New trading platform for social entrepreneurs
According to members of the “Internet+Society” forum, internet service providers and companies don’t yet see the phenomenon of social entrepreneurship as a separate customer or social entrepreneurs as part of its audience.
Establishing a social entrepreneur internet support system requires registries, procurement, certification, e-commerce and media, as well as a database. The Institute for Internet Development is planning to create a registry and single portal containing aggregated information for social entrepreneur goods and services.
Existing online service providers are not really geared towards the needs of social businesses and their customers, and there are practically no new internet services that are adapted or specially designed for social business people and customers of their goods and services, say members of “Internet+Society” forum.
“The social entrepreneur is not an individual player in e-commerce. Instagram is the primary means which social entrepreneurs use to sell their goods”, says Vladimir Weiner, Director of the Gladway Foundation for the Development of Media Programmes. Weiner says there is a particular demand among social entrepreneurs for media and crowd technologies, online training and outsourcing, but that this is only being done by individual operators at present.
The social business people demand for training and crowdfunding has already been spotted by Planet.ru. “We started running training courses for social entrepreneurs at our Crowdfunding School one and a half to two years ago after realising the demand was there. To this end, we brought in a number of trained people to help us. On average, every third project approved has led to a 70% success rate of projects in the “social entrepreneurship” category”, says Planet.ru’s PR Director, Vasilina Gorovaya.
More than 2,500 social entrepreneurs have now been trained in our Crowdfunding School, which has taken more than 20,000,000 roubles in fees during the year it’s been running. More than 6,000 people have funded social entrepreneur projects.
“Planet.ru has a separate social entrepreneur manager responsible for judging whether projects are specific and so require an expert opinion, as such objective specialist advice is extremely important when deciding if a proposed project has social entrepreneur value”, says Gorovaya.
Planet.ru’s social entrepreneur projects are run in partnership with Moscow’s State Technical University, in collaboration with the companies, “Lipton” and “Megaphone”. “Crowdfunding is an excellent marketing tool in checking if an entrepreneur’s idea is viable and if a team is prepared to run with it. It’s like asking a group of people if an idea is interesting or not”, says Gorovaya.
Ekaterina Frolova, Director of Integrated Communications at SAP, said that social entrepreneurs don’t often regard each other as such, nor see a future career path for themselves in this line of work. “There’s a moment when a business person reaches the next level without really knowing how they’ll perform in new growth areas. Such thinking is the product of poor basic information, a lack of dialogue and a separate or common space in which social entrepreneurs can operate”, she says.
In 2015, SAP organised Russia’s first social start-up competition as part of its “Happiness for citizens” charity programme. Six social entrepreneur projects were successful; Nadeshda Samoylova gardens, “My first book”, “functional upper limb prostheses, Charity Shop, Goose farming development programme and the Gekkon Club. According to Frolova, SAP is prepared to facilitate the creation of a common communications environment for social entrepreneurs, as well as providing media resources for organising future start-up competitions.
Alexandra Babkin, Head of the “Dobro Mail.ru” project, says that it’s important that an online social entrepreneurship platform is set up to enable business people to share information on their various business activities. “We’ve heard that a charity gets fearful whenever they hear the word “profit” if it’s suggested that it tailors one of their social projects in a way that will bring in money and solve a problem. It’s important that social entrepreneurs receive information on successful projects so that they can improve performance and market their own business. Great synergies can be achieved in work between big business and social entrepreneurs, particularly in the way that the Charity Shop and Megaphone have done”, says Babkin.
Members of the “Internet+Society” forum and Institute for Internet Development have suggested joining forces in order to mobilise all social business players and bring social entrepreneurs together under one brand and a single trading platform.
“A single register will help identify the tens of thousands of social entrepreneurs who provide services to Russian citizens, as well as legitimising their activities and giving them access to State procurement. The creation of an online platform will dramatically improve the ability of social entrepreneurs to promote their goods and services, help enhance customer awareness and enable entrepreneurs to purchase services in one window. We and the internet community want to create a single focal point for growing social business”, says Vladimir Yablonsky, Director of Social Programmes at the Institute for Internet Development.
According to experts, social business growth using internet technology will increase the share of social entrepreneurship from 0.25% to 1-1.5% of national GDP by 2020, and legitimise the more than 30,000,000 self-employed people who are involved in this informal sector of the economy.
Author: Yulia Vyatkina