Journal Entry 2, 24 August 2017
I didn’t even know that ‘social entrepreneurship’ was a thing until three years ago. It’s still a fairly new and unfamiliar term in many conversations – I don’t think many of my friends actually understand what I do. But the newness of it, not just to me but to South Africa, has made it unbelievably exciting!
So what is social entrepreneurship? It is common knowledge that entrepreneurs are innovators and business starters. Entrepreneurs identify opportunities in existing markets – or the really smart ones create new markets – and act swiftly to maximize the opportunity. They are generally risk-takers and are innately highly motivated individuals. Entrepreneurs, as we know them, are highly profit driven which generally feeds they’re success. Social entrepreneurs generally match these characteristics, however, they’re ideas and mission are driven by a social and/or environmental cause, rather than profit.
Social entrepreneurs marry profit with purpose. They are able to drive social/environmental impact through a well-pivoted, business model which makes them a rare and special breed. Social entrepreneurs do not run charities or corporate – they run social enterprises! To match its maker, a social enterprise is a business with a social/environmental focus. Profits generated from business activities are re-invested into the impact strategy and the stakeholders of the business, rather than to shareholders. The amazing thing about social enterprises is that when business is good and they’re able to scale, they’re impact scales as well.
ACTIVATE! Change Drivers NPO is youth empowerment and civil activism organization that works with young South Africans across the country. In 2014, as someone who was lucky enough to go through the ACTIVATE! programme, I was hired to take over an initiative called the SWITCH Programme which had been launched to support start-up entrepreneurs. Building this programme was the most exciting and enriching process (an on-going one mind you) so I thought I’d share my learnings:
This is the part of a process many people skip, mostly because it requires patience and time to be done thoroughly. I spent three months reading about current start-up support and about South African entrepreneurship and what the key challenges and nature of the space was.
It is important to understand the landscape you’re looking to move into. Through this research I was able to identify trends, gaps and opportunities. It’s also really important to remember that this research is not a once-off task. It’s continuous. The nature of any beast evolves, adapts and changes – especially in South Africa. I know that it’s to my programmes favour that I remain current and up-to-date with what is happening in the entrepreneurship space.
2. LinkedIn stalking for the win!
The first thing I humbly realized was that I was NOT the professional in what I was trying to do. Being rather unfamiliar to LinkedIn, I decided to give it a bash and spent some time connecting with those who were already doing something similar to what I wanted to do. Along with the research, LinkedIn allowed me to connect to some amazing people who carried such rich experience. BUT! Connections are not much good sitting on your LinkedIn profile. My next step was to mail them and invite them for a coffee, openly expressing my interest to learn from them. The response to my eagerness to connect was overwhelming and I managed to meet inspiring leaders in business support in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. They’re willingness to share what they had learnt along their own journeys was valuable and probably saved me from making a few of my own mistakes. AND! The beauty of this is that these connections are still great allies today. I’m extremely grateful to have met with people such as Paul Smith of Ignite Accelerator, Rick Ed of Do.Better Business, Gareth Taylor of Awethu Project , Melanie Hawken of Lionesses of Africa and Bruce Wade of Entrepreneur and Management Solutions. Much love and gratitude!
3. Talking to the programme beneficiaries – big learning took place here!
This is a no brainer. To build a good programme that meets the needs of those who were going to benefit from it, one needs to invest plenty of time in speaking to them and capturing their various responses and insights.
This process is a waste of time if one isn’t going to factor in what insights have been revealed. Really LISTEN to what they say. This is also valuable part of the process to gain their support and buy-in from the get-go. It was through these conversations that I discovered we weren’t working with regular, aspiring entrepreneurs as the programme initially intended. The young people I was working with were change drivers and wanted to make a difference! This was the magical moment that I referred back to my research process and discovered social entrepreneurship!
4. Programme Content
After steps 1 – 3, I had a pretty good understanding of WHAT the programme needed to deliver and what its end goals needed to be. It was clear that most of the beneficiaries at ACTIVATE! Change Drivers had ideas of impact but very little else. The ideas were often fluffy and broad which created much frustration with trying to get started. I realized that the goal of the programme was to develop these concepts to set strong foundations for the social entrepreneurs and make them incubator/start-up ready. As it stands, the key elements to the programmes content are:
5. Creating the Programme Structure & Design
This step is much easier once you know what content needs to be covered (step 4) and what the end goal is. When designing HOW one is going to deliver the programme, the following needs to be considered:
The greatest challenge for start-up entrepreneurs is keeping the momentum and remaining engaged with their projects (many are working full time, studying and/or parents). This inspired the programme to run over 11 months with the content being delivered in bite-sizes throughout. The magic in designing a programme lies in the details and being S.M.A.R.T. A programme blueprint should be:
|Measurable||An easy tracking process for delegates and their work (files, check sheets etc) ADVICE: Save these on a cloud to prevent loss.
Monitoring and evaluation: ensure that each step of the programme is followed by a simple feedback session for the delegates. Survey Monkey and a simple Google Form are great for these.
|Attainable||For your teams capacity as well as for the programme delegates; access to workshops and home tasks/remote support communication platforms etc
Within your current budget (not potential budget)
Develop do-able, simple (home) tasks.
|Relevant||Content and materials need to be relevant to social entrepreneurship (in my case, in South Africa) and importantly to those who are using the programme considering things like language, communication platforms, levels of education and location.|
Dates, dates, dates! Roll out dates, deadline dates, assessment feedback dates, workshop dates, event dates, competition dates…
Play around with these before rolling out the programme. Dates allow us to be accountable as programme coordinators, allow for efficient planning and mostly, for efficient budgeting/spending
6. Support and mentorship
Entrepreneurs (social or otherwise) need support, motivation and reminders of why they’re awesome and doing what they’re doing. A large part of running a successful programme is having an accessible communication platform where support can be found when it is needed. What I have done is:
I absolutely love what I do mostly because I feel like my work is never done. There is always room for improvement, for change and for growth. There is great responsibility in designing and delivering programmes, regardless of their focus. Do it well and have fun along the way.