So­cial Im­pact In­sights with Cé­cile Sevrain and Hedda Pahlson-moller

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Ale­fiya Sana Serge Afanou

PRE­PARE FOR POS­I­TIVE IM­PACT AS CO-FOUNDERS OF SO­CIAL IM­PACT CAT­A­LYST TIIME, HEDDA PAHLSONMOLLER AND CÉ­CILE SEVRAIN,

TAKE US ON A JOUR­NEY OF SO­CIAL IM­PACT – FROM EN­TREPRENEUR­SHIP TO IN­VEST­ING. PAS­SION­ATE, AND COM­MIT­TED TO “HACK­ING MINDS”, THEIR MIS­SION IS CLEAR: DRIVE THE #IMPACTIMPERATIVE TO MO­TI­VATE OR­GA­NI­ZA­TIONS AND IN­DI­VID­U­ALS TO­WARDS SUS­TAIN­ABIL­ITY THAT VAL­UES THE CON­CEPT OF TRIPLE BOT­TOM LINE: PEO­PLE. PLANET. PROFIT.

HOW HAS THE EN­TREPRENEUR­SHIP ECOSYS­TEM IN LUX­EM­BOURG EVOLVED OVER THE LAST DECADE? HEDDA

When I moved to Lux­em­bourg 14 years ago you could say there was a dis­jointed ecosys­tem. With a lim­ited com­mu­nity and no ob­vi­ous way to share the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of be­ing an en­tre­pre­neur. Just four stu­dents at­tended the ex­ec­u­tive MBA pro­gram I started teach­ing a few years later at SHU (Sa­cred Heart Uni­ver­sity Lux­em­bourg). It was a time when en­trepreneur­ship was seen as some­thing bizarre and ec­cen­tric. If you said you were an en­tre­pre­neur, peo­ple as­sumed you were un­em­ployed!

As time passed, Lux­em­bourg de­vel­oped sup­port pro­grams for as­pir­ing en­trepreneurs. A small group of us started get­ting to­gether to share our ex­pe­ri­ences (good, bad and ugly), and we teamed up with Diego at Technoport to cre­ate a com­mu­nity for en­trepreneurs

– by en­trepreneurs. We called it ETFL (En­trepreneur­ship Task Force Lux­em­bourg) and it soon be­came a net­work of close to 100 rest­less souls. A phys­i­cal space to meet more reg­u­larly be­came a ne­ces­sity and we found in­spi­ra­tion at The Hub in Zurich (now part of the global net­work, Im­pact Hub). With the sup­port of the for­mer mayor,

Paul Helminger, we opened the doors to Lux­em­bourg's first cowork­ing space: The Im­pactory. De­spite skep­ti­cism about shared of­fice space, the com­mu­nity bloomed and at­tracted en­trepreneurs, cre­atives, con­sul­tants and a grow­ing clus­ter of so­cial en­ter­prises: from as­bls ex­plor­ing new rev­enue streams to en­trepreneurs tack­ling so­ci­etal is­sues through vi­able busi­ness mod­els. It was a home for change­mak­ers in all shapes and forms. When we reached a point where we wanted to move to the next level, we part­nered with Busi­ness Initiative, headed by Ni­co­las Buck - and nyuko was cre­ated. The goal was to scale a plat­form for en­trepreneurs of all kinds – a place to cowork and co-cre­ate, gaining ac­cess to men­tor­ing, coach­ing and fi­nanc­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

WHAT DOES THE SO­CIAL EN­TREPRENEUR­SHIP LAND­SCAPE LOOK LIKE TO­DAY? CÉ­CILE

I joined LBAN (Lux­em­bourg Busi­ness An­gels Net­work) in 2014 at a crit­i­cal junc­ture. In de­vel­op­ing the com­mu­nity and es­tab­lish­ing the val­ues of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, it be­came clear that there were non-fi­nan­cial re­turns BAS de­rive from in­vest­ing in these high-risk projects. These in­clude the re­ward of sup­port­ing an en­tre­pre­neur as they fol­low their dream, be­come suc­cess­ful, or just be­ing part of an in­no­va­tive de­vel­op­ment and job cre­ation, etc.

I met Hedda at the Im­pactory (bien sûr), and as an LBAN board mem­ber she shared her val­ues-based ap­proach in im­pact in­vest­ing - and her mis­sion to mo­bi­lize cap­i­tal and re­sources to­wards pos­i­tive so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact. This res­onated with me as I was al­ready coach­ing at 1,2,3 Go So­cial, help­ing peo­ple de­velop so­cially re­spon­si­ble ini­tia­tives.

Soon af­ter, TIIME was cre­ated as a joint initiative be­tween a group of us who wanted to in­spire more en­trepreneurs, in­vestors and cor­po­rates to im­prove pos­i­tive so­ci­etal im­pact in their busi­ness mod­els. We saw no rea­son for busi­ness and fi­nance to be sep­a­rated from so­cial or en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity.

They work beau­ti­fully and ef­fec­tively hand-in­hand.

We have seen a pos­i­tive shift re­cently where busi­ness school stu­dents and cor­po­rate em­ploy­ees are keen to en­gage in im­pact projects.

TIIME launched fo­cus­ing on en­trepreneurs and in­vestors, but we have now de­vel­oped our so­lu­tions for cor­po­rates, con­sul­tan­cies and fi­nan­cial ser­vices providers want­ing to know how they can get in­volved in this ‘move­ment.' With all the in­cred­i­ble re­sources avail­able and the pos­si­bil­ity to weave so­cial In­trapreneur­ship into the fab­ric of an or­ga­ni­za­tion, CSR (Cor­po­rate So­cial Re­spon­si­bil­ity) is tak­ing on a new mean­ing. Com­pa­nies are rec­og­niz­ing that if they want to re­tain and at­tract tal­ent, or suc­ceed in the longterm, they in­vari­ably need to in­cor­po­rate val­ues into their DNA.

The world is open­ing up in a big way to so­cial en­trepreneur­ship and so­cial in­vest­ing: strong com­mu­ni­ties are form­ing; in­cu­ba­tors, ac­cel­er­a­tors and cowork­ing spa­ces are pro­lif­er­at­ing; new le­gal struc­tures are be­ing de­vised to adapt to the unique needs of this sec­tor (like the SIS struc­ture here in Lux­em­bourg); and col­lab­o­ra­tion across sec­tors is the new gold stan­dard. TIIME has served as an in­cu­ba­tion hub for im­pact ideas. We launched a se­ries of cocre­ation ses­sions called ‘Im­pact Mon­days' for ev­ery­one and any­one in­ter­ested in de­sign­ing a lo­cal im­pact project (many of the old Im­pactory crew joined us). When a project was ready to stand on its own, it would spin off and reach its own po­ten­tial. Re­mark­able projects such as Con­nec­tions (ini­tially sup­port­ing refugees part­ner­ing and ex­chang­ing skills with en­trepreneurs, com­pa­nies and en­gaged cit­i­zens, and now a suc­cess­ful ASTI pro­gram) and Equili­bre (a gen­der com­ple­men­tar­ity plat­form) were de­signed and man­aged by TIIME co-founders.

The world is open­ing up in a big way to so­cial en­trepreneur­ship and so­cial in­vest­ing

HEDDA

Ad­vo­cacy is cru­cial to our strat­egy and we be­lieve in the power of in­spi­ra­tion through con­crete ex­am­ples and role mod­els. We travel ex­ten­sively en­cour­ag­ing di­verse au­di­ences to em­brace a triple bot­tom line ap­proach. We work with tra­di­tional busi­ness and the so­cial sec­tor alike to mea­sure and man­age their so­ci­etal im­pact. There is no judg­ment on le­gal struc­ture or busi­ness model (for profit or not) as long as the im­pact is de­fined – by de­sign and not by de­fault.

Our im­pact cat­a­lyst, TIIME, is built upon the idea that ev­ery­one should un­der­stand and rec­og­nize their im­pact, never un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the rip­ple ef­fect of their ac­tions, pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive. This is the ba­sis for im­prove­ment. We pro­vide train­ing for or­ga­ni­za­tions of all sizes, sup­port­ing them as they de­sign sus­tain­able rev­enue streams to sup­port their im­pact model while help­ing in­vestors mo­bi­lize their cap­i­tal to­wards im­pact.

WHAT DOES THE FU­TURE HOLD?

Af­ter over a decade of con­tribut­ing to the en­tre­pre­neur­ial and an­gel-in­vest­ing ecosys­tems, it has in ret­ro­spect been some­thing of a Tro­jan horse for the #Impactimperative.

We be­lieve all en­trepreneur­ship (and busi­ness in gen­eral) will ul­ti­mately have to be so­cially and en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble with long-term sus­tain­abil­ity. We call it ‘so­cial en­trepreneur­ship' now, but soon enough it will sim­ply be ‘en­trepreneur­ship.'

With the de­vel­op­ment and pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion of the ecosys­tem, fi­nance needs to fol­low. As Uli Graben­warter (EIF) demon­strated in his re­search at IESE Busi­ness School, there is not nec­es­sar­ily a trade-off be­tween fi­nan­cial re­turn and a so­cial/en­vi­ron­men­tal re­turn. How­ever, if you want to op­ti­mize so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal re­turn, it will come at a cost. Hy­brid or blended fi­nanc­ing mod­els (such as Ven­ture Phi­lan­thropy) have been de­vel­oped to ad­dress the vary­ing fi­nanc­ing needs of so­cial pur­pose or­ga­ni­za­tions. We work with fi­nanc­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions across Europe (EBAN Im­pact, EVPA, etc.) to de­velop so­cially re­spon­si­ble in­vest­ing prac­tices. As a mat­ter of ur­gency, the pri­vate and fi­nance sec­tors need to get more en­gaged. En­trepreneurs are us­ing their en­tre­pre­neur­ial think­ing to tackle prob­lems in new ways; pri­vate sec­tor and cor­po­rates need to start ad­dress­ing their own ex­ter­nal­i­ties and sys­temic de­fi­cien­cies.

We love in­no­va­tive ideas where you take un­usual sus­pects and turn your per­spec­tive up­side down or in­side out to find a so­lu­tion. Just look at Apopo which trains ro­dents to be Herorats, sav­ing lives by find­ing land­mines and de­tect­ing tu­ber­cu­lo­sis. Or Au­ti­con that ex­clu­sively em­ploys autis­tic adults as (re­mark­able) soft­ware test­ing con­sul­tants. There are end­less ex­am­ples of in­spir­ing (and in­vest­men­tready) so­cial en­tre­pre­neur­ial ven­tures to sup­port.

Our fun­da­men­tal mes­sage about the fu­ture is that we are fac­ing so­ci­etal chal­lenges that can­not be solved by gov­ern­ments and NGOS alone – even with phil­an­thropic sup­port. We all need to start lever­ag­ing our skills, ex­pe­ri­ences, re­sources and funds to sup­port the type of change needed.

Sus­tain­abil­ity is a jour­ney. Im­pact is a jour­ney.

Even em­pa­thy (which is fun­da­men­tal) is a jour­ney. Ev­ery­body has their own path - and pace. We fo­cus on pos­i­tive psy­chol­ogy and the idea of tak­ing small, mea­sur­able steps to­wards pos­i­tive change. We all need to start hack­ing our minds and think­ing dif­fer­ently to take re­spon­si­ble ac­tion. Time (and TIIME) is of the essence!

The ba­sis of our method­ol­ogy is lever­ag­ing the en­tre­pre­neur­ial mind­set to cre­ate sus­tain­able prac­tices and ad­dress prob­lems as op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Cé­cile Sevrain and Hedda Pahlson-moller, CFO and CEO of Tiime

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