Tayo Akinyemi

Africa Social Enterprise Forum 2009

As many of you know, today is the 2009 Africa Social Enterprise Forum in New York City, organized by Co-Chairs JerryAnne Heath and Magogodi Makhene. ASEC boldly confronts the notion that all the best thinking (and doing) in social enterprise comes from the West, and I applaud the organizers for contradicting this notion. The line-up features heavy hitters such as Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, Andrew Zolli, PopTech! Curator, and Bill Carter, the Vice President for Africa Programs at Ashoka.

The panels focus on the nuts and bolts of social enterprise-how one becomes a social entrepreneur, and how social enterprises are financed, structured, and scaled.

In essence, these are the key ’stops’ on the pipeline of enterprise creation. As an attendee, one could imagine starting off as a budding entrepreneur and working to build a properly structured, adequately financed, scalable social enterprise.
Certainly not a bad day’s work.

But what happens ’the day after tomorrow?’ That is, let’s assume our intrepid social entrepreneur successfully creates an innovative, fully-functioning organization. Who’s to say it will stay that way? What are the critical factors that will help the social enterprise to maintain its efficiency, effectiveness, and edge? How will the organization develop a learning culture that will adapt as the world around it changes? How will its social impact be measured? Perhaps this inquiry leads us too far down the rabbit hole; after all getting one of these organizations up and running is a mighty task. Nonetheless, I’d like to believe that discussing the sustainability and impact of these organizations might be worth the air time.