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Reach for Change, an independent global nonprofit organization that originated in Sweden, is furthering its work to unite the business and social sectors by joining Vilnius Tech Park, the biggest startup hub in the region.
Reach for Change was originally founded as a partnership between the Swedish social entrepreneur Sara Damber and entrepreneurial investment group Kinnevik. Its founders understood that many people have innovative ideas on how to improve the lives of children and youth, and want to start a social enterprise to achieve their vision. However, these people often lack the funds, skills, advisors, and networks to make their vision a reality.
One of the core aims of Reach for Change is to bring together the best of the business sector with the best of the social sector. According to Jurgita Ribinskaite-Glatzer, the Country Manager for Lithuania, cross- pollination between these two fields creates excellent results. “We believe that the business and social sectors have a lot to learn from each other,” she explains, “and our programs have proved that when they come together, they can create the perfect chemistry for social innovation.”
Today, Reach for Change, through its network of incubator programs across 18 countries, is supporting 205 innovative, early-stage social entrepreneurs who are addressing a wide range of pressing issues for children. Through a mixture of seed funding, business development and network development support, Reach for Change is helping them to develop and scale their solutions, creating impactful, sustainable organizations.
Reach for Change was launched in Lithuania in 2014, where it currently supports 9 social entrepreneurs. And joining the Sapiegos tech park in Vilnius will be the first time globally Reach for Change has chosen to locate its operations in a startup hub. Ms Ribinskaite-Glatzer is confident the decision will bear fruit. “We know that networks of smart, brave and passionate people can really create magic, so moving to Vilnius Tech Park helps us surround ourselves with other people like us,” she comments. IT solutions boosting social entrepreneurship Reach for Change has a number of IT startup initiatives in its portfolio. For example, one of its Change Leaders – the term given to the entrepreneurs who direct Reach for Change projects – has designed an application that helps autistic children to manage their daily routine. Since children with autism are very particular about their schedule, this app makes sure that their day can flow smoothly.
Another Change Leader in Lithuania, Vaida Jasiulevičienė, is fighting bullying through a platform where children can foster their self-esteem and resilience via games. Her ambition is for her project to go global, and Reach for Change aims to help her.
Ms Ribinskaite-Glatzer believes technology is a great enabler for social programs, particularly when it comes to scaling. So, even for those Change Leaders who are not working directly with IT, technology will still play a critical role in helping them achieve their objectives of making the world a better place for children. And with that, of course, comes the opportunity for collaboration with IT entrepreneurs which Vilnius Tech Park is helping to facilitate.
Darius Zakaitis, Managing Director of Vilnius Tech Park, is convince Reach for Change will help to bring positive changes to both social entrepreneurship and to the business community in Vilnius Tech Park. “The most successful startups are first and foremost dedicated to solving people’s problems, whether it’s making e-commerce simpler, or helping to manage a hectic schedule,” he points out. “I believe that for startups in the park, Reach for Change’s presence will be a great reminder that, in the end, it’s all about helping people solve their problems. And in return, being located in such a business-oriented environment will help the social enterprises Reach for Change supports to achieve scalability and turnover,” concludes Mr Zakaitis.
With Reach for Change joining the Vilnius Tech Park community, almost 70 per cent of the 9000+ square metres of office space in the park are now filled. The official launch of this unique startup hub, located in fully renovated 19th century buildings, is set for this October. The hub, located in parkland adjacent to Vilnius’ historical old town, will be home to 700+ entrepreneurs, and will also feature a co-working space. VC funds, accelerators, and a comprehensive business development network will all be present in the park, which will also boast a conference center dedicated to tech events.