Entrepreneurship and innovation were once considered a man’s domain, but the tide started turning when women entered the field and brought with them new ideas and innovative approaches aimed at solving pressing societal issues.
From addressing healthcare issues to closing the wage gap, female social innovators have proved their will, potential and capabilities to create powerful, lasting change.
In this blog post, we uncover and shed light on eight remarkable examples of female social innovators from Europe who are changing the boundaries of their communities and society.
Dr Gabriella Colucci
Dr Gabriella Colucci was a finalist in the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2018. She is the CEO & founder of ArterraBioscience,a research-based biotech company that has operations in the agriculture and cosmetics industry. This female social innovator discovered new plant-based molecules for industrial use, based on which she won the top prize of €100,000 in the competition. Interested in what led her to enter the industry? Well, during her acceptance speech she mentioned that ‘I visualised my dream when I was 45 years old, … I realised that my dream was doing something that could make a difference in my home town.’
It seems that individuals who strive to bring lasting social impact to their communities will find the pathway to social innovation, regardless of their gender. | Find out more about this innovator’s success here & here |
Iseult Ward & Aoibheann O’Brien
Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien are a prime example of an outstanding duo of female social innovators. Together, the social innovators co-founded FoodCloud after making the shocking discovery that Irish consumers and businesses throw away an annual total of 1 million tonnes of food. Intrigued by FoodCloud? The social business is ‘an app and platform that makes the redistribution of surplus food as easy as possible, matching businesses with too much food with charities in their community that have too little’.
A truly remarkable social innovation initiative if you consider the fact that to date, 15,948,513 kg of food have been saved in Ireland and the UK, 35,086,729 meals have been redistributed to charitable causes, 7,500+ charity and community groups work with FoodCloud, and 4,000+ food and retail partners have a collaboration with the social business | Interested in learning more about these social innovators? Click here |
Lise Pape is an individual with social concerns who wanted to transform the lives of thousands. The social innovator is a Danish-born innovation design engineer and med-tech entrepreneur who created the Path Finder and Path Feel shoe accessories to help people suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The Path Finder and Path Feel aim at improving people’s balance and mobility, which notably influences their physical health and enhances their self-esteem and social life.
Embracing individuals with vulnerabilities accelerates social inclusion for people who can feel left behind. Lise Pape understood the huge potential that technology can bring and its ability to dismantle societal barriers. | Interested in learning more about this social innovator? Click here |
Anna Fiscale is the Co-founder and President of the QUID project, which was one of the three winners of the Social Innovation Competition 2014. QUID is an Italian brand ‘that creates collections, assembling and restyling top–quality unused materials in partnership with young emerging designers, whilst exclusively employing disadvantaged women’.
The social innovator understood the current environmental conundrums that government leaders are attempting to solve and set about finding a solution that could potentially tackle the social exclusion that many people face. Thus, she arrived at an idea that could greatly benefit not only the planet but would also concurrently care for women with disabilities who face employment difficulties. Killing two birds with one stone – astonishing! | Find out more about the project’s impact here |
Zoi Giavri is the ‘co-Founder, CEO and Head of Research of Advantis, a medical company that offers a highly sophisticated, web-based and user friendly post-processing and 3D visualisation software suite – Brainance. It is used to process 3 different brain MRI exams: Diffusion, Perfusion and Functional MRI. So far, Brainancehas been bought by healthcare organisations in Switzerland, Portugal, Cyprus and Greece. Advantis makes advanced medical imaging more accessible and affordable to the healthcare ecosystem to achieve a more timely and accurate diagnosis.’
Charlotte de Vilmorin
Charlotte de Vilmorin is an inspiring TEDx speaker and the co-founder and CEO of Wheeliz. What is Wheeliz and how was she inspired to create it? ‘Wheeliz is the first site allowing the rental of adapted vehicles for wheelchair users. We enable the owners of vehicles with ramps or special controls to rent them out directly to other wheelchair users, anywhere in France and at an affordable cost. The prices are three times lower than from conventional rental companies. This way, you can find a car that meets your needs, from a half-day to over a month, for a weekend away or for totally independent holidays.’
On her inspiration, Charlotte comments, ‘as a life-long wheelchair user, I have always had difficulties getting around, given that the vast majority of public transport services are not accessible. With a wheelchair, you cannot travel without an adapted vehicle, but such cars are very expensive (sometimes more than €100,000). Pooling these vehicles therefore means that anyone who needs one can get around more easily.’
A remarkable social innovation initiative that nurtures people with disabilities. The social innovator was among the three winners of the European Social Innovation Competition 2015! | Interested in learning more about this social innovator and her initiative? Click here & here |
Medea Nocentini is the co-founder and CEO of C3. What is C3 and how does it work? Consult and Coach for a Cause (C3) ‘enables emerging social entrepreneurs in the Middle East to become active agents of positive social change by leveraging experienced professionals who are seeking meaningful ways to give back. We identify entrepreneurs’ needs and match them with experts that, on a volunteer basis, help their business thrive while maximizing their impact on the community. After registering with C3, members get access to Starter Program workshops that introduce aspiring social entrepreneurs and potential volunteers to the concept of social enterprise as well as the C3 philosophy.’
C3 is ‘recognized as a United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) PIONEER for outstanding contribution to “Partnerships for the Goals”’. Providing insights and help to individuals that strive to change the world – what could be more remarkable than that? | Interested in learning more about this social innovator? Click here |
Walburga Fröhlich won third prize in the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2018 for her work on atempo. As the founder and CEO of atempo, ‘Walburga is a social worker, supervisor and business manager. She got inspired to get involved in improving the lives of disabled people and individuals with learning difficulties while doing a summer internship as a 17-year-old in Austria. The fact that, as a teenager, she found herself in the position to tell a grown up, adult person when to go to bed and whether they are allowed to watch TV, just because they are disabled, left a strong impression on her. After getting an insider’s view of the way the lives of institutionalised adults unfold, she decided to give up plans to study Chemistry and pursue instead social work and try to improve lives.’[i]
What is the impact she has created? ‘Today, atempo has grown to a social franchise network with more than 80 partners in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. It has invented services and products, which allow people with learning disabilities to enter the workforce as paid employees. The vision of this company is to change society’s view of disabled people as needy fosterlings and to empower our society to manage diversity properly.’
Having a strong social innovation mindset can transform the lives of thousands. | Interested in learning more about this social innovator? Click here |
As we have seen, social innovation has no gender. Female social innovators have proved their potential by creating lasting social impact through their breakthrough ideas and fresh perspectives.
At the Social Innovation Academy we strive to raise awareness of social innovation initiatives that could potentially transform the lives of millions. Yet, social innovation practices remain too scarce in a number of countries and across different sectors worldwide.
Learn more at Social Innovation Academy
To overcome these barriers, Limitless, together with 4 other partners, has recently started a project aiming to develop the Social Innovation Academy into the first fully online management training programme focusing exclusively on social innovation.
Why Social Innovation Academy? Social innovation is increasingly being perceived as the answer to the rising number of European societal challenges. While the European authorities, leading academics, policy experts, business people and activists agree that social innovation is the key to a better future, it is extremely difficult for professionals to obtain high-quality training on what social innovation offers and, more importantly, how it can be done in practice.
The Social Innovation Academy is aiming to change this situation in Europe and beyond. If you are interested in keeping up with this project, you can subscribe to our newsletter, become one of our Friends, apply to become a member of our Global Advisory Board or follow us on social media (LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook). We welcome all requests for collaboration here!