23 December 2008

Berlin: Becoming Europe’s new Social Entrepreneur Hub?

Recently I had the chance to attend the Xmas gathering of betterplace.org in Berlin. I have blogged about them before and during this visit a new ‘scene’ of social entrepreneurs in Berlin came to my attention.

Ever since I decided to combine ‘business’ with ‘social’ some years ago I felt about lonely in Germany. Sure Ashoka has an office and there are initiatives such as start social. However, in big business cities such as Munich and Frankfurt there are still plenty of people who don’t know what CSR stands for or how sustainability can make business sense.

Therefore, it was a positive surprise to meet real people behind social business ventures in Berlin. Next to the betterplace team there were people form the Bertelsmann Foundation and social entrepreneurs form smaller, upcoming initiatives such as:
  • Genisis Institute: A think-tank to change charity thinking towards social business. Under the patronage of Muhammad Yunus.
  • Good Root: helping foundations, NGOs and social investors to track and improve social impact.

Why does Berlin have this new social entrepreneur scene? Sure, Berlin hosts the German government and the German Global Compact network but there are neither strong industries nor big employers in Berlin, if not to say eastern Germany overall. So where does the new entrepreneurial spirit come from? Maybe it is “Die Not macht erfinderisch” (A German saying meaning “If you don’t have much, you are forced to become creative”). Certainly Berlin’s openness and international flair contributed significantly to this ‘new scene’.

Many ventures are relatively new and in there start up phase. I wish them all the best and hope that traditional corporate decision makers and politicians support these valuable ventures. I am going to move to Berlin in March 2009 to write my dissertation on Responsible Tourism. Will keep you posted.

Marry Xmas and a happy new year!

UPDATE: Also selfHUB is an interesting center of and for Social Entrepreneurs in Berlin.