Greece is in its sixth year of social and economic instability contributing to increased inequalities in the country. The country is facing a humanitarian crisis, a decline of the social welfare system and a worrying rate of youth unemployment, forcing a large number of young and skilled Greeks to leave the country.
The crisis has also highlighted public sector inefficiencies and as a result a generation of self-made entrepreneurs looking closely at their social impact is emerging. Strengthening their organisations, enabling better access to funding within a growing dynamic social impact investment sector that allows their ideas to flourish, is a key role that EVPA can play in Greece. The opportunity to take a collaborative approach and learn from international peers how to strengthen the nascent local social economy could play a key role in restoring the economic stability and reinforcing social justice.
In 2011, Greece passed a legal framework to spur on Greece’s social sector (Law 4019/2011) and aimed at tackling unemployment, specifically through the integration of unemployed and key social groups.
Around the same time, Greece also planned for a Support Mechanism on a central and regional level, which aims to support the development of social enterprises incorporated under this law, namely Social Cooperative Enterprises, alongside additional social economy initiatives. The mechanism has not been activated yet, although there was a relevant call at the end of 2014.
In Brief, the Central Mechanism’s aim will be to support and develop the sector of social enterprises in Greece and will have €750,000 to operate, the 13 Regional Mechanisms would have around €19.5m. Both will be funded by the Operational Programme for Human Resources Development, an instrument co-funded by the ESF (European Social Fund) and Greek National State Funds. Notably these budgets are not going directly into social initiatives but to the supporting structures of these initiatives.
Falling under the category public sector initiatives and worth a mention also is The ‘Athens Start-up Business Incubator’, funded by the EC ERDF (European Regional Development Fund), named THEA project, which together with Enterprising Socially (Epicheiro Kinonika – Επιχειρώ Κοινωνικά) are run by the Μunicipality of Athens through the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency – EATA. These are business development services for entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs accordingly from early stage to mature. The first cohort comprising 19 organisations just ended but a new one is already planned and will be launched in September.
Local initiatives to support Social Purpose Organisations
Local actors are supporting the development of the sector by empowering social purpose organisations alleviating the effect of the crisis for the most vulnerable groups and providing key services.
Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), the largest national philanthropy foundation, has recently launched its second emergency grant program of €100m that similarly to the first “Initiative Against the Greek Crisis” (2012-2015), seeks to strengthen the Social Welfare and Health Care sectors, which are faced with unprecedented challenges. The Foundation is investing in intermediaries instrumental to the growth of the sector among which The Impact Hub in Athens and The Action Finance Initiative, which in partnership with Adie is offering microfinance to micro-entrepreneurs. SNF awards grants to NGOs promoting social inclusion and poverty alleviation such as Praksis, offering free showers and washing machines to people without electricity or water.
###pEVPA’s first event in Greece in December 2014 raising awareness on and reinforcing the understanding of Venture Philanthropy and Social Investment by local funders in Greece. The Foundation designs specific programmes to tackle migration, health and social welfare and finances third party initiatives. In both cases it provides ad-hoc access to network and skills. They are also funding key services for improving the current challenges faced in the country such as Boroume, a nongovernment agency that distributes excess food from supermarkets, restaurants and even wedding parties, to organisations that distribute it to people in need and the soup kitchens scattered throughout Greece.
The TIMA Charitable Foundation is a Foundation focusing on supporting the needs of the elderly in Greece. The Foundation champions teams with effective management skills, a vision towards long term sustainability and innovation. One example is Myrtillo a shop and café with space for events and artistic initiatives. The latter offers training opportunities to its employees and the local community plus employs 40% of their staff from vulnerable social groups.
From the mainstream finance side, Eurobank launched a holistic entrepreneurship acceleration programme called The egg. The programme targets young teams with creative and innovative ideas to improve employment opportunities in Greece for the duration of 12 months. For more information about The egg – enter•grow•go, click here.
The University of Peloponnese, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, hosts a capacity building programme for organisations of the non-for-profit sector but implemented also a research project on evaluation methodologies for the Greek non-for-profit sector.
Local initiatives to build the VP/SI sector
A key example of the venture philanthropy approach at work in Greece is the fund sponsored by EEA Grants and managed by Bodossaki Foundation. The €7.3m Fund is designed to strengthen local NGOs through the provision of a systemic support in capacity building. The foundation promotes thematic workshops and trainings to support the professionalisation and long term sustainability of the non-for-profit sector in Greece and the organisation of peer learning activities among grantees.
Another interesting initiative is the Social Entrepreneurship Supporting Network (SES Net). One out of 22 pilot social finance schemes within the framework of Social Finance Enterprise, an initiative of the European Commission under DG Employment, SES Net aims to establish a social economy fund on a national level in order to facilitate access to finance to social enterprises in Greece.
Since fall 2014, a number of stakeholders in the social enterprise ecosystem joined forces to co-organise the Social Entrepreneurship Forum. SES Net hosted the discussion panels around Social Finance/ Impact Investment and Social Impact Measurement. Partner organisations in this annual initiative are: Benisi, Wind of Renewal, 180 Moires,Ecological Recycling Society, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Impact Hub Athens and SES Net with parallel events hosted by Ashoka Greece.
Ashoka is launching a country office in Greece to contribute to the economic recovery and tackle the most pressing social challenges of Greek society by promoting and encouraging social entrepreneurship, accelerating and transferring of innovation as tools of change, while creating employment opportunities.
The outlook for the sector
Greek foundations play an instrumental role in alleviating the effect of the crisis in Greece and are most likely to apply venture philanthropy to their practices in the short term by promoting grassroots entrepreneurship among the poor and the socially excluded. As was recently mentioned in a keynote speech at this year’s EFC conference by a Greek VC: “philanthropic Foundations (could) try to work a bit like early-stage venture capital investors. Give some small teams of good people the opportunity to experiment with an initial idea, but let them change it and re-shape it, rather than deliver specific targets”.
With dwindling national funding, international funds are increasingly needed to tackle the effect of the six years’ crisis so it is encouraging to see such examples spring up. Among these: EEA Grants and their partnership with Bodossaki Foundation, SolidarityNow the initiative funded by Open Society Foundation and Orange Grove the flexible workspace for young entrepreneurs started by the Netherlands Embassy in Athens together with a number of Greek and Dutch corporate sponsors, charity foundations and universities.
EVPA’s role in gathering various stakeholders could tap into the strong need to build relationships of trust among funders and support the creation of synergies. By providing a different mentality and promoting values such as transparency and collaboration we hope to develop a stronger sector in Greece. The main barriers that we see can be attributed to a yet non defined legal framework; the scarcity of funds dedicated to building capacity and professionalising the social sector; plus the lack of best practices in social impact measurement.
EVPA’s activities in Greece
To strengthen and scale up local VP/SI movements, EVPA reaches out to existing members and interested new players, whether investors, foundations, corporates or governments, with a view to sharing concrete research, case studies and best practices and highlighting different models of social investment and venture philanthropy.
EVPA increases awareness around venture philanthropy in Greece by contributing to local events as a speaker and by organising events in partnership with local organisations. Last year we partnered with the The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, Ashoka Greece and the team at The Impact Hub in Athens to strengthen the understanding of the VP/SI approach to decision makers strengthening the local sector.
EVPA is also currently reviewing applications for those VP/SI practitioners in Greece who want to become members. If you are interested in joining EVPA, do not hesitate to get in contact with EVPA’s Community Manager, Christina Wu.
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