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By Veronica Recanati

Innovative CSR initiatives empower social entrepreneurship in Spain and the private sector plays a growing role in enabling social entrepreneurs to develop ideas and projects.

The current financial crisis affecting Spain and other European countries is bringing society to think of innovative ways to better respond to the most pressuring social problems. Although social enterprises have been recently created with the mission to change the system, improve some ineffective processes and address urgent social issues, only in the last years did Spain start to recognize the key role social entrepreneurship holds in solving social urgent problems.

“There are at least three times more Ashoka Fellows in Spain than in any other sovereign debt countries: Spain is beginning to call social entrepreneurs to action, and they are responding”, as Bill Drayton, Founder and Chairman of ‘Ashoka: Innovators for the Public’ said.

Despite the interest and the efforts there are some issues affecting social entrepreneurship in Spain, in primis institutional conservatism, and the lack of educational innovation. As a result, Spain remains one of the most bureaucratic European countries, the time frame needed to set up and register a company being three months.

In addition, the educational model is still very theory oriented and lacking the practical “learn by doing” part, which is the foundation to the social entrepreneurship approach. The good news is that Universities like IE (Instituto de Empresa), ESADE (Escuela Superior de Administración y Dirección de Empresas), etc. are starting to include Social Entrepreneurship modules as part of their formative offer.

However there needs to be more than just an academic initiative in order to solve social problems such as the financial crisis, the high unemployment rate and the recent corruption episodes. All these are motivating not only entrepreneurs, but society as a whole, to stand up and demand for more transparency and for a more ethical society.

Therefore a change is needed in order to respond to this new society’s demand.

The solution comes from CSR, as in CSR 2.0, or ‘Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility’, as dr Wayne Visser defines it.

The new CSR approach goes beyond giving for the sake of giving and it focuses on empowering people and developing social business models. So, it’s not about donating a certain percentage of the company’s earning to a good cause, but about finding efficient and sustainable ways of operating within a company.

CSR and social entrepreneurship therefore go hand on hand and integrating social entrepreneurship empowerment activities into the CSR strategy could represent an additional step towards the social impact both CSR and social entrepreneurship want to achieve.

Some companies have recently started developing CSR initiatives focused on social entrepreneurship.

Momentum Project, as an example, is just one of the current programs organized by the University ESADE and the Spanish bank BBVA.

The main objective is to support and develop social entrepreneurship projects in Spain and Portugal by creating a program and a network aiming to give visibility, tutoring and financial support to projects with a potential impact on the society.

Another example is Telefonica Accelerator Program Wayra, aiming to provide initial mentoring and financial resources to start-up projects (social and traditional business).

Is it clear private companies are able to fulfill the existing gaps and the lack of training, mentoring and financial resources social entrepreneurs often have and Corporate Responsibility could be a way to solve social entrepreneurship issues and a way to show a further commitment to address social problems.

By empowering social entrepreneurship through ad hoc CSR programs, the private sector could really have an active role and proactively participate in this new “change maker movement” social entrepreneurs are willing to seek.