Social entrepreneurship: Getting equipped
Social entrepreneurship: Getting equipped
In the second part of this series, Queen’s Young Leaders, Tony Joy and Aditya Kulkarni share their tips on involving community and partners as well as finding the right model for your social enterprise.
Before starting a social enterprise, understand the problem and reality of the environment you intend to work in. Don’t assume. If you do, you have failed from the start.
“Community must be involved in their process of change if it is going to be sustainable,” says Tony.
Aditya adds, “First of all, go into the field and identify the exact problem then create solutions as per the needs shown by the people that you are going to impact. If you assume certain things and tailor your solutions to those illusions, it might be the case that the problem actually doesn’t exist.”
Get more people involved
Today’s social problems require new types of solution, but these solutions do not come about by working in isolation. Tony says this process requires a lot of simplicity, sacrifice and listening to people.
CareNx training in a community at Baddi, Himachal Pradesh, Himalayas. Image credit: CareNx
Aditya recommends organising outreach, talking to people, partnering with organisations and keeping up with discussions on matters you are passionate about.
“You also need to be in tune with the reality of the community you are serving so that you can fashion ways to solve their problems,” says Aditya. “Be ready to work in the field and be an inspiration to people who are working with you.”
Know your partners
Social entrepreneurs’ successes are defined by how many lives their business touches and how far their businesses are improving the world. They do this in collaboration with community stakeholders and other development partners.
For this reason, Aditya says it is important for social entrepreneurs to identify their partners in progress, the beneficiaries of their project and the specific ways they want to create impact.
“Don’t make assumptions,” Aditya warns. “If you don’t belong to their community, get to know them. Otherwise, you will not understand their reality and it will be difficult to figure out the right model to reach out to them.”
Durian collaborates with another social enterprise to make eco-friendly sanitary pads from plantain stems. Image credit: Durian
Tony also advises social entrepreneurs to educate themselves on the customs and traditions of the community they intend to work with.
“Keep your prejudice to yourself,” she says. “Pay attention to the community and understand how they work. It may not be easy at the beginning but over a period of time, the community will buy into the project and they will own it.”
Create your own business model
Finding the right business model for your social enterprise is a difficult but important task. “This is because nobody would have the experience for the exact project you are handling,” says Aditya.
“If you are running a startup, you may look at the experience of other startups that are successful in the past and probably get it right. But in social enterprise, it is very hard to follow a specific model.”
A healthcare worker with a Mother Care kit
Aditya recommends making your business affordable and acceptable to large organisations like the government.
“The sustainable business model has to be from the bottom up. If your impact is bottom-up, then your approach will be thumps up,” he says.
Doing it for the right reasons
Tony warns against being attracted to social enterprise in the hope of winning glory.
“Today, there is an award for virtually everything, including volunteering and starting a social enterprise. As a result, there are some people who are not really passionate about tackling social issues. Instead they are attracted by the glory and awards they can get.”
But running a social enterprise requires heavy commitment, hard work and – Aditya and Tony both agree – a very specific skill set.
“Without skills, you cannot successfully run a social enterprise,” says Tony. “Even if you have a natural talent, you still need certain skills to fully understand how to run your social enterprise.”
She adds,“If you are not passionate about social issues, don’t attempt to start a social enterprise.”
Read part one of this series, Social entrepreneurship: The business of making change.