Here in Germany, we recently had the pleasure of speaking with a couple of focus groups about social and alternative finance. The purpose of these meetings was twofold: first, we wanted to test the assumptions the SocialFinanceLab Team has developed through our research, and secondly, to identify gaps in current alternative finance learning opportunities. The first group provided consulting and academic expertise, and the second group, comprised of social entrepreneurs currently on the startup journey, shared their experiences and insights.
Both focus group discussions proved beneficial. Clear, accessible information regarding alternative financing is needed. Understanding, defining, and re-thinking business and financing models when pursuing alternative finance is essential. And, constructive communication between those offering and those seeking financing is crucial. These are a few of the points confirmed during the focus groups and are prime topics for the SocialFinanceLab Project.
"The social entrepreneurs need support in the area of communication." (start-up consultant)
From the expert/advisor group, we heard the need for communication skills to reach target groups and potential lenders and for dealing with sceptics of whichever social challenge a business is trying to address.
"I didn't feel that the message was meant for me." (social entrepreneur)
From the social entrepreneurs, we heard that navigating systems geared toward conventional businesses, innovation, and digitalisation can be difficult. Potential fund sources or even resources aimed toward supporting social entrepreneurs were seen by some start-ups as more bureaucracy than they are worth or simply not applicable to their situation.
We are thankful for all the participants of the focus groups! The insights and information we have gained from them impact the SocialFinanceLab development process, ensuring that our final product provides what social entrepreneurs, investors, and consultants need to support the success of social impact ventures. We will continue to post updates on our progress throughout the project. Stay tuned for more information, as well as opportunities to engage directly in the development process.