Social Entrepreneurship 101
I’ve been involved with the Social Entrepreneurship 101 (SE101) program since 2008. Launched in 2006 by the Sauder School of Business in Canada, SE101 is a program that partners Sauder and Strathmore University (the #1 business school in East Africa) faculty, university students, and volunteers to teach young people how to envision and plan new businesses, through a mix of workshops, mentoring sessions, and guest speakers, in an effort to address the high youth unemployment rate.
Kenyan youth unemployment is estimated to be 25% (although some estimates peg it at more than double this rate), nearly double the overall rate for the country. While Kenya’s economy relies heavily on agriculture, youth are moving to urban areas in large numbers, leading to a substantially higher increase in the urban population than the rate of job creation in urban areas. In addition, a lack of focus in the school system on technical education and vocational training contributes to rising unemployment.
The team of undergraduate and graduate students from Sauder and Strathmore were teaching at St. Aloysius Secondary in Kibera.
Kibera is the second largest slum in Africa after Soweto in South Africa. Technically considered an illegal settlement, it is densely populated with over 1 million residents living within 2.5 square kilometers or 1 square mile. Kibera suffers from pollution from garbage, soot, human refuse, and other contaminants, exacerbated by poor to non-existent sanitation facilities and open sewage systems. Malnutrition and disease are commonplace, with an estimated 400,000+ people there living with HIV.
An Interview with “Ivy”
We interviewed one of our participants, “Ivy”, who expressed to us how difficult life is in Kibera, especially for young women. Many of her friends made the mistake of becoming teen mothers and now are trapped in a cycle of poverty that is difficult to break. While her family is of modest means, she credits her father for encouraging her to stay in school and pursue her dreams of entrepreneurship. Unlike many of the young men we interviewed, she expressed a strong desire to get out of Kibera. When i asked someone why the men and women differ in this regard, I was told that the men are in a position of power, and thus prefer the status quo. Despite her daily challenges, she has a strong commitment to give back to her community, especially helping other women. One story that stands out was told to me by one of the UBC instructors. The instructor said that after teaching cash flow management, Ivy spent all her spare time fully immersed in learning it as best she could, while the rest of the class took their breaks or engaged in fun activities. Somehow I think she’ll make it out of Kibera, and help others do so, too.
The Road Ahead – Centre of Sustainable Entrepreneurship
While we have made substantial progress through SE101, we recognize that participants need ongoing community support to successfully launch and grow their businesses. To this end, we recently submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MOYAS) to jointly establish a Youth Empowerment Model Demonstration Centre in Kibera.
The Demonstration Centre would leverage the Youth Empowerment Centre that MOYAS is building there. MOYAS is in the process of building Youth Empowerment Centres in the 300+ districts throughout the country to offer health and information services, computer labs and training, sports activities, and entrepreneurship training. This model demonstration centre would bring together the best practices of the Ministry and SE101 to create innovative programs to help young people become successful entrepreneurs. Regardless of who are our partners, our vision is to establish, fund, and staff a year-round Centre for Sustainable Entrepreneurship with the following program structure:
Research teams of students and professors from Sauder and Strathmore would review the results of the various programs to determine best practices, and then refine these practices over time, as more youths go through the program. The goal is to share the findings with MOYAS, to enable it to roll out successful programs to the other youth empowerment centers in Kenya. The proposed demonstration centre timeline is divided into three phases – pre-launch, pilot, and integrating success – that conclude in 2014. Once these phases are completed, the demonstration centre would evolve into the main entrepreneurial research and training centre, facilitating knowledge sharing between all the other centres.
We just received word that we will have a dedicated space at St. Aloysius School to host a Centre for Sustainable Entrepreneurship! Many thanks to CLC Kenya! We hope to launch it early next year. We also recently met with one of the most wealthy and philanthropic businessmen in Africa. We continue to look for opportunities to work with him and his network to help make youth self-sufficient. He is also going to push our proposal (see above) to MOYAS via his contacts so we are hopeful that they will partner with us.
One truly cool event I want to mention is Skate4Kenya
. Inspired by the Long Treks on Skate Decks series, which chronicles the adventures of a team of boarding enthusiasts as they travel across South America, Sauder grads Les Robertson and Rob Foxall founded Skate4Kenya to raise funds for the SE 101 Centre for Sustainable Entrepreneurship. To do so they will longboard nearly 500 km from Nairobi in central Kenya to Mombassa on the country’s coast. You can follow their progress on the Skate4Kenya website and through YouTube