»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


More than one million new jobs in Africa

An in-depth assessment conducted by Siemens Stiftung and the German development organization GIZ in 12 African countries examines the enormous potential of social enterprises for creating urgently-needed jobs on the continent. The study also provides recommendations on the best methods for supporting social enterprises in creating jobs.

Stable organizations are necessary to anchor sustainable solutions in communities. They contribute to economic and social development while creating jobs – one of the top priorities in many regions.

Our work therefore focuses primarily on small business and startups that can fill the gaps between large (international) companies, civil society, and the public sector. Small businesses and startups are flexible and innovative, giving them the ability to react to societal challenges. It is not always possible for basic services to be covered at the government level. Especially in the early days of growth, these companies often need help that is directly tailored to their needs – a service we can provide as a foundation.

With the empowering people. Network, Siemens Stiftung supports existing organizations with consulting, continuing education, networking, and collaboration. Creating independent local organizations that can operate without our support in the medium-term is essential. Our work is accompanied by in-depth reports and studies in related fields.

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? With our empowering people. Network, we support these organizations in identifying challenges at any stage in the process of moving their businesses forward, focusing on areas such as management and business planning, finance, marketing, and employee management and development.

Reliable data: making the case for expanded funding with solid research and concrete recommendations

Over the years, in addition to experiencing the immense potential of social entrepreneurs, we have also witnessed the many obstacles they face as they scale and grow their businesses. Working with experts and academics, we publish in-depth studies and concrete recommendations aimed at benefiting the entire sector.

Social enterprises create urgently-needed jobs in Africa. A comprehensive study by Siemens Stiftung and GIZ estimates that by 2030, one million new jobs can be created in the 12 countries analyzed. The analysis also includes recommendations on the best ways to support these social enterprises in reaching their full potential.

Read the study
More about the study

Financing is one of the biggest hurdles for social entrepreneurs. Our report provides deep analyses and expert opinions on the current financing situation and the potential of digital solutions.

Read the Report

A report collecting the findings of a round table discussion with more than 40 international experts on innovative opportunities for social entrepreneurs to grow their businesses through access to capital and investors.

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For-profit or nonprofit – how important is organizational structure? The IRENE | SEE research network, founded by Siemens Stiftung and Zeppelin Universität, provides insights into the social entrepreneur landscape in developing and emerging countries.

Read the study

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 is our Safe Water Enterprises. We took things a step further with WeTu, creating our own independent social enterprise in Africa. In our Culture working area, the Music In Africa Foundation and Fundación Movimiento Sur are additional examples of independent organizations.

Impact Hubs are entrepreneurial centers and innovation labs

Conditions have to be perfect for self-initiated goals to succeed. 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 works with several Impact Hubs in Africa on creating ‘makerspaces,’ digitally-networked community workshops where entrepreneurs can collaborate on products and test prototypes.


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

Hanely, L., Jansen, S., Grotehans, B.: Entrepreneurial Solutions for Social Challenges in Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mexico and South Africa. Zeppelin University and Siemens Stiftung (2016)