What makes you a social entrepreneur?
As part of my Executive MBA, I attended the Tech for Social Good international elective in Kenya. The study tour took us to Nairobi where we were not only introduced to some real-life applications of how technology is being used for social good but also gained a deeper understanding of some of the key drivers of social value creation.
Social value creation starts with the social entrepreneur, an individual who has made the conscious decision to focus more on value creation rather than value capture. A social entrepreneur addresses neglected problems in society, looks for sustainable solutions and operates in areas with underprivileged communities. We met several social entrepreneurs in Nairobi including Martina Taverna from Airfu, a mobile-based learning platform aimed at targeting learners of low-income status who have limited access to training and Erik Hersman, the founder of BRCK, which provides ICT related solutions and network connectivity to areas of Africa that currently have limited or no access.
The second key driver of social value creation is scalability. As the focus of social enterprises is not on driving a profit but creating social value and finding a solution to a problem in society, social entrepreneurs need to seek alternative methods to capture value, otherwise, their solution becomes unscalable. Funding typically comes from public donations, the local government or the private sector. For Kenya, we learnt from the British High Commission that the UK government provides £300 million annually to the country.
Social enterprises must also consider the format of their business model as the traditional model doesn’t account for the focus on social value creation and therefore, needs to be developed. We were provided with a real-life example of business model innovation when we visited E4impact, who have developed a model focused on franchising. This allows them to provide higher-education to social entrepreneurs throughout Sub-Saharan Africa due to their partnerships with several international universities.
It’s important to note that Kenya is already ahead of other countries in terms of technology use. The introduction of M-Pesa in 2007 revolutionised how Kenyans transacted and allowed them to skip straight to mobile banking, bypassing the traditional banking methods. Even now, Kenya is considered to be one of the top five countries in Africa that will experience significant grown in mobile phone penetration over the next six years; it is predicted to obtain nine million new mobile phone users by 2025.
It is this familiarity with technology that has allowed Kenya to be so receptive to solutions involving it and for this country, accessibility to the technology is imperative to it supporting social value creation. This holds just as much importance on a larger scale when considering how technology could be used to meet the UN’s Sustainable Developmental Goals. The UN already believes that technology will help, specifically stating that, “in order to eradicate poverty and reorient current unsustainable development trajectories over the period 2015 to 2030, affordable technological solutions have to be developed and disseminated widely in the next fifteen years.”
Kenya presents us with an abundance of social entrepreneurs using technology to create social value. Taking into account what they have done and limitations they have faced (e.g. scalability) will allow us to be able to apply their solutions on a global scale and address the challenges that currently present themselves in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Nil Sangarabalan, Executive MBA (2019)