This is the latest blog from Mary Kiguru who manages the Sujali Self-Help Group of women entrepreneurs in Nairobi. She wrote this in December and it fills in some of the gaps from the previous entry sent following Mike Calvert’s visit in late November. See more posts about the Group and their work with microcredits here.
Linet (see photo of her with her son) has had a blast this holiday. She provided catering for a wedding on Saturday, has been baking every other day for either wedding or a birthday and I think she has orders for cakes for Christmas. On Saturday, I served as one of her cooks alongside Jacinta’s husband Steve as she needed more hands. It was a lot of work but I was able to prepare the spices for them.
Steve makes great Chapatis and Rice. He has been cooking for my mom’s (Susan’s) functions, three of them this holiday. My mom is quite an entertainer. He is booked for so many functions in the area and he performs to perfection. As for Jacinta, she is looking very happy with herself and even went on holiday last week… up country leaving Steve in charge.
Risper is not yet in a position to give up her job in the city but is still keen to do so and devote herself full-time to her horticulture business. Her farm is now full of every kind of vegetable. She wakes up early on Saturday to supply greengroceries with her vegetables. Risper’s great challenge is marketing and this is an area to concentrate on next year.
Elizabeth (who has the salon next to my mum’s shop) has been very busy. Her customers love her and always wait to be served by her. She has the cleanest salon around and is the most expensive in the area. She has defined her clientele, has expanded her cosmetics section (see photos below) and would like to add more items. I admire the way she has learned her skills on the job.
As I think of the impact that Sujali has had, I am pleased that we are able to support these women. It is great to see the difference in their lives. Some of them would not have started their businesses or been so successful without the micro-finance and I’ve seen so many changes in the women and their businesses. The target for 2016 is to reach half a million Kenyan Shillings (including the women’s savings which will be around KES100,000).
Following the recent conference about social enterprise and cross-sector collaboration at York St John University, UK, here are some reflections from participant Sorina Antonescu. This will be the first of several posts which report on and draw out themes of the conference. The conference video can be seen here.
Information about the presentations, round tables, the social economy fair and the learning workshops is on the conference website.
Round table at the conference
There are many pressing issues in the world. The list is not exhaustive but to name a prominent few, there is widespread endemic poverty and destitution, in part exacerbated by the widening gap between the few rich and the many poor in industrialised and developing countries alike; we hear of local wars and sectarian conflicts in Europe, the Middle East and Africa which perpetuate social and gender injustice, generating mass-scale human suffering locally and across entire regions of the globe; we become more aware of the creeping environmental devastation prompted by hundreds of years of unhindered industrial development, made possible by the major extractive industries and the spike in the burning of fossil fuels globally; we experience heavy urban pollution in high population density areas which, in conjunction with all the above, contribute to the increased unpredictability of our changing climate, the formation of water stressed areas and regional crop failure; we witness tense diplomatic relations and a hardening of people’s views and attitudes to migration, echoed in the governments’ response at the mass exodus of refugees fleeing unrest in their war-torn countries.
All this, operating in a global economic system that has led to unprecedented flow of capital and resources to a select few while exposing entire economies to a fragile global market, adapted to suit a neo-liberal ideological framework that has enriched a concentrated elite at the expense of the environment, of the people and of the planet’s biological systems as a whole.
There is a consensus amongst leading economists, academics, world leaders and numerous ordinary citizens that we tolerate a global economic system that is unsustainable and we acknowledge the need to reform it in line with environmental and human needs. From this realisation, arises a mutual understanding that any alternative economic models capable to cater for human and environmental well-being must necessarily tap into human ingenuity for finding innovative solutions to bring people together in a common enterprise for a sustainable future.
One of the many possible solutions for a more equitable future is the creation of social entrepreneurship cultures. According to Davies (2002, p.4), there is no one single definition of social entrepreneurship and any attempt to do so would be an injustice to what is a historically complex and multi-faceted concept. In support of her view, she quotes Stanford Professor Gregory Dees (1998) who states that ‘In common parlance, being an entrepreneur is associated with starting a business, but this is a very loose application of a term that has a rich history and a much more significant meaning’ (as cited in Davies, 2002, p.4). Yet attempts have been made to capture some of the finer characteristics of social entrepreneurship in academic and popular circles. ‘People now combine notions of innovation, catalysing change, seizing opportunity and demonstration resourcefulness into the definition. Often people ascribe a particular ‘mind-set’ to entrepreneurs that exhibit common traits such as single-mindedness, drive, ambition, creative, problem solving, practical, and goal-oriented’ (ibid).
Davies continues to add that the concept was further refined in the 20th century when entrepreneurs began to be described as innovators and as drivers of change in the economy by tapping into new markets and finding new ways of putting ideas into practice. Nowadays, the function of entrepreneurs has expanded to encompass those who ‘reform or revolutionise the pattern of production (…) by exploiting an invention, or, more generally, an untried technological possibility for producing a new commodity or producing an old one in a new way, by opening up a new source of supply of materials or a new outlet for products, by reorganising an industry and so on.’ (ibid). However, the expansion of social entrepreneurship cultures into fully fledged economic global systems is no small feat. It presupposes perseverance, innovative thinking, and the ability to overcome ideological and practical hurdles.
This is where the three year-long Erasmus Mundus Project led by York St John University, steps in to address the need to promote social entrepreneurship cultures for sustainable development. The culmination of this ambitious project was a three day International Conference on Social and Solidarity Economy which took place at the beginning of September 2015. The Erasmus Mundus Social and Solidarity Economy Conference, which brought together delegates from Latin America, Canada, Europe and Africa, provided a much needed platform for entrepreneurs, academics, students and others, to partake in developing solutions, sharing ideas and exchanging insights into the challenges as well as opportunities available to promote the practice of cross-sector collaboration.
Having attended this momentous event, I would like to relate some personal insights into the knowledge derived and to attempt to re-create the atmosphere generated by some outstanding people, a great deal of intellectual exchanges, challenging questions, delicious food and friendly banter. As a member of the audience, I want to share my experience and how it opened my horizons to a world that in the wise words of Indian novelist Arundhati Roy ‘is not only possible, she is on her way’ (World Social Forum, 2003)
I will then begin by introducing what was in essence the theme of the conference, namely,
How can higher education foster interactions between the current economic systems (public, private and social) to promote social enterprise cultures for human-centred, sustainable development in our communities?
According to Forrer, Key and Boyer (2014), the notion of cross-sector collaboration, refers to a multi-party combined effort, which includes professionals from various fields ( which can be academic in nature, economic, social and/or environmental), who use their personal experience, insights and expertise to find solutions to current socio-politico-economic issues (as cited in the conference manual, 2015, p.4) . At the heart of cross-sector collaborative efforts lies an implicit demand for ‘mutual respect, solidarity, common good, and respect for the environment’ (ibid).
In this context, universities were identified as central to ‘enhancing the studies and practice of social and solidarity economy in higher education’’ (ibid, p.7) by tapping into the notion of cross-sector collaboration for social aims. In other words, universities play a fundamental role in nurturing core human values and making the best of their available resources to set up, develop and let out into the world graduates with an alternative vision of how we think of entrepreneurship. This includes long term and lucrative social projects which place human well-being above a purely market-driven economy. To various lengths, HEIs are a self-contained microcosm able to look in retrospect, experiment and challenge pre-defined societal values, values which, at least in the context of the industrialised world, have, for over 30 years now, been primarily defined by a neo-classical laissez-faire economic mind-set. Perhaps the greatest paradox lies in the fact that while we live in a highly globalised world, where the exchange of goods, consumables and resources is without precedent, we lack the kind of interconnectedness required to raise the millions of people currently living in abject poverty in what has become known as Les Tiers Monde (Chari & Corbridge, 2008, p.6).
Some of the main objectives of the conference involved ascertaining new ways to enhance effective collaborative practices among different professionals. Whether they appertain to the world of academia, the business sector, or whether these are self-driven individuals, the aim was to figure out ways to enable different actors to work together on the development of a social and solidarity economy that can be applicable at a local, national and international scale. In order to do so, the conference encouraged the exchange of research, studies and real-life examples of cross-sector collaboration practices that are currently being promoted by universities and organisations across Latin America, Europe, Canada and Africa.
Chari, S. & Corbridge, S. (2008). The Development Reader. London: Routledge.
Davies, S. (2002). Social Entrepreneurship: Towards an Entrepreneurial Culture for Social and Economic Development. International Board Selection Committee, Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. Prepared by request for the Youth Employment Summit, September 7-11, 2002.
Erasmus Mundus. (2015). Universities Developing Social Entrepreneurship through Cross-Sector Collaboration Conference, York St John University, York.
Roy, A. (2003). Life after Capitalism, World Social Forum. Porto Allegre, Brazil.
An update on Sujali, the Nairobi women’s group of entrepreneurs involved in micro-finance. The group met at a local hotel and the photo captures seven of the group with some of their family members. Click here for previous posts on the Sujali Self-Help Group
By Mike Calvert and Mary Kiguru
Those following the story of Sujali will recall that Daisy, Jacinta’s cow had a calf, Buttercup, earlier this year. The good news is that she is now expecting again in April. Buttercup is doing well and she herself will be able to produce in a few years’ time. Jacinta is borrowing more money to build accommodation for the young one. She was offered KES60,000 for Buttercup but wants to hold on to her investment. The fund, including their savings, is now approaching half a million Kenyan Shillings (KES350,000 capital + 50,000 interest + 77, 000 of their own savings).
Alice continues to expand her egg producing business. She currently has 2,800 chickens at different age intervals so as to ensure continuity of laying. She has borrowed KES105, 000 at the moment to purchase another flock and balance her cash flow. Next year, she is looking to buy a half acre plot for KES1million which is the equivalent of £7,000 and has ambitious plans to put up more sturdy buildings and increase her flock to 5,000. She has a Toyota van which she uses to deliver the eggs and continues to market them on WhatsApp as well as sell to her regular customers. This is a far cry from the 500 chickens she started with and the KES22,000 loan that got her started.
The other women are reporting modest gains and a new loan will enable Rosemary to change direction completely from selling scrap metal to opening a boutique. She also hopes to train as a hairdresser so as to have two earning opportunities.
In short, the Sujali women are looking forward to 2016 with a degree of confidence. Watch this space.
Mary Kiguru reports on the outcome of the students’ entry in a national competition in Kenya. An earlier entry talks of the involvement of university students in the support of the Sujali women entrepreneurs in Nairobi.
The ENACTUS Team at Kenya Methodist University participated during the 2015 National ENACTUS Competition. The competition brought 9 universities together. Each demonstrated the impact they are having in the community through entrepreneurial action. It was amazing what the students are doing to empower their communities. The ENACTUS team at KeMU demonstrated that training and mentoring can make a big difference even to those who have never been to school. The team performed well and came second in their group. The team captured in the photo above as they came out of the Kenya International Conference Centre shows Macharia, Tichi, Joy, Yvonne and Benjamin fresh from their ordeal.
The team has working with Jacinta on record keeping, basic financial management and waste management. Jacinta’s canteen is now cleaner, attracts more clientele and is better organized. Jacinta has employed her husband who has expressed interest in enrolling in classes in cooking to improve on his on-the-job acquired skills. He is now more focused on cleanliness after the training with the students and is developing his social skills with customers.
Linet is more confident after the interaction with the students. She has designed posters to promote the training she is offering on baking. This will complement her baking service which is growing as orders come in for birthday and wedding cakes and she has regular orders for local clients.
Alice, the thriving chicken farmer, is now on WhatsApp marketing. Our students are keen on social media marketing and it was great that Alice is also ready for it. She will soon be having marketing space on Facebook. She now has 3200 chickens and the number is growing. She is looking to either obtain more land or have more than one level for keeping the chickens.
We will be looking carefully at the impact that Sujali is having on the social and economic aspects of the women’s lives. While some of the women are thriving, there are inevitably several who are not progressing at the same rate and still finding difficulties in managing their businesses on top of their busy lives and commitments.
Mike Calvert from York St John University drafted this blog during a recent visit to Nairobi and this will be followed by other blog entries from the students themselves and Mary Kiguru. For more on the story of the Sujali women click here
The five advisers outside Jacinta and Steve’s premises
The Sujali story has taken a significant step forward with the news that the university is backing the project by way of supporting the students who are advising the women. You may have read in a previous blog that Mary, who works at Kenya Methodist University (KeMU), had recruited some Business Studies students to advise the women on bookkeeping and basic finance. It transpires that the original group of three female students, Joy, Yvette and Tichi has been augmented by the arrival of two male students, Benjamin and Macharia. Together they represent a formidable team as they each bring a different skill set with knowledge and backgrounds in finance, marketing and PR. Talking to them demonstrates that they are really appreciating the opportunity to engage with a ‘real’ business situation and make a difference. For most of them, this represents a different business world to the one that they usually encounter. They recognise that this is how so many African businesses function and that with a little support, entrepreneurs can make significant changes to their lives.
The project now has a patron (a business studies lecturer), as do other projects that the students come up with. What sets them apart is that they are the only group to submit a proposal this year for a prestigious award by the organisation Enactus which brings university, business and community together. It has previously been mentioned that KeMU has a strong community mission. This project fits well with this ethos and has attracted the attention of senior management in the Nairobi campus. The group has been given a budget and the university minibus has been put at their disposal for visits to the community. This is a significant support for the students and Sujali.
Two of the children with Buttercup, the recent calf – Daisy’s daughter.
The students are looking to support all the women but are focusing particularly at the moment on Jacinta (cafe/shop/cows) who has the most diverse portfolio and is having difficulty with basic bookkeeping to the extent that she has lost her book! The money is coming in but she does not know where from and which income stream is the most beneficial.
What the students also offer is business acumen. They can look at her business with fresh eyes and see how she can maximise what she has and grow sustainably. They have already suggested changes which will help her expand the cafe (by taking away a partition wall) and moving the vegetables outside (to improve on hygiene).
Within the framework of York St John-led Erasmus Mundus project about the social and solidarity economy, the Institute of Cultural Affairs, Spain, has started on a crowdfunding campaign through the Spanish solidarity platform ‘GOTEO’
The campaign is aiming to create and unite a network of SUPER COMMUNITY ENTREPRENEURS, starting with 5 who come from Cuba, Argentina, Peru, Mexico and Finland. They have demonstrated their commitment and action in developing successful experiences and good practices in social and solidarity economy: an economic model which puts people and the environment before the accumulation of money and which works to reduce social inequality, create secure employment and social marginalisation.
The meeting place and launch of the network will be during the international conference ‘Universities developing social entrepreneurship’, held from 1-3 Sept in York, United Kingdom. www.yorksj.ac.uk/sseconference
We believe it is important for them to be present at the conference so that their achievements and good practices can be made known. In addition they will work on a joint strategy to share their practices, both academic and in the field.
The call to action is to collaborate, using the crowdfunding platform, Goteo, and so they can participate in the conference and give their direct testimonies as super community entrepreneurs.
With these funds, we can buy their travel tickets and accommodation, which will enable them to participate in the conference.
The Social Economy in Higher Education international project seeks to encourage universities to question what they teach and whether they are teaching a range of relevant economic models for students to engage with. The School of Finance and Economic at Strathmore University in Kenya shows clear commitment to addressing complex social issues in its community.
Interview with the Dean of School of Finance and Economics, Dr John Olukuru and Mercy Kano, Lecturer in the School of Finance and Economics.
Strathmore University is committed to addressing social issues and, as a leading business school in Kenya, sees its role as reaching out to poorer communities. One such community is Mukuru slum in Nairobi where they set out to find solutions for residents regarding regularisation of land tenure, improved housing, infrastructure, sanitation and access to basic services. Funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), a Canadian organisation, they were able to collect data via questionnaires and a series of key informant interviews while enlisting the help of two research assistants who assisted with data analysis and interviewing.
Working in Mukuru, they focused on understanding the dynamics of land tenure and service delivery in the slum and went further to explore innovative financial tools and models to improve the situation in the slum. The research was jointly undertaken in collaboration with University of Nairobi, Katiba Institute and Akiba Mashinani Trust.
The research revealed that in fact there is a great deal of money to be earned in the slums and some business people there do better than some in the city centre. Renting out small one-roomed structures for people paying 2000 shillings adds up if you have 20 or more. There may well be little incentive for the property owners to replace the dwellings with modern houses as their income might drop with fewer dwellings. The university is committed to finding business solutions to these social problems.
Following a recent post by Mary Mutinda and Mercy Kano, here is a further report of work taking place at Strathmore University which is one of the leading HE institutions in work on social economy in Kenya.
Simon is a lecturer in Economics and Agribusiness. He teaches economics on MBA at Strathmore University. The Strathmore Business School (SBS) is divided up into executive programmes and post-graduate programmes. They hope to have a Masters programme in agribusiness in the near future. Simon sets the following examples against a backdrop of the urgent need for Kenya to improve its agricultural production in order to stave off famine and improve the economy. He sees this as an important contribution to the social economy and believes that the university has a role in solving the problems of society. He has been involved in special projects concerned with agribusiness which he describes below.
Last year they carried out two programmes. The first one was coffee business and what interested them was looking to solve the current crisis in the coffee industry. In spite of Kenya’s tradition as a world leader in coffee growing, coffee trees are being cut down and they asked themselves in the business school what they could do to reverse the behaviour. They brought together all the stakeholders in the coffee sector to address the problem (about 25 participants). A major problem is the cartels get all the profits and the farmers are getting very little. This led to fruitful discussions between all the parties concerned. The governor of Nyeri and the head of the coffee board attended. As a result, local leaders are encouraging the farmers not to cut down their trees, there is a greater emphasis on marketing and farmers are being encouraged to cut out the ‘middle man’.
In the second example, as part of a programme ‘Investing in Agribusiness’, they brought together ‘telephone farmers’ ie those city dwellers with their main source of employment in the city but who own land in the rural areas and employ others to run the farms for them. The SBS realised that this group of people do not have a forum or way of engaging with their fellow farmers. They brought together the telephone farmers (again about 25 participants) and those working on the land. They had three days in the classroom, the telephone farmers and other farmers working together, and another three days in the field. They got ‘hands-on’ experience of how the farm work was done.
It is hoped that such initiatives will be linked to the new Masters programme in the future.
People-Centered Economic Development UK (P_CED) is an autonomous social enterprise which has been engaged in Eastern Europe since 1999. Jeff Mowatt from P_Ced has written this article for the blog. The approach taken and described below, of cross-sector collaboration for community benefit, is the theme of our conference 1-3 Sept 2015, in York, UK
Research in Eastern Ukraine began in October 2004, as the Orange Revolution unfolded. With the assistance of local activists from the NGO Maidan it would uncover profound social injustice, of which perhaps the greatest was the treatment of disabled children abandoned to the state.
With the collaboration of Kharkiv National University, in February 2007, P-CED delivered a strategy paper described as a ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine to government channels.
A national social enterprise development centre was one of four main components.
Definitions of social enterprise models were taken from Kim Alter’s Social Enterprise Typology 2006. Among these was private sector partnerships:
“The Private-Sector Partnership Model represents a mutually beneficial relationship between a for-profit company and a nonprofit social enterprise. Relationships are forged on commercial grounds, whereby each partner is a contributor to the commercial success of the venture. The partnership adds value or enhancesthe nonprofit social enterprise by increasing its viability, and hence its social impact, either directly by reaching more clients through its business model, or indirectly by generating funding for social programs. The private partner also benefits vis-à-vis improving goodwill, increasing customer loyalty, penetrating new markets, attracting more socially conscious consumers, etc., which subsequently translates into higher sales and more profit.
“The private-nonprofit partnership model of social enterprise is a mutually beneficial business partnership or joint venture between a for-profit company and a nonprofit organization. The partnership may occur with an existing social enterprise, or may result in the creation of a new entity or a profit center. The social enterprise may or may not be mission-related and leverages the nonprofit organization’s assets, such as relationships with their target population, community, brand, or expertise. For the for-profit, the partnership yields one or more of the following benefits: lowers costs (cheaper labor/lower research and development costs); reduces restrictions (no strict regulatory oversight); improves community relations or public image; enables new product development; penetrates new markets; or increases sales. Partnership benefits for the nonprofit are financial return, marketing and brand equity, and in cases where the activity is mission-related, social impact. The market is most often external–the public, but examples exist where the paying customer and the client are one. The private-nonprofit relationship may be structured as a joint venture, a licensing agreement, or formal partnership.”
In earlier work P-CED had argued that capitalism could be redirected to serve the interests of community rather than maximise shareholder returns. This point was reiterated in the ‘Marshall Plan’
“Enterprise is any organizational activity aimed at a specific output or outcome. Once the output or outcome – the primary objective – is clear, an organization operating to fulfill the objective is by definition an enterprise. Business is the most prominent example of enterprise. A business plan, or organizational map, provides a reference regarding how an organizational scheme will operate to produce a specific outcome: provision of products or services in a way to create profit. Profit in turn is measured numerically in terms of monetary gains, the “bottom line.”
“This is the function of classic capitalism, which has proven to be the most powerful economic engine ever devised.
“An inherent assumption about capitalism is that profit is defined only in terms of monetary gain. This assumption is virtually unquestioned in most of the world. However, it is not a valid assumption. Business enterprise, capitalism, must be measured in terms of monetary profit. That rule is not arguable. A business enterprise must make monetary profit, or it will merely cease to exist. That is an absolute requirement. But it does not follow that this must necessarily be the final bottom line and the sole aim of the enterprise. How this profit is used is another question. It is commonly assumed that profit will enrich enterprise owners and investors, which in turn gives them incentive to participate financially in the enterprise to start with.
“That, however, is not the only possible outcome for use of profits. Profits can be directly applied to help resolve a broad range of social problems: poverty relief, improving childcare, seeding scientific research for nationwide economic advancement, improving communications infrastructure and accessibility, for examples – the target objectives of this particular project plan. The same financial discipline required of any conventional for-profit business can be applied to projects with the primary aim of improving socioeconomic conditions. Profitability provides money needed to be self-sustaining for the purpose of achieving social and economic objectives such as benefit of a nation’s poorest, neediest people. In which case, the enterprise is a social enterprise.”
The primary focus was placing children in loving family homes:
“In this case, for the project now being proposed, it is constructed precisely along these lines. Childcare reform as outlined above will pay for itself in reduced costs to the state. It will need investment for about five years in order to cover the cost of running two programs in parallel: the existing, extremely problematic state childcare scheme, and the new program needed to replace it for the purpose of giving children a decent life. The old program will be phased out as the new program is phased in. After this phase transition is complete, the state will from that time forward pay out less money for state childcare. Children will have a better life, and will be more likely to become healthy, productive assets to the nation rather than liabilities with diminished human development, diminished education, and the message that they are not important – the basis for serious trouble. There is no need whatsoever to give these children less than a good quality of life as they grow and mature. The only problem is reorganization of existing resources.”
In conclusion, the plan put the case for support from forward thinking businesses:
“Project funding should be placed as a social-benefit fund under oversight of an independent board of directors, particularly including representatives from grassroots level Ukraine citizens action groups, networks, and human rights leaders.
“This program provides for near-term social relief for Ukraine’s neediest citizens, most particularly children who normally have least possible influence and no public voice. Over a few years time, the net cost financially is zero. Every component is designed to become financially solvent, through mechanisms of cost-savings and shared revenue with other components. One component, Internet, provides essential communications infrastructure as well as a cash surplus to be used to offset any lingering costs of other components such as childcare, and otherwise goes to a permanent social benefit fund under oversight of the aforementioned independent, citizens-based non-government board of directors.
“Any number of other social enterprises can be created. Furthermore, any number of existing for-profit enterprises are entirely free to contribute any percentage of profits they wish to increase the proposed initial $1.5 billion social investment fund. If for example the total fund comes to $3 billion, that amount would generate at least $300 million per year in a hryvnia deposit account at any one of several major Ukrainian banks, to provide ongoing funding to continue to create and expand social enterprises.
“This strategy places adequate funding for social benefit under control and management independent of government and the very obvious vicissitudes and conflicts inherent therein.
“This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for “people-centered” economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority – as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether. This is in keeping with the fundamental objectives of Marshall Plan: policy aimed at hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. This is a bottom-up approach, starting with Ukraine’s poorest and most desperate citizens, rather than a “top-down” approach that might not ever benefit them. They cannot wait, particularly children. Impedance by anyone or any group of people constitutes precisely what the original Marshall Plan was dedicated to opposing. Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first — not secondarily, along the way or by the way.”
The Erasmus Mundus Social Economy in Higher Education project is celebrating an international conference in York St John University, UK, from 1st – 3rd Sept, 2015. It is also a celebration of 1000 days of collaborative work about the social economy by universities in the UK, Bolivia, Peru, Portugal and Spain.
Called Universities developing social entrepreneurship through cross-sector collaboration, we have leading international researchers and practitioners attending as well as a number of people who have less well-known, but highly interesting and relevant stories to tell about how universities can successfully put social purpose and community development at the centre of their activities. For more information, to register and to submit an abstract for a presentation or poster see the conference website >>
Delegates will be attending from Latin America, North and South America and Europe. Some of the participants explain why they will be attending in the video. The conference will be held in English and Spanish with interpretation.
The Mukuru slum, made up of the Mukuru kwa Njenga and Mukuru kwa Reuben, is an informal settlement area covering approximately 450 hectares and lying approximately 6Km South East of Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya.
The majority of the food and vegetable businesses are run by women entrepreneurs popularly referred to as “Mama Mboga” (Vegetable mom). In the traditional African culture a woman will be left to take care of the home and children. In the cases where the woman ventures out to work it will commonly be to step into the shoes of the absentee male provider (who has either died or disserted the family) or in a few occasions to substitute family income due to growing demands. The “Mama Mboga” is therefore typically a single parent with children attending school.
The vegetable business operates at three levels. There is the large scale market vendor – usually stationed at Muthurwa market or Wakulima (Swahili for ‘Farmers’) Market also commonly referred to as Marikiti. The two markets are about 10 kilometers from Mukuru. Vegetables here are sold in bulk of 50 kg gunny sacks or 10 – 20kg large crates. The best bargains are between 4am and 5am local time. Vendors will pay about KES30 – KES40 (£0.22 – £0.29) for public transport to the market.
The second tier is the ‘wholesale’ Mama Mboga stationed within Mukuru. These will typically be the women who trade in margins from bulk purchases from Muthurwa and Marikiti. They are usually stationed along the main roads accessing Mukuru and operate an open air setup spreading out their goods. They will sell their goods in quantities of smaller crates or buckets.
The third tier is the ‘small scale’ Mama Mboga who will operate within the small streets in Mukuru. They will operate from small stands usually an extension to their residential homes and will package their vegetables in smaller quantities into plastic bags for ease of purchase by their customers.
Whereas the startup capital for third tier level business can be as low as KES1,000 (£7.30), scaling up the business from the third to the first tier requires significant capital outlay especially for stock. Interviews with the Mama Mboga revealed that the majority would seek such capital from informal peer-to-peer lending systems operating within Mukuru.
However, with weak social ties characteristic of urban settlements where the average length of residency is just 5 years, how do such informal lending systems form and how are they sustained over time? The finance team, a constituent team of an ongoing research into improving access to justice and basic services in informal settlements in Kenya, conducted in-depth interviews and observation of operations with four randomly selected savings group schemes in the Mukuru settlement between 10th and 14th November 2014 with the aim of deepening its understanding of members’ ability to repay loans within an urban settlement where social ties are relatively loose.
A key question that the team sought to understand is whether there exists an optimal group characteristic and what are the embedded social ties that enable proper functioning of the scheme.
The team made the following observations:
Membership of around 12 – 15 seems to be the ideal size. From interviews with members, a number which equates to the months in a year makes it easier to manage and it does not take long before all the members receive their money in case of a merry-go-round. In fact groups with large initial membership tend to break up or lose members until an optimal size is achieved.
Locality is the major tie on which the formation of these groups is based on with very weak family ties observed. This explains why migration of members is the major cause of lapses.
Collection of contributions is conducted manually by an appointed accountant within the group who circulates a contributions book to individual members. In most cases this was conducted during group meetings with three of the groups indicating they applied a penalty for non-attendance.
There was generally a high frequency of contribution collection (weekly or daily) with amounts ranging between KES20 to KES200 (£0.15 – £1.46). The frequency of the collection meant that contributions were small thereby reducing chances of default.
Submit an abstract for a presentation or poster by 20th April, 2015
The conference will give an opportunity to share practice and experiences of universities in teaching and researching social entrepreneurship and business for social purposes. Meet and interact with delegates from 4 continents. Participants so far confirmed from the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Cuba, Colombia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Spain, UK, Uruguay. It will be held at York St John University, in the centre of York.
Benefits of participating:
Learn about the ‘social and solidarity economy’ in Latin America and the role of universities in this.
Learn about best practices in curriculum design
Take part in learning workshops about crowdfunding and facilitative leadership.
Meet representatives from the British Council, UK and Canada and the European Union policy officer for higher education and innovation.
Meet people involved in running social enterprises in the York area, in a social enterprise fair.
Meet people from universities worldwide to explore potential strategic partnerships for projects and bids for funding.
Contacts among delegates with similar interests will be fostered before the start of the conference.
The conference will be held in English and Spanish, with interpretation and people on hand to facilitate your conversations with colleagues from English/Spanish speaking countries! A limited amount of accommodation is available on campus at affordable prices.
Interconnectedness as the key to achieving transformative change
In the previous issue, it was established that in order to adopt and implement a sustainability ethos across the university curricula, campus operations, research and outreach, HEIs have the moral and practical obligation to model SD as a fully integrated system. This would follow a top-down approach where a strong and committed university leadership appoints a select SD committee to overlook and produce educational material that empowers lecturers and faculties to incorporate with relative ease the concept of SD in their respective teaching domains. This, coupled with outside classroom experience of SD achieved through campus restructuring, would raise student awareness of SD through practices that would make them alert to their individual waste generation and resource consumption. One proposed solution entailed undertaking SD induction courses, similarly to the academic integrity tutorials which students are required to complete at the start of their undergraduate programme. The difference would lie in the fact that unlike the one-off academic integrity tutorial session, the SD course would be an on-going, compulsory module. It would bear the same weight as the discipline oriented introductory modules which are often given priority to enable students to progress to their next academic year. These activities would be carried out in an environment that allows the flow of information back to the top management, with lecturers, administrative staff and students being able to provide constructive feedback, ask for further assistance, give advice or offer suggestions. The system would also allow for inter-departmental collaboration and information exchange at all levels, in order to facilitate and help speed up the SD process. The university leadership would be in tune with the success rate of their policies based on specially developed SD measurements. Read more >>
1. Universities and the Challenge of Larger Systems Interactions
According to Velazquez et al. (2006, p. 812) a sustainable university can be defined as
A higher educational institution, as whole or as a part that addresses, involves and promotes, on a regional or global level, the minimisation of negative environmental, economic, societal and health effects generated in the use of their resources in order to fulfil its function of teaching, research, outreach and partnership, and stewardship in ways to help society make the transition to sustainable lifestyles.
Similarly, Cole (2003, p.30) envisages a sustainable campus community as
(…) one that acts upon its local and global responsibilities to protect and enhance the health and well-being of humans and ecosystems. It actively engages the knowledge of the university community to address the ecological and social challenges that we face now and in the future.
Undoubtedly, statements similar to the ones outlined above stand proof to the well-intended, ambitious and even visionary nature of their authors. Yet, despite their far-sighted goals, these relatively broad and abstract views fail to provide the genuine contribution required to compile a comprehensive and detailed guide, narrower in scope, such that it becomes possible to take the proactive steps necessary to turn this seemingly impracticable feat of sustainable-universities-leading-by-example into a tangible reality. Read more >>