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The Drive to Make a Difference

Social entrepreneurship is not just about doing good; it’s about addressing social problems in an innovative way.

Monique Verduyn

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As a developing country, South Africa has many social problems like poverty, poor health services, poor educational services and joblessness. These need to be addressed in an innovative manner, and that‘s where social entrepreneurship comes in.

People like Shona MacDonald, Brian Richardson, Lesley-Ann van Selm and Nora Tager are all pioneering social entrepreneurs who address issues such as disability, banking for the poor, crime prevention and community development. They are making a difference and their solutions are sustainable.

“Because money is scarce in developing countries, you need to couple entrepreneurial flair with a passion to make a difference,” says Dr Susan Steinman, director: Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Social Economy (CSESE), Faculty of Management, University of Johannesburg. “These people have managed to do so very successfully.”

Defining social entrepreneurship

The business model used by social entrepreneurs is often referred to as a social enterprise, says Steinman. “A social enterprise’s primary objective is to ameliorate social problems through a financially sustainable business model, where any surpluses are reinvested in purpose. The social purpose permeates the business model and becomes the essence or core of the social entrepreneur’s passion.”

Professor Gregory Dees of Duke University in the US describes social entrepreneurship best: Social entrepreneurs play the role of change agents in the social sector by:

  • Adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value)
  • Recognising and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission
  • Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation and learning
  • Acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand
  • Exhibiting heightened accountability to the constituencies served for the outcomes created.

The challenges in SA

In developing countries, the gap between rich and poor is often extreme. While investment capital is streaming into the private sector and GDP may be growing, often very little of that money trickles down to the poorest of the poor, or the rural areas. “Social enterprise can start to bridge that gap by interesting investors who want a return but also realise they need to address the social issues in the areas they work. It allows for a financial return (often lower than what would be expected for standard businesses, but still there) and more importantly social return on investment,” says Amy Tekié, course convenor, Social Entrepreneurship Certificate Programme (SECP) at the Gordon Institute of Business Science.

Funding in emerging economies is usually still limited to traditional corporate social investment (CSI) grant funding. Even in South Africa the social investment model (whereby investors get financial as well as social returns, either through debt or equity) is only just beginning to gain traction.

Working together for good

There are some excellent examples of social entrepreneurs and corporates working together. “Brian Richardson started Wizzit Bank and is working with a banking group to make banking possible for the poor through cell phones,” says Steinman. “There are many examples where a social problem is of great concern for corporate organisations. They use the services of social entrepreneurs to address problems such as HIV/Aids and crime reduction. CSI money increasingly goes towards social entrepreneurs because they deliver in a sustainable and innovative manner.”

Tekié says there are several ways that social entrepreneurs and corporates can work together. “Start-up social entrepreneurs have trouble finding the funds they need to get their ideas off the ground. CSI departments can look at setting aside funds to support people who have great ideas with huge potential for impact and scale. Companies can also look at using social entrepreneurs as supply line providers as many of them teach disadvantaged communities to produce goods that can be sold. Also, many social entrepreneurs would really benefit from the business learning that skilled corporate employees can offer. Pairing up employee volunteers with these entrepreneurs to provide input on strategic frameworks, business plans and marketing options could have great impact.”

Tekié adds that while there is a huge emphasis on entrepreneurship in South Africa, not enough attention is paid to social entrepreneurship. “Entrepreneurship incubators and capital providers should consider providing a specific type of support for social enterprises — either as incubators or financiers. There is, however, increasing interest from organisations like the Business Place or Shanduka Black Umbrellas in collaborating with social entrepreneurs.”

Another example highlighted by Tekié is that of Veronica Khosa who found that people living with AIDS in townships were sometimes left alone all day, with no one to take care of them. “She got former prostitutes who were looking for a new career to start providing home-based care. After a few years of running this model on very little income, she finally got recognition from the Department of Health that there was a great need for a home-based model of health care provision in South Africa. This has since been rolled out at scale.”

Can social entrepreneurship be learnt?

“When you have the passion it takes to want to make a difference, skills can be learnt,” says Steinman.

Tekié agrees. “You can provide people with the skills and confidence to start up their own initiative,” she says. “There are many budding social entrepreneurs out there who are either intimidated by the risk involved in going out on their own, or feel they don’t have a sufficient understanding of the context and grasp of the skills required. Many of the students on our programme come into the room and realise that they are not the only crazy ones. The support and networking that develops among the students is critical in getting people to take the leap.”

She notes that higher learning institutions also help to develop the theory and research that can provide useful models and legal frameworks and enable shared learning. They create awareness among students and faculty of the opportunities within social business and social entrepreneurship. “At top universities and business schools around the world there is a huge movement to create centres and programmes to support social entrepreneurship and innovation.”

It’s certainly happening here at home too. If you see yourself as a social innovator, you can arm yourself with the strategic, technical and business skills you need to create sustainable, scalable, high impact social enterprises through one of the programmes in social entrepreneurship being offered at many of the country’s universities.

Changing industries

“The job of a social entrepreneur is to recognise when a part of society is stuck and to provide new ways to get it unstuck.

He or she finds what is not working and solves the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution and persuading entire societies to take new leaps. Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionised the fishing industry.”

Source: Ashoka Fellows

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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Business Landscape

What Can Businesses Expect From The Future Of Work?

While the future of work will always be a constant process of innovation and change, here are a few things that business today can expect in the near future.

Josh Althuser

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The phrase “future of work” is something professionals have been talking about since the birth of the traditional workplace in the late 19th century.

Once defined by cubicles that were arranged neatly side by side with meeting rooms and, of course, the head office with an amazing view of the skyline, today’s offices are strikingly different.

Over the last decade, there has been a surge in the development of open-plan offices, and more and more companies are moving their employees to co-working spaces and experimenting with remote work. For businesses that are still straddling the traditional office, but looking to embrace the future of work, it could be overwhelming at first. While the future of work will always be a constant process of innovation and change, here are a few things that business today can expect in the near future.

Expect flat hierarchies

In 2017, most companies have recognised that employees, especially younger ones are turned off by the conventional hierarchies that once dominated the world place.

Related: 5 Inexpensive Workspace Improvements That Boost Productivity

Start-ups and small businesses often pride themselves on their “flat” workplace culture, which aims to give both leaders and employees the chance to give input on an equal level. In theory, these structures aim to make room for more innovation and also to help workers feel more appreciated in their roles.

Yet, it doesn’t come without its issues. There have been various studies showing that egalitarian workplace structures can be disorienting and can potentially result in higher turnover rates, as employees feel lost in their roles. Thus, it will take time for the workplace to strike a balance between structure and equality, but so far it seems we are well on our way. 

The architecture of the office space is changing rapidly

Chances are you’ve heard of open-plan offices. With corporate giants like Facebook and Google companioning the flexible workspace, company around the world are breaking down literal walls to create airy and open offices that encourage collaboration.

Again, much like the flat workspace, open-plan offices need to be considerate of individual needs. While many workers appreciate the chance to work in a more informal setting, the open office has also faced criticism for introducing new distractions by not including enough private areas, which can lead to a downturn in productivity. As a result, more companies are turning to co-working spaces, which offer both workspace and community space.

Co-working spaces differ from open-offices in the way that they provide community management, structure, and flexibility, ensuring that workers have their needs met, whether that means a private office for the whole company or a hot desk for workers who just want to come in a couple of times during the week. 

Related: Workplace Evolution 2.0: Are You Ready For The New Era?

Remote work will be commonplace

Allowing employees to work remotely has proven to be successful. Companies have been introducing remote days over the last five years, and some even allow their staff to telecommute on a full-time basis. In the early days of the freelance ecosystem, remote work was considered to be unprofessional, but we have learned over the years the allowing employees to telecommute, even on a part-time basis can make them more productive and satisfied in their roles.

There’s no doubt that advancements in communication tools, such as Slack, have allowed workers more freedom, but there are also enormous benefits for businesses as well.

Companies can save on overhead costs by moving teams into a co-working space, or take out a flexible lease in combination with allowing workers to work outside of the office, even if it’s just a few days a week. By saving on rent and utilities, leaders can make room in their budget to invest in employees, by offering educational workspaces or purchasing new equipment.

Overall, these changes have a long way to go before they become permanent fixtures in the workplace. In fact, many businesses are now experimenting with various workplaces trends to find what works best for them and their employees.

Yet, even if you are not ready to grant your staff remote days or turn your office into a single shared space, it’s vital that your business is aware of these trends so you can keep up with the rapidly changing future workplace.

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Business Landscape

How Investors Can Take Advantage Of The Rand’s Currency Trading Rates

Negative sentiment is likely to be pervasive with the SA economy, and it will take more than a new figurehead in government to right the wrongs of a mismanaged economy.

Harald Merckel

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The USD/ZAR currency pair is trading in the 13.65 range heading into mid-December 2017. Over the past year, the 52-week low was 12.3126, and the 52-week high was 14.5742. As one of the more volatile currencies in the trading spectrum, the ZAR is closely associated with the political shenanigans taking place in South Africa.

The year to date return for the currency pair is -0.50%, after having started 2017 at 13.7351. Much of the activity taking place with the ZAR is speculative. Futures contracts are largely responsible for the whipsaw movements in prices.

Wilkins Finance strategists stress the importance of credit ratings agencies on currencies:

‘Whenever credit ratings agencies such as Moody’s and Fitch downgrade their assessments of the South African economy, this has a negative impact on the ZAR. The impact is not always predictable however – towards the end of November 2017, the USD/ZAR had appreciated after the recent ratings downgrade of the economy.’

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded South Africa’s economy to a rating of Baa3. This is the lowest rating level for Moody’s. Further ratings will be announced in February next year. Fitch has already downgraded the foreign currency and local currency to BB +, but has offered a stable Outlook for the ZAR.

Related: The Business Of Anxiety In Business: Giving Heroes Permission To Feel Vulnerable

That S&P also downgraded the South African economy to sub-investment grade is an important decision, and one that will have negative ramifications for the South African bonds market. Now, the Barclays Global Bond Index will no longer feature South African bonds. That South Africa’s bond market will be excluded from the World Government Bond Index will also be a bugbear to any hopes of the ZAR appreciating.

Interest Rates in the South African Economy

The South African interest rate is highly attractive to foreign investors, given that the UK, US, Canada, Japan, and European bank rates are at historic lows. There is little to be gained by investing cash in fixed-interest-bearing securities in these economies. The current interest rate in South Africa is 6.75% (as at November 23, 2017). The interest rate has dropped to expand economic activity in the country.

Overall, South Africa’s inflation rate for the year is expected to remain at 5.3% dropping to 5.2% in 2018 and rising to 5.5% by 2019. Global investors remain concerned about the risk/reward environment in South Africa. The country has experienced significant capital outflows in recent years, driven in large part by uncertainty regarding future prospects. The USD/ZAR was trading at 14.60 in late November, and current ZAR strength is being attributed to USD weakness.

Related: Offshore Business Opportunities Abound For South African ‘Oldpreneurs’

Factors on Both Sides of the Atlantic

One of the major economic events affecting exchange rates will be the reconciliation of the House and Senate bills on US tax legislation. Any major overhaul of the US tax code will invariably result in a dramatically boosted USD, and a weakened ZAR. For traders, it appears to be short-term call options on the local currency and long-term call options on the USD.

It is evident that currency traders are hedging against the ZAR over the long-term. The fundamentals of the economy are structurally unstable. The power grid infrastructure, water supply problems, and political instability at the highest echelons are but a few of the many problems plaguing South African growth prospects.

However, the ZAR will draw strength from the election of a credible leader, and this will be particularly noteworthy with Cyril Ramaphosa’s appointment. Overall, negative sentiment is likely to be pervasive with the SA economy, and it will take more than a new figurehead in government to right the wrongs of a mismanaged economy.

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Business Landscape

Get Cracking

For many people, the holiday season represents a time of change.

Rhyse Crompton

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For many people, the holiday season represents a time of change. Some folks have made the decision throughout the year to start a new business in 2018, and the festive season’s message is one of hope for a bright new entrepreneurial future. Unfortunately, for most, this dream can become a nightmare without considerable amounts of planning on part of the entrepreneur and start-up founder.

So, without sounding too depressing, Christmas and New Year’s should be a time for stringent planning rather than celebration for the season and the year ahead. Call me Ebenezer Scrooge, but hitting the laptop and doing research is the best thing an entrepreneur can do while family and friends are unwrapping gifts or holiday-making.

As a business owner who has used the month of January as a starting block for my foray into a new industry, I can say that one of the problems I encountered was not accurately defining my customer personas, both in real-time and online. It got me thinking; if I can make the mistake when it comes to accurately segmenting customers in real-time, how many people make the mistake of inaccurately creating customer personas for their online brands?

It’s All About the Customer

Creating a customer persona is easy. Most business founders have an idea of who their customer is before marketing their product. And once you know who the customer is, its just as easy to find out their likes and dislikes, as well as their habits.

Related: Want To Leave Customers Grinning And Vowing To Return? Do The Following

The best way to create customer personas is to base your personas on research and data. Many established businesses find this a simple task, as they have a wealth of clients from which to draw this data. Unfortunately, this is not the case for business founders, so they must carefully test the waters using surveys, third-party research, and an ear-to-the-ground within the industry.

Once a business understands its various buyer personas, it’s time to start considering the typical online buyer persona…

Characteristics Mapping

Just because you can accurately determine your optimal customer due to your created customer personas, you may have to create alternative personas for online consumers. This is because a slightly different person will be looking for your product online.

As an example, Bob owns a pool business, building as well as maintaining pools for residential clients across Johannesburg. Bob’s nominal customer persona is that of Adam, the 40-something business owner who owns a home in a middle-class neighbourhood. Adam is likely to come across Bob’s out-of-home marketing material, or comes to Bob for business through referrals. However, Adam differs from Lerato. Lerato is a different age, race and gender. Even more importantly, Lerato looks for products and services exclusively online. To appeal to Lerato over Adam, Bob’s customer persona must be changed for the online customer, and the online customer must be exposed to tailored content to be appealed to.

Lerato also lives in a middle-class neighbourhood, but Lerato has young children, while Adam’s children have now moved out of home. This means that Bob can take advantage of Lerato’s need for pool safety nets and a custom-built pool fences, and Bob will make sure that Lerato is exposed to content about these services while making her online journey.

Content Mapping

When creating online material, ensure that it is developed to take advantage of the online customer. One mistake that business owners make is that, in their attempts to be recognised as industry leaders, they try very hard to use industry specific language. They make attempts toward showing their prowess in the trade and showcase their own certification and business journey.

The online customer persona representing the business’s primary online buyer does not care about the business’s goals and objectives, and they have no clue as to what is being said when the website uses online lingo. They want content created for them; they want to know why they need the product or service, they want to know that they are using the best business for the job, and they want social proof regarding the service offered.

Make sure that you do proper content mapping research, and identify the online journey taken by the consumer through online channels before they make a purchasing decision.

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

Take this a step further and make sure that you define several online customer personas. Determine the value of each persona and structure content and the consumer journey for the most profitable of the personas. Additionally, determine the lifecycle of the journey, how much attention a segment of online content generates, and capitalise accordingly. For example, if most of the purchasing decision is made on the product or service landing page, make sure that the landing page is optimised as often as possible to increase your business’s revenue.

Starting Blocks

Hit January 2018 running, and make sure you understand your online client before receiving your first online lead. And if you make a few mistakes initially, don’t worry. 2017 was – and 2018 will be – known for being the year of big data, where business owners make operations and marketing decisions based on the behaviour of customers online. Always analyse the data available to your business when made available, and make changes accordingly. The best of luck for the year ahead!

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