Saturday, June 15, 2024

Shaping a New Tomorrow: The Power Lies in Social Entrepreneurship

“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions”, a short but powerful statement by Hilde Schwab, the Chairperson of Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. The COVID-19 pandemic came at a time when the world economy was recovering from the 2008/9 global economic crisis. In Muhamad Yunus’s words, the global economy was like a high-speed train headed for distraction, and the pandemic came, and stopped us all, to pause and reflect.

I concur, this is the time to revisit not only our economic growth models but our business models as well. With the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our society hit the hardest, transitioning to the new normal certainly calls for unprecedented measures. In June 2020, the World Bank projected that about 100 million additional people could be pushed into extreme poverty – living below $1.90 per day – due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is disheartening and requires joint efforts from us all. In my view, social entrepreneurs and innovators, are best positioned to assist economies to alleviate poverty using innovative methods. Social entrepreneurs are key role players in building a green and inclusive society.

One may wonder, “What is so special about social entrepreneurship?” Well, social entrepreneurship is about recognizing a social problem and applying business principles and innovative operations to address it. The social value maximization takes precedence over shareholder value maximization. The Schwab Foundation defines social entrepreneurship as “a non-profit, hybrid or for-profit organization that innovatively address a social or environmental problem, with a focus on low-income, marginalized or vulnerable populations.” Social enterprises may take different legal forms but share a common mission – to empower vulnerable communities using a self-sustaining business model. 

Globally, social entrepreneurship is gradually gaining attention, especially during the period of the COVD-19 pandemic. In April 2020, about 60 leading social-sector organisations joined forces to launch the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs Programme. The purpose of the Programme is to coordinate and strengthen social entrepreneurs’ response to the pandemic. It was launched through the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. Following the launch, in September 2020, the COVID-19 Action Agenda report titled, “Leaders on the Front Line: Why Social Entrepreneurs Are Needed Now More than Ever” was published.

Regrettably in Botswana, social entrepreneurship seems to be a new phenomenon. The private and public sector have not entirely embraced the business model. However, social entrepreneurs are emerging every day and changing lives at the grassroots level. With their innovative entrepreneurial models, they are preparing vulnerable and marginalized communities to adapt to the new normal. Local social entrepreneurs and innovators are shaping a new tomorrow. To mention a few, These-Hands, is a technology-based social enterprise that supports entrepreneurship in rural communities. Career Coaching, a social enterprise founded by a young charismatic leader, works with various organisations to empower marginalised communities with soft-skills necessary to keep up with the new labour market trends. Housed by Botswana Innovation Hub, Dare to Dream is another youth-owned social enterprise dedicated to the advancement of youth women and girls in STEAME as well as Aviation and Aerospace. 

For social entrepreneurs to lead and drive impact in vulnerable communities, funders, investors, corporations, and government institutions must join hands and get behind them. Let us build a new tomorrow together!

Disclaimer: Otisitswe K. Tawana-Madziba is the founder of Fin-Edu, a social enterprise that empowers young people in with social and financial education. Email: [email protected] or visit: www.fin-edubw.com

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