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Social entrepreneurship: on the rise in Sweden?
Posted on: 02 Aug 2013  |   Tags: Business in Sweden , Invest in Sweden , Migratre to Sweden ,

Social problems have traditionally been the responsibility of the state, but Swedish social entrepreneurship is becoming more prominent Although social entrepreneurship is a new term in Sweden, the concept of innovation is not. Swedes are innovators, especially strong on the digital market. We have fostered many big companies, such as IKEA, Ericsson and Volvo – the list could go on. Recent bright sparks such as Spotify, Skype and Soundcloud are clear indicators that we can expect much more from the cold country up north. But what about social innovation? One of the most important factors to keep in mind when discussing social entrepreneurship in Sweden is that social problems have traditionally been the responsibility of institutions rather than individuals. The Swedish government is strong and its people have traditionally had great trust in its ability to solve the country's most pressing social challenges through policymaking. Therefore many Swedes don't see the need for social entrepreneurship and the concept itself is difficult to comprehend. But in a rather short period of time Sweden has become increasingly aware of the term social entrepreneurship, realising that it can change systems and societies. This has resulted in an increasing number of social entrepreneurs around the country as well as a continuously improving support structure. The Swedish government offers financial support to regular entrepreneurial start-up businesses, but this service is still relatively absent when it comes to social entrepreneurs, exposing a real gap in the support market for innovators. One government initiative does provide some support – The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket). They run an initiative offering support to a number of selected social enterprises. Last autumn, 29 social enterprises with a total budget of around £880,000 were selected from a total number of 138 applicants. Social entrepreneurship is on the rise in Sweden and gaining more acknowledgements in a broad spectrum of institutions. At Ashoka we can clearly see a great and growing interest in broader field – the quantity of publications and research about the field and number of entrepreneurs wanting to contribute to society through their social business ideas. Several universities around the country have recently launched programs with specialisations in social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship, as they have seen a growing demand for this kind of education from students. Some municipalities are looking into how they can make it easier for social entrepreneurs to collaborate and create public-private-partnerships. An early such initiative has been reported in Innovators of Society. There are several examples of great Swedish social entrepreneurs and innovators that have entered the scene in the past few years. One of them is the Swedish Ashoka fellow Johan Wendt – who founded Mattecentrum and is providing free help for children who want to improve their maths skills, though after-school online learning forums. Mattecentrum provides free tutoring around 70,000 young people every month. This is done in two ways: • Tutoring sessions 50 times a week in 19 cities in Sweden and Denmark • using 300 voluntary workers. • Through online platforms, children are given video lessons. Wendt is creating social change by helping those who cannot afford to buy private tutoring. Some 35% of the children supported come from immigrant backgrounds. In addition to the maths tutoring, a lot of people see Mattecentrum as one of few successful integration projects in the region. In addition to winning the Join Our Core competition in 2012, John was just announced as one of the hottest start-up companies in Sweden by business magazine Veckans Affärer, Sweden's version of Forbes magazine. Another Fellow, Sofia Appelgren, founder of MittLiv, has recently sealed a deal with the city of Gothenburg for financial support. Such a partnership, between a major Swedish city and a social entrepreneur, is a historical first in this region. Mittliv has also partnered with Ben & Jerry's to create a series of short films about social entrepreneurship. A few early examples of Swedish social entrepreneurship have gathered international momentum with their social innovations. One example is Solvatten, a portable container harnessing sunshine to provide clean and hot water to households. After 10 years of research and testing, this product has been rolled out in Kenya and Nepal and is expanding rapidly. As in so many other parts of the world, issues such as a growing aging population, youth employment, inclusion, environmental problems and poverty are of growing concern. More and more people are getting involved in finding new solutions, and at Ashoka Scandinavia we expect to find and select several new inspiring fellows in this innovative region within the next few years. Source: http://www.theguardian.com/social-enterprise-network/2013/jun/04/social-entrepreneurship-rise-sweden

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