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According to the World Food Programme (WFP), hunger has been on the rise since 2015 and, by 2020, 768 million people are chronically suffering from the problem. In the same year, 155 million people in 55 countries experienced acute hunger requiring urgent food, nutrition and livelihoods assistance. 

If these numbers were not alarming enough, the WFP affirms that 1 billion people do not have sufficient food consumption in low and lower-middle income countries today. No wonder why Zero Hunger figures as a priority among the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Food innovation for a sustainable future

One of the ways to address this challenge is through pushing for sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices. Innovation is key to developing solutions. Across our network – and the globe – stories of impact in action are alive! Learn more about the food innovators that are paving the way for a better future. 

food innovators

Peel Pioneers Lab

FUMI: egg ingredients, without the chicken

FUMI Ingredients believes that micro-organisms, including baker’s and brewer’s yeast and micro-algae, are an untapped source of high-value ingredients. Their animal-free food ingredients come from the upcycling of those micro-organisms into foaming agents, heat-set gels, and emulsifiers, and are a perfect fit for a broad range of healthy food products. FUMI’s products are peanut-, soy-, egg-, chemicals-, and GMO-free and can be used, for example, in meat replacers, as well as foams and emulsions useful for bakery products or sauces. 

By providing companies with an alternative to substitute animal-based ingredients (e.g. egg whites) and non-clean components (such as methylcellulose) in their products, FUMI has already conquered major partnerships in the food industry and won the Rabobank’s 2019 Sustainable Innovation Award. 

Green Spot Technologies: challenging the food waste paradigm to feed the future

This venture is also in the upcycling business. Green Spot Technologies, however, is dedicated to giving a new life to fruit and vegetable by-products from processing industries, “leftovers” which would have been discarded as composting waste or downcycled as animal feed. The company turns acidic and high-sugar peels, seeds, and pulps into high-value, fermented functional ingredients. The resulting flours of this process are high in fibre and protein, low in fat and sugar, free from lactose, gluten and GMO. In addition, they are rich in vitamins, essential minerals, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids and beta-glucan prebiotics – which boost the immune system, decrease and regulate glucose and lipid absorption, and  modulate the intestinal microbiome as well. 

“We value both environmental sustainability and social well-being while using natural resources to provide consumers with nutritionally balanced fermented food products.” Guided by this vision and by innovatively integrating resources that would otherwise go to waste into the food chain, Green Spot has already secured some relevant awards in recognition of their impactful work for a more sustainable future, such as Grand Prix Inn’Ovations, Occitanie Innovations and Deep Tech Pioneer.

MIMICA: radically reducing unnecessary waste

Mimica‘s first product is Mimica Touch – a patented label and low-cost cap that tells users exactly when food is spoiled. The sustainably-made label is activated as soon as it is attached to meat, dairy, or juice packaging and calibrated to spoil at the same rate as the targeted food. Thanks to a bioresponsive gel, the label adjusts to conditions along the way and is accurate to a few hours. 

Mimica Touch was conceived to drastically reduce food waste, and improve profitability for producers and retailers. The venture is also collecting some important awards: it won the 2020’s Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label, the 2019’s Emerging Technology Winner and the 2017 MIT Technology Review’s  Inventor of the Year.

food innovators

Mimica Touch

PeelPioneers: producing local, innovative, and circular orange ingredients

PeelPioneers has developed a unique process to turn citrus peel waste into valuable resources. Its facility in the Netherlands processes more than 40,000 kilos of peels – daily -, turning processed waste into various raw materials, such as essential oils, pectin, and fibre-rich grain, that gain a new life. For example, extracted oils are sold and used in dairy, biscuits, chocolate, soap, and cleaning products; and the pulp serves as a quality supplementary feed for livestock. Additionally, the company is also developing a technology to use the peels for improving the texture of plant-based meats.

All these ventures were amongst the applicants in the IKEA Food Innovation Program. Currently we’re looking for innovators in the packaging industry. Want a chance to pitch to IKEA? Learn more about their most recent innovation initiative here.

How can we reinvent packaging for a more sustainable and better future? At Impact Hub, we are excited to team up once again with IKEA of Sweden, this time to find the innovators and disruptors of the packaging sector. After a successful Food Innovation Program, applications are now open to the IKEA Packaging Innovation Program.

Dedicated to providing the most affordable, comfortable and well-designed products globally, IKEA is one of the world’s largest home furnishing brands today. As a curious company with a constant drive to enable people to live a better everyday life within the limits of the planet, they are also invested in making packaging alternatives more sustainable and safer – to both people and our planet. This is why they are looking for innovative packaging disruptors in the following areas:

IKEA Packaging Innovation Program

If you are innovating in any of the above areas, have a proven business model, are a legally registered business, and speak fluent English, apply to IKEA Packaging Innovation Program here by 28 September 2021 (Terms & Conditions).

Selected ventures will: 


Learn more about why IKEA is innovating in the packaging eco-system and what they’re looking for in collaboration with ventures on IKEA Today.

The healthcare sector has been in the spotlight for months now, due to COVID-19. Although Africa has fared better than other regions, it has become clear that the continent’s healthcare system still needs much improvement to cope with health crises of such magnitude. However, its weaknesses were already visible before the pandemic in countries such as Nigeria and Ghana. In West Africa, companies like Direct Health and Waziki Health are working to improve healthcare responses.

Waziki Life: Providing and connecting Nigerians to fast, quality care

‘Why should people go through this?’ This was the question Tele Aina asked herself after her father passed away. He had fallen ill and her family had struggled to find out what was wrong with him after misdiagnosis from several doctors. As a result of that experience, she realized the need for access to fast, quality health information and created Waziki Life, an app that allows Nigerians to access quality primary health services. 

Since its creation in August 2020, the app has facilitated over 600 consultations. The company hopes to expand its reach to ensure all Africans have access to fast and affordable healthcare. 

improve healthcare responses

Health Direct Global: A multi-faceted health platform for Ghanaians

Unfortunately, stories of casualties due to the healthcare system’s deficiencies are omnipresent throughout the African continent. In fact, Health Direct Global started for a similar reason as Waziki Life. Amos Narh, one of its co-founders, lost his father due to medical malpractice in Ghana. Together with Kelvin Ashie, he set out to create a technological solution to some of the issues he had observed in the Ghanaian healthcare system.

Health Direct is a one-stop shop that connects patients with healthcare providers. It also allows patients to track their medical records, manage hospital appointments and access healthcare financing through insurance plans. The company earns a commission on payments made by patients directly on the app and on subscription fees from healthcare providers. 

Since its launch in 2020, the platform has enabled more than 500 consultations and onboarded more than 25 healthcare providers.

“Health Direct is a one-stop shop that connects patients with healthcare providers. It also allows patients to track their medical records, manage hospital appointments and access healthcare financing through insurance plans.”

How the New Economy Booster supported both businesses

Nigeria has  3.81 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants, most of whom are concentrated in urban areas such as Lagos. This contrasts with  26.04 in the US and 58.23 in the UK and, combined with the fact that  30% of the population has to travel far to access medical attention in Ghana, demonstrates that many people across West Africa still lack access to quality healthcare.

Since the pandemic, the gaps in healthcare are more evident, and solutions such as Waziki Life and Health Direct Global are more essential than ever. For this reason, the New Economy Booster program chose healthcare as one of the key challenging areas to be addressed by the participating companies. As Health Direct’s Kelvin said, ‘It is very important that healthcare, which is at the centre of the pandemic, receives the attention it needs to help countries recover.’

improve healthcare responses

Attendees at the New Economy Booster launch in the Impact Hub Lagos

Through the program, businesses and entrepreneurs with creative ideas on how to address the healthcare deficiencies in West Africa received resources, mentorship and all the support they needed to scale and grow.

Kelvin noted that through the program, Health Direct received ‘a lot of support specific to our business and access to a series of thought leadership and capacity building sessions related to business, ecosystems and partnerships, among other things.’ The company now plans to expand throughout the country and into other African emerging markets.

Waziki Life also experienced significant growth during the program and managed to partner with Nigeria’s leading pharmacy chain, Medplus.

Apart from healthcare, the New Economy Booster program also supported business in other key areas such as agriculture, education and commerce. To learn more about them, take a look at the program’s Dealbook.  

This article is part of a series featuring impact-driven entrepreneurs from Ghana and Nigeria sparking innovation in COVID-19 affected sectors. To keep up to date with the New Economy Booster program, subscribe to our newsletter, and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and listen to the testimonies of the participants and program managers on our YouTube channel.

As the pandemic progresses, vaccines become wider spread and travel restrictions are gradually eased, a whole conversation about the role of entrepreneurship to rebuild the tourism industry has come up.

Considered to be one of the most important sectors in the global economy, the tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. With flights halted and lockdowns imposed due to COVID-19 restrictions, many countries that rely on tourism as their main source of income have suffered a major blow to their economies. What about now – what is the role of tourism businesses in rebuilding the economy? And how should they adapt to this new reality?

How important is tourism to the world’s economy?

Tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, with Africa leading the way. A report by Jumia highlighted that tourism on the continent saw a 5.6% growth in 2018 against a 3.9% global average, making it the second-fastest-growing region. 

In addition, the World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that the sector provides one in ten jobs worldwide and is the third-largest export category in the global economy. It supplies necessary income to locals, much-needed foreign exchange, and contributes to national earnings.

How has Covid-19 affected tourism in Ghana

The impact of the pandemic on the industry cannot be underestimated. The UN World Tourism Organisation reported that international arrivals were down 74% worldwide through 2020 and that up to 100 million jobs were put at risk.

‘Year of Return’, Ghana’s 2019 initiative to attract foreign visitors, was considered a success. The country saw a 45% increase in visitors in 2019 as compared to 2018 and the Minister of Tourism, Barbara Oteng Gyasi, claimed that the plan had brought roughly $1.9bn into the economy. At the start of 2020, the country’s travel industry was poised to see even more growth.

“The pandemic has also provided an opportunity for entrepreneurs to think creatively and find solutions to some of the obstacles that have arisen.”

But when the pandemic hit, tourist attractions and hospitality centres were forced to close, including the country’s 28 forts and castles and 10 traditional Asante buildings. The country’s tourism sector lost an estimated $171 million during the three-month partial lockdown in 2020.

The negative impact has been significant, but the pandemic has also provided an opportunity for entrepreneurs to think creatively and find solutions to some of the obstacles that have arisen. ‘Encounter Ghana’, which is creating an innovative technology solution for the tourism sector to take better advantage of technology, is a good example.

Encounter Ghana local tourism activities

Encounter Ghana: an eco-tourism business showcasing Ghanaian hospitality to the world

Founded by Kwame Adu-Appeah, Encounter creates customized experiences for outdoor enthusiasts to explore Ghana. For them, tourism is an important tool to directly improve the incomes of local communities and thus the Ghanaian economy as a whole.

Its focus on ecotourism means that sustainability is at the core of its mission. The company incorporates the principles of circular economy, hence it applies a no-trace policy that ensures its activities do not have a negative impact on the environment. 

Furthermore, its ultimate goal is to promote healthy activities among Ghanaians through tourism, encouraging them to stay active and explore their country.

Entrepreneurship to Rebuild the Tourism Industry

Encounter Ghana local tourism activities

Solutions to COVID-19: How Encounter Ghana is tackling new challenges

Like all companies in the travel industry, Encounter had to deal with the setbacks of the pandemic. However, it highlighted a gap in the local tourism space that the company now hopes to fill: the need to digitize the travel planning process.

Currently, organizing a tourism experience in Ghana requires face-to-face interactions at various stages of the planning process. The COVID-19 regulations made these interactions difficult or impossible and highlighted the inefficiency of the system. Encounter plans to change this model by creating a one-stop portal where customers can book multiple service providers and plan their trips seamlessly.

“Encounter Ghana highlighted a gap in the local tourism space that the company now hopes to fill: the need to digitize the travel planning process.”

To do this effectively, they joined the New Economy Booster Program, developed by Impact hub in collaboration with BMZ and Lab of Tomorrow. The goal of the program was to support companies that, like Encounter Ghana, are creating a positive impact in their communities by providing them with resources, mentoring and training to help them grow and ultimately become more competitive.

Companies like these are essential for the economic recovery. Their business model is based on supporting the local economy by sponsoring local businesses such as hotels, tour guides and restaurants. As they create new ways to address new and old challenges, they ensure that they remain sustainable and contribute to the economy.

Across West Africa, countless entrepreneurs are working in innovative ways to solve some of the region’s most pressing needs. Learn more about the participants of the New Economy Booster Program and how to support them in its Dealbook.

This article is part of a series featuring impact-driven entrepreneurs from Ghana and Nigeria sparking innovation in COVID-19 affected sectors. To keep up to date with the New Economy Booster program, subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and listen to the testimonies of the participants and program managers on our YouTube channel.

Syed Hasnain has experienced all the challenges associated with being a refugee in Europe and is now making a difference by advocating for refugee rights and equal rights opportunities in decision-making spaces. 

Originally from Afghanistan, Hasnain is the co-founder and current president of UNIRE (Italian National Union of Refugees and Exiles), the first national network of refugees living in Italy. UNIRE is a shared space dedicated to build and strengthen the networks of associations promoted by refugees and individual activists. It aims to restore the agency and the protagonism of refugees in relevant political decision-making spaces, no matter where they are from, by means of self-representation and self-narration.

In addition to his impactful mission with UNIRE, Hasnain has worked with several relevant humanitarian NGOs and is currently a member of the Expert Group on the Views of Migrants in the Fields of Migration, Asylum, and Integration at the EU Commission, where he provides policy expertise. If that wasn’t good enough, since 2018, he is one of the most dynamic members of the European chapter of the Global Refugee Network (GRN).

Stay with us to learn more about Hasnain’s journey and aspirations to keep impacting refugees and exiles’ lives in a positive, inclusive and lasting way: 

Q: Thank you for joining us, Syed! To get us started, how would you describe yourself in only a few words?

A: I am a cosmopolitan refugee advocate.

advocating for refugee rights

Syed Hasnain advocating for refugee rights

Q: We imagine that this description of yourself is a good introduction  to your life purpose . Are we correct?

A: Yes! My purpose is to advocate for refugee rights and their access to equal opportunities in host societies.

Q: That’s definitely an urgent and relevant matter, and you’re doing incredible work advocating for refugee rights with UNIRE and GRN. Could you share with us a little about your own story and how it led you to the work you do today?

A: I have been a refugee since I was 10 years old. I have been to Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, and Italy, and along my journey I’ve faced many barriers accessing my rights and also discrimination for something that I had no choice but to become ​​ a refugee. UNIRE and GRN are the main and appropriate platforms to combat all kinds of exclusion and discrimination for people seeking safety and protection, in addition to making inclusivity a concrete part of society.

Q: We have nothing but admiration and respect for your journey. When you think about what you’ve been through to be here today, doing the relevant work you’re doing, are there any particular achievements you are most proud of? 

A: I managed to candidate UNIRE to the EU Commission Expert Group on the view of migrants and refugees at the end of 2020. It was successfully selected as the unique and single refugee-led organization from Italy among 24 members from all over Europe. Being part of the Expert Group and contributing to its works is the perfect opportunity for UNIRE to transmit and reflect the views and perspectives of refugees for better policies in areas of migration, asylum, and integration.

“UNIRE and GRN are the main and appropriate platforms to combat all kinds of exclusion and discrimination for people seeking safety and protection, in addition to making inclusivity a concrete part of society”

Q: That’s amazing! Considering your experience, is there anything you’ve noticed not to be widely known and want more people to know about refugees and refugee rights?

A: Refugees are, generally, perceived as weak, as a burden, as needy and passive members of society. For me, it’s the opposite: they are courageous, skilled, and passionate changemakers, both in their lives and the host societies. We just need to ensure they have the right inclusion opportunities.

advocating for refugee rights

Syed Hasnain and UNIRE

Q: Looking ahead now, what is your ambition for the upcoming year? What impact do you aim to make?

A: My goal is to struggle and ensure more agency is given and more meaningful participation of refugees is held in policy-making processes. Secondly, I’d like to change the toxic and negative narrative around migrants by means of self-narration and self-representation of refugees and migrants in public spaces.

“Refugees are, generally, perceived as weak, as a burden, as needy and passive members of society. For me, it’s the opposite: they are courageous, skilled, and passionate changemakers” 

Q: At Impact Hub we talk about entrepreneurship a lot and we know it requires courage. What is courage to you?

A: For me, courage means taking the right and huge step in the right moment even if you are going to have to face many challenges along the way and, hopefully, keep following your dreams in the hopes of a better future.

Q: Thank you very much for sharing your inspiring story with us! To wrap this up, what was your key takeaway from the first LIAISE Community of Practice’ session?

A: Learning from other stories and understanding that it takes courage to put in place life-changing initiatives.

In a co-effort with the European Business & Innovation Centre Network, the European Venture Philanthropy Association and Caritas organizations, Impact Hub gathered experts and entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups in a series of virtual working sessions (Communities of Practice) as part of Better Incubation to engage over the topic of inclusive entrepreneurship. Our guest on this occasion, Syed Hasnain, is one of the admirable program participants.

Follow Syed Hasnain and his inspiring work with UNIRE and the European Coalition on Facebook. 

For more interesting stories from the Better Incubation program, enjoy our latest article about Larissa de Moura’s and her mission to build a world without borders. Make sure to keep an eye in our social channels, as we will share more stories of inclusive entrepreneurship in the upcoming period.

Impact Hub Bergen was the first Impact Hub to open in Norway — in November 2010 — and the second in Scandinavia. The team in Bergen has been a frontrunner in the field of social innovation, both locally and nationally. After ten years of successful operations, it has decided to leave the Impact Hub network to follow a more hyperlocal approach. Under the new name of Social Impact Lab, the team will work to deepen their roots and broaden their reach throughout the city, continuing their commitment to support social entrepreneurs.

For the past five years, Impact Hub Bergen has developed programs and support services for social entrepreneurs in collaboration with local partners. Impact Hub Bergen is now moving away from the space-based business model and has decided to no longer run a co-working place. Instead, it will — now as Social Impact Lab — continue the work on local, regional, and national programs to support social businesses. Over the last years, Impact Hub Bergen has created nationwide programs, focusing on age-friendly societies, mental health, and inclusion.

We thank Impact Hub Bergen for their collaboration on behalf of the Impact Hub network, wish them all the very best — and look forward to seeing their progress soon, finding new ways to collaborate on social impact and entrepreneurship efforts.

The Impact Hub network in Europe

Since launching in 2005, the Impact Hub network has undergone significant growth, now reaching over 15.500 members in 100+ locations across the globe, working to tackle the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a variety of actions. With 47 Impact Hubs, Europe remains a key region for the network, made up of committed Impact Hub teams like Impact Hub Agder and Impact Hub Stockholm, that are continuing to establish multi-city programs for capacity building, convening of stakeholders, entrepreneurial acceleration and scaling for impact ventures. We look forward to supporting the continued growth of the region, in particular in the context of Vision 2030. 

To find out more about Impact Hub, we invite you to take a look at our other Impact Hubs in the European region.

Organizations and institutions, large and small, are taking responsibility to promote economic recovery in a sustainable way and driving global change. Impact Hub is collaborating with a wide range of organizations to drive inclusive and sustainable change across sectors, both public and private. We believe that only through collaboration, we can solve today’s complex challenges.

By combining various areas of expertise, joint action between different actors has the power to advance innovation and develop new solutions. To carry out our collaborative programs, we combine global and local knowledge and tools. We also offer valuable services that help companies transform and pivot towards more sustainable business models that place their economic, social and environmental impact at their core.

But, how to achieve change and transformation? How to apply a more sustainable approach in organizations? Find out more about 8 programs developed by Impact Hub Madrid in collaboration with the Impact Hub global network, other local Impact Hubs and various public and private organizations, to drive change in sectors such as food, training and impact investment. 

Responsible food and consumption

This program is supported by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 initiative and has been launched by a consortium of 15 companies from 11 countries, including Impact Hub Madrid. Through local ecosystems, aims to analyze and understand agricultural processes to find mechanisms and tools to shorten supply chains, thus bringing production and consumers closer together and promoting healthier and more sustainable food in different communities.

Entrepreneurship, training and innovation

Following the current economic crisis, we are contributing to the recovery of social entrepreneurs and startups with new support programs. In particular, Impact Hub Madrid has joined forces with the US Embassy and Consulate in Spain and will collaborate with the US Impact Hubs to set up a mentoring and training program for Spanish startups that need alternatives to relaunch their activity and see the American market as an attractive target.

How to promote youth entrepreneurship as a form of economic recovery? By training trainers.

With this Erasmus + program, various European organizations use their experience in entrepreneurship and crowdfunding to create innovative tools and methodologies that can be offered to professionals who are in contact with the young entrepreneurs of the future. This transfer of knowledge aims to offer high quality, practical and specialized training.

This is another Erasmus + program, but in this one, the exchange of knowledge happens between professionals from different fields: creative, digital, management, etc. The project allows them to acquire skills and tools from different disciplines that they can then apply to their entrepreneurship projects. This program also has a cultural exchange element, as professionals come from Italy, Romania and Spain. Impact Hubs in Madrid and Bucharest are among the allied organizations.

This collective intelligence initiative launched by the United Nations Development Program (UNPD) collaborates with local organizations in over 85 cities — Impact Hubs in many cities, such as Taiwan, Hamburg, amongst them. Through working groups that use innovative and disruptive methodologies, it allows participants to design the 2030 Agenda and seek solutions to the challenges posed by the Sustainable Development Goals.

driving global change

Program participants at Impact Hub Madrid

Social economy and impact investment 

This initiative is led by Oxfam Italy, with Impact Hub Florence and other local organizations. The program has created a collaborative partnership of Southern Mediterranean regions (Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine) to develop the social entrepreneurship sector as an engine for inclusive growth and job creation.

This partnership involves the Impact Hub Network and ALDA (European Association for Local Democracy). Set up by Impact Hubs in Atenas, Bari and Madrid as well as local municipalities, we bring our experience and expertise in the social economy to develop this sector in Greece, Spain and Italy. Learnings are exchanged with local experts to identify strategies to tackle unemployment through the social economy with a special focus on underrepresented groups.

Financial support is key to boosting social impact projects. Social enterprises need finance mechanisms that adapt to their structure and operations, which is why La Bolsa Social, an online crowdfunding platform, is promoting new financing tools with the support of Impact Hub Madrid and that of other private entities. New technologies enable more open, innovative and inclusive financing systems that drive impact investment.

Developing collaborative partnerships and networks is key to driving global change. At Impact Hub, we have been developing collaborative communities for impact at scale through innovative programs for the last 15 years. 

*This article was written by Impact Hub Madrid. If you want to transform your organization and increase your impact, ask them about their consulting services and solutions to kick start your sustainable business.

Women entrepreneurs in West Africa are leading the way in creating sustainable businesses, growing their respective economies and generating lasting change.

While entrepreneurs face all kinds of challenges starting up businesses anywhere in the world, women often have to deal with additional hurdles to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions. Cultural and regulatory biases, as well as lack of access to ​financial support, market information, networks and technology, are some of the most common ones and entail a loss of opportunities for their economic and social development.

From empowering the youth to addressing plastic pollution to supporting children with dyslexia. Know the stories of 3 ambitious women breaking down barriers to entrepreneurship and creating innovative solutions for a greener and fairer future.

Magdalene Otonba: Tackling plastic pollution in urban Ghana

Ghana is one of the 10 most polluted countries in the world. Of the over million tons of plastic waste generated in the country, only 2%-5% gets recycled. Magdalene Ontoba founded Magvision to address this problem in Accra, Ghana’s largest city. 

Two of the most important reasons for Ghana’s struggle with plastic waste management are lack of infrastructure and lack of awareness of the importance of recycling in its people. With Magvision, Magdalene focuses on offering solutions to both issues.

The company collects and recycles household and manufacturing plastic waste, but also educates local communities on sustainable waste management. Its goal is to help create a plastic-free community by adopting a circular economy model where everything consumed is reused or recycled instead of discarded.

“Magvision collects and recycles household and manufacturing plastic waste, but also educates local communities on sustainable waste management. Its goal is to help create a plastic-free community by adopting a circular economy model where everything consumed is reused or recycled instead of discarded.”

Patricia Wilkins: Economically empowering women in underserved communities in Ghana

Patricia Wilkins moved to Ghana from the United States after a successful career in marketing. That was when she found the Chorkor community, an underprivileged group that struggles with poverty and the challenges associated with it, such as high dropout rates, low school attendance, and violence against women. 

To help change this situation, she set up Basics International. An organization that provides educational scholarships for young people. But she soon realized this was not enough. 

Women entrepreneurs in West Africa

Patricia Wilkins, Basics International’s Founder and Managing Director

The core of the problem, Patricia observed, was the need for sustainable economic empowerment. In response, Basics International launched Hedzole which means ‘Freedom’. A social enterprise that helps women and youth to develop income earning capacity and achieve financial freedom. 

How? Through professional skills training in areas like textile design and manufacturing, quilting, upcycling and cooking, and facilitating access to internships and buyers. Hedzole donates the profits it receives to the scholarship and sponsorship program of Basics International, thus contributing to the main purpose of the organization.

Anita Nchat Kevin: Supporting children with dyslexia in northern Nigeria

Dyslexia is one of the most common reading disorders in the world. According to Dyslexia Nigeria, 15%-20% (or 3-6 children per primary school class) of the world’s population has some form of dyslexia. 

In the experience of Anita Nchat Kevin, the founder of Amina Dyslexia Center, this figure is exactly right. She explains that “2 in every 10 children I have taught in the last 13 years have shown signs of dyslexia”. In addition, the dropout rate for dyslexics can be as high as 35%. This figure is particularly relevant in Nigeria where only 42% of students receive some form of secondary education

Despite these figures, many Nigerians have never even heard of the disorder. A study carried out by Amina Dyslexia in Northern Nigeria found that about 98% of teachers had never heard the word ‘dyslexia’. So it is easy to guess that many children in Nigeria with the disorder are not getting the support they need and are likely dropping out or failing in school.

Anita is determined to change this reality through the Amina Dyslexia Center, which offers specialized educational programs for children with dyslexia. Currently, it is based in Kaduna, a state in northern Nigeria, but Anita’s dream is to expand its reach to the entire northern region, which has the highest illiteracy rates in the country.

Women entrepreneurs in West Africa

Anita Nchat Kevin, Amina Dyslexia Center’s founder

The need to support women entrepreneurs

The pandemic has had a significant effect on women’s employment. While the employment rate has fallen for both men and women globally, women’s participation in the workforce, as well as their working hours, have seen a dramatic drop. 

Women-led businesses and ideas must be given ample support during this time. This is why the New Economy Booster, a program designed to support ​innovative West-African entrepreneurs to excel despite the pandemic, ensured that women were well represented in the cohort.

The support provided enabled these women entrepreneurs to thrive. For example, Amina Dyslexia Center was selected for the Social Innovators incubator program by Donors for Africa and to pitch at the Nigerian Tech Summit held by the US Embassy. 

Amina Dyslexia Center’s happy faces

Magdalene of Magvision gained knowledge to help move her business to the next level. She expressed that the training during the program helped her with pitching and “helped [her] company get to a point where it can manage its finances and resources.” 

Hedzole’s mission focuses on empowering women financially, but when the pandemic came, the women in their program were very affected. According to Patricia,” the women were making a minimal salary, but when COVID hit, we couldn’t export goods and the women were making no money.” She decided to participate in the New Economy Booster program to strengthen the resilience of her organization and learn to make it more sustainable.

One of her greatest takeaways from the program was that Hedzole’s product was not the bags or quilts, but the empowered women. For her “knowing that each woman’s income is something they can be proud of and maintain. That is the most important thing.”

Learn more about these amazing women entrepreneurs in West Africa and others like them in the New Economy Booster program’s Dealbook

This article is part of a series featuring impact-driven entrepreneurs from Ghana and Nigeria sparking innovation in COVID-19 affected sectors. To keep up to date with the New Economy Booster program, subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and listen to the testimonies of the participants and program managers on our YouTube channel.

How can we make the field of entrepreneurship more inclusive to groups that are systematically deprived of representation? Larissa de Moura, a Brazilian social innovator based in Spain, has experienced first-hand the challenges of being a young, migrant entrepreneur and developing her startup on her own, in an unknown country. Now, she is working towards a world without borders and paving the way for other young international students — as she once was.

Larissa’s curiosity and boldness have taken her through an intense entrepreneurial journey in the past years. INMI, a social startup dedicated to supporting young students in finding the best educational programs around the world, was born out of that journey. Inspired by the 2030 Agenda, INMI is an award-winning platform that connects the migrant community with a network of professionals and resources in an all-in-one support ecosystem.

Besides founding and leading INMI in Valencia, Spain, she is also the co-founder of ALDEA, a social organization where she develops consulting projects, training and territorial-community development through sustainability, interculturality and social innovation. 

The stories and projects of the Better Incubation program we are part of, which aims at fostering an inclusive and impact-driven approach to innovative entrepreneurship, inspire us to believe that a more inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem is possible. 

Following our conversations with Rut Turró and Hrishabh Sandilya two courageous entrepreneurs who are making an incredible impact, we talked with Larissa de Moura. Learn more about her journey and plans to continue impacting lives and breaking down barriers:

Q: In 3 words, who is Larissa de Moura?

A: An explorer of new experiences.

Q: Do you feel like this thirst for discovery and exploration translates into your life purposes? And talking about purpose, how would you describe yours both professionally and personally? 

A: I frequently ask myself: what makes us authentic? My hope is that everyone can discover it. It may be your personality, your voice, your history, your beliefs, your origins or even your experiences. I believe that everyone can unleash their dreams. We are changemakers, doers, social innovators, dreamers, thinkers, disruptors and much more. 

Personally, in my 30s I had the chance of experiencing this process and it brought me boundless enthusiasm. 10 years ago, my purpose was to run a social business. Today, one of my purposes is to work towards a world without borders and empower more young people, women and migrants from different parts of the world.

Q: You have been doing consistent work to promote social, inclusive and sustainable business models with INMI and ALDEA. Could you share a little bit about your own story and how it led you to the social economy sector? 

A: I like to say that I am a Brazilian and a little bit Valencian. Before I came to Valencia, I had been working in Brazil for almost 10 years in multinational companies. At that time, inspired by the Golden Circle and my boyfriend, Túlio, one reflection crossed my path: why do you do what you do? It made me realize that my professional skills were way beyond a job title and didn’t need to just fit in a CV. It led me to develop my purpose and explore how I would make a positive impact on the world.

Four years ago, I decided to do a master’s in social economy in Valencia and it was a game-changer for me. I discovered new motivations and professional challenges in the social field, explored intercultural networking, improved languages, and got in touch with new cultures. Thanks to these experiences, I am now working as a certified professional and going deeper and deeper into the business models of the future: social, inclusive and sustainable. 

It is gratifying to see through this dual lens as an entrepreneur and an impact business consultant.

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Larissa de Moura talking about INMI at Col·lab Las Naves, in Valencia, Spain.

Q: Without a doubt, your story is one of great perseverance and focus on what really matters to you. Moving forward, can you tell us more about your current initiatives and work? Why do INMI and ALDEA exist and how did they start? 

A: In 2017, when I was doing my master’s degree, ALDEA was created to support social development and consultancy projects with a focus on alternative economies, sustainability, interculturality and social innovation. It was my second entrepreneurial project and INMI, the last one. The first one, which was more of a life project, was when I decided to move to Spain. In a way, it is amazing to see how these 3 projects naturally connect with each other, even nowadays.

INMI was born in the 2019 Hackathon of Col·lab Las Naves, as an initiative that emerges from real experiences and difficulties of migrants. Like thousands of international students and migrants living abroad, our team went through difficult processes of local adaptation and integration. As we had gone through this firsthand, we were able to streamline these processes and develop an intuitive all-in-one platform to create easier and more accessible international experiences.

That’s why INMI exists: to create a world without barriers. We focus on providing resources and information for global education and the improvement of opportunities. We see it as a major move for reducing inequalities and creating local and global sustainable change.

“Diversity and inclusion must be a part of our daily lives. Underrepresented groups, like migrants, should have the same access to opportunities and tools to undertake, lead and occupy decision-making positions as everybody else.”

Q: A world without barriers sounds like the world we need. We are glad to hear how hard you are working to that end! Having that in mind and reflecting on your entrepreneurial journey until now, what recent achievements are you most proud of?

A: The first achievement is to be ahead of INMI, an award-winning social business committed to solving real problems despite the many challenges I continue to experience as a young woman and a migrant. There were countless times when I was one of the few (sometimes the only) female or migrant entrepreneurs in the room. 

Diversity and inclusion must be a part of our daily lives. Underrepresented groups, like migrants, should have the same access to opportunities and tools to undertake, lead and occupy decision-making positions as everybody else. I am very proud to be contributing to the advancement of this scenario from our sustainable perspective at INMI.  

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Larissa de Moura at Col·lab Las Naves

Q: We are on the same page when it comes to inclusion and diversity and it is great to hear that is an inherent part of your mission. The journey to promote social good, however, is not always a bed of roses. Can you share what have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a social entrepreneur on a mission towards a world without barriers?

A: I experienced many challenges; language barriers, building a support network from scratch, navigating the landscape of regulation taxes (in general, non-citizens face double the paperwork compared to local citizens), and facing the lack of tailored support to meet immigrant-specific needs, not to mention the recent pandemic barriers for international mobility. I could not miss the chance to share the many mistakes and successes that had the potential to make others’ own journeys easier.

In my case, it was key to be part of a local support network, the public accelerator of Valencia (Col·lab Las Naves), that provided me with mentorships, one-on-one support and guidance as well as connections peer-to-peer. 

“For me, the entrepreneurial journey requires that kind of courage that allows you to move forward on your own — particularly when undertaking with impact, as we are doing things differently from the mainstream.”

Q: A supportive network definitely has the power of changing lives and businesses and your story is a great example of that. Now, looking to the future, what is your ambition for the upcoming year? What impact do you and INMI aim to make? 

A: At INMI, our main goal for the next year is to get more young people from different countries to live a life-changing international experience! Especially when the worst of the pandemic is over and we can travel again. That is why we are scaling up.

On another note, our surpluses are invested in social and environmental projects. When our clients travel with INMI, they contribute directly to positive social impact initiatives. In this way, people from diverse contexts can also experience living and studying abroad. That’s why we are working to consolidate our triple impact, locally and globally.

Q: Fingers-crossed for you to reach out and impact as many lives as possible! Aiming high like that when you are an entrepreneur requires a few things, but mostly courage. What is courage to you?

A: “Go, and if you’re scared, just go scared”. I really like this quote that a friend told me once. For me, the entrepreneurial journey requires that kind of courage that allows you to move forward on your own particularly when undertaking with impact, as we are doing things differently from the mainstream.

Q: We appreciate your time to tell your beautiful story and, also, your efforts in taking part in our Community of Practice. So last but not least, what was your key takeaway from the first session?

A: The Community of Practice really is the heart of the LIAISE project. It is an international, inclusive and open space to exchange learnings and experiences. This collaborative dynamic allows us to work from the lens of vulnerable target groups and as real facilitators within the community.

As part of the Better Incubation program’s framework, developed in partnership with members of the European Business & Innovation Centre Network (EBN), the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA) and Caritas organizations, Impact Hub has been gathering experts and entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups, namely migrants and refugees, people with disability, seniors, women and youth, in a series of virtual working sessions – our Communities of Practice – to debate, exchange, investigate, plan, prototype and evaluate the activities in the field of inclusive entrepreneurship. Larissa de Moura is one of the social innovators taking part in the program and engaging in this important conversation. 

Follow Larissa de Moura and her inspiring work at INMI on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter

For more interesting stories from the Better Incubation program, enjoy our latest article about Hrishabh Sandilya and his mission to build a more inclusive Europe for migrants through social innovation. Make sure to keep an eye on our social channels, as we’ll be sharing more stories of inclusive entrepreneurship over the upcoming period.

For the second year in a row, Impact Hub joined forces with GoDaddy for another edition of New Roots, a business startup and mentoring program for entrepreneurs from underserved communities. Delivered by Impact Hubs in King’s Cross and Munich, this edition supported 49 entrepreneurs in identifying and pursuing medium to long-term professional goals, while demonstrating entrepreneurship as a realistic and suitable option for personal and professional development and job market (re)integration.

The program was piloted in 2019 by Impact Hub King’s Cross in London and it was focused on supporting migrant and refugee entrepreneurs. In 2020 it expanded to Germany through Impact Hub Munich and the target audience for each location changed. 

In the 2020 edition Impact Hub King’s Cross addressed entrepreneurs from Black, Asian, and minority ethnicities and Impact Hub Munich provided support to women entrepreneurs in particular, mothers facing discrimination when re-entering the job market.

“Mothers tend to put their ideas, projects and development on hold to take care of their families in the little time that remains after work. Without the New Roots program, I would have never allowed myself to work so deeply on my project.” — Jeanette de Pauli, food entrepreneur and New Roots participant at Impact Hub Munich.

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Jeanette de Pauli, New Roots participant in Impact Hub Munich

New Roots 2020 featured 36 highly engaged ventures, 34 coaches from GoDaddy and 23 Impact Hub mentors, who worked together throughout 24 workshops between June 2020 and March 2021. Covering business areas from sustainable living to circular fashion, gastronomy to well-being, the program provided participants with mentorships, business skills, one-to-one clinics with GoDaddy experts, and peer networking.

“New Roots enabled me to successfully develop my company through regular coaching, assistance, and a supportive community, as well as the opportunity to work at Impact Hub.” — Gloria Cuadros, Mundo Sano’s Founder and New Roots participant at Impact Hub Munich.

As the target groups differed by location, the entrepreneurs’ needs and challenges were also different. While lack of funding was one of the top 3 concerns for both groups, access to professional contacts or networks was a more significant obstacle for Impact Hub King’s Cross’ participants. In contrast, the biggest issue for Impact Hub Munich’s entrepreneurs was the lack of knowledge to turn an idea into a feasible business.

Despite the differences, the data collected before and after the program shows that great and tangible results were achieved in both locations. Moreover, it was a success in terms of participation, with all entrepreneurs graduating and actively engaging in the program until the end.

“I came up with the idea for my business just a couple of months before participating in the program, so I was attracted to it because it supported entrepreneurs in an early ideation stage.” — Zey Binboga, Founder of The Displaced and New Roots participant at Impact Hub King’s Cross.

Curious to learn more about the ventures and entrepreneurs, their main needs and challenges, and the outcomes that the program contributed to the most? Then, check the 2020-2021 New Roots report for some insightful data!