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5 YEARS ON THE MARKET OF SOCIAL INNOVATIONS. HOW MANY SOCIAL ENTERPRISES HAS THE UKRAINIAN SOCIAL ACADEMY LAUNCHED?

“To see, to analyze, to act” is a slogan familiar to all students and graduates of the Ukrainian Social Academy. Their number is significant – for 5 years, more than 8000 people have participated in the programs and events of the Academy.

Before our eyes, the ecosystem of social entrepreneurship has been evolving, new market players have emerged, and social businesses have been launched, Ukrainian Social Academy itself helped to create about 127 such businesses. But the goal of USA is still relevant – the Academy aims to change the world through social entrepreneurship.

We spoke with Mykhaylo Melnyk, the CEO of the Academy, about how the market has changed during this time, the latest trends in social entrepreneurship and what knowledge and tools social innovators must have nowadays.

– In the last few years, social entrepreneurship has been very actively talked about. In your opinion, what has changed in our country?

Indeed, the development of social entrepreneurship in Ukraine today is a positive trend. Remember, seven or ten years ago, social initiatives, fairs for the vulnerable, social fundraising were single instances. Now this trend is visible to the naked eye: the number of such initiatives is growing every year.

We believe that the social economy and social entrepreneurs are the future. Social business already shows significant results – we see how Ukrainian entrepreneurs are creating jobs, employing socially vulnerable people, coming up with new ways of recycling materials, improving the environmental.

I can say with certainty that we are on the brink of explosive development of social business. There are many reasons for this: generational change, the paradigms of thinking, the social course of big companies, the need for social realization of consumers, etc. But on the whole, the business climate in the country leaves much to be desired, so this boom is a matter of more than one year.

– What are your personal overall results of the Academy’s work over these 5 years?

Throughout this time, the USA has been changing and developing. After all, our main principle is that we teach only those things we have tried to do ourselves. If it is fundraising, we ourselves have a successful experience of raising funds from different sources. If it is social entrepreneurship, we also have the experience of such work, etc.

When we founded the Ukrainian Social Academy, we studied different European and other international practices and tried to adapt them to Ukraine. By that time, I already had the experience of working at social enterprises in Brazil, Mexico, Italy and Germany. In 5 years, we have mastered many tools – something we have borrowed from foreign experience, something we invented ourselves.

Thus, the methodologies for social start-ups have been developed together with the teachers of the WU Executive Academy (Austria) and the Santa Clara University Social Entrepreneurship Development Center (USA) and adapted to the needs of our country’s social entrepreneurs. So, over 5 years, we have accumulated one of the largest portfolios of methodological materials and practices of social entrepreneurship.

– One of the biggest challenges of national education is that it is not oriented to real practice and exists outside the global context. How do you think this situation can be changed?

Now we are observing two tendencies:

The first one is a serious shortage of what is called soft skills, the skills that include negotiation, effective team management, creative thinking, creating useful contacts, time management, working with motivation, critical thinking and efficient conflict resolution. This essential set of competencies is relatively underdeveloped in Ukraine, since most of the time we used to live in a vertical hierarchical system.

The second tendency is the development of new technologies. The fourth industrial revolution, or wave of innovation, is not ending. Today, a successful leader must not only know the standards of management of the 21st century and be able to communicate with people, but also understand how the management structure interacts with new technologies, to be aware of big data and in general the “figure”, what opportunities are available in artificial intelligence. That is why we create the programs that appeal to everyone, from business to nonprofits.

Listeners now require quicker, more practically oriented programs that give them the freedom of choice. This is a new generation that is accustomed to a huge flow of information. These people will decide for themselves at what point they will study, and of course this affects the education, programs, as well as the supply of educational products offered by Social Academy.

– What are your predictions for further development of social entrepreneurship in Ukraine?

I intuitively seem that the ideas of social entrepreneurship will develop rapidly. At least because there will not likely be any opponents of this phenomenon. Who can be against social projects? No one! It seems to me that sooner or later the whole business will become social – these are my impressions of communicating with the next generation.

Modern young people are more altruistic. Everything is clear: there used to be lack of money, so our generation wanted to get them – quickly and as much as possible. Young people are not interested in business as such: they don’t just want to make money. They need to realize themselves, be in demand, change the world. After all, as a Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus said, making money is a happiness,  making other people happy is a super-happiness.