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 >>
Article written by Mary Kiguru, founder and mentor of the Sujali Self-Help Group, Nairobi, Kenya. For more articles about the remarkable journey of these women and the way they have transformed their businesses with microcredits, please click here.
It was Valentine’s day, so I decided to visit Sujali group of women … to talk about love for our businesses. I visited five of the women. It was a hot morning, 28°C and dusty… not the kind of weather a farmer desires, but we have to deal with this.
Rispa is a farmer but the weather does not deter her efforts in anyway. She is always determined. I found her busy in her farm. She has a green house, she has just completed harvesting tomatoes, but due to the heat, there have been terrible flies laying eggs in the tomatoes. But to supplement her tomatoes she planted “Pili Pili Hoho” aka Paprika/Capsicum and has a nursery for Spinach. Amazingly, after such blazing heat on this day, clouds formed and it RAINED that night and has been rained ever since Valentine’s night!
Elizabeth was doing what she loves doing most… making hair. We have been discussing about expanding her business. Our last discussion with her was about engaging someone on commission to do what she is not able to do and to assist when she has many clients. Here she is shaping a client’s eyebrows. Elizabeth has been able to diversify her business by adding a unit to sell beauty products.
Susan’s business is also looking up. Besides selling clothes, she has added more of the hair products and other cosmetics. Susan does not restrict her business to the premise in Ruai, she also supplies to people in other locations during the weekend. She has been thinking of taking the clothes to the market during market days. Most important is that her and Wacuka, her assistant, have improved in their book keeping. Susan pays herself a salary to ensure that any profits are ploughed back in to the business.
Next, I visited Jacinta. Jacinta is the proud owner of Daisy, pregnant Daisy. I did not realize how long it takes a cow to bring its calf into the world. It has been so long, but now she looks ready to pop out. Daisy is not her main preoccupation but rather the “HOTEL”. Even though it was 28°C, people were taking tea. This is Kenya, it does not mean just because its hot, you will be taking ice cream … Tea is our thing and with “Mandazi”, something like a doughnut.
Alice, her chicken business has never been better and the goats too. I however admired how fast the chicken grow. The newest chicks will start laying in two-weeks’ time. She still cannot meet the demand for eggs and has to work with neighbors to meet the demand. With the loan acquired in December, she put a watering system that makes it much easier for her and her assistant. Alice has decided to ensure that she pays herself a salary. While she pays her assistant KES150.00 (1.07 pound equivalent) per day, she pays herself KES200.00 (~£1.42 Pounds) per day.
These chicks are 3.5 months old. They start laying in two weeks’ time. Please note the red thing in the center. That is the watering system.
I was not able to visit Linet, Eunice and Rosemary. During our meeting, Linet was able to clear her loan and applied for a bigger loan of KES50,000. Linet runs a food canteen and now has orders for wedding cakes in April. She plans to buy an oven in readiness for baking.
Although January is a slow month, Eunice business was picking up after the Form one selection in February. She took an overdraft of KES10,000.00 to meet the demand during this season.
Rosemary runs a hardware shop dealing with scrap metal. They target farmers putting up chicken houses. She took a loan of KES70,000 to increase her stock.
Sujali is looking up. We have students interested in working with the women. They will be visiting them this Thursday to get acquainted. They already see Sujali as their project.
HEIs and the greater society: where do they stand?
It is a truth universally acknowledged amongst our government representatives, economists and the mainstream media that we’re living in a time of austerity characterised by economic, social and political shortcomings. Yet, universities are seen as defiant relative to the current state of the world.
At first sight, HEIs seem to thrive; new institutions are being founded and student numbers applying for university courses are constantly on the rise; they are major local and national employers, and governments in developed and developing countries alike deem them crucial in the strive for wealth creation and GDP growth. Only a relatively few existing sources on the other hand, strive to question the fundamental role universities play in the societies that they represent. Any voices outlining the contrary, namely, that universities are in a state of crisis is seen as a notion lining on the verge of the absurd (Cullingford, 2004).
The rise of science parks on university premises and their expanding industrial links, particularly as part of their curricula and research operations, stand as testimony to the fundamental role universities play in the modern economy. At the same time, HEIs are increasingly subject to external control and government interference. In this context, it becomes imperative to ask whether the prevalent competition between universities at the level of funding and research operations, or the fact that increasingly, they are subject to external influence, has had any impact on the foundational role of a university from which stems their their ability to challenge dominant societal trends. While the points discussed so far seem to contradict any suggestion that there is a need to re-assess the role of HEIs in the modern world, it is worth prodding into their past, and touch on some of the values that a university stood for in times preceding our own.
Historically, the role of HEIs has been to challenge the dominant issues of their times such as religious, socio-cultural, or science-related. At the same time, earlier generations were centred on answering profound questions. These centred on the pursuit of knowledge for a better understanding of the surrounding world and the power of natural elements, at a time when technological breakthroughs had yet to take advent. The purpose of scholarship was to not so much the acquisition of knowledge per se, but rather reaching the core of a problem and the subsequent attempt at finding ways to solve it (Blewitt and Cullingford, 2004; Cortese, 2003; Lozano, 2011; Davis, 2003; Lozano et al., 2011). Read more >>
In this series of four articles written for the Social Economy in Higher Education project by Sorina Antonescu , the concept of sustainability in relation to higher education institutions is discussed.
In this first article, she starts by discussing the notion of sustainability and sustainable development (SD) from a historical perspective and then breaks it down into more specific information; in the second half of the article she narrows the area of SD further to HEIs and provides a number of reasons as to why they are such an optimal starting point for imbuing a sustainable ethos in their curricula, operations, outreach and research.
In the second article (forthcoming), she outlines and develops on the number of setbacks that universities face in institutionalising sustainability into the aforementioned areas both from the perspective of finance, resources, and the prevalent conservative nature of HEIs in maintaining a traditional modularity and specialisation of subjects that somehow clashes with the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability.
In the third article (forthcoming) she outlines the advantages that HEIs have relative to other institutions in society to take the lead and take the first step towards creating a sustainable mindset that is then mirrored in universities’ policies and practices and explains why they are able to do that.
And in the fourth and final article (forthcoming), she outlines a number of successful attempts based on various case studies and attempts to identify the key factors that would enable HEIs to implement sustainability into their curricula, operations, research and outreach.
Sustainable Development and Universities: Combining the New and the Old
1. History and overview of sustainability/ sustainable development
One of the most well-known attempts at defining the concept of sustainable development is found in the Bruntland Report (WCED, 1987). The report, which captures the deliberations of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), a United Nations formal group, aims to find ways to systematically pursue the conservation of the environment at an international scale in light of economic, social and political considerations. (Filho, 200o, p.9)
According to the report,
Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (WCED, 1987, p.16)
The concept of sustainable development is thus a concerted effort to bring together growing concerns on the increasing environmental degradation and interrelated socio-political and economic factors, in order to lay the foundation for a process that links these apparently stand-alone factors to human equity (Hopwood et al., 2005, p.2).
Yet, despite the fact that sustainability or the concept of sustainable development (henceforth SD) permeates the scientific field as a whole (with particular relevance in the earth sciences) the tracing of the concept’s origins remains a challenging task, more so as its wide appeal and applicability to a wide range of societal issues has left it subject to political discourse and rhetoric (Filho, 2000, p.9).
According to Filho (2000, p.9) the use of the concept of sustainability can be traced back to the 1970s to refer to the management of the forestry sector. Sustainability has been synonymous for expressions such as ‘long term’, ‘durable’, ‘sound’ or ‘systematic’ (ibid). However, as Blewitt and Cullingford (2004, p.17) point out,
The problem with the notion of sustainability is that is has become a cliché. Read more >>
Sorina Antonescu is a graduate in English Language and Linguistics from the University of York, with a pervasive and sustained, long-term interest in areas of sustainability and sustainable development, particularly in the context of Higher Education Institutions. Sorina currently works as an independent researcher for the Network of Early-Career Sustainable Scientists and Engineers (NESSE) where she studies the incorporation of sustainability into science and engineering curricula in UK universities. Sorina is also a former intern at Envirocrew CIC and a past contributing writer for Chemistry Review and NOUSE
News: We are delighted that Dr Antonio Cruz, former National Coordinator (Brazil) of the Network of Popular Cooperatives of University Incubators will be speaking at the conference at York St John University, 1-3 Sept 2015
In Latin America and Africa the term social and solidarity economy is used to refer to “organisations that have explicit economic AND social (and often environmental) objectives; and which involve varying forms of co-operative, associative and solidarity relations. They include, for example, cooperatives, mutual associations, NGOs engaged in income generating activities, women’s self-help groups, community forestry and other organizations, associations of informal sector workers, social enterprise and fair trade organizations and networks” (Utting 2013)
Conceptual models of the social and solidarity economy need to reflect the wide diversity of grassroots experiences. Luís Inácio Gaiger and other Brazilian scholars performed mapping and studies of the Social and Solidarity Economy ventures in Brazil in surveys conducted between 1992 and 2009. They created a conceptual and analytical model of enterprises in the solidarity economy, defining criteria in quadrants as below. The model is presented in the table below. (See the original in Portuguese at the bottom of the article).
Gaiger and Corrêa 2010: 162
In quadrant SQ, self-management is linked to democracy, participation and autonomy of the enterprise in its management, relating both to individual partners as organizations and external forces. Cooperation refers to values and practices of mutual collaboration, mutuality and social commitment. As for quadrant EQ, the efficiency of an enterprise relates to its ability to sustain and consolidate itself as a result of its activities. It refers to aspects of economic operation to ensure the survival of the enterprise in the present and not to jeopardise it in the future. Sustainability refers to the ability to generate conditions for follow working in the medium and long term (Gaiger and Corrêa 2010: 162).
The spirit of enterprise is combined with community solidarity. It recognises two logics of action: the instrumental logic of the entrepreneur who needs realism and pragmatism in his/her drive to ensure workable solutions in the realisation of an economic alternative. In balance with this are the ideological values and principles, focusing on the aspiration for personal and social change, requiring commitment to others and above all the conviction that transformation will add social value (Gaiger and Corrêa 2010: 166, 167).
Leading thinkers and practitioners from universities in the field of co-operativism, business through the lense of human rights, enterprise incubators in the solidarity economy and innovation in the public sector will be presenting key notes at the international conference called ‘Universities developing social entrepreneurship through cross-sector collaboration’ 1-3 Sept, 2015 in York, UK. The conference aims to develop and share knowledge about how private, public and social sectors can collaborate to promote entrepreneurial thinking and practice in universities for social purpose.
Dr Rory Ridley-Duff is leading new thinking around models of co-operativism and is co-founder of the Fair Shares Association. His book ‘Understanding Social Enterprise: Theory and Practice is being used by educators and practitioners in four continents.
Dr Saioa Arando is the research co-ordinator of Mondragon Innovation Knowledge, part of the Mondragon Cooperative Group, the largest cooperative in the world and based in the Basque Country in Spain. She has won an award for her work on the economics of participation.
Professor Hiroshi Ishida is working with companies in Japan on sustainability, and approaches his work from the perspective of human rights.
Dr Antonio Cruz has many years of experience in the leadership of enterprise incubators within the ‘solidarity’ economy in Brazil. He has co-ordinated the Brazilian network of university incubators. He takes a critical stance on the involvement of the private sector.
Tim Curtis is an internationally renowned author in the field of social enterprise and social innovation. His focus is on the theory and practice of community organising.
The conference will be held at York St John University in the historic city of York, UK, 1st -3rd Sept 2015. Registration for the conference is open. Information about submitting abstracts for posters and presentations can also be found on the conference web page.