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A job that will make sense. How the Ukrainian Social Academy helps young people to realize themselves

Each next generation has more opportunities than the previous one. Compared to their parents’ generation, Ukrainian youth is more educated, speaks more foreign languages and is familiar with modern technologies. However, many young people do not know how to find themselves in life. For example, every fifth Ukrainian aged 15 to 24 and every tenth aged 24 to 29 does not work or study anywhere.

The reason for such statistics can be both the general economic situation in the country and the fact that young people are not satisfied with just any job. Young people want to do something that will make sense to them and others. According to this year’s Deloitte survey, 46% of millennials want to do something useful for society.

A great solution to the problem seems to be social entrepreneurship, a business that works not only for profit, but also for solving a certain social problem. This type of business makes it possible to realize one’s initiative and earn a living.

Like a regular business, a social enterprise sells goods or services, pays taxes, and hires workers. But unlike traditional business, the purpose of creating such an enterprise is to solve a certain social problem, not to make a profit. Typically, such enterprises employ people from vulnerable categories or allocate a certain percentage of earnings to social initiatives.

Social entrepreneurship is a relatively new concept for Ukraine. The first social businesses appeared in Ukraine in the early 2000s. And the first educational institution that comprehensively teaches how to conduct social business, the Ukrainian Social Academy, has existed for 5 years. We talked to Mykhailo Melnyk, the Academy’s CEO about how to develop social entrepreneurship in Ukraine and how it changes people’s lives.

History of the Ukrainian Social Academy

One day while studying for a postgraduate degree in Rome, I heard a speech by Chiara Lyubikh, the UNESCO Laureate. She spoke about people who changed their lives. From poor people, they became successful entrepreneurs striving not only to improve their lives and the lives of their families, but also to do something for others. Her story greatly influenced me.

Having defended my doctoral thesis, I moved to Brazil to see it for myself. Later I had the opportunity to work in Mexico and Guatemala. I heard stories of how local people had changed their lives and saw these changes with my own eyes.

Therefore, after returning to Ukraine, my friends and I wanted to create a place where people who are not indifferent to social problems would receive support, necessary resources, connections, knowledge to start their own social and entrepreneurial project or to help others. Such support at the start is a key success factor for the future development of the project. That is why we founded the Ukrainian Social Academy, an ideal place where the business component and the opportunity to make the world a better place are combined.

People who enter the academy are those who want to start a stable business and solve a social problem. We accompany our students from an idea to a working business, provide non-refundable investments and support our graduates.

The idea of the academy is expressed in its logo – it is based on a mathematical formula that illustrates the butterfly effect. The authors of this image were inspired by the famous phrase that the flutter of butterfly wings on one side of the world can cause changes on the other side. Similarly, the Ukrainian Social Academy is trying to create changes that will have a significant impact.

How are social enterprises usually created?

A person faces a certain social problem from his or her own experience and finds its solution. And then he or she realizes that his/her idea can help others and thus begins to introduce this solution on the market.

Social entrepreneurs are mostly the representatives of the new generation, people aged 20 to 40, who make up 40% of the working population. They are a bit idealistic – ready to give up personal gain for the sake of the idea and mission. And this becomes their competitive advantage. After all, the consumers are also changing: it’s not enough for them to simply pay for a product or service, they want to benefit society with their purchase.

Why do social entrepreneurs need special education?

Social entrepreneurship exists at the intersection of classical business and social sphere, therefore its to conduct such a business one requires special knowledge and non-standard methods.

When we founded the Ukrainian Social Academy, we studied international practices and tried to adapt them to Ukrainian realities. By that time I already had experience of working at social enterprises in Brazil, Mexico, Italy and Germany.

For, 5 years we have mastered a lot of tools, we have learned something from foreign experience, as well as invented something ourselves. Thus, the methodologies of programs for social startups were developed together with the teachers of the WU Executive Academy (Austria) and the Center for Social Entrepreneurship Development of Santa Clara University (USA) and adapted to the needs of social entrepreneurs in Ukraine.

How is the training done?

The programs are designed in a mini-MBA format. We teach practical business tools: how to be successful in the market, enter new niches, build up a team, etc.

We also acquaint our students with various models of social enterprises, with the history of the phenomenon itself, foreign experience, and social design, but at the same time we focus on “live” cases.

One more our peculiarity is mentoring support for projects. We cooperate with 40 representatives of successful companies and corporations, private investors, entrepreneurs. The task of the mentors is to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the project and help with solving problems.

We have both online and offline studying. The first one is suitable for you if you want to get just the knowledge. If you are looking for inspiration, new ideas, wish to get into a certain environment, you need an offline format.

Some of the Academy’s programs are free, some are paid. Allgthe money we receive for training goes to the Foundation for Support of Social Enterprises of our graduates, which operates in the USA. The best of them have the opportunity to get a non-refundable investment to start their own business.

What are the prospects for the development of social entrepreneurship in Ukraine?

Judging by my impressions of communicating with the new generation, sooner or later the whole business will become social. Today’s young people are more altruistic. Our generation, first of all, aspired to provide for itself.

It is not enough for young people just to make money. They need to realize themselves, be in demand, change the world. When the realized businessmen become aware of this, both lines will converge and the world will start to change very quickly. As Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus once said, making money is happiness, making other people happy is super happiness.

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