Meet the Actors: Training start-ups & building eco-system of green entrepreneurs
Training and support programmes for green entrepreneurs: challenges and opportunities
Why cooperation in supporting and training green entrepreneurs is important?
A wide range of initiatives and programmes are available in the MENA region for raising capacity among entrepreneurs for them to develop and put eco and social innovations in the market. Still, synergies among these initiatives are not well identified. Programmes could benefit from each other and build on each other's experience for enhancing the impact of the initiatives in building the eco system of entrepreneurs.
What did we aim at?
The objective of this session was to provide an overview of organisations active on capacity building for entrepreneurs in the Mediterranean and to identify challenges and opportunities in the provision of support and training to green entrepreneurs.
Find out the initiatives providing support to entrepreneurs
The session was co-hosted by Ms. Anais Mangin from SEED and M. Giorgio Mosangini, from the SwitchMed Green entrepreneurship program. The session began by the presentation of flagship initiatives related to green entrepreneurship in the Mediterranean in order to give an idea to the participants of what type of support exists in the region for entrepreneurs.
The initiatives presented were:
- SwitchMed Green Entrepreneurship Program (M. Giorgio Mosangini)
- SEED initiative (Ms. Anais Mangin)
- Mowgli Foundation (Ms. Nadine Asmar)
- Climate-KIC (M. Frederic Escartin)
- Fundación Biodiversidad (Ms. Guadalupe García)
- Ship2be foundation (Ms. Clara Navarro)
- GIZ Responsible Inclusive Business Hub (M. Michael Janinhoff)
These initiatives were invited to position themselves on a map, according to their sector of interest (vertical axis) and the origins of their funding (horizontal axis), in order to create a visual landscape of entrepreneurship in the Mediterranean. Participants to the session were also invited to contribute to this map at the end of the session.
The session objective was to inform participants about the initiatives that provide support to green entrepreneurs in the region.
The first initiative to be presented was the SwitchMed Green Entrepreneurship Program, by Mr. Giorgio Mosangini. Indeed, one of SwitchMed main targets is to create an ecosystem for green entrepreneurship in the MENA region namely in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Palestine and Lebanon (work in Libya hasn’t started yet due to security situation in the country). The program foresees the training of 2700 green entrepreneurs by local trainers according to a methodology developed by SwitchMed, adapting to green entrepreneurship the business canvas and the lean start up approaches. In a second phase, the program will support the creation of 30 green businesses in the region.
Ms. Anais Mangin presented the SEED initiative promoting entrepreneurship for Sustainable development. SEED is a global partnership for action on sustainable development and the green economy founded by UNEP, UNDP and IUCN and hosted by Adelphi. SEED provides a tailored support program for social and environmental start-ups and business development services. Among those services, start-ups can benefit from capacity building, peer-learning, enterprise assistance and online toolbox. The initiative is particularly active in sub-Saharan Africa.
Ms. Nadine Asmar, from the Mowgli foundation, gave an overview of the Mowgli foundation’s work. The Mowgli Foundation objective is to support the sustainable development of societies through mentoring and evolution of entrepreneurs and leaders. This translates into support and mentoring to entrepreneurs on the professional level but also psychological, to align the mind and the heart, at every stage of the entrepreneurial journey (start-up, growth and success). The Mowgli network of alumni mentors is well implanted in the MENA region and the UK.
Mr. Frederic Escartin, from Climate-KIC France, presented the Knowledge Innovation Community partnership (KIC), which consists of 230 partners in 16 countries in Europe. This partnership works around three thematic pillars (sustainable production systems, urban transition challenge and climate smart land use solutions) to positively impact on climate, economy and society. M. Escartin presented in particular the KIC innovation framework, which consists of different types of training programmes targeting different stakeholders, to achieve the partnership ambitious objective.
Ms. Guadalupe Garcia from Fundación Biodiversidad explained how the foundation supports biodiversity preservation through promoting green economy and green businesses. The Foundation has in particular a green jobs programme that aimed at training 50.000 people and helped create about 1000 green start-ups. Moreover, it has developed a green business network of entrepreneurs and investors to support the creation of green start-ups through a wide range of services from green investment forums to mapping of green entrepreneurs.
Ms. Clara Navarro cofounder of the Ship2B foundation presented the Ship2B initiative. It is a social business accelerator and incubator. This bottom-up initiative aims at supporting the creation of businesses that have the intention of making an impact. This impact can be social as well as environmental. Ship2B has been working with ESADE to set up a social innovation lab. The foundation gathers a community of about 500 impact investors. Indeed, if toolkits are necessary the key to success is the networks that are the ones that help scale up.
Mr. Michael Janinhoff, from GIZ RIB Hub, explained that the MENA hub focuses on four sectors. The work of the hub develops around capacity building and awareness raising, pilot project, support to entrepreneurs, policy advice and partnership with big companies. The accent is put on practical support rather than finance.
Discussing the challenges and opportunities for green entrepreneurship
Four working groups were organised in order to explore with the participants the challenges related to green entrepreneurship in the region on the one hand and possible solutions to address these challenges on the other hand. The topics discussed were: capacity building, toolkits and learning materials and, access to finance.
- Working group on capacity building
The capacity building group identified as main challenge building certain capacities with the green entrepreneurs, related to communication, marketing and leadership. Participants who were mainly trainers felt that the green entrepreneurs they work with have many technical skills but that often they lack the managerial ones. Another challenge encountered relates to the difficulty for entrepreneurs to translate their concept into a viable business.
Participants also felt that the entrepreneurial culture is lacking in the region and that this is mainly due to the education systems (national and abroad) that don’t foster this culture and path for young people. Trainers also expressed that there are too many capacity building programs out there.
To address the managerial skills challenge, the group suggested setting peer-to-peer learning mechanisms through for instance entrepreneurs’ networks that could help new entrepreneurs develop such skills. Moreover, the SwitchMed Green entrepreneurship training program was given as an example of a hand-on training that helps entrepreneurs really translate their concept into a marketable business and more especially test their idea on the market.
Finally, the reflection developed towards building an ecosystem for entrepreneurship as a way of building the entrepreneurial mindset. Working at the local level through territorial mentoring for instance was seen as good mechanism to build such an ecosystem.
- Working groups on access to finance (2 groups)
According to this group, challenges related to access to finance include:
- Time needed to apply for funds (public subsidies and private loans)
- Different language used by financial institutions as compared to entrepreneurs
- Difficulties to self-finance projects
- Lack seed funding
- “Valley of the death” cases funding
- Juridical and legal barriers
- Lack of financial management skills among entrepreneurs
- Low Return of Investment of eco-social projects
- Relatively high risk of innovative projects
- Low price of carbon (polluting is cheap unless we address the Climate Change issue as it is needed)
To address these challenges, participants thought of:
- Micro-finance or shared funding mechanisms like crowdfunding. Risk perceived by investors could be reduced via comprehensive documentation, pre-existing funds and diversifying funding sources
- COP21: global, ambitious and binding Climate Deal to be agreed at the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris in December 2015, that sets science-backed emission reduction targets and sets an adequate price on carbon to facilitate implementation via market-based mechanisms, thus boosting sustainable business.
- Banks need to develop new criteria to judge bankability of social/inclusive businesses
- Philantrophic foundations, public funds, business angels, smart portfolio management by banks/investors, use of mezzanine finance instruments, public funds take over private risks
- Intermediates needed (e.g. GIZ, Switchmed)
Finally, discussion in the group also tackled:
- the question of what an “Eco-System” is and how narrow it shall be defined.
- the fact that challenges are not the same everywhere in the region and the starting point are different. E.g.: Israel has enough seed money and ideas, in Jordan there is a lack of funding. Furthermore, the sector of business is crucial.
- Working group on learning material and toolkits
According to this group, challenges related to learning materials and toolkits were that:
- There is a need to adapt the toolkits to the local needs (both the ones from entrepreneurs and markets). This raises the question about what are these needs.
- There is a lack of access to resources or the costs to access these resources may be high (in terms of time, money, etc.).
- There are many different toolkits already existing, with different aims, methods and scopes. The lack of a global view on these toolkits and collaboration/interrelationships between them creates confusion on what option fits better to each kind of entrepreneur or what is the best way to set up a green business.
Solutions to address these challenges are:
- Firstly, talk to entrepreneurs and understand the real needs and worries. Then, adapt the training materials consequently.
- A general framework or toolkit would be useful, with a common part for all entrepreneurs and then some specific materials and tools depending on several variables, such as: (1) the economic sector of the business, (2) the country, (3) the education level of the entrepreneur, and (4) the level of engagement.
- Creation of a network of entrepreneurs that help each other in developing the business ideas. Established entrepreneurs could help new entrepreneurs and collaborate with them.
Let's continue the discussion
You can join and contribute the discussion on how really support green entrepreneurs in the session community here. You can also download the presentations here. In that community we encourage you to post your own reflections, experiences and questions. Keep engaging and shaping the content of SwitchMed Connect 2016.