April 15, 2021, 2:58 p.m.

Three learnings from trying to democratise social innovation

Nicklas Wallberg Written by
Nicklas Wallberg
expertise blogpost

My name is Nicklas Wallberg and I’m a farmer son from Söderköping, Sweden trying to transform the situation for social entrepreneurs in socio-economic challenged areas. As Reach for Change’s Country Manager I have the will, right intentions and strong networks to make it happen. What could go wrong right?

Well, as you probably understood from my rather leading question - pretty much everything. 


But before we begin to explore that further, let’s look at some of the facts. 

1) Youth unemployment in Sweden is third highest in Europe and rising (Eurostat, 2020). 

2) Between 2010 and 2016 Sweden went from 5th to 16th in UNICEF’s ranking of financial equality amongst children. 

3) Only 2% of Sweden’s venture capital is reaching outside of city centres (Breakit, 2021). 

4) With the current pandemic we risk to lose generations of children and young people, especially in socio-economic challenged areas (Folkhälsomyndigheten, 2021). 


It’s pretty obvious if you ask me, we simply don’t have time to NOT do anything.


With this in mind I strongly felt it was about time to address the root cause of the problem and give the right set up, support and opportunity for success in areas with socio-economic challenges. Because we know the potential and skills are there to turn this negative trend around. So I asked myself, what can we as a city centre Stockholm based organisation do? Well, I realized we needed some help and other perspectives. 


Enter Deqa. 

While I was in the middle of these thoughts I had a coffee with Deqa Abukar and the crew behind BLING Startup and their initiative “För-orten”, a competition to inspire and build entrepreneurs in the outer suburbs of Stockholm. I immediately felt a connection with their values, thoughts and ideas and saw that we had complementing skills and experience. This was the start of bringing Reach for Change’s mission of democratising social innovation alive. In addition to supporting each other with our varied backgrounds we could together build a value proposition enabling us to attract the right funding partners and allies on our joint mission. 


3 steps to democratize social innovation. 

Even with a successful history of partnerships with both the corporate and public sector it was clear we had to rethink our view on partnerships in relation to the mission of democratising social innovation. What can our role look like and how can we reinvent our partnership work? Since that coffee with Deqa I have learned a lot and wanted to share the three most important learnings with you: 


  1. Trust. Firstly we can’t expect to have the trust within a community we haven’t been part of. It doesn’t matter how good our intentions are. So one of the most crucial parts was to find organisations with strong anchoring to the communities we wanted to engage.  

  1. Build on existing initiatives. We wanted to be careful in creating new initiatives if there were existing ones we could tap into. This also relates to the project fatigue that exists in areas with socio-economic challenges. We don’t want to start projects for the sake of starting projects. Especially if we don’t see long-term potential. 

  2. Right resources. Too many times we’ve been engaged in conversations where a win-win partnership is desired, but without the needed financial resources. You can get a long way with will and determination, but without proper resources the likelihood of long-term success drops radically. A special shout out goes to Postkodstiftelsen, Stockholm Stad and Tele2 who’s been with us since the very start.


It really takes a village

Coming back to where I started it’s clear that we no longer can solve these challenges on our own. Especially not a farmer son from Söderköping who isn’t anchored in the community we’re approaching. It really takes a village. However, we all can play an active part, let voices be heard and empower the ones closest to the challenges. It’s no longer enough to stand by the sidelines. At Reach for Change we want to use our experience, networks and expertise to democratise social innovation by setting up all social entrepreneurs with potential for success. Not only the usual suspects.


Find out more about För-orten here


Nicklas Wallberg

Written by

Nicklas Wallberg

Country Manager Sweden

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