Meet Euclid Network:

"Social enterprise is perfectly compatible with collective action"

The Euclid Summit on social impact ecosystems is taking place in The Hague this year. On 11 and 12 April, individuals and organizations from across Europe, that focus on social impact, will gather to explore cross-sector and cross-border collaboration. We checked in with Euclid Network’s chief executive, Stephen Barnett, to hear more about Euclid Network and the summit.

Euclid Network aims to empower civil society and social enterprise to drive positive change. It does so by creating connections between civil society and social enterprise leaders, based on the notion that powerful things can happen when you put the two together. “One of Euclid’s central values is ‘inspirational leadership and collective action’. You need both in balance to make social enterprise compatible with collective action,” Stephen points out.

He adds that he has very little time for the theoretical debate that sets up social entrepreneurship as an individualist approach against collective action by citizens. “Early on in my involvement with the world of social entrepreneurship, I asked someone running an organization whether he saw it as a charity or a social enterprise. He said something like, ‘We’ll adapt our language to the preferences of whoever is helping us drive positive change’,” Stephen recounts. “He cared about the content, the impact, more than the language. In the end, pragmatism wins over theory.”

“There are lessons to be learned from influential NGOs who can mobilize millions for change” – Stephen Barnett, chief executive at Euclid Network

Converting social enterprise into systemic change

However, he warns that, in the hype around social entrepreneurship and social investment, we’re at risk of getting two things wrong. He says, “First, social entrepreneurs who have a proven impact model could do more to convert their approach into systemic change. So that they are not just a one-off lauded for innovating.”

“In things like education, health and social care, that’s got to involve acting as an advocate towards government – and there are lessons to be learned from influential NGOs who can mobilize millions for change. That advocacy effort could become a collective endeavor with others,” he stresses.

Social replication over innovation

And second, he says, “We’re getting a little obsessed with innovation, the lure of the new with a beautiful logo and an inspiring leader. I think there should be more social replication than innovation: before you invent something new, why not look for an approach that’s proven effective in one country, market or sector and seek to adapt and replicate it?”

“I’m afraid the European Union and social investors are both guilty of this and Euclid Network is currently developing an EU project proposal that would provide a process to support the replication of effective social innovations from one country to another,” he adds.

“The Hague has that unique combination of being a city with a community of international NGOs in it, and a strong local focus on social enterprises who recognize the opportunities in a global market” – Stephen Barnett, chief executive at Euclid Network

Euclid Summit on 11-12 April 2018 in The Hague

The Euclid Summit is Euclid Network’s flagship international two-day gathering of people and organizations that have the openness to learn from, encourage and inspire each other to drive positive change. “Our 2018 summit mission is to stimulate all stakeholders – everyone – to take responsibility for growing their ecosystem for social impact,” Stephen says. This year’s summit is taking place in the City of The Hague, as a result of the community of social enterprises that is working from the city and how it is connecting with the world.

Stephen sums up, “The New Farm boasts the largest rooftop farm in Europe and an ambitious incubator program focusing on urban farming. Slow fashion movement i-did creates beautiful products from waste textiles for clients including Ikea, Heineken, and H&M. Assembly Partner is an electronics manufacturer that creates opportunities for those excluded from the job market. And Seepje makes cleaning products based on 100% natural ingredients from Nepal.”

Euclid Network opts for The Hague

In the fall, Euclid Network will be moving office to the City of The Hague. “We talked about a range of options in all four corners of Europe, but really felt that the Netherlands, and The Hague in particular, won out on the six factors we were considering,” Stephen explains. “It has a strong local member in Social Enterprise NL, great transport links on rail and air, a good community of expats working for international NGOs, attainable staff costs, and a solid international reputation.”

“And The Hague really emerged because it has that unique combination of being a city with a community of international NGOs in it, and a strong local focus on social enterprises who recognize the opportunities in a global market. Plus, we do a lot of work in Brussels and it’s really not far with the Thalys via Rotterdam,” he adds.

“My hope is that, in the future, Euclid Network is able to connect Dutch social entrepreneurs to their peers around Europe and the MENA region, both for learning and for developing joint ventures” – Stephen Barnett, chief executive at Euclid Network

Looking to the future

“From 2019, Euclid Network will be implementing an Erasmus exchange program for entrepreneurs in The Hague. So if you’re an aspiring young Dutch social entrepreneur, we can support you financially in a placement with an established entrepreneur in another country. And the good news is that it works the other way, too,” he remarks.

He concludes, “My hope is that, in the future, Euclid Network is able to connect Dutch social entrepreneurs to their peers around Europe and the MENA region, both for learning and for developing joint ventures.”

Interested to attend the Euclid Summit on 11-12 April in The Hague? Euclid Network explicitly invites you to join. People based in The Hague are invited to register for free tickets. They can get in touch with Vera Borsboom at summit@euclidnetwork.eu for the code.