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  • Can all entrepreneurship be social?

    Shifteh Malithano
    Shifteh Malithano
    Director of Programs & Impact
    With the new global strategy we developed in 2021, we want to take further steps to leverage the power of entrepreneurship to reduce child poverty, inequality and environmental issues.

    Since Reach for Change was created in 2010 our vision - ‘why’ we exist - has been to contribute to the creation of a world where all children and youth can reach their full potential. ‘How’ we’ve done that is by finding local social entrepreneurs - people who live close to a social challenge, who’ve come up with an innovative idea on how to solve it, and who are using entrepreneurial methods and tools to do so. We empower them to develop and scale their solutions and to create a sustainable organization. 

    After over a decade of work and many lessons learned, we evaluated the work we’ve done, our role in the solution, analyzed the changing landscape, and identified how we can focus and maximize our impact.


    Tackling multidimensional poverty 

    Developing countries face the biggest challenges in the world with youth unemployment, irregular employment and underemployment. With 10-12 million youth entering the labor market in Africa every year, and only 3.1 million jobs created, there is a need for urgent action in job creation. Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to increased poverty levels in Africa making it the most-affected region in the world in terms of loss of income of poor households. In 2019, 490 million people in Africa lived under the poverty line of 1.90 PPP$/day. This is 37 million people more than what was projected without the pandemic. The topic is high on the agenda for most countries, but the development is slow and requires multifaceted solutions to a complex problem, where everyone has a role to play.

    From social entrepreneurship to entrepreneurship and back to impact 

    The rising problems with unemployment and multidimensional poverty are the reason we now see a need to expand our scope of work to also run programs which develop entrepreneurial mindsets, create jobs and increase income. 

    Research shows that micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are responsible for more than two thirds of all jobs worldwide. They also account for the majority of new job creation. When we’re dealing with vulnerable groups, fostering entrepreneurial skills and creating jobs has an even bigger impact.  There is evidence that increasing mothers’ income can result in increased investments in children’s health, education, and nutrition, boosting future economic growth. Increasing family income, including in families headed by women, can reduce vulnerability to poverty and economic shocks. Research has shown that entrepreneurship promotion and skills training programs have significant effects on increasing the employment and earnings of the youth who participate. 


    Knowing that the context in Sub-Saharan Africa varies greatly from our European markets and requires different and context specific solutions, we started a few years ago to run youth and women’s economic empowerment programs, focusing on market relevant entrepreneurship and skills development with great results. For example in the Benishangul-Gumuz region in Ethiopia, 100% of the project participants had started their own business after the program. With the success we have seen in youth and women’s economic empowerment programs in Ethiopia, Ghana and Senegal, we have now made this an integral part of our strategy and our standard programs. For those who do not become entrepreneurs, the skills and confidence they gain in such programs can have an impact beyond entrepreneurship. 


    Why is green entrepreneurship key for the future of children and youth?  

    With this strategy, we also aim to support youth to contribute to identifying solutions by fostering entrepreneurial mindsets and skills in the green economy. We want to unlock the potential impact of children and youth on climate change mitigation and adaptation in order to increase climate resilience. Climate mitigation policies and adaptation strategies are often implemented in a way that is only relevant to the current generation of children. However, the potential of children and youth education and participation around climate change is not being realized. Thus, Reach for Change aims to further leverage the power of entrepreneurship to support entrepreneurship in the green economy through entrepreneurship training, development and support.


    Why do we need to invest in ecosystems?

    One aspect to achieve better outcomes in job creation, poverty reduction and climate resilience is collaboration. Collaboration beyond single actors, sectors and borders. That is why we will also focus on developing the ecosystem. On one hand, we strengthen the entrepreneurs’ capacity to influence and advocate for change. On the other hand, we are using our position as an organization to bring together businesses, public actors and intermediaries to combine our strengths.

    All actors in society have different superpowers that can be put to use for social good. Our most successful partnerships have been those where we have jointly enabled our partners to leverage their individual strengths for social impact. Creating social impact takes time and a clear commitment of long-term resources, time and investment. Building trust – and creating real change – requires long-term investments and a genuine commitment to track and understand the impact of the investments. This also means that donors need to adapt their funding mechanisms to allow this change to happen. We all have a role to play and, as we are implementing more projects related to developing youth entrepreneurs who can employ themselves and others, we are also joining hands with other actors to achieve increased synergies, reduce duplication of efforts and have the greatest impact possible for children and youth.


    So, is all entrepreneurship social? No. But can all entrepreneurship have a positive impact? Yes! If it is used deliberately as a tool to improve livelihoods and solve pressing social issues.

    At Reach for Change, we are on a continuous learning journey and will always further improve and refine our ways of working to achieve the best outcomes for children and youth by unleashing the power of entrepreneurship. Our ‘why’ remains the same’, but our ‘how’ has become broader. We look forward to sharing more learnings and results as we progress!