Series 10/14: Grass Route Social Innovation – Understanding the road towards integrating genuine grassroots social innovation into sustainable development.
Mini Series 2/4: Enterprising Collaboration – The series investigates how collaboration and partnership can empower us to build a resilient and sustainable future.
Entrepreneurship and social impact is not words we tend to associate. When I first started to consider the world of social impact I completely ignored the concept of entrepreneurship. I perceived entrepreneurship to be the poll opposite of social action, to be a world focused on profit instead of people. I wanted to develop an idea and expected to get funding just because it was a good project; a nice project. I soon realised that enterprise was important; doing good is great but going good effectively, sustainably and independently is better. Social entrepreneurship is not a confused mix in between entrepreneurship and social action, social entrepreneurship in an incredible tool that has the potential to create sustainable and long long term change.
WEDU is an organisation that is combining the world of entrepreneurship and social action and through this empowering future generations of female leaders. WEDU does this in two ways, first they provide funding for eduction to the Rising Stars, young woman with incredible leadership potential, as well as a mentor. The combination of financing and mentoring is powerful and enables the Rising Stars to become incredible change makers. WEDU has also worked with its Rising Stars to create a sustainable funding model, in which the funding is repaid by the Rising Stars to the investors. This creates a sustainable model in which WEDU can have a greater impact and work with more Rising Stars. The Rising Stars want to give back and the model WEDU has created is based on the Best Alternative Charitable Option (BACO) developed by ACUMEN. This suggest that the financial product created by WEDU will generate a far greater impact than charitable donation alone.
Another organisation revolutionising the way we understand entrepreneurship and impact is YuGoFund. YuGoFund has developed a crowd funding model that those fare more than just raising funds. YuGoFund works with the organisation, they are fundraising for, to understand and measure their impact; this empowers both the donor and the organisation. YuGoFund enables the organisation to understand and quantify their impact and in doing so work in a more effective manner. The donor is then informed of the impact of their donation and can understand how they are making a difference. YuGoFund is an innovative project that has the potential to change the way we give to organisation.
YoGoFund and WEDU have both inspired me in my understanding of social enterprise. Social entrepreneurship is more than a model, it is the collaboration in between enterprise and impact, it bring together the best of both worlds and enables a virtuous circle of sustainable development. If we are to bring about a global change in the way we design and problem solve then it needs to be led by collaborators, people who are not afraid to do thing differently and bridge the gap in between traditional disciplines. As designers we must be willing to go outside are comfort zone and collaborate with others, learn from others. Through this cross-pollination we can design new solution that meet ever increasing and complex demands.
Series 8/14: Grass Route Social Innovation – Understanding the road towards integrating genuine grassroots social innovation into sustainable development.
Mini Series 3/3: Sustainability in Practice – The series researches the values and practices which lead to grass route social innovation.
One of the drivers behind the industrial revolution was the developments in the farming industry; this enabled labourers to move to the city and work in new jobs which created large scale economic growth moving society away from extreme poverty. The wealth we experience today is largely due to the ability of the farming community to use new techniques and methods to increase the yield of the crops. The development of new agricultural techniques is therefore important in meeting demand. The issue comes from the development of productivity techniques which are unsustainable and exploit the natural resources of the land. Returning to basics is about using a product which sustainably meets the needs of the community. The steps to achieving this simply require us, as consumers, to value and support sustainable commerce. Throughout the trip to South East Asia I met many social enterprises and they all struggled to engage the consumer, there was however once entrepreneur who was building up an impressive campaign to change public attitude.
Anukool Saibejra is a social entrepreneur with a heart for social change and the courage to go against the grain. Anukool believes that food security cannot be achieved by creating the perfect grain of rice. Instead Anukool promotes the return to a variety of grain; through a large variety in product the market will be more resilient to risks. Raised in a farming community, Anukool is well aware of the challenges of modern farming. His parents invested in his future providing him with an education to get him into a stable career. Anukool didn’t just use this opportunity for himself and instead build up a social enterprise going against the grains of society in order to make a positive difference in his community. After creating communities of farmers who believed in his idea Anukool had to work on changing public attitudes in order to change the consumers behaviour; “Behavior and attitudes consumption […] affects the decline or extinction of genetic local rice”. In order to achieve this Anukool set about creating a product design to engage urban communities with the rural environment. Anukool developed a kit in with which you could grow your own mini rice field and find out about the different types of rice and the challenges facing the rural communities.
Anukool challenged my understanding of sustainable development, presented with the same facts I would push for a large scale solution using innovative methods. This challenge grew as I met the different social entrepreneurs; they were not searching for the perfect scalable solution but a solution that would work in their community. These designers are not searching for recognition in their designs instead they pursue a passion to make a difference on a human level. As a designer I often pursue innovation, searching for a solution that brings about real shift in the design process. The difficulty with innovation is as a designer I get lost in the wonders of creative engineering, pursuing innovation instead of impact. Innovation in design is great but we need to ensure that this is led by a passion for people rather than products. Maybe the radical shift in sustainably consumerism needs to be led by the design community and how we express ourselves; we need to genuinely communicate what inspires us, what we are passionate about and what challenges us. This will enable us to better connect with the consumer and design a product led by the principles of Human Centred Design.
Series 3/3: Engineering Leadership – This series reflects on the process required to successfully turn ideas into action.
Social enterprise is a great idea; its about focusing on impact instead of profit. When trying to make a difference social enterprise can be a great way to build up a sustainable project that will give back to the community. A social enterprise isn’t about a miracle solution to fund your project. It isn’t a free pass to focus purely on impact. A social enterprise is an enterprise designed for social good. Entrepreneurship is about effectively and feasibly moving a project forward. Its about understanding your strengths and weaknesses as well opportunities and threats. Entrepreneurship is about researching and knowing your market, understanding who you can work with and who your potential client are. Entrepreneurship is about understanding what your client wants and how you can deliver it. Entrepreneurship is knowing the impact of your project and having a system in place to measure the impact.
Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be complex, the Young Foundation have developed a social enterprise business canvas. This is a simple way to outline a business structure to your project. To understand who your potential customers may be. EDSI currently has no business or funding structure, it does however have a business canvas. EDSI will continue to build up an understanding of the potential clients and what it could deliver to these clients. EDSI embraces entrepreneurship as an opportunity to build up a sustainable project with an effective impact. EDSI will aim to become a social enterprise and build up quality resources which responds to the mission of “Connecting the Dots Between People and Engineering”.
Leading projects is challenging, it demands perseverance, hard work and a passion to make a difference. The journey over the last few years has been challenging, I have learnt from others, I have learnt from failure, I have learnt by trying. This has however been a fulfilling experience meeting passionate and amazing people. Working on projects that I am passionate about and building up EDSI has been a fascinating and exciting experience. I cannot wait to see where EDSI will go and what impact it will have. If this series has encouraged you to start you own project or to get involved with EDSI I would welcome your feedback and questions: you can find my detail here.