Embracing Ubuntu through Peer Learning

"I want you to be all you can, because that is the only way I can be all I am. When you diminish and oppress me, you diminish and oppress yourself."

~ Bishop Tutu


Ubuntu has been engrained in our culture since the mid 19th century, and in essence values human-ness or humanity. Its philosophy is based on the belief that we are all interconnected and belong to a greater whole.

My success depends on you being successful. I can not shine, if you do not shine. Its very spirit drives us to view the world through a collective filter, rather than an individual one. Encouraging us to see plenty, instead of scarcity and to include, rather than exclude.

'Ubuntu' in Social Entrepreneurship

Social and impact entrepreneurship share these same values.

It’s about addressing the social challenges in order to create a brighter future for all. It’s about using business principles to create social and economic value that can be shared by all.

But, that said, do we always embrace Ubuntu in our interactions between us?

For instance, I rarely hear of a successful and impactful enterprise that hasn’t experienced and learned from their failures, hiccups and challenges along the way. This learning is invaluable. And yet social entrepreneurs (and also social purpose organisations who are taking steps to generate more income), always seem to start their journey from square one, and often alone and isolated from others.

While social entrepreneurs are indeed pioneers in our society, the reality is that there are many others who have walked or are walking a similar path. So what better way to develop our collective learning then to exchange experiences and lessons learned with other entrepreneurs? What better way to ignite our Ubuntu spirit than by creating opportunities for peer learning?


What is peer learning?

The best person to solve a problem, is often the very person experiencing the problem.

With support and help of others in posing the right questions, we can challenge our own thinking and assumptions, frame problems differently, and have the space and time to reflect on potential solutions that were previously eluding us.

More importantly, it creates connections between us that keeps the doors open to more collaboration and sharing of best practice. It reminds us that we are not alone, and as social and impact entrepreneurs, we’re all in this together, creating something really powerful that is truly driving social change.

So how can you kickstart your Ubuntu spirit in your role? Here are a few suggestions:


1. Find (or create) opportunities for peer learning

Encourage an environment of shared learning in your organisation and create opportunities for team members to share their skills and/or reflections on a project. Or find opportunities to collaborate with others from other organisations who are in similar positions.

2. Adopt a coaching approach

Next time someone comes to you with a problem they are struggling with, take a coaching approach. Rather than giving advice and telling them what to do, take the time to pose helpful critical questions that will enable them to challenge assumptions and see the problem differently. That way you will have supported someone to come to their own conclusions.

3. Be generous in your partnership working

When assessing opportunities to collaborate, be mindful of having debates in your head about what power or agenda you're prepared to give up or concede. Rather, get creative and passionate about what your organisation can contribute, about what connections you have that will benefit the partnership and make it thrive.

Do you do something similar in your organisation? Share your thoughts below...