Social Impact Award is more than just an award. It is a year-round educational program on social entrepreneurship dedicated to students.
It was last year when I first heard about the Social Impact Award. For the first time, Macedonia was part of the 10 countries that were organizing this competition for students and I was responsible for raising awareness about social entrepreneurship, as I was engaged for the promotional activities of SIA Macedonia 2015.
Social entrepreneurship is something I am really passionate about, so it was a real pleasure to meet the Director of the Social Impact Award, the young social entrepreneur Jakob Detering. Firstly we met in Skopje couple of months ago for the SIA kick-off event and then we decided to grab a coffee during my short stay in Vienna. We met at his ‘duty station’ that is the Impact Hub Vienna.
“Soon as I finished with school, I wanted to leave my home country and join some social project, before enrolling at an University. So I ended up in Bucharest, Romania working with homeless children (12-25 y/o). Those were my first steps towards social entrepreneurship. I was 19 years old back then. After the project, I went back to Vienna for studies, but I kept thinking on how to solve some of the social problems in Romania. Plus during my studies, I was searching for more practical approaches and in the spring time of 2010, was when I first heard about the Social Impact Award. It was the last week before the application deadline and I canceled every course for that week just to focus on my application.
The initial idea was to have mobile stores that would bring food to the people living in the villages. I was only imagining about doing this project, but at that time I wasn’t prepared to implement it. It turned out that, I won SIA that year and met Katharina from Katharina Turnauer Privatstiftung so it was a perfect match. I started working for her foundation, during my studies and in meantime we implemented what is now SOMARO, supermarkets across Romania that are providing a solution for people that are living at the edge of poverty, to buy products at a super low price.” -says Jakob.
Jakob is German, living in Vienna, having a social business in Romania. It was really intriguing for me to find out why Romania and how the SOMARO stores are functioning nowadays.
“During my one year stay in Romania I came to a realization that Romania has the highest difference of wage and price level in the entire EU. When we were developing the project for the stores we learned that supply companies throw so much food on a monthly basis. Food that can be bought for up to 80% less than the regular price. This is how we’ve approached everyone in order to combine efforts. Now, the people that buy from our stores can spend the ‘saved’ money on education, health care etc…
Also, we collaborate with local NGO’s and authorities, so we know who is coming to the store. We have developed a functional process and not a single customer has complained on a product, nor there was a stealing of any kind in these six years. We’ve reached break-even, we have stable base of customers, stable supply chain, great team, so it was time for me to delegate my role and leave it to a person from the Romanian team.” – adds Jakob.
So how it is to go from a contestant to director of Social Impact Award? And what would Jakob recommend to the students that have ideas for tackling social problems?
“Since this project, I’m totally in love with the program and the mission behind SIA. I feel that I am doing something with a great purpose, and after being active as a speaker, volunteer, supporter I got the offer to jump on board as the Director of the Social Impact Award. Of course I accepted the offer and I am proud to say that in these past 2 years 60% of the projects are still active, the other 40% are still in the sector and all together we are all working in providing social solutions to different communities.
When you look at the situation and what’s happening in the world, I don’t think we should rely on politicians to propose social solutions… instead, we need the youth, our generation to be the driving force and come up with new ideas and approaches for the social problems we are facing. Most of the times, easily you could get overload of sad feelings, because of the situations and people you will meet along the way, that are struggling, but you need to focus on the end goal and the help you are offering. For all the students out there, during the summer holidays, use your free time to think of some problem from your community that needs fixing. Then try to come up with ways of fixing it, try it for at least one week. It will make your holiday more fun, of that I’m sure. Test it out, how social entrepreneurship feels. And don’t hesitate to apply for the Social Impact Award.” – said Jakob.
It was a real pleasure talking to Jakob and learning more about his journey. To anyone interested in tackling social problems, check out Social Impact Award, for inspiration, motivation and maybe find some potential partners that will help you out on the mission of creating a better tomorrow, for your neighborhood, your city, your country or the world 🙂