Building a City Ecosystem for Impact
A partnership between the City of Amsterdam and Impact Hub Amsterdam
In 2015, the City of Amsterdam and Impact Hub Amsterdam started a relationship to share ideas, networks, actions and reflections to make the city’s growing social entrepreneurship ecosystem more explicit and better equipped. Amsterdam Impact, the City of Amsterdam’s Action Program for Social Entrepreneurship 2015-2018 engaged stakeholders in adding value to the city and to each other. Social entrepreneurs and the startups they founded, civil servants, capital providers, big and small business, as well as advocacy and expert institutions have all contributed to Amsterdam’s evolution as an impact-positive city.
As we reflect on three years of collaboration, we are pleased to share what our partnership has accomplished and what we have learned.
Some key lessons learned through our collaboration include:
- Larger institutions have different ways of connecting with potential partners or customers, while small entrepreneurs are used to informal ways of doing business and more agile decision-making
- Cities take action at a slower pace due to the many stakeholders and responsibilities involved
- At a personal level, you need courage as a civil servant and patience as a social entrepreneur
- A no-failure culture needs to gradually change and embrace entrepreneurial risk-taking
- Having an ambassador in the municipality for a specific socially entrepreneurial solution is crucial to making relevant and timely connections
- Social startups with relevant products and services are not always able to immediately deliver at scale or gain sufficient market access; strategic corporate partnerships and increased consumer awareness could enable this
- An ecosystem approach is non-linear, so you need to work on all building blocks simultaneously, and channel efforts to where the energy is to maximise momentum
- It is substantially more valuable to leverage existing, like-minded communities, which share your purpose, rather than start from scratch
- Pursuing impactful results, engaging the ecosystem, and building entrepreneurship go hand in hand, as our model shows
Going forward, we plan to engage more players and deepen connections, as well as to involve bottom-up initiatives with the potential to grow into social enterprises and corporates that want to make the switch to the impact economy. Our model for good collaboration is an ongoing living practice, and we believe is useful learning for other municipal departments and levels of government in collaborating with social enterprises.