How Can We Optimise Business Impact to Solve Complex Challenges? 5 Insights from the Ice Academy

Interview with Cat Baron, European Social Mission Programme Officer, Ben & Jerry’s and Charlie Fraser, Head of Partnerships and Co-Founder, The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network

Ben & Jerry’s, and The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network have plans to scale-up their Ice Academy programme in 2019. Having learned plenty along the way, how did these partners come together so effectively? Cat Baron, European Social Mission Programme Officer, Ben & Jerry’s and Charlie Fraser, Head of Partnerships and Co-Founder, TERN tell us more.

BFP: What is the Ice Academy?

In 2017, the Ice Academy programme was created to support people who have refugee status get back into business and remove barriers they face entering the job market. The goal is to provide people with the opportunities and resources needed to start a business, through entrepreneurship training, mentoring and part-time employment. Starting with 8 participants, the programme is now entering its third year and is preparing to scale-up to support 90 people across Europe in 2019.

BFP: How did you set up this partnership in order to optimise business impact to solve complex social challenges?

CF: More people than at any other point in human history are being forced to leave their home because of war, conflict and persecution. Working out, as a global community, how to integrate 25 million refugees into existing societies is not easy, it is not cheap and does not always work – but it is necessary. From our perspective this is a relationship that is grounded in a united mission. Both Ben & Jerry’s and TERN are committed to creating opportunities for entrepreneurial refugees

CB: What we know is that businesses and brands have a very powerful voice and at Ben & Jerry’s we have a history of trying to use this for social good. There’s a need and opportunity for businesses to stand up to help find and implement solutions to social challenges, and we think corporates have a responsibility to play a more active role alongside govements and NGOs. At Ben & Jerry’s we believe in collaboration, we regularly work with experts and movement builders to fight for the social values of fairness and equality which we believe in.

Our advice – If your motivation for the partnership is to simply spend your CSR budget or you want to build a PR relationship, you’ve lost focus. To build a truly transformational partnership requires an examination of how core business can help answer key social challenges.

BFP: How are you moving beyond a transactional partnership, into one that delivers transformational benefits for your organisation?

CF: While brand visibility should never be the starting point for a partnership, it can be underestimated what that validity can do for a cause. For a small enterprise like TERN partnering with Ben & Jerry’s, a company which has great visibility and a wide reach, immediately gives credence to what you’re trying to do.

CB: We want to deliver benefits for society in accordance with our values as opposed to business benefits. It’s important that social impact remains a priority so we can ensure that the programme is implemented in the best way for participants.

BFP: How have you enabled a faster rate of change through working together?

CB: We started as a pilot, and worked closely with TERN and the participants to learn from the experience and feed that learning back into the programme. Through this approach we were able to grow in the right way.

CF: TERN was a start-up organisations itself when the Ice Academy was launched. This meant that we were able to react to Ben & Jerry’s desire for innovation through testing, and for quick and flexible programme development. We were able to stay focused on creating a programme that was powerful for its participants, rather than being stuck to a rigid methodology that was pre-conceived.

BFP: How do you avoid the potential pitfalls of partnership work?

CB: Be clear on expectations from the partnership on each side. This partnership, and the Ice Academy fits within B&J’s wider social mission focus on striving for refugee and asylum seeker rights and inclusion; both Ben & Jerry’s and TERN are aligned on prioritising solutions to this social problem.

CF: We have alignment on how we like to work and the values that we like to bring to the way that we work. Ensuring this is not just the responsibility of corporates, but also of NGOs. We map out the criteria that indicate a partnership can be a success and try to avoid being blinded by pulling power!

BFP: How are you planning to deepen the impact of this partnership in 2019?

CB: We plan to continue our growth in Europe; including running a pilot in France, and operate beyond London in Bristol, and continue to evolve. Two years in, we’re always looking at how we can further develop and test the model, improve, optimise and grow.

CF: Launching in April, we are creating an independent community led micro-fund, distributing micro-grants to the entrepreneurs taking part in the Ice Academy . This fund is being started by the profits from a new Ben & Jerry’s flavour, called Spice & All Thing N’ice, the latest installment of our work together! And we are also at the stage where we want to champion our alumni, now that their businesses and products are launching. So we will be exploring how to give a platform to these entrepreneurial refugees. You can follow these launches by joining

BFP: What is your biggest piece of advice for corporates and NGOs who want to partner?

CB: Start conversations, have discussions and then trial the model as a pilot.  Collaborate together even if it’s on something small.

CF: To maximize impact in this space, NGOs and social enterprises need to work with corporates. So be open, don’t be afraid to share new ideas and be confident in showing the value of the work you do. The reality is that there has never been more corporates looking for the right partnership; find the people in those organisations who share your vision of what the world can be.

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