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.
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