Social upliftment makes business sense
South Africa’s socio-economic challenges can be addressed far more quickly if poverty alleviation becomes a business development task shared between the private sector, local governments and local entrepreneurs.
That’s the bold prediction of social entrepreneur Lee Elliott, whose innovative model of for-profit social upliftment is rapidly grabbing the attention of some of South Africa’s most progressive companies, including the African Bank.
Elliott is the MD of Shujaa Holdings, whose Sustainable Economic and Environmental Development (SEED) methodology framework is starting to catalyse poor and disadvantaged communities across the country into prosperity using its unique integrated development system (IDS).
Elliott says SEED’s involvement with innovationTOWN, as headline sponsor, is a natural extension of its innovative and life-changing activities across South Africa and the continent.
“Our model provides a new growth opportunity for the private sector and a forum for innovations. Old and tired solutions cannot work at this level.”
SEED’s IDS has several characteristics, the first of which is to cause disruptive change in the community it is operating in to create momentum for positive change and movement. It then makes interventions in specific areas like economic development, communication, the youth, leadership, technology and personal development.
There is a strong focus on developing the youth as strong spiritual, business and community leaders, with young people owning and running the majority of the Shujaa companies. As Elliott points out, if a new business venture in a community employs 100 people, those 100 people now have more disposable income, which means more products and services are needed to satisfy them. The more products and services are available, the more money cycles through the community, and the more people have an income in what she calls “a glorious cycle of abundance.”
A previous innovation award winner, Uniep, addresses poverty and unemployment in the Uniondale area by intermeshing a number of projects to create a sustainable micro-economy within this impoverished area. Formerly unemployed women have created small business that supplies food to destitute members of the community and other community support groups, such as community carers (also unemployed women).
They use fresh produce from community gardens, once again run by previously unemployed women, while more unemployed people produce furniture. More than 400 people and their families have benefited.
CIDA City Campus and innovationTOWN co-founder Dr Taddy Blecher says entrepreneurial solutions such as these place a minimal financial burden on the regions in which they occur. “Africa is bubbling over with innovation. If we can just recognise and nurture it, we would be a far more prosperous and balanced country and continent.”
innovationTOWN is a national campaign to champion innovation as part of a 2010 initiative to recreate South Africa as an innovative country. innovationTOWN seeks to promote innovation as a solution oriented attitude that can be harnessed to help alleviate the social and economic challenges that face South Africa.
Elements of the campaign include the iHERO Awards that finds and rewards innovators; an education initiative; a programme that seeks to match innovators with investors; an innovation faire that exhibits award-winning innovations; a photo and narrative exhibition on innovation; and a national advertising and publicity initiative aimed at putting innovation back on the local agenda.
innovationTOWN is co-founded by CIDA City Campus, Axius Publishing , SoulCircle and the CIDA Investment Trust , to help reposition South Africa as an innovative country by teaching people that innovation is more than a product or a process, but a ‘can do’ approach that helps build a better world.
innovationTOWN is sponsored by Shujaa Holdings and the Sustainable Economic and Environmental Development (SEED) framework, as well as African Bank, South African Post Office and the Branson School of Entrepreneurship. Other supporters include Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in New Town, Brand South Africa, TBM, The Gordon Institute of Business Science, DSG and Media Tenor. At the heart of the campaign is the iHERO Awards, the awards programme of innovationTOWN which identifies and rewards innovations and innovators who are making a positive contribution to South Africa. A
(For more information, visit the innovationTOWN web site)