Tuesday, 14 July 2015 

the berlin social economic scene

On June 26 - 30, several members of the Grameen Creative Lab had the opportunity to meet with various social entrepreneurs in Berlin. In light of the upcoming Global Social Business Summit – which will be held in Berlin as well – our aim was to better establish a local presence on site by meeting influential actors already shaping the Berlin economic scene. Throughout those few days, we have listened to the stories of various social entrepreneurs and organizations making a tremendous social impact. The following is summary of their incredibly interesting stories.

empowering teachers through student feedback

Friday June 26: Lehrerkolleg 

On Friday, we met with Max Maendler and Viola Fuchs from Lehrerkolleg, an organization focusing on the impact and role teachers have on student development.

Teachers are often undervalued, yet teachers are the key to student learning, and teaching is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Lehrerkolleg has created a network where dedicated primary and high school teachers improve their teaching through student feedback, experience sharing and skill training. Since going online in June at www.lehrerkolleg.de, hundreds of teachers have signed up to the free respective online services “PULS”, “NETZ” and “Meisterklasse”.

The founders describe Lehrerkolleg as an “impact business”. The social impact of Lehrerkolleg will reflect in both improved student achievements as well as in higher teacher satisfaction and health. Lehrerkolleg will measure its impact through regular student feedback on teacher skills. They also believe that this impact can only be maximised with a successful business model, which is why they’ve decided to focus on the HR side of teaching, a 50 billion EUR market in Germany alone. And the issue of teacher isolation that Lehrerkolleg addresses seems to be universal: since going online, an increasing number of teachers outside of Germany has contacted Lehrerkolleg for support.

Lehrerkolleg takes advantage of the work environment Berlin provides for any impact startup: dedicated talent, helpful business partners, access to capital, plus, in this case, a pool of over 800 schools where new services can be tried out and tested.

A big thank you to Max and Viola!


Saturday June 27: Über den Tellerrand kochen 

On Saturday, we then had the pleasure of first meeting with Gerrit Kurschner and Lisa Thaens of Über den Tellerrand kochen, an organization that aims at connecting locals and refugees in Berlin. The idea sprung from the huge inflow of refugees to Berlin -- and the subsequent influx of refugee camps. The very nature of refugees in Germany is deeply-rooted, political, and often overwhelming; for this reason, the focus of Über den Tellerrand kochen is to introduce the people behind the abstract topic of Asylum. Its connection of refugees with locals aims at overcoming stereotypes, destigmatizing the topic of refugees from its inherent politics, building empathy and friendships, and creating individual networks for self-support. This connection takes a two-way approach and exchange, whereby locals and refugees are equally included in the processes and goals of the organization.

There were indeed three steps involved in the Über den Tellerrand kochen’s development. The first began with a cookbook, designed to create awareness of refugees in an unconventional way… through food! The book provided insight for locals into refugee stories, cultures, and other facets that would not be otherwise accessible easily to those who knew little on the subject of refugees. After the cookbook, the organization began to offer cooking classes for local Berliners led by refugees themselves -- focusing on personalized, home-style recipes that offered a new way -- in lieu of visiting refugee camps, which was often seen as an uncomfortable experience -- for locals and refugees to meet one another on a neutral platform. The nature of the encounter itself became more reciprocal. Thirdly, the organization began to establish a sustainable relationship between locals and refugees by way of this two-way process. Now, it holds events (with communal cooking being mostly in the center of activity) that boast over 100 participants -- half of which are locals, the other half of which are refugees. The events are free for all who attend.

The organization itself has many other projects and events -- including a community rooftop garden for example. Berlin’s vast network of open-minded people has proven to be extremely effective for the organization’s success. There is also a large interest in replicating its business model in various other cities across Germany. Therefore, the team is creating guidelines of everything they've learned on their journey and guides potential social franchises in order to scale and accelerate social impact in the long run.

Ultimately, the creative and hard-working individuals working at Über den Tellerrand kochen find happiness from the smiles, thank-yous, and new faces of both refugees and locals at each and every event that is hosted. This alone has proven to be an invaluable measure of social impact.

Find them here: https://ueberdentellerrand.org/. Thank you to Gerrit and Lisa!



Later on Saturday, we met Thomas Jakel, co-founder of Ecotoiletten, a business specializing in the development of eco-friendly -- wherein no chemicals or water are used -- (and clean!) toilets to events and festivals. The toilets produced are also relatively inexpensive, as the organization holds the idea that ‘ecological’ and ‘inexpensive’ do not always have to exist at the expense of one another. At the moment, the company has 100 toilets in stock, and has provided its toilets to over 100 events and festivals to date. Being still a relatively new company, it is currently experimenting its business model, mainly relying on word-of-mouth of people who try out its product at the festivals they attend. The profit that the organization makes from its German events currently creates funds to finance the projects of the NGO Non-Water Sanitation e.V. in India.

Overall, the concept of Ecotoiletten has been extremely popular, with Thomas now wanting to scale his company to have toilets everywhere -- construction sites of which are a primary example. For now, however, places of that nature are more price-sensitive, despite boasting the biggest potential market for the company. The organization has, too, benefitted from Berlin’s large network -- a network in which it has been successfully able to push the politics of its environmental goals. Ultimately, the organization’s promise is to lift the use of public and portable toilets to a dignified level. Indeed, environmental friendliness should not be exclusively limited to organic lifestyle products and food, as it is now conventionally the case. Ecotoiletten is effectively a pioneer in its field -- and things can only grow from here.

Find them here: http://www.ecotoiletten.de/. Thank you, Thomas!

global partnerships through sustainable design


Our last meeting during this Saturday was with Simone Simonato, founder of SICA, an organization currently producing socially-just and sustainable bags and accessories through partnerships with Indian and Bangladeshi artisans.

Originally from Curitiba, Brazil, Simone was inspired by the idea of discarded and damaged textiles to be upcycled by local manufacturers. In 2006, she spearheaded an initiative then called SICA Alternativa, which sourced out discarded fabrics from local textile companies and represented an alternative to Brazil’s mainstream clothing industry. The business started with Simone designing each piece whilst being helped by local seamstresses in order to keep her production flow in order. Simone’s experience with SICA Alternativa enabled the skilled designer to develop a large range of products and concepts. Since moving to Berlin in 2012, Simone has broadened her knowledge to develop her brand in the context of social causes in Berlin as well as India and Bangladesh, where local women manufacture bags and accessories that are then sold both locally and in Berlin. Her business model and subsequently design practice all surround themselves on fair price, material choice, social responsibility and sustainability.

In terms of actual design, the bags and accessories produced by SICA are multi-functional, user-centered, upcycled, and waste-managed -- insofar as SICA upcycles textile waste from Berlin’s fashion sector, other textile producers, and second-hand clothing to reuse in its products. Currently, the brand is promoting a new collection called ‘Clipping Up,’ a bag collection made out of colorful, unique and upcycled  jersey-clipping waste from Bangladesh’s garment industry -- photos of which can be found on the brand’s website blog. Beyond this, SICA aims to develop and maintain close, respectful working relationships to each of its manufacturing partners locally and abroad. Currently, the brand has a cooperative project: Water to Wine, a cooperation between the Berliner Stadtmission and local designers involving the upcycling of leftover clothes by designers (www.berliner-stadtmission.de).

Currently, Simone and SICA inclusively are very open to the undertaking of new projects with other organizations. If you have any interest of working with SICA, please contact Simone through info@sica-up.com


fairstainability through condoms


That same weekend, we met with Philip Siefer – founder of Einhorn (or ‘unicorn’!) – for lunch in Kreuzberg. In practice, Einhorn focuses on designing, manufacturing and distributing sustainable condoms; and at its core, the organization is a community that has a ‘stake in society, culture, politics and the economy.’ The organization and its team are also grounded in the notion of ‘fairstaniability’ with regards to its work and the social entrepreneurship community of which they are a part. Einhorn wishes to prove that it is possible to act simultaneously economically, fair, and environmentally friendly – whilst still being sexy! Their aim is to reward all parties along their value chain – from rubber farmers, to drivers, to those working directly in Berlin with the team.

Along this same line, the environment plays a crucial role in Einhorn’s approach, as the organization wishes to counteract deforestation, enhance biodiversity in its farming regions, and prevent the use of harmful pesticides. Throughout the entire life cycle of an Einhorn condom – which is quite long – the organization aims to integrate fairstanability criteria all throughout. They work towards this through ensuring fair wages, C02 reduction, transparency and accountability for their work.

Overall, the organization wishes to stress that it is impossible to evaluate fairstainability – and its diverse components – with a checkbox, nor is it possible to ever discontinue or ‘complete’ the tasks associated with it. Einhorn recognizes that some of their objetives in this regard may simply never be reached – but they continue to improve the areas in which they must to achieve them. Einhorn – and the practices of fairness and sustainability – are in constant development – as the organization believes ‘you can always go one step further’!

Find out more about Einhorn here: https://einhorn.my/.

sustainability designed well


Next, we met with Georg Tarne – CEO and Founder of soulbottles, a company geared towards making the world a more sustainable place via its glass bottle products.

In short, the organization strives to make sustainable choices more fun than those of the unsustainable – Georg and his time believe that this is a crucial component in influencing more people to make ecological decisions. It is integral to its business model to make sustainability appealing – beyond the science. That is why, for soulbouttles, making sustainable design beautiful is not only aesthetically pleasing, but largely response and necessary for its success!

After recognizing and researching the harmful characteristics of plastic water bottles to health – and the environment, Georg envisioned plastic-free, well-designed water bottles that were easy to transport – as well as enough to prompt other individuals to make the switch from plastic bottles. After this realization, he and his friend (and co-founder!) Paul set to researching on how to print on bottles, how to produce bottles by hand, and how to fund the entire venture.

Though the organization started out as a two-man operation, it has now grown significantly – with many employees and large production operations – in quite short of a time! Since its inception, soulbottles has been largely successful in both propagating the desire for sustainable bottles – and for debunking myths about bottled and tap water that may have previously led (and still lead!) individuals to act unsustainably with respect to water.

Read more about the sustainability of drinking water – and soulbottles – here: https://www.soulbottles.com/. 

design for urban nomads


Earlier in July, we met with Sebastian and Armin of KANCHA – a social business in Berlin geared towards making lifestyle accessories from natural and locally sourced materials in Kyrgystan – a country with which the organization has a close relationship to contribute to the region’s economic development. Founded in 2013 in Berlin, the company has aimed from inception to ensure decent working conditions for its craftspeople, as well as top-quality design for its clients.

Beyond selling good quality products, KANCHA and its team wish to make a positive contribution to the economic development of Kyrgystan – and they have indeed been doing so! Team members are permanently present and their production site in Bishesk, where they work in conjunction with suppliers, partners, and producers on ‘improving the social and ecological balance in (their) value chain’ and to support socially-entrepreneurial ventures in Kyrgystan itself.

The idea for the company came about when its founder, Tobias, first traveled to Kyrgystan, and was fascinated by the art of felting – developed by the country’s nomadic population. In Berlin, Tobias recognized a different sort of nomad: the urban variety – without a determined or stable workplace or home. This bridge between the two nomadic groups spurred the idea to transfer the traditional craftsmanship of Kyrgystani nomads to those of the urban sort.

All in all, the team of KANCHA wishes to propagate an ‘upright’ company – one that prides itself on its social and ecological impact measurement, transparent value chain, and multi-fold sustainability both in Kyrgystan and abroad.

Read more about KANCHA and its story here: http://kancha.de/.


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November 11th, 2015

The Global Social Business Summit 2015 - in Berlin, Germany - has come to a bittersweet end. We thank all those who supported us throughout the process; all those who participated in the event; and all those who helped to spread the YY Spirit of the Social Business Movement in the days leading up to - and during - the event.

We can't wait to see all of you in China for the Global Social Business Summit 2016.

Find a selection of photos from the three days of the #GSBS2015 here.



6 Years of GSBS


Grameen Creative Lab YouTube Channel


On our website you can find the latest version of the agenda, session topics & speakers for the Global Social Business Summit 2015, The program is preliminary and subject to change. Stay tuned for the next updates!


Getting Around

The main venue for the Global Social Business Summit 2015 is the Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, Germany.