“Social entrepreneurship is an evolving space, and yet one of the most profound developments in our world today. Simply put, social entrepreneurship is about correcting an accepted social imbalance for some economic gain. I can just hear the last part of my statement still buzzing around your heads: “for some economic gain?” to which I say absolutely “for economic gain”.

Put differently, social entrepreneurship is merely shifting resources out of an area of lower productivity to higher productivity to yield greater social benefit, where the nature of the profit, be it financial or otherwise, accrues to beneficiaries typically previously excluded from the profits and benefits. This creates a more equitable equilibrium, which is dependent on there being economic benefits for the sustainability of this entrepreneurial activity.

We, Social Entrepreneurship Certificate Programme (SECP) students, couldn’t have undertaken this programme at a more relevant time. The current unrest in North Africa points, among other things, to this very imbalance which social entrepreneurs seek to address. This can also be seen right here at home with the service delivery protests that are occurring more regularly. And as people involved in the development space, it forces us to think beyond the immediate scope of our work to the wider needs within our society. One is forced to ask the question: How effectively does my work address the socially acceptable imbalances in our society today?

The unrest in North Africa also demands that business at large start to ask the same question because when the imbalances reach a tipping point and ordinary citizens’ patience wears thin it is not only the development practitioners who will be affected, all of us, all of society will be affected. Thus we need to start having conversations now and we need to begin to find solutions today. But we can’t all be social entrepreneurs.

However, business can assist social entrepreneurs to begin to devise and bring to life innovative solutions, and to roll out solutions to these problems – this is an equally important role that business can take in an attempt to create social equilibrium within society.

Credit must be given to South African business for their increased spend and focus on social responsibility, but this needs to be taken further. Social entrepreneurs bring forth sustainable solutions that often have a measurable impact and are scalable in nature, and hence have far reaching effects. As a result, investments into social entrepreneurship have a far wider reaching impact than mere corporate social investment (CSI) spend. This is by no means to discredit current CSI disbursements where there remains a need. But this forces business to start thinking more about how their money, their investment, can have greater social impact.

Social entrepreneurs are by the very nature, change agents. The SECP enabled us to better understand this role, and to become more effective and efficient in the manner of change we bring about. One of the most important lessons learnt, as budding social entrepreneurs and development practitioners, is what Jim Collins, author of the book, Good to Great, refers to as ‘Level 5 Leadership’, which is two things. Firstly, the humility to know and understand that the change we wish to bring about is bigger than our ego, and thus the mission is bigger than ourselves, in other words, that we are building a legacy which will outlive us and outgrow us while attracting the right calibre of person to take the mission to a higher level. Secondly, insight, or lessons learnt, is about having the professional will to never lose sight of the goal and mission of our work, especially when the going gets tough, which it often does, and seemingly easy solutions present themselves which would benefit the individual rather than the organisation and the mission at hand.

I dare say, this is the type of leadership required of South Africa if the innate potential of our country is to bring forth the fruits of democracy that are so desperately needed and longed for by each and every South African citizen.

On behalf of the SECP class of 2010, I extend a heartfelt thanks to the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), and especially our course convener, Amy Tekie, coordinator, Dineo Lengane, and the team of lecturers. GIBS has enabled us to not only become more effective and efficient at what we do as development practitioners and budding social entrepreneurs, but through this course we have been given a platform to grow and to confidently add our voice to the conversations on where our country needs to get to and how that can happen.

We are the leaders that South Africa needs, the SECP class of 2010 knows that a heavy duty falls upon us now to fulfill the promises enshrined in the constitution for every South African to enjoy and I quote directly from the South African Constitution:

  • Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights; 
  • Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law; 
  • Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and 
  • Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.

In closing I would like to share a quote from an unknown author, “Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible.”

– This is an extract of the closing address made by Gqibelo Dandala, one of the 30 students to graduate in the Social Entrepreneurship Certificate Programme (SECP) at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria. The graduation ceremony was held on 9 March 2011. Gqibelo Dandala is founder and CEO of the Future of the African Daughter Project. Article submitted by Ann Bown, SECP lecturer.