‘ZGI:kompakt’ – Workshop for social entrepreneurs

Social entrepreneurs are business people who do good works in ways that also earn them money. A certificate programme for beginners offered by the Social Entrepreneurship Akademie (SEA) in Munich aims to help those starting up to put their social, cultural or ecological ideas into practice. Oliver Beckmann tells us how this works.

Political scientist Oliver Beckmann works as the qualifications manager with the Social Entrepreneurship Akademie (SEA) in Munich.

Mr Beckmann, the ‘ZGI:kompakt’ programme aims to show how social entrepreneurship can succeed. How does it work, and whom is ‘ZGI:kompakt’ best suited to?

Oliver Beckmann: ‘ZGI:kompakt’ is an intensive, two-day, practice-oriented workshop for students and young professionals from a diverse range of sectors, who are planning to launch socially relevant enterprises and who want to act on their own initial ideas while achieving financial sustainability.

Why is this important?

Oliver Beckmann: Because at universities there is still far too big a distinction between the for-profit and non-profit sectors. That’s where social entrepreneurship starts. Above all, it’s about innovations that make a conscious break from existing structures.

‘ZGI:kompakt’ – Social Entrepreneurship (in German only)

In our seminars we address students form the Arab Spring who want to establish documentation centres on the atrocities of the Mubarak regime, while remaining independent of financial support. Or young entrepreneurs from Africa who can achieve more using mobile payment systems than is possible with 20 years of development work. We attempt to provide the early know-how for such projects, and it’s working really well.


The year-long ‘Certificate programme Social Innovation’ (ZGI in German) was developed in 2010 by four universities in Munich. The short two-day version ‘ZGI:kompakt’ (Certificate in Social Innovations:compact) arose in response to the great demand in 2013. It is now conducted by the Social Entrepreneurship Akademie (SEA) in institutions, foundations and universities all around Europe, with support from the KfW Foundation. It is up to the respective partner institutions to decide whether or not to cover the participants’ costs.

Solving problems across sectors as social entrepreneurs

How does ‘ZGI:kompakt’ work in real terms?

Oliver Beckmann: ‘ZGI:kompakt’ consists of four sequential modules which teach the would-be social entrepreneurs a range of methods, standards and skills, some of them still innovative, for building up a social enterprise.

This starts with the presentation of example initiatives and extends to the development by the students of their own initial ideas, as well as their first business plans and growth and impact strategies.

Then we spend a whole afternoon pursuing a structured process in which small, interdisciplinary teams develop the first social start-up concepts and prototypes – during which they already get their first feedback. That’s really exhausting, but it’s always the bit they like the most.

How do you respond to the various different target groups?

Oliver Beckmann: Not at all! It’s a conscious aim of our workshop for social entrepreneurs to be interdisciplinary. The great social challenges of our time can only be tackled in a cross-sectoral way. Research has demonstrated that the more interdisciplinary a team is, the greater its propensity to innovate.

But it’s not easy to achieve because social scientists, designers and engineers all speak different languages. It’s vital first of all to overcome the inhibitions so that the participants can talk and work with each other. But it’s worthwhile making the effort.

Talking of worthwhile, what benefit does the certificate bring?

Oliver Beckmann: The certificate is just the cream on top: something that honours the efforts the students put in; something to include in their applications. The important thing is the seminar itself, and the things they learn.

Ist Social Entrepreneurship wirklich ein Lösungsweg für Krisenländer?

Social entrepreneurship helping Europe out of its crisis

What has ‘ZGI:kompakt’ taught you so far?

Oliver Beckmann: The huge demand for ‘ZGI:kompakt’ even took us by surprise. We received more than 500 applications just for the eight seminars we’ve held so far in Germany. That has encouraged us now to start offering the programme throughout Europe. After all, social entrepreneurship is still unknown in many countries.

We launched the first attempt in January 2015, together with the Goethe-Institut in Thessaloniki. We clearly filled a gap in Greece, with its 40 per cent youth unemployment rate. In countries like that in South and Southeast Europe, such a model involving the drive to self-sufficiency while solving social problems could be a small step on the path out of the crisis.

See also the article ‘Social entrepreneurship – doing business in a way that serves society’ on Aumniportal Deutschland.


Interview: Thomas Köster

June 2015

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