Real Leaders

Who is Europe’s Top Social Business Mind?

Two months, nine countries and 434 applications: Ben & Jerry’s and Ashoka give more clever cookies the chance to be crowned Europe’s best business minds.

Hand-picked by Ben & Jerry’s and Ashoka from over 430 entries and hailing from nine different countries, Europe’s finest social entrepreneurs will assemble in London next week (Wednesday 12th June) hoping to impress an expert panel that includes Ben & Jerry’s co-founder, Jerry Greenfield and ethical British fashion designer, Helen Storey MBE.

Drawing a 90% increase in applications since 2012, Join Our Core saw a boosted influx of young social pioneers pitching their social business for 10,000 Euros and 6 months of specialist business mentoring from Ashoka.  For Gen-Y, the line which separates “Entrepreneur” from “Social Entrepreneur” is fast fading.

We are a generation of changemakers and innovators. Young people no longer want to adapt to the rigid and repetitive structure of established organisations and companies. Instead, they would prefer to set up their own enterprises, leading a life of value, being creative and actively shape their impact on society. Without doubt, young Europeans will have to take more risks to solve social problems.

As Melinda Gates, wife of Bill, the Microsoft billionaire, says “We believe in taking risks, because that’s how you move things along.” This year,  we’re seeing a rise in the demand for localism, sustainability and resource sharing activated by technology, with trends in sustainability clustering in Finland and Switzerland, community cohesion and integration in The Netherlands and Sweden, youth empowerment and opportunity in the UK, Denmark and Germany, and solutions to tackle mental ill health in the UK and Ireland.

Throughout all of these, there was a resounding pattern of the young helping the young. Young social entrepreneurs are working to cross boundaries: to connect, integrate and share – be it intergenerational tea parties, skill sharing between professionals and students, or teaming up to cook a wholesome meal for your neighbours.

Our youth see the disaffection that prises them apart from opportunity, from elders and from each other, and are innovating to challenge the status quo. Innovations, as expected from a group of tech savvy, global Gen-Yers, are moving online.

With 7 of the 18 social businesses pitching at this year’s final being online platforms, it is clear that technology is being utilized more than ever as a driving force for social good.

“When Ben and I set-up the company in 1978, we believed giving back to the community was as important as making great tasting ice-cream,” commented Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s. “We’re humbled by the number and standard of entries we’ve seen this year, and can’t wait to meet and hear more from this year’s finalists.” Those pitching in the Join Our Core live final are listed below…

From The Netherlands: Granny’s Finest – Granny’s Finest brings together the fashion sense of young designers with the knitting knowledge of local grannies to create a range of desirable knitwear. This both prevents loneliness and gives young talent a chance to gain work experience and have their designs sold across the Netherlands. Peerby – Peerby enables neighbours to borrow and lend things among each other. This fosters community ties while also reducing waste and saving money. Peerby is the most active borrowing community of its kind: fulfilling a request takes 30 minutes on avearge.

From the UK: MAC-UK – MAC-UK is revolutionising the way mental health services are delivered to young people who offend. Charlie Alcock and her team of psychologists are taking approaches that work out of the clinic and onto the streets to reach young people where and when they need it.

Spice  – Spice supports communities and public services across the UK to use time-based money. By volunteering in their communities individuals earn credits that can be spent across all participating organizations. The Spice network also enables organisations to exchange their resources with other organizations and individuals.

From Ireland: MyMind – MyMind is a self-referral provider of psychological and psychotherapy services. They are building a network of community based mental health services that are accessible and affordable for every person in Ireland. Profits made from fee-paying clients are used to subsidise clients who cannot afford full fees.

CoderDojo – “CoderDojo is an Irish led global movement of computer clubs fostering a generation of skilled open source developers, designers and entrepreneurs. Volunteers give their time and expertise to teach young people with a passion for technology how to code, develop websites, apps,  games and more.

From Sweden: MittLiv – “Mitt Liv (My Life) helps the most driven of immigrant girls in Sweden launch into the labor market. Unlike traditional mentorship models, MittLiv has created symbiotic for-profit programme: partner companies mentor the girls who in turn share their knowledge of immigrant life and markets, e.g. through paid lectures.”

Ung Omsorg – Ung Omsorg (Young Care) is offering a win-win solution to elderly care in Sweden by employing teenagers to organize social activities in care homes. While the elderly enjoy their time with the young people, the teenagers have a meaningful weekend job, learn leadership skills and may be inspired to pursue a career in the care sector.

From Denmark: Hygge Factory – Hygge Factory empowers teenagers in life crises to tell their important stories in a strong voice. The young people come together in talent- and empathy developing projects that turn what is ugly into beauty. The projects always result in a professional and sellable product like a book, a record, or a movie.

Dazin – Dazin provides a clean and cost effective solution for cooking and heating in poor rural communities. Instead of burning forestry and agricultural waste, households can exchange such biomass for fuel pellets that produce just as much energy if used in the stoves provided for free. Surplus pellets are sold at a profit.

From Finland: Sharetribe – Sharetribe is an open source platform that anyone can use to create a community marketplace. The software is hugely versatile, allowing individuals as well as companies to swap, lend or sell their skills and possessions. Market places can be fitted with customized visuals and functions to optimally suit people’s needs.

Green Riders – GreenRiders is a free online and mobile car-ride sharing platform that makes it easy to save money as well as nature. A real-time tracker shows how much CO2 emission was avoided per ride and the app links directly to local public transport for the final part of a journey.

From Germany: ROCK YOUR LIFE! – ROCK YOUR LIFE! is a coaching programme for high school pupils from socio-demographically disadvantaged backgrounds. Each pupil is coached by a university student for two years, receiving further occupational orientation from a network of partner companies. Meanwhile potential future leaders actively start improving social mobility, integration and equal access to education.

EleFunds – Elefunds is an online tool to efficiently aggregate donations for charities by connecting companies, customers and social networks. Online retailers can add Elefunds to their check-out process, allowing customers to round-up their final amount and give the difference to a cause of their choice.

From Austria: New Solar Pump – NSP Solar Pump stations reliably supply drinking water and irrigation in developing countries, supporting the MDG to improve sustainable access to clean water. The pump is maintenance-free, saltwater-resistant, pumps water from more than 100 metres below the ground and can easily replace pre-existing and installed hand or windmill pumps.

NGO Exit – EXIT is dedicated to combating human trafficking from Africa to Europe for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Next to raising awareness in both continents, EXIT provides diverse support to empower victims of trafficking including legal representation, creative therapy, individually tailored training courses and entrepreneurship opportunities.

From Switzerland: Mr Green – Mr Green makes recycling as easy as it gets by picking up all your recyclables in one bag on your doorstep. Mr Green efficiently sorts all waste and by working with recycling companies can recycle more materials than individual households. Subscribers thereby save time as well as the environment.

Veg and the City – VEG and the City re-connects urban populations with what they eat by offering vegetable garden solutions for life in the city. Urban gardeners learn what to grow and how in workshops and can buy all materials in the webshop. Meanwhile companies can hire  „harvest station“ greenhouses that fit 192 plants on just 5.7m2.


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