Sam Baumber from Social Enterprise Academy International CIC tracks an example of real results from relationships built at the 2017 Global Social Enterprise Network conference
“Gotta get on the bus!”
My waking thought, on the third morning of an energising few days in Cape Town in March.
I’m glad I made it. That trip was the catalyst for a new partnership and an exciting new opportunity for collaboration...
GSEN’s annual conference had done a fantastic job of building connections between social enterprise ecosystem leaders from around the world. Members from 30 countries were there to explore shared purpose and different ecosystem models. Next were some inspirational study visits to learn from South African social entrepreneurs*
Jumping on the bus, Shefali Gupta from Mumbai (then Director of Operations for Unltd India) and I decided to share the ride together. We had a good blether (a Scots word! - meaning ‘a chat about unimportant things’!).
But within the space of the bus journey, she also helped me gain an initial understanding of the scale of challenges faced in India, the shape of its social enterprise support ecosystem, legal structures, trading restrictions and international financial regulations. Turns out, far from just a blether, this was actually a pivotal conversation and connection.
The number of Indian social enterprises has grown rapidly, supporting millions of people in areas with high poverty and challenging business environments. A support ecosystem has developed around them with remarkable speed. Led by intermediaries such as the impressive Dasra, Villgro, and Unltd India, it’s focused on an incubator approach and has strong links with higher education institutions.
Collaboration was a big theme at the GSEN conference. If we’re going to tackle the world’s social and environmental problems, we need to work together. These things are bigger than us but it’s the connections we make, the partnerships we build and the shared aim of doing business differently that makes us strong.
The social enterprise scene in Scotland has gathered pace over the last two decades and has built hard-earned, long-term relationships with Scottish Government and local authorities. The strength of these relationships is demonstrated by the co-production of successive local, national and international social enterprise strategies. Over twelve years, the Social Enterprise Academy has grown as a part of Scotland’s support ecosystem, created by social entrepreneurs for social entrepreneurs and their teams. Since 2012 the Academy has also been responding to demand from other countries to share our model. We’ve been learning by doing and offering opportunities to develop locally operated SEA hubs where it can add value alongside existing incubators and intermediaries. Our replication approach is based on a social licence model, with principles of shared responsibility, shared risk and shared value.
Scotland has links with many countries, but taking direction from its large Indian diaspora population, Scottish Government’s India Engagement Strategy identifies strengths the two countries can build on to cooperate in the future – including social enterprise.
So, within a month of the GSEN conference, with Scottish Government backing, we had the opportunity to find a partner in India and offer a social license opportunity.
Quickly in need of a visa, I turned straight to Shefali who provided an invite letter from Unltd India, and the chance to attend the famous Huddle to connect directly with India’s social enterprises and support organisations. Without that, we would have missed a crucial window of opportunity. Instead, we were able to find an excellent partner.
Starting Social Enterprise Academy India in June with the Mitra Technology Foundation based in Delhi, we began to work together to train 20 potential facilitators to join the SEA international network and test delivery of our learning programmes.
Serendipity was at work again when straight away we secured the opportunity to co-create Scotland:India Impact Link - a package of leadership learning opportunities, financial support and international co-coaching for Indian social entrepreneurs, building collaboration between the countries.
Here we are in December. Last week, SEA India hosted an official launch with John Swinney, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister. He made a point of reinforcing that the scale of social enterprise potential impact in India is much, much larger than Scotland; but that many of the challenges faced in running social enterprises are the same worldwide and there’s much we can learn from each other.
Making the most of global connections
As GSEN members, our collective role as ecosystem builders is to create the structures and relationships that ensure social enterprises are supported wherever they are.
In this one example, the connections Shefali and I made in Cape Town directly enabled the Academy to understand and gain entry to India, find a great local partner to operate the SEA model, train a team of local facilitators, pilot learning programmes with 60 people, secure a first international contract for our partner bringing £40,000 to directly fund and support India social enterprises, and launch it all with Scotland’s Deputy First Minister. We’re just at the start but it's been a heck of a nine month journey so far!
So, thanks GSEN & Shefali!
And to anyone swithering (Scots word! – means ‘uncertain’) about coming to future gatherings, my advice: get on the bus!
Sam Baumber, Managing Director, Social Enterprise Academy International CIC
* Thanks for sharing your learning South Africa’s social enterprises! Charles from Deaf Hands At Work, Lufefe from Spinach King, Tuskan & Sebastian from Yethu, and Jasmine from Ukama Holdings. Also thank you to Life Co UnLtd for excellent hosting. Magic!