Entrepreneurs in Spain? Right now? Really? Yes!


Catalina Parra

There’s a ray of light shining through the midst of Spain’s gloomy economic picture… and it’s emanating from the beleaguered social sector.

In the midst of dramatic government spending cuts, sky-high unemployment and overall economic uncertainty, multiple initiatives are emerging to start to form a social entrepreneurship ecosystem in Spain.

This movement is not brand new – among other initiatives, Ashoka Spain has been sowing these ideas here for more than five years and ESADE Business School has an established Social Enterprise research line. What’s perhaps improbable is that an ‘entrepreneurial’ approach is gaining steam right now. Proponents argue that the economic crisis that has drawn young people in particular to initiatives that are neither capitalist nor charitable, but instead represent an ‘alternative’ way. Whether they are legally structured as businesses or non-profits, these social entrepreneurs are determined to accomplish social good in a sustainable way.

What does today’s social entrepreneurship ecosystem in Spain include? Here’s a sample:

Social entrepreneur networks The recently launched Association of Social Entrepreneurs has the support of ICADE business school and other major universities. This association is starting conversations with the also recently formed Spanish Association of Social Entrepreneurship, led by entrepreneurs already active in the field. The launch took place at Madrid Hub, a space expressly designed for collaboration on entrepreneurial projects with social impact.

Prizes and funding There are fellowship programs such as Ashoka España and an increasing number of business plan/social business competitions that offer prizes and/or mentoring. The first fund for social entrepreneurs, named Creas, is up and running. The Momentum Project, a collaboration between ESADE Business School and BBVA Bank, includes training, mentoring and access to potential funders. The Premio Jóvenes Emprendedores of the European University of Madrid is now in its fourth year and boasts a network of 40 past winners, while the Premio Emprendimiento Social, for students and alumni of the Instituto de Empresa, is in its first edition.

Start-up assistance and networks The first incubator for social enterprises in Spain, SocialNest, has just welcomed its second cohort of entrepreneurs. Several weeks ago, UIEA launched its programs and start-up accelerator tailored to entrepreneurs harnessing technology to respond to social problems.

Research and policy initiatives An impact investing map, definitions, directory and government policy recommendations are in works through multidisciplinary working groups orchestrated by the magazine Compromiso Empresarial. Academic research is being carried out at business schools and universities throughout the country.

Communication Almost every one of these initiatives has its own webpage, blog and Twitter account, and both specialized publishers like Compromiso Empresial or TEGI social media and mainstream media are increasingly covering social entrepreneurs.

International connections Alberto Duran, a leader of Spain’s Once Foundation, was just appointed to the European Commission on Social Entrepreneurship. Ginés Haro, one of the founders of the Spanish Association of Social Entrepreneurship, works in London for the Guardian’s Social Enterprise Network. There are close links to Social Innovation Europe. And there are many crossovers in funding as well, with international foundations in the mix and links to funders like the European Venture Philanthropy Association and Philanthropic Intelligence helping to raise awareness within and outside of Spain.

So now what? I have two questions for readers whose country’s ecosystems are even further along this path:

1.     What are we missing?

2.     Where should we focus our efforts next to take this emerging opportunity to the next stage?

Let us know… we’re an ecosystem in evolution!

Catalina Parra is founding partner of Philanthropic Intelligence

Tagged in: Government cuts Social entrepreneurship Spain

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