IVN Celebrated Independence Day with an Important Message

Posted by on Jun 19, 2017 in News |  

As we joyously celebrated Israel’s 69th Birthday on May 2, we were honored to receive important press in a special edition of Haaretz Newspaper.  The edition focused on Israeli development and advancements as well as Israeli pride in our achievements.  The editors asked us to write a piece specifically for this publication,  to share our views about the innovation occurring within the social businesses sector and how IVN is advancing this cause.  It was a unique opportunity to ‘get the word out’ about IVN as well as the growing trend of investing in social businesses.

The article originally appeared in Hebrew; however provided below is the English Translation.

Berlin, 2015, an International Conference on Social Businesses organized by the Muhammad Yunus Foundation.  Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is world renowned as a leader and visionary for his development of the social business sector.

We came to the conference to learn, to gain an impression of what is happening in Europe in the field, and to be inspired.

There were hundreds of participants, all living and breathing this new sector that has taken shape in recent years, and endless panels on related and adjacent areas.

We entered a panel on social investment funds which is relevant to our activity at IVN, as an organization that established and manages the first social investment funds in Israel. The panel is headed by the CEO of Muhammad Yunus’ Investment Fund and she presents the model by which they operate in the world.

I listen and understand that we have something to teach and not just to learn, and present the investment model that we have built in cooperation with the government and which has matured to become the IVN-Yozma Foundation. The Yozma Foundation was named after the funds established by the Israeli government in the 1990s in order to support technological startup companies … and the rest of history. The current fund is based on three sources of financing: government, business and philanthropy – in a mutual and integrative collaboration. Silence in the crowd. It turns out that this innovative model only happens in Israel. In no other country in the world did these three sectors combine to form the social business sector by supporting the first and necessary parameter: financing.

Israel as a Startup Nation – How many times have we used this term and felt pride? Countless. But this is the time to present Israel also as a social start up nation.

In recent years, in the social sphere in Israel, innovative processes and projects have sprouted which can be duplicated and exported to the world.

Innovation is expressed mainly in the new sector of social businesses and in the establishment of a social capital market in Israel, which enables the injection of “new money” into these businesses, including the IVN-Yozma Fund model.

Innovation is not only expressed in innovative financing models, but also in the social businesses themselves, whose primary goal is to solve social problems and is based on a self-generating income model.

We all remember the summer of 2011 – the social protest that was widely discussed and its influence, or mainly its lack of influence, on Israeli society. Remember the young people who flooded the streets? They did not disappear; we here at IVN meet them every day. More mature, more experienced but more social than ever, with a desire for a healthier and more supportive society, and as entrepreneurs of social businesses. These youngsters chose not only to demand but to implement, and instead of choosing a personal career path they are establishing social businesses.

In recent years we have met hundreds of entrepreneurs of social businesses. Their main characteristic is the sparkle in their eyes and the social passion. They set up their social businesses with few assets: a social model they believe in, and a belief in themselves and in a model that will finance itself and enable them fulfillment and stability for years.

Entrepreneurs of social businesses do not think that the state or philanthropy is solely responsible for solving our social problems. They see the business sector and business conduct as an inseparable part of this responsibility and activity.

The models they dream and set up are also innovative, and they have the potential to replicate it in other places: from call centers that employ people with special needs, but treat them as equals in terms of salary, work conditions, and with support of organizational consultants rather than social workers. People with special needs exist all over the world. It continues with a model of employing the ultra-orthodox – students of the Kollel who are considered the top tier of Haredi society – which enables them not only to be trained and employed in the technological fields, but primarily to integrate employment with the framework of Torah study, which is important to them and to the society in which they live. This is a model that deals with employment of people excluded from the market on ideological grounds. And even a cleaning cooperative established by an Arab organization and members of the Hashomer Hatza’ir Life Movement, in order to enable fair employment and independence for women from Arab society, and more.

This is not the first time we as Israelis, learn about a new topic or sector in the world, adopt it and climb with it to new heights. This time too. In the last 10 years social businesses around the world are developing and growing.

The first buds of the sector in Israel emerged only five years ago, and with Israeli agility and determination, there are now hundreds of social businesses that are part of a solution to the various market failures that exist in the society, regulation and legislation is on the way, innovative financing sources that brought business money from Israel and abroad (for the first time) to the social table, courses on the topic in all universities and colleges in Israel, hubs, accelerators, hackathons in the field, and more.

The uniqueness of the social businesses, the innovative solutions that have been created, the new model of social capital – the tri-sectorial investment fund, and above all the young people who are involved in the field, allow us to say with confidence that Israeli creativity is alive and well  – and this time in the social sector.