SEF inspires. How to not Change the World or Why Doing Good is not Good Enough.

By |Friday, June 24, 2016|Categories: SEF inspires|Tags: , , , , |

The reason you started reading this blog article is probably because you have an interest in social entrepreneurship, social change and the like. Maybe you even set it as your career goal to work in the field, address a social or environmental problem and bring about change. Maybe you are already doing it. Or maybe you are even a critic of the work of social entrepreneurs. This article is for all of you. Because let’s face it – every concept has its shortcomings – even the work of social entrepreneurs. Nobody is perfect applies to almost anything, not just on a personal level: economic systems, politics and of course business practices. The only exception probably being the new single of Mumford & Sons which is as close to perfect as it gets, but that’s a whole different story.

I highly believe in the strong potential that lies within social entrepreneurship, within tackling nowadays challenges with innovative approaches and business models. We are faced with complex problems that require us to engage in innovation processes and new ways of thinking. By doing business differently i.e. acting more responsibly with regards to social and environmental aspects, we can change the system inside out. I am a strong believer that we, as individuals, have more power in us than one might believe – that we can impact a great deal with our own, seemingly small, actions. We have the ability to create whole new ways of thinking and doing business. We can contribute to a society that prefers collaboration over competition, common welfare over money, trust over control, and people over profits.

However, social entrepreneurship practices are not always perfect – they don’t always run as smoothly and are not as world-changing as one might hope for them to be. We have to be realistic when evaluating the work of social entrepreneurs – their good intentions are not enough to solve the problems at hand. It is the result of a social business’ activities that counts the most. If you haven’t watched the movie Poverty Inc. yet, do it now. It provides you with a shocking insight in the industry of NGOs and self-appointed social entrepreneurs. There are many examples of NGOs and social businesses that have made the problems they are trying to solve actually worse or have created other problems through their intervention. This blog post is neither to judge those organisations nor to point any fingers or support any conspiracy theories revolving around the charity industry.

It is much more a wake-up call, an insight and a call to action for (social) entrepreneurs to reconsider their business practices and take their whole supply chains into consideration – with all the consequences that come with it. It is on the one hand about realising that some of our old practices don’t work anymore, that we need to re-think and re-build our business models. On the other hand it is about evaluating the work that you do and the impact that you have. How Albert Einstein nicely put it: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

So let’s stop being insane and engage in more effective ways to come up with sustainable solutions that will once and for all eradicate the most pressing problems of our society today. Common sense as well as research suggest to go about this whole thing differently; rather than creating solutions FOR, we should create them WITH our target group by taking their environment, culture, economy, social ties, behaviours (the list goes on) into consideration. The design thinking process is a viable tool for coming up with new business models. It puts the human component in the center of its approach, meaning that the solution you will create is first and foremost desirable by your target segment before taking other factors like feasibility and financial rewards into account. It does not mean that the business model cannot be viable just because the product is desired – it means that we have to build on what is desirable and adapt the business model accordingly. I know – easier said than done.

In a second step, it is important to track your impact so you don’t end up like one of the many organisations shown in Poverty Inc.; publicly shamed and criticized for their (unintended) strains they put on the environment and/or their target groups.  This is why social impact measurement is not just a buzzword, but a powerful and inevitable tool for every social entrepreneur and NGO – it’s a thing. The first and foremost goal of a social business is tackling a social/environmental issue rather than solely making a profit. Now imagine you have a social business that doesn’t meet its aim of alleviating the problem at hand but much rather making it worse. Wouldn’t that take away the whole legitimacy of the business’ existence?

It’s time to make a shift – a shift towards a more effective way of tackling nowadays challenges, a shift towards sanity. It’s not enough to develop products and services that we think will help solve the challenge at hand and hope for the best. It’s not enough to give a fish. It’s not even enough to teach how to fish. Time for disruption of the fish industry and measuring our progress along the way.

For more information see:

SEF blogs. SEF connects #2.

By |Monday, June 13, 2016|Categories: SEF blogs|Tags: , , , |

Have you ever sat down and asked yourself: why? Why do I go to work every morning? Why do I live my life the way I am living it?

That was the question we asked our SEFsters at this month’s event, SEF connects #2, centred around our growing community.
Based on the Golden Circle Model we talked about our own “why?”, what inspires us, what drives us – a question that was also answered by our amazing pitchers during the main part of the evening. We invited our members to present their own ideas and projects, to share their inspiration and get feedback from our community:

We heard from Ulrike about her idea, called In-your-hands, to make funerals a much more personal matter, thereby helping people better deal with their grief. Markus from Root Engineering told us how he wants to make fresh vegetables accessible to a larger amount of people. Lisa-Maria founded the organisation More Than One Perspective, that supports refugees during the process of integration into the job market. Helmut talked about Option 2.0, a platform that enables the donation of money to specific people and their ventures. Finally, I got to pitch Milch für Flüchtlingskinder, a project that strives to make refugees in Irak self-supporters by providing them with cows.

At the end, we asked our guests to give feedback on SEF and what they wanted to see next semester. It showed what we had expected: our members love talking to each other – more time for Q&A was a popular demand (which I am sure can be arranged :D).

We are so happy that SEFsters are obviously inspired by each other and that our community is so alive, creative and enriching. So thank you all for an amazing semester. We are excited to plan over the summer and look forward to seeing you again in the fall!

Ulrike Reimann – In-your-hands
Markus Kraut – Root Engineering
Lisa-Maria Sommer – More Than One Perspective
Helmut Gruber – Option 2.0
Silvana Lobin – Milch für Flüchtlingskinder

SEF blogs. SEF connects (so many awesome people).

By |Friday, May 13, 2016|Categories: SEF blogs|Tags: , , , |

After SEF rises, this month’s event was all about bringing like-minds together and strengthening our growing community. And what better way to do that than to sit down over some nice food and drinks in a great location, the WU Gründungszentrum, the Entrepreneurship Center.

SEF connects was centered around the concept of idea generation. For this, we first asked our 25 guests to write down social issues they found interesting and then break up into smaller groups. They settled on five general topics: sustainability, unemployment, mental illness, integration of migrants and systemic questions. After about an hour of narrowing down the problems and discussing potential solutions, ideas were pitched to the rest of the Forum.

Knowing SEFsters, we expected some great ideas and interesting conversation. Expectations were exceeded, however, as from the second we started, the room was filled with the buzzing sound of voices. When it came to pitching and giving feedback, the discussion could have literally gone on for hours.

H​ere are some of the ideas:

  •  A portable cultivated area as a means of reducing hunger and furthering social interaction as well as a healthy diet
  •  An app contacting people who suffer from dementia on a daily basis, in order to ensure their safety and make them feel connected
  •  A job­ platform for people who are unemployed, which would include social projects (in case they do not find a job right away, they would have an occupation, which gives structure to their day and helps prevent social exclusion)

We also talked about how the last idea could be used for refugees, since working can further integration tremendously (you learn the language, make social contacts, get the feeling that you are being productive). In terms of systemic questions, of which there are undoubtedly a lot, the importance of international solutions and building bridges was stressed.

Needless to say, such an amazing evening is only possible with equally wonderful and inspiring people. We feel very fortunate to have been able to host such a great group of people and we would like to say a big thank you to everyone who was there, we loved having you!

We hope to see you soon at our next event, SEF connect #2, on 08.06.2016!

SEF interviews. Wohnwagon.

By |Friday, April 29, 2016|Categories: SEF interviews|Tags: , , |

SEF interviews once again, this time Theresa from Wohnwagon! 

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Passionate, persistent problem-solver.

What problem do you solve?
We offer solutions for the future of natural living. Looking at a world of immense resource waste, climate change and a lot of unhappiness, most people know that things can’t go on like this. But they are lacking a clear understanding of what to do. The Wohnwagon (engl. caravan) is one possible alternative and inspires people to find new ways of self-sustained and natural living. The 25m2 living unit is completely independent thanks to its bio-toilet, water treatment system and photovoltaik system. We sell the Wohnwagon for multiple purposes: it can be a full-time living unit, an office, a hotel room or a second home. We also offer the modular autarky systems of the Wohnwagon for different purposes and want to help people to take steps towards a more sustainable and independent life – no matter if they are living in a small flat in the city or on a huge farm in the country.

How does your business model work?
We sell Wohnwagons (engl. caravans) well as products for natural, self-sustained living and offer workshops and coaching to help people realise their ideas.

What is Social Entrepreneurship to you? And what is it not?
Social Entrepreneurship is a powerful tool to address the problems of our times while building a business that is also financially sustainable and independent from public support or donations. It is not an excuse for politics or the individual citizen to engage in those topics as well.

What are the toughest challenges you have to face by running a social business?
Keeping your focus on your impact and at the same time acting in a financially responsible way is tough sometimes. Your energy might drift more to one side or to the other eventually. What is important is that you keep evaluating your business. Even if there is a lot to do, take a step back and analyse where you are and where you are going right now, discuss it with your team and partners and listen to your gut feeling.

What is your vision for Social Entrepreneurship in Austria?
I think Social Entrepreneurship can become a great trend that not only solves social and environmental problems but also offers people a meaningful place to work where they can still make a living. It is great that this platform tries to raise the awareness for this possibility to found a business! I think it should also be taught at universities and it might make sense to establish a separate corporate form for it.

A little piece of advice for social entrepreneurs-to-be?
Find an area that you are really passionate about. Build a great team, that you can rely on – even if times get tougher. Keep going!

Theresa Steininger is the CEO of Wohnwagon. For more information, please visit

SEF interviews. whatchado.

By |Tuesday, April 26, 2016|Categories: SEF interviews|Tags: , , |

Welcome to our new category: SEF interviews, giving you real-life examples of inspiring social entrepreneurs. First up: Kambis from whatchado! The stage is yours.

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Ambitious, motivated, megalomaniac.

What problem do you solve?
Jobs can be fascinating. However, too many young people nowadays lack clear vision in what to do and what not. Particularly job- and career-wise they are still seeking to find something that really matches their interests.
Back in 2012, my friends and I therefore decided to launch the portal whatchado, a combination of storytelling handbook and standardised format of short films on real-life job descriptions. Fascinating job stories and a dating concept will guide job seekers to find their true calling. Loving to probe people on their lives and backgrounds, we want to provide authentic career information and empower young people. We have therefore collected thousands of faces, careers and inspiring stories from all walks of life, regardless of position, rank and industry.

How does your business model work?
Using online (Social Media, SEO) and offline (Events, whatchaSKOOL) marketing, we acquire users within the relevant target group (13-34yrs.). Our customers pay to keep accessing this target group through company profiles. On these profiles their employees introduce their jobs and employers in a standardised video format. New digital placements and advertising ensure our recurring revenues.

What is Social Entrepreneurship to you? And what is it not?
Social Entrepreneurship to me is changing the society for the better. Whereas most businesses often focus on making profit or increasing shareholder value only, social businesses also need to target a societal problem, e.g. lack in education, and provide a proper solution. In doing so, you can sustainably change your environment.

What are the toughest challenges you have to face by running a social business?
I think that one of the toughest challenges is having a sustainable business model that generates regular income. Many social businesses ultimately fail because they cannot operate without external financiers. Therefore, social entrepreneurs need to understand basic business economics as well.

What is your vision for Social Entrepreneurship in Austria?
My vision for Social Entrepreneurship in Austria is a strong increase in younger people who are not afraid of becoming social entrepreneurs. This comes with a positive approach in entrepreneurial mindset and that social businesses benefit the whole society.

 A little piece of advice for social entrepreneurs to be?

Kambis Kohansal Vajargah is the co-founder and CMO at whatchado. For more information please visit

SEF blogs. SEF rises (and it was amaaaaazing).

By |Saturday, April 23, 2016|Categories: SEF blogs|Tags: , , , |

After “SEF involves”, this was our first major event, including guest speakers, a podium discussion, snacks, drinks – the works! We started off with our Keynote-Speaker, Walter Emberger, the founder of Teach for Austria, who gave us an insight into his journey from being a banker and consultant to becoming Austria’s first social entrepreneur of the year.

After a short session of doing the twist (yes I mean the 60s dance – gotta loosen up), we dove right into the impulse-speeches. We heard from Dominik Beron, who founded, Birgitt Wodon-Lauboeck from Projekt Bank für Gemeinwohl, and Toni Kronke, who helped start Teach for Austria. Afterwards, these three inspiring people sat down and answered our questions in a podium discussion – and here’s what we learned:

Social entrepreneurs strike new paths, not only in terms of what they do but how they do it. While expertise and hard work are no doubt part of being a social entrepreneur, the most important aspect is the motivation to effect positive change – it is what drives them and keeps them going even in the most frustrating of times.

We are proud to have hosted over 90 people – thank you all for your support and we hope to see you on 11.05.2016 at our next event, “SEF connects”!

For more pictures and a recap video please visit our Facebook page.

If you want to know more about our guest speakers and their organisations, check out their videos on our Facebook page or follow these links to learn about their projects:

SEF blogs. Expectations and explanations.

By |Sunday, March 13, 2016|Categories: SEF blogs|Tags: , , |

As mentioned in our previous post, this blog serves multiple purposes, from documenting our progress to giving inspiration as well as a stage. How will this work?

The plan is to have different sub-sections on our blog, with 1-2 posts a week:

SEF blogs. A glimpse behind the scenes of the SEF Team.

SEF interviews. Where social entrepreneurs explain why and what they are doing, in order to make social entrepreneurship more relatable.

SEF recaps. Reviews and learnings of our events.

SEF zooms. Highlighting aspects of social entrepreneurship in specific cities. Vienna is the most obvious example, but expect a broader view.

SEF inspires.  YOUR stage to talk about topics you care for.

We are always looking for enthusiastic content contributors, so if you want to share your knowledge on our blog, feel free to contact us (

SEF blogs. Our history.

By |Wednesday, March 9, 2016|Categories: SEF blogs|Tags: , , |

The idea to create The Social Entrepreneurship Forum first appeared in the fall of 2014, when Jana attended multiple Think Tank events in Washington D.C.. Also Christine considered it a fruitful plan to host a Think Tank  for Vienna’s Social Entrepreneurs to be, which resulted in the first event in the spring of 2015 with around 30 attendees (under the name Social Venture Think Tank). After helping with the the organisation of the following events, both Fran and Alex quickly took up the spirit and joined the team. The most recent addition to the SEF Team was Goran, also sharing SEF’s vision.

Since the spring of 2015 not only our naming, but many other things have changed. A lot of brainstorming, experimentation and feedback have transformed a vague idea into a growing community of like-minds: people who strive to make the world a better place by creating sustainable yet social business models. 

We just left the pilot phase and recently launched our website, Facebook page, and much more. Click here to find out more about our mission.

The SEF story continues.