Replicating What Works

Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The challenge of the 21st century is to find out what works and scale it up. The Snowball Effect helps passionate people replicate successful social businesses in their own countries.

by Nicole Winchell, April 13, 2022
snowball effect

Say hello to Yoon-Joo and Laure, the co-founders of Snowball Effect. They've been working both in the social innovation field for more than 6 years, wearing different “hats”: as social entrepreneurs, social intrapreneurs, facilitators, consultants, trainers, and certified coach for social entrepreneurs. So far, they've supported +100 entrepreneurs from various maturity levels (from the ones who have an idea to those who are already scaling their ventures in multiple countries).

We met in 2019 in a Parisian coffee shop talking about what our various experiences had taught us. Our common observation was that many people wanted to become social entrepreneurs but most of them tended to reinvent the wheel, inevitably leading to reduced impact, wasted efforts and lost talents. So we thought: why couldn’t they replicate a social business idea that has already been successful elsewhere? This is how the idea of Snowball Effect was born.

You believe that 2050 can be great. Why is that?

We indeed believe 2050 can be great for a number of reasons.

Facing today’s challenges, we tend to constantly look for NEW ideas that can “save the world”. However, we tend to forget there are already plenty of impactful solutions operating out there solving some of our biggest challenges! Indeed, we agree with what B. Clinton said: "Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The challenge of the 21st century is to find out what works and scale it up.” The fact that these impactful solutions already exist is the first great news!

The second great news is that those gems can now easily be replicated. Indeed, the founders of such solutions know they won’t be able to solve those challenges alone, and are actively looking for people to replicate their ideas elsewhere! This is a new era of collaboration, where one can get inspired, learn from those who did it before, replicate what works and adapt the solutions locally! It’s easier, cheaper, faster, and above all, it’s much more impactful! So why wouldn’t anyone rather opt for that option?

Therefore, if millions of passionate people committed to making a positive impact decide to replicate proven solutions, we will be able to generate a snowball effect of positive changes! It could go fast and be very powerful - perhaps beyond what we could imagine - and that’s why we believe 2050 can turn out great!

By 2025 (three years from now!) you aim to generate 100 replications of the best impact-proven solutions across Europe. Can you tell us how to plan to achieve this?

Yes, that’s our moonshot! It’s a great challenge isn’t it? :) Our plan to reach this ambitious goal is the following:

  1. Selecting the 50 best solutions worth replicating ;
  2. Raising awareness on the fact that one can become a social entrepreneur by replicating an existing idea ;
  3. Recruiting the best people to replicate those solutions ;
  4. Helping them adapt those solutions to their local context (replicating a project is not about copy-pasting it but rather adapting it) ;
  5. Facilitating discussions to build strong collaboration relationships between them and the initial founders of the project they replicate

We do that in close collaboration with many ecosystem players (universities, incubators, regions, local business agencies etc.) and with the support of our community.

We also have in mind to empower others to replicate Snowball Effect outside of Europe one day but that’s another story.

So tell us, how does the replication process work? 

Here’s Pauline’s story to illustrate how the replication process works - even though it’s a bit different from one project to another.

Pauline discovered a British social enterprise from our portfolio in the circular economy and was interested in launching it in her country.

She reached out and applied.

As the founders accepted her application, she went through a 3-month “test period” in order to:

  • Assess the potential of this project in her country (is the problem the same? Aren’t there already similar initiatives? How to adapt the solution to its local culture? Etc.)
  • Find out if she likes working on this project as a real entrepreneur locally as well as if she has a human fit with the initial team to make sure this collaboration will be fruitful.

If after this period, it’s a YES for both stakeholders, Pauline will launch the project for real as a “replicator” in her country and benefit from the initial team’s support, learnings, visibility, etc.

Many more stories of entrepreneurs replicating a project can be found here, have a look!

What criteria do you use to select solutions?

We select the solutions according to 4 main criteria. We have many sub-criteria but we won’t go into too much details for the sake of the reader! 

The 4 main criteria are the following:

  1. Impact proven (a measured proven impact - anything too early stage is not eligible)
  2. Financially viable (anyone replicating the project can earn a decent living with the project once it’s up and running, without relying only on grants)
  3. Replicable:  humans are needed - and not only tech - to scale
  4. The founders are empowering: they are openly sharing with others their knowledge, knowhow and experiences.

What kind of ventures do you have right now that could be replicated?

We currently have 16 social enterprises that you can discover on our website. For example, you can launch a zero waste shop, recycle hair and chemicals from hair salons, connect refugees with locals, launch a school for changemakers, ease the access to jobs for people with disabilities, develop slow and local tourism etc.

These solutions are related to the fields of education, inclusion or environment. Our portfolio evolves frequently so feel free to  regularly check our website!

So how can people get involved? 

Depending on what you’re looking for, there are different ways to get involved! If you’re interested in launching an impactful solution in your region →  You can replicate a project from our portfolio. You just need to apply on our website!

  1. If you have  a local network in the  social innovation field, you can join our community of affiliates : you will help us source solutions to replicate and/or connect us with great candidates who could be interested in  replicating a project. Get in touch with us!
  2. If you’re not sure whether replicating a social enterprise is the right thing to do for you, we can help you clarify your thoughts and learn more about this field. We have an exclusive program for that, get in touch with us!

What can a replicator expect from the experience? 

As a "replicator", you can expect a real entrepreneurial life, without starting from scratch nor alone! Of course, you'll face challenges & ups and downs like any other entrepreneur would. But you’ll benefit from the experiences and insights of those who did it before and that will make you save a lot of time and energy! You'll increase your level of knowledge and knowhow thanks to this collaboration journey with them. That’s an exciting business and human adventure!

Last but not least, you will definitely innovate! Adapting a project to a different local context requires a lot of creativity and doesn’t mean that you simply “copy paste” it. Check out some testimonials of “replicators” here!