I was laughing the other day when a commentator said, on a TV show, that Kenyans don’t have a culture of philanthropy. Yeah, Nairobians occasionally send something small back home. But very few are doing legacy stuff. You’re supposed to become wealthy then give back to the society you reaped from. I guess when I become wealthy, I’ll be different (haha).
This is not the only hinderance to solving poverty in Kenya. Also, the Government is not that good at using money. They don’t just loot public coffers, they seem okay with inefficiency and poor strategic choices. Fuel guzzler convoys in a poor country that doesn’t even manufacturer them? Really?
All these and more is why some argue that private hands would be better suited to solve the problems. We call them social entrepreneurs. It’s still a relatively new concept in Kenya. We all want to be called “controversial tycoons” in the dailies and gossip blogs. Positive social impact? We hope to elect good leaders for that.
Anyway, social entrepreneurs should not feel so foreign to us. They too need the usual competencies of entrepreneurship to succeed. What’s different is the kind of opportunities they explore. Their goal is good social change and not just profit margin. Broadly, the work of social entrepreneurs involves providing welfare or opportunities to the marginalized. Or to be cute, they either give you fish or teach you how to fish. And we need more of them. Who else is going to sort education, gender issues, or sustainability concerns?
The British Council estimated that there are only 44,000 social enterprises in Kenya. Maybe when we bring value systems into our education system and give more info about it, more Kenyans will show interest.
Okay, we’ll admit, there are a few ways in which social entrepreneurs are different. We spoke to one. We also observed the others from a distance and learnt:
They are social capitalists
Did you know that the biggest source of funding for social entrepreneurs in Kenya is donations? They also have other unique avenues like grants. To access these, you have to give more importance to developing your networks. Not just the reach or how many people you know. Quality of the people, you should also consider (I’m not saying there are “low quality” people, don’t twist this). Networking boosts the chance of a social entrepreneur to mobilize resources, get into partnerships and make money.
They have a bottom-up mindset
Probably why they are so likeable. Social entrepreneurs provide solutions by interacting with the problems at grassroot level. They are not like your favorite politician doing those disgusting photo ops, like where they are eating at vibandas to look accessible. Bottom-up approach is fair to the folks being helped as they get to contribute to solution. It also makes it easier to manage resources, when they come, to solve said problems.
You can read our article on the difference between bottom-up and top-down thinking in business.
They need to be resourceful
Social entrepreneurs are usually doing the Government’s job. But they can’t just overtax people when they run into problems they created – Governments can be so despicable. This means social entrepreneurs have to be resourceful. Don’t forget that their business model doesn’t allow them to really put profit first. Pastors can be super rich but not social entrepreneurs? Wait, what?
The extra sources of revenues they get does not mean they laugh to the bank. It just shows you the kind of outlets they must go to in order for their dreams to be actualized.
There are do-gooders
In a positive way. A social entrepreneur would need to have passion to do good for society, first. One half requires positive outlook to draw good from bad situations. The other half needs an individual with skill to break down the real-world steps needed to draw said good. As Hope Mwanake told us, “The main motivation is to do good with the knowledge and resources one has.”0