We live in a time when world-changing ideas are moving as quickly as possible. Some of them come from organizations that are able to disrupt the status quo and drive sustainable, large-scale change. Every idea starts with someone trying to solve a problem and new social entrepreneurs and new ideas about how our consumer power can influence the world become more visible. Romania is also following this trend: Organizations such as Ashoka Romania and Social Innovation Solutions are taking the lead and helping local ideas to transform into social enterprises.
By Oana Vasiliu
Social innovation vs. social entrepreneurship
To better understand this relatively new entrepreneurial phenomenon in Romania, we asked Ashoka’s co-director Corina Murafa about the difference between the terms “social innovation” and “social entrepreneurship”: “To ensure that social change is systemic and lasting, we need to ensure that all people can be contributors, that they can all be change makers – whether they describe themselves as social entrepreneurs, social innovators, or intrapreneurs. Social entrepreneurship is a concept that shaped Ashoka on a global scale a few decades ago when there was no word to characterize the myriad of people out there who worked tirelessly to solve social problems they were concerned about – by children’s rights to environmental degradation – by typically using entrepreneurial skills to create social impact. “
Ciprian Stanescu of Social Innovation Solutions argues, “Social innovation is in itself a type of innovation. It focuses on an idea that can make change. Ideally, these are systemic and long-term changes. I would argue that sometimes social innovators are like inventors and scientists, while social entrepreneurs are more focused on making the idea a reality. (…) While social entrepreneurship is mainly related to the business and civic world, social innovation can also take place at the public level – from changing environmental regulations to introducing a new teaching method in schools – possibly (and ideally) in collaboration with the community enterprise. “
High hopes for Romania
Programs that can help you understand how to become a social entrepreneur or change maker are becoming increasingly popular. When Ashoka opened its office in Romania in 2017, they mapped 962 change makers and their supporters using a network map. “But since then we have organized several long-term programs to identify and support social entrepreneurs, and I think we are now serving a community of over 3,000 social entrepreneurs in Romania with our programs,” adds Corina Murafa.
Commenting on the events hosted by Social Innovation Solutions, Ciprian Stanescu said, “From our high school entrants to the Social Impact Award to our Future Makers, there is a new generation across the country who have the desire and determination to find solutions to the challenges both the present and the future. What is a changer in the end? It is someone who makes a change – but how to quantify and measure that action and what “change” really represents can be quite subjective. Raluca & Adrian Stratulat have won the Social Impact Award with iziBAC, a solution to the problem of high school graduation results in Romania. They have a working business model, it’s innovative, and it actually works in practice. Are you changers? I would say yes, others could say no. Change is also related to the way we look at solutions – for some, what Teach for Romania does is amazing, while others might say it is nothing more than a drop in a very large ocean. “
In addition, a Romanian team was recently named the winner of the European Social Innovation Contest 2020. The WhyWeCraft project is a legal support mechanism for artisans and designers that, as a global movement, supports the recognition of cultural intellectual property rights for artisans who are administrators and promoters of traditional garments, traditional designs and traditional manufacturing techniques. The team was supported by the Ashoka organization in presenting their idea for social innovation.
Regarding the challenges, everyone agrees that changing behaviors and mentalities is still a major goal in Romania, while funding instruments, legal and regulatory barriers, the lack of cross-sectoral cooperation and, above all, the lack of openness of the public sector to the There is acceptance Social innovation and its systematic anchoring in politics is also one of the greatest local problems.
The future looks bright
After such an intense year for people all over the world, any discussion of the future seems like too much. Nevertheless, everyone is talking about the entrepreneur of the future and what he will look like. When asked by BR, Ana Murray, Co-Director of Ashoka Romania replied: “I think they will change mentalities. You will be more empathetic, and wellbeing will be a core value in the change. You will deviate from the authoritative, hierarchical approach to leadership and instead pave the way for everyone to participate as change makers. You will create new roles for people, purposes for institutions, and relationships between stakeholders. “
Ciprian Stanescu adds: “A future entrepreneur or a future maker is a person who understands the challenges of the future and develops solutions for tomorrow today. At the same time, they combine the experiences of the past with the needs of the present and are committed to a better future. We live in an economic, social and health context in which we as entrepreneurs need even more creativity and courage than before. “
Globally recognized social innovators in Romania *
Paul Radu, a Romanian who founded the world’s largest network of investigative journalists. Their investigations resulted in fines of EUR 7.2 billion, 168 civil lawsuits, 403 government lawsuits, 53 resignations and dismissals, and 495 official arrests, indictments and sentences.
Dorica Dan, the founder of Europe’s only patient-operated center of excellence for rare diseases – a pioneering institution in Zalau, a small community in northwestern Romania that can have a positive impact on rare disease policymaking at European level.
* Both are Ashoka colleagues
“We are all able – and I would argue that we all have a duty – to contribute. Move the needle just a little to create better societies and communities. From this point of view, we are all change makers. Whether we volunteer, petition our representatives, found an NGO, run for office or keep an eye on the greater good when we do our work in companies – we are all change makers, ”says Corina Murafa, Co-Director from Ashoka Romania