What were the beginnings of the social innovation? (i.e. how did you build your initiative, business, NGO from zero?

Are your passion and vision enough to start a successful social innovation or business? We met with seven accomplished social entrepreneurs from different fields, sectors and countries and asked them to share their story. Let’s find out how they got their initiatives off the ground and what advice and tips they have for those interested in moving forward with their ideas and transforming them into reality.

`We first started with a ‘Minimum Viable Product’: a website with basic information about cancer, as well as very high-quality material for more than 20 cancer types. This was important in order to establish the baseline and position ourselves as a reliable source of material around the disease. Subsequently, we collected initial feedback in parallel to starting the incorporation process.’ says the co-founder of Care Across, Thanos Kosmidis, who runs a digital start-up company focusing on cancer.

Thanos Kosmidis, Care Across

‘We started Reload Greece while we were still at University or working on our full time jobs. We would all get together during the evenings and weekends and grew our volunteer base from 10 to 25 people. A Professor at the London Business School who teaches on strategy and entrepreneurship enabled us to grow the organisation by appointing two of us as his research assistants. This gave us the opportunity to work on Reload Greece full time. One of our co-founders, Markos Kiosseoglou was the first one to join him and shortly after I also joined them alongside a few incredible interns and MBA students from the University who helped us develop our initial business plan. We then clarified our mission and vision, decided that because our work is solely focused on giving back to the community, we want to found a charity organisation and we then focused on developing our activities and educational content. We recruited our first Board Members and applied for our first round of funding to corporates, foundations and individuals who believed in our cause and what we wanted to achieve.’ says Effie Kyrtata, the co-founder and CEO of Reload Greece, a UK registered charity which enables a new generation of entrepreneurs to start businesses that have a social and economic impact in their home country.

Effie Kyrtata, Reload Greece

‘We formed our team quite effortlessly. All of our team members were extremely passionate right from the start.’ says Nicholas Protonotarios who is in charge of “The Hub Events” series of lectures in social sciences.

Nicholas Protonotarios, The Hub Events

‘My initiative was first on organisational level, in my health care organisation, I managed to attract some attention but everything was moving too slowly and finally we got some advice to take our own private initiative. I did not have a leading role in setting up the business, since as a doctor I do not normally deal with company issues, hence my co-founder partner who is a businessman took the initiative. He invited one more colleague to participate in setting up the company, thus we are 3 co-founders. He was leading in building the company up from scratch, finding technology partners, funding etc.‘ says Toni Staykova, co-founder of the UKeMED Platform which works as a single open operational space to support the development and deployment of telematic services for the management and sharing of knowledge and experience among healthcare professionals in all operational aspects around the world.

Toni Staykova, UKeMED 

`It was purely an online forum where undergraduates and recent graduates can access useful information on international conferences and competitions. Whoever got selected would get in touch with us and we facilitate getting sponsorships with corporate organizations. In one year, we had three (3) students from two (2) universities attend leadership and business conferences in Russia, USA and Denmark with full or partial sponsorship. In 2016 when we piloted to offline to engage pupils in public schools, it was myself and five (5) volunteers in Ile-Ife, a town in south-west part of Nigeria. We engaged community leaders, school administrators and 430 pupils advocating for quality education and choosing the right careers. Subsequent years have been bigger and better. In 2018, we were part of the team that consulted for Oyo State (another state in the region) in their education intervention initiatives (OYOMESI) that has received commendation from UNESCO and the Government of Nigeria.’ says Adetunji Adeniran, co-founder of Hopefield Network, growing fast in Africa.

Adetunji Adeniran, Hopefield Network

‘The business started by inviting budding social entrepreneurs to attend a speed consulting session where senior business professionals offered their time and expertise to the social entrepreneurs who turned up. It was a huge success, each group asking for more of the same. Pretty soon the business had to formalize the arrangement and plan typical milestones for each entrepreneur through a cohesive program.’ says Anna-Liisa Googs, Co-Founder and Partner at C3 Partners – Executives on Demand (C3P), a UAE-based advisory firm providing senior executive support services to businesses needing temporary management solutions.

Anna-Liisa Goggs, Consult and Coach for a Cause (C3)

‘It is an initiative and not a distinct NGO. It is non profit and there is no plan for business activity. The first step was to build a digital platform, that is a map where we pin the initiatives, so everybody can look for similar initiatives over the same area. The second step was to organize events and meet-ups in order to create the opportunity for meetings, know-us-better and ask for ideas to collaborate and scale’ says Stathis Haikalis, responsible for the Human Grid Project which is about connecting social initiatives and volunteer groups in Greece.

Stathis Haikalis, Human Grid Project

Would you like to learn how inspiring social innovators answer other important questions such as how to get over your fears and move your project forward or how to raise the money for your social innovation idea?

Check out the Social Innovation Academy – the first fully online management training programme focusing exclusively on social innovation.  If you are interested in keeping up with this project, you can subscribe to our newsletter, become one of our friends or follow us on social media (LinkedInTwitter and Facebook). We welcome all requests for collaboration here.

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