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Exploring innovation and diversity in social entrepreneurship, with NWC and PLACE

Within the framework of the Anna Lindh Foundation's Marathon for Cultural Dialogue, New Women Connectors organized a round table on the 2nd of June 2021 questioning the place of cultural diversity and gender equality in the field of social innovation and entrepreneurship.

Kristina Vayda, Executive Director at FAIRE, was honored to be invited along with Charlotte Hochman, founder of Wow!Labs, PLACE and la Ruche and Aurora Ballesteros, holistic life coach in Norway. Together, with Yvette Ruzibiza as moderator, they explored ways to encourage innovation and diversity in the field of social entrepreneurship.

Redefining social entrepreneurship:

What does the term social imply? The notion of social should not be limited to its definition, as it takes many forms today. The social label can be given to companies that put people at the forefront, for example, by providing employment opportunities to people who find it more challenging to enter the labor market because of their life experiences.

Charlotte Hochman, for her part, expressed unease about the notion of social entrepreneurship. She believes that the idea is ambivalent because it shifts the responsibility onto specific individuals who are "social" and others who are not. Since its inception, the whole debate on social entrepreneurship limits the responsibility of those who do not consider themselves as social entrepreneurs. However, today, companies can no longer ignore the social and environmental impact of their activities. Social entrepreneurship is not a job; it is a question of individual and organizational responsibility in each sector of activity and business.

Thinking about responsible, cross-sectoral, and challenge-driven innovation :

Previously restricted to the new technologies sector, innovation must now be conceived from a broader perspective, as it is possible to innovate in all areas. At the same time, innovation must know its limits and consider the variables of the system in which it claims to innovate; otherwise, it risks creating damage. To this end, the world of innovation must interact with a variety of disciplines and actors. Diverse teams that are more representative of society and its social and human dynamics are prerequisites for responsible innovation that is fully aware of social reality.

The panelists agreed that innovation only makes sense if it is challenge-driven, i.e., it tries to find a more efficient and egalitarian way to respond to expressed or not yet identified needs. But for Aurora Ballesteros, innovation is not the only option. Sometimes adding value to a project by collaborating or working in synergy with people who have a better knowledge of the field is better than innovating at all costs.

Diversity, an essential component of innovation and social entrepreneurship:

The lack of diversity in companies remains a taboo subject, while according to a study published by Indeed in 2021, more than 35% of the French avoid the subject of diversity in companies. However, it would be in the interest of companies to encourage cultural diversity within their teams because people with migratory backgrounds have a strong potential for innovation for two reasons. Firstly, they offer innovative responses to challenges and bottlenecks in a system thanks to their life and professional experience that affords them another view on the current processes and/or services in their host country. Moreover, the knowledge and qualities one develops from an immigration experience (resilience, creativity, problem-solving) are essential for innovation. The intelligence of experience allows for innovation that responds to challenges that other innovation actors do not necessarily identify.

It is essential to introduce more diversity within companies, especially as the people with the greatest innovation potential have difficulty defining themselves as entrepreneurs and innovators, i.e., women, minorities, and people with a migrant background.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are not someone else's business. So don't wait for an entrepreneur or innovator label. Invent your own label!

You can watch the entire conference here:


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