GEW Germany changing mindset around social entrepreneurship

Germany has been celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week since its inception in 2008. Known as “Gründerwoche Deutschland,” GEW Germany has grown from about 12,000 participants and 120 events in 2008 to nearly 100,000 participants and 2,000 events in 2018.

Now GEN Germany is using the expansive network GEW Germany has developed over the last 10 years to change the mindset and perceptions around social entrepreneurship. The hope is that this year’s GEW will help address some of the challenges social entrepreneurs, in particular, face in Germany.

According to Birgitta Ratazzi-Förster, Gründerwoche Deutschland coordinator at the RKW Competence Centre, GEW Germany has helped engage ecosystem actors, entrepreneurs, investors and most importantly the government.

“All these activities help to encourage, to empower and support the next generation of entrepreneurs in Germany,” said Ratazzi-Förster.

The shift in mindset driven by GEW also coincides with another mindset shift – one that started five years prior to the start of GEW in 2003, focused on the perception of social entrepreneurship.

Before the early 2000’s, most social organizations in Germany were considered part of the welfare sector, explained Sébastien Martin from the Impact Collective – an acceleration program for early-stage social startups. Martin said this was due to the financing structure for these types of companies, which involved funds from the German government.

But in the early years of the decade, this perception started to change.

“Since 2003, the new term ‘social entrepreneurship’ arose,” said Martin. “Compared to a welfare-driven approach, social entrepreneurs have a wider approach and can comprise a large variety of challenges.”

Martin said rather than welfare challenges, most social entrepreneurs now focus on a broader range of issues such as climate change, regional development, special support for minorities and education.

Social entrepreneurship has gained so much momentum in the last 15 years, that in 2017 the Social Entrepreneurship Netzwerk Deutschland, or SEND, was founded to centralize support for social entrepreneurs. And this year, the German government added social entrepreneurship to its political agenda.

But Martin said social entrepreneurs still face many challenges in Germany – particularly around mindset. According to Martin, most people view social entrepreneurship as a hobby or side project.

This is where GEW Germany is leveraging its platform to bring more attention to social entrepreneurship and drive a change in German perception. GEW Germany is adopting social entrepreneurship as one of its themes in 2018 In order to raise awareness and drive a conversation about mindset.

“Gründerwoche Deutschland, with its wide-spread partner network [and] well known national campaign for promotion of entrepreneurship is a suitable platform to inform people about the state of the art of social entrepreneurship in Germany, and to motivate and inspire for the opportunities of starting up a social enterprise,” said Ratazzi-Förster.

By engaging its network of dedicated ecosystem players already active through GEW, Ratazzi-Förster is hoping to bolster the support for social entrepreneurs in Germany.

In particular, GEW Germany wants to promote a new mindset that views social entrepreneurs as legitimate and necessary. The ultimate goal is to help social entrepreneurs acquire long-term support, access to early-stage funding and connect with a qualified workforce.

GEW Germany and its partners are celebrating entrepreneurship this November 12 – 18. Along with social entrepreneurship activities, GEW Germany is hosting several different events throughout the week, and across the country, that touch on many different aspects of entrepreneurship.

You can learn more about GEW Germany and what it has planned for its celebration this year by clicking here.