Showcasing Dutch social innovation
From 8 - 14 October, a Dutch trade mission for social entrepreneurship will visit various Silicon Valley companies and organisations.
A highlight of the trip will be the delegation’s participation in SOCAP17 (the Social Capital Market Conference), where a special session will be devoted to the Dutch social enterprise ecosystem and its adaptability to other places, such as the United States. SOCAP is the largest annual gathering of impact investors and social entrepreneurs, which are businesses that look for innovative solutions to social problems such as pollution, poverty or human rights violations while at the same time maintaining a healthy business model.
At the conference, 12 exceptional Dutch social entrepreneurs will give presentations and share their experiences, under the collective banner of “the Dutch Social Enterprise (r)evolution.” The businesses, organisations and government representatives on the mission will also visit local leaders in the field, such as Change.org and Stanford University’s Center for Social Innovation.
Rapid growth in social entrepreneurship
The Dutch social enterprise ecosystem has been developing quickly. Over the past five years, the social impact sector in the Netherlands has grown by 75% and has been responsible for 3% of the GDP growth in that period. This is a major change from ten years ago, when the business climate for social entrepreneurs barely existed. There are now about 4,000 Dutch social enterprises, as well as dozens of specialised accelerators, incubators and competitions. Together, these Dutch enterprises have annual revenues of about €3.5 billion ($4 billion), and the amount of capital available for impact-driven entrepreneurs has more than tripled in the past five years, according to recent research by McKinsey and Company.
Amsterdam leading the way in social innovation
Amsterdam was one of the first cities to develop special policies for social entrepreneurship, and the city’s networks, ecosystem and business preconditions make it the ideal base for a successful social enterprise. The city is also home to platforms such as Social Enterprise NL, a national trade organisation that connects the Dutch social enterprise community, Impact Hub Amsterdam, a meeting and working space for impact-focused social entrepreneurs, and Amsterdam Impact, an initiative run by the City of Amsterdam that offers guidance to these enterprises while also providing a helpful overview of the local ecosystem.
Amsterdam-based social enterprises taking part in the mission include Tony’s Chocolonely (Dutch link), which produces slave-free chocolate (and which has recently been expanding internationally); Fairphone, a company that develops smartphones produced with minimal environmental impact; the Land Life Company, a producer of biodegradable “cocoons” that help trees flourish in dry environments; the “fairchain” coffee company Moyee Coffee (Dutch link); Dutch Weed Burger, a producer of seaweed-enriched vegan food; Reflow, a 3D printing company that uses plastic waste material as printing filament; and The Social Medwork, which helps seriously ill patients get access to the latest medicines that are not yet available in their own country (but that have been approved elsewhere in the world).
With its initial “innovation mission for social entrepreneurs,” the Netherlands aims to boost social entrepreneurship and create successful international collaborations.