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Social start-up is turning Molenbeek into Molengeek

Social start-up is turning Molenbeek into Molengeek
By Euronews
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Molengeek is an IT incubator situated in Molenbeek, the poor and much-maligned neighbourhood in Brussels.

Molengeek is just the latest digital start-up incubator to come out of Molenbeek, the poor and much-maligned neighbourhood in Brussels.

But it’s a socially conscious digital start-up, and an IT incubator to boot. The students getting trained at its coding school don’t have to have any formal qualification other than an interest in digital technology.

“Molengeek’s primary mission is to make technology, entrepreneurship and innovation accessible to everyone, regardless of their academic background – diploma or degree – the important thing is to be an entrepreneur and to have a project,” Ibrahim Ouassari, founder of Molengeek, told Euronews.

Journée VIP pour la M-team de Molengeek. Après SamsungBelgique</a> et son SVP, nous voilà au Palais ! <a href="">

— MolenGeek (@molengeek) June 20, 2017

  • New trends, such as digitalisation and automation, are rapidly changing the way we live, work and learn. They also require people to learn new skills.
  • New technologies are changing the way people interact and at the same time create new opportunities and innovative solutions, many of which tackle different societal challenges.
  • Such solutions that help meet social needs in a more effective way are called social innovations.
  • There are many examples where social enterprises or social innovators reduce inequality and promote social inclusion via their products, services or business models.
  • One example is MolenGeek – a coworking space, in the center of Brussels’ Molenbeek, where young people learn new e-skills, such as coding, and where they turn into entrepreneurs developing their e-projects.

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One start-up entrepreneur approached Molengeek with the idea of marketing the students as freelancers at a more competitive rate than professionals

“We help students become entrepreneurs and develop their skills through freelancing missions, we were looking for a place to develop this project and we came across Moleengeek,” Charles Vosters, co-founder of Skilliz, said.

Founded in 2015, Molengeek has more than 200 people in its community and currently has 15 projects involving four companies.

But for the founders Ibrahim Ouassari and Julie Foulon it’s more than just about numbers. They welcome anyone with a passion to improve their e-skills but they expect them to give back to the poor neighbourhood of Molenbeek by doing voluntary work at Molengeek.

Ibrahim Ouassari explained how it all began.

“It’s based on my experience. I quit school at the age of 13 and at the age of 20, I discovered computers a bit by chance and this world of technology brought me so many opportunities. I have 4 companies and about 20 employees, and that’s what I want to share with others so that they can see that it’s really accessible to all,” he said.

Molengeek also has a coding school for developing software – but unusually students don’t need to have any prior IT qualifications.

The start-up quickly drew the attention and the financial backing of both the government and industry giants like Google and Samsung. And they’re also working on new projects with the European Commission.
The King Philippe of Belgium even visited Molengeek in May.

“The next steps for Moleengeek is to expand the coding school because we have a huge demand and we would like to satisfy the demands of everyone. And we have another project: to create a seed investment fund because for start ups like Moleengeek, it is very difficult to raise funds because some people don’t have degrees and they also come from Moleenbeek,” Ouassari said.

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