Social entrepreneurship – Opportunities for social innovation in Germany

09.11.2012 Blog

Politicians, scientists and practitioners discussed the results of a biennial research project on social entrepreneurship during a parliamentary evening at the Mercator Centre Berlin.

Representatives of the seven involved universities and Stiftung Mercator presented the results of the biennial study by the Mercator Research Association “Innovative Social Acting. Social Entrepreneurship” at a parliamentary evening. It took place on 13th September in the Mercator Centre Berlin.

The major outcomes of the study relevant to politics are: Social entrepreneurs often launch promising innovations in Germany. These innovations emerge not only as startups (social entrepreneurs), but also as well-established entities such as welfare organisations (social intrapreneurs). Social entrepreneurs are financed by a mix of public and private resources, while it seems to be difficult to generate an income through the market only.

There are different ways to support social entrepreneurs efficiently. Connecting  them with different promoters like the state, companies, private investors and welfare organisations is one good way. Transfer agencies can support social entrepreneurs to get access to appropriate funds in the different phases of their development. Moreover, politics should create flexible assistance measures and incentives for innovations in quasi-markets which are regulated by law. Examples of these quasi-markets in Germany are the care system, the youth welfare services and the health system. One option to foster social change and social entrepreneurship would be an innovation clause in the German social act. Apart from that social entrepreneurs should measure their impact more often.

After the president of Stiftung Mercator, Prof. Bernhard Lorentz, welcomed the guests, Dr. Volker Then from the Centre for Social Investment of Heidelberg University presented the major research findings. Members of Parliament, representatives of ministries and the Federal President’s Office, social entrepreneurs and executives of welfare organisations took part in the discussion. Amongst others they came to the conclusion that welfare organisations are very important as cooperation partners to spread the approaches of social entrepreneurs. Whether this “scaling of ideas” succeeds or not, depends very much on local leaders. In addition, the guests discussed how to shape more innovation-friendly laws. They also talked about the strength and weaknesses of the support programme for social entrepreneurs by KfW-Bank.

You may download the policy paper here (in German):

https://www.csi.uni-heidelberg.de/downloads/Policy%20Paper_Sozialunternehmertum_2012