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 The mission of the "Your Mark on the World Center" is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.
Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Renato Russo

A Bagel Store Against Gender-Based Violence

This post was originally published on Dive in Social. If you enjoy this content like our Facebook Page, join our closed discussion group and get our weekly newsletter featuring the best of Dive in Social.

Speaking about human trafficking is somehow surreal. It feels like talking about horror movies, but it is a sad reality for thousands of people. According to a UN report published last year, from 2010 and 2012, 510 human trafficking routes around the world and victims from 152 countries. The document also shows that 49% of those victims are women, and when girls are included numbers reach 70%. More staggering data? 53% of victims suffer from sexual harassment and 40% experienced forced labour or working conditions analogue to slavery. It sounds like a thriller, but these are the facts against which Serbian NGO Atina has fought for more than a decade. Besides offering support to victims of human trafficking, Atina also supports women who are victims of other gender-based violence.

In 2015, entrepreneurship became an ally of the association’s cause. After joining a congress on business and third sector, the non-profit decided to get roll up its sleeves and open a bagel shop. “We used to receive support from funds, associations and governments, but we cannot rely entirely on that”, Marijana Savić tells us. She is director at the NGO and also manages Bagel Бејгл (or Bagel Bagel), a name that mixes latin and cyrillic alphabets.

That was how the idea of opening a social business came to life. According to Marijana, despite having started an economic activity recently (the official opening was in last April), running Atina was never too far from managing a business. “When you are raising funds, you need a plan, in the end, you are offering a service by speaking about a cause”, she explains. The NGO’s values also support the idea of it having an economic activity. “We want to support women so that they become economically independent, otherwise it is useless to work on their recovering and then get them back to risk exposure, to the same environment and circumstances where they had suffered before”, she ponders.

In the bagel store, besides having their profit directed to the institution, there is training for the work in the kitchen, catering service and in-store client service. “Our final goal is creating an atmosphere and a community that can include, offer alternatives to victims of gender-based violence and offering significant mechanisms to these people. We need to promote economic empowerment, she reaffirms.

During our chat, Marijana needed several breaks so that she could assist customers, answer questions and pick up the phone. Good sign for business. “Several people don’t know that we are a social business, sometimes the cause itself is not enough to sell the product. Some people come to eat and it is important to have a high quality product. Many come, like it, and when they get to know it is a bonus. Ah! And you gotta try it!”, Marijana warns us.

We tried. And, having come for the cause, we bet that high quality product plus important cause is the recipe for success. The expansion plan involves a bigger store and broadening the catering service, besides, of course, giving more opportunities to victims of gender-based violence.

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Dobra Torba: Women Rediscover Their Talents With Good Bags In Serbia

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Beautiful, practical and as strong as the women that make them. This is how Dobra Torba (serbian for “good bag”) defines itself. The project was born with support from Smart Kolektiv and the organization’s project manager, Ivana Stancic, is one of the social business’s initiators. Her current work is organizing its operations, especially building bridges between buyers and the women who sew the bags, but she ensures that her intention is “having all the process handed over to the women from the sewing associations”. Therefore, there is work of identifying leaderships so that the business manages to be run without her supervision.

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Dobra Torba currently relies on 5 women who activate their network of sewers in their communities for each order placed to and forwarded by Ivana. “Virtually all of them already had sewing machines at home and are excellent professionals, from the time when Serbia had a huge textile hub (in former Yugoslavia)”, she explains.

The associations support women who unite themselves to find a way of living a better life. They are women above 55, form Serbia’s rural areas, who otherwise rely on the low pensions paid by the government, partly due to the gender pay gap, and who are out of the groups favored in job offers. Enter Dobra Torba. According to Ivana, for each bag sold, you can see a tangible result in these women’s lives. Nowadays, all the profit raised is used to pay the sewers.

The empowering work of the good bags go beyond giving more money to the workers so that they can afford a more dignified life. By choosing to work with these women’s associations, the initiative also works as a role model.

“Other initiatives are arising, they are organizing themselves and willing to form new social businesses. Our work comes to show them what they are able to”, Ivana ponders

The main challenge faced by the brand is reaching prices competitive enough, comparing to chinese goods. The bags are usually bought for events or corporate branding activities by companies and governmental organs. “But it is impossible to reach their prices, when our goal is offering a fair pay and respect everyone in the value chain”, Ivana comments. The solution found was using the experience of many women in the associations to develop a unique model. The good bags are foldable and have slide fastener. Also, a new model is under development, smaller and more simple, so that the brand has an entrance product, more competitive with chinese prices.

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As next steps, Ivana tells us that there will be training to women who want to join the initiative but don’t know how to sew. “We want to think also in other similar programs, we realized that the model is amazing, so we are starting other small, local initiatives that allow us to include more women in the production process”, she concludes.

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How A Stack Of Dirty Diapers Inspired A Business

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Leia em Português

Sonja Dakić lives in a suburb in Belgrade where waste collection service runs only twice a week. Sometimes, when the rain comes or there is a holiday, you can’t expect it to run more than once in seven days. She and her husband always tried to have a sustainable life style, separating waste and composting, but the eco-friendly status changed seven years ago, when her daughter was born. Each wee, the stack of used diapers raised and Sonja couldn’t believe “how such a small person managed to cause such a big impact”. Buying diapers and contributing to the trash pile was not something she was into, so, she found out about reusable cloth diapers as the perfect alternative.

“Problem was finding them in Serbia. We would find them on the internet, but there was no delivery in the country. I had to mobilize all my network to try and get some diapers, then my daughter would grow beyond their size and I thought: what now?”, she tells us. The search seemed endless, then Sonja’s husband made the suggestion of producing them locally, since Serbia used to have a textile industry hub.

Although Sonja assures the entrepreneurial spirit was not one of her strengths, she decided to get hands on: in a partnership with a friend who had a shop for toddlers’ items, they started producing Daj Daj Diapers out of some savings she and Violeta Makovic, her partner, had.

“The best thing for us was that we didn’t know what would come next, so we decided to take one step at a time. If we knew, we might have given up”

The dual bought the machinery and the raw material. When they had to find skilled labour, the best choice was relying on the experience of the 50+ women who used to work in textile factories in former Yugoslavia — common narrative that we saw here and here. “They were searching for work, couldn’t position themselves in the job market and had previous experience, exactly what we needed”, she tells excited. She tells about the seamstresses’ reaction when they are consulted, because back in the days, the production process was not so open for opinions. “In the beginning, they got astonished, but they are very important for us. We have to respect their knowledge, because they are the ones who make our product, it would be nonsense not consulting the ones who bring our ideas to 3D, she explains. Nowadays, they are 3 seamstresses and the plan is hiring two more in the following months.

Sonja tells that, although she hires women from vulnerable groups and having a strong ecologic drive, it was only in the middle of their path that they found out that would be called social entrepreneurship. “Someone had to tell us”, she says between giggles. The brand grew, managed to find an interesting loan with Erste Bank — an Austrian bank that is very close to innovative and social initiatives in the Balkans — and Sonja spoke in TEDx Vienna last year.

For someone who allegedly didn’t have any tact for business in the beginning, Sonja runs Daj Daj very well: the loan is almost settled and the company has reached break even point. Now, the work is towards increasing the production scale and expand to new markets. The partners are in a program run by Impact Hub Belgrade to explore Central European markets, especially Germany.

Disposable vs reusable

But, is washing diapers really worth it? Isn’t spending more water and more energy the same as producing trash? Not necessarily. A research held in 2010 by Portuguese National Association for Nature Conservation in Quercos assures that the amount of water spent is not significantly higher when you go for cloth diapers. One can expect one ton of trash in two years using disposable diapers.

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In Daj Daj’s case, Sonja assures that parents who choose cloth diapers also save money. “Our sum shows that a child will use 20 diapers in a two-years time. They are adjustable, so they follow the baby’s growth. And if washed in the right way, they can be used by two or three toddlers, she teaches us. There is also the idea of collecting diapers already used and giving them to low income families, but the donation rate is still not enough to do so.

She highlights that, inside the company, there is still room to explain new moms the advantages and how to use the diapers and there is a work os support to mothers. Breastfeeding support group and issues related to maternal leave are also in the agenda. “In the end, it is good to have the feedback, our product is not only ecological, but also help children in some other ways. Some moms come to us with a smile in their face, because they have finally found diapers that are non-alergenic, for instance”, she recalls.

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Mozaik Foundation: Social Impact As a Business Goal

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Building social capital, this is the flag raised by Mozaik, a foundation that intends to change Bosnia & Herzegvina (BiH) investing in what they consider to be the main resource their society has: youth. One of the main challenges pointed out by Bosnians — the most prominent among youngsters — is low employment rates. World Bank data shows that unemployment level among youth in the Balkan country is above 60%.

The job creation rate in BiH does not follow the pace of qualified workforce that taps into the job market and the options left usually include migrating to a European Union country, trying a stable career as a public servant or “becoming a football player, reality show celebrity, they don’t have good references of entrepreneurial mindset”, Vesna Bajšanski-Agić, Mozaik Foudation executive director tells us. In order to change this landscape, Mozaik has a very bold goal: “by 2025, creating a group of young entrepreneurs and innovators that will build successful social businesses, create jobs and become an example to the 70% young Bosnians that dream of leaving the country”.

According to Vesna, it is not a lack of funds that is stopping e Foundation from achieving its goals, “what is missing is trust, due to our history. We don’t trust each other, even on a community level. There are always the risks to be taken and it’s easy to find reasons to avoid taking risks together with that other person”, she tells us.

Then, Mozaik has developed its own methodology to make non-refundable investments. It is not necessary to pay the full amount back, but finding an equivalent local contribution. By doing so, we manage to create engagement of people towards certain causes”.

the solution proposed by Mozaik seems to work, according to its reports, in 2004, only 20% of all the funds directed to finance projects came from the own community. In 10 years, this amount supasses 56%. “We have learned that it is necessary to let the community choose what they want to do wi the money. We may visit them and see that there is a school missing a roof, but they want to build a park. It is not up to us to decide that the school is priority, because if they do what they want to, they feel they are in charge. Thus, it is possible to build trust and let them establish their leaderships and allocate their resources locally. Then, the school roof will eventually be taken care of”, Vesna says.

“We must let the members of the community choose what to do wit the money. If they do what they want to, they feel they’re are in charge. Then, it is possible to build trust and let them establish their own leaderships and allocate their resources locally”

Social impact as a business goal

“Mozaik is in another level”. This is how the Foundation is known in the Balkans, a reputation earned out of the partnerships it forges with initiatives from the neighboring countries. Having a available funds and support from EU and other big players of the social entrepreneurship world, Mozaik consolidate itself as a reference in the region. But not everything is perfect, although they already envision the possible solutions. “We are creating solutions and approaching certain problems, but we are still not sustainable, the foundation is not sustainable. Now we have to be there wi a Euro to mobilize three more Euro, so for us, social entrepreneurship is the right answer because it provides for the Foundation, ponders Vesna. Mozaik now has two social business under its umbrella: EkoMozaik, which works with sustainable agriculture and Маšta, a communication and events agency.

For Vesna, impact is the only thing that matters, and she makes sure to reinforce that, as in any other business segment, when it comes to social impact it is mandatory to define clear goals. “If you are the CEO of a car company and your goal is having a certain value as profit, you cannot say, when you deadline comes, that “something happened and your goal has not been achieved”. You will find any way possible to reach the goal. The same applies with impact, we know where e want to be in the next 10 years and we know how to measure whether our actions worked out and changed what is needed in the process, she argues. For Mozaik, a social business is, before anything else, is a business. “It won’t work without productivity and without knowing what you want to reach”, Vesna assures.

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