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Lessons From The Dutch Social Impact Ecosystem Boom

SOCAP October 9, 2017

A SOCAP Guest Post by Willemijn Verloop, Co-founder of Social Enterprise NL and Founding Partner of Social Impact Ventures.
To be responsible guardians of the Galaxy, we must change our economic system to one in which growth is combined with social values. And I’m happy this awareness is shared more and more throughout my home country, the Netherlands, leading to the start of a Dutch Social Impact (r)evolution
The social enterprise sector in the Netherlands has grown rapidly over the last five years and boosted impact on important themes, such as circularity, poverty reduction, education and inclusivity. The sector grew by 70 percent. Collective business revenues grew 75 percent to €3.5 billion and have contributed 3 percent to the growth of the GDP between 2011 and 2016.
I am passionate about the social entrepreneurship model for societal change because the entrepreneurial spirit brings in much needed innovation and scale-up potential to solving societal challenges. With Social Enterprise NL, we built a strong national network for social entrepreneurs in the Netherlands. This growing network of more than 400 Dutch social entrepreneurs has been actively building the Dutch ecosystem, including knowledge sharing on impact and scaling, and strong alliances with the educational sector, financial sector, and (local) governments.
As a result, the Netherlands has become an epicenter for social entrepreneurship and impact investing in the last five years. There are a number of features that make the Dutch approach to social enterprise so special.

High Growth

First, the capital available for social ventures has tripled in the last five years, both for early stage ventures (many new impact angels, crowdfunders & family foundations have entered the market) as well as (early stage) growth capital via a number of new specialized impact investment funds (including my fund Social Impact Ventures).
The aim to scale clearly measurable social impact among investors has also grown rapidly, and funds such as Social Impact Ventures have set up a system where rewards are based on both quantifiably social and financial returns.


Secondly, there are many partnerships on local and regional level. Cities are actively supporting social enterprises to make a bigger impact through the collaboration. A fine example of this approach is the City of Amsterdam, which was one of the first cities to develop an action program on social entrepreneurs. It has since become a popular home base for social entrepreneurs.

Incubators and Accelerators

Thirdly, a growing number of incubators and accelerators are focusing on impact in the Netherlands, following the lead of strong partners such as Enviu and Impact Hub. Many mainstream corporates and local governments have become active in this field, creating learning and opportunities for both the social ventures and mainstream corporates on scaling impact.

An Invitation to Learn More at SOCAP17

Due to the momentum among businesses and consumers, SOCAP17 is the right moment for the first Dutch trade mission for Social Entrepreneurs. We’ll be in Silicon Valley with a dozen outstanding Dutch social entrepreneurs.  The San Francisco Bay Area with Silicon Valley tops the list of global startup ecosystems, making it a hub for world leaders in Social Entrepreneurship. We are therefore excited that Social Enterprise NL, Social Impact Ventures NL, Enviu, The Netherlands Enterprise Agency, The City of Amsterdam, Impact Hub and the Netherlands Consulate in San Francisco have joined forces to make this first mission possible. It is the example that the unique Dutch partnership between businesses, investors and government really works and really leads to outstanding business cases.
This Dutch social innovation mission combined with SOCAP17 will be a fantastic chance to share and learn from each other and to show the world what outstanding social entrepreneurship looks like. Most importantly it will be a great opportunity to get inspired and to accelerate massive social impact worldwide.

Willemijn Verloop, Co-founder of Social Enterprise NL and Founding Partner of Social Impact Ventures

Look forward to meeting you at our session on Wednesday,
Willemijn Verloop
p.s. Come visit our session for more insights on the Dutch Ecosystem and /or visit our Dutch party at Greens (Wednesday 4-8 pm) to see pitches of amazing Dutch social entrepreneurs including Tony’s ChocolonelyLand Life Company, MoyeeCoffeeEnergy Floors, The Dutch Weed Burger, People’s Pension Holding, Reflow, The Social Medwork and Dif Media.

Impact Investing
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