Impact in conflict zones – war is often an opportunity for the social entrepreneurs to step up

Working in conflict conditions is especially challenging, this goes for all types of activities and most certainly for the social entrepreneurs and impact investment. How to tackle these challenges and empower entrepreneurs and investors in territories where there is conflict were only some of the topics covered during the Impact in conflict zone session at the Impact Week in Brussels.

Anna Gulevska-Chernysh, co-founder and chair of SILab Ukraine promoting the development of social enterprise and social innovation in the country, shared many of the experiences of working in the impact ecosystem during the wartime. And one of the biggest takeaways she and her team have is definitely to be flexible and resourceful. For example, before the invasion, SILab planned to launch Ukraine’s first social venture fund, which had to be delayed because of the start of the war but in its place a smaller incubation programme was set up providing grants.

After beginning of the war, SILab Ukraine swiftly reacted and changed rapidly from delivering accelerator programmes and mentorship to social enterprises, to coordinating a humanitarian effort, especially helping internally displaced people.

“In March, we could plan for only one week or two weeks ahead. Now we’ve started again to plan months, six months, 12 months ahead – we’re already speaking about next year.” said Anna. 

In addition to the Ukrainian insights and experience, speakers from Spark and Kampani brought their knowledge based on many years of experience in African and Asian countries, and Gevorg Poghosyan from the Impact Hub Yerevan gave some perspective from Armenia where the conflict is still simmering indicating that there were three different kinds of impact investors in Armenia and each required different kinds of engagement. For example, international investors needed the reassurance that their investments would remain operable: “You need to bring them real risk models… real measures that are taken for them to ensure that their investments will continue working for them.”