7 Elements of a Successful Social Enterprise


‘Business needs to be a driving force in helping us create a better world’ – Richard Branson

This is very true for a developing nation like Malawi.

Social enterprise, with its triple-bottom line, is able to address social, financial and environmental problems. Recognizing the potential that social enterprise has in developing our country, the Malawi Scotland Partnership (MASP) invited their partner organizations together and with help of the Social Enterprise Academy we delivered the ‘Introducing Social Enterprise’ programme in Blantyre on the 29th of January and in Lilongwe on the 1st of February to a total of thirty-eight learners.

During the sessions, learners analyzed the different characteristics of a social enterprise and amongst the different characteristics, the following came up:

1. Sustainable

The goal of every enterprise is to become self-sustaining. Relying on donor aid and funding isn’t practical any more as policies from around the world are limiting the amount of aid and funding countries and organizations receive. As a result, it is important that any enterprise adopts strategy which ensures that the business becomes an ongoing concern.

2. Socially Inclusive

Social enterprises are attractive in modern society because they strive for inclusion in the workplace. Brownies and Downies in South Africa employs staff who suffer from downs-syndrome. The BEEHIVE in Malawi (Blantyre) employs as many women as they do men for their construction projects. This has enabled families from within the area to essentially become dual-income earning households, thereby improving the family`s disposable income, savings and investments.

3. Diversifiable

The BEEHIVE provides staff with virtually free day care for toddlers and a primary school for children. At present they offer these services at a fee to the general public but still free for their staff. This strategy also ensures sustainability. What began as a solution for parents who couldn’t afford babysitters became a school within the community!

4. Professional

Social enterprises also demand a high level of professionalism, as you would find in the private or public sector. Kwithu Kitchen in Malawi is made up of women from within the rural community and apart from providing them with an income, they also take time to train them in basic business management and accounting.

5. Easily Replicated

During the programme, learners were shown videos of other social enterprises from across the world such as Iyeza Health in South Africa, Social Bite in Scotland and WeCyclers in Nigeria. Interaction after the videos was centered on being able to start similar businesses in Malawi using similar models.

6. Value Addition

Kwithu Kitchen in Malawi (Mzuzu) takes tomatoes from the fields and turns them into pastes, purees and sauces. After being packaged they are sold in supermarkets across Malawi. This limits waste as processed goods are made to last, and they can be easily exported thus bringing in forex into the country.

7. Reactive

Social enterprises respond actively to social needs and provide answers to problems within the community.

Perhaps the biggest problem is having to distinguish a social enterprise from a for-profit enterprise and a non-profit organization (like NGOs).

Barbara Banda, a tutor with the Social Enterprise Academy, says: “Non-profit`s are usually donor funded and don’t trade but if they do, profits are not primary to the organizations survival; for-profits are interested in trading and paying out dividends to shareholders or investors; whilst social enterprises are concerned with the triple bottom line and profits are often seen as a way to build up the local economy”.

In conclusion, whilst social enterprise is not entirely new in Malawi it is still a relatively unknown concept which has great potential to develop society. Here at the Social Enterprise Academy, we exist to help individuals and organizations adopt the social enterprise concepts into their DNA, helping to create a better world, together.

To receive our latest blogs to your inbox and be the first to know about upcoming Introducing Social Enterprise programmes near you, sign up for our newsletter here.