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Schub – Social Cooperative Hub

Start-up aid for social entrepreneurship

Pioneering project SCHUB sets its sights on social entrepreneurship. Photo: Simon Tanner
Pioneering project SCHUB sets its sights on social entrepreneurship. Photo: Simon Tanner

In Switzerland, more and more start-ups are placing emphasis on social approaches to business. Until now, there have been no services to support this. This is where the pioneering project SCHUB – which means "push" or "impetus" in English – steps in with its innovation programme.

Nowadays, many entrepreneurs want more than simply to maximise profits – they want an economy that has society's best interests in mind. Alongside financial returns, social and environmental gains are key to these entrepreneurs. To support such companies, SENS, the platform for social entrepreneurship, has launched the pioneering project SCHUB in cooperation with Engagement Migros. 


"Cooperative companies are ideally placed to enshrine the requirements of social entrepreneurship into their legal framework."

Rahel Pfister

A push for social entrepreneurship 

SCHUB is focused on creating and expanding impact-oriented business models, with social entrepreneurship and the legal forms suited to this, such as cooperatives, taking centre stage. SCHUB is particularly keen to help young start-ups looking to set themselves up as social enterprises, offering assistance such as a mentoring programme, a social business toolbox and cross-industry networking opportunities.  

The objective of SCHUB is to inspire young companies and, in the truest sense of the project's name, to give them a "push", thus encouraging social entrepreneurship to take hold in Switzerland. "The more attention these companies receive, the more people will become familiar with social entrepreneurship. And the more familiar people are with social entrepreneurship, the more companies we will attract," says Stephanie Frick.

Committed to firmly establishing social entrepreneurship in the start-up scene: project founders Stephanie Frick and Raher Pfister. Photo: Simon Tanner

Behind SCHUB are Rahel Pfister, the Managing Director, and Stephanie Frick, Project Lead Startup and Innovation at CooperativeSuisse. Over the past few months, the mentoring programme was implemented for the first time and four cooperative start-ups were accompanied to their set-up phase thanks to the support of Engagement Migros. Here, the founders were coached in tandems by professionals from other cooperatives and social enterprises. "Switzerland is home to lots of great social entrepreneurs, but there is no meta-organisation bringing them together," says Frick. This is what she wants to change. The findings from the mentoring programme have been compiled into a toolbox that will be published later on, with the aim of providing guidance to other start-ups setting up a social enterprise. The toolbox contains support materials such as model statutes, coaching videos and podcasts on the topic. "Impact-oriented business models are in demand. Cooperatives are ideally placed to meet the requirements of social entrepreneurship, down to their legal framework." Rahel Pfister. You only have to look at the cooperatives from the mentoring programme to see the benefits of social entrepreneurship.

The project team even works in a cooperative building – in the Kalkbreite Cooperative in Zurich. Photo: Simon Tanner

More trust through common responsibility 

One of the start-ups being supported is Vita.Coop. The young business wants to make living wills accessible online with the help of smart contracts for patients, hospitals and doctors, using start-of-the-art encryption technologies such as blockchain. "We want to make patient data accessible quickly and securely, from any location," says Marcos Garcia Pedraza, founder and Managing Director of Vita.Coop. The key aims here are ensuring that living wills can be drawn up, managed and networked easily, whilst protecting patient data. For this, Vita.Coop has developed an online tool. "Our aim is also to ensure that living wills can be swiftly accessed from abroad," says Pedraza. 

Unlike many other start-ups in the health industry, Vita.Coop is organised in the form of a cooperative. "This means that our customers are also owners of the company. This gives them much greater control over what happens to their data," he says. Therefore, this eliminates the incentive to misuse the data, he continues. "We are not under pressure from third-party donors to monetise the data like other commercial companies." What's more, the cooperative creates an exciting network through which the members can support each other, he says.

Participating projects hail from all over Switzerland – and even more are on the horizon. Photo: Simon Tanner

Pushing ideas forward together 

The cooperative "Die Cuisine" has also opted for social entrepreneurship. "Die Cuisine" is an event space in Zurich spanning 600 square metres, featuring seminar rooms, a workshop and an event kitchen for hire. The cooperative has brought many young companies together, including catering service "Zum guten Heinrich", which focuses on sustainable cuisine. "We also use misshapen carrots that can't be sold in the supermarket," says Lukas Bühler, co-founder of "Zum guten Heinrich". Even transporting food to customers is done sustainably, with all food delivered using electric cargo bikes. "Die Cuisine" has allowed the catering service to expand its concept even further. "We want to promote sustainable eating there, too," says Bühler. 

"You don't have to win over third-party donors – instead you obtain funding from people who are also involved in the idea."

Lukas Bühler

To date, 40 companies are said to have each paid CHF 5,000 into the cooperative, relatively quickly generating enough start-up capital. "That's definitely one of the cooperative's advantages. You don't have to win over third-party donors – instead you obtain funding from people who are also involved in the idea." 

Bühler is also delighted with the support from SCHUB. "They've shown us which people we are inspiring with our idea and how we should approach them," says Bühler. He is also impressed with the network, which was created together with other participants. Now he is looking forward to the opening of "Die Cuisine" in April. "For us, climate change is real. We are committed to making a positive contribution to this issue with our sustainable concept."

Both project founders, together with their team, will continue to develop SCHUB over the coming months. Photo: Simon Tanner

Recognising the signs of the times

Linda Sulzer, project manager at Engagement Migros, is among those who are convinced that more and more young companies will start thinking about how they can have a positive social impact. "Those who have founded a start-up but who have not thought about social aspects have simply not cottoned on to the times we are living in," says Sulzer. SCHUB wants to raise awareness of such aspects among young companies who are just starting out. An evaluation is currently being carried out to determine ways to develop SCHUB's services further. "We hope we can inspire lots more young visionaries to turn their hand to social entrepreneurship," says Sulzer.