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Neetal Parekh
Neetal Parekh

Neetal Parekh is an attorney by education, a communicator by experience, and a social innovator and storyteller at heart. Neetal is the Founder and CEO of Innov8social, which builds tools to help individuals and companies reach their impact potential. She is the host of the Innov8social Podcast, featuring interviews with thinkers and doers in the social impact space. Neetal serves as an advisor to social enterprise startups and as a mentor at the Sustainability Innovations Lab at GSVlabs. She talked to us about her vision of Social Entrepreneurship and her upcoming initiative Impactathon.

What is your definition of Social Entrepreneurship?

Social Entrepreneurship means using a business model to create social impact. It works for startups, established companies but also for non-profit organizations. All types of organizations can generate social impact.

How can we teach Social Entrepreneurship and who should do it?

I think experiential learning is the most effective way to gain relevant expertise in this area. Social Entrepreneurship is an emerging discipline so it is better to learn by doing than to focus on theory. Incubators or multiple-week experiential learning programs offer great opportunities for people interested in Social Entrepreneurship. I believe that those methods have big potential to provide participants with the experience necessary to enter the social business.

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You created INNOV8SOCIAL. Can you tell me what does “dream, inspire and act” mean to you in this context?

As an attorney I started to explore Social Entrepreneurship from the perspective of the legal structure of different business models. I realized that the new generation could contribute to shift the businesses towards a more social orientation. It usually starts small and then a vision, a larger dream, emerges. I had also the chance to meet numerous social entrepreneurs. Talking to them and interviewing them for my blog was a very inspiring experience. This inspiration started to turn into action. Besides the blog, I published a book (“51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship”) and then I started to give online courses. Currently I am working on “Impactathon”. The event will be held on the 14th of May and it is another step in my “ACTION” path.

Can you tell me more about Impactathon? What would you like to achieve with this event?

Impactathon is a workshop for social entrepreneurs. The idea is to combine positive elements of a Hackathon with panels and short impact talks from thought leaders and participants in the social impact space of business, law, food/nutrition, and design. We are aiming to address different challenges related to social entrepreneurship. Through meaningful conversations and inspiring meetings I had with social entrepreneurs, I realized that this is the way to uncover our super power in the social impact space. So now we will bring in one room amazing people with different visions, people, who had the strength to engage in social business and who are willing to share the problems they encounter and their experiences. I think that these deep discussions and collective work among colleagues aligned with the same goals will enable us to achieve something new.

Did you prepare some special attractions for the participants?

Yes. After the conference the participants will have a chance to visit a community-based maker space and prototyping studio, TECH-SHOP San Francisco. Its mission is to democratize access to innovation tools. I think it is a great opportunity to get a different perspective through watching people transforming their ideas into physical objects. It will be for sure an inspiring adventure. The third part of the event will be a workshop session in Hackathon style. The participants will have a possibility to present problems they faced while creating and developing their social enterprises and explore potential solutions in a group. Afterwards they will present and discuss their ideas to all participants.

What is the difference between an event for social entrepreneurship and a traditional business event?

At the conferences dedicated to traditional business the focus is on profit, which is easy to quantify. People discuss for example how to increase revenues, number of clients or users. At Impactathon we will explore how to create impact and generate profit at the same time and discuss how the impact can be measured and communicated.

Can you tell me how in your opinion social enterprises should measure success?

There is a number of standardized metrics like The Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) sustainability reporting guidelines or Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS). An enterprise can also choose few factors that reflect the social impact it aims to achieve. Those factors should be measured for a defined period of time and evaluated. It will help to select the factors, which are most relevant for this specific company or business. Those factors can describe, for example, how many people could benefit from healthcare thanks to the activity of this enterprise, how this can increase the life expectancy of the beneficiaries, how many children could start or continue their education….

What do you see as the future of Social Entrepreneurship?

We are observing growing support for social entrepreneurs, however this support comes mostly at the beginning stage. Now we need to focus more on helping social ventures to graduate and develop further. We also need to work on a uniformed impact scaling system and a common language across different sizes and types of enterprises. The scaling system will enable social enterprises to measure their impact and discover how they can improve.

We are very thankful for having interviewed Neetal Parekh for Horyou blog! The Horyou team wishes Innov8Social team a great Impactathon!

Written by Joanna Kozik

Les débats du développement durable

On Dec. 8th, the Horyou Team attended the 2014 edition of Le Monde debate about sustainable development. It was a great day where social entrepreneurs met and shared their projects and ideals behind them. We could not resist sharing some inspiring projects with you, projects that are creating new and sustainable alternatives for our societies, while following people’s dreams and values. Let’s start this journey through social entrepreneurship. Fasten your seatbelt!

First stop: food-wasting solution
We had the pleasure to meet Shéhrazade Schneider and Elodie Le Boucher, who have launched Simone Lemon project. What is it about? Very simple: A lot of fruits and veggies are thrown away for aesthetic reasons by mass distribution outlets – too small, not shiny enough, not round enough. Who cares, right? As long as it is tasty! This is exactly what brought these two social entrepreneurs together to launch Simone Lemon. The idea? Use non-marketed food products and make tasty dishes. And because food wasting does not concern only mass distribution, they wanted to go further with a concept whose success has already been proved in many countries: offer a unique price for 100g of food, whatever the dish is, so people can choose the amount of food they need. Their restaurant should open its doors in Paris in May. We really look forward to it!

Second stop: science-oriented social good
“Not everybody can be a social entrepreneur, but everybody can be an actor.” These are the words of Sarah Mariotte, co-director at Ashoka France/Belgium/Switzerland. Project SOScience! surely agrees with this statement. There are so many ways to do social good and positively bring our societies toward more sustainability and solidarity. And we were very happy to meet co-founder Mélanie Marcel, who explained the purpose of this project. SoScience! is a pioneering startup company, specializing in responsible research, bringing together social entrepreneurs and scientists to tackle today’s social and environmental challenges. SOScience! provides responsible research services to social entrepreneurs and companies, promoting a tighter collaboration between different actors of social change. Science as a means to social good is a big challenge, as science and research laboratories are often criticized for their short-term, profit-oriented strategy.
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Third stop: Let’s re-enchant the world!
There are so many projects that are shaping a new and sustainable world. And this debate gave us the opportunity to have a glimpse at this amazing social good blast happening everywhere. This is the kind of glimpse that gives you energy, optimism and inspiration. That is exactly why co-founder of the Colibri movement Cyril Dion and French actress Mélanie Laurent decided to bring light to social good projects happening in nine European countries and made a film out of it called “Demain” (Tomorrow). We had the chance to discover the trailer of the movie with the attendance of Dion himself and we really wanted to share this with you!

What else is there to say? Nothing but Dream, Inspire and Act.

To find out more projects featured during the 2014 Le Monde debate, click here

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On the March 4, the Horyou team participated in the Entrepreneurship Week in one of the major universities in Lausanne, Switzerland. The HEC Lausanne, also known as the Faculty of Business and Economics of the University of Lausanne, is one of the major campuses in the city, with 13,000 students.

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The Entrepreneurial Week gathered around 45 startup projects from students and professionals alike who were eager to showcase their ideas to a young and receptive public. It ranged from Internet startups to food-and-beverage startups and emphasized that innovation is at its best in the midst of a young, vibrant crowd.

The Horyou stand included two screens displaying documentaries and the platform. The team got the opportunity to speak to students and some professionals to introduce Horyou as a way to present their ideas to a large audience with similar interests in doing good in their community.

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On November 28th, the European Youth Award, one of the most important awards supporting young entrepreneurs, will be celebrating its 2018 edition in Graz, Austria, with an event focused on the future of digital technologies. The EYA Festival and Gala will gather digital experts, startups and disruptive project holders to celebrate young talents and join forces for a better world. A long-term Horyou partner, EYA’s project manager Birgit Kolb gave us this interview and talks about social entrepreneurship, digital creativity and the use of information for good.

Birgit Kolb, EYA project manager

What is the main purpose of EYA?

Digital technologies are most powerful tools to tackle the social challenges people face every day. EYA’s main purpose is to bring together young people sharing this view. We are the Internet of entrepreneurs who care, and by joining forces, we want to create a better world.

What is the connection between social entrepreneurship and digital creativity?

Powerful technologies should be used wisely to create more freedom and wealth. The European Youth Award celebrates the idea of improving society through new technologies. That may be mobile apps or the Internet of Things, digital communication channels or robots, there is a lot of creativity in the submitted projects. Huge positive impact on society can be achieved with state-of-the-art technology. EYA Winning Projects use digital possibilities in a very smart and creative way; they enrich them with social intention and thereby create awesome solutions to the challenges many people face.

We live in a world where information is key but could also be a threat if not used wisely. How are you approaching this?

EYA Winners are a positive example of using information wisely for a good purpose. We want to motivate and inspire others by putting them on stage. Take for example this year’s winner in the “Active Citizenship” category: Soliguide is a platform providing homeless people and refugees with helpful information and easing their lives. Or Blood Donor, a winner in the Fostering Health category: the app improves the communication between the National Centre for Blood Transfusions and the individual donors to share information if blood is urgently needed. It may be vital that certain informations reach the right target groups in time. These changemakers join the European Youth Award because they want to learn and take part in a community of people sharing that same inspiration.

Please mention some of the most interesting speakers or business cases that will be showcased this year.

The EYA Festival is a reunion of great people. They create a very special atmosphere of togetherness, creativity and fun. Personally, my favorite session is the EYA campfire, when EYA mentors like Belkis Etz and Markus Leitner (SKIDATA), Wolfgang Schaffer (bitmedia), Thomas W. Albrecht (TWA Mentale Innovation GmbH), Karim Taga (Arthur D. Little), Reinhard Mayr (COPA-DATA) and many other experienced business leaders will share their personal stories with the Festival Participants. I am also looking forward to the workshop with Sarah Klein and Eva Verfürth of Tea after Twelve. They will talk about how to counter fake news and drama – a superhot topic. Another highlight will be the workshop “Blockchain for social impact: does it make sense to move your project on blockchain?” conducted by Odeta Iseviciute. On Friday we will conduct for the first time the so-called “EYA Solution Jam”: Companies like Gofore, Mountain Marketing, HEIJAR, rsa SAT, the styrian SFG, the City of Graz and mladiinfo will present real-life business challenges. In a creative and productive process, the Festival participants will try to come up with smart solution concepts and new approaches. This is going to be super-interesting.

EYA is a Horyou Partner. If you want to become involved, contact them on this email address.

One of the most vibrant financial hubs in Southeast Asia, Singapore has discovered the potential of Impact Investing

The host city of SIGEF 2018 emerges as one of the most promising regions for social entrepreneurship in Asia

Doing good while doing well’ is a new motto for bankers and investors who believe that profit and purpose can go together. While impact investing is a relatively new jargon for financial people, there is no novelty in the fact that it can positively affect businesses. The challenge often is to calculate the impact, as the human factor is hard to measure and classify.

A few decades ago, studies started to show that happy employees are more productive, or that companies which invest in social or environmental projects in their communities have less legal and reputational problems. The sustainability concept has developed greatly since then. Impact investing was the step onward, as foundations and investors started to realize that all these factors combined – happy employees, respected communities and safe environment – could generate wealth for all.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore emerged as a hub for many of these impact investors, including the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) and Impact Investing Exchange (IIX Asia). A growing number of international impact investing funds have set their offices in Singapore, resulting in more than 300 social enterprises.

Like many of the successful impact investing initiatives worldwide, the island’s government has played a key role in this process, often as one of the intermediate investors and thus helped to foster a welcoming environment for new ones. A recent survey published by Standard Chartered Private Bank showed that 4 in 5 ultra-rich Singaporeans are currently engaged in sustainable investing. According to the report titled Asia Sustainable Investing Review 2018, investors in Singapore have the strongest understanding of sustainable investing in Asia, and about 64% of them are highly motivated to do good and earn a profit at the same time. 

Part of the optimistic scenario is due to the fact that young generations, more keen to work and invest with purpose, are starting to play an important role in Southeast Asian financial markets. Another factor is the realization that there’s need to solve social and economic problems in Asia, which requires high-scalable, replicable and potentially profitable solutions. Even giant commercial multinationals like Google have started to develop their own products and services, focusing on technology to improve lives.

The host city of SIGEF 2018 is growing as an innovative impact investment hub and emerges as one of the most promising regions for social entrepreneurship in Asia. Next September, experts and investors will discuss the subject with a qualified audience during SIGEF 2018 by Horyou.

Organized by the United Nations in Geneva, the World Summit of the Information Society discussed the role of technology in building a better future

Yonathan Parienti, founder and CEO of Horyou, speaking at WSIS Forum

A big welcome to the future we all want – with more technology, creativity and innovation at the service of a fairer society. That was the message that this year’s 4-day WSIS Forum, whose motto was Leveraging ICTs to Build Information and Knowledge Societies for Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, opted to convey to the rest of the world.

Entrepreneurs, government officials, organizations and members of the civil society tackled some of the most important challenges facing the modern world which included those relating to protection of the environment, inclusion of vulnerable social groups, promotion of small businesses and furtherance of artificial intelligence for human rights.

Horyou, the social network for social good, joined two panels, alongside high-level members of international organizations, as well as the private and public sectors. During the High Level Policy Session on Financing for Development and the Role of ICT, Yonathan Parienti, founder and CEO of Horyou, spoke about the skills required from social entrepreneurs. «It’s great to see how youth is engaged in social entrepreneurship to make a difference and do good. At Horyou, we believe in technology with a purpose, which requires courage and optimism», he stated.

On the sensitive issue of promoting equality through information and technology, Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the UN, regretted that “as fast as advances are occurring, they are not taking place fast enough in many areas” and called to “bring the whole world online so everyone can benefit from ICTs”.

It was nevertheless underscored that governments are indeed making progress in democratizing access to technology. Case in point, Dr. Abdulaziz Bin Salem, ICT Minister of Saudi Arabia, highlighted that the Kingdom has invested in state-of-the-art technology to equip its public institutions. «In 2018, ICT investment has grown by 6% over 2017 and, by 2020, we will furnish thousands of public institutions with optic fiber”, he stated.

The panel Women in ICT, moderated by Cintia Pino, Horyou’s Head of Marketing and External Relations, female executives from non-profit and private organizations discussed the ways to engage more girls and women in technology. Leading women figures including Sonja Betschart, co-founder of WeRobotics, an organization which uses drones to promote technology in developing countries, and Trisha Shetty, a UN Young Leader who advocates gender equality, showcased their success stories and their activism for social good.

Government officials were an important part of the event, as many high-level conferences were organized to debate policies and share success stories. Dr. Chérif Diallo (ICT), from Senegal, presented his country’s digital strategy for 2025 and Ms. Aurélie Zoumarou (ICT) from Bénin, highlighted the efforts to include more women in technology.

At the closing ceremony, Mr Houlin Zhao, secretary-general of International Telecommunication Union (ITU), declared that «WSIS 2018 has shown how the power of ICT can be leveraged to make progress on a range of important issues, from gender equality to cybersecurity and the Internet of Things». Mr Majed Sultan Al Mesmar, Chairman of WSIS 2018, thanked the audience and panelists with words of hope and optimism. «Connectivity and the Internet can play an essential role in the endeavors to achieve inclusion and equality», he affirmed.

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