How to Join the NESsT-IKEA Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator in Poland & Romania


Key Points:

  • Early-stage impact investing nonprofit NESsT and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship have partnered to strengthen and scale the work of 10 social enterprises in Poland and Romania.

  • Social entrepreneurs who are interested in scaling their businesses with tailor-made support and financing from NESsT and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship can apply to join the three-year accelerator until May 3, 2021.

  • The programme, co-created by NESsT and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship, is focused on ensuring the employment of 1,200 vulnerable and excluded communities including youth, at-risk women, ethnic minorities, migrants and refugees, smallholder farmers, and people with different abilities to access better job opportunities and improve their income.

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The Need: Poland and Romania

Both Poland and Romania have reduced poverty in the last two decades, but the job is far from done. The lack of employment opportunities, especially in rural areas and for households with fewer years of education or training in high-growth industries, has led to higher poverty rates across various communities.

In less than 15 years, Poland has moved from middle to high-income status, while also sustaining lower income inequality by increasing access to education and across income groups and regions. The programme seeks to amplify these opportunities to the 2 million people in Poland who still live in poverty.

According to a 2019 Statistics Poland report, the highest extreme poverty rates were recorded in households with at least 1 person with disabilities; households of farmers; and households where the head had at most lower secondary or basic vocational education.

In the case of Romania, nearly 1 in 5 people are at risk of poverty, a total of 5 million people, making it the country with the highest share of the working population at risk of poverty across Europe. (Eurostat, 2020).  A significant portion of Romania’s population lives in rural areas, 45 percent, and the majority live in poverty, 70 percent. The people living in these areas are mainly farmers and unemployed rural workers who lack the capital to rise out of poverty. Even with more capital at their disposal, these areas still lack social, medical, and educational facilities. For women who are able to access care during childbirth, discrimination continues to be high with Romani women experiencing a higher maternal mortality rate of fifteen points higher than that of non-Roma women. (The Borgen Project, 2018).

As a result of these high levels of poverty, emigration levels are also quite high with 18 percent of the population living outside of the country as they seek jobs and income to support their families. (World Bank, Romania: Systemic Country Diagnostic, 2018 ).

Why Social Enterprises?

Locally-based social enterprises are uniquely qualified to transform low-income, excluded and environmentally vulnerable communities. These enterprises are on the ground, have the trust of the communities, and have created businesses aligned with their best interests.

The Opportunity

Early-stage impact investing nonprofit NESsT and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship have partnered to strengthen and scale the work of 10 social enterprises in Poland and Romania.

This tailor-made programme will use a combination of business knowledge and insights from IKEA co-workers, with NESsT expertise in social enterprise investment to support 10 leading social entrepreneurs to scale their impact. Coupled with flexible financing, each entrepreneur will receive support in the areas of business and financial modeling,  human and financial management, governance, marketing & sales, communications & storytelling, social and environmental impact measurement, as well as investment readiness and support in accessing new funding/capital.

Beyond ensuring access to improved livelihood opportunities, the programme will prioritize social enterprise that address the issues of climate change brought about by unsustainable environmental practices, particularly related to poor air quality from an over-dependence on the coal industry.

As Poland and Romania continue to take stronger measures in the transition to a sustainable economy, the programme will support social enterprises to reskill their workforce to contribute to an inclusive, sustainable and environmentally progressive society.

Over the course of their acceleration, participating social enterprises will be given market access support and advice, including potential relationships with IKEA in the region.

With partnerships such as these, the NESsT portfolio will be doubling in size in 2021 to support 50 social enterprises through its investments in six countries, of which more than 50% are women-led.

How To Apply

Visit for all details on eligibility, how to apply, and the due diligence process.

Additional Context

  • NESsT invests in social enterprises that create quality jobs for underserved communities while sustaining the planet.  NESsT raises philanthropic and impact investing capital to support the poorest communities facing isolation, discrimination, and lack of jobs skills or education. Since its launch, the organization has trained over 17,000 entrepreneurs, supported over 1200 social enterprises and invested in close to 200 that have created over 70,000 quality jobs benefitting 700,000 underserved individuals in emerging market countries. Learn more at:

  • IKEA’s vision is to create a better everyday life for as many people as possible. IKEA Social Entrepreneurs was founded in 2012, assigned to look into how IKEA could include products and services from social entrepreneurs in our offer and how to support programmes that accelerate the movement of social entrepreneurship in general. Supporting social enterprises with a vision to create a more inclusive and equal society, our ambition is to have a positive impact on people’s livelihoods. Today, we back and boost social entrepreneurs all over the world, as well as expand the business we do together. That way, we get to be a part of creating new opportunities for vulnerable people and communities – while fighting the root causes of poverty and inequality.

  • NESsT and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship first launched their partnership with an accelerator in Latin America that supports enterprises in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Peru.

  • “At NESsT, we believe that providing these social entrepreneurs with flexible financing options that take into account their social and environmental impact will help them to grow their enterprises, while generating wealth for more diverse communities that historically have not accessed it,” says Nicole Etchart, Founder and Co-CEO at NESsT.  “We are truly honored to be working with IKEA Social Entrepreneurship in an effort to build more equitable and sustainable employment in the region where NESsT was born 24 years ago.”

  • “Despite the progress achieved in our countries, many people face discrimination and isolation due to limited access to education and training for high growth industries. These households are not able to access the labour market or are in jobs that keep them in a state of poverty. In the current pandemic and economic crisis, the situation has only gotten worse,” explains Filip Wadowski, Country Director at NESsT Poland. “Our partnership with IKEA Social Entrepreneurship addresses  these problems at the root.”

  • Social enterprises in NESsT’s portfolio in Poland include Mamo Pracuj and Future Collars, which have grown during the pandemic due to their model which supports at-risk women with launching careers in IT and tech.

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Despre autor


NESsT este un catalizator pentru întreprinderile sociale din țările cu piețe în dezvoltare și din întreaga lume. NESsT își îndeplinește misiunea prin furnizarea de capital financiar, training-uri, mentorat și acces la piețe de desfacere unui portofoliu de întreprinderi sociale cu impact ridicat din țările cu piețe emergente. NESsT combină instrumentele și strategiile specifice sectorului de afaceri și al investițiilor de capital cu misiunea și valorile sectorului social, pentru a permite portofoliului său să planifice mai bine, să își îmbunătățească capacitatea de management, să se dezvolte și să își crească impactul social.


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