Social entrepreneurs focus of new VUB platform

Summary

The Free University of Brussels (VUB) has launched a new platform that wants want to make it easier for social entrepreneurs to raise money for their projects, and for the public to get involved

Warm-hearted projects

With a constantly shifting political landscape, today’s Europe is increasingly unpredictable. Some Flemish education experts and business organisation have pointed to the need to encourage a sense of autonomy and entrepreneurship in young people. This, they say, would allow them to bring their own solutions to the table.

With that in mind, the Free University of Brussels (VUB) has launched the new Platform for Social Entrepreneurs. The online platform enables entrepreneurs to crowdfund their projects and receive financial and practical support from the public for a period of one year.

The new project is an initiative of the VUB Chair of Social Entrepreneurship, with help from founding partners Euroclear, a Brussels-based cross-border risk management firm; Close the Gap, a Brussels non-profit that aims to close the digital divide between developing and developed countries; and ICT consultants Wolters Kluwer.

“Our societies face several sustainability issues that are not yet being addressed properly by the government, businesses or other institutions,” says professor Nikolay Dentchev, current chair holder.

A perfect fit

Passionate social entrepreneurs are constantly looking for ways to improve the world, he says, “but they are confronted with a lack of resources, funding and business and managerial know-how”.

The platform just launched this month and currently hosts four projects. Projects have their own dedicated page, with a description of the targets, the funding required and contact information for the entrepreneurs behind it.

Dentchev, a professor in entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility, notes that the whole VUB community is in favour of supporting social entrepreneurship. “The platform perfectly fits the institution’s values, such as social engagement, community service, openness and encouraging creativity,” he says.

Our societies face several sustainability issues that are not yet being addressed properly

- Social Entrepreneur chair Nikolay Dentchev

Many of his colleagues, students and alumni, he continues, have already expressed an interest in helping with the platform. So have several local organisations, including Ashoka Belgium, a network of social entrepreneurs, and The Shift, which supports sustainability efforts.  “The support network is growing, and we welcome new partners,” he says.

The platform hopes to help social entrepreneurs to shorten the path to success for what it calls “warm-hearted projects” with a social mission. After the projects are selected, a variety of professionals coach the entrepreneurs to create a business plan and present their projects for crowdfunding on the platform.

One such project is Solidare-it, which works to facilitate solidarity in communities by connecting people who need help with people who are willing to help. To achieve this, the project needs ambassadors to initiate the movement in their neighbourhoods and IT specialists to design promotional material and an app.  

Photo: An audience member at the platform’s inauguration event

©VUB Chair of Social Entrepreneurship