At Hoist Finance, working for financial inclusion is closely tied to our core business and thus a natural way for us to contribute to society. Looking at the field of social entrepreneurship we can find new innovative ways of addressing financial inclusion with positive impact on people’s lives. To further spark our ideas, we invited Marie Ringler, Head of Ashoka Europe, the world’s largest organisation supporting social entrepreneurs, to our last leadership conference. We discussed social entrepreneurship and how partnerships between corporations and social entrepreneurs can be a win-win for both parties.
What are the most important factors that we need to focus on when forming partnerships with social entrepreneurs?
Just like all successful partnerships in life, it’s really important to have an open mind and enter the relationship with a large amount of curiosity. It is equally important to keep a mind-set of equals having a conversation. There is a great deal that social entrepreneurs can learn from businesses and at the same time social entrepreneurs can be a great source of inspiration and knowledge for business to learn from. It is truly a win-win situation where both sides can learn and growth together.
Could you give us some advice on the journey? In what ways can we create the best value and support social entrepreneurs?
As a company you have some core competences that would be really good to leverage for these kind of partnerships. The topic of financial inclusion is a big one and a really important one and to tackle that itself is a really ambitious mission. So being focused is helpful, but at the same time it is important to remain open to surprises by how many different ways there are to define and look at the problem. One of the big strengths of social entrepreneurs is that they change the way we think about the problem. This is important to remember, if we for example take the topic of financial inclusion, we may not only need the obvious solution of education and creating access to financial products. It could also be equally important to think of totally different aspects, that at first glance seem not to be connected, but are really crucial in solving the problem for the long run. That’s one of the big strengths of Ashoka Fellows – and of social entrepreneurs in general.
What areas of financial inclusion are the most underserved?
There is no general answer because it depends on the market and the target group.
I would say, across Europe, probably the most underserved (and undervalued) is not necessarily basic financial education, which I think is growing in people’s mind as an important topic, but it’s more this idea that you also have to be an active financial actor and for that you need to have certain skills, entrepreneurial skills, critical skills and be empowered to contribute to society. So financial education is not just understanding how to save or how to use a banking accounts, financial education is also very much about how you can become active and actively shape your life. I think, in Europe, this is one of the most underserved key components.