Ferd Social Entrepreneurs – 2012 Summarised
2012 was the most exciting and demanding year ever for FSE. The year demonstrated how exciting it is to see social results being achieved, but also showed how challenging it can be to succeed as a social entrepreneur. FSE’s operational model and systems are in place, its main activities are defined and its portfolio of social entrepreneurs is almost at full strength with 11 social businesses.
Ferd Social Entrepreneurs (FSE) invests in social entrepreneurs who reflect Ferd’s vision of creating enduring value and leaving clear footprints. Our social entrepreneurs have innovative solutions for social problems, and combine this with the objective of creating a social business with a sustainable business model. This is what is described as the double bottom line.
- FSE invested in two new social entrepreneurs: Intempo and Lyk-z
- Husbanken spent time with FSE to learn more about social entrepreneurship
- Katinka Greve Leiner, Director of FSE, was appointed to the board of ’Den Sociale Kapitalfond’ in Denmark and the board of EVPA.
- Ingeborg Rasmussen, an economist at Vista Analyse, published an analysis of FSE’ s portfolio companies: “Socio-economic consequences of investment in social entrepreneurship”.
- Gladiator and Trivselsleder extended their activities beyond Norway
- The child protection experts at Forandringsfabrikken contributed to the drafting of the new Child Protection Act
- FSE developed its performance monitoring model
- Pøbelprosjekt opened in Oslo
- Forskerfabrikken (the Scientist Factory) celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2012, and arranged summer schools for almost 1,000 children
- Number of applications received in 2012: 161 – with significant improvement in quality
- The VelFERD Academy continued its training activities. Three meetings were held in 2012.
- The annual VelFERD conference was held, with 364 participants.
- "Coffee and conversation with FSE" , a low-threshold offer for students, potential social entrepreneurs and other interested parties was launched. Two meetings were held in 2012.
The Board of Ferd Holding has allocated up to NOK 20 million annually for work with social entrepreneurship. In 2012, NOK 11.6 million was spent on the portfolio. NOK 7 million was spent on activities to promote social entrepreneurship in Norway. FSE has staff resources equivalent to 2.8 full-time positions. In addition, Ferd's other business areas and subsidiaries support social entrepreneurs with their time and commitment as board members and through other assistance. Further external expertise is made available through pro bono partners from Kreab Gavin Anderson in the area of corporate communications and from Advokatfirmaet Schødt in the area of legal services.
Ferd Social Entrepreneurs has chosen to apply a focused strategy for its interpretation of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs must play a part in solving social problems while at the same time demonstrating a good likelihood that their activities will be financially self-sufficient over time. FSE has defined children and young people as the area in which it seeks to promote social entrepreneurship.
There was a marked change in the character of applications and enquiries received in 2012. FSE has communicated that its portfolio is almost at full strength with 10-11 social businesses. The number of enquiries received using the application form fell by more than 50% from 490 in 2011 to 243 in 2012. However, direct enquiries by mail and telephone increased sharply. In order to provide wider access, FSE launched the concept "Coffee and conversation with FSE" in order to share information and expertise with more of the people making enquiries who would otherwise be turned down by telephone. The “Coffee and conversation” meetings start with a brief presentation of FSE, followed by a mini workshop where participants are split into groups to discuss issues that they have encountered. This concept makes it possible for FSE to transfer expertise to far more people, and further events will be held in 2013.
The members of the FSE and the Chairman of Ferd are frequent speakers at both public sector and private sector events. Their main message is that investment in social entrepreneurship is a good investment.
FSE makes very active use of social media, and uses its website pages, Facebook and Twitter as its main communication channels.
In formal terms, FSE had been in existence for three years by the end of 2012. Over the course of this period, FSE has established and tested its working methodology, evaluated its performance and modified its approach as necessary. FSE works closely with its social entrepreneurs, and also arranges activities to raise the profile of the social entrepreneurs and the social benefits they generate.
Trivselsleder now operates in 800 schools around Norway, and extended its activities to Sweden and Iceland in 2012. Forskerfabrikken (the Scientist Factory) arranged an impressive summer school program, with 1,000 children at 40 locations taking part in inspiring experiments and vacation. There is international interest in arranging these summer schools, particularly from Ireland. The Pøbelprosjekt has opened in Oslo, and receives extremely good feedback both from NAV (the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service), which commissions its work, and from the young people it places in work or further education. A new Child Protection Act is being prepared, and the government minister responsible and the official consultation bodies have confirmed the importance of the input and recommendations of the child protection experts at Forandringsfabrikken (the ChangeFactory) in bringing about the necessary changes. Unicus has 14 employees at Fornebu and reports very good commercial results, thanks to rather than in spite of its employees’ having Asperger syndrome.
During the course of 2012 we entered into pro bono agreements to provide assistance for our social entrepreneurs from two important sources: Advokatselskapet Schjødt for legal issues and KREAB Gavin Andersson for communications.
It is hard work to be a founder. This is something that several of the portfolio companies experienced in 2012. It can also be quite demanding from time to time to provide the support they need. FSE faced a number of challenges in 2012 in this respect. However, we have also seen that companies in the portfolio can help each other when times are tough. Some of the entrepreneurs are good at structure, some are so creative that it bubbles over, others are good at media visibility. Ferd’s representatives have skills in business development and help to ensure that budgets are in place, but experience shows that we also need to understand the social objectives and combine these with the business objectives. Working on assignments for the public sector is challenging, and it can be a risky strategy for small social businesses to expand quickly. Everyone sees the social results, but the commercial results are not so apparent until the annual reports are ready, when commercial disappointments can have an impact on the social benefits available for the young people involved. We hope that the Ministry of Finance will use the budget process to introduce new incentives so that the value of preventative work is properly recognised - both by politicians and by the public sector providers - in order to support the work of social entrepreneurs.