Filed under: Development Development 2.0 Social inclusion Social innovation

Over the past two years UNDP has been experimenting with social innovation. Our activities created lots of trojan mice, but nothing that could conquer a city (yet)…. This may be about to change.

Social Innovation Camps, under the guise of Mardamej and HuriLab, as well as hack days, such as Open Ideas or Otvorene, have opened us up to a variety of unusual suspects. Citizen experts, social activists and hackers have created a renewed sense of the achievable.

Quietly disruptive ventures (for the time being) have emerged from these events, such as Sarhang’s platform for combating symbolic violence against women, or Anna’s digital blood registry, or Davit’s tool for monitoring corruption in higher education.

But each of these exciting initiatives is dependent on grant funding. To reach scale they will need to identify a sustainable source of funds. Could social enterprise be the answer?

From social innovation to social enterprise

David Wilcox argues (persuasively) that social innovators and social entrepreneurs are different animals. David highlights that “most social entrepreneurs start with their very personal obsession to improve lives by solving a challenge or inequality.”

Based on our experience with social innovators, they have the very same motivation, namely solving a social problem. Of course, the paths diverge when it comes to sustaining the idea. But could one become the other? Could a social innovator become a social entrepreneur?

Could the aforementioned ventures sustain their operations through revenue alone, or at the very least adopt a hybrid business model that combines revenue, borrowing, and donations?

We think so. This is why we created Kolba Labs with UNICEF.

Kolba Labs – to make sure your solutions become reality

Kolba Labs is a social venture incubator for initiatives which are conceived, designed and led by young people. We want to incubate home grown solutions that tackle Armenia’s most pressing societal challenges and that can be scaled up regionally and globally.

Our approach to social ventures starts with a precise definition of a social problem. We encourage youth not only to define the problems in their community and society at large, but enable them to find solutions that are meaningful, useful and needed.

We don’t mind scaling great ideas in the grant economy, but our preference is to turn all these social innovators into social entrepreneurs….

Our initial idea for the incubation programme includes training workshops to develop the core competencies within the team – ideas lead, business operations and sales. We are also building a network of mentors and specialists to help transform the social innovations into revenue-generating social enterprises.

Post-incubation, we plan to connect these early-stage social enterprises with social investment finance… only the fittest will survive!

But to make all of this happen we need your help….

Our call for ideas closes in late August… after that we will find out whether David Wilcox is right, or whether a social innovator is a social entrepreneur in waiting.

Would you like to mentor, coach, advise, train, and consult with the teams of young people?  

Can you help the teams to create sustainable social enterprises?