Social entrepreneurship: What can Lithuania learn from Sweden?

Maria Christina Lundqvist, H.E. Ambassador of Sweden to Lithuania
Maria Christina Lundqvist, H.E. Ambassador of Sweden to Lithuania

Social entrepreneurship is one of areas Lithuania takes inspiration from the Nordics. According to Maria Christina Lundqvist, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden to Lithuania, one key to success is a society that takes responsibility.

Speaking at the ‘Partnering for change’ (“Talentas keisti”) closing conference, the ambassador stressed that in Sweden it is not just the state that works to promote social welfare, but also people themselves.

One way Lithuanians can contribute to the common good, she said, is to take up social entrepreneurship with a focus on social welfare. The field is rather new even in Sweden, but, according to Ambassador Lundqvist, people there, who are by nature receptive to innovations, are pursuing it quite successfully.  

“There are deep social traditions of mutual help in Sweden. Seeing how social entrepreneurship can influence change of systems and societies, Swedish business people quickly set to work in this field,” the ambassador said.

As she put it, while the state does provide support for social entrepreneurship in Sweden, which is still in its early days, the attitude of society is very important as well – Swedes do not leave the resolution of social problems only to those who are in power.

“When climate change began to pose a growing threat, a lot of global initiatives also came about, like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – and society’s interest grew even more. Both business and individuals feel responsibility and want to help solve the problems that are most important for society,” the Swedish ambassador said.

Hoping for Lithuanians to get more involved

Today one of every 10 people in the world still lives on less than $1.90 a day, and one in nine people does not have enough food.

That is why in 2015 the UN announced 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which, together with countries and non-governmental organisations, it hopes to implement by 2030. The goals seek to fully eliminate poverty and hunger, and address challenges of gender equality, climate change and education.

Sweden’s ambassador stressed that achieving such ambitious goals requires the active involvement of all parts of society. 

“Implementing the goals at the national level, it’s important to pay special attention to the development of social entrepreneurship. That opens up new opportunities not just for business, but also for citizens with initiative who care about social welfare, and for new projects. The Swedish government has already presented a plan for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Ambassador Lundqvist.

Lithuania is also gradually aligning its agenda with the Sustainable Development Goals. But, according to the ambassador, that is not enough.

“It is vital that Lithuanian society, too, get actively involved in the implementation of social goals. That’s why I strongly encourage everyone to be not observers of change, but actors with initiative. It’s only with people’s help that we can change anything and create a better world for future generations,” she said.

Changes require ideas

The ambassador noted that it is precisely in order to encourage society’s involvement that she supports initiatives like the change contest “Talentas keisti”.

“This project shows that Lithuania is following the same path as Sweden, where we also would not be able to change anything without people and their ideas. ‘Talentas keisti’ does not just encourage the creation of social enterprises focused on children’s welfare, but also helps them grow and get stronger. That kind of support is especially necessary for young businesses,” she said.

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