StartSomeGood empowers people from around the world to become social innovators. By connecting social entrepreneurs with the financial and intellectual capital they need to transform an idea for improving the world into a reality, together we can turn ideas into action and impact…We’ve taken the crowdfunding model — which is growing in popularity world-wide — and customized it to reflect the unique needs of social entrepreneurs.
Some lines about StartSomeGood, a peerfunding platform, also known as crowdfunding, for social entrepreneurs, that made me think about the challenges you might face when you start setting up a social startup. I asked Alex Budak, founder of the StartSomeGood to tell me a little bit more over a Skype chat.
1. What is the story behind Start Some Good? How did you take the decision to make it happen? First of all, thanks for taking the time to interview me! The concept for StartSomeGood arose after I spent a few months living in India. Though I had traveled a good amount before then, I had never been face-to-face with that scale of poverty before. There, for the first time, I recognized that social change won’t come from one or two organizations, but rather from lots of people pursuing social good in their own individual way. I volunteered for a local social enterprise focused on girls’ empowerment, and I came back to the States ready to dedicate my life to improving the world through social entrepreneurship. I had an idea for a social venture I wanted to start, but I realized that there was no good place to start raising the funds or growing the community that is so crucial to getting a social enterprise off the ground. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there must be countless wonderful ideas out there for improving the world that never go from the idea stage to action. I reflected back on my experience in India, and spent time thinking about how we could empower anyone, anywhere to become a social innovator. And out of these experiences grew StartSomeGood. 2. Maybe we could talk about the various programs and initiatives in the social entrepreneurship space like Ashoka etc., how important they are and what they offer in the space? There are lots of outstanding organizations that are contributing to the growth of the social good sector. It’s especially exciting to see how many programs are aimed at inspiring and supporting young social entrepreneurs. AshokaU is a great example of creating college campuses focused on social change. Compass Partners, which recently expanded from three to fifteen Universities in the US and Sweden, works with college freshman, giving them a network, tools and advice so that by the end of their first year of college they are ready to launch their social enterprise. I believe that the proliferation and success of these — and many, many more — organizations makes now the best time ever to be launching a social venture. 3. Your thoughts on the importance of culture in the social entrepreneurship space? One of the things I recognized from my very first days as a social entrepreneur is how wonderfully collaborative the space is. Whereas many traditional companies are completely zero sum — if one corporation wins, almost always another loses — in the social innovation space, we’re all working towards a larger goal: creating a new future for our communities and our world. So, rather than coming into the space in an adversarial mindset, people take such a helpful and embracing position. I’ve found this to be the case in reaching out to social entrepreneurs both far more accomplished than I am who are willing to give of their time and advice, as well as with fellow social entrepreneurs who much more often ask the question “how can I help you?” rather than “how can you help me?” We’ve seen this to be the case with StartSomeGood as well. We recognize that there are three crucial pillars to launching a social venture — financial, relational and intellectual. Though we have a pretty good grasp of the first two, the latter is one in which many other organizations specialize. To that end, we’ve pursued partnerships with great organizations — including AshokaU and Compass Partners I mentioned earlier — that help ventures figure out their model and their vision, and then we can help them transform their ideas into action and impact. I’m passionate about understanding the entire social enterprise space and seeing how StartSomeGood can benefit changemakers of all types by filling a necessary niche. 4. Social entrepreneurship is a new space for Greece. I believe that it is one answer to the crisis the country is facing, which is not only financial in my eyes. How do you think, social entrepreneurship contributes to the development of local economies? I don’t believe it’s hyperbole to say that we are at a turning point in the history of the world right now. With economies in collapse and cultures out of balance, many look to the traditional safety nets that have guided us up to this point and see gaping holes in these supports. We’re simultaneously experiencing a decline in the power of traditional institutions and a rise in the power of the individual. As Yochai Benkler argued in his book ‘The Wealth of Networks,” the most important node is now an individual and his or her personal computer. This means that never before has an individual had so much agency for change, and increasingly individuals are turning towards the social entrepreneurship model as a means of empowering their communities in a sustainable manner. To be sure there will always be a place for social services, but more and more people are realizing that — especially with the decreased barriers to entry — that it’s more possible than ever to launch a start-up that focuses on both social and economic returns. Creating more social endeavors that have both sustainability and social change embedded in their business model gives the best opportunity for substantive and lasting change, and it’s exciting to see this trend spreading from cities to countries to continents. You can follow Alex also on Twitter @Abudak