»By leveraging their ingenuity and creativity to harness new market opportunities, micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises can lead the way towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.«

Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, UN Secretary-General's Chef de Cabinet Tweet

Sustainable organizations

Entrepreneurial approaches for self-sustaining structures

There are many good ideas for sustainable development. However, they often lack the appropriate structure to make them viable for society in the long run. Using a variety of means, we support social organizations in overcoming concrete hurdles and preparing for the next steps in their growth. We focus mainly on small businesses and startups.

The empowering people. Network offers its members training and coaching for organizational development and a platform for knowledge acquisition, exchange and cooperation.
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Technician Ivan Gomez Romero from Mexico was with the epExpert program at AIDFI in the Philippines to learn all about the water pump Ram Pump to be able to produce and use it in the future also at home in Mexico.
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The Safe Water Enterprise Teams are trained in all relevant operational, technical and entrepreneurial skills to ensure the sustainable operation of the Safe Water Enterprises.
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Organizational development know-how: Webinars and tutorials from the empowering people. Network offer social entrepreneurs and their employees further training on topics such as marketing and finance.

As a corporate foundation, we believe in the power of people taking an entrepreneurial approach to solve societal challenges. This may take the shape of a foundation, NGO, company, social enterprise, hybrid-organization, cooperative, association, or a group with public structures – for us, it is not the organizational form that matters, but defining societal impact as a goal.

For us, a sustainable organization:

  • is financially sustainable in the long-term
  • works toward a social benefit in a community
  • creates jobs and works on behalf of their employees
  • has growth potential
  • has a positive impact on society


For-profit or non-profit? How relevant is the organizational form?

The research network IRENE¦SEE, founded by the Siemens Stiftung and Zeppelin University, provides insights into the social entrepreneurship landscape in developing and emerging countries.

Stable organizations are necessary to anchor sustainable solutions in communities. They contribute to economic and social development, and also create jobs – one of the top priorities in many regions (see Afrobarometer 2017 as an example).

Our work is largely focused on small businesses and startups – entities that we believe can occupy the space between informal stakeholders and large (international) companies on the one hand, and civil society and the government on the other. Small businesses and startups are flexible and innovative with the ability to react to societal challenges. It is not always possible for basic services to be covered at the government level (see OECD 2014). Especially in the early days of growth, these companies often need help that is directly tailored to their needs – a role we take on as a foundation.

In most cases, Siemens Stiftung supports existing organizations with consulting, continuing education, networking, and collaboration. Occasionally, we also establish new organizations as part of our own project work.

From the pioneer to the growth phase: We strengthen social entrepreneurs on their way to more impact

Social entrepreneurs and business founders have the courage to take the step toward professional independence. Their social goals are clear. But what does it take to make their organization successful and to establish a solid foundation for the future? How can their goods and services reach more people, or create more jobs? In our empowering people. Network we support these organizations in identifying challenges they face at any stage in the process and moving forward, focusing on areas such as management and business planning, finance, marketing, and employee management and development.


Financing solutions for social enterprises: How do companies and investors find each other?

Social enterprises often lack the capital to that allows their innovations to grow and reach more people. Could IT-based solutions or “patient capital” provide a solution? We have put together the results of an expert discussion.

Conditions have to be perfect for self-initiated goals to succeed. At Siemens Stiftung, we see it as our role to help create such an ecosystem. Together with the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt and the Argidius Foundation, Siemens Stiftung supports the creation of Impact Hubs in African cities as part of the “Africa Seed Program.” Impact Hubs are entrepreneurial centers and innovation labs. They provide those working entrepreneurially for the good of society with a professional working environment and access to a unique community. In addition, Siemens Stiftung is currently working with several Impacts Hubs on creating ‘makerspaces,’ digitally-networked community workshops where entrepreneurs can collaborate on products and test prototypes.

Local responsibility: We establish sustainable organizations in developing regions for long-term impact​

As part of our projects, we join locals in creating new organizations or organizational structures to ensure solutions for basic services have a sustainable impact. One example are our Safe Water Enterprises. Even one step further we went with WeTu, when we established an independent social enterprise in Africa for the first time. But also in our Culture working area, the Music In Africa Foundation and Fundación Movimiento Sur are further examples of independent organizations.


Background material

Bundesverband Deutscher Stiftungen: Strengthening local development by social enterprise in Kenya – Interview with Rolf Huber

Hanely, Wachter, Weiss: Taking the pulse of the social enterprise landscape in developing and emerging economies, Insights from Colombia, Kenya, Mexico and South Africa. Zeppelin University und Siemens Stiftung (2015)

UN News: ‘World’s most powerful job creators,’ small enterprises vital to achieving Global Goals – UN official” (2017)

Reaching the Next Level: Empowering Organizational Development for Social Enterprises, empowering people. Network (2018)

Nicolas Chevrollier: “Holacracy: A Big Bang Approach to Self-Organization”, empowering people. Network (2018)

Nicolas Chevrollier „Small is beautiful!”, empowering people. Network

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