“We are entrepreneurs for children”
Entrepreneurs for children. This is what we are. Reach for Change invests in social entrepreneurs, in their ideas and their leadership, to see them change the trajectory of the lives of the children they support. And we engage the business entrepreneurs of the Kinnevik group to use some of their exceptional skills to grow these social ventures for children.
I created Reach for Change with the spirit and in the DNA of the Kinnevik group, but also by using my own experience as a social entrepreneur and change agent for children. When I was 19 years old I founded Friends Foundation, which today, 17 years later, is the largest organization in Scandinavia and the only international research center fighting against bullying. And also my years working for Ministers at the Government of Sweden.
The Reach for Change investment strategy is to focus our support on the first three years, the early entrepreneurial years when everything comes together, chaotic and inspiring. And looking back, of course our history also follows the pattern of the entrepreneurial organization. The first three years from our launch in 2010 were hectic, amazing, a string of first experiences. My small team and I were never in the office, always out, digging, running, trying, failing, learning and building.
Continued entrepreneurial growth
In our fourth year, 2013, we hit a kind of organizational puberty. Without planning it early stage was over. This passed year have been focused on development, program improvement, internal structures, strategy, renewing partnerships into more mature relationships. However, this phase is no less expansive.
We have doubled our team, with a focus on presence in our new markets. I am proud and very grateful looking at the great team we are today, with expertize, drive and commitment beyond my expectations.
We have also noticed a surge in interest from external stakeholders – from academia, press and the public. One indicator of us building our platform is awareness. In Sweden awareness of Reach for Change rose with 60% in 2013 compared to the previous year, landing aided awareness in the entire population at 23%. We have been able to put our mission on the public agenda, we’ve seen an interest in our methods and our social entrepreneurs, our Change Leaders, have been recognized for their work and development.
We also continue our entrepreneurial expansion into new markets. In 2013 we selected our first social entrepreneurs in Senegal, Chad, DRC and Kazakhstan. This year also marked the beginning of a big collaboration with MTG, in which we will start operations in seven new markets in Europe.
A time of urgency
Some of our markets are very difficult to operate in. War, corruption, political instability makes us, as well as everyone in the country, vulnerable and we must work very hard to navigate and mitigate the risks. But we still choose to continue working in DRC and Kazakhstan, for example, and go towards setting up in Ukraine. We choose to be brave. To try. To be there to create change for children.
Because we are living in a time of urgency. 2013 ended with riots in Stockholm, as right-wing extremists attacked peaceful demonstrations for tolerance and community. And at the same time news of the political fight for influence over Ukraine; children slaughtered in the ongoing conflict in DRC and the suicide bombing in Volgograd, Russia. Children are facing inhumane conditions in different ways in all of our markets. Children are being abused and neglected, put at risk and violated. We need to act.
Therefor is with great pride I stand among our Change Leaders, together with our partners and our friends. Every day, fighting to create a better world for children.
Together we have touched the lives of one million children in nine countries on three continents. Think about this million. One million individuals with dreams and fears, hopes and struggles. Every single child counts and knowing the reach of our work warms my heart.
And how do we know that their lives have been affected in a positive way? We talk to them. As our number one stakeholder, we hold broad stakeholder dialogues with children on all our markets. This means children of rural Chad, of Siberia, of Sweden; children from capitals and countrysides; pupils, homeless, sport enthusiasts, chess wizards, activists and fashionistas. Over 5000 children have shared their expertise in identifying the most pressing issues facing children.
“We were in school but we did not have any support, that is why we became what we are now. People call us Children of the Street. We do not want to hear that. When does the street have a child? It seems that the state is proud to see us being abused, and all the time the police bother us.” Says a 14-year old homeless girl in Chad and I am at awe at her insight, which is both political and individual.
We have, with the combined knowledge of our stakeholders, great insight on our markets. We know the gaps and opportunities, the need for social innovation. We know where to put our investments.
And as a 16-year old boy in Chad says: “Companies and corporations can provide a better life for children”. This is so true. Let’s do it!
CEO, co-founder and social entrepreneur