While in Bulgaria the social entrepreneurship is a modern concept and is taking its first steps as the government is shrewdly pushing for it, in Cape Town, South Africa it is tangible everywhere. Many products have mentioned that their revenue will support one cause or another, often you can spot signs of donation places for clothes or books. But more interesting were the meetings with various social entrepreneurs who shared with us the results and challenges of their endeavors.
But as a start, what kind of support can a person get to start a social change through their work? There is an International Development Company (www.idc.co.za) owned by the South African Government as part of the Economic Development Department. Its purpose is to finance various economically sustainable projects in different fields and thus to provide jobs. A separate team is engaged in social entrepreneurship, which is to build co-operation between the public, private and community sectors to increase investment and jobs in South Africa and other African countries. Over the last 5 years, they have approved over 1000 applications for funding worth over € 4 billion, have created over 300,000 jobs, with 32,000 in rural areas. The company is self-sustaining by investing in loans and equity as well as loans from commercial banks and other lenders. Another non-profit company supporting the development of the SE is the SEAcademy (www.socialenterprise.academy/za). They have developed different training programs for people and organizations who want to increase their social impact and become financially independent. Their certificates are internationally recognized. Founded in Scotland in 2004, the Academy has trained 8,000 individuals and 1,700 organizations to develop as social enterprises.
The next places we visited help and invest in the younger generation. LifeChoices (www.lifechoices.co.za) “invests in youth to make choices that change the world.” Behind this “modest” self-description, there are years of trial-and-error to find the truth that “we can only increase social impact by transforming our approach from a non-sustainable non-profit to a business-centered one.” They implement a holistic model to support young people from vulnerable groups, covering education, health, family sustainability, leadership skills and employment. Except through donations, the income to fund these services come from advisory services, paid student tuition, and commercial activity. In addition, they participate with a 20% stake in the companies whose development they support. For the past 14 years, they have positively influenced 200,000 people. Innovation edge (www.innovationedge.org.za/) is another initiative that invests in pre-school education as a first step towards a successful life. Includes children from 0 to 6 years of age living in poverty. Support financially and strategically innovative ideas in education through convertible loans and equity investments. One of the successful ideas so far is EarlyBird Educare @ work- a workplace pre-school center sponsored by employers of parents in need. Another interesting venture, committed to a better future for young people, is the Gangstar café (www.gangstarcafe.com). After the touching story of one of the former gangster employees, we realize that this is a business with a more special mission. All proceeds are used to provide employment and support for ex-offenders and youth who want to leave gangs and crime. They have a joint venture with the 18 Gangster Museum, a one-of-a-kind Gangster Museum in Africa. This innovative museum aims to show young people the treacherous path of gangsterism by seeking to offer a positive alternative. The organized tours are led by ex-gangsters who share their experiences and how their lives have turned around. They are looking for ways to be more self-sustainable.
Our next stop was at the Scalabrini Community Center for Migrant and Refugee Integration (www.scalabrini.org.za). They offer programs to support every aspect of the lives of those in need – from legal advice and finding work through English courses to providing basic goods – medical care, shelter, and a school for children. They organize courses and support specifically targeted at men and separately for women. Some of the services are paid for, the free ones rely on a grant from the US government and the local lottery, as well as from their own initiatives: a guest house (not advertised enough and not working at full speed at the moment), rental of premises, paid services . The Government’s Department of Social Development is funding a home for refugee and migrant children.
As an organization with a special attitude to bread, we were extremely happy to visit the next three businesses. Potential Baker without Borders Zikhona Madubela founded the Street Side bakery in the ghetto-like district of Kayelitsha with the idea of helping people with lactose intolerance through the production of biscuits and other produce lactose free. From the cheerful and enthusiastic story, we would never have guessed that the bakery in question was located in a wooden one-room shack that also serves as a home. But that doesn’t stop Zikhona from being the only one in the area with such an idea and helping young artists pursue their dreams. And her dream is to help her community more through the magic of bread. Our lunch this day was provided by Spinach King (www.spinachking.co.za/), a company also focused on healthy eating – especially with spinach. Through its unique products it aims to make this useful plant more accessible. And the spinach bread sandwiches were really amazing! Another bistro with a social mission is Brownies & Downies (www.browniesdownies.co.za/). In addition to being a coffee and snack bar (with the most delicious brownies!), it also functions as a training center for people with intellectual disabilities. To support the mission and activity, they rely primarily on donations and sales revenue. But they are proving insufficient, especially with rising Cape Town rental prices. Whether orienting towards a more business-centered model, rather than the social one, will help this city spot of acceptance, remains to be seen.
Our extremely intense and diverse tour concludes with another very important aspect of life in Cape Town- art. Spier Arts Academy (www.spierartsacademy.co.za) in association with Spier, one of the oldest wineries in South Africa, offers 3 years of full-time mosaic and ceramics training. The program also includes business skills for graduates to start their own businesses, studios or successfully promote their works. The training is free of charge and all other costs are covered. For this, the selection of trainees is extremely strict (out of 1000 applications, 28 are accepted, of which more are dropped in the course of training). One of each (www.oneofeach.co.za) is a design studio founded by a mother designer and a businesswoman daughter. They want to spread the beauty and history of Africa through their unique handbags, belts and bracelets that are made of leather and traditional African fabric. The fabrics are purchased directly from manufacturers in Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Congo, thus supporting them and promoting their craft. They separately train for free and hire young women from vulnerable groups. They export to the US and 17 other countries. Pauline acknowledges that her experience and expertise in the business field helps her, but more important are the personality traits and her desire to help through her work. The Guga S’Thebe Cultural Center hosts a creative workplace – Our Workshop – where young talents can be trained and can create under the experienced guidance of professionals. They recycle materials such as cardboard, plastic bottles and computer parts by incorporating them into their art, thus supporting environmental campaigns.
As you can see, social entrepreneurship in Cape Town is as diverse and dynamic as people living in the city. The extremely professional approach to the endeavors and the great enthusiasm, despite the difficulties, are admirable. But the most important reminder is that social entrepreneurship is first and foremost the natural need to give back to society what you have taken, but with added value.
This visit was possible thanks to Erasmus + project Dive 3:Zero to one>1 to N coordinated by Youth Allience Krushevo and Belle&Co. SA. About the previous study visit on SE in Lyublyana, Slovenia, you can read here.