This Works!

Interviews with Five of the Fellows

Pioneering Spirit for Southern Europe
For many people in Southern Europe it’s clear what they want: to finally find employment. Especially in Italy, Greece, and Spain, young people struggle to find their place in the crisis-ridden labor market. Almost every second person under the age of 25 is unemployed.

The Robert Bosch Stiftung and its partner Ashoka support twenty fellows whose business ideas not only can create jobs for young people but also offer possible solutions for some of society’s problems. In interviews, five of the fellows summarized their business ideas and explained how they want to bring their projects to Southern Europe with This works!

Serra Titiz

Future is Brighter Youth Platform (GDN)
  • What’s the idea of your social enterprise?

Future is Brighter (GDN) is an initiative for high school and university students which combines online and offline counseling, mentoring, coaching and skills development. We have capitalized on Turkey’s high Internet penetration where 45 percent of internet users consist of young people under 25 who spend up to three hours per day on the internet. Through our online platform, we connect those young people directly to companies, universities and professionals. They can access all online services free of charge, anytime and anywhere, irrespective of their economical or social status. Our latest module, "Find Your Profession", invites them to fill out online surveys and then directs them to existing education and career opportunities which best fit their answers. To connect young people with the labour market, we involve hundreds of role models, organizations and companies as voluntary contributors and mentors. Thus, young people are empowered to make informed life, education and career choices.

  • How did you become a social entrepreneur?

I wanted to work for people and to have a meaningful life. That’s why I started to volunteer at NGOs. And when one NGO asked me to work fulltime for them, that was it! That was the breaking point. I worked with NGOs for five years where I took a special interest in developing programs for young people. Then came the urge to make bigger moves and lead my own initiatives in order to become a medium for social change. I had a model in mind, a social enterprise that would craft models for sustainable development. One of the models we finally generated in 2009 was the Future is Brighter Youth Platform.

  • To what country is your idea going to be transferred?

We are currently discussing with partners in Italy, Spain, Greece, as well as Egypt the idea of starting pilots in these countries. In particular, in Italy we are collaborating with Robert Bosch Italy to develop the Italian platform for youth. These discussions could potentially develop into a social franchising model, relying on local partners who know well the local market, stakeholders and funding opportunities. They should have the capacity to adapt our tools to their audience, translate the various materials and engage with young people.


Sandra Schürmann

Projektfabrik gGmbH
  • What’s the idea of your social enterprise? What makes it special?

Imagine theatre groups in different European cities creating their own plays. They are organized by unemployed young people and performed in front of huge audiences. At the same time, these unemployed people develop their own future, enhance their job prospects, start enterprises and – most importantly – experience success. This is the idea of JobAct.

Before launching JobAct, unemployed individuals in Germany were only offered classical professional skills training. With no focus on personal development, they were quickly falling back into unemployment. This is why we initially started JobAct: by using arts and theatre unemployed people have the chance to participate and create something in order to be successful. As a result, this helps them to regain their motivation and boost their self-esteem. We won a nationwide competition hosted by the Federal Minister for Labor and Social Affairs. This award opened up new avenues for scaling the program and more importantly increased awareness to shift the paradigm in the field of education and qualification in Germany. JobAct was then replicated in more than 20 cities within two years, and to date we have reached a total of 90 cities.

  • To what country is your idea going to be transferred?

We are currently building up partnerships in Spain, Italy, Greece, France and Hungary and are planning national meetings in each country in the coming months. We are now also in the process of developing the "JobAct Academy" to offer trainers and coaching programs to all interested partners and to support them in adapting JobAct. In Italy, we are developing a first pilot in Milan which will hopefully start in 2016. In addition, we are also building up partnerships in Genova, Torino, Florence and Milan focused on theatre, entrepreneurship and self-employment training. In October 2015, we had a first national workshop in Florence, others will follow in 2016 in Spain and Greece.

  • What’s your motivation to participate in This works!?

This works! really fits perfectly our efforts of bringing JobAct to other European countries. We face the current problems of Europe also in Germany and we recognized that the principle of our project can work and help everywhere. The specialised support in creating a scaling strategy, the network, the interest and expertise of the people: This works! has helped us to build up the network we are working with right now.


Charly Murphy

PYE Global
  • What’s the idea of your social enterprise? What makes it special?

We want to enable young people to awaken their innate creativity and confidence so they can meet the challenges of school, work and life. Teaming up with local partners, our program PYE trains youth workers, teachers, artists and community leaders to use arts and empowerment techniques in their work. Studies prove that creative thinking as well as social and emotional skills are more predictive of life and academic success than IQ ever was. Yet these vital lessons are largely absent from mainstream youth programs and schools around the world. We would like to fill this void.

  • How did you become a social entrepreneur? What’s your personal background?

I was introduced to the world of youth empowerment as a teen. I attended a teen camp in the US, where I grew up, that changed my life. What made it different than other camp experiences is that it was really skilfully facilitated. Integrating arts in youth work and training people in facilitation has been the focus of my work for over 20 years. My goal remains the same: to move creativity and change-making from the periphery to the very core of education.

  • To what country is your idea going to be transferred?

Our idea has already been transferred to over 10 countries including UK, Greece, India and Uganda. We estimate that over the last nine years we have reached 1 million young people. In Greece we started the scaling process in 2014. To date we have delivered Creative Facilitation trainings to over 100 practitioners in Thessaloniki and in Athens. In this process we have identified at least one potential partner organisation who we will continue to work closely with to spread our idea through their networks in Greece. We returned for a next phase of work in November to deliver more Creative Facilitation trainings and start the process of training Greek-speaking facilitators.


Danielle Desguées

BGE Netzwerk für Unternehmer
  • What’s the idea of your social enterprise? What makes it special?

For us, anyone must have the right to create a business and can become an entrepreneur. Since 1979, BGE National network for entrepreneurs has been supporting all those who want to create a business from the first concept to its implementation and to the business development, including job seekers. We offer a personalized support of the entrepreneur regardless of his or her social background. We wanted to reach potential new entrepreneurs who, without an economic culture for business, not only do not see themselves as potential entrepreneurs, but can even jeopardize their project in its very beginning. Over the past 35 years, we have helped the creation of 300.000 new enterprises. Each year more than 100.000 people come to us in one of the 600 local offices with a project. Among them 85 percent are out of work. After 3 years 75 percent of these businesses are still operating.

  • How did you become a social entrepreneur? What’s your personal background that made you a social entrepreneur?

I created several cooperative businesses. When I was 17 years old, I managed an organic products cooperative store run by its consumers. At 19 years old, I created a restaurant with organic and local products. Even before creating BGE Network, as I was studying, I have always been interested in the creation of companies that could address cultural or social needs. After researching stories of entrepreneurs for a book titled "And if everybody created their own job", I saw the potential and the need of would-be entrepreneurs in France and I knew there was no time to lose.

  • How did you find out about This works! and to what country is your idea going to be transferred?

Ashoka as a partner of This works! contacted me in 2014 and invited me to participate in the program. I immediately saw the potential of this initiative to bring change and create solidarity between countries in such a harsh time of economic crisis. We started the transfer of our tools to Spain a year ago in a pilot project with a local partner. Seven employment agencies that are part of the project have already created a national network to support each other, share knowledge and experience. They are now looking to engage new organisations to join them. In Italy, we are planning a replica with a local partner in the region of Lombardia in 2016. Together we aim to apply for EU funds to create exchange opportunities between the three organisations in France, Italy and Spain and potentially create a European network with an even stronger voicing power.

  • What was a memorable moment in your work as a social entrepreneur so far?

Among many others, I think of a young male entrepreneur who had spent many years in an orphanage. He participated in one of our business incubators and after he created his company, a specific web service for aeronautics, he now has 15 employees and has joined our board.


Dr. Frank Hoffmann

discovering hands®
  • What’s the idea of your social enterprise? What makes it special?

Breast cancer is still the most common and one of the most lethal types of cancer: every year, roughly 71,000 women in Germany are diagnosed with this disease. Adequate early detection programs are necessary. Therefore, discovering hands trains blind and visually impaired women as Medical Tactile Examiners (MTEs) via a 9-month training program carried out at specialized vocational training centers. These qualified MTEs use their superior tactile capabilities to improve the early detection of breast cancer. This allows less harmful treatment and significantly increases patients’ chances of survival, while offering a meaningful and sustainable occupational field for blind and visually impaired women not "despite their disability" but because of their specific skill-set. A first qualitative study shows that MTEs detect 50 percent more and 28 percent smaller tissue-alterations in the breast tissue than gynecologists.

  • How did you become a social entrepreneur? What’s your personal background that made you a social entrepreneur?

I’ve been a resident gynaecologist in Duisburg, Germany, for two decades. In the framework of my routine palpatory examination of the mammae I have only very limited time for each individual patient (between 1 and 3 minutes). Nevertheless, I have to diagnose each patient I treat, carrying full responsibility. That’s why I was looking for a way to improve my service and enhance the quality of the examination procedure. Then, literally under the shower one morning I had the sudden inspiration that the enhanced tactile sense of blind and visually impaired people could be used for an improved palpatory examination. I assumed that somebody already had had this idea before me, because it is so simple and plausible. But no one had. That’s how the whole process of developing a curriculum for the MTE-training started almost ten years ago. So originally, my motivation was purely medical and only social in the sense that I wanted to offer better service and improved early detection to my patients. I only discovered that I am a Social Entrepreneur when Ashoka invited me to apply for their Fellowship in 2010. Ever since, I have identified very strongly with the idea of Social Entrepreneurship.

  • When would you know that your participation in the program was successful?

Our main motivation is to generate a maximum of Social Impact through our Social Franchise model, especially in countries that are still struggling after the crisis. People with disabilities already struggle more than the average person is, the difficult economic situation adds to their hardship and leaves important issues like inclusion out of focus. We want to effectuate a positive mindset-change towards disability in these societies through our work. We will know that we were successful when the first MTEs have started working in the This works! focus region.

  • What was a memorable moment in your work as a social entrepreneur so far?

I remember that the first MTE I employed in my practice, Marie-Luise, who recently retired, once said to me: "I cannot see, so I cannot go out into the world anymore. But now the world comes to me." That’s when I knew I had done something right. Marie-Luise is a trained nurse. She started the MTE-training when she was 53 years old, had recently turned blind and did not know how to use a computer before she started her training. Marie-Luise has helped countless women since. Not only through the enormous capabilities in her fingertips, but also because she was there for them in a way that I cannot be there for my patients. That makes me very proud and is one of the reasons why I believe that our program deserves to grow and prosper.