Social Impact Start

Social Impact Start: The scholarship program for social start-ups

Berlin, GermanyBerlin
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

With the Social Impact program, the Social Impact gGmbH supports social start-ups with the development of their business ideas and more experienced social entrepreneurs wit the development of scaling strategies. Participants of the Social Start-up program get selected through a pitch. Selected projects get a co-working space in one of the Social Impact Labs, consulting, coaching, mentoring by SAP employees, and access to networks.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

We live in a world with many issues that require solutions. Social entrepreneurs are people trying to solve a societal problem in an entrepreneurial way. However, innovative ideas are not enough. In order to develop a concept, and implement it successfully, many different aspects need to be considered. Difficulties may lie in how to create a viable business model, over how to decide what business form to choose, and how to make the idea sustainable. Depending on experience and knowledge, many social entrepreneurs fail at one of those stages, because they lack the expertise, possible support or networks that would be important for their success.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Social Entrepreneurs who are in the initial phase of their start-up therefore need a support system that offers advise, qualification, consulting, coaching, and mentoring by professionals, who can then share their experience and expertise. Through the scholarship program, social start-ups get the necessary professional advice and a secure workspace, which allows them to focus on the elaboration of their ideas. Furthermore, it is very important to create networks, exchange information and experiences, and hence learn from each other. On top of that professional support and advice is essential in ensuring a successful startup with a viable concept and strategy. All that is offered by the Social Impact Start scholarship.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The scholarship program allows social start-ups to make a real impact in our society, by supporting them in creating more viable concepts and more sustainable solutions. One example is the project ‘Dialog macht Schule’, which is an education program that promotes new school cultures by training university students to become tutors. Social Impact Start supported this project by providing access to foundations and financing. Currently the project is scaling throughout Germany. Another example is ‘Morethanshelters’, which is a project that designs shelters for emergency aid in crisis areas. We supported this project by providing consulting and networks, and preparing them for a crowdfunding campaign, which led to 226 percent financing.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We want to establish more Labs in Germany. Currently we are working with SAP on a learning and information platform (Social Impact Net). This should help people who cannot participate in our program with the development of social entrepreneurial business models. We also develop a residence program for social start-ups from 8 European countries (Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Czech Republic and Russia). Besides mentoring and financial support, social start-ups from those countries get the opportunity to further develop their social business ideas in one of our Labs. We are also planning on developing a transnational Social Impact Lab in Germany, where teams from different European countries can be supported. Besides that we are working on cooperations with charities and businesses in order to spread our idea.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Other organisations that are offering support to social entrepreneurs include Ashoka, Schwab Foundation, Skoll Foundation and Echoing Green. However, these organisations offer rather global programs that last longer and offer a more general support to already established social enterprises. Social Impact Start on the other hand provides a more specific program in set locations. Social Impact Start is aimed at social entrepreneurs in the initial or expansion phase. The support is supposed to develop the main concept or scaling strategies, and advice is given by SAP employees and other consultants and coaches. Social Impact is in Germany the only open incubator for social start-ups that is free of cost. People in all age groups, backgrounds and qualifications can participate.


The core team of the Social Impact GmbH consists of 6 people in an overhead structure. They are responsible for the development and the securing of the different areas (methods and instruments) and for quality control, for the central fundraising and stakeholder communication, for public relations and the management of participants, the choosing of consultants and mentors and their matching. This core team is supported through on-site employees at the different Social Impact Labs. There are 2-4 employees at each Lab, who are responsible for looking after and supporting the social start-ups. The expert advice is being offered through external consultants.
About the Lead Co-Creation Partners
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Type of organization (e.g. NGO, association, not-for-profit, foundation, social enterprise)

Social Enterprise

Total Number of Full-Time Employees


Lead Contact First Name


Lead Contact Last Name






Organization Name


Total Number of Full-Time Employees


Lead Contact First Name


Lead Contact Last Name



SAP AG Director, Corporate Social Responsibility DACH



Organization Website
Basic Info
Project Starting Year


Primary European Country where this Project is creating social impact

, BE, Berlin

Additional European countries where this Project is creating social impact

Austria, Switzerland

Select the category that best fits the type of your project:

New products & services: Entries in this category develop and offer essentials product and services that address needs currently unmet, Job Creation: Entries in this category create new jobs for people away from the labor market.

What awards or honors has the project received?

Sustainable Entrepreneurship Award

Project Summary
Co-Creation Model: Tell us about your main strategic partners and how the partnership truly create value. For each Partner please include its type (business/social/public), its name, a short description, its key motivation to participate in the co-creation project, and the key contributions it is making in the co-creation project. Please follow the format displayed below:

-Partner 1: SAP AG
-Type of partner: business
-Short description sentence: SAP is the world leader in enterprise software and software-related services. SAP has locations in more than 130 countries and its headquarter in Walldorf, Germany.
-Key motivation to participate in the co-creation project: SAP is very interested in supporting entrepreneurship innovative ideas. As part of their CSR initiative, SAP uses the opportunity to support social entrepreneurs, whilst sharing its employees’ expertise and hence creating a social impact.
-Key contributions in the co-creation project: SAP contributes co-financing, builds connections with other funding partners and provides the essential expertise of its employees to the program, by offering workshops and providing a pool of mentors who get matched to the start-ups.

-Partner 2: Deutsche Bank AG
-Type of partners: business
-Short description sentence: Deutsche Bank is a leading global universal bank. The bank has more than 100,000 employees and is present in more than 70 countries.
-Key motivation to participate in the co-creation project: Deutsche Bank is very interested in supporting the engagement of their employees, especially in the area of skilled volunteering. There is also a great interest in social entrepreneurial models and new financing methods.
-Key contributions in the co-creation project:A pool of voluntary experts of Deutsche Bank offer Social Impact Start their expertise for the development of suitable financing strategies and the support with the development of financial plans.

-Partner 3:Deutsche Bank Stiftung
-Type of partners: foundation
-Short description sentence:Deutsche Bank Stiftung was founded in 2005, pursues charitable goals, initiates projects and supports partners in the areas of education, art, music and social issues.
-Key motivation to participate in the co-creation project:Deutsche Bank Stiftung wants to contribute to the development of new financing instruments in the social sector.
-Key contributions in the co-creation project: Deutsche Bank Stiftung finances the development of the scholarship program and the access to the crowdfunding platform. In this way Social Impact Start receives an additional option for securing their financing.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact. Please specify using qualitative and quantitative data (e.g. # of indirect and direct beneficiaries); help us understand how this solution truly makes a difference.

So far Social Impact Start has held 24 pitches and supported 115 scholarship holders, of whom 49% are based on products and services, 15% on empowerment/development aid and 36% on web 2.0. There have been 74 business formations and 42 external awards have been won. Furthermore, more than 250 jobs and more than 500 volunteering positions have been created.More important than the numbers though is the social impact that the social start-ups create. They develop new solutions to social problems and contribute to the introduction of new methods, instruments and forms of cooperation in the social sector. Our projects range from ‘Hundebande’, who offer training guide dogs to female prisoners, to ‘Ruby Cup’, which offer menstrual cups and donate a Ruby Cup to African schoolgirls with every purchase to allow them to pursue their education or Fairnopoly, a fair online marketplace.

Funding: How is your project financial supported? [select all that apply]

Foundations, Businesses, National government.

Sustainability Plan: Has your project already reached financial sustainability? If not, what is this solutio’s plan to ensure financial sustainability? Do the main partners have enough stake to sustain the solution? If this project requires limited budget, how will other resources be secured to maintain or grow this work?

Whilst initially there was a strong dependency on the lead partner SAP, it is now possible, with the approval of SAP, to gain several financing partners for the financing of Social Impact Start. This includes the German Ministry for family, elderly, women and youth, Deutsche Bank Stiftung and Deutsche Bank, the Parität, the KfW Stiftung, JP Morgan Chase Foundation, Drosos Stiftung, Telefonica etc. The project is economically viable. At the same time it is one of our goals to build as many financing partnerships as possible in order to reduce the dependency on each partner.

Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the Partners to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

Seeing is believing! It was initially difficult to convince people that establishing a special program for social start-ups would be useful. There were substantial doubts if the demand would be big enough, and if it would be worth it to offer a structure etc. Therefore, we took the financial risk ourselves in order to establish such program. We were able to not only give funders concrete examples, but were able bring them into direct contact. The talks between the engaged and convinced start-ups with the potential funders was mach more convincing than any other arguments about demand and meaningfulness.

About the Co-Creation
Barriers: What main barriers may you have encountered to co-create during the creation and implementation of the project and how did you try to overcome them?

One of the challenges during the co-creation process was on creating a common understanding of social entrepreneurship. It was important to make sure that the partner organisation and its employees knew the difference between social enterprises and conventional businesses. It also needed to be made clear to staff and mentors that social entrepreneurs might face different challenges than classical start-ups. The consulting that is offered to businesses is therefore often not very helpful to social entrepreneurs as they have different needs and interests. It was therefore very important to sensitize our mentors and volunteers about the topic of social entrepreneurship, and how the support needed differs from other businesses.

Governance: What is the type of the relationship between the partners? (e.g. joint venture, contractual relationship, joint project...)

Donor & volunteering through mentoring

Interaction model: How is the project a transformative partnership? How is the interaction transforming the partnering organizations and their employees/ leadership in terms of creating a new vision, new management practices, new skills and new organizational structures? Please provide for concrete examples

In this partnership two organisations with very different business aims have found a way of working together towards the same goal, by combining innovative ideas with existing expertise in different professional fields. SAP, which is a corporate organisation, gets the opportunity in this partnership to support social innovation, and hence contribute to a positive social impact. Furthermore, SAP employees can became part of a new development, and use their experience and expertise in a new and different way. The project is now also important in the everyday work of SAP, as there are regularly topic specific events in the rooms or locations of SAP (Social Impact Snacks, Social Impact Bar, mentor meetings etc.). In this way the social engagement of the increasing number of mentors has an impact on the culture of the global organisation.

How did you find out about this competition?

Felix Oldenburg, Asoka Germany