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Societal innovation is UNIL's answer to the challenges of our time

15 mayo 2024
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How can an entrepreneurial spirit catalyse social, environmental, and economic transitions? This is the question the Societal Innovation Forum, hosted by the HUB for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UNIL, tried to answer. The event, which got to its 3rd edition, served as a pivotal platform for fostering dialogue and inspiration among key stakeholders in French-speaking Switzerland. 
photo © Shervine Nafissi_UNIL​​​​​

Long-term sustainability over rapid growth

The evening featured Sascha Haselmayer, a renowned social entrepreneur, who emphasised the necessity of patience, commitment, and deep understanding in affecting real social change.

His critique of superficial approaches to addressing social and environmental issues resonated deeply, highlighting the importance of long-term sustainability over rapid growth.

The importance of innovation in funding social entrepreneurship while highlighting the challenges of persuading stakeholders to support sustainable projects was also discussed:

We have contact with foundations or people who could support us. But often, they say they cannot or do not want to support an organisation but a project. This is a problem because a project cannot exist without an organisation. Believe in our project, but also believe in the person, in the organisation, behind the project as well," pointed out Eleonora Voltolina - journalist, social entrepreneur, and activist. 

Her panel discussion with the activist artist Dan Acher - whose projects aim to improve urban quality of life by creating moments of connection and community engagement - explored the nuances of funding social entrepreneurship and the challenges of garnering support for sustainable projects.

Voltolina stressed that social enterprises must remain faithful to their mission while navigating growth.

UNIL launches a new centre of expertise in societal innovation

Anne Headon, Director of the HUB for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UNIL and the host of the evening, underscored the university community's growing interest in societal innovation and emphasised the need for inclusive dialogue to address concrete social and environmental challenges.

This commitment was further solidified with the announcement of UNIL's initiative to launch a new centre of expertise in societal innovation, championed by Liliane Michalik, Vice-Rector for Equality, Diversity, and Careers.

The event culminated with the recognition of Pvssy Talk, an innovative educational platform which aims to address women's sexual pain, embodying the spirit of impactful social initiatives celebrated at the forum.

photo © Shervine Nafissi_UNIL​​​​​

Sophie Bacq, Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at IMD, advocated for a shift in business models towards integrating economic and societal objectives. Her emphasis on collective action and the importance of teams and social movements underscored the collaborative spirit essential for driving meaningful change in society.

Find out all about the Forum from the original story, in French.