Open the Circle is a coalition with the ING Bank initiated by Reach for Change in Bulgaria and focused on preventing poverty and fighting social exclusion. Within this coalition we developed a scaling readiness program to support social entrepreneurs in scaling their solutions. After one year of implementation, we have made significant strides in the right direction towards tackling modern Bulgaria's most pressing issues but ran into some roadblocks along the way.
Our first challenge was the lack of organizations working exclusively with these topics which was disappointing for us but quite understandable. The sector of social entrepreneurship is rather new and there are mostly organizations in the very early stage of development. It means that they need more time and professional coaching to be ready to scale.
Many organizations are coming from the NGO sector and while NGOs in general are a great template for implementing new, innovative ideas, they lack certain important qualities that would benefit their work. For example these organizations cannot always achieve strategic goals due to a lack in entrepreneurial spirit and long term perspective which means any short-term gains will be lost eventually without proper planning from day one.
The other pervasive challenge is limited human resources. This sector of society needs professionals who want to make an impact with their work; it also requires people that are committed beyond just doing what's required on paper or in training sessions.
The team of the Vratsa Software
The observations following the one year program made it obvious how much this support helped the two organizations that were part of the program, but also the need of even more long term support in order to scale even bigger and more sustainable. During the program the participants however had a chance to rethink the structure of their operations and were able to achieve significant results. The Social Teahouse is opening branches in Veliko Tarnovo and Plovdiv, the second biggest city in Bulgaria. Vratsa Software is scaling to two new regions and developing an open source guidebook for their partners in two municipalities so that their validated methodology and solutions can be easily implemented.
The team of the Social Teahouse - press to watch the video
So, when will the circle open? These 12 months showed us once again that what we usually see is “the tip of the iceberg”. We can fight unemployment but what is underneath is even more important and vital - the general quality of life and jobs. We need to start to see ourselves as a community with shared interests, purposes and values and try to cooperate more, as partnerships are the core of all sustainable and long term changes. With partnerships we can reach the needed level of expertise and overcome the defragmentation of the society. The circle will open when we start to make changes both outside and inside and all together. Mindset is not something we are born with, it is something that can be changed and needs to be changed.
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