Can a business affect social change?
KMOP holds discussion on the impact of social entrepreneurship
How can a business go beyond its financial profit and also bring about social change, offering opportunities to those most vulnerable? How can entrepreneurship contribute to social cohesion? And what role can women have in the exploitation of artificial intelligence in this very context? These were among the many questions that were discussed at a very interesting event titled “Entrepreneurship with a positive social impact” organised by KMOP on Thursday 19 October 2023, at Impact Hub Athens.
The event was moderated by Kostas Laskaratos, journalist and author of the books “Culture & Extroversion” and “museums INFLUENCERS”.
The aim of the event was to give a platform to young entrepreneurs, but also to representatives of Civil Society Organisations to present their innovative actions and contribute to the promotion of social entrepreneurship.
Speaking about the two-way relationship between entrepreneurship and society, Yiannis Pappas, Head of Programmes at KMOP, said that entrepreneurship can be considered a stepping stone for the development of innovation, offering solutions for social issues, and employing the most vulnerable social groups for this purpose. He presented the initiatives promoted by KMOP in this context and emphasised that technology causes businesses to evolve faster than societies and this creates opportunities as well as faits accomplis that we ought to examine, exploit, and address.
“Our fellow humans who live below the poverty line are asking neither for pity nor charity. They are asking for an opportunity”, emphasised Christos Alefantis, journalist, Founder & Editorial Director of the street magazine “Shedia“. During his presentation, he explained how “Shedia” combats social exclusion and gives purpose to the lives of some people who seem to have lost hope.
Dimitra Kountourioti, Director of ITHACA Laundry, who in 2016 operated the first mobile laundry unit for homeless people in Europe helping to date over 8,000 people, spoke about the importance of human dignity. She also referred to the services offered by the organisation for integration and re-entry into society, employment, and psychological support, while stressing the need to train businesses to open their doors to people who possess skills although camouflaged under deep traumas. “People are searching for and want to find their own destination and their personal Ithaca,” she said.
“If we promote each other’s work, the world can become a better place.” This was the central message of the presentation by George Kaskarelis, Founder & CEO of Goodfairy. The organisation supports over 40 non-profit organisations via a donation made to them with every insurance policy taken out.
KMOP’s innovative actions for the promotion of social enterprises were presented by Ariadni Matraka, Senior Project Manager. She specifically referred to the Stars4SD project to support young entrepreneurs in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which rewards sustainable youth entrepreneurship, while also combating youth unemployment by developing necessary skills.
“In order to survive, businesses also need a supportive framework, a network of allies who will help them develop and grow all together.” This was stated by Sophie Lambrou, Co-Founder of the Impact Hub, presenting the actions and services of the social innovation and entrepreneurship hub, as well as its social impact.
“Social enterprises – which implement ideas with a positive social impact – are healthier enterprises,” said Fotini Kokkinaki, Communications Specialist at Junior Achievement Greece. She explained how the organisation equips young people with the skills and knowledge they need to emerge well-prepared for today’s business world. She also gave examples of “wonderful ideas that if the children have the desire to implement in the future, we will have taken the step towards a better world”.
A group of twenty-year-olds with a vision to help the world maximise the impact of their contributions created an app called Carexchange, which aims to associate donations with the real needs of charities. This ambitious goal was outlined by Panagiotis Kokmotos, Co-Founder and Head of Business Development of Carexchange, noting that there is an ongoing cooperation with 11 charitable organisations already and the number is constantly rising.
Danai Papadimitriou, Founder of ARTIT, spoke about how ARTIT, the innovative digital art and culture platform, gives opportunities to artists from all over the world to showcase their works. At the same time, she presented how the power of art can contribute to the fight against social and environmental problems.
A favorable environment for the promotion of social entrepreneurship is a crucial element and Stavros Delavinias, Project Officer at KMOP, presented the European projects Empower and GameON, which help young entrepreneurs succeed with the right tools.
The empowerment of women in this context is equally important, as emphasised by Panagiota Kokoliou, Senior Project Manager at KMOP, explaining the European SYnC project that utilises the circular economy as a means of strengthening young entrepreneurship; the European WINGS project that offers job opportunities and employment for women; but also the global EQUALS initiative on gender equality tools for digital inclusion in the labour market.
The event concluded with a discussion on artificial intelligence and the threats or opportunities it creates to bridge the gap in the labour market. Participants in this discussion were Stella Kasdagli, Co-Founder of Women On Top; Maria Zarotiadou, Managing Director of Plan of Business and Plan Career; May Zanni, Co-Founder and President of Women Act; and Panagiotis Kakolyris, Chief Operating Officer and Head of Strategy of SOCIALDOO, Vice-President of the European Network of Political Institutions.
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