The opportunity to give a new role to social entrepreneurs who provide services and goods to the health sector is now. Throughout the regions of Europe, the covid pandemic has created lots of focus on innovation. Therefore, ITHACA partners from Noord-Brabant and Baden-Württemberg met online to discuss how to catch this opportunity.

Wil van Pinxteren, Provincial Executive for Leisure, Culture and Sports, Governance and Safety in Noord-Brabant introduced the topic of the day, including praise of the collaboration between the participating regions.

- We should always try to improve and learn from each other, he said.

His introduction was followed by a presentation from Doctor Petra Püchner, the European Commissioner for the Ministry of Economy, Labor and Housing in Baden-Württemberg and Maarten Raaijmakers from the department of Economic Affairs in Noord-Brabant.

The discussion was furthermore attended by Karel Vanderpoorten who is a policy officer for social economy in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.

Social investments same during covid

Often social impact is seen as a side effect of economic impact. While many companies fight to survive right now, the situation for social economic companies has hardly changed at all. When applying for money to get started or scale these companies get caught between competencies of different ministries.

- The challenges of investments are the same as before covid. The money is in silos, but that social entrepreneurs are creating interconnected solutions. So, to get recovery money in the pandemic was a challenge, says lead partner of ITHACA Astrid Kaag. 

She oversees the Brabant Outcomes Fund, a fund dedicated to connecting social entrepreneurs with impact investors. Through tools such as the fund, the government can, in a regional or local setting, respond to specific needs, initiate innovations themselves but also help others initiate innovations.

Digital solutions as accelerating tool

The areas where actions are needed in order to have a healthy development of companies who are contributing to both an economic and societal impact after the covid pandemic extends beyond channeling money to them.

- The policy initiatives that we see in many countries might have unintended interactions that will block the wheels between impact investors and social entrepreneurs, says Gorgi Krlev Post-Doc at the Centre for Social Investment and professor at Heidelberg University.

He points out that digital solutions could be an accelerating tool for example as means to matchmaking between impact investors and social entrepreneurs or as a platform for social entrepreneurs to find a unified voice to articulate their concerns and their standpoints.