Do not be Sudan – Consider Social Entrepreneurship
Posted on 13 May, 2019 at 15:08
By Luxon Kalonga
I can imagine what may have been going through his mind as the years went by. He witnessed his kin perishing to the guns of ruthless and greedy poachers who only cared about the precious horns on his head. Having found refuge in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya with a few other northern white rhinoceros, Sudan must have been wishing that somewhere beyond the horizon existed a crash of his own species. With Sudan’s only other buddy having passed away in 2014, the same year that he was retired from his mating role, the world could only hope that northern white rhinos’ passage to oblivion would be avoided by crossbreeding Sudan’s daughter and granddaughter with southern white males; this also failed. In April 2014, Sudan became a favourite hunk as conservationists created an account for him on the dating app Tinder in an attempt to raise funding for the development of the IVF artificial fertilisation technique for rhinos, which has not seen breakthrough to date. The last male northern white rhino, Sudan ascended to the afterlife on the 19th of March 2018. In order to curb poaching and improve the management of elephants and ivory, Heads of States for countries who are part of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area have met in Kasane Botswana. Such syndication will help in preventing Sudan’s ordeal from happening to our beloved elephants.
One can argue that more could have been done over the last few decades to minimise rampant poaching which threatened the existence of delicate species like the rhinoceros. If today’s intense safety measures for endangered species had been implemented earlier in the 21st century, Sudan may not have been the last northern white rhino, we would still have more of his kind in the jungle. Species like rhinos, elephants, tigers and giant pandas, which are just as endangered, bring balance to the ecosystem and enhance diversity in the world’s fauna. Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) work tirelessly to bring equilibrium in this hugely capitalist world by ensuring better livelihoods in vulnerable and underprivileged communities, advocating for vital humanitarian issues, assisting governments in carrying out various functions for their citizens and generally making the world a better place for all to live. Synonymous to the way poachers condemned endangered species to extinction, economic crises experienced in the past two decades have left governments cash strapped hence reducing focus on activities considered to have less economic benefit. Funds for NPO activities have been continuously on a nosedive as many are turning to their funding pool to enable project implementation. For example, since 2017 the United States of America has been cutting expenditure on international organisations threatening critical issues such as global peace initiatives, poverty eradication and public health. The environment is also threatened by the United States ending funding for UN climate change programmes. The very existence of NPOs that bring balance to humanity is threatened.
There is urgent need for NPOs to build viable sustainability models in order for them to continue positively impacting the world.. One of the ways to ensure sustainability is the creation of social enterprises whose proceeds would be utilised for various development issues within the scope of the different organisations. Defined as organisations that apply commercial strategies to maximise improvements in financial, social and environmental well-being, social enterprises are an ideal way to achieve NPO objectives in a capitalist world. An NPO can register a separate social enterprise in any form of business then dedicate the profits to advance its core activities, hence reducing reliance on donors. We discuss some of the key success factors in establishing successful social enterprises:
There is an opportunity cost associated with creating a social enterprise. Since it is essential a business venture, the social entrepreneurs involved need to be dedicated enough to forgo the potential personal gain that they would enjoy from the profits to be generated by such ventures. The social entrepreneurs need to be genuinely dedicated to their main social goal, otherwise there will be no impact realised as the promoters would opt for utilising the business’ proceeds for their own benefit. It is essential that the main vision be specified from the onset and all the parties involved buy into that vision.
Social enterprises bring together the entrepreneurial skills of the private sector and the ethos and values of the public sector. Therefore, they need a healthy mix of private sector and developmental mindsets. It is essential that key staff in a social enterprise understand the vision and mission. The earning potential in social enterprises man not match that of the private sector. This also presents another opportunity cost on social enterprise staff. They may need to take their earnings variance as a donation for social purpose.
In order to have a viable and sustainable social enterprise sector in a nation, there is need for a wide variety of support structures in place. Social entrepreneurship needs to be integrated in the educational curriculum so that it becomes an option for career pursuit. Schools and universities need to have career programmes that support social entrepreneurship in order to breed a generation of selfless individuals who not only seek financial gain, but also consider the development of their societies. The government also needs to be supportive of these enterprises, for example provisions may be made to ensure that social enterprises obtain a specified minimum percentage of government contracts.
Due to the changing economic environment and government policy, Non-Profit Organisations may not be able to adequately finance social enterprises through grants. There is need for diverse sources of financing – from loans to equity. Venture capitalists should also consider financing these enterprises where they may start off demanding a huge chunk of profits then gradually reduce their required dividend yield until they exit the enterprise. The United Kingdom has seen the emergence of venture philanthropists such as UnLtd and Impetus PEF that provide management, monitoring and evaluation support to social enterprises in addition to funding. Financial Institutions should also consider providing loans to social enterprises at lower rates as part of their social responsibility initiatives.
Social entrepreneurship is just one of the many ways of preventing the extinction of Non-Profit Organisations. Other methods such as fundraising and member contributions should also be explored to ensure that the organisations will not suffer the fate of Sudan.