On March 11th, 2021, the City Deal Impact Ondernemen [Impact Entrepreneurship] was launched by the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. The City Deal is a collaboration of 80 partners, who work together to create a facilitating ecosystem for social entrepreneurs, to overcome barriers and to support cities in fulfilling their societal responsibilities and their commitment to sustainable purchasing. Tineke Lambooy – fulltime professor of corporate law at Nyenrode Business Universiteit – and Aikaterini Argyrou – assistant professor in social enterprises and legislation, also at Nyenrode – were invited to participate in the City Deal.
“Our contribution is to share our knowledge on social entrepreneurship in order to enhance societal impact”, says Lambooy. Both professors have a long track record in empirical and theoretical research concerning social enterprises and law, innovative business models, circular economy and Corporate Social Responsibility.
Argyrou: “As a participant we can bring new and relevant knowledge to the table, for example on how to involve stakeholders in decision-making processes. In this way - together with municipalities and entrepreneurs - we can contribute to generating societal impact.”
Lambooy and Argyrou started researching societal impact in 2011 by asking ‘Which legal forms and laws support social entrepreneurs?’, and ‘What does ‘social’ mean in terms of making a public impact?’ Since then, they surveyed many social enterprises, conducted case studies and researched several topics in this field, also together with PWC and KPMG. These studies are used by the Dutch government in the current process of developing a legislative proposal for a tailor-made legal form for social enterprises.
Lambooy explains: “The goal of this piece of legislation is that stakeholders can identify social enterprises by their legal form. This helps consumers, public and private purchasers, impact financiers and other stakeholders. A better recognition also puts social enterprises on the map within cities and municipalities. This is important as social enterprises can assist them to perform their societal tasks in areas such as employment, care or social cohesion.”
There are many technical barriers and knowledge gaps in supporting social enterprises. Lambooy: “For example, municipalities often don’t know how to include the element of sustainability in a public tender, whilst they have committed to conduct sustainable purchasing. If they do, social enterprises get a better chance to work with municipalities and cities. Another technical barrier is that public buyers don’t know which enterprise is legally considered a social enterprise. That is why the legislative proposal is so important.” Argyrou adds: “The City Deal aims to reduce these knowledge gaps and to connect social enterprises with municipalities, also in view of public contracts.”
Argyrou continues: “Working together with cities, municipalities, social enterprises and knowledge partners creates more impact, and prevents reinventing the wheel. All those public purchasers apply numerous different purchasing policies. This makes it difficult for social enterprises to engage with them.” She states that bringing everybody closer creates a facilitating effect and leads to new opportunities, for example in the areas of inclusivity, creating a circular economy, and social cohesion in the neighborhood. Lambooy: “Ultimately, it helps cities to contribute to fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals – which are the 17 goals established by the United Nations to make the world a better place in 2030.” Argyrou adds: “The City Deal is a very good initiative, we are very happy to be a part of it.”
Lambooy explains that participating in the City Deal matches perfectly with the core values of Nyenrode, being Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Stewardship: “Social entrepreneurs demonstrate leadership, they are obviously entrepreneurs and stewardship is in their DNA. Finding solutions for preserving nature and respecting all people is in the heart of their innovative business models.
In our full-time MBA-course ‘Circular Economy and Sustainable Development’ we involve several social enterprises. They share their motivation for starting this specific type of business as well as their journey of developing the innovative business models. They can also submit challenges to the students, for example concerning the use of marketing or setting up financial and impact reporting, which will then be researched by our students. This can lead to new, interesting and useful insights.”
Argyrou concludes with her view on the City Deal: “We look forward to working together, learning from each other and sharing the results to increase societal impact within our Dutch cities.”