“Grow Impact – Austria” 25-26 November 2021

08.12.2021 News

The first part of the conference “Grow Impact – Austria!” dealt with the exciting topics of Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystems. There was a virtual tour through different social business ecosystems in the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland). Moderated by Walburga Fröhlich, chairwoman of the Social Entrepreneurship Network Austria (SENA), in the session Peter Vandor from the Social Entrepreneurship Center of WU in Vienna, Kristina Notz from the Social Entrepreneurship Academy (SEA) in Munich and Silvan Scherer from Social Entrepreneurship Suisse ( SENS) in Zurich, among other things, presented the various actors and challenges of the social business network in their countries.

This was followed by a panel discussion. Constanze Stockhammer, the managing director of SENA, Hannah Wundsam from AustrianStartups and Georg Schön from Ashoka Austria joined Ms. Fröhlich and Ms. Notz. They discussed important issues such as: How important are the ecosystems for social entrepreneurs? What is it used for? And what can we learn from comparing the three countries?

The second part of the conference was entitled Impact Structures – Development and operation of structures that support social business for the scaling of innovations with a social impact. These supporting structures include incubators that provide services to social businesses in setting up and growing. In this session, four outstanding examples of incubators was presented: The Impact Hub Vienna (represented by Alexander Diesreiter), the Impact Hub Tyrol (presented by Jana Ganzmann), the Social Business Hub Styria (presented by Rüdiger Wetzl-Piewald) and the Social Innovation Lab Carinthia (presented by Erich Schwarz). Our guests told, among other things, about their activities and how they actively supported social entrepreneurs. In doing so, the regional differences as well as specific projects were brought into focus.

In the subsequent discussion, led by Kirsten Tangemann from the Styria Social Business Hub, Rüdiger Wetzl-Piewald, Carina Margreiter from Austria Wirtschaftsservice, Elisabeth Zehetner-Piewald from the WKO’s start-up service and Jonas Dinger from the Social Impact Award gathered together for discuss. The role and activities of other stakeholders in the social business network were highlighted.

The third session was about Impact and Business – Financing hybrid business models from impact incubators and social business, public-private partnership models. In this section, various options for financing social business were presented. With Uli Grabenwarter from the European Investment Fund, Carmencita Julia Nader from Erste Bank AG, Markus Zeilinger from Fair Finance and Ellinor Schweyer from the Finance Agency for Social Entrepreneurship (FASE), top-class guests from both the private and the public sector were represented. There were innovative approaches shown with which social entrepreneurs can be financially supported.

The presentations was followed by a panel discussion led by Goran Maric from Three Coins. Philipp Aiginger-Evangelisti from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), Ruth Williams from the Association for Charitable Donations and the Impact Investor Simone Pies and Ms. Nader discussed the topic in details. Among other things, it was highlighted what kind of differences existed between public and private funding and why business angels were so important in the social business sector.

The second day of the symposium started with the topic Framework conditions for social and green entrepreneurship: Do we need an eco-systemic change? This session was about the importance of political support for social business. That is why high-ranking guests from politics, namely Regional Councilor Barbara Eibinger-Miedl from Styria, Regional Councilor Sara Schaar from Carinthia, and Florian Frauscher, Section Head at the Federal Ministry for Digitization and Business Location, share their contributions on the subject of social entrepreneurship with us and show that the topic has already gained great importance at various political levels.

This was followed by a discussion with Mr. Frauscher, Andrea Keimel from the City of Graz, Bernhard Puttinger from the Green Tech Cluster Styria and Constanze Stockhammer from SENA. In the roundtable it was considered, among other things, how politics can support social entrepreneurship on a regional level and how awareness-raising on the topic can be strengthened.

The online conference was concluded with the thematic block Social Entrepreneurs in the Startup Ecosystem – Transformation or Supplement? Claudia Scarimbolo from the WKO, together with Constanze Stockhammer, presented the jointly developed action plan TASKFORCOME, as well as startup expert Kambis Kohansal Vajargah from the WKO, who brought us closer to support options for impact startups.

In addition to Kambis Kohansal Vajargah, Hannah Wundsam from AustrianStartups, Peter Vandor from WU Vienna and Michael Hagelmüller from Ashoka Austria took part in the final discussion. It was discussed how social businesses and startups complement each other and how the two areas differ from each other. There was also an exciting outlook into the future with the discussion question of whether the separation between social and non-social business would still exist in a few years’ time or whether all entrepreneurs would also be social entrepreneurs in the future.

Presentation slides and video recordings are available in German.

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