Social Entrepreneurship Training Programme Biz4all-2: Change is Your Friend

Late autumn saw the final event of the Biz4all social entrepreneurship training programme (see video from the final here). The programme is implemented by ODB Brussels (Belgium) in partnership with the TNU Network University (Netherlands) within the framework of the EU-funded “Social Entrepreneurship Incubator” programme. In mid-December, the second batch of entrepreneurs came to take part in Biz4all-2. With over 100 applications, the organizers selected 23 teams (67 people). An important condition was for the teams to include from 2 to 6 people, and for each participant to attend each offline training without exception.

Maksim Padbiarozkin, project manager of ODB Brussels’ social entrepreneurship development programme in Belarus, started off the day with introductions, emphasizing that the organizers wanted to bring in a new tradition of inviting the teams to do pitches before the start of each seminar. “Of course, we will also have separate sessions on pitches and opportunities to polish these skills. Our first programme has shown that people can have a good idea and develop it for a long time, but it is difficult to achieve success unless you know how to pitch it. You need to be able to present yourself and your idea in a nice way”.

Alyona Lis, Head of ODB Brussels (on the left), and Maria Charakova, social entrepreneur from the Netherlands, at the kick-off event of the second Biz4all social entrepreneurship programme  16.12.2017, Minsk


Best international practices adapted for Belarus

Maria Charakova, social entrepreneur from the Netherlands who co-authored Biz4all, introduced the long-term mission of the programme to the participants, which is to create an eco-system of social entrepreneurship in Belarus. “Over the course of the two programmes, we plan to educate more than 150 future social entrepreneurs. The first Biz4all was a great experience for us and a learning process both for the participants and for us. We will give the new programme our best effort, and this is what we expect from our participants as well. We have engaged and will engage members of the Belarusian diaspora to take part in the programme”. At the first offline training — there will be nine of them over the next six months — participants and experts discussed the concept of social entrepreneurship, soaked up many inspiring examples from Belarusian and international experience.

Maksim Padbiarozkin, project manager of ODB Brussels’ social entrepreneurship development programme in Belarus at the kick-off event of the second Biz4all social entrepreneurship programme 16.12.2017, Minsk


In addition to offline events, each week the teams will complete online modules and do home tasks. Also, each team will have a mentor from the Belarusian diaspora, who will give them advice and provide useful contacts. The organizers recommend to pay special attention to the mandatory peer2peer sessions: 4 teams of participants (10 to 15 people each) will have monthly meetings to discuss ideas and the lean canvases of their projects with each other. “We hope that these sessions will also be valuable, as they will provide an opportunity for the participants to get to know each other better and discuss how they can be useful to each other”, says Maria Charakova.

Alyona Lis, Head of ODB Brussels,
noted that Biz4all was a unique course for Belarus. “We have brought together different elements, offline and online learning, as well as international expertise. The program is based on best international practices, but each module has been adapted specifically for Belarus, taking local realities and conditions into consideration”.

Always focus on your customer

During the first part of the busy day, Maria Charakova, Maksim Padbiarozkin and Alyona Lis introduced the concept of social entrepreneurship to the teams and presented examples of social businesses from Belarus and in other countries. “This is an interesting and complex topic, because each country has its own definition of social entrepreneurship, and only a number of countries have 'social enterprise' as a separate category of legal entities. So far, most of them, like the Netherlands of Belarus, have introduced no special legal category for the social enterprises. Both in our country and in the Netherlands, most social entrepreneurs simply set up a business that helps them to make money, which they then use to solve social problems”.

Participants of the second Biz4all social entrepreneurship programme at the kick-off event in Minsk, 16.12.2017


By definition, social entrepreneurship by definition lies somewhere between a charity and a traditional business. However, according to experts, it is primarily a real, successful and profitable business. Its products and services are sold in the open market, and the majority of profits is reinvested back into the enterprise or spent to solve an important social problem. “Here lies the main difference between a commercial company and a social enterprise: profits do not go to the shareholders, they are reinvested into the social mission”.

The experts noted that an entrepreneur should always be customer-oriented. Sometimes the idea may seem brilliant, but test sales may show that the customer has no need for the product or the service. Masha says: “It is important to test your assumptions and hypotheses about the problem and your solution (goods and services we offer). You can do this if you go directly to your customers. Entrepreneus need to focus on the needs and wishes of the customer, and the main question here is whether customers really want to buy your product”.

Participants of the second social entrepreneurship training programme Biz4all at the kick-off event in Minsk 16.12.2017


After finishing the training programme Biz4all-2 and successfully pitching their project in the final event, the graduates will receive an international certificate. The most successful start-ups will have a chance to take part in the grand final together with the authors of the best business projects of the first Biz4all programme. “However, first they will need to present their idea to a competent jury including representatives of business and international organizations who will determine which of the teams have the potential to become successful social enterprises”, Alyona Lis explains.

Text by: Valerya Nikalaichyk

Photo by: Anzhelika Grakovich

The goal of the programme is to develop a package of social entrepreneurship training programmes in Russian using innovative international practices, as well as the experience of Belarusian diaspora representatives who have become successful entrepreneurs in European Union countries and the USA.


The publication was prepared within the framework of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator", implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands), Belarusian Youth Public Union "New Faces" and International Civil Association "Union of Belarusian of the world “Motherland", with the fiancial support from the European Union.

ODB Brussels