Log 04: Germany in review

April 23, 2015

Log [n.]: Personal reflection

It would feel so good to say that my trip through Germany opened my eyes to an entirely new view of the support sector, and in Cartography: Germany II you can read to what extent that is true, but apart from that there were little surprising news, which can mean two things:

  • My experience in the sector had me well prepared for what to expect, and little else has changed since I left.
  • I was not eyes open enough, did not speak to the right people, and hence, confined myself to the limits of what I already knew.

For the first, and so far only, time an interviewee tried to sell me a concept instead of sharing program details and insights. I understand that being featured on Social Venturers has some marketing value, but really, with merely 250 followers on Twitter and less than 500 on Facebook I feel flattered at best. I consider us all in the same boat with no need to self-promote our programs. In this very case, my interview partner shared very few specifics and the value proposition made no sense to me. It felt like I was listening to an accelerator’s pitch for investment instead of gaining any actual insights into the program. I ended up not using the material.

If you read Log 03 about my field visits in the Netherlands and Belgium you will know about the humility that I sensed from their Social Venturers. I experienced the same in Germany and am starting to think that it’s less of a culture-specific phenomenon. Most Social Venturers I spoke to in Germany emphasized the importance of founder-friendliness and accounting for the stage social entrepreneurs are in. At the same time, I found many of my interview partners to be very eyes-open about the shortcomings of social entrepreneurship (read Spotlights of Bastian Mueller or Daniel Nowack at Yunus Social Business).

View of Hamburg's Hafencity

View of Hamburg’s Hafencity

But what stood out most to me was the lack of… it hurts to say… enthusiasm. Most of the time I feel inspired and motivated walking out of an interview. Getting a glimpse of a support organization’s vision for a better world is an inspiring and powerful sensation! Speaking to like-minded Social Venturers who share my passion for empowering social entrepreneurs makes me stride through the streets of Amsterdam, Brussels, London, Dublin, Copenhagen purposefully, with my head held high and a greater mission to strive towards. In Germany… well… not so much. There were few surprising or enlightening moments. And don’t get me wrong, I spoke to some brilliant people at great organizations, as I did in other countries. But Germany was different. It is entirely possible that running interviews in my native tongue German makes for a different experience. It is equally possible that we Germans just aren’t easily excited and express enthusiasm in a more subtle way (I’ve heard rumors that Germans only laugh in their basements). It may also be the case that systemic funding challenges and struggles of running support organizations in Germany has disillusioned some of the people I spoke to. Maybe it’s a bit of everything. Maybe it’s just the German way.

Speaking to German #SocEntSupport orgs was different. I can't put my finger on it. Click To Tweet

Fact is: I met many dedicated Social Venturers who do great work in supporting mainly early-stage social entrepreneurs all around the country. I would love to see the sector grow more integrated and spread the support over the entire process of venture development. I would love to see a German-wide network of support organizations to exchange best practices and provide peer-support to each other. I envision something that adds enough value for Social Venturers to take the time to step back from their programs and look at the big picture. The Global Social Entrepreneurship Network is one such networks – will we have a German chapter one day, or an initiative driven from inside the sector? Can support organizations like Social Impact or Impact Hubs leverage their Germany-wide locations and network to spearhead such an initiative? If you hear anything or are thinking along these lines, let me know!   

After a month in Germany, the next stop is London!

After a month in Germany, the next stop is London!

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