Embracing Complexity: Towards a shared understanding of funding systems change

As we stand on the threshold of an epochal decade, we are confronted with an urgent need to find, fund, and support transformative solutions at a far greater pace than ever. Ashoka engaged in a collaborative report with funders, philanthropists, intermediaries and social entrepreneurs which depicted new principles for funding systems change that will accelerate solving the world's most pressing societal issues. 

Accelerating access to finance 

2020 opened a decisive decade for the future of Romania, Europe and the whole planet. We can deal with new and old threats such as climate change and growing inequalities only with communities in which everyone feels empowered enough to solve personal and social problems, in which cross-sectoral collaboration is the envisaged and possible way to reach the good of all. Ashoka Romania is committed to create a society in which everyone can contribute. For doing so, in Romania, we are constantly supporting social entrepreneurs, crucial actors for what we call a changemakers' society.

Social entrepreneurs need a healthy social finance ecosystem. This means a financial and a public sector that can allocate money where social value is, via adequate monetary and financial tools and instruments.

Ashoka aims to support the construction of a healthy social finance ecosystem that will allow in the medium-long term to erase the problem of access to finance for current or potential social entrepreneurs.

Since 2018, we have been implementing an ecosystem building program on social finance which comprised so far of international events (i.e. workshops, trainings, roundtables) with the presence of international leaders in the field such as

  • Mark Cheng, member of Ashoka Leadership Group, who has helped raise over $200mn for more than 60 pioneering social enterprises around the world,
  • Mrs. Silke Horakova, social impact investor &co-owner of Albatros Media, the largest publishing house in the Czech Republic,
  • Marcus Freiburg, Managing Director of the Financing Agency for Social Entrepreneurship (FASE)
  • Rares Pamfil, proposition lead for Impact Agora, an institutional marketplace for early-stage impact ventures and funds, sponsored by Barclays. At those events we invited both investors and SEs.

Objectives of the Social Finance Month: Funding Systems Change

What do we hope to accomplish by celebrating Social Finance Month: Funding Systems Change with you?

  1. Bring international expertise on the topic closer to the relevant Romanian stakeholders,
  2. Provide a space for all local experts to engage with each other in order to gain perspectives on the gap towards a developed social finance ecosystem,
  3. Gather insights to launch the biggest Social Finance Market Study of the Romanian ecosystem in the most collaborative way,
  4. Identify the most important stakeholders and people with a passion for social finance to elevate their collective voices to accelerate the ecosystem starting 2022,
  5. Create awareness and a desire for system change, empowering people to support changemaking for the good of society.



Agenda for the Social Finance Month: Funding Systems Change

October 12th

Systems change: What is a system and how do you change it?

We are convinced: To make a longer-lasting difference and maximise the impact of available resources, social change must ultimately address the root causes and systemic drivers that are producing a social problem. By taking an indirect impact approach such as changing policies, industry norms, power structures, incentives, mindsets and more, social entrepreneurs can shift a system to produce better outcomes itself and as a result, achieve a significantly greater and longer-lasting change. Together with Ashoka and Ashoka Fellows, we will unfold valuable insights with regards to bringing a systems change mindset to our local structures.

Funding Systems Change

Systemic challenges require systemic answers, but currently the dominant funding practices are ill-suited to support them. Systems change leaders often struggle because current funding practices are often built to support short-term projects with clear, measurable results rather than collaborative, evolving approaches to create lasting change. In this session we will explore the Ashoka collaborative report Embracing complexity Towards a shared understanding of funding systems change and reflect on how its insights could be leveraged in the Romanian ecosystem.   

October 14th

Networking event: The needs and insights of the local ecosystem stakeholders

In the format of a networking event, we will bring together social entrepreneurs and local changemakers along with funders, investors and public authorities to harvest insights on the specific needs of all parties in order to bridge new paths of collaboration and better understand the key elements to accelerate better access to social finance. The objective is to use these reflections to point towards potential financial instruments and policies related to social finance and access to diverse funding opportunities.  

October 18th

How do we mobilise capital?

In this session, we engage with cross-sectorial local expertise to better understand how we can mobilise capital. We will delve into current local and international best practices (such as Portugal, Spain and Italy) and discuss the motivations and expectations behind investing in impact-driven organisations. The session will be open to both investors and social entrepreneurs and changemakers, as we unfold strategies for becoming more investment-ready and attracting investors to capitalizing on social enterprises and NGOs.   

October 19th

Social finance for social entrepreneurs and support organisations

How to support high impact and scalable social entrepreneurs? Participants will get an introduction to the topic of social finance and learn about various approaches for investing and collaborating with social entrepreneurs in a creative way. Social entrepreneurs will be better equipped to access various financial instruments and delve into how to assess their fundraising and investment streams. Moreover, we will go over social finance challenges from different perspectives taking into account participants’ experiences with social finance and impact investing.

October 20th

Financial Instruments for social finance & SoFiA introduction

Workshop on best practices with SoFiA partners.   

This session introduces our main partners for the Social Finance Alliance initiative we have launched in 2020, which will bring international expertise in the upcoming year in order to connect the local market with support from international organisations that work in accelerating the diversity of financial instruments dedicated to social innovation 

October 25th

What types of crowdfunding models can social entrepreneurs use?

October 26th

Co-creation & Ecosystem Input Giving

This final event aims to create the space to reflect on the latest sessions in the Social Finance Month and to kickstart an in-depth conversation on how to mobilise the market into creating new opportunities for financial instruments and policies that will accelerate access to finance to social entrepreneurs. This will be a networking and input giving opportunity that will lay the foundation for our future initiatives in engaging the most relevant stakeholders. 

The Romanian Context

The Romanian ecosystem of social enterprises(SEs)and social economy is at the early stage of its development. This stage is proved by 3 essential elements:


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Legal Framework

The recent legal framework, established with the law 219/2015, which establishes a clear distinction between SEs and social insertion enterprises and recognizes an already existing sector composed mostly by associations and foundations (more than cooperatives or hybrid models) with social aims and democratic governance.

Framework Change

Availability of data

The lack of exhaustive data on social enterprises: net difference in terms of numbers between de fapto SEs - a maximum of 6,000 using the EU definition of SEs (DG employment, 2019)- and recognised SEs, just 103 officially registered in the National Registry of Social Enterprise established by 2015 law on Social Economy. It is estimated that over 15,000+ new accredited social entrepreneurs and 1,500+ social enterprises will be created in 2020-2021 and supported for a period of 12 to 18 months by EU funds, again with no strategy for supporting their scale up and no bridge financial instruments to ensure their sustainability.

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Constraining identity & diversity

The public debate, despite 2015 law, is still somewhat narrowed to labour inclusion of vulnerable groups at the national policy level but dynamic and in transformation at the grassroots. The full potential of social enterprises as highlighted by the Social Business Initiative (SBI) policy framework remains unharnessed, save for projects that emphasise Workers Inclusion Social Enterprises (WISEs)(DG Employment, 2019).

Social Enterprises

We will deliver an investment readiness program for 20 SEs – with international knowledge transfer from Bridge for Billions platform (Spain), a successful incubator co-founded by Ashoka Fellow Pablo Santaeufemia.  

Support organisations

We will be delivering an empowering program for 10 support organizations’ members with international knowledge transfer from Ashoka’s international Social Finance Team

Potential public and private investors

We will be delivering a social investment program for 15 representatives of potential public and private investors– with international knowledge transfer and exchange of best practices from other countries. 

Public institutions (public authorities, universities)

We will be facilitating an exchange of good practices with international input for 15 representatives of Romanian institutions – with knowledge transfer from the Barcelona City Council



The Entrepreneurs

Out of almost 60 applications, we have selected a community of entrepreneurs that will firstly be part of the Bridge for Billions incubation program, where they will be connected to experts and resources to get their venture to the next level. 

The Romanian Mentors

To support the entrepreneurs in their transformational journey we brought aboard outstanding and experienced mentors that will leverage their expertise in accelerating the entrepreneurs' impact and sustainability. Each entrepreneur engages with 2 mentors, one Romanian, aware of the socio-economic context of the country, and one global mentor, provided by Bridge for Billions platform, who can offer international best practices and together diversify the perspectives brought to the entrepreneurs' models.