The Covid-19 crisis has inevitably changed the way many businesses operate. There are a number of programs that seek to facilitate the transition of various organizations to the "new normal". However, to what extent are the needs of social enterprises met and what would help them overcome the consequences of Covid-19? To answer these questions, Sofia Development Association consulted stakeholders in the framework of the Finance for Social Change project.
The results of the survey aim to identify existing programs and tools that support social enterprises in times of crisis and proposals for future ones; what are the achievements and developments in the field of social entrepreneurship so far.
25 participants shared how Covid-19 has influenced their business plans, what type of support they have received so far to adapt to the new situation and what mechanisms would help them develop even more successfully.
Participants acknowledge that the pandemic has slowed their business and that this affects them not only in economic terms but also their target groups, putting them at risk. However, many of them say that the pandemic has also had a positive impact - the crisis has caused their teams to think more creatively and change their business models.
Most often, the organizations have applied for financial support from the government or the Sofia Municipality. The support received consists of grants and access to training and has helped them keep their teams and continue to work in a more digital environment. In this regard, they consider access to funds for the purchase of equipment and team training, developing their digital skills, knowledge of digital marketing and data handling as the most urgent.
Social entrepreneurs rank the need for different types of support as follows: access to finance, mentoring, professional networks, support in communicating with communities and business insurance.
In a discussion with social entrepreneurs, the recently launched „Crisis as an Opportunity“ grant program was discussed in terms of scope and impact on social enterprises and municipal funding policies. The program, introduced by Sofia Municipality and administered by SDA, was identified as an important political instrument that should be continued next year.
UniCredit is the Main Partner of the Finance 4 Social Change initiative through its Social Impact Banking (SIB) programme in line with the Bank’s strong commitment to building a fairer and more inclusive society by promoting initiatives that can have a positive social impact.
SIB is a key pillar of UniCredit’s wider sustainability strategy with a current goal of disbursing 1 billion euros of total social financing by 2023 through its various initiatives across 11 countries, including: Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia.
The Finance 4 Social Change initiative provides the perfect platform for UniCredit SIB to directly support social entrepreneurship as a driver of social development and progress across the Bank’s different markets.
In addition, UniCredit colleagues will participate in the workshops of the Social Impact Business Plan Competition, offering their expertise and mentorship to the participants. They will also take part in the jury that will select the four winning projects in the pitching sessions in 2021.
The project "Finances4SocialChange" is co-financed by European Union funds (ERDF, IPA, ENI).
5 out of 25 companies with social impact business in Bulgaria were selected by a Jury consisting of social impact investors and experts to continue in the second stage of the international #AirCompetition organized in the framework of the Finances4SocialChange project, co-financed by Interreg Danube.
The areas of intervention of the companies are diverse – from circular economy and environmentally friendly production to education through video games, social and labour inclusion of people with disabilities, enhancing functional literacy of students through online games, community center.
The selected companies will develop business plans, social impact KPIs and compete with companies from Serbia and Moldova in November 2020 for winning 10 000EUR investment secured by Unicredit Bulbank Hungary.
#AIRCompetition is an international competition for social entrepreneurs, in which over 240 candidates from 12 countries in the Danube region are taking part. It is divided in several stages, and moving forward ensures an increase in funding opportunities and the establishment of meaningful, international contacts with experts and investors. SDA is the organizer for Bulgaria and is happy to share that the applications submitted by Bulgaria are 25.
The first stage of the evaluation of Bulgarian applications will end in July 2020. A jury composed of professionals in the field of entrepreneurship will select 10 candidates who will be invited for an online interview. After conducting the video interviews, the jury will select 3 organizations to proceed to the second stage of the competition.
The jury consists of Viki Blazheva, First Vice President at UniCredit Bulbank and Director of Communications; Elitsa Barakova, Executive Director of the BCause Foundation; Martina Grigorova, Head of Business Lending and International Projects at SIS credit; Nikolay Tsenkov, Manager of the Municipal Guarantee Fund of Sofia Municipality and Sevdalina Voynova, Program Director of Sofia Development Association. The criteria for evaluating the applications are developed by the German organization Fa-Se.
The second stage of the competition involves submitting a detailed business plan of the organization by October 31 and participating in a pitching session in Belgrade in November, in which selected Bulgarian organizations will compete with Serbian and Moldovan social entrepreneurs.
Based on the evaluation of the business plan and the presentation in Belgrade, a winner will be selected who will receive a 10,000 euro investment for his business and will have the opportunity to present at an international event in Budapest in January 2021 to investors, social entrepreneurs and European experts.
Sofia Development Association wishes success to all candidates!