In overall terms the figures demonstrate that building social companies takes time, but that a good majority of our social entrepreneurs steadily become stronger and mature. Ferd SE’s 6th annual SosEnt conference brought together 350 committed people in the foyer of the Oslo Opera House in creative dialogue and concrete exchange of ideas and experience with Innovation Norway and the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation. The event also saw the Government promise social entrepreneurs a ‘recipe book’ to make it easier for municipalities to collaborate with social innovators, and Innovation Norway also promised to involve social entrepreneurs more directly in its strategy.
In 2015 we had as many companies in our Alumni portfolio as in the active portfolio; seven in each category.
Developing a market for social entrepreneurs in Norway is slow process, and the market continues to be immature. What is needed is more investors and customers in both the private and public sectors brave enough to try out new solutions. The companies we come across that have innovative ideas on social benefits are either at a very early stage or are in the process of setting up. Few traditional investors consider companies of this type. Most social entrepreneurs have a relatively low earnings potential in financial terms, meaning they require unconventional investors, specifically ‘social first’ investors primarily interested in the social effect that the company can create. We believe that several of our companies can grow over the long term into sound financial investments, but this requires time and patience.
We have clearly noticed that both investors that traditionally have sought financial returns only and those that have traditionally made impact investments (families, foundations etc.) are increasingly considering investments in social entrepreneurs.
The move to more mixed investment models seems to be taking time – both due to the discussions that are required and the process of developing strategies. We expect to see greater active involvement in this approach to investing in the future. Ferd SE believes that savings bank foundations across Norway have a lot to offer social entrepreneurs in terms of their networks, local knowledge and capital. The Østfold and Akershus Savings Bank Foundation very definitely came on board this year, and has, via an agreement with Ferd SE and the municipalities in its area, started an exciting collaboration with InTempo and Drive for Life in its region.
We had seven active portfolio companies at the end of 2015, and a further three companies transferred to the Alumni portfolio during the year. The portfolio as a whole has shown that social entrepreneurs are capable of creating significant value for society (Vista Analyse, 2014). Our main efforts are directed at helping the companies to create a strong double bottom line with good social as well as financial results. In showing that such companies represent good investments for society, we are aiming to pave the way for more people to take the opportunity of investing in building a market for social entrepreneurs and companies with a clear double bottom line. We have worked actively with 18 companies since our owner, Johan H. Andresen, signed the first agreement with a social entrepreneur in 2009. We have helped these companies to develop not just through our expertise but also with tools such as grants, loans and guarantees.
We believe in the principles of long-term agreements, support that enables organisations to develop and professionalise (operations), and measuring social benefits, principles we share with many other social investors in Europe.
We received and processed more than 150 applications in 2015 and admitted two new entrepreneurs on to our ‘First Steps’ programme, a newly-established intensive starter year for the portfolio. If the companies on the scheme progress as expected during the First Steps programme, they will transfer to three-year agreements just like other companies in the portfolio.
Barnas Plattform – Birgit Semundseth has developed tools to increase children’s self-esteem and works to share these with parents and childcare professionals.
Norsk Mestring – Espen Holmgren has spent a number of years developing the concept of wilderness therapy, and is succeeding in getting children out of challenging situations through a combination of close dialogue, monitoring and active use of nature.
The Alumni portfolio
The objective for all our investments is that the social entrepreneurs in the portfolio should become financially self-sufficient over a period of 3-6 years. Our social entrepreneurs are given the opportunity of transferring to the Alumni portfolio when our active agreements with them come to an end. Alumni companies attend the events we hold two or three times a year for all our portfolio companies and keep us updated about their financial and social results. Forskerfabrikken, the Pøbel Project and Trivselsleder transferred to the Alumni portfolio in 2015. The other companies in the Alumni portfolio are Gatemagasinet Asfalt, Ungt Entreprenørskap, Unicus and Gladiator/Aball1. We are incredibly proud of what these companies have achieved.
The 2015 Social Entrepreneurship Conference
In 2015 we moved our 6th annual SosEnt conference to the autumn and invited a broad range of delegates to the Oslo Opera House on 3 November. The conference brought together a broad spectrum of participants in Norway explore joint ways to strengthen the field of social entrepreneurship. The conference combined specialist content on the need for improved social impact with dialogue and exchange with the Government and Innovation Norway – a day of interaction between roles, industries and areas of expertise. The main theme of the conference - “What if impact were the most important consideration?” - is presented in illustrated form on the conference website (www.sosentkonferansen.no, only in Norwegian). The clearest impact was demonstrated by Forandringsfabrikken (Change Factory), which, together with its ‘professionals’, demonstrated that youth have a great deal of knowledge and ability when it comes to making change happen. What they have achieved, and are continuing to achieve, by arguing for changes to the way child protective services and systems are delivered left the audience impressed and moved in equal measure.
2015 again saw Johan, Katinka and Øyvind deliver numerous talks and presentations both in Norway and abroad. We have continued our regular ‘Open House’ meetings, and five 2-hour thematic events were held in 2015 in Ferd’s offices at Lysaker. The meetings are open to anyone who wants to learn about social entrepreneurship and engage in dialogue with Ferd. 30 people attended our ‘Open House’ events in 2015.
The number of full-time equivalent positions in the business area increased from three to five in 2015, split between six full-time employees. The expanded team allows us to strengthen our support to the portfolio companies, primarily in the areas of finance and business development . We also want to strengthen our work in relation to external engagement and to help influence and develop the opportunities for social entrepreneurs to make a positive difference to Norwegian society.
Social entrepreneurship is a growth area internationally, and the field is attracting increasing interest in Norway. Ferd SE is regularly approached by a large number of parties looking to learn from our experience in the field and to collaborate with us on potential projects. We willingly share what we have learned, both by giving talks and by meeting interested parties directly. We have chosen to prioritise the use of our resources on teams and individuals where we think there is good potential for practical action and benefits that will further the cause of social entrepreneurship.