Interview by: Stefan Alijevikj
Edited by: Marija Matovska
The Social Impact Awards for 2016 are just about to be launched in dozens of European countries. Mladiinfo International joined the initiative, and organized the awards for the first time in 2015, for Macedonia. The journey with the Social Impact Award is an exciting one, and, it means you will also get to meet and collaborate with amazing people. In our newest interview, and just before taking off with activities for the 2016 edition of the awards, we conducted an interview with Jakob Detering, Director of the Social Impact Award.
Being 27 years old, born and raised in Germany, Jakob Detering is part of a younger European generation that challenges the status quo of our society. Especially in times like these, rising global economic crisis, and now, vast migration movements that dramatically affect the whole Europe, Jakob asserts that it is the call of the new youth generation, to come up with innovative approaches for constructing a better future for all. In our newest interview, find out more about him, and how does he makes social impact!
Mladiinfo: The core of your work is exactly addressing societal challenges throughout entrepreneurial initiatives. How did you find the flame for what you work?
Jakob: I strongly believe that social entrepreneurship can and should play a relevant role in addressing our current and future societal challenges. When we look at our societies nowadays – whether it is the Macedonian or any other in Europe, there are three main sectors: First, a powerful business sector that has shown in recent years that social responsibility is not really a priority of their activities. Second, the political sector that doesn’t seem to have neither the power nor the resources to effectively solve our societal challenges. And third, there is the non-profit sector that tries to fight the mentioned failures of market and state with passion but partly lacks innovation, professionalism, and entrepreneurial thinking. Now, a social entrepreneur enters this arena, somebody that addresses our challenges with the efficiency and professionalism of a manager, the unifying spirit of a good politician and the passion of a social worker. Isn’t that interesting?
Mladiinfo: Back in the day, you worked for Katharina Tunauer Privatstiftung, and you also run Somaro, a pioneer of Romanian social business How have these experiences shaped you?
Jakob: Well, it all started when I moved to Romania after I finished school in 2007. In Bucharest I worked with street children for one year. That year changed a lot and not only made me fall in love with Romania and Eastern Europe but also motivated me to dedicate my professional career to try to help to change the state of our societies for the better. I’m really thankful that I could give something of this great experience back to Romania with the social business Somaro. Working for Katharina Turnauer Foundation allowed me to support also other social ventures across Europe. And my main takeaway from all of that is simple: It’s not about the money, it is about the moments in which you realize that your action made a difference – even if it’s only a small one.
Mladiinfo: You acted as the general manager of Somaro. What ignited your journey with this project?
Jakob: Romania has the highest difference of wage and price level in the entire EU. That leads to the fact that Romanians spend on average around half of their money on food. With the other half you cannot afford housing, health care, education and other crucial parts of your life. At Somaro, we combine this challenge with the fact that vast amounts of food are wasted along the supply chain from the producer to the supermarket, also in Romania. Reasons for that are divers: wrong labeling, package damage, miscalculations in logistics, etc. So, what we do with Somaro is to take over these products and instead of wasting them we provide them to people living at the edge of poverty in our own stores. We don’t aim at any profits from this, we just want to cover our running costs. Since 2010, we could already provide thousands of Romanians access to low-price but high quality food and cooperate with about 70 companies.
Mladiinfo: You are now appointed a Director of the Social Impact Award. It’s a year-round educational program and competition on social entrepreneurship, the biggest such initiative for European students. How will the program develop in the forthcoming period?
Jakob: The Social Impact Award offers students from all fields an opportunity to create their own future and become an active citizen in their town and country. It is more than just an award, it’s a year round program that supports students to develop their own ideas to tackle specific social or environmental challenges. We start by offering workshops from idea generation to business modeling and help students to conceptualize their ideas. Then we select the most promising ideas to take part in a summer program in which we provide the teams with individual support from experts. Based on their progress over summer the best projects then are awarded with the Social Impact Award in September and receive further support and access to our international network. All this does not only happen in Macedonia, but in nine other European countries parallelly. A major change in 2016 is that we offer the summer program to more projects and select the winners after summer. This allows us to support even more projects and therefore increases our own social impact. Together, we’ll try to improve the program even further in the upcoming years and aim at scaling it to many other countries.
Mladiinfo: What can young entrepreneurs and students throughout Europe expect with the Social Impact Award in 2016?
Jakob: If you are a student today, let’s say at an university based in Skopje, you are in a perfect situation to start developing and implementing your own ideas. First, you’ll be never as free as at university. Often no children to feed and no full-time job that hinders you to do your own thing. Second, facing a youth unemployment rate of 50% in Macedonia – with similar numbers in many other European countries – as a student today you better start creating your own job by becoming an entrepreneur than to wait for somebody to employ you. And third, and perhaps most important: Transforming your own idea into reality and having a positive impact on others life is a lot of fun and satisfaction! And what you can expect from us is that we support you along this process, professionally and personally.