By Maral Gankhuyag
Traditionally, business is thought of as a means to generate financial profit. The social entrepreneurship movement, however, seeks to re-position businesses as a force of transformative social and environmental good. Social entrepreneurs combine the power of business with a mission to address global social issues. Presently, the social entrepreneurship ecosystem is playing a vital role for Mongolia to meet its Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, including an end to poverty, reduced inequality, and protecting the planet. To address these social development issues, innovative solutions are often implemented by national non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civic institutions who often partner with the Mongolian government, International NGOs and/or foreign governments. However, the entire sector of organizations competes with one another to secure grant funding in an economically constrained global aid environment.
The August 2018 Alumni TIES seminar in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on the theme of “Strengthening Environments for Civic and Public Engagement,” inspired the “Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp,” a community-based project funded through an Alumni TIES small grant from the U.S. Department of State, that connects individuals and organizations who are committed to social entrepreneurship. Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp (SEB) brought together 25 Mongolians from across all sectors and provided them with the resources and an opportunity to work together to develop innovative solutions to complex social problems facing Mongolia. SEB is a step forward in creating an environment that supports civic participation and public engagement in Mongolia. The Bootcamp is innovative in that its goal is to ‘link up’ individuals or organizations that may have been working in parallel with each other, in order to better direct resources and attention towards attainable solutions.
The opening ceremony of the Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp launched on March 1, 2019 at the American Cultural Center. The event included representatives of U.S. Embassy Ulaanbaatar, Zorig Foundation, Mongolian Association of State Alumni (MASA), participants, and the SEB team. Mr. Ganzorig Vanchig, Chairman of the Bat Solution Partners and the facilitator of the bootcamp provided an overview of the program explaining the content and structure to the audience. Following the program overview, Mr. Robert Tate, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy Ulaanbaatar awarded each participant with a welcome bag, stressing the importance of social entrepreneurship in addressing social development issues in a sustainable way, and concluded with a group photo. After the formal ceremony, attendees networked with one another.
The second day was filled with group activities and collaboration. The bootcamp participants were divided into four teams with groups of five or six participants. Participants learned about the foundation of social entrepreneurship, how to identify their goals, how to identify social issues, and how to pitch their ideas. After the formal lecture, the four teams brainstormed to identify social problems, with the intent of developing solutions to those problems. Together, each team presented their ideas and received feedback from Mr. Ganzorig Vanchig, the bootcamp facilitator, and the rest of the group.
The third day of the bootcamp transitioned to brainstorming solutions, creating effective collaboration across all sectors, and fundraising for social enterprises. Participants also had an opportunity to map possible solutions for the social development problems they had identified on the previous day. The day concluded with open discussions with the trainer on the challenges of working as a team and collaborating with other stakeholders.
On the fourth day, the SEB hosted the “Syndicate Talk,” consisting of a panel of prestigious social entrepreneurs. These highly regarded thought leaders discussed important topics, engaged the audience, and shared best practices. This portion of the program was publicly televised. After the panel discussion, audience participants had an opportunity to discuss their ideas with panelists. The panel was composed of Ms. Enkhzul, CEO of social enterprise start-up, Mr. Undral, founder of the Unread, a widely popular news website, Mr. Orchlon, CEO of Clean Energy Asia LLC, (a company that has completed two large-scale wind farm projects), and Mr. Bum Erdene, a prominent climate change advocate and an organizer of National Green Growth Forum.
On the fifth and final day of the bootcamp, participants presented their social enterprise ideas to a panel of social entrepreneurs. Each team had ten minutes to present their pitches and receive feedback from the panel and other teams. After the team pitches, the attendees were invited to participate in a formal graduation ceremony. During the ceremony, the participants were awarded with certificates of completion. To evaluate SEB, the 21 attendees completed surveys upon conclusion of the bootcamp. The survey results revealed the SEB’s success in meeting the objectives of the project and the participant’s expectations. The participants specifically noted an increase in understanding of social entrepreneurship tools and how to collaborate with other social entrepreneurs. Moreover, participants contended that they are now able to effectively identify social issues, communicate, and fundraise for startups. A recommendation gleaned from the survey would be to increase the duration of the program and to promote the Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp so that others can organize similar projects.
Overall, the participants reported an increase in understanding of social entrepreneurship and an intention to continue working with one another to address social development issues. Moving forward, one key remaining goal is to raise public awareness regarding the concept of social entrepreneurship to encourage participation of a wide array of sectors to solve social development problems through established social entrepreneurship tools. Collectively, these efforts will provide solutions to social development problems and contribute to the social good of Mongolia.
The Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp is funded through an Alumni TIES small grant from the U.S. Department of State.