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Sustainability 2016, 8(1), 70; doi:10.3390/su8010070
Abstract: This teaching case addresses the strategic choices of social entrepreneurs, Mie and Ingvild, who founded the ViaVia café in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. In their daily management of ViaVia , Mie and Ingvild put respect for local culture and ideals above short-term profit. They offered good working conditions for staff with opportunities to learn and grow, which resulted in a loyal group of employees who felt a sense of ownership of ViaVia. Furthermore, the organization was involved in a multitude of social, cultural, environmental and humanitarian projects. As a result, ViaVia was regarded as a positive contributor to the local community. In 2013, it secured international recognition for its efforts by receiving the prestigious Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award. However, Mie and Ingvild wondered whether the support of many projects was perhaps spreading their resources too thin, and whether greater impact could be generated with fewer but more focused initiatives. Despite ViaVia’s success as a social enterprise, Mie and Ingvild reviewed the past 20 years of the café’s existence and contemplated the sustainable strategy that they should follow in the years ahead.
On the eve of the twentieth birthday of ViaVia café in Yogyakarta (commonly ViaVia Jogja), Mie and Ingvild were looking back at their successes and challenges, contemplating the lives they had changed and the impact they had had on the community. Despite international recognition—such as the 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award—the two partners were questioning whether their approach to sustainable tourism and development was really the most effective one. They were involved in a multitude of social, cultural, environmental and humanitarian projects, but were they perhaps spreading their resources too thin? Could the support of fewer signature projects with a larger impact on specific causes be of greater mutual benefit to the community and ViaVia Jogja? Or, should they align their strategy with a flagship project? They then wondered if, they should continue in the years ahead with their current strategy or bring about change.
In 1994, Mie Cornoedus was part of a group of Belgian travelers who met and shared experiences of their adventurous tours and expeditions. They worried about the negative impact of mass tourism on the environment and local people, and shared ideas about sustainable tourism that respects nature and culture. Together with the Belgian tour operator, Joker, they developed plans to set up cafés as meeting places around the world where their ideas could be implemented. The following year, one day after the world’s first ViaVia café opened in Belgium, Mie moved to Indonesia for what would prove to be the adventure of her life: establishing the very first ViaVia café abroad and running it with Ingvild Solvang. At the time, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, placed mid-way between Jakarta and Bali, was used by many backpackers as a point of entry into Indonesia and Asia (see Appendix 1). The idea was that a sustainable tourism initiative in this location could impact the way people traveled through the country and the continent:
“We thought that by offering alternatives besides the traditional tours, we could somehow bring travelers a bit closer to the local culture and increase their sensitivity to sustainable and community-based tourism. Maybe we could even have a small impact on the way they looked at this culture and stimulate traveling with a different pair of spectacles. We thought that if just one or two travelers would go home with some intercultural awareness and pass it on to others, we would be happy” (Mie Cornoedus).
It turned out that Mie, Ingvild and the ViaVia staff were able to do much more than that. Their business has proven to be an international forerunner in the area of sustainable entrepreneurship and a catalyst for the development of the ViaVia concept across the world.
2. The ViaVia Concept
ViaVia cafés were part of a worldwide network active in the area of sustainable tourism. All ViaVia owners worked under the large umbrella of the Joker enterprise group (see Appendix 2). As one of the biggest tour operators in Belgium, Joker was an alternative travel agency whose objective was to offer a sustainable, local and environmentally friendly travel experience. Joker traveling was undertaken in small groups in order not to disturb people in the villages they visited; accommodation was mostly locally and family owned; CO2 emissions from the flights were offset; public transportation was used as much as possible; respect for nature was guaranteed by using local tour guides and by supporting local conservation initiatives; profits were distributed fairly so that local populations benefited; and tour guides were trained to respect the local culture and environment. This philosophy earned Joker the Travel Magazine award for “Most Sustainable Operator of the Year” on four occasions and the Travelife certification in 2014.
The Joker enterprise group is composed of several entities that share the same vision and mission. The translation of this vision and mission is operationalized according to the activities of each organization within the group. The group includes Anders Reizen, a tour operator that follows the same sustainable tourism principles as Joker but which goes the extra mile by offering specialized hiking tours and trips. In so doing, Anders Reizen offers a local, cultural experience with very limited environmental impact. The group included Karavaan, a non-profit organization whose activities include training Joker tour guides. The ViaVia Tourism Academy is another Joker-affiliated non-profit organization. It operates on four continents with the aim of developing sustainable tourism as a tool for economic, social and cultural development. Among others, its projects include training of local guides, needs assessment for sustainable tourism projects, and sharing knowledge and experience in sustainable tourism development with private and public beneficiaries. Finally, the Joker group founded the ViaVia cafés.
ViaVia cafés are meeting places for world travelers. The aim was to create spaces for travelers and locals to come together. The hope was that the sharing of experiences, food, drinks, music, art, trips, tours, and cultural and social projects would bring people and cultures together in an open-minded spirit based on mutual respect. There are 17 ViaVias across Africa, Asia, Europe, Central and South America. The newest addition was the ViaVia in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. All ViaVias have a restaurant and offer tourism services. Many also offer accommodation.
The idea was to merge the ViaVia concept with the local environment and community, ensuring that each ViaVia was unique. ViaVia followed a soft franchising strategy. The ViaVia headquarters in Belgium developed general guidelines for franchisees and co-invested with them, but each franchisee was free to adapt his or her café and activities in response to local needs and aspirations. Each café offers local and world food that relied on local availability of ingredients and reflected the taste and style of the owners and the community. In Argentina, one would expect to find the tango, whereas in Yogyakarta, contemporary art defined the city and its ViaVia. This meant there was no such thing as a McViaVia with fries, as one would expect from a traditional franchise.
Their emphasis on sustainable tourism and sustainable businesses before profit maximization have made the ViaVia cafés renowned social enterprises, although this term did not exist when most of the cafés were established. Amongst the ViaVia cafés, ViaVia Jogja can be considered as the one taking this philosophy of sustainability the furthest, with its far-reaching support of local community projects.
3. ViaVia Jogja
In 1991, after spending two years in India, Mie Cornoedus traveled throughout Indonesia for six months. During her stay, she learned the language and visited the country from west to east. She experienced the beauty of the country with its impressive nature, historical heritage and vibrant culture, and the poverty of its inhabitants (see Appendix 3). When she returned to Belgium, she decided to become a tour leader for Joker since the tours it offered concurred with Mie’s values of sustainable tourism.
In 1992, Mie guided her first Joker tour to Indonesia, remaining a further three months in the country. In 1993, she became involved in trainings for new tour leaders. It was through these trainings that conversations began with other tour leaders and with executives at Joker about setting up ViaVia cafés as a means of developing sustainable tourism. Mie and the Joker management agreed that Yogyakarta in Indonesia would be a great place to launch such a sustainable tourism initiative. At that time, Java and Bali tours were the stepping stones for European tourists to Asia, and Yogyakarta was often the first place on the itinerary. Mie hoped that the experience offered by ViaVia with its focus on sustainable values would impact how people traveled and experienced the rest of the country and Asia. Following the opening of the first ViaVia in Belgium in 1995, Indonesia was chosen as the first ViaVia destination outside of Belgium. The opening took place in December 1995, and tours started in April 1996. Tourists could book cooking classes and bicycle tours to villages, Prambanan temples and the beach. In 2000, Mie met Ingvild Solvang, who initially came to Yogyakarta as a student of social anthropology. After her graduation in 2002, Ingvild relocated to Indonesia and joined Mie in the ViaVia café.
Initially, Mie intended ViaVia Jogja as a forum for travelers to obtain information from each other and from ViaVia staff. The underlying goal was to promote cultural exchange on the basis of equality and respect; to provide a forum for different art forms, both traditional and contemporary; and to introduce language and culture to travelers through various activities and tours. This could only be achieved by involving locals—a diverse group of locals with stories to tell—as much as possible in the ViaVia Jogja project. In concrete terms, the project consisted of a café, a restaurant and a travel agency.
Twenty years later, the project comprised the following activities:
In the café, Mie, Ingvild and the ViaVia staff offered a varying menu of Indonesian and world dishes. The kitchen used as much local and organic produce as possible, preferring small local suppliers over larger. It avoids using monosodium glutamate (MSG flavor enhancer) and, since 2013, has aimed to become palm-oil free to support the preservation of rainforests and biodiversity. The menu contains local products such as Javanese tea and locally grown organic rice and vegetables. There are also some imported items on the menu to fulfill the mission of bringing a part of the wider world to the local community.
Mie and Ingvild have made the café available as an art space for youth and/or unrecognized contemporary art exhibitions. The city of Yogyakarta is deeply associated with contemporary art. Many now-famous Indonesian artists held their first solo exhibition in ViaVia Jogja. Mie, Ingvild and the staff provided a safe space to try, test and explore visual expressions. They also offered opportunities for people aspiring to become curators and art managers.
In a joint venture with ViaVia employees who co-invested to become shareholders, Mie and Ingvild set up a guesthouse with seven rooms and two dormitories. The profits were shared and the guesthouse provided the local employees with investing experience.
The fair trade shop provided opportunities for individuals and small groups to sell their products based on principles of environmental sustainability, innovation and creativity, and the economic empowerment of marginal groups. The latter was achieved through a fair pricing system for all. The partners were groups and individuals from across Java who used local, recycled and organic materials to make art work, handicrafts, health products, food spices and drinks.
The artisanal bakery introduced the world’s best bread-making techniques using sourdough starters and high quality ingredients.
The travel agency offered eco-friendly alternative tours, including cooking and traditional crafts courses, as well as bicycle and walking tours of the city.
A non-profit entity promoted sustainable tourism in Yogyakarta and beyond.
For these activities and the synergies between them, ViaVia Jogja won the 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award for the most inspiring responsible tour operator in Asia. All operations were undertaken with as much respect for the environment as possible by, for example, collaborating with a local environmental NGO to plant trees for every tour (Trees4Tours program), using recycled materials in interior design and solar panels for water heating, and by recycling and separating garbage. The café was the primary motor of the enterprise-generating opportunities that supported various community projects.
4. Generating Social Impact through Human Resource Management
ViaVia Jogja employed a total of 52 full-time staff and 40 freelance guides. All staff (except the founders) were locals. In their employment policy, Mie and Ingvild practiced affirmative action in favor of women, where the majority of the staff and all the managers were women. This was implemented to address the fact that most people working in the Java tourism industry, and especially in management, were men. In the 1990s, there was a pressing need to challenge the notion that women working in the tourism industry—and with foreigners in particular—were sex workers, a widely held local view although there were signs of change. In addition, Mie and Ingvild wanted to show that women were competent leaders and managers. This employment policy had been controversial at times, and ViaVia staff and managers had been actively involved in dialog with families, husbands and local communities suspicious of female staff members’ intentions in working in such a male-dominated field. As a result, ViaVia Jogja developed a positive reputation as a safe working environment for women. Men were also welcome to work in ViaVia and made great contributions to the organization, but their attitude to women was an important factor in the recruitment process.
Mie and Ingvild saw the employment they provided for their staff members as a stepping stone, hoping that the skills and experience developed at ViaVia would allow them to transition to new jobs within ViaVia or elsewhere. Staff mobility was very apparent in ViaVia Jogja, since the manager of the travel division started out as a freelance guide, while the managers of the restaurant, guesthouse and fair trade shop all began as waitresses. Indeed, the non-profit entity of ViaVia financed five women (four staff members and one non-staff member) through university for undergraduate and graduate studies (four bachelor degrees, two masters and one PhD). Moreover, countless staff training sessions were financed by ViaVia, even though they were not directly related to staff tasks at the café but in pursuit of life aspirations. Such workshops included English courses, sewing, dancing, computer, drawing/art, and yoga. In 2015, 18 courses for 15 staff members were ongoing. Also, six local staff members received the opportunity to travel to Belgium for a two-week training course on intercultural communication and responsible tourism organized by the Joker enterprise group, giving them valuable international exposure. In 2007, a ViaVia Jogja manager was given the opportunity to spend one month in Belgium during which she received management training to run the café.
As a result of these human resources policies, the relationship between Mie and Ingvild and their employees was exceptional. The 2006 Yogyakarta and Central Java earthquake caused serious material damage to ViaVia and its staff’s homes. Despite being confronted with personal losses, the staff made it a priority to rebuild their workplace immediately:
“The staff came the day after the earthquake, leaving the ruins of their own houses, to first rebuild the restaurant. The restaurant opened after only three weeks, after intensive work from all the staff. Although their families were heavily affected, they prioritized to get ViaVia up and running because it’s their livelihood” (Ingvild Solvang).
In response, ViaVia Jogja financially supported the rebuilding of the 26 staff members’ homes, with the support of other ViaVias and partner organizations.
5. Projects at ViaVia Jogja
While income was generated through the café, the guesthouse, the fair trade shop, and the local tours, Mie and Ingvild reinvested part of these revenues in a multitude of projects. Over the past 20 years, they have supported or initiated more than 50 projects impacting not only their staff but also other men, women, youngsters living with disabilities, and street children, as well as other vulnerable groups in the community. A few examples will be highlighted below (for a more complete overview, see Appendix 4).
In pursuit of sustainable tourism, and since its inception, ViaVia Jogja has offered free annual training for people interested in becoming tour guides. One program that they had run since 2003 aimed to support the Aulia Center for Children of Street Families from Jakarta. Through this program, the ViaVia trained youth living on the street to operate tourism facilities such as guesthouses and cafés, and to organize tours. Similar trainings were set up for university students and for inhabitants of more remote villages.
In addition to these contributions, Mie, Ingvild and ViaVia staff welcomed proposals from the community with requests for support of various projects. Many small proposals and projects were supported when they were consistent with the overall philosophy of ViaVia Jogja, its staff and owners, which was to promote fairness, diversity and environmental sustainability. These projects often went beyond sustainable tourism and the day-to-day operations of ViaVia into developing the community as a whole. Whether it was to support a street festival for street kids, a small environmental festival, or religious activities for the transgender community, Mie, Ingvild and ViaVia staff were open to ideas and requests. According to Ingvild:
“Any urban culture or community is varied and diverse, and we think we should be flexible, go with the flow and grab the opportunities to support different segments of the community. ViaVia Jogja philosophy so far is to support a wide range of projects, most of which are small projects”.
Art programs represented a large chunk of the ViaVia assistance projects. For instance, a key program offered to local youth was the Art Space. Local artists were able to exhibit their work in the restaurant, shop, and bathrooms, and all vernissages, including marketing and distribution of invitations, were financed by ViaVia. From its inception to 2015, over 150 exhibitions for 200 artists have been held, making ViaVia a stepping stone for young artists in Yogyakarta. Despite the threat from conservative and fundamental religious groups, Mie, Ingvild and the ViaVia team persisted in their support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, a marginalized group in Indonesia. They provided opportunities for performances by drag-show artists and offered employment opportunities to transgender people as waiters and guides.
In addition to the aforementioned educational support to staff and tourism training, several education-related programs targeting the community were financed by ViaVia. Thus far, two children have been financed (tuition covered) through their dance and art educations, while two others have been supported through high school. As for street youth, around 40 street children benefited between 1999 and 2006 from ViaVia Jogja’s assistance to Milas, an organization providing vocational training for street children.
In order to strengthen the arts and educational activities, small grants had been provided through the Micro Grant project from 2007. The core of this project has been to help individuals from vulnerable groups set up sustainable businesses and social enterprises. For instance, former street girls, HIV-positive artists and transgender people have benefited from grants. Since 2012, in order to help them sell their products, eight artists have been given the opportunity to display their creations in the fair trade shop. Mie and Ingvild offered either grants or pre-payment of products to help artists build up their businesses.
Mie, Ingvild and their team also encouraged several environmental initiatives. The production of around 1000 books was financed by ViaVia to support the Reef Check, an environmental organization protecting reefs and reducing disaster risk. Another project, launched in 2012, was the Tree4Tours program. In collaboration with Trees4Trees and local farmers, a tree was donated through the ViaVia Jogja travel department for every tour made by car or for every two motorbike tours. Up until 2015, approximately 700 trees were planted as a result of this program.
In terms of humanitarian assistance—following the 2006 earthquake, for example—Mie and Ingvild not only engaged in the reconstruction of their staff members’ homes but also contributed and raised funds for a series of relief and rehabilitation initiatives across the affected area, including the rehabilitation of a destroyed art studio and the Prawirotaman kindergarten. Furthermore, they provided food and non-food items to 3000 individuals. Besides the 2006 earthquake, several fundraising events were organized, including the International Refugee Day performance for the benefit of the Jesuit Refugee Service Indonesia and the fundraising for Nias earthquake survivors with Bunya Wacana University. Moreover, in 2008, a lifesaving operation was planned in Belgium for a local Indonesian staff member suffering from a life-threatening condition. Mie and Ingvild collected donations from friends and family in Belgium and Norway, as well as from former guests who contributed 5000 Euros to cover the surgery, the stay in Belgium, postoperative care, and other needs such as a new, good quality mattress. Joker helped with the airline tickets, and the team of doctors and nurses offered their time for free, leaving just the financing of the actual medical procedure. As for ViaVia Jogja, it contributed around 1500 Euros to fund the staff members’ preparations (domestic travel, passport, visa, etc.). In another community-related fundraiser, Mie and Ingvild led a financing campaign in which over a 1000 USD were collected for the Islamic Center for Drug Rehabilitation.
6. Something from Nothing Principle
Although Mie, Ingvild and the ViaVia staff had launched or supported a broad variety of initiatives over time, they felt that all projects were linked to sustainable tourism in one way or another. For instance, support for local artists was seen as a part of sustainable tourism because it provided opportunities for modern artists to benefit from tourism in an industry with a strong bias towards traditional rather than contemporary arts. From this point of view, tourists were likely to see only traditional art if they followed the usual tourist circuits, potentially leaving Indonesia unaware of the thriving, dynamic contemporary art scene. Their humanitarian support to communities affected by disasters also had relevance to the tourism industry since these communities hosted tourists, and their wellbeing was important for the wellbeing of tourists. Fair working conditions for staff, fair trade principles, environmental awareness, etc. are also related to sustainable tourism.
The social mission was so engrained in ViaVia’s day-to-day operations that it was difficult for Mie and Ingvild to isolate how much was (re)invested in social projects. For instance, the choice to work with small organic farmers meant that the cost of ingredients went up but was not “counted” as a project investment. Notwithstanding these accounting difficulties, Mie and Ingvild estimated that, in 2014, roughly 8% of their business profit was spent on social projects. They contributed in the aforementioned ways as well as through financial investments and donations. For example, financial support for community initiatives was divided between the different units of ViaVia Jogja, based on their approximate size. The café was the largest and covered 40% of all such costs. The travel agency funded all training on sustainable tourism and intercultural communication with guides, students and communities. It also funded contributions to the local communities where tours were operated, including the Trees4Tours project where one tree was planted for each trip by car and for every two trips by motorbike. Roughly 2%–5% of the gross income from tours went to the latter project.
For the fair trade shop, the “social do-good” was integrated with the operations that were based on fair trade principles. On average, ViaVia Jogja received a 10%–15% profit on the goods sold in the shop. However, it used part of this profit to pre-pay for products, and to provide grants to producers either as donations or as interest-free loans.
Although the projects supported by ViaVia Jogja were diverse, Mie, Ingvild and their staff adhered to a list of criteria. When selecting new projects for assistance, they considered the following:
Relevance and urgency of the intervention, such as natural disasters affecting the community.
Relevance to the promotion of contemporary art and creativity: support to local artists and arts communities.
Relevance to the support of diversity, minorities and vulnerable groups such as women and people from the LGBT community, street children, people living with HIV/AIDS, etc.
Relevance to sustainable tourism and environment: environmental education, training of guides, planting of trees for tours etc.
Relevance to staff welfare: education projects, health for staff etc.
The possibility of generating positive value from goodwill.
According to Mie:
“The mix of projects is diverse, and we support small projects. This may be seen as spreading ourselves thin and not having that one large impact à la Bill Gates versus malaria. But the point is to remain flexible and able to respond to proposals submitted by individuals and community groups at any time. So, ViaVia becomes known as a place where people can come, discuss ideas and get support. It is also important to support other people’s projects in their own right, rather than trying to force groups to conform to the ViaVia vision. Importantly, when looking at it from the perspective of business sustainability, the idea is not always about how much profit is redistributed, but how much positive value is generated from goodwill, from nothing, what we call doing something from nothing”.
“It is like putting down the first brick of a new house. Once the idea of the house has been conceived, everyone can add new bricks to it”.
There was not an established percentage of profit that must be given away but, whenever something came up that was interesting and worth supporting according to the criteria described above, Mie and Ingvild did it, whether big or small. Something from nothing followed the principle that small contributions could make a difference. For instance, positive value could be created through fundraising activities where space for activities in support of a cause was given, or pledges that ViaVia would match what other companies donated. In the same vein, contributions from all stakeholders were encouraged and promoted. Travelers had the option to pay more for tours knowing they were supporting environmental projects; customers were encouraged to not buy bottled water but use the ViaVia refilling station, etc. All initiatives, big and small, contributed to building the name, image and value of ViaVia. Something from nothing was conceived as a bottom-up approach, where groups and individuals came to the café with their proposals to obtain support; most projects were designed fully and independently by the community. Organizations were allowed to do what they wanted, given that Mie and Ingvild never sought to influence an organization into doing something because it fitted the ViaVia brand.
A concrete example was the fundraising in response to the 2006 earthquake. An email was sent to all connections (former tourists, friends, family, etc.). In addition, ViaVia Jogja received support from partner organizations that helped by forwarding this email and opening an account in Belgium for donations, raising a total of 1000 Euros via this channel. A total of 27,000 Euros was raised, facilitating the rebuilding of 26 houses. As for ViaVia Jogja’s contribution, salaries were paid to staff during the period of closure in the aftermath of the disaster. Renovation costs of the café were paid by ViaVia, so that all the money raised externally was used for rebuilding and renovating the houses of staff and others in the nearby community.
This aforementioned example goes to show that the ViaVia network comprising Joker, ViaVia headquarters and ViaVia cafés around the world supported each other in times of crisis. However, despite this solidarity, each ViaVia was free to back the projects and causes it judged to be important since there was no overarching flagship project common to all the ViaVias. From a local perspective, it made sense for Mie and Ingvild to fund smaller projects because ViaVia was able to remain flexible and an active, dynamic part of the local community. However, from a global perspective, a flagship project might have made more sense. Such a project would have the advantage of being a long-term global initiative involving all ViaVias. It would provide a strategic direction in line with the ViaVia mission of sustainable tourism, and would help to provide access to a larger network, more funds, and the sharing of experiences amongst the network. Hence, it could create synergy between the different ViaVias while benefiting local communities. In such a case, the ViaVias could jointly market themselves as a significant global promoter of sustainable tourism through, for instance, their global commitment to support ecologically sustainable livelihoods for farmers in areas frequented by tourists.
Mie and Ingvild attribute the success of the ViaVia Jogja undertaking to the positive and vibrant atmosphere generated by the social enterprise model that guests and local communities appreciate. Also, the organization places respect for local culture and ideals above short-term profit. This is translated into good working conditions for staff, with opportunities to learn and grow and intra-organizational mobility. The approach resulted in a loyal group of employees who felt ownership of the ViaVia. Having started slowly and small, maintaining a diversity of income sources and not rushing into opening new branches had been an important strategy. Instead of using the profits to scale up, priority was given to supporting local social and cultural groups. This had created ViaVia Jogja’s image as a positive contributor to the local community.
Twenty years after starting up their ViaVia, Mie and Ingvild reflected back on their approach to the projects they had undertaken. They were very proud of all their social accomplishments, including the advantageous working conditions given to staff, the training, art programs, environmental projects, humanitarian assistance, economic projects, awareness campaigns and other projects and programs directed towards the community. However, many questions arose and they wondered if ViaVia Jogja should continue with its something from nothing strategy in choosing and assisting local projects. What if, instead of spreading their efforts and resources across many local projects, they focused on projects directly linked to their core competences, i.e., sustainable tourism? What if, given their limited resources, they limited themselves to one main project that could become their signature project? What if, from a global perspective, a flagship project emanating from the ViaVia headquarters could not only serve local community but also have a greater impact globally? After all, such a project could perhaps have a greater impact on both the organization and local communities.
8. Teaching Note
8.1. Case Summary
This case addresses the current strategic choices of a social enterprise. ViaVia Jogja placed respect for local culture and ideals above short-term profit. This was translated into good working conditions for staff with opportunities to learn and grow. This approach resulted in a loyal group of employees who felt ownership of ViaVia. Moreover, the organization’s involvement in a multitude of social, cultural, environmental and humanitarian projects resulted in ViaVia being regarded as a positive contributor to the local community. However, the owners wondered whether the current strategy was perhaps spreading their resources too thin, and whether greater impact could be generated with fewer but more focused initiatives. Despite their success as social entrepreneurs, Mie and Ingvild were reflecting on the past 20 years and contemplating the sustainable strategy that they should follow in the years ahead.
8.2. General Objectives
This case enables students to deepen their knowledge of strategic management, social entrepreneurship, and economic and social performance. Students should develop their capacity for critical thinking by analyzing real-life strategic choices such as those faced by Mie and Ingvild, and their implications for the different stakeholders.
8.3. Specific Objectives
Specifically, this case aims to help students:
Understand the definition of social entrepreneurship.
Identify how financial and social goals can be integrated into a firm’s strategy.
Analyze the interaction between financial and social performance.
Understand the impact of a firm’s network on its ability to achieve social performance.
8.4. Target Audience
The case can be taught in a broad range of graduate courses and can be tackled through different lenses. Topic-wise, it covers a large spectrum of issues related to sustainability, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, sustainable tourism, strategy, cross-cultural management, etc. For example:
In an entrepreneurship course, the case can be used to teach about the existence and definition of social entrepreneurship, about soft franchising as a way to increase social impact, about women entrepreneurship in a traditionally masculine society, but also about effectuation and bootstrapping (ViaVia Jogja’s something from nothing principle).
From a sustainability perspective, the case can be used to highlight the distinction between economic and social goals and to analyze the value-creation process along several dimensions in the context of social entrepreneurship. The case also illustrates that social impact can take multiple forms and poses problems of measurement. In addition, it demonstrates that economic performance is not necessarily achieved to the detriment of social performance, and vice versa. For example, many of ViaVia Jogja’s investments in social projects (e.g., the fair trade shop, staff training, tours) make the café more attractive to travelers and, hence, generate economic performance.
From a cross-cultural management stance, ViaVia Jogja represents a successful case of integration and local embeddedness. The franchising strategy, local integration, and cultural, gender and religious differences can be discussed.
From a strategy perspective, the competitive advantage of the ViaVia, its business model, the integration of financial and social goals into its strategy, and its prioritization and resource allocation process can be discussed, as well as how ViaVia translates its vision into its decision-making processes. Interactions between the business level and the enterprise group level can also be discussed.
8.5. Assignment Questions
The following questions could be used to guide students’ preparation and class discussions:
What do you think are the most important strategic goals of Mie and Ingvild?
What key performance indicators (KPIs) would you recommend Mie and Ingvild put in place in order to measure performance with respect to these strategic goals?
What is the role of the partners in reaching these strategic goals?
How would you evaluate the interaction between the social outcomes and the financial performance of ViaVia Jogja? Does Mie and Ingvild’s social engagement affect ViaVia’s financial performance? How?
How do Mie and Ingvild try to generate social impact? Do you agree with this approach, or would you do things differently? Why?
How has the context in which Mie and Ingvild have acted shaped their choices and actions? From a cross-cultural perspective, how would you have acted?
How do you evaluate the soft franchising strategy privileged by ViaVia? What are the strengths and limitations of ViaVia’s soft franchising approach?
8.6. Theoretical Background
Through a more theoretical lens, this case can be analyzed from different perspectives such as: (a) the existence and definition of social entrepreneurship, (b) the integration of financial and social goals into a firm’s strategy, (c) the interaction between financial and social performance, (d) the measurement of social performance, and (e) the impact of a firm’s network on its ability to achieve social performance and sustainable entrepreneurship.
Social entrepreneurship is a key theoretical concept in this case. In the past two decades, the definition of social entrepreneurship and the research focus in the social entrepreneurship domain have evolved substantially. While initial research looked at the personality and individual attributes of social entrepreneurs, later work defined social enterprises based on the legal form of the organization. Today, there seems to be wide agreement that social enterprises can be defined as hybrid organizations with an aim is to achieve a social mission through the use of market mechanisms . It is believed that such hybrid organizations present a good alternative to traditional organizations since they present a sustainable economic and social model. Traditionally, social enterprises are either differentiated hybrids whereby the target of the social mission is different from the commercial activities or integrated hybrids where the target of the social and the economic activities are the same . Interestingly however, ViaVia Jogja cannot be put in any of the two categories, as it uses both approaches.
While the economic performance is relatively easy to define and assess, the challenge for social enterprises comes from assessing the social performance. As for economic performance, the case material indicates that ViaVia Jogja makes profits. These profits seem substantial, as they are enough for Mie and Ingvild to live on, and to distribute part of the profits to their employees and to social initiatives. As for social performance measures, or social impact measurement, the case contains two types of data. Firstly, Appendix 3 discusses the evolution of income distributions, inequality, and poverty between 1992 and 2010 in Indonesia and other Asian countries. The class discussion can revolve around this evolution, which is clearly positive. The question can then be raised to what extent the ViaVia Jogjakarta has contributed to this positive evolution. The answer is clearly that it is impossible to say. The next logical question then becomes: “Well, what can you say then about the social impact of ViaVia Jogja?” And this brings the class discussion to the second type of social performance data available in the case, namely the numbers of persons who have been involved in ViaVia projects (mentioned in the text and in the last column of Appendix 4). In a class discussion, one can then raise the question whether simply counting the number of people reached is enough, and whether Mie and Ingvild could develop additional measures of their social impact. Students might suggest that you could count the salary or revenue increase of the people reached. However, training and educating adults and children may generate its full impact only much later on, at a time when it is no longer possible to track these individuals. Moreover, a person’s income will not only depend on his/her training by ViaVia but also on other social and economic factors, so that drawing a causal link between ViaVia’s interventions and longer-term outcomes, such as lifetime incomes of the people it supported and impacts such as a decline in poverty in Yogyakarta, remains complicated due to numerous social and economic factors that are beyond ViaVia’s control. In this sense, the case study illustrates very nicely the work of Ebrahim and Rangan (2014) on social performance measurement, which explains that all organizations should be able to measure activities and outputs but not necessarily outcomes and impact, since the latter are often beyond the organization’s control .
Furthermore, the literature suggests that the integration of financial and social goals into a firm’s strategy may be problematic. In particular, it has been argued that the inclusion of financial performance goals might lead to mission drift . This teaching case demonstrates that economic performance does not necessarily come at the expense of social performance, and vice versa. Many of ViaVia Jogja’s investments in social projects (e.g., the fair trade shop, the staff training, the tours) make the café more attractive to travelers and, hence, contribute to financial performance.
A sustainability perspective can be considered for this case study. Mie, Ingvild and their team not only have a strong sustainable tourism policy but they are also active from business, design, environmental and public policy sustainability perspectives . The use of local foods, promoting local culture, local community inclusion and involving key stakeholders, building local capacities, and reducing the environmental footprint are some of the steps undertaken to yield environmental and social benefits . As tourism can have a negative impact on the community and resources if not well managed, what Jafari (1990) calls a cautionary platform , ViaVia Jogja privileged an adaptancy platform, in which they were able to secure economic benefits by using alternative and adapted forms of tourism while caring for the social and environmental outcomes. Mie and Ingvild’s pro-poor  and triple bottom line strategies can be discussed as their endeavor is seen as part of the solution instead of being part of the problem [8,9].
This case can also be read from other theoretical perspectives. For instance, the observation that Mie and Ingvild use an organic process to develop both social and economic activities can easily be linked to effectuation theory . Along the same lines, the something from nothing principle, in which social impact is created with relatively few financial investments by ViaVia and through reliance on partners in the ViaVia network, represents an innovative and resourceful way of acquiring the necessary means to give back to the community. This can be discussed in light of the literature on bootstrapping . From a cross-cultural management perspective [12,13], the choices made by the founders of ViaVia Jogja can be discussed. The choice to challenge the local cultural barriers such as employing women and supporting the LGBT community in a conservative masculine society can be of interest. From a gender perspective, the role of women entrepreneurs in a masculine society can be raised as well as the role of local female workers in a conservative society .
8.7. Teaching Strategy
In order to reap the greatest benefit from this case study, it is advised that reference be made to the annex as well as other sources to complement the case. Appendices 1 and 3 provide an understanding of the geographic and socioeconomic situations in Indonesia. Appendix 2 gives a brief description of the Joker enterprise group. It is key in this case study to understand Joker’s enterprise group history, its social mission and what led to the creation of its different social spinoffs, including ViaVia. By doing so, the reader acquires a better perspective of the organization, and its choices such as soft franchising. As for Appendix 4, it offers a detailed description of the different projects ViaVia Jogja created or supported since its inception. This appendix allows us to see the evolution of the projects, their type, and provides a description of the activities as well as the impact on the target groups and/or community as a whole. The ViaVia website gives an overall idea of the organization, its mission and vision as well as its different locations and activities (www.viaviacafe.com). The ViaVia Jogja site is a rich source of information on the various activities such as the café, shop, guesthouse and travel in the area. Moreover, a detailed list of partners and projects affords us a better grasp of 20 years of social involvement on the part of Mie and Ingvild (www.viaviajogja.com). Finally, a list of theoretical and empirical articles is presented in the theoretical background section. These papers link the case study to theory and give a more analytical approach to the case.
In building this case study, three strategies were used to help the moderator in managing the debate around this case. First, the case study was written from the point of view of Mie and Ingvild, giving an internal reflection of the past twenty years and the challenges ahead. If the assignment related to this case is to be undertaken individually, the moderator could ask the students to give an external perspective on the case, as if Mie and Ingvild had hired them as consultants. If a group activity is intended, the students could be divided into groups with different/opposing views. For instance, if the soft franchising strategy is to be debated, one group could deliver the arguments in favor while the other defends the opposing strategy.
Second, the case was written with an open-ended ending. This is meant to leave it to the students to arrive at their own conclusions about the topics related to the case and not to guide them to only one plausible solution. By doing so, a critical analysis approach is adopted, whereby students have to reflect on different scenarios, challenges and opportunities.
Third, this case tackles different topics rather than focusing on a single issue. Sustainability, social entrepreneurship, social and economic impact and soft franchising strategy are topics given the greatest emphasis. By using this approach, it is intended to portray the case as seen by Mie and Ingvild, where different issues, challenges, dilemmas and perspectives interact. This illustrates a real-life situation, and allows for an analysis of the situation in all its complexity. Depending on the objective(s) set by the moderator in using this case study, different topics can be tackled simultaneously, or a single topic approach can be privileged.
When discussing the case in class, it is assumed that students have already read the case and the related readings beforehand. Table 1 presents one suggested teaching plan for the case.
|1||Present a summary of the case||10 min||Case summary (section 8.1)|
|2||Discuss the angle(s) from which the case is to be viewed—one or several perspectives can be tackled depending on objectives of the course||5 min|
|3||Highlight the challenges that need to be addressed||5 min|
|4||Initiate and facilitate debate around the challenges (individually, in groups, or open floor)||25 min||Assignment questions (section 8.5)|
|5||Identifying optimal solutions expressed by students||15 min|
|6||Linking case and solutions to theory||20 min||Theoretical background and references (section 8.6)|
|7||Wrapping up and conclusion||10 min||Main lessons learned from case and how objectives have been attained|
This case study was presented during an event at which all managers of ViaVia cafés were present. It was used as part of a workshop aimed at presenting ViaVia Jogja’s activities and the strategy it follows with the objective of sharing experience and debating the future of the organization. It was deemed a very successful workshop by all participants since it reflected the reality and the challenges faced by ViaVia Jogja. Moreover, other ViaVias could recognize themselves in the case, as many of the challenges, opportunities and dilemmas discussed are similar.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 613500.
The authors wish to thank Mie Cornoedus, Ingvild Solvang, Lutgart Dusar and Bob Elsen for their assistance in developing this case.
Petra Andries is responsible for initiating the case study and conducting the first set of interviews. Petra Andries and Alain Daou are both responsible for performing further interviews, conducting the analysis and writing the case study.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Appendix 1: Geographical Situation
Appendix 2: Development of the Joker Enterprise Group 
1968—A First Encounter
A group of Belgian students organizes a student trip to Moscow by bus and with tents. They spend three weeks traveling through Prague, Warsaw, Minsk, Smolensk, and return via Leningrad, Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Hamburg. During this 6000-kilometer trip, they are confronted with countries that have been cut off by the Cold War and the Iron Curtain. The students experience the Prague Spring, which leaves a lasting impression.
Several friends from the Moscow trip join other enthusiastic world travelers to found the non-profit organization Jest, which is later renamed Karavaan. The focus of this Belgian tour guide organization is on open and enriching encounters with a diverse world. Currently, Karavaan encompasses about 400 tour guides. Together, they organize trainings and develop sustainable tours. In Belgium, they organize active and intercultural activities and mini-tours.
A group of 36 friends, most of them tour guides from Karavaan, pool their money to found a new tour operator: Joker. The founders believe in tours that are more than relaxation and thus encourage exploration and contact; tours that cross geographical and cultural boundaries.
At the celebration of Karavaan’s 20th and Joker’s 10th birthday, the group launches its own solidarity fund. The fund is used to support local cultural projects in the countries where tours are organized.
The first ViaVia café opens in Heverlee (Belgium), followed by Yogyakarta, Dakar, Antwerp, Copán, Arusha, León, Kathmandu, Buenos Aires, Mopti, Ayacucho, Valparaíso, Tonsupa, Brussels, Mechelen, Leuven, Chengdu, and Addis Ababa.
The Joker group receives the biannual VBO-VEV International Partnership for Sustainable Development Prize for its collaboration with eight schools in Arusha (Tanzania) on tourism. The main criterion for granting the prize is that the partnership must be based on equity, transparency, and mutual collaboration.
Anders Reizen, the Belgian tour operator and specialist in hiking tours, becomes part of the Joker group.
2001—ViaVia Tourism Academy
Tourism is one of the booming sectors in developing countries and, thus, has a key role in the economic, social, and cultural development of a country, and in its fight against poverty. Convinced that sharing knowledge and experience in entrepreneurship and sustainable tourism is crucial for a solidary collaboration, the Joker group founds the non-profit organization ViaVia Tourism Academy. Activities include training and coaching, exchange programs, raising travelers’ awareness, and contributions to research on sustainable tourism.
2005—Living Stone Centre for Intercultural Entrepreneurship
Because of its active presence in many countries, Joker often witnesses the termination of collaborations because of cultural misunderstanding. Together with the University of Leuven, Joker funds a center for intercultural entrepreneurship. Its international staff offers companies, organizations, and individuals advice, coaching, and training with respect to doing business in an intercultural context.
2007—Travel Magazine Award
In 2007, 2009 and 2010, Joker wins the Travel Magazine award for Most Sustainable Tour Operator of the Year (as of 2011, the prize no longer exists).
Joker partners up with Sino Travel, a tour operator in Hong Kong. In 2011, Joker opens a travel agency in Shanghai.
2011—Celebration of Joker’s 30th Anniversary
In order to celebrate Joker’s 30th anniversary, parties, concerts and an adventurous team-sport event are organized in Belgium. A book written by co-founder and CEO, Bob Elsen, on the history of the Joker group is published.
2013—Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award
In November 2013, from a selection of more than 40 organizations across Asia, the ViaVia café in Yogyakarta receives the prestigious Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award.
2014—Travelife Sustainability Certificate
As the first Belgian tour operator ever, Joker receives the Travelife sustainability certificate by ECEAT (European Centre for Ecological and Agricultural Tourism). The certificate confirms that Joker complies with more than 150 criteria related to socially responsible entrepreneurship.
In October 2014, co-founder and CEO, Bob Elsen, receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Leuven for his contribution and pioneering role in socially responsible entrepreneurship in Belgium.
2015—Celebration of ViaVia’s 20th Anniversary
The ViaVia cafés celebrate their 20th anniversary. In addition to a big party, there is a workshop for the owners of all ViaVia cafés, using the current teaching case.
Appendix 3: Asia—The Evolution of Income Distributions, Inequality, and Poverty between 1992 and 2010 
The incidence of poverty in the Asian region is quite high despite the spectacular growth performance of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), India and other economies in the region. According to the 2013 World Development Indicators, 12.5% of the population in East Asia and 31% of the population in South Asia are below the $1.25/day poverty line used by the World Bank. A staggering 66.7% of the population in South Asia and 21.7% of the population in East Asia is under the $2/day poverty line. Poverty incidence under the $1.25/day poverty line is 32.67%, 18.06%, and 11.80%, respectively, in India, Indonesia and the PRC. The picture is equally disturbing when national poverty lines are used. The incidence of poverty in rural India and rural PRC is quite high compared to their urban counterparts, indicating an unequal distribution of growth across rural and urban regions.
According to the Asian Development Bank (2012), over the last 20 years, inequality in the distribution of income has worsened in the three most populous countries. In the PRC, the Gini measure of inequality has increased from 0.32 to 0.43, in India from 0.33 to 0.37 and in Indonesia from 0.29 to 0.37. This means that inequality in the region has generally been on the rise while GDP has been growing at impressive rates.
Duangkamon Chotikapanich, William E. Griffiths, D. S. Prasada Rao, and Wasana Karunarathne in Income Distributions, Inequality, and Poverty in Asia, 1992–2010 examine levels and trends of inequality and poverty in Asia during the period 1992–2010. Also, based on the data on GDP growth, inequality in the income distribution, and poverty incidence in various countries in the Asian region, it is important to examine the benefits accruing to the poor from GDP growth in these economies. Has the growth in the Asian region been pro-poor? How have the gains from GDP growth been distributed to households at different levels of income? Has the pro-poor growth been absolute or relative? With an absolute approach, growth is considered to be pro-poor if it reduces absolute poverty. In contrast, growth is defined as pro-poor under a relative approach if the growth benefits the poor proportionately more than the non-poor.
The authors find that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has grown rapidly with increasing inequality accompanying this growth. India has been relatively stagnant. Indonesia has grown rapidly after suffering an initial setback from the Asian financial crisis in 1997.
Appendix 4: ViaVia Jogja Projects
|1996–ongoing||Cultural||Art Space for local, (young) unrecognized, contemporary artists||150 exhibitions to date. An estimated 200 local artists have benefited directly|
|1996–ongoing||Cultural||Emerging Curator program||8 men and women have benefited directly|
|1996–ongoing||Cultural||Financial Support to the Sosrowijayan Festival||Street musician community|
|1996–ongoing||Social||Child/youth trainings and education||4 children financed through dance (1), art (1) and high school (2)|
|1996–ongoing||Social||Annual contributions to community events||ViaVia, our neighborhood and communities where we bring tourists|
|1996–ongoing||Social||Staff training opportunities||Currently 18 courses for 15 staff members ongoing|
|1996–ongoing||Tourism||Training for people interested in becoming guides||To date 273 students have been trained|
|1998–ongoing||Environment||Meru Butiri National Park Sea Turtles Protection||Advocating to develop SOPs to protect the turtles from intrusion of visitors|
|1998–ongoing||Social||University Education Program||5 women|
|1999||Social||Fundraising for Islamic Center for Drug Rehabilitation||Over 1000 USD collected|
|1999–2006||Social||Support of Milas, providing vocational training and work opportunities for street children||30–40 street children/youth benefited from 1999–2006|
|2001||Social||Street youth work opportunity program||7 street youth|
|2001||Social||Support to Anak Wayang Children Theater||30 youth|
|2002||Tourism||2-week staff training on intercultural communication and responsible tourism in Belgium||6 staff members|
|2003||Cultural||Sama-Sama You Are Welcome City Mural||10 artists benefited directly. In addition, the art community of Yogyakarta and city at large|
|2003||Cultural||Art project between Norwegian Artist Ivar Jørdre and youth living with disabilities||20 youth living with disabilities|
|2003||Social||Children’s book fair “Gede Book”||30 children trained in hospitality and setting up a “café” during the fair|
|2003–2006||Cultural||Annual Q-Film Festival Venue|
|2003–ongoing||Social||Support to the Aulia Center for street children through training in tourism facilities operation||100 children and youth|
|2005||Cultural||"Go-26: 12 Stielen" cultural exchange program between Belgium and Indonesia||12 young professionals from Belgium, 12 youth professionals from Yogyakarta|
|2005||Humanitarian||Fundraising for Nias earthquake survivors with Bunya Wacana University|
|2005||Social||International Refugee Day performance, exhibition and fundraising for the Jesuit Refugee Service Indonesia|
|2006||Humanitarian||Post-earthquake financial support to Grafis Minggiran, whose studio was destroyed by the earthquake||10 artists|
|2006||Humanitarian||Yogyakarta Earthquake Reconstruction: Rehabilitation of Prawirotaman Kindergarten||1 Kindergarten|
|2006||Humanitarian||Yogyakarta and Central Java Earthquake Relief and Reconstruction||24 houses rebuilt, 3000 people received food and non-food items|
|2006–2011||Environment||Support to Reef Check (an environmental organization protecting reefs in Bali)||1000 books distributed and fundraising event in ViaVia|
|2006 and 2009||Environment||Waste management education for children in 2 elementary schools||420 children trained|
|2006–ongoing||Tourism||Community training on sustainable tourism, intercultural communication and hospitality||A total of around 100 people participated in 2 villages in Java and 2 villages in Madura|
|2007||Environment||Clean up of Sungai Kaliurang rivers||Community|
|2007||Cultural||8 of March: International Women’s Day exhibition “Never Mind”||6 female video artists|
|2007||Social||Micro Grant project to numerous individuals and groups interested in setting up social enterprises||Including RSL bag producers, HIV-positive artist, former street girls|
|2007||Social||ViaVIi manager on management training to Belgium for 1 month||1 staff member|
|2007–2008||Social||Main financial contributor to the making of the Prawirotaman Street “Gapura” entrance||Prawirotaman Street|
|2008||Social||Life-saving medical operation in Belgium for a staff member||1 staff member|
|2008–ongoing||Tourism||Free trainings on sustainable tourism and cross-cultural communication to university students||130 students participated to date|
|2009–2012||Social||Narcotics Anonymous monthly meetings for local and traveling recovering drug users|
|2010||Humanitarian||Fundraising for Mt. Merapi Eruption emergency relief||6 regular IDP camps and 1 camp especially for elderly people; 200 children/youth participated in events|
|2010||Humanitarian||Mt. Merapi Eruption emergency relief: Livelihood Asset Replacement project (Voucher kedua)||228 families|
|2010||Humanitarian||Mt. Merapi Eruption emergency relief: Water pipe replacement and Livelihood Asset Replacement||228 families|
|2011||Cultural||Support to LGBT theater group with space to practice, performances in ViaVia and exhibitions||15 theater members|
|2011||Social||Fundraising for Support to Indonesian Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia in collaboration with Yogyakarta Women’s Network|
|2011||Social||Manpower and logistical support to the making of the documentary Serve by Jorge Leon|
|2011–ongoing||Social||Fair trade shop: working with partners favoring marginal groups and individuals and use of environmentally sustainable materials||20 partners|
|2012||Environment||Clean Up of Yogyakarta rivers||Community|
|2012||Social||Training to LGBT youth on social enterprise||20 participants|
|2012||Social||Set up of a library in Sukamade Village and training to local community||400 people|
|2012–ongoing||Cultural||Art Corner in the fair trade shop provides artists opportunities to sell their merchandise||8 artists|
|2012–ongoing||Environment||Trees for Tours Program||670 trees planted to date|
|2014–ongoing||Education||Support former ViaVia staff member to do her PhD in Disaster Management in Japan||15,000 USD loan to former ViaVia staff|
|2014–ongoing||Social||"We are Human" empowerment project by and for the transgender community in Yogyakarta through: monthly performances; a grant to start producing and subsequently sell merchandise in the fair trade shop; exhibition space for art works; and work opportunities||Overall, approximately 20 individuals; 2 for regular work in ViaVia|
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