The summit promoted partnerships to accelerate social innovations to Africa’s most pressing challenges by inspiring and connecting social entrepreneurs, changemakers, investors, and other ecosystem stakeholders across Africa. The theme centred on Collaborative finance for social innovation and how to catalyse social innovation in Africa.
The summit, which was held at the Kenya Monetary School, Nairobi from 04 – 05 December 2019, drew speakers and delegates from across the world. Amongst others were government ministers, commissioners, directors and head of departments as well as directors and managers of private multinational companies and stakeholders from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
The objectives were twofold: Firstly, to discuss the future financing models for social innovation and secondly, a framework for social innovation.
We learnt a lot about the contradiction between enterprise potential funders and prospective/existing entrepreneurs. Whereas funders seem to have a lot to invest, there are limited innovations on one hand and apparent lack of funding on the other hand. Deliberations centred around establishing the missing link and African centred solutions. Standardization was another key discussion issue. Often, funders use foreign models to administer support to African entrepreneurs in Africa. The students were excited and indicated that they were grateful for the experiences. Some of the key reflective points are as follows:
• Thank you UNIVEN for such a great exposure. We wish more students could get more exposure and opportunities like this.
• We got an opportunity to see the bigger picture, to network and to understand how social entrepreneurship and the flow of money works.
• We learnt a lot about the need for a collaborative spirit: like they said, “If you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, then go with others”. This is self-explanatory and a vital resource.
• We have to make opportunities and not wait for them to find us.
• I learnt not to take no for an answer and that I should keep pressing until I get to my goal.
Top 5 lessons learnt at the summit that could be useful to other students:
1) Just because you are locally based does not mean you cannot think globally. You must always be ready for expansion outside your territory and venture to international grounds and partnerships.
2) It is important to do research about your line of business, know what you represent and the social impact that drives you thereof. There are so many businesses similar to yours out there, what value makes yours stand out?
3) If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. It is paramount to make collaborative partnerships because if we want to sustain the impact then no man can do it alone, we need each other for even greater social impact.
4) There are many funding opportunities and investors out there but is your enterprise funding ready? Your proposal needs to speak to the investors’ objectives and have a clear profit- making plan of action.
5) Money does not come alone, it is guided by rules and principles that you can’t change. Does your business enterprise have value for money?
This whole summit was an eye opener for me because the topics that were discussed apply for both different organizations and institutions, including our University as an institution and the projects being run in the University. One of the lessons that stood out for me was the accountability and transparency topic which was discussed in one of the break-away sessions. Accountability and transparency are something that many organizations and institutions don’t have. It will be a good thing for the University of Venda to revise its policies and emphasize on being accountable and taking responsibility for every objective, which could lead to good running of the institution and its projects, so says Lutendo.
Dedication is one of the key attitudes that people need to have when they are working towards achieving a greater goal, I picked this up when I had conversations with people who are part of both the British council as well as those that are Ashoka fellows. I was inspired by the amount of dedication they all put in towards making sure that the event becomes a success. To them it doesn’t matter what kind of position they hold or what’s in it for them, but all that matters is that the event must happen in a successful manner. To have this kind of spirit and zeal, is something that we also need to adopt , not only as the Community Engagement Directorate, but also at the entire University community, said Justice.
Some of the outstanding achievements that stood out for me from coca cola is their newly created program that aims to fund 5 000 women by 2020. The panel gave few recommendations, amongst others was that the education systems in both countries must introduce social entrepreneurship in schools and develop design thinking from young age.
Readiness of entrepreneurs to take advantage of funding opportunities was another thorny discussion. We learnt that an individual may have an innovative idea but fail to secure funding because it is not scalable, viable or sustainable.
It was also emphasized that before looking for funding, there is a need to make sure that the business plan has a market segment which is accessible.
Students heartily appreciated the opportunity and support from the University and wished for more students to get the experience they received. A special word of appreciation to the NRF for making the participatory research project on social entrepreneurship development possible under the facilitation of Professor Vhonani Netshandama. The summit was a great opportunity for enhancing the network and possibly fish for potential stakeholders or partners.