Building an impact business, not to mention an impact market, is no walk in the park. On 20 June, during Impact Hub’s WeMakeThe.City event, Entrepreneurial Solutions for a Sustainable City, more than 30 impact entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs rolled up their sleeves to brainstorm ways to advance Amsterdam’s impact ecosystem.

by Carolien de Bruin, founder and CEO of C-Change

Tatiana Glad, co-founder and director of Impact Hub Amsterdam, and Ellen Oetelmans, Program Manager of Amsterdam Impact, imagined Amsterdam in 2030 when all businesses would actively contribute to the SDGs every day. Tatiana and Ellen envisioned entrepreneurs, accelerators, investors, and other organisations across the city had delivered on Amsterdam’s impact ecosystem ambition and the city had become a global hotspot for impact entrepreneurship.

As the founder of an Amsterdam-based social enterprise, C-Change, I challenged participants by sharing our research into the pitfalls of a social entrepreneur’s search for capital and scale. I also shared my dream for an online ‘seamless web’ through which entrepreneurs, investors, intermediaries, and cities work together to build a better world.

While all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were on the table, participants dove into three topics: women-led enterprises, refugee entrepreneurs, and circular economy solutions.

Inspired by expert introductions by Rixt Herklots from The Next Women (gender equality), Joris Benninga from Greenfield Cities (migration), and Hilde Sijbring from Circle Economy (circularity), participants outlined a number of obstacles, solutions, and next steps for joint action. 

Obstacles

  • Difficulties in getting started and attracting the right type of support
  • Limited access to often closed networks and investor circles
  • Moving from startup to scaleup due to factors such as a lack of resources and capabilities
  • Lack of awareness & consumer education limiting market growth
  • Many unconscious biases, such as those towards women and migrants
  • Limited safe places where cultural barriers can be addressed

Solutions

  • Bring in successful impact entrepreneurs as ambassadors & mentors
  • Work together to frame and change the narrative of impact entrepreneurship
  • Start young in changing hearts and minds by bringing sustainability to school education
  • Develop a community of entrepreneurs who work and learn together, attract capital and support, and lead the way
  • Find smart ways to connect with & across communities and cities

Next steps

  • Identify small steps that anyone – not just entrepreneurs – can take to make a difference
  • Continue local ecosystem conversations, making sure these include a diversity of voices
  • Find smart ways to bring the impact community together – both on- and offline

Clearly, there is a lot that needs to be done to make every business an impact business, and every city an impact city. The energy in the room, the work and the future plans of speakers and participants hold amazing promise. We look forward to working with all of you to take local and global action and welcome any or ideas for joint action you may have.

Carolien de Bruin is the founder of C-Change, an Amsterdam-based social enterprise with the mission to trigger and equip the private sector to connect for impact’. She is currently working on the rollout of a global #BIZ4SDGs City Entrepreneurship Initiative which is set to launch in the year ahead. Got a response to this blog? Get in touch with Carolien.

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