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Social entrepreneurs are developing employment concepts for southern Europe
New developments at Robert Bosch Stiftung
Sandra Schürmann, the founder of JobAct, hopes to promote the strengths of unemployed youth while at the same time help them find a job. Her company offers a special drama program for job seekers that enables participants to develop their own plays. At the same time, those taking part in the program receive intensive job application training that is closely related to their theater work. Schürmann is one of twenty social entrepreneurs that receive funding from the “This Works!” initiative. On June 29, Schürmann and her counterparts presented their ideas to the public in Brussels.
The Robert Bosch Stiftung launched the initiative in 2014 in cooperation with Ashoka, a non-profit organization. The aim is to apply successful employment concepts in southern European countries, where youth unemployment is high, and to provide young job seekers in Spain, Italy, and Greece with new prospects for the future. The initiative is based on the idea that Ashoka Europe and Ashoka national offices help social entrepreneurs find local partners who can then implement the concepts in their communities. The Robert Bosch Stiftung has spent almost one million euros on the “This Works!” initiative.
At the event in Brussels, which was attended by politicians and members of civil society, social entrepreneurs showed how many young people they have been able to help find work. Until now, more than 3,000 people have taken part in “This Works!” training seminars, and about 1,500 have found jobs. To conclude the event, participants discussed what is needed to successfully transfer ideas that promote social entrepreneurship to other countries. Factors include selecting the right partners abroad, taking local needs into account, and promoting knowledge sharing between companies and partners.
In the future, additional countries will also benefit from “This Works!”. Market studies are currently underway to assess whether the project could be rolled out in Portugal and Croatia to help fight youth unemployment in these two countries.
More information on the “This Works!” project can be found here.
More information on the Bosch apprenticeship program in southern Europe can be found here.
What can companies do to make social innovations possible?
The Bosch Diesel Systems management team recently addressed this question at its annual meeting. To discuss possible answers, the senior executives invited a prominent speaker to their gathering: Olivier Kayser, the founder and managing director of Hystra, a global management consultancy that specializes in social entrepreneurship. The former McKinsey senior partner’s keynote speech highlighted the fact that stakeholders in today’s business community are now taking a more active role with regard to social responsibility. “The public debate is no longer focusing only on avoiding negative impacts on the environment and society. Today, companies are expected to take advantage of opportunities to tackle social problems,” said Kayser.
The seasoned consultant provided a number of practical examples to illustrate his argument. He spoke, for instance, about a cement manufacturer that revamped its product portfolio with the aim of providing more affordable housing while at the same time attracting a greater number of customers with lower income and raising its revenue. In addition to its core product, the company now also offers technical advice and financing for the construction of makeshift houses. The approach also pays off for the customers, as approximately 40 percent of the acquired cement has ended up as discard due to a lack of knowledge or financing. Another example his talk addressed was that of a pharmaceutical company that has joined forces with Ashoka, a non-profit organization, to provide up-and-coming executives with insights into the work of social entrepreneurs. As a result of this program, young executives learn to see social innovation as potential drivers of growth at an early stage.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” With this Mahatma Gandhi quote Olivier Kayser encouraged the Bosch Diesel Systems managers to commit to social change over the course of their careers, for instance by cooperating with social entrepreneurs in the areas of security, transport, or recycling – all of which are Bosch fields of business. To do this, a corporate culture is required that is, much like Bosch’s, based on innovative spirit, openness, and cross-sectoral cooperation. At the same time, “changemakers” must be willing and able to accept mistakes and learn from them. According to Kayser, executives that take this risk are often rewarded with growth, innovation, and a greater sense of purpose; one that the words “Invented for life”, the Bosch strategic imperative, reflect perfectly.
Experts discuss the future of civil society
New developments at Robert Bosch Stiftung
Where and in what form can the citizens of a globalized society make an active contribution? This was one of the topics of “The Era of Citizens – How Civil Society and Foundations are Shaping the Future”, an international conference that was held on October 16 and 17 in Berlin. The event was hosted by Robert Bosch Stiftung and was attended by prominent personalities from the worlds of politics and media, as well as by representatives of foundations and committed citizens. Discussions focused on the role that foundations play as partners of the state and businesses. On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, the corporate foundation presented its study “The Future of Foundations”.
Federal President Joachim Gauck opened the conference. In his speech, he reminded the audience of Robert Bosch’s legacy. The company founder never lost sight of social well-being, and was committed to promoting education and health. “Today, there are many networks besides democratic institutions that make this country strong and beautiful,” said Gauck, who emphasized that civil society is the hope for a better future, also in countries such as Myanmar or India.
Gauck’s words were echoed by Kailash Satyarthi, who recently received the Nobel Peace Prize for this commitment to fighting child labor in India. “Each of us has something special to contribute,” said the founder of the “Global March against Child Labour” network. “We must globalize with compassion, and this is a message we must pass on to our children.” Muhammed Yunus also spoke at the conference. The inventor of micro-credit is also a founding member of the “Global Academy”, an Ashoka initiative. The non-profit organization is also a partner of Robert Bosch Stiftung.
More information on “The Era of Citizens” conference can be found here