Starters4Communities, known as S4C, believes in a better world in which societal issues are tackled by bottom up and entrepreneurial approaches. Manon Becher founded S4C to support young professionals that are struggling to find their spot in the labour market while making neighbourhood initiatives more innovative and entrepreneurial.
By: Nadine Maarhuis, 02/03/2016
After having worked in welfare and the international development sector for many years, Manon was ready for a new professional challenge. Seeing young, educated and driven people around here who couldn’t wait to start making a positive contribution to society, Manon asked herself: How could we use the enormous potential of highly educated and equipped starters with their fresh perspectives and creative solutions to make the world a better place? This resulted in the idea for S4C: a social enterprise that brings eager starters and bottom-up small neighbourhood initiatives together in such a way that both parties can mutually benefit from the collaboration.
And so they have. Since 2013 S4C has run 20 programmes which have enabled 337 starters to get involved in 107 projects in 5 different cities in the Netherlands. As a result, 58% of the starters directly found a paid job that matched their skill set, 27% of them stayed active within the social enterprise sector as an employee or social entrepreneur and 15% stayed involved with the initiative or with a direct stakeholder. Also, 94% of the neighbourhood initiatives were able to improve significantly, 81% got new inspiration and ideas, 31% were able to secure new partnerships and 20% identified new finance models.
“As soon as you have an idea, just start! Involve as many people as possible in your plan, collaborate and look for possibilities to strengthen each other’s enterprises. I believe that if you’re open about the plan you’re passionate about, others will soon start to share that passion with you.”
So what does the future hold for S4C? By 2020, the organisation wants to be working with 5000 starters. At the moment, the enterprise is busy creating an active community of alumni starters and neighbourhood initiatives: “By enabling these people to get in touch, we hope to foster social change on an even bigger scale.” Also, S4C currently finds itself in the middle of developing a social franchise model. At the end of the summer, the first franchisees should be up and running in the Netherlands. And in one year time, S4C is looking to expand to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. “To begin with”, Manon adds ambitiously.
When I ask her where this confidence and feeling for what works (and what doesn’t) come from, she tells me about her participation in Impact Hub’s Business Model Challenge and Scaling Program. “While I was in between jobs a couple of years ago, I came across the Impact Hub Business Model Challenge. One week before the application date, I decided to submit a draft of my idea, and I was selected. From there on, it all went fast: two years later, I was participating in the EU Benisi Program as well’’. This last program has accelerated S4C to the max: it provided Manon with the insights and confidence she needed to take her social enterprise to the next level.
After a three-year roller coaster ride in which S4C developed from an initial idea on paper into a more than successful internationally expanding social enterprise, I ask this thriving social entrepreneur: what’s your secret? If you could give other social entrepreneurs one golden tip, what would it be? Without hesitation, she says: “As soon as you have an idea, just start! Involve as many people as possible in your plan, collaborate and look for possibilities to strengthen each other’s enterprises. I believe that if you’re open about the plan you’re passionate about, others will soon start to share that passion with you.”
The BENISI partners seek to build a Europe-wide network of networks of incubators for social innovation. This network will proactively identify at least 300 social innovations that are identified with high potential for scaling successfully, and ensure the delivery of necessary support services to those social innovations. Networks are already structured in a collaborative mode; they are more able to spread knowledge and practice horizontally and they are the perfect ally when trying to develop a Europe-wide programme that needs to balance local action with continent-wide strategy and vision.
- Impact Hub enabled S4C to gain the knowledge, skills and thereby the confidence to set high and ambitious (though realistic) targets.
- Impact Hub connected S4C with strategic partners, mentors and a network of fellow social entrepreneurs who S4C always found willing to share their expertise and offer their help.
- Impact Hub inspired S4C to aim for the moon: “Impact Hub truly broadened my horizon by showing me how much is possible.” – Manon Becher, founder of S4C.