Im­prov­ing so­cial en­trepreneur­ship in Malta

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - LIFESTYLE & CULTURE -

Zaar.com.mt man­ager Matthew Caru­ana was re­cently in­vited to give a pre­sen­ta­tion at the re­cent So­cial En­trepreneur­ship for Break­fast event, or­gan­ised by Kopin Malta. The event marked the launch of Kopin’s so­cial en­ter­prise game En­trInno, as well as a project ded­i­cated to map­ping so­cial en­ter­prises in Malta – from or­ganic farms to fair trade shops. With this in mind, Matthew talked about the cur­rent state of so­cial en­ter­prise in Malta and de­tailed what can be done to im­prove the ecosys­tem for it.

“While the tra­di­tional fo­cus of en­trepreneurs might be busi­ness-ori­ented goals such as profit and rev­enue, a new breed of ‘so­cial en­trepreneurs’ has evolved, who also con­sider the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits to so­ci­ety their ven­ture might of­fer,” Matt says.

“So­cial en­trepreneur­ship typ­i­cally en­gages with so­cial, cul­tural or en­vi­ron­men­tal goals of­ten as­so­ci­ated with the vol­un­tary sec­tor, al­though their out­come is not nec­es­sar­ily not-for-profit. So­cial en­ter­prises born of this sec­tor – or­gan­i­sa­tions estab­lished to sup­port and ap­ply com­mer­cial strate­gies to the phil­an­thropic goals of the so­cial en­tre­pre­neur – are com­monly profit-mak­ing.”

The growing trend of so­cial en­trepreneur­ship has been fur­ther fa­cil­i­tated by so­cial net­work­ing and so­cial me­dia web­sites on­line, which en­able en­trepreneurs to reach a sig­nif­i­cantly larger au­di­ence that is like-minded and may be will­ing to col­lab­o­rate.

“This on­go­ing long-dis­tance con­ver­sa­tion on so­cial top­ics be­tween en­trepreneurs and their sup­port­ers has also led to a rise in fund-rais­ing on­line through crowd fund­ing on plat­forms such as ZAAR, al­though the monies raised are in­tended to im­prove so­cial con­di­tions longterm, as op­posed to giv­ing hand­outs as per char­i­ta­ble work,” Matthew con­tin­ues.

“So­cial en­trepreneur­ship puts a sig­nifi- cantly greater em­pha­sis on cre­at­ing value rather than on the re­dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth, shift­ing from fund-rais­ing for profit and rev­enue alone, to com­bin­ing profit and rev­enue with real en­gage­ment with the com­mu­nity on a deeper level.”

There are real in­cen­tives, mean­while, to en­cour­age en­trepreneurs to con­sider merg­ing phi­lan­thropy into their cam­paign. Be­sides sup­port struc­tures in place such as men­tor­ships and in­tern­ship schemes, the fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives could in­clude tax ben­e­fits, loan guar­an­tees and grant schemes. “We need to see an im­prove­ment in the fund­ing el­e­ment,” Matthew says. “It’s im­por­tant to cre­ate the com­mu­nity, and op­por­tu­ni­ties, for so­cial en­ter­prises to ben­e­fit from fund­ing – es­pe­cially as busi­nesses in the area are some­times ex­cluded from schemes. Be­yond that, it’s also im­por­tant to boost the in­fra­struc­ture around them, in­clud­ing the ad­di­tion of men­tor­ships and co-of­fice spa­ces that make it fea­si­ble for re­sources to be shared.”

Fi­nally, Matthew stresses the need for so­cial en­ter­prises to get them­selves in shape so as to at­tract in­vest­ment. “It’s im­por­tant to start with the right le­gal struc­ture and a sus­tain­able busi­ness plan that sets you apart from a char­ity. Af­ter all, as a so­cial en­ter­prise you can­not think like a char­ity but have to im­ple­ment com­mer­cial ways of work­ing and have rev­enue mod­els that don’t de­pend on hand-outs.”

With that in mind, it’s good to note that ad­di­tional fund­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties may also be­come avail­able to so­cial en­ter­prises – not only in terms of crowd fund­ing on­line, but also for lo­cal in­vestors keen to in­vest in so­cial well­be­ing projects. “Per­haps there would also be the pos­si­bil­ity of sup­port from the Malta De­vel­op­ment Bank, a Euro­pean Com­mis­sion-ap­proved fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion that will spe­cialise in lo­cal de­vel­op­ment,” Matthew con­cluded.

Matthew Caru­ana

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