Meet the Innovators- Nian Wetsteijn

We’re delighted to be hosting a selection of delegates as part of FuSIon Fest to give us a flavour of Innovation within the EU, including Nian Wetsteijn from SpareSpace. You can catch them as part of the Social Innovation in Europe session, which will also outline the SoChange.EU platform.

Tell us a little about yourself and your work in support of social innovation ?

I really like to see new entrepreneurs develop themselves into more than they thought they were capable of. In the past, I have worked in social housing projects and the redevelopment of historical buildings. The social aspect is the most important element in working with this kind of real estate. SpareSpace started with reusing empty shop buildings. Recently, we created an online platform for aspiring entrepreneurs who each have their own separate businesses, but who are also willing to share a shop

How did you first get involved in ‘social good’ work and why is it so important to you?

I first got involved in ‘social good’ work during my first job. I worked as a project leader in a social housing redevelopment project. I was responsible for relocating the residents and I had to make sure they all got a suitable home back again in time. During this job, I learned that having a good home in a pleasant environment impacts on the lives of people. Especially shops and other forms of entrepreneurship can contribute greatly to the liveability of towns and neighbourhoods.

How do you think Social Innovation can help Northern Ireland based organisations?

Social Innovation is a solution for the moving of chains of shops and other businesses from the rural areas to more central locations. Local craftspeople can start new businesses in these rural areas. The commercial profit of these local companies will be less than the profit of larger businesses, but the liveability of a town and self-reliance of a group of local entrepreneurs is very valuable to a community.

Do you think cross sector collaboration is important to the social innovation agenda? If so, why?
YES. It’s a precondition. New business models aren’t just focused on selling and reselling, but in my view are much more a combination of creativity, innovation and well-being. In the future, more and more people will be self-employed. Within their own local community people can support each other without being dependent on one employer.

In your view, does the private sector engage enough in corporate social innovation activities…. and what more can they do?

SpareSpace deals with starting companies, schools, the local council and real estate. We see that these different groups do not understand each other very well. This is because they don’t communicate with each other and they don’t work together enough. We believe that it is necessary to have a combination of different perspectives on how to define financial, commercial and certainly social value.

What interests/ excites you about FuSIon Fest?

I would very much like to find out if we as a company can do more on an international level, e.g. by exchanging knowledge and instruments regarding social impact. In the UK for example the government is less paternalistic than the Dutch government.

What and who inspires you?

Entrepreneurship and people who try to solve obvious questions in society.

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