Releasing the potential of social entrepreneurs

Social Entrepreneurs - Open Arms, Texas

There are many millions of people whose lives are a constant struggle to provide for themselves and their families. Today, Inter IKEA Group announced that it's expanded its support for social entrepreneurs, who look to solve deep-rooted social issues, with a partnership with Ashoka. It now is proud to add Acumen as a partner, which will look to support social entrepeneurs in East Africa.

By backing and working with social entrepreneurs, whose business idea is based on making societies and people thrive, IKEA contributes to creating jobs and better everyday lives around the world.

What is a social entrepreneur?

Social entrepreneurs are often pioneers and pathfinders whose business idea is to create jobs and better opportunities for marginalised groups and vulnerable communities – tackling the root causes of poverty and inequality in the process. Whether non-profit or not, social enterprises are only truly successful when people and societies thrive. They focus their work on the local communities, but their efforts have the power to create ripples that change the way social issues are addressed globally.

IKEA and social entrepreneurs

Working with social entrepreneurs isn’t new to us. To date there are 27 local and global partnerships with social entrepreneurs across IKEA who have co-create home furnishing products and services available in more than 250 stores across 30 countries, and online. This includes a new partnerships with coffee producers in Uganda and artisans making embroidered cushions from India, sold in IKEA stores globally.

These partnerships have supported the creation of over 15000 jobs for vulnerable people, providing them with meaningful work so they can lift themselves out of poverty, plan for their future and start their journey towards self-reliance.

To date these collaborations have been part of the IKEA business. We now want to reach further and make an even bigger positive impact and are expanding the scope of how we work with social entrepreneurs both inside and outside of the IKEA value chain. By supporting the social entrepreneurs’ current business ideas as well as their expansion, we increase their ability to achieve social change.

Sharing networks and knowledge

Although innovation is in most social entrepreneurs’ DNA, they still face a number of common challenges. Limited access to finance, business networks and supply chains are just some examples – which is where IKEA come into the equation. By sharing our networks and our business knowledge, we back new social entrepreneurs and make it possible for established ones to grow – and we give them a better chance to create sustainable solutions. We’re on a constant lookout to make connections that are as great as possible for each partner. 

Innovation and transparency

We invest in programs for acceleration, partner with successful social entrepreneurs that are ready to scale up, and we source and select new and leading innovative businesses. The key to success is openness, towards the social enterprises and towards the world around us. By being transparent and sharing our learnings, we want to provide the tools for other companies and organisations to build on our practice.

Great learnings

For IKEA co-workers, challenging ourselves and our established ways of working is an important driving force. Teaming up with social enterprises gives us the chance not only to contribute to equality, inclusion, and decent livelihoods, but gives us the opportunity to learn lots about how to become a more circular and sustainable business as well as becoming more entrepreneurial.

Working with social entrepreneurs

At IKEA we want to create a better everyday life for as many people as possible – including the millions who are vulnerable and marginalised – enabling a more equal and inclusive society where a decent job is a natural right. IKEA Social Entrepreneurship is one way of making this a reality.

Our organisation

There are many people who live between the poorest communities supported by Stichting IKEA Foundation (the philanthropic arm of Ingka Foundation, the owner of the Ingka Group of companies) and the IKEA supply chain, who are not reached either by the work of the IKEA Foundation or through the partnerships currently under IKEA.

Inter IKEA Group has filled this space with a new company – IKEA Social Entrepreneurship B.V – which will back and support social entrepreneurships outside the IKEA value chain, as well as increasing the support to, and impact of, what we already do within IKEA Range & Supply.

Instead of working with social enterprises solely within the IKEA value chain, offering products and services to customers, we will now enable them to grow both inside and outside IKEA.


Uganda farmer

Our partnership with Acumen looks to strengthen the capacity of 20 social entrepreneurs in East Africa, to scale their businesses so they can assist more people who need it the most.

To grow and have a bigger impact, social entrepreneurs often need to understand their customers, business drivers, how to grow profitably and how to receive capital investments. Many social entrepreneurs in East Africa recognise this. Acumen and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship have co-created an accelerator programme which combines virtual & face-to-face support for the social entrepreneurs, with IKEA co-workers playing an active role in sharing their knowledge, skills and experiences.


Our first major partnership, we co-created a global programme with Ashoka, an organisation that has supported social enterprises for over 35 years.

Specialists from different parts of the IKEA business have partnered with twelve leading social entrepreneurs from Ashoka’s existing network of global social entrepreneurs. These social entrepreneurs all have ambitions to expand their business in order to have a bigger impact on the societies they serve but seek advice and support to understand how to go about it. They include:

Fernando Assad, Programa Vivenda, Brazil. Fernando creates affordable kits which include all of the components necessary for a successful home renovation to cope with challenging housing situations in Brazil.

Nani Zulminarni, PEKKA, Indonesia. Nani is reversing the pattern of discrimination against women by educating and enabling them to generate resources to provide for their families.

Liisa Smits, Ignitia, Sweden. Liisa is sending small farmers in Ghana climate data sets that allow farmers to increase their yield and efficiency by timing planting, cultivating, and harvesting.

Read here the full list of social entrepreneurs and their IKEA advisors

The thirteen IKEA co-workers will share their knowledge and experience from the IKEA business and will form part of a team of advisors. They will support the social entrepreneurs and offer them strategic advice to help them work out the steps needed to expand. In the process the specialists will learn from the social entrepreneurs, adding value to the IKEA business. 

The collaboration will culminate in a summit after which the social entrepreneurs will move to the implementation stage of the programme, where they will work with a new cohort of IKEA advisors to decide on how best to put their strategies into action.

Read here for more information about how IKEA is working with social entrepreneurs producing handmade collections available in selected stores.