30 Nov 2016 20:01 IST

Creating a learning ecosystem for social enterprise

A school that supports entrepreneurial initiatives helps drive social change

India’s growth story over the past decade has changed its narrative. The start-up and entrepreneurship wave in the country has ushered in a new promise — of having the freedom to create your own market. Bigger is always better’ does not really hold true any more.

Fixations on top-line revenue growth, employee headcount and office locations are no longer the only yardsticks of business success. ‘Social impact’ is a new dimension and ‘social enterprise’ is a new business model that aims to solve the crucial problems society lives with every day.

Model and market

Social entrepreneurs usually solve complex social problems by finding solutions largely from personal experiences, observations of the socio-economic-cultural aspects of their surroundings, and a passion to change the status quo.

However, in the current landscape, such entrepreneurs often work in isolation, without being exposed to an ecosystem that can hone their skills, nurture their vision and offer a support system during challenging times.

That’s where institutions like the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) come in.

Specialised institute

SSE India believes that each individual has the capability to be remarkable and transform communities in which they would like to operate.

By mobilising people who have identified an unmet social need, SSE supports their entrepreneurial initiatives to create sustainable solutions.

Founded in East London in 1997, SSE has grown to become a global network. It now operates in 12 locations across the UK and has schools in Canada and India. It primarily invests in individuals so that they can be better equipped to establish and sustain organisations that create a positive change for people and communities.

The collaboration

PwC and SSE have worked together for over seven years in the UK. The partnership has strengthened both organisations in their quest to encourage people to enter this space.

Realising the importance of such an initiative, PwC, using the strength of its global network, has supported the institute in entering a highly vibrant developing market. SSE India is the result of this effort.

While the social enterprise ecosystem is still evolving in India, with support organisations providing direct, indirect, financial, and advisory assistance, there is a gap when it comes to a learning programme that focuses on the entrepreneur. To address this, SSE India’s flagship ‘Social Start-Up’ fellowship programme was set up to harness the potential of individuals with a mission to make a difference.

The objective

SSE’s purpose in India is to address the issues of inequality, exclusion and social justice by helping individuals use entrepreneurship to improve society. People who have a workable idea to tackle a specific social issue, and those who demonstrate entrepreneurial characteristics, are identified and, over a nine-month period, are supported by the institute to advance their leadership, business and soft skills.

SSE India’s founding cohort includes 16 fellowship participants who are going through a rigorous learning programme that is an enabling ecosystem for each one to work on their social enterprise. Their ideas provide solutions in a gamut of areas — health, water, sanitation, livelihood, organic farming and renewable energy. These cover rural, peri-urban and urban areas, and focus on farmers, child labour, migrants, dalits, slum populations and indigenous people.

Though the SSE fellowship programme ends on December 15, many of the participants’ ideas are now live projects and registered organisations, driving the social change they have envisioned for an inclusive and better India.

Sustainable future

In the past decade, India has witnessed considerable growth in the field of social enterprise. Development organisations have contributed significantly to the understanding of this space while industry bodies are testing new models to promote innovation in this sector through funding and capacity development.

We need to acknowledge that social impact must start with an individual but, to create sustainable futures for society at large, the collective is crucial.

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