Social entrepreneurship -

developing an ecosystem


An interview with Stefan Chichevaliev, Executive Director of the Social Entrepreneurship Observatory, North Macedonia


Keywords: Social entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship ecosystems, research, public policy.


How to reference this article: Chichevaliev, S., 2022,  Social entrepreneurship - developing an ecosystem, Entrepreneurial Mindset Network, accessed [insert date], </regional-impact/v5n1-sc>.


First published in 2022 in the Entrepreneurial Mindset Network eZINE Volume 5 no 1

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Stefan Chichevaliev is the Executive Director of the Social Entrepreneurship Observatory. He has more than ten years of experience in the private, public and civil sectors. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Vrije Universiteit Brussel in social entrepreneurship and a developer of partnerships in South-Eastern Europe.


In this interview, Stefan explains the work of the Social Entrepreneurship Observatory, promoting social entrepreneurship in South-East Europe. He describes the level of understanding of social entrepreneurship amongst the general population, and the policies and support needed from government.


What is the Social Entrepreneurship Observatory?


Social Entrepreneurship Observatory (SEO) is a Regional Resource Center, a platform for monitoring, collaboration and partnerships to develop and promote social entrepreneurship in South-East Europe. We are ecosystem developers. We advise state and non-state actors, and help social entrepreneurs and enterprises understand the ecosystem, and support and encourage them and their activities. We offer various services, including consulting, mentoring, coaching, training, research, editing and publishing, networking and coordination, and event organising.


How did you first become interested in social entrepreneurship?


I always wanted to represent and help the underdog. I have always worked toward developing a system that could help those in need, the most vulnerable, leaving no one behind during my career. Looking at my portfolio, you will find that I am constantly involved in social policy development to research and explore sustainable solutions to societal issues. Also, I was always very much into business and entrepreneurship. In fact, I was very entrepreneurial from a young age.


Eight years ago, I heard that a new law was in the pipeline – the Law on Social Entrepreneurship. I got involved in studying and reviewing the law and what I found was a revelation for me. Intertwining entrepreneurship (business) and societal issues are one of the main elements. It was my “Aha” moment, the Eureka moment. It just clicked. I found myself in the field, and the rest is history.   


Image credit: Unsplash


How well understood is the need for social entrepreneurship in North Macedonia?


Great question. Social entrepreneurship is a novel field in the country, and the developments are quite recent. Consequently, the understanding of the need varies across sectors. That is one of the most contemporary issues for developing social entrepreneurship in the country. 


The third sector is the driver of the field, and other sectors are slowly starting to support social entrepreneurship. The government still lacks a proper understanding of the field, although a step forward in terms of policy has been made in the last year. However, the implementation of those policies is always the trickiest thing. We have to wait and see whether there will be a political will to implement the envisioned measures.


The general population still lacks proper understanding and awareness about social entrepreneurship and what it does. It is safe to say that social entrepreneurship in the country is a developing field, far from having a conducive ecosystem. Still, it is encouraging to see some promising steps forward by the Government and the business sector.


Are there any social entrepreneurs that you particularly admire?


I admire the pioneers. Globally, people such as Bill Drayton and Muhammad Yunus. I admire the new and upcoming social entrepreneurs regionally or, even better, nationally. 


In a region, in a nation full of controversy, those people give us hope that change is possible. I very much agree with the terms used to describe social entrepreneurs, such as advocates for change, change-makers or agents of change. 


I admire people who work toward solidarity and systemic change. If these past years have proven anything, it’s that people’s mindsets are hardest to change. ◼️