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Social Entrepreneurship – A Corporate Mission to Solve Social Issues

Steinbeis University alumnus sets up web-based platform for acquiring competencies

Companies first started combating social problems as part of their business models as early as the beginning of the 20th century. The aim of these companies was not just to earn money. On top of turning in a profit, they wanted to do something good for society. These days, the goals of such companies would come under the banner of social entrepreneurship. Their aim is to deal with social issues, such as specifically tackling unemployment or pollution. One entrepreneur with such a goal is Oliver Queck, an alumnus of Steinbeis University Berlin. In 2016, Queck founded a social startup called JobKraftwerk with colleagues.

With more and more international crises hitting the headlines, there is a heightened need for social enterprises. The refugee crisis in 2015 made this highly palpable in Germany. The large number of immigrants flooding into the country was a game-changer. It had great impacts on social level as well as in the economic sector. One of the biggest challenges was and is to integrate refugees into the German labor market. In 2016, Oliver Queck and Tom Lawson, a colleague at T-Systems International, decided to found a social startup called JobKraftwerk in order to tackle the organizational difficulties presented by this situation. Having completed a master’s degree in General Management at Steinbeis School of International Business and Entrepreneurship, which is part of Steinbeis University Berlin, he was already armed with the right tools.

Both business founders were motivated by a “desire to invest our knowledge and skills in something with a greater impact than another PowerPoint presentation for the board of directors,” says Queck. That said, there was another key factor that affected their decision to set up the company: the district office in Reutlingen. “They were virtually trying to capture the skills of the 3,000 or so refugees in the district with pen and paper and then just go up to companies in the area.” At this point JobKraftwerk comes into play, to optimize this whole process. The platform was initially set up as a multilingual tool for capturing skills on a smartphone and drafting CVs for refugees. The aim was to help refugees become more integrated into the labor market.

“Meanwhile JobKraftwerk sees itself as more of an integration and case management solution,” explains Queck. The web-based platform is no longer just about capturing skills, it’s also a tool for organizing information by bringing together all of the different parties involved in the refugee integration process. These include social workers, integration managers, volunteers, companies, and the refugees themselves.

Apart from coming up with an innovative idea, setting up a company also requires a solid grounding in management know-how. This is where Queck was able to build on his MBA at Steinbeis University. “The specialist and practical content was really useful for setting up my company because we were actually able to adapt a business model canvas and a business plan developed as part of the degree.” The overview gained of all key management topics was probably the biggest help, especially in areas such as financial planning, market analysis, and marketing, and Queck believes this laid an excellent foundation for further tasks. “But we also shouldn’t forget the old network from our time at the university. A number of former co-students are now important sparring partners for me and provide input,” the SUB alumnus says.

Queck believes that social entrepreneurship is playing an increasingly important role in society. Social entrepreneurship is still developing slowly, but he feels this is due to the lack of experience German investors and foundations have when it comes to “impact investing.” This term refers to investments made by organizations or private individuals in businesses with an impact on social or environmental affairs. At the same time, they are financially lucrative. Queck says that the rate at which social enterprises are being set up could be accelerated if investors and foundations channeled more investments into social areas. Furthermore another factor is crucial as far as the social entrepreneur is concerned: teams. The extent to which all key players gain acceptance should also not be overlooked. This is because in social entrepreneurship, users or customers are also contributors to the process.