CoBees began in 2019 and is based in the Facilitec shared space. It is a cooperative, incubator initiative helping social enterprises in Luxembourg (that are focused on ESS – social and solidarity economy) launch their businesses. The main goal of CoBees is, as a cooperative, to provide support, training and services (accounting, marketing, legal) for these startups once they have begun the launch process . CoBees utilizes the sociocratic, or dynamic, governance system. This governance system is the foundation from which the entire ecosystem of initiatives, supported by CELL (the Center for Ecological Learning in Luxembourg), utilize.
CoBees is one of the first (if not the first) cooperative incubators of its kind in Luxembourg. It is providing a support system for ESS minded businesses that is underrepresented and growing. It is an integral part of the larger ecosystem in Luxembourg supporting an economic implementation of more social, cultural and environmental issues. The provision of training, accounting and legal services is the basis of both the challenges and success of CoBees. The sociocratic governance that is practiced has contributed to the slow, steady and strong foundation of participation that is the most important factor in new initiatives. The success of CoBees is highlighted by the engaged and invested community it is growing. By focusing on entrepreneurial needs, whose goals seek to address a non-traditional, ecological and societal transition, CoBees is a unique example of the scalability of the larger framework it is set within including Facilitec, REconomy, the Transition Minette and CELL.
CoBees has faced several specific challenges inherent to the needs of newly launched social enterprises. One of the first to arise was an inability to provide professionals for training in accounting and legal advice. In part to elements described below. They were unable to receive existing government funding to hire trainers based on the initial designation in which CoBees was initiated (a cooperative resolved into an incubator). It was concluded also that the initial financial projection was too optimistic, for sure due to the unpredictable arrival of the pandemic. Finances continue to be a challenge and remain a determinant for the rate of growth. Another challenge was the ability to provide services of marketing. This includes providing help creating strategies as well as help implementing them. Visibility and validation through exposure for any new business, but especially for social enterprises, is a larger issue with unique dynamics in a small country like Luxembourg. The newness of the social enterprise designation (SIS) and it’s distinction from a non-profit organisation (ASBL) and even a commercial enterprise is still in the formative stages. This often manifests as a lack of clarity on the part of government responses between what is publicly offered and how that plays out on the ground.
At it’s core, CoBees is a service provider, in cooperative form and governance.
The creation of a values foundation guides the cooperative’s efforts in overcoming challenges as they arise. This built in resilience includes :
- “Kindness” Listening, Sharing and Recognition
- “Consistency” Avoid contradictions between our actions and our words
- “Creativity” Question, Dream and Realize What this manifests as is a resilient, creative and patient approach to finding solutions to the challenges mentioned above.
Not all of the major challenges are resolved. There is still financial insecurity for CoBees as well as indistinct support for the ‘new’ form of businesses it seeks to support. When asked what makes CoBees special the response was ‘Being an entrepreneur can be lonely, they are often addressing all the needs of the company by themselves. Support and training can be expensive! This space provides more than support and training. It provides community and in some cases the possibility for growth by providing their services to the community, for example accounting. This ecosystem requires and supports a wide variety of actors and encourages actors to anticipate both their own needs and those of the cooperative. This interconnectedness is the success of CoBees.’