Sujali celebrates its 5th birthday

By Mary Kiguru who has led the Sujali self-help group since the start

Last month I was able to meet the Sujali women who were free and have a meal with them during a visit by Mike Calvert. Understandably, not all could leave their work and meet with us. The news is positive with a number of the members being able to report that things were going well.

Elizabeth, Eunice, Jane, Mike, Alice, Susan and Mary.

Elizabeth, Eunice, Jane, Mike, Alice, Susan and Mary.

Alice continues to grow her chicken business although her husband has stopped the matatu (minibus) business that he was running alongside. Alice is pushing to move to almost 4,000 chickens and still has trouble meeting demand for her eggs. She is looking for larger premises to expand her business.

Jane was struggling with her banana business the last time we met her together earlier in the year but she reports that the drought is past and she is doing well. Bananas are not that common in the area of the city that she lives in and they are at a premium.  As an entrepreneur with an eye for an opportunity, she next wants to open a second hand shoe shop and already has the premises. She is confident that she know what her clientele want and is able to meet their needs.

Elizabeth and Susan are happy with their hairdressing and clothes businesses respectively. Elizabeth has introduced a new income stream to her business: she is selling women’s blouses besides the cosmetics.

The savings are increasing and the women have raised KES124,000 (about £1,000) in savings to supplement the angel investments. We have added one new member, Milkah Wanjiru. Milkah has saved a total of KES4,000 and took out her first loan of KES7,000.

Sujali_JUly_2017bJacinta’s cow, Daisy, just got its third baby. The two babies are now fighting over the milk. She expected a heifer but got a bull. She intends to sell the calf after weaning it since it is not of much value to her. The older calf is female and is expected to start producing milk in the next year. Her hotel business now includes outside catering. She has a full-time employee to assist at the ‘hotel’ (café) and a part-time employee who accompanies Steve, her husband on Saturdays to different functions.

Grace is growing her hotel business and selling charcoal. She has partitioned off part of her space to make way for a shop. She intends to start selling cereals (this in Kenya means beans, maize, rice, etc).

We look forward to what the next five years hold in store for this enterprising group of women.


Update on Sujali self-help group, Nairobi

By Mike Calvert who has been working with the Sujali women from the start almost five years ago

Readers of this blog will be used to following the stories of ‘Chicken Alice’, as Mary calls her who has built new accommodation for the chickens and continues to thrive, of Jacinta with a ‘hotel’, Daisy the cow (the pregnant again) and a new calf who took the name of the deceased Buttercup, of Linet and her cakes who now has a food outlet elsewhere, of Susan, Eunice and Elizabeth and their retail, tailoring and hairdressing businesses respectively.

Sujali Feb 2017Our attention turns to two relatively new members of the group who I had not met before. Both are formidable and a joy to support. Grace came one year ago and left her previous home to look after the business. Her sister-in-law had died leaving two little grandsons who were abandoned as toddlers. She rents a small plot on which she has doubled the size of the ‘hotel’ (cafe), sells charcoal and paraffin, rents out a small room to a church which doubles as a meeting room when not used for services. She has even bigger plans for the business and, after taking out a KES50,000 loan (about £400), she has now borrowed double that having paid off the original loan in 5 months. She wants to have a shop as well and expand the hotel. This is exceptionally good going. Her business seems to be thriving and she has a clear vision.

Jane is a preacher who, along with her fellow preacher husband Livingstone, have taken to cultivating bananas. Livingstone had spent many years in the US and Jane had built their house while he was away with money that he had sent her. Jane needed the loan to extend her plot and widen her cultivation. Recently, her crop has been blighted by a drought and she needs to plan for much better harvesting of water – a particular weakness amongst many Kenyans – a criticism they will freely accept. Bananas grow so quickly in the heat and can yield a good return but many of the ones I saw were withered due to lack of water. Jane has planted out 25 new trees and is hoping that they will take and be fully grown in a year.

As for the finances, Sujali is thriving. The group together continue to save and now have over KES109,000 (about £800) in savings. They have adjusted down the interest rate they pay to 8% (following a drop in the bank rate from 18% up to as high as 24% down to 14%).

Several are behind with their payments and have been given a temporary reprieve by Mary but we are confident that they will honour their debts (especially since some of them have the money (or part of it) in savings). Demand for money constantly increases and Mary has been able to rustle up extra funds to cover any loans that exceeded what there was in the pot. The current balance of funds is KES562,920 which if you take away the initial investment means that they have generated over KES200,000 through savings and interest payments mainly.

In June, we celebrate 5 years of Sujali. Quite an achievement for Mary Kiguru who has run the scheme from the start.

Latest news from Sujali

By Joy Gaki, one of the Mary Kiguru’s KeMU students who has been working with the Sujali women on their business skills. The photos show a picture of Elizabeth’s new hairdressing seat and Jacinta’s café. (July 2016)

Three years since it was set up, the Sujali Self Help group is getting stronger each day. I visited only five women because I did not have much time. The women spent a lot of time with me explaining and showing me how far they have gone. I met up with Alice, Linet, Elizabeth, Wanjiru who works in Susan’s (Mrs. Kiguru’s) shop and Jacinta.

Linet was not in her usual bakery simply because she has opened a kiosk similar to Jacinta’s in Ruai town where she sells food to the locals. By the time I arrived at her kiosk, she was very busy serving customers and all the seats were filled! She looked more confident and bolder than the last time I saw her. It seemed to me that she had applied some of the skills we had trained her on. Linet manages both her bakery and kiosk and seems to be doing just fine.


Elizabeth still works at her hairdressing salon. She has a new seat and the place looks more professional than the last time I saw it. She mentioned to me that the business is growing despite having a competitor right next to her.  Her challenge is getting an assistant because the previous one left after two days.

Wanjiru was new to me and she took me through her activities of the day. She replaced Wacuka the girl we had trained at the shop. Wanjiru was also busy with clients buying clothes, others just window shopping. Because of the inflow of clients, I briefly took her through some of what I shall train her on because it was evident that all the women need a second visit probably with Tichi (another of the five students) and Mary.  She clearly understands the financial management aspects which is crucial to business growth.

Jacinta is still picking up slowly in her kiosk. She has discontinued with the grocery shop for now as produce was being stolen. She is erecting a new structure and it should be complete hopefully before the end of the year. They look forward to shifting the kiosk to the new structure and leaving the old one to be a new grocery store. Jacinta has also connected her kiosk to power which allows her to work longer hours. She has, however, the challenge of repaying back her loan and is still working on her bookkeeping skills. Those of you who have been following the fortunes of Daisy, the cow and Buttercup, her calf will be saddened to learn that Buttercup died. However, the good news is that Daisy has produced a new calf. They have named it Bigtime!

Alice, as always, was very busy and her chicken rearing business has grown tremendously! When I arrived, I found her getting ready to go to market and sell her eggs. She now has her two floor building with lots of chickens. She is doing very well and her clientele has expanded. Her only concern was the goats she currently has because they are not producing as much milk and she needs a better breed.

In conclusion, it is encouraging to see how far the women have moved on since I last saw them. I had to take time out to have a baby and finish my degree!  It was to be expected that they still need more visits and more training.  I’ll report back again when I visit the rest of the group and I know that Mike will be out to see us in November.

Half a million and counting …

The latest report from Mike Calvert on a recent visit to Nairobi. The facts were supplied by Mary  Kiguru and taken from her annual report.

Sujali Self Help Group in less than three years has gone from an initial investment of KES66,000 (£500) to over KES500,000 (almost £4000) thanks to further contributions, interest payments and savings which represent 20% of that sum. This is a considerable achievement for the small group of women entrepreneurs, their mentor, Mary and the KeMU university students who advised them.

From left to right is Susan, Linet cutting the cake and Elizabeth

From left to right is Susan, Linet cutting the cake and Elizabeth

It is pleasing to report that the women are going from strength to strength and taking on quite ambitious projects. As I reported previously, Rosemary has gone for a career change, becoming a shop owner and training to be a hairdresser and run a salon/boutique. Alice is now constructing a more permanent structure to house more chickens. She is using social media to market the eggs and the birds. To meet the demand, she intends to open a shop and bulk eggs from the neighbourhood to supply to the market. At present she provides 63 trays of eggs per day (30 to a tray) at KES9 (about 6p each). That is about £120 per week not counting the extra 50 trays she has to get from her neighbour to meet demand! She aims to get 100 trays per day and have around 4,000 chickens.

Jacinta is expanding her hotel (read café) and awaiting the arrival of Daisy’s second calf and Risper’s crop is grown and ready for market.

The amazing cake in the photo was, of course, baked by Linet with her massive oven and the delicious meal, hosted by Susan, Mary’s mum, was prepared by Linet with some help from Jacinta’s husband Steve.

The Sujali women have a long way to go in terms of business practice (costing, insurance, customer relations) but Mary will be looking for ways of providing the training and support that will take them forward. But, for now, the future is looking optimistic for most of the women and more want to join the group.

Vice Chancellor opens social and solidarity economy conference at York St John

Professor Karen Stanton, the Vice Chancellor of York St John University’s opening speech for the recent  social and solidarity economy conference. It is reported here in full under the conference video.

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Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning and a very warm welcome to York St John University. Welcome, too, to the beautiful city of York, one of England’s most historic and ancient metropolitan centres. I very much hope you enjoy your stay here.

Karen StantonIt is such a great pleasure to see so many visitors and contributors from around the world, including Latin America, Canada, continental Europe, Africa – and the UK of course. Our truly international group also includes 23 delegates from the British Council as part of their Students for Social Impact Scheme. We are also extremely grateful to the European Union for generously funding the Erasmus Mundus Social Economy in Higher Education project which culminates in this three-day conference.

It is also a great pleasure to welcome you in my capacity as the new Vice Chancellor of York St John University. Many of you, of course, will have attended the summer school which took place over the weekend as a precursor to the conference and, as a result, probably know your way around the University better than I do! Why? Well, let me share a secret with you: this is my very first day at York St John. Actually, I have only officially been in post for just over one hour – but it is wonderful to be able to begin my new role among such a distinguished gathering and on such an auspicious occasion.

Your conference theme – Developing Social Entrepreneurship Cultures through Cross-Sector Collaboration – could not be more timely, nor more significant. Just last week, the world’s stock markets were in turmoil as the faltering Chinese economy tried to correct itself and the price of oil fell to a new low. It was a stark reminder of just how inter-dependent and fragile the global economy can be, but it also highlighted the enormous significance of the project we have come together to discuss: the potential impact of socially sustainable alternatives to the current world economic order.

This week’s conference will examine this proposition in detail and address the following question: “How can Higher Education foster interactions between the current economic systems – public, private and social – to promote social entrepreneurship cultures for sustainable development in our communities?”

It is a big question. And over the next three days you will be exploring and discussing potential answers as you consider the outcome of three years’ effort and engagement in this project, which has been led by York St John University. I know the last three years has been a challenging, fascinating and inspirational journey for the York St John team – as it has, I am sure, for all of you here who have been involved in the project.

As we gather together for the culmination of this extensive undertaking, I would like to emphasise a point I make in the conference handbook: what takes place here over the next three days will be a fitting celebration of the coming together of a significant body of knowledge, research and experience which we profoundly hope will have lasting effects for, and well beyond, the participating individuals and institutions.

You may well ask why was a relatively small university in the north of England chosen to lead such a major international project. Well, the answer’s not difficult to find – it is rooted in this University’s deep commitment to community which stretches back almost two centuries and is enshrined in the values of our founding colleges.

That commitment is also reinforced today in the University’s Strategic Plan for 2020 and in our mission statement which, among its aspirations, promises to make “a positive contribution to the world”. The importance of community, collaboration and partnerships – which this conference addresses – have consistently been major themes and objectives for York St John University and are absolutely central to our mission and values.

We also bring leadership from experience. Particularly experience of the peaks and troughs of a highly developed economy. Experience of how the great industrial centres here in the north of England flourished only to gradually collapse. And how innovation and inventiveness has seen our former manufacturing economy replaced by alternatives such as the service economy, the knowledge economy, the growing digital economy, and now – increasingly – the social economy. In our own small way, right here on campus, over the last five years we have also supported 60 small enterprise initiatives through our business ‘incubator’ in the Phoenix Centre, and it may interest you to know that a growing number of these are social enterprises.

In fact, I was delighted to note that four social enterprise projects from the Phoenix Centre feature as one of the most visited posts on the project’s blog, which includes a fascinating range of social enterprise case studies from around the world. One of the York St John social enterprises is a project to ‘rebrand’ dementia and remove the social stigma surrounding this dreadful and debilitating illness. Against the economic context of this week’s conference, it is interesting to observe that this illness, which has been so prevalent in advanced economies, now afflicts an increasing number of low and middle income countries which account for 58% of all cases worldwide, according to the 2015 World Alzheimer Report just published.[1]

But let me return to the blog which has helped chart your remarkable journey to date. It was gratifying to note the diverse nature and quality of the education debate that has also been taking place online. You are all familiar with the blog’s content, of course, but this was the first time I have had a chance to gain a brief insight into the detail of what you have been researching and discussing, and it has given me a greater appreciation of the significance of the work in which you have been engaged and the importance of continuing these endeavours beyond the formal lifespan of the project itself.

Although this particular social economy project may be new to me, the concept of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship is an area in which I have long held an interest. In my previous role as Deputy Vice Chancellor at Glasgow Caledonian University, I was privileged to meet and work alongside Professor Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Laureate – and indeed one of the world’s most decorated citizens – who will be known to many of you for his pioneering work in microfinance.

In his role as GCU’s Chancellor, Professor Yunus helped my last University to facilitate the launch of his Grameen bank-style lending system in the UK. And its first loans are now helping a number of small social enterprises to flourish in some of the poorest parts of Glasgow. The Grameen system, which earned Professor Yunus the honorific, the ‘Banker to the Poor’, has helped lift millions of people out of poverty worldwide and now operates in more than 80 countries.

Since Professor Yunus first launched his micro-lending concept in the late Seventies, much has changed of course and the social economy has become more sophisticated with the flourishing of social enterprises such as credit unions, not-for-profits, and co-operative, community-driven business initiatives in both developing and developed economies alike. For the last three years, you have been critically examining the role of Higher Education in promoting teaching, research and practices around this evolving and increasingly thriving global social economy.

At York St John, we believe – as I am sure you all do – that universities have a clear and distinctive role in promoting both social entrepreneurship cultures and cross-sector partnerships. Such cross-sector collaboration is absolutely essential and is at the very core of social entrepreneurship cultures.

Only by bringing together our shared knowledge, resources and experience can we hope to overcome the monumental societal challenges of today.

Such collaborations, of course, need to be based on the values inherent in social entrepreneurship. These include mutual respect, reciprocity, solidarity, common good, and respect for the environment. Over the course of the conference, you will be presented with a range of practical case studies, research and best practices about cross-sector partnerships which create social value within communities and have a positive impact on developing social entrepreneurship and curricular innovation within Higher Education.

But why is the social economy so important in a Higher Education context? Well, the project leadership team here at York St John is quite clear on this: universities should offer a broad and in-depth knowledge and understanding of the various ways of organising economic life. These should be focused on a people-centred approach to economic value and Higher Education should provide a level of education and training which also serves the community. If our Higher Education is to remain relevant, the team argues that it needs to review its ethos, purpose and curricula. It needs to consider human well-being as well as wealth creation.

That is the proposition that has under-pinned this three-year project which has sought to gain an in-depth knowledge and insight into the nature, origins and practice of people-centred economic approaches and make these findings more accessible to HE students. The project has also sought to understand how such approaches could interact with other economic systems and mechanisms, such as corporate social responsibility, to enhance the quality of human development overall.

One of the principal outcomes of this project will be an invaluable handbook to be used for curriculum design and enhancement in the group of universities and their associates who have been involved in this endeavour. The handbook is open-source, which will allow universities and social entrepreneurs to update it and share their findings. And like the entire project itself – including the forensic examination, debate and, no doubt, intense discussions that will take place over the course of this week’s conference – the handbook is a perfect example of what the Erasmus Mundus project has sought to explore: cross-sector collaboration at its very best.

As well as the galaxy of international delegates here today, the project has also gained the support of the United Nations, the Alliance of Civilization unit, the Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

It is abundantly clear that the world is already watching and waiting for the outcome of your three days of deliberations. It only remains for me, therefore, to wish you an enjoyable and stimulating conference and I would now like to hand you over to your MC, Dr Mike Calvert, who is eagerly waiting to get the programme underway and introduce the first of your esteemed keynote speakers.

Thank you ladies and gentlemen. I hope you enjoy the conference, and our splendid facilities here at York St John University, and I look forward to meeting up with many of you again in the course of the week.

[1] http://www.alz.co.uk/research/WorldAlzheimerReport2015-sheet.pdf


The icing on the cake: more stories from Nairobi

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).


Erasmus Mundus Social and Solidarity Economy Conference: Personal experience and insights

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

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.

Stop press: Daisy’s pregnant again

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.

[£1 = KES140]


Social and solidarity economy conference at York St John University, UK, attracts people from 21 countries

The video captures the essence, diversity and theme of the conference. It was held in English and Spanish with simultaneous interpretation.

Powerpoints from the plenary sessions, the round tables and the parallel presentations can be found on the conference website.

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Kenya Methodist University students having impact in their community

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.

Kenya_MU_studentsThe 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.


Mary Kiguru, July 2015

Collaboration deepens between university students and Sujali women

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).


Institute of Cultural Affairs, Spain, supports social entrepreneurs with crowdfunding campaign



GeteoWithin 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.


Tackling poor living conditions in the Nairobi slums

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.

Stathmore2Strathmore 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.

Further detail on the plight of the slum dwellers is to be found at http://www.strathmore.edu/en/media-center/402/54/Strathmore-Participates-in-Research-on-Justice-and-Basic-Services-in-Informal-Settlements


More initiatives at Strathmore University, Nairobi, Kenya

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.

Strathmore_Business_SchoolSimon 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’.

Strathmore_Business_School_2In 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.

Many thanks to Dr Simon Wagura Ndiritu who was interviewed by Mike Calvert on a recent visit to Kenya as part of the Social Economy in Higher Education project

For-profit and non-profit collaboration proposal for Ukraine

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.”