The Netherlands and Silicon Valley have a lot in common. They’re both innovative, open to the world, and include everyone. Because of this, they’re both centers of social entrepreneurship. The Netherlands has become the European epicenter for social entrepreneurship and impact investing in the last five years: business revenues grew 75 percent and accounts for 3% of Dutch growth!
The success has resulted in an increased awareness of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in government and traditional businesses throughout the Netherlands. That’s why I’m proud to welcome the first innovation mission for social entrepreneurs to San Francisco and the Bay Area. Both social-impact environments can learn from each other.
But what makes the Dutch approach so special? I would name a couple of features. First, it’s the national trade organization for social entrepreneurs, Social Enterprise NL. Founded six years ago, Social Enterprise NL has actively built an ecosystem representing 400 social enterprises that connects and supports the growing community of social enterprises in the Netherlands.
Then there are many partnerships, also on a local level. Dutch cities and regions actively support social enterprises. One example is the City of Amsterdam, which was one of the first cities to develop an action program on social entrepreneurship. It has become an ideal home base for social entrepreneurs. Government, businesses and societal organizations work together to make the biggest social impact.
Also the Dutch government decided to combine its policies on foreign trade and development cooperation. As a result of years of implementing CSR in its policies, the Dutch started focusing on CSR in international production chains and boosting entrepreneurship in developing countries. Businesses that join Dutch trade missions have to comply with international CSR codes.
Impact Investors have historically been active in the Netherlands. But the amount of capital available to social enterprises and other impact investments has tripled since 2010. Many new players have added to the pool of funds available. Crowdfunding has proven to be a valuable source of funds for social enterprises.
But all of this would not have been possible without national awareness. Dutch consumers quickly became conscious of health and the environment as well as fair trade principles, with almost 70 percent of households buying fair trade at least once a year.
During this week, we aim to boost social entrepreneurship and create successful international collaborations. The San Francisco Bay Area tops the list of global startup ecosystems, and is the place where the world’s leaders in social entrepreneurship gather. This is exactly where Dutch social entrepreneurs can excel and showcase their outstanding business cases.
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