The Moderator: Welcome to The Octagon Room. It’s good to have everyone in the house. In the simplest of terms kindly introduce yourself and tell us what you do.
Inioluwa Odekunle: Hi guys I’m IniOluwa Odekunle, Project Lead, and Manager for Social Enterprise for Africa Foundation aka Socially Africa. I’m a budding social entrepreneur.
Obianuju Asiodu: Hello everyone. My name is Uju. I create healthy communities for people with intellectual disabilities at Special Olympics Nigeria.
Dunsin Fatuase: Awesome Evening Everyone.
Inioluwa Odekunle: Glad to be a part of this conversation.
Debiyi Ajayi: My name is Debiyi Ajayi. I wear a lot of hats but to a large extent, much of what I do has to do with learning and development so I train and consult on a range of topics. I’m a legal practitioner and I’m also a volunteer with The Stellar Initiative. Happy to be here.
The Moderator: The floor is opened for everyone to speak… The conversation has started
Chisom Ogbumuo: Hello Everyone! My name is Chisom, I am the founder of The Conversation Cafe, a safe space for people to interact, learn, share and converse on alternative education topics and issues to engender personal and societal development. As well, a UN Youth ambassador.
Tony Joy: Hi Everyone, I am Tony Joy, the founder of Durian. Durian is a social venture that is committed to empowering rural communities through transforming their local waste into value.
Precious Eniayekan: Hello, Everyone, my name is Precious Eniayekan… I’m a serial entrepreneur, I run a fashion business and also a lead volunteer at The Stellar Initiative, an initiative that empowers young adults, men in the force and middle-aged women.
Dunsin Fatuase: Hi Everyone… I am Dunsin Fatuase. Director of Exponential Programs, at the Curators University and I am building an Industry 4.0 ready Africa through STEM in marginalized communities.
Abimbola Akinsanya: My name is Abimbola Akinsanya, lead volunteer for lend a hand to the development of Africa, OAP and creative director for Japhix creatives.
The Moderator: Great introductions. We have got 50 mins left. My name is Gabriel BALOGUN and I will be your moderator for this Octagon conversation. The plan is to ensure that we just let this conversation flow naturally like we are having a roundtable gist.
The Moderator: I will begin by saying that there are many opinions about the role and impact of social enterprises/businesses in the society. Some see them as a way for the private sector to fill the gaps left by the public administration and government, while others consider such businesses a vehicle for social change and nation-building.
Some even go as far as to view them as ways, people launder money from the government or foreign investors in an effort to get rich quickly. With the rise of Social Entrepreneurship in Nigeria, What do you think is the role of a social enterprise/business in the society?
The Moderator: The floor is open, anyone can answer
Obianuju Asiodu: Social enterprises are sustainable NGOs. Self-funded agents of change and social transformation at all levels (micro-macro).
Inioluwa Odekunle: Typically an enterprise/business is a system that’s built to meet a need through trade of value for financial exchange. What differentiates a social enterprise is that it exists to tackle societal problems while doing business (if for-profit or hybrid).
One major role social enterprises play is to heighten the awareness about deficiencies in the society and galvanize civic engagement in the citizens.
Tony Joy: Social entrepreneurship has indeed positively affected the nation’s economy, not just on one hand but in multiple ways. These in my view include social, vocational, environmental and educational development. All of these aspects have been brought to birth by several social entrepreneurs in the country who not only solve problems but also create opportunities for others. While there are genuine efforts, we also need to acknowledge the fact that some people are using the idea of social entrepreneurship to create another means of draining the economy and/or deceiving others.
Precious Eniayekan: First social entrepreneurship connotes a special, innate ability to sense and act on an opportunity, combining out of the box thinking with a unique brand of determination to CREATE or bring about something NEW to the world… So social enterprise meets a NEED and thereby they create VALUE that many can benefit from.
Debiyi AJAYI: For me, I see social entrepreneurship as the major driver of the economic future of any nation especially within the African context.
To a large extent, Africa has been limited by a paucity of genuine leadership and this has created a system where citizens have been forced to be everything to themselves. So we provide education, healthcare, power, shelter, basic amenities for ourselves. Due to this harsh environment, the divide between those who have and those who don’t is manifestly clear. Social entrepreneurship however has been the key towards bridging that gap and somewhat create a level playing field through innovative ideas and platforms that empower people who can then contribute largely to the profit economy of the nation.
Abimbola Akinsanya: The way people view social enterprises is dependant on how they have perceived them. I would rather like to say, how do we view the work we do in our various organization. It’s however imperative for me as a leader to understand that my work is about the problem I want to solve and the people I am about and stay true to it.
Chisom Ogbumuo: Social enterprise is the gap tool between capitalism and socialism. It yields a paradigm shift, provides opportunities and ensures growth. It promotes creativity and sustainability models
Obianuju Asiodu: Socal enterprises create opportunities that help to bridge gaps. They also serve as key platforms/champions for awareness and Civic engagement
The Moderator: With these roles stated, do you think Nigeria social enterprises/ business have made impact fulfilling these roles?
Dunsin Fatuase: First with, may we be clear about what a Social Enterprises are? From a simple but a birds view, a social enterprise is a minimalized approach to solving the world’s problem starting with the least available resources sustainably. While a business can be built on this framework, the main goal is not excessive profit, unlike every other business models.
Dunsin Fatuase: Most have not… There seems to be some form of imperfection with a very key factor of Social Enterprises which is self-sustainability in Nigeria.
Abimbola Akinsanya: I think some have, but I am reminded that there is more to do.
Tony Joy: We are daily growing into fulfilling our various roles because it is a process.
Precious Eniayekan: Some have, but we have to take direct action and generate new and sustained growth.
Chisom Ogbumuo: Yes, so far we have done/doing a good job. A lot more could be done if certain values are being put in place.
Inioluwa Odekunle: There’s been a significant growth and progress made by social enterprises, a good example is Andela, which has attracted foreign investment and contributed to the positive image of Nigeria in the global scale. Not to talk of the number of programmers that have been trained.
Obianuju Asiodu: Yes, they have.
Debiyi AJAYI: To a large extent, I would say that the social enterprises I have come in contact with have done a very good job in fulfilling these roles. A couple of indices mark out effectiveness as a social enterprise in my view which includes:
-Clarity of Purpose
-Clarity of Strategy
I dare say that in the midst of really harsh conditions and a society where social enterprise is viewed with a lot of skepticism and suspicion, Nigerian social entrepreneurs have done well.
Although there are some bad eggs in the basket, it doesn’t negate the excellent work being done, I dare say by quite a number of the people in this room who’s work I have either followed it actively participated in.
The Moderator: A couple of us here are either running or working for a social enterprise, what are the challenges? I want us to give very specific challenges
Tony Joy: Creating solutions with impact in view while also thinking sustainability
Obianuju Asiodu: However, social enterprises are still plagued by “regular business and system problems” and I feel that this has greatly limited and frustrated the impact/efforts of many social enterprises.
Precious Eniayekan: Basically major challenge has been social acceptance. Most people don’t understand what we are doing and it has in a way affected funding. In Nigeria, once we don’t understand something we often bad mouth and ignore. It is like making a statement like ”These NGO/ non-profit people want to steal our money and use it for themselves”
Abimbola Akinsanya: Challenges vary per time. However, for me, putting the right structure in place has been quite challenging especially thinking about sustainability in view
Inioluwa Odekunle: A major problem is that the current CAC does not recognize a Social Enterprise business, that is to say, you cannot be registered as a social enterprise. (I understand that the office of the Vice President is working with a team of lawyers to fix the laws to allow ease of business). In Nigeria, the law recognizes, either For-profit or Not-for-profit. Social enterprises are not recognized yet.
Chisom Ogbumuo: True!!
Precious Eniayekan: ??????
Obianuju Asiodu: I started a social enterprise in 2016, a major challenge I faced then was my bottom line. after producing my food products no one would buy it just because I was running a social enterprise model. I had to go out there market, invest and compete like every other for-profit brand. at the end of the day, I was running the impact on my 9-5 salary and there was no way that was sustainable.
Tony Joy: The challenges come in different forms, but one that I have found notable is sustainability.
Chisom Ogbumuo: Another major problem is getting the right team to adhere to the structure because of the norms they have been accustomed too.
Inioluwa Odekunle: Hmmm, lack of angel investors within Nigeria as opposed to the North Atlantic countries.
Dunsin Fatuase: Having transitioned from various sectors of Social Enterprises, here are very common problems I have identified.
– Sustainable Structure.
– Team Recruitment.
– Unfriendly Policy Procurement Processes.
Obianuju Asiodu: There’s no special recognition or tax exemption for running a social enterprise, even investors would evaluate your proposal like a for-profit organization.
Chisom Ogbumuo: Sustainability is also an issue whereas sustainability is supposed to be one of the major actors of social entrepreneurship
Dunsin Fatuase: How about no provision of locally reserved funds to support local initiative.
Debiyi AJAYI: I think one of the major challenges is the suspicious and skeptical nature of the society we are. Recall I said earlier that we have all been brought up in a society where it’s survival of the fittest and every man for himself. So when a person creates a social enterprise, it’s is first of all viewed through those lenses of “why, what and how”.
I believe this is largely one of the factors that make sustainability hard when it comes to social enterprise in Nigeria. A lot of people are doing great stuff but when the environment and conditions aren’t favorable it takes a brave heart to continue and keep pushing. It can be a thankless job really but social enterprise reaps the larger part of its value in the social value it communicates.
Debiyi AJAYI: Even the structure for not for profit is largely skewed, to be honest. Its registration is a more tedious, more expensive process (this just defies logic for me) and even so, there are very few opportunities for continued investment and support for social enterprise. Like someone said, even an investor will evaluate you as a for-profit business, whereas typically social enterprise would require a lot more time to balance itself out and break even.
Tony Joy: I also think one more challenge is the fact that social entrepreneurs work in isolation.
Precious Eniayekan: THIS IS APT !!!
Tony Joy: Let me add to this by saying, somehow we are beginning to have a popularity of passion and less of practical experience sharing. There is a truth that is not so popularized which is not everyone can be social entrepreneurs. We have people going into social entrepreneurship for so many other reasons other than creating impact. So I agree that there is a knowledge gap between what it all entails. Some of us have learned through experience that running a social enterprise is not just about social media beautiful storytelling but also facing practical day to day management issues.
The Moderator: From a lot that has been said, Developing a Sustainability Structure has been the major one. What do you think can be a solution for this?
Debiyi AJAYI: As a way forward I would suggest that there is a clearly developed framework for social enterprise in Nigeria with clear codes of conduct which would make it easier to decipher who is real and who’s fake and also make it easier for partnerships and collaborations across the board to even deliver better results.
Obianuju Asiodu: Accessibility, Collaboration and advocacy for concessions.
Tony Joy: One that I can readily think of is Collaboration for social change.
Dunsin Fatuase: Collaboration by far the most effective solution. Next to it is proper awareness. Many just jumped into Social Enterepurship. No background. Just plain passion without adequate knowledge. Next is to help our policymakers understand how these works. Maybe not all.. but those who care to know.
Obianuju Asiodu: we have various organizations working on the same societal problems in the same location. we need to put personal interests aside and pull efforts to scale impact
Precious Eniayekan: Yesssssss
Tony Joy: We also need more information sharing on best practices from successful social enterprises\
Inioluwa Odekunle: Training in business administration and a clear understanding of the business projections & figures. Passion cannot be sustained on its own.
Obianuju Asiodu: Everything becomes a “secret” once you label it “business or organization”. At the heart of social enterprises is passion and sometimes passion can be very misleading. so one lesson I learned was to put my passion aside when creating structures and to test ideas on a small scale before implementing.
Abimbola Akinsanya: Ability to learn, unlearn and relearn as we carry out of various projects. Tides keep changing, we need to keep ourselves informed. Further still collaboration is in the crux of this matter, we need to work together to achieve more. I can say that we achieved more at LAHAfrica when we identified individuals and organizations we can work with per time. Of course, the visions of the organization might align with ours to avoid any misunderstanding.
Debiyi Ajayi: Collaborating with other social enterprises for me is the biggest solution possible. Once we can come to a place where everyone is pulling their own resources i.e. Financial, manpower, strategy, and execution etc in the same direction I strongly believe in the ability of social enterprises to deliver even more
Dunsin Fatuase: I agree. But if this is left to run without proper guidance. I fear what the complexities will later become. No doubt that they will work. But again, how long will they run ? will they answer the question of sustainability?
The Moderator: We are approaching the last 8mins of our time. Some companies have used their CSR to develop social enterprises or do the jobs of a social enterprise. Should every business become a tool for social and economic change?
Debiyi Ajayi: In a simplistic view of the question I would say yes. But if I were to take a more detailed approach I would say not really. As a corporate entity, one of the easiest ways to do effective CSR would be to actually adopt and to a large extent fund the initiatives of a social enterprise that aligns with your CSR goals. Think about it, it still affords you almost all your usual needs as a corporate entity. You can track their progress made, monitor what and how the money disbursed is being used, get your tax write-offs as applicable and achieve all these while not over entering your staff on these activities.
Inioluwa Odekunle: The fact is that every business is a tool for social and economic change. When you look at it critically, businesses interact and affect the society and economy, through land use, employment, production, sales, branding, customer interface and so on. The question is are these positive or negative effects. The solution will be deliberate actions geared towards effecting positive changes (these will require closing some businesses that really bring no value but are just means of facilitating money and lining pockets).
Dunsin Fatuase: They should be, but the weakness with human want, Insatiable-greed. CSR has now become a tool to launder since there are some tax-evasions possible through this. Why that is on its increase. I think accountability of this CSR process from companies is al that matters after all.
Inioluwa Odekunle: Word.
Tony Joy: Our daily living which includes our businesses should be an avenue to solve problems and create a better future for our next generation. It is not about competition but about collaboration and various individual contribution to change, however, there needs to be an accountability system for our CSR system
Debiyi Ajayi: Like you said, proper guidance is the keyword. I referenced earlier the need for a clear framework of governance for the social enterprise. I’ve been made to understand over time that one of the reasons why it’s hard for a social enterprise to garner support is there is really no way to truly verify whether we are what we say we are.
If there was a governance framework, that would largely enable people to weed out the chaff and focus on the genuine ones.
Abimbola Akinsanya: I believe business are also solving one issue or the other, however with CSR being incorporated into their activities proper accountability should be put in place so it doesn’t become a tool to launder with creating any change.
Obianuju Asiodu: Yes, we are all tools for social and economic change on various levels n platforms. I can’t recall which company refers to theirs as Citizenship. I strongly believe that all organizations should be conscious of the impact of their products, services, policies, processes… on the society and economy. From my experience in the zero profit space, a lot of organizations CSR initiatives are all about “the numbers” and a few days fanfare.. good juice for the media that ends abruptly. This cannot be compared with the outcomes/scale of impact that social enterprises consciously achieve and work towards.
Debiyi Ajayi: So true…
Tony Joy: ???? the focus is not on impact but on numbers
Abimbola Akinsanya: Without creating any change. The social media fanfare shouldn’t be the heart of the matter.
Obianuju Asiodu: These CSR initiatives are also good platforms for tax evasion so it’s not all “for the love of the society”.
Debiyi Ajayi I’ve pushed the idea over time that what most corporates today call CSR is actually only eye service really. A true impact can only come when their CSR objectives align with social needs and that would truly be actualized if they can partner with social enterprises.
Chisom Ogbumuo: Yes, I mean, Isn’t it to meet a need? Of which social and economic needs are very important in the rise of a nation.
The Moderator: Wow, Wow, Wow, Our time is up. But before we go, can everyone drop their last remark?
Tony Joy: ??? I love it here?
Dunsin Fatuase: Can we vote for an extension in time? Thank you all for the depth shared. Keep Saving the world.
Debiyi Ajayi: Looool. I would have supported this but I doubt if any length of time would be enough for a conversation this robust and we are limited by time, space and other commitments. ?
Chisom Ogbumuo: That In our way, we should continue to strive for social impact and sustainability! Ps, I am having a Conversation cafe this Friday, 17th August. It would be lovely to have some of you around! Thank Y’all for an insightful evening.
Dunsin Fatuase: Structured or unstructured… It is far more glaring than our dear world needs more saviour. A “Saviour” in every genuine sense. Can we keep being that Saviour? Recognized or Not.
Tony Joy: Let’s do more as social enterprises to create change but while also doing this let’s remember that together we can do more. So more collaborations and not competitions. I enjoyed it here.
Debiyi Ajayi: I just want to encourage everyone here to seek opportunities to collaborate and share knowledge. The work will do is vital towards delivering the future and truly there is no one size fits all approach here. We must all share ideas, collaborate and largely do all that we can to further enhance the impact of our work out there.
The Moderator: Thank you, everyone, for participating. We loved every min of it.
Tony Joy: Thank you for being an amazing moderator.
Obianuju Asiodu: Thanks for having me. Enjoy the rest of your day
Abimbola Akinsanya: I enjoyed this conversation. Have a blessed week Guys
Inioluwa Odekunle: Thanks for having us.
Debiyi Ajayi: It’s been a pleasure being here. Thank you for the invite.
Chisom Ogbumuo: Thank you!
Tony Joy: It has been interesting sharing with you all and also learning from you. I am very open to collaborations.
Chisom Ogbumuo: Same here
Precious Eniayekan: Thank you for being an amazing host and nice meeting everyone.
The Moderator: This has been an amazing discussion and we would like to know what the members of your community think about the discussion. We ask that as soon as this conversation is curated, the link will be sent to each person and we would like you to share with your community and invite them to add to the discussions.