. To build the confidence to do so, the migrants’

comprehension of their legal, civil and political rights was considered an important factor for the program as well.

Finally, by promoting the values and knowledge of effective community building and encouraging innovation for more inclusive urban spaces, the project looked to invest in the future of the region, and inspire cities across Europe to also become the MiFriendly Cities of the future.

Highlights from the wrap up 


By the end of 2020, MiFriendly Cities had inves
ted €80,000 in migrant social entrepreneurs, 28 projects were pitched for seed funding and 16 social enterprises were registered as businesses. If that was not good enough, with support of the programme, an initial of 45 jobs were created, more than 40 migrants and refugees were trained, and 2,361 beneficiaries were supported. To date, 44% of the involved social enterprises have been able to adapt and continue throughout the lockdown with many more planning for an uncertain future.

Through Better Incubation, Impact Hub, along with EBN and EVPA, is committed to achieve systemic change in the European entrepreneurship environment by enhancing Business Support Organisations’ skills, methods and approaches. For more great stories related to the program, enjoy our interview with Syed Hasnain, who is making a difference by advocating for refugee rights and equal rights opportunities in European decision-making spaces.

Social enterprises (SEs) are essential players when it comes to accelerating the transition to a more just and sustainable world. However, they often fail to understand and be understood by policymakers, which constitutes a barrier for their work to be mainstreamed. To get the support social entrepreneurs need, it’s key to engage in policy initiatives.

On March 10th, Impact Hub threw a LIVE with Impact Hub session to discuss why and how social entrepreneurs should engage with policymakers. Gabriela Gandel, Impact Hub Network Board Director, hosted the conversation and shared our network’s learnings with the Better Entrepreneurship Policy Tool led by the OECD & the European Union. As guest speakers, Ute Stephan, Professor at King’s College London, spoke about the topic from a prominent academic perspective, while Antonella Noya, Head of the Unit on Social Economy and Innovation at the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship SMES Local Development and Tourism, shared the takes from an international organisation specialised in shaping and building better policies.

The ‘Whys’

“Why should social entrepreneurs engage with policymakers and proactively create a dialogue? Why should they care about policymaking?” This is how the exchange between Gabriela Gandel, Antonella Noya and Ute Stephan, kickstarted – by touching on the central reasons that fuel collaboration between two fundamental stakeholders in the process of developing the social economy.

From the point of view of public interest, “it’s important to understand whether what is being designed corresponds to the actual needs on the ground”, says Antonella Noya. Ute Stephan reinforces that governments take care of the large issues concerning the majority, but “they sometimes miss out on minority interests. That’s where social enterprises can truly bring the perspective of the minorities and often discriminated populations they serve”. 

Considering that businesses that participate in the social economy are majorly inclusive, caring about communities and disadvantaged populations, the professor goes on to affirm that when the voice of social enterprises and entrepreneurs is heard, “policymakers can give legitimacy to their diverse voices and approaches”.

Both social entrepreneurs and policy makers are essential stakeholders to establish a policy framework that supports the development of the social economy.” – Antonella Noya

In this sense, making the case for SEs and supporting their liaison with policymaking also means to understand, as a society, that businesses can do more than just generate profits; that they can be an actual tool to create inclusive economies and tackle other issues, like gender inequality and climate change.

The ‘Hows’

The next step after understanding the ‘whys’ of such an important relationship is to explore the ‘hows’. Gabriela Gandel shares that the best way to ignite an engaging collaboration between social entrepreneurs and policymakers is through a place of learning that eases the stress on both parties. “In networks, events, programs for multi-stakeholder dialogue – and then get into an official consultation process.”

In complement, Antonella suggests that SEs can – and should – engage in both formal and more informal policy consultation processes. “For example, the multi-stakeholder platforms within the Global Action for the Social Economy Peer Learning Groups, led by OECD in partnership with various intermediaries”, Impact Hub amongst them, “create a space for learning to discuss informally between policymakers and entrepreneurs and bring interesting and relevant results.”

When analysing successful engagements between social entrepreneurs and policymakers, Ute Stephan mentions that a bottom-up staged process, that starts with the support of local representatives, is most likely to work out. Building coalitions with various experts around specific and common concerns is also a way to go. These coalitions, however, should be diverse, bringing in different perspectives and backgrounds, in order to have enough power to mainstream the shared efforts. 

When the voice of social enterprises and entrepreneurs is heard, policy makers can give legitimacy to their diverse voices and approaches.” – Ute Stephan

In addition, working with a diverse group of experts directly influences and improves the quality of engagement. Giving a real-life example from the Impact Hub Global Network, Gabriela Gandel states: “That is what we did in our work with the Jordanian government, where we built a dialogue not just between entrepreneurs and policymakers but also various experts. Including not only professionals from the OECD or academia but also practitioners and entrepreneurs who were already engaged in policy. That opened the understanding of all-around what is possible and built a common language.”

According to Ute, another factor that could simplify the process through which policymakers engage and, most importantly, support social enterprises is creating some sort of institutionalisation of indicators that would allow for easy tracking across various SEs, establishing more homogeneous standards when assessing their needs and challenges. On the other hand, Antonella suggests that it’s key to understand and accept the existing diversity within the social enterprise’s universe, and acknowledging its different definitions is part of the policymaker’s (rewarding) challenge when engaging with the sector.

If you’re interested in learning more about what are the challenges, how impact-oriented, social entrepreneurs should engage with policymakers and policy initiatives to build a better future, watch the LIVE with Impact Hub event recording below.