I returned from the first Social Business Forum, which was held in Riga, on Saturday. It was organized by SSE Riga and supported by the British Council and Soros Foundation Latvia. The Forum had two goals. The first one was to gather representatives of social businesses in the Baltic States to present themselves . There were more than twenty five participants. The second aim was to familiarize all who took part in with experience and possibilities to finance social businesses taking an example of Great Britain and other countries.
I should say that there are many definitions for social business. For me it is goods and services sales based on business management principles and innovations. The objective of it is to solve social and environmental problems. Social business will always reinvest its profit in order to develop and/or support the business but not pay dividends to its shareholders regardless of its legal status. For instance, it might be a charity shop (Notashop) or EMP-recycling-type entity. The heart of social business is the idea that it is fun to do and you might align your moral satisfaction with the financial one.
Currently Baltic countries are like a white spot in the map of global social business map. There are several reasons for that. There are not many of us and we are not poor, i.e. we do not have inner charity or support traditions, NGOs are used to subsidies and projects supported by the EU (not their own services sales), budgetary institutions have strong influence on social services providing („soft monopoly“), financial instruments are oriented to the financial, not social, returns only and so on. During the Forum, I had an opportunity to be introduced to great initiatives from the Baltic countries:
„Give a Hand“, Latvia
Social Responsible Graffiti (zmogui.lt), Lithuania
MAMMU (mammu.lv), Latvia
Ērmriteņi (Freakbikes), Latvia
Charity shop “Otra elpa”, Latvia
NOT A SHOP (notashop.lt), Lithuania
Work and live in countryside, Latvia
SAAS software for managing apartment buildings, Estonia
“Renkuosi mokyti!” (renkuosimokyti.lt), Lithuania
Family Center „You and Me”, Estonia
Sėkmės mokykla (sekmesmokykla.lt), Lithuania
Family Entertainment Centers, Latvia
Playground (coworking’o centras Rygoje), Latvia
doTalk creativity hall (idejutalka.lv), Latvia
Creation of partnership between social business and NGOs, Lithuania
Idea 2 Reality http://idea2reality.eu/ (Kickstarter.org adaptacija), Lithuania
Responsibility FUND (šiek tiek panašu į Virgin charity), Latvia
Burės – Financing solutions for good ideas (bkcentras.lt), Lithuania
Socially Responsible Banking (AIESEC projektas), Lithuania
Social Investments Fund, Lithuania – my projects: coworking center Hub Vilnius and Social Investments Fund
All projects were very interesting. Some of them have already started operating, some are still ideas which need support in order to be implemented. As I have already known the Lithuanians participating in the Forum, I would like to introduce you to several Latvian initiatives. (However, I will write about Lithuanians as well in the following posts).
It is a social business of young clothes designers which helps for mothers, who raise their children at home, to earn money. Mothers sew scarfs of original design at home. The company organized nontraditional presentation and promotional campaign of its product where even Latvian celebrities took place. A new brand was created and today one could buy a scarf for 79 EUR (!!!).
Freak bikes (freakbike.lv)
Young people are creating crazy bakes while also involving youth from the streets. They are planning to assemble wheelchairs for disabled in the near future.
Freakbike workshops 2010 from Kaspars Garda on vimeo.
Well, maybe social business will not save the world but it will definitely make it better. Here, you can find several links to the sources of social business: http://www.sepc.lt/en/resourceses
What is you social business? What could you make up, adapt, adjust and move? We are always looking for social innovations that might turn ideas into reality. We want to help and support social businesses. If you are interested, do not hesitate to write us to email@example.com