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.
“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
A Look At Youth Mentorship During Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW)
Entrepreneur: A person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.
Global Entrepreneurship Week kicks off from 12 November – 16 November. Around the world, entrepreneurs are carving out their paths and are taking matters into their own hands.
Back home, Futureproof wants to instil a culture of curiosity, tenacity and risk taking in every South Africa – young or old, intrapreneur or entrepreneur.
In fact, we go as far as to teach young children from the age of 8-years-old about the art of entrepreneurship as part of our countrywide school program. Most recently, the company has seen success in the Orange Farm area and is teaching 110 Grade 3’s to master the art of entrepreneurship.
To celebrate this week, the team at Futureproof interviewed several well-known entrepreneurs and asked them the big question: ‘What do you wish someone had told you before you became an entrepreneur?’ Here’s what they had to say:
Clive Murray, the founder and CEO of World Water Exchange: “Making money is easier than keeping it. Don’t change the rules you make for yourself when times get tough.”
Marc Ashton, former MD of Moneyweb and CEO of Dynamic Body Technology:
- Don’t start a business…
- If you are feeling foolish and still wan to then do it with partners.
- If you are doing it with partners then lay out the terms of divorce upfront.
CEO and Co-Founder, Lisa Illingworth says that Futureproof has made it their life’s mission to aid children with the real-life, hands-on skills that they need to succeed as entrepreneurs.
“Text books just don’t teach the things that entrepreneurs really need to know. So much growth and economic activity can be realised out of entrepreneurial ventures, but we are all too scared to take the leap… why? Because we don’t feel supported and we would probably prefer to stay in our comfort zones”.
In fact, while entrepreneurship could literally catapult our country, an article in the Daily Maverick in 2017 described entrepreneurship in South Africa as ‘Sitting backwards on a donkey riding further away’.
Issues that entrepreneurs will come to face, even in their younger years is that of funding issues, lack of mentorship and opportunities, low skill levels, compliance and of course, poor standards of education and lack of access to education.
The current structure of the education system was initially designed in an entirely different age to achieve economic outcomes that are no longer viable due, in large, to the rapid innovation and adoption of technology.
“Gearing the country up for the forth industrial revolution is proving to be a challenge in both the public and private sectors. Are we really ready and how we use this particular week of the year to relook the problems and derive opportunities from them?” says Lisa.
Lisa provides context on the issues that entrepreneurs face. “Imagine this: you have a brilliant idea but no investment. You have no clue where to begin but you take it to the banks and a few potential investors. Without a solid plan and ‘street smarts’, the deals fall through, or you jump through hoops, give away more than half of your company and land up working tirelessly with no returns. This a reality for many who really don’t know how to launch an idea, understand its feasibility and raising the capital they need through mechanisms that won’t cannabalise the business at a later point.”
Lisa says that the country remains hopeful for President Ramaphosa to implement his vision for entrepreneurship as stated in the SONA 2018. “The President stated that ‘establishment through the CEOs Initiative of a small business fund – which currently stands at R1.5-billion – is an outstanding example of the role that the private sector can play. Government is finalising a small business and innovation fund targeted at start-ups’,” she continues.
“We need to change how and what schools are teaching for this to be realised on a large scale and providing the foundations so that these kinds of funding initiatives will have the best possible chance of growth and success”.
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How Schindlers Attorneys Became Involved In The Landmark Cannabis Case
Everything you accomplish accumulates and eventually comes back to assist you further along in your career. This is how a final year LLB assignment became the basis for a Constitutional Court case.
Schindlers Attorneys are the law firm that were involved in the landmark Constitutional Court judgement on cannabis use within a private space. Paul-Michael Keichel, Partner at Schindlers Attorneys shares how they came to be the foremost legal experts on cannabis and how they became involved in the Constitutional Court case:
How the journey began
“In 2005, my first year at Rhodes University, whilst studying for Intro to Law, it occurred to me that there were strong constitutional points that could be raised to objectively justify the decriminalisation of cannabis in South Africa,” explains Paul-Michael Keichel.
“In my final year LLB, 2009, I took Constitutional Litigation as an elective (largely motivated by the creation of a timetable clash, which meant that I’d not have to sit another semester of lectures for a module that I had failed the previous year). This provided me with the opportunity to write an assignment titled “A Critical Analysis of Prince and an Objective Justification for the Decriminalisation of Marijuana in South Africa”, in which I composed my argument (based on the right to equality in our Constitution).”
The start of the partnership
“Fast forward to 2013 and the Dagga Couple find themselves at Schindlers (where I am a first-year associate) to register their NPC, “Fields of Green for All”. The attorney handling the registration (who I’d also bored with my argument) suggests to the Dagga Couple that they speak to me. It turns out that they already knew of me, because my assignment had (unbeknownst to me) done the rounds on the underground cannabis networks. We get chatting and I rope-in my brother, Maurice Crespi, the managing partner of Schindlers,” explains Keichel.
“We are the only firm out of many approached by the Couple who are willing to take on their trial action against 7 state departments and Doctors for Life to push for a declaration of constitutional invalidity of the laws prohibiting cannabis use/possession/dealing in South Africa. We decide to run the challenge for them pro bono.”
The Cape ruling that started it all
“Prince and Acton et al have their matter heard in the Cape, which resulted in the 2017 Judgment. We run a portion of our trial (including expert evidence from international scientists and doctors – the best in field), but it is rendered part-heard. We then heard that Prince and Acton et al’s matter will be heard by the Constitutional Court in November 2017 and we decide, with the Dagga Couple, to intervene in that matter, upon which it is confirmed that my 2009 assignment forms the on-record basis of a major chunk of Prince and Acton et al’s arguments in support of legalisation.”
“Our involvement in the Constitutional Court was such that we provided clear legal argument and authority to support and expand upon what Prince and Acton et al were trying to say to the Court. Ultimately, much of what we submitted has found its way into the judgment of the Constitutional Court.”
How a final assignment became the foundation for a Constitutional Court case
“So, an idea (bolstered by wanting to create a timetable clash) resulted in an assignment, which provided certain credibility and impetus to cannabis activists. Two of these activists ended up being our clients, which, despite being handled pro bono, has brought Schindlers immeasurable positive publicity, and which, ultimately, contributed to the decriminalisation (and potential future legalisation and commercialisation) of cannabis in our country.”
“Schindlers now has a dedicated “Medicinal and Recreational Cannabis Law” department, through which we will continue to make submissions to parliament, apply for licenses on behalf of our clients, support those who have been arrested and charged.”
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