Brussels is a city brimming with innovation for social good, hence why it makes such an inspiring location for this year’s Ashoka Changemaker Summit. As a multicultural city, social entrepreneurship provides an opportunity to mobilize traditionally marginalized communities as changemakers.   

The Office of Public Diplomacy at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels regularly reaches out to non-profit, cultural, and educational organizations to help them implement programs that highlight shared values, promote bilateral cooperation, and enhance the understanding of the United States in Belgium.  Like U.S. embassies around the world, U.S. Embassy Brussels partners with local leaders and organizations that make a positive and sustainable contribution to their society.  It will not come as a surprise, therefore, that many of the individuals and NGOs the embassy has engaged with are social entrepreneurs.   

The projects shared below are just four examples of ideas that are changing Brussels’ landscape so that all of its citizens have equitable opportunities to not just succeed, but thrive. 


Play4Peace: Sports and games that build community 

For Play4Peace, sport goes beyond the pitch. “[It] allows us to respect ourselves, others and our bodies. It brings self-confidence that allows us to develop confidence for a better inclusion in society, both at a personal and professional level,” says Play4Peace representative Anne-Marie. Anne-Marie sees the ripple effect of sport in the communities served by Play4Peace, from rallying support around newcomers from Ukraine to reduced risk of dropping out from school. Indeed, Play4Peace has reason to celebrate as it saw its first three graduates at the beginning of the year. 


Play4Peace offers a space of support for young people with fewer privileges than their peers. Their sports programs allow young people of different backgrounds to meet, breaking down stereotypes in the process. Sport allows young people to develop traits such as self-confidence that foster increased inclusion, alongside the activities that give them a sense of community. Then, it acts as an entrance to learning values to enhance their communities that are aligned with the 2030 SDGs. 

Over a crisis ridden few years that have seen the Covid-19 pandemic and a war in Ukraine in succession, Play4Peace has been a space of stability for its community. Through donations from their supporters, they have developed the Play4Peace house, giving their young community a serene and calm physical space. In this setting, young people have the headspace they need to reach their goals and find vital community support. 


A.M.A. Jeunesse Gym: Building inclusion through sports trainings 

Often, families of children with disabilities face systemic exclusion and long waiting lists at the few centers that will meet their specific needs. Through community and confidence-building activities, A.M.A. Jeunesse Gym is on a mission to change that. Their sports trainings are open to children with and without disabilities, allowing them to build friendships and learn from one another. Inclusive sporting activities, in which both the children and the coaches are of mixed ability, acts as a pathway for greater tolerance in other areas of life, creating agents of change in the communities it serves. 

Families faced with a lack of opportunities for their children can take part in the Gym’s multicultural, inclusive holiday courses. Their sports activities for children with disabilities and without disabilities include trainings in taekwondo, para-taekwondo, in swimming, cycling and futsal. With their children occupied and building a social life, parents feel more relaxed and supported. The success of A.M.A. Jeunesse Gym’s radical inclusivity can also be seen in its achievements in Para-Taekwondo competitions around the world. The Extraordinary Athletes (athletes with disability) have taken part in competitions across Europe and brought home prizes, becoming the pride of the Belgian Multicultural society. 


CENS Academy: Fostering inclusion, mobilizing changemakers

CENS Academy is facilitating the integration of children with disabilities into sports activities alongside their able-bodied peers. According to CENS Academy, this is crucial to ensure acceptance: if these children are integrated at an early age, they are more likely to be treated with respect, understanding, and empathy. Sport in particular is an important vehicle toward developing these relationships, as it naturally teaches values of solidarity, mutual aid, and commitment.  

In CENS Academy, young people are not just targets for integration, but they are mobilized as changemakers too. Young people who have benefited from the academy’s support, sports, and cultural activities are also involved as active contributors and do not hesitate to take on responsibilities in the organization of activities. Through this, they learn skills that will benefit their future careers, such as project management, responsibility, communication, and teamwork. 

Each activity offered by CENS Academy comes with a distinct purpose, from Scouting with the aim to develop citizenship to Foot-chair that allows children who use wheelcheers to experience competition, and even “Laughter Yoga,” which combines relaxation with sheer joy. The association also offers non-sporting services, such as English classes and follow-ups with young people who are struggling with integration. 


Belgian Entreprenoires: Showing Belgium the talent of Black Women Entrepreneurs 

An Entreprenoire displaying her work

Aurélie Mulowa of Belgian Entreprenoires cites her greatest success story as an expression of gratitude from an Entreprenoire she had supported. “Thank you. Because for once, someone really thinks about us,” she told Aurélie. In not just a country, but a world where as Viola Davis said in 2015, “the only thing that separates women of color from everyone else is opportunity,” Belgian Entreprenoires’ mission of celebrating black women entrepreneurs is closing this gap by doing just that: thinking about them and showing Belgium that this community is a force to be reckoned with. 

According to Aurélie, Belgian Entreprenoires started online, on Instagram. The first goal of this social media page was to show to its audience that black female entrepreneurs exist in Belgium, providing excellent goods and services in many fields. The platform was meant to acknowledge this hard work and give them the audience they deserve. This page was also a message to the women it worked alongside: in Aurélie’s words, “we see you, we appreciate the work and the example that you’re providing and we are behind you ! Keep pushing !” 

When Entreprenoires get the motivation to believe in themselves, that’s a big win for the whole community. Vanessa Nijs was just launching Bomas Waffles when the first Entreprenoires Market was held and she wanted to withdraw herself from the event because she thought her business wasn’t mature enough. After a long chat, she decided to join. Long story short: the event ran until 10pm but she was sold out at 5pm and she knew the sweet potato waffles are a big YES! Many more Entreprenoires have been encouraged to take part in conferences, juries and networking activities.