All eight social start-ups of SEMPRE Accelerators strive towards the same goals: becoming mature organisations providing different social services. What is special about SEMPRE Accelerators is that these organisations are not driven by the "usual suspects" – providers of social services – but by the service users themselves. In this context, empowerment is a crucial concept for SEMPRE Accelerators.
But working towards these goals also comes with significant challenges - especially since the ownership of the start-ups should be with the end-users. As a first step, we identified overarching challenges that concern all eight start-ups in one way or the other. This includes, for example, questions of communication and marketing, but also how to find the right financial resources and how to argue convincingly that a social start-up is worth being funded.
Another common challenge that we identified revolves around leadership and management styles and the right distribution of roles. This very challenge and potential solutions were also at the core of a so-called transnational training day, organised by SEMPRE Accelerators in Vilnius in late January. The facilitators of all eight social start-ups participated in the training day. Supported by a professional trainer, we worked on questions such as how to build a good team, how to define responsibilities and how to find the right leadership structures for social start-ups. While these questions might sound unspectacular for professionals dealing with organisational questions on a regular basis, they require very specific answers for our social start-ups – having in mind that the social start-ups of SEMPRE Accelerators should be owned and driven by end-users, which in our case are people belonging to different vulnerable social groups.
Three of the main themes of the training days were:
- What are good leadership styles? How can teams be led successfully? An important strategy that the partners learned during the training day was the so-called active listening. Active listening requires, for example, asking the right (i.e. "fertile") questions, letting the partners finish their speech, working with empathy in the right way, including strength-centred communication elements, learning how to observe and take up non-verbal signals, and many more aspects.
- How can teams (such as our social start-ups) reach and maintain the right team balance? One of the strategies developed by our trainer is “topic-centred interaction”, a concept that explains the roles of different team members and how they can organise their professional interaction towards a shared aim. Moreover, through role games, the partners tested different strategies for problems that can occur in the teams and that could threaten the team balance. Such situation could be, for example, challenging attitudes of a team member towards specific tasks, other team members or the team as a whole.
- How can reality-based solutions be derived from a problem analysis? It was interesting to see that by the method "problem tree gets solution tree", a difficult situation can be visualized and lead towards realistic solutions and strategies by supportive moderation, logical thinking and the "open-floating" ideas of the whole team. Moreover, gaps in quick reflection techniques were detected through discussions amongst the team members with available time reserves. This method would need intensification and repetitions based on more practical examples from the running projects, also using team members as moderators.
One and a half days of intensive training equipped the participants with a set of strategies and tricks they can take home and apply to their social start-ups and the specific local conditions. We say thank you to our hosts from Lithuania and the trainer for guiding us with patience, humour and inspiration through both days. Below you may find selected work materials prepared by our trainer and the workshop agenda.
- Selected work materials (PDF)
- Training day agenda (PDF)
- Website of the external trainer (SOKRATES, Günther Koegst)