The DO School

The DO School is a global educational platform working with aspiring social entrepreneurs around the world. Looks like an accelerator, sounds like an accelerator, but doesn’t call itself an accelerator. Strictly speaking, there is no investment from the side of the DO School and they do not take equity in the companies they work with. As you see, we are beginning to run into trouble with definitions for social venture support organizations.

Dream-Focus-Plan-Do: The DO School's formula to social innovation. Click To Tweet

I met Romy Kraemer in her lunch break and we munched on our salads in Hafencity, Hamburg’s old port now converted into one of the city’s most modern and priciest neighborhoods. I have worked with the DO School on a number of occasions and know the institution pretty well. In fact, some of the very early ideas for Social Venturers popped up during my time there. After a full-time position, I left for some time and later joined them on a freelance basis. If you have wondered how I finance my Social Venturing, this is it.

The DO School One-Year Program

The DO School started as a project of the Dekeyser & Friends Foundation back in 2009. After a number of test runs during which they developed their Dream-Focus-Plan-Do methodology, the DO School started running their One-Year Program for emerging social entrepreneurs, and has started a number of different programs that focus on generating social innovation. When I ask Romy about what she thinks makes the One-Year Program different from others, she says: ”We don’t only help people develop the plans for their ventures but support them in the implementation in their home countries.” True. Their participants – Fellows – arrive at the DO School campus and go through an intensive 10-week program during which they develop their business concept. After these ten weeks, they return to their home countries to start implementing their ventures. Throughout the Program, and sometimes beyond, they receive support from their mentors and coaches to assist in their realities of running their social ventures in their target communities.

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Fellows of the Packaging Challenge working on their prototype ideas.

Another unique feature of the program is the so-called Challenge. During their ten-week program on campus, they learn entrepreneurial skills through collaborating on a central challenge of a sponsoring partner such as H&M; the idea being that aspiring entrepreneurs learn best through doing (the DO School – see what they did there?). Through a combination of Venture (their personal ventures), Challenge (the corporate “task”) and Media Lab (media skills training), participants learn basic project management and business skills to help them implement their concept in their home countries. It’s a very results-driven, hands-on concept but also very demanding for participants.

A #SocEntSupport program should not only focus on content, personal development is key. Click To Tweet

As we are sitting on the grass looking over one of the many canals Hafencity has to offer, I ask Romy what she thinks makes a good support program. “A program should not only focus on content expertise such as budgeting or marketing, but also on personal development. It’s crucial to find something that relates to the purpose of the entrepreneur, and tap into that energy.” As we start discussing the landscape of support organizations and their collaboration, or lack thereof, she explains: ”I would like to see support organizations work more closely. We at the DO School, for example, see our One-Year Program as the beginning of the pipeline for young people to help them find out what works, and develop their social startup ideas to maybe later join other programs or accelerators. This is why we are always on the lookout for Referral Partnerships with programs like Unreasonable or Echoing Green. To take the sector forward, my dream would be that various organizations interested in social impact put together their resources and content to create an online platform for their members and Alumni. That way, everyone could connect, learn with and from each other and stay in touch as they climb up the ladder through various support programs to become social entrepreneurs”.

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Fellows of the Music Challenge at the end of their 10-week Incubation phase

The DO School is increasingly working with corporate partners applying their four-step method in the context of corporate innovation. If you want to see their support approach at work, I highly recommend browsing their website for case studies and an overview of their participants and Alumni. With the DO School expanding I hope to learn more about how they adapt their model to local contexts and organize their knowledge exchange. Assuming that they continue to source staff as dedicated as the current team, I’m sure we will hear about the DO School in the future.


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