Social entrepreneurship has been hailed as the new frontier for Africa – the magical solution powerful enough to bring down unemployment, poverty and unethical business practices. With all of the global attention surrounding social entrepreneurship, we decided to use our second mentoring session of the new term to explore this growing sector.
Led by social change advocate and Tatua Kenya Founder, Kenneth Chomba, Dadas from Precious Blood Girls’ High School Riruta dove into a discussion about social entrepreneurship: what it is, what it is not, why it matters, who can get involved in it and how.
So, what is social entrepreneurship?
There’s still debate about that. Some say it’s any business concerned with creating a social impact. Others, that it’s a business whose core product/service is concerned with solving a pervasive social problem or meeting a social need. Still others require that a business’ target market be a socially disadvantaged group, for a business to qualify as a social enterprise. Consensus on definitions is elusive. Still, it’s clear that whatever definition is used, social businesses always look beyond profits, to social good and environmental impact as indicators of organizational success.
At the heart of any successful social enterprise is a quality that allows the organization to truly understand the needs of both its users and beneficiaries: empathy. As Kenneth Chomba underscored during the session, successful innovators and entrepreneurs are people who are able to put themselves in the shoes of others; whether beneficiaries of their community projects, consumers of their products or communities in which their organizations are set up. Real social entrepreneurs use empathy as their starting point and that helps them build products, services and organizations that are not just commercially viable, but socially relevant and widely beneficial. Social entrepreneurs build for change.
In addition to empathy, it also takes an entrepreneurial drive. A social entrepreneur is has to be resourceful in order to work within often tight constraints and uncertain terrain. Kenneth also pointed out that as innovators we should also look to analogies in nature to learn lessons and develop sustainable solutions to the problems society face. The tree for example, sheds it’s leaves to conserve water during winter, and regrows them at the most opportune time – spring. As social entrepreneurs, it’s our responsibility to evaluate needs and develop solutions that not only address community challenges, but also are effective and efficient in managing the scarce resources we have.
These lessons will undoubtedly serve our girls, who constantly consider ways of bringing about sustainable change in their communities through their community service projects. They may not all end up in careers related to social entrepreneurship, but the lessons they’ve learned are applicable across the board – from school to activism.
What other lessons around social entrepreneurship can we pass onto the next generation? Share your thoughts with us on Dadas Speak!