Impact Hub Vienna is celebrating its 10th birthday this year. It’s a major milestone for our community and we cannot really express how grateful we are to have been part of so many people’s lives. Right off the bat, a HUGE thank you!
Right now it doesn’t seem like a great time to celebrate – so many of us have been affected by the novel coronavirus spreading in the world. It’s easy to forget that in January, our lives looked so much different.
Yet, we do want to remind you that the community that grew at Lindengasse 56 has always been resilient. The social impact community have always gone up against challenges that seemed too big to handle but, brick by brick, since 2010, we build solutions that bridge gaps in the areas of education, social inclusion, food value chain, circular economy, technology, and many, many more.
This impact story comes from Jakob Detering, Managing Director, Social Impact Award International. Social Impact Award, founded in 2009, runs education and incubation programs in more than 15 countries in Europe, Africa and Asia to support early-stage social entrepreneurs in developing and implementing innovative business solutions to tackle the most important societal challenges of our times. They do so by hosting events and organizing workshops to raise awareness for social entrepreneurship, teaching the necessary skills to navigate from vague intentions to promising ventures, providing access to networks and promoting the best teams with the Social Impact Award.
In May 2010, I heard of the Social Impact Award for the very first time. With only a week left until the submission deadline, I decided I want to apply with an idea for a social business in Romania. Not to really implement the idea, but rather to learn how to write a business plan with a social focus.
I skipped all my university courses at WU Vienna that week and started writing my SIA application. On the last day before the submission deadline, the Impact Hub opened its doors for all students that wanted to apply at SIA. I went there and finished my application (sitting at the same table for the whole day with Georg Tarne, who, shortly after successfully founded Soulbottles). After I submitted my application with just 5 minutes before the deadline – Georg and I had a beer together. We felt very happy about finishing the application on time!
In the following weeks, I didn’t think much of the application anymore. After all, I had accomplished what I aimed for: writing a concise social business plan. It was why I was really surprised when a friend of mine (Leon Rainer, who founded Impact Hub Berlin a few years later), asked me if I would join him to attend the SIA award ceremony. He mentioned they offered free drinks – I couldn’t resist such an incentive! It turned out to be great fun anyway; I was fascinated by the Impact Hub Community, by all the ideas flying around in the room and the diversity of stakeholders present at the event. I grabbed my free beer and listened to the announcement of winners.
Suddenly, the moderator (Nicole Traxler, today at Erste Foundation and CEO of BeeTwo) called me up on stage and announced that my idea won. I hadn’t expected that at all. Not that I didn’t find the idea or the plan worth the award, but the social business was to be implemented in Romania, while I was living and studying in Vienna. I had simply assumed that the SIA jury would never take the idea seriously.
Yet, here I was. I heard it right. They called my name and invited me to the stage. I went up and found myself standing next to Prof. Nikolaus Franke, whom I knew only from my entrepreneurship courses at WU. As it was a hot summer day, I was dressed in a summer shirt, shorts and flip flops. While standing next to Prof. Franke in his elegant suit and answering his questions about my idea, I realized that this was a quite inappropriate style.
After Prof. Franke finished his short interview, the event photographer shot the picture:
I still hold this picture dear to my heart, even 10 years later, as it was the start of my journey into the world of social entrepreneurship. I had no clue what I was signing up for. Everything was new and I was totally unprepared – a sentiment best illustrated by my dress code that evening!
However, the Impact Hub community was so open-minded and inviting that I felt home from the very first day. Whenever nowadays I’m attending SIA events in Europe, Africa and Asia (which happens a lot), I’m sharing this story and the flip flop picture with the audience. And the message is simple: It doesn’t matter how prepared or ready you feel for changing the world. It only matters if you have a supportive community around that believes in your idea and your talent. The Impact Hub Vienna has been this community to me in the last ten years. I’m extremely grateful for that.
Managing Director of Social Impact Award International
PS. We need your help!
The novel coronavirus poses a threat to our health, its aftermath will shake up our society and impact our economy for a long time. And especially the field of social innovation is at risk to have its progress thrown back by years, should some of its most promising and impactful actors, as well as the many still small yet beautiful initiatives, be forced to end their endeavors.
Our members are affected by the economic downturn and we want to help them get through the tough times.
We launched a Solidarity Fund, open to all current members of Impact Hub Vienna.