Spotlight: Funda Sezgi

Funda longWhat drives you?

“Working with people and organizations that share my values around society, and the world. At the same time, I’m disciplining myself not to burn out; I feel I am making a difference and that is a strong driver.”

Biggest SocEnt trend you have seen in the last 5 years?

“It has certainly become more institutionalized. Take Stanford, for example: if you go to work for a nonprofit or social enterprise after you graduate, you are forgiven your student loans. The UK has proven that they are pioneers in changing the legal structure enabling social enterprises (which I wish we had in Sweden!). If you look at the EU, it seems that the message “We can’t solve it all through business and charities” has finally landed, they are pouring some good funding into social entrepreneurship and innovation. So yes, a lot is happening in the space!”

Background

Funda grew up in Turkey and focused on business administration during her undergraduate studies, with a semester abroad in Melbourne, Australia. Her master’s in European Business and Law took her to Lund in Sweden before she decided to pursue her Ph.D. in Strategy and Management at IESE in Barcelona, Spain. “I was so sure that was my path” Funda says,, “but a year and a half into the program my dad passed and I took a break to re-think what I really wanted to do with my life.” It was around that time that she met Johanna Mair and they talked about Aravind, a social enterprise that fights cataract diseases which often lead to the loss of eyesight. “I ended up going to India and it all came together: studying social enterprise and recognizing its potential for social change”. She finished her Ph.D. and returned to Turkey just to find out that the shoe didn’t fit anymore. Instead, she applied for consulting jobs in Sweden, and within three weeks was hired as a strategy consultant at IMEP Group. “When I started doing my Ph.D., I collected my data and it was very hands-on which I enjoyed. But if you want to stay in academia, you have to be very conceptual and theoretical. Doing a Ph.D. helped me but at the same time, it disconnected me from the real world, I prefer working with real organizations. After all the studies I had done, I felt like I was missing corporate experience to meet my theoretical expertise.” she explains. “I was going to do it for a year and half or so, I knew I wasn’t going to do it forever.”

About finding the he job at Impact Hub she says today “This is where it all came together for me, my passion for social change and the skills I had gained over the past years.”

  

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Impact Hub Stockholm

Welcome to Impact Hub Stockholm, a coworking space that is “part business incubator, part innovation lab, and part social enterprise community”. Now, that sounded promising when I first looked up Impact Hub Stockholm. I didn’t get a chance to visit these guys in person and if you have followed Social Venturers you know that I prefer seeing the real action but as it happens from time to time, life gets in the way and so I found myself skyping with Funda Sezgi from my room in Copenhagen overlooking the city from the 9th floor.

Impact Hub Stockholm

Impact Hub Stockholm’s event space

You would not assume from the variety of programs that Impact Hub Stockholm as such has only been around for two years. Among others they offer

Not to mention their Business Lab and Accelerate Programs; the latter one was put on hold at the end of 2015 in search for new partners.

Impact Hub Stockholm in fact has its roots in an organization called R17, Funda explains. “A few creatives got together around the same time as the Hub in London came about. It started out as a coworking space that offered events and seminars, over two years ago they added incubation programs.” Funda Sezgi is Program Manager at Impact Hub Stockholm. She says “To be fair, we didn’t invent all this from scratch. We adapted the model pioneered in Vienna and adapted it to the Swedish context. Others in our network had a lot of experience that we could tap into. Here at Impact Hub Stockholm our mantra is ‘You can’t do it all alone’. We are creating partnerships with different stakeholders from the business, higher education and governmental world. We encourage entrepreneurs to go knock on doors and seek different perspectives from within our diverse ecosystem. After all, being a shy entrepreneur is not going to get you very far. I think it helps being surrounded by other entrepreneurs that are driven by a social mission.”

Impact Hub's coworkers

Impact Hub’s coworkers

And this community aspect seems to be enhanced by their emphasis on founder-friendliness. “We try to be as flexible as possible and to provide tailored support to the entrepreneurs we work with. Right now we work with small groups of founders and looking ahead, we hope to leverage peer-learning while maintaining the individual support from our side. Working with startups in different sectors and at different stages of their development helps them cross-pollinate.” says Funda.

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Spotlight: Maew Osataphan

Maew longWhat drives you?

Helping the brave and amazing social entrepreneurs out there who are making a difference to sustain and grow their impact.

Biggest SocEnt trend you have seen in the last 5 years?

The social enterprise scene is quite young in Sweden and I am new in it. Sweden has strong state involvement in social issues, which is great but it is also one of the issues that has made it harder for social entrepreneurship to evolve as a force in business. Also, what I have noticed working with social entrepreneurs from developing countries is that they can be somewhat ahead in developing sustainable business models because they know they need a revenue stream to make their ventures fly.

Background

Maew graduated as an aeronautical engineer in 2005 and joined an investment bank. In London and Hong Kong she looked after corporate clients for one of the largest banks in the world. “When the Global Financial Crisis hit, I was working with clients in the retailing sector who were hit hard and that experience led me to join the restructuring team where I worked with financial distressed corporates in Spain and the UAE. I enjoyed the problem-solving aspects of my work, but I was also missing something. I have always believed that business’ purpose is not only to make as much money as possible. In 2013, I left my position to go back to university and study entrepreneurship and innovation at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. I learned about social entrepreneurship and came on board as a coach at SE Forum. Working with social entrepreneurs has been fulfilling and showed me that my skills are valuable in the space, so I stayed.”     

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Social Entrepreneurship Forum Sweden

“Social Entrepreneurship Forum, SE Forum was founded in 2004 by four founders who got together to create a platform for social entrepreneurship in Sweden.” tells me Maew Osataphan, Interim program director at Social Entrepreneurship (SE) Forum Sweden. “They got together with like-minded people in bars around Stockholm to discuss how to solve societal issues in an entrepreneurial ways. In 2011, SE Forum secured the Swedish Development Agency SIDA’s support to run accelerator for social entrepreneurs from developing countries and in 2012 we ran our first SE Outreach Accelerator.”

SE Outreach Accelerator is a program designed for social entrepreneurs who are solving social problems in developing countries through their entrepreneurial ventures. “Participants join us in Stockholm for two stays of three weeks each. During that time, we mentor and train them in fields like business modelling, financial management, communications, leadership and social impact assessment.” says Maew, and continues: “During the first stay, we assess the business opportunity and lay a lot of the conceptual groundwork. When participants return for the second part of the program, we focus on the actual implementation. In between, they conduct market research and engage in our online community through learning and peer-support.”

SE Forum in session

Maew kicking off the 2015 Outreach Accelerator

The Outreach Accelerator is open to applicants from around the world who are targeting beneficiaries in developing countries; costs for participation, travel and accommodation are covered. SE Outreach Accelerator is unique in that not many support programs are open to social entrepreneurs from around the world (see the DO School Fellowship as another example among few). SE Forum have received over 300 applications for the upcoming SE Outreach Accelerator 2016. Maew explains: ”I think we have a great group of people who help us select the right type and mix of participants: individuals who will make the most of the program. We have external mentors and match them one-on-one with our participants. The latter are taught in a classroom setting and coached individually by our team.” Read about the SE Entrepreneurs here.

Within the Outreach Program supported by SIDA, SE Forum also works with partner organizations who are supporting social entrepreneurs on the ground in developing countries, through Training of Trainers (ToT) and SE Mini Accelerator programs. “Through SE ToT, local trainers’ capacity is built to strengthen on the ground support for social entrepreneurs and to exchange knowledge and best practices. SE Forum and the trainers from SE Training of Trainers together run Mini Accelerators in that location. SE Mini Accelerator is a two-week program aimed at turning participants’ social entrepreneurship ideas into concrete actionable business plan.  Our most recent SE ToT and Mini Accelerator took place in Nairobi, Kenya in January 2016.”, Maew fills me in.

“2016 is an exciting year as we are making changes to the programs with SE ToT and Mini Accelerator being run together for the first time and SE Outreach Accelerator Stockholm being run in two parts of three weeks with built-in reflection period in between.”, says Maew. “These changes are made from our learning and experience and with the an aim to continue evolving ourselves to support our targeted social entrepreneurs effectively and efficiently through our activities. Follow SE Forum on social media for updates!”

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