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GIBS Entrepreneurship Development Academy: Building Social Entrepreneurship in South Africa

Publish date:2017-09-13

University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) was the first academic institution in South Africa to tackle the amorphous topic of social entrepreneurship, starting with a series of colloquiums in 2003 building up to the first fully-fledged year-long programme in 2009.

The Social Entrepreneurship Programme has continued to grow with a class intake of 70 per year, as students work through the dynamics of developing hybrid businesses, in the highly constrained South African environment. South Africa’s inequality is well documented, vying with Brazil for top spot on the Gini Index. But it is our youth bubble, and high unemployment put at 50% for young people where the constraints are deeply felt. 

Social entrepreneurship is an ideal model to bridge these systemic difficulties: The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor in 2009 found that it is highly attractive to young people, thrives in unequal societies, and has less barriers to entry than commercial entrepreneurship. And through the years that GIBS through its Entrepreneurship Development Academy have been leading this portfolio, we’ve seen the concept grow from sitting on the side-lines to being a viable alternative to big business.

Social Enterprises have a declared social mission, but unlike charities earn an income, creating highly sustainable organisations that can continue to deliver value to the communities they serve. It is this introduction of profit – a concept not typically associated with doing ‘good’ – that has a transformational effect on the model. It shifts service provision from the traditional benevolence and needs based approach that underpins charity, to a transactional relationship that firstly shifts the beneficiary to a customer, and then allows them to make choices in the services that they engage with.

GIBS’ Entrepreneurship Development Academy has built layers of knowledge in the eco-system to grow social enterprise and entrepreneurship. We lead the first national mapping study of social enterprises, recognising that we cannot progress it if we don’t know what it looks like in South Africa. We followed this with the book The Disruptors, published in April 2017 and a South African non-fiction top 100 book. We have tackled the lack of local academic materials with a number of cases published through both Emerald and Ivey, and our Senior Programme Manager Kerryn Krige, edited a special collection of teaching cases on social entrepreneurship from across the African continent, published by Emerald.

Our social entrepreneur delegates continue to grow and build their work. Greg Maqoma’s Vuyani Dance Theatre is the first African social enterprise in the arts environment, working in townships across the country, funded by their international performances. Our Festival of Ideas winner Neo Hutiri is developing Smart Lockers, tackling the long queues in public hospitals by allowing people to pick up their medicines through a highly controlled vending model. And Siphokazi Vapi is growing her beauty salons across the Eastern Cape, set up to provide skills training and employment for women in a province where unemployment is at 28%.                                                              

Our layered approach to strengthening our knowledge of social entrepreneurship and mainstreaming the model is showing results, with government announcing its commitment to developing a social economy policy in 2017. This approach underpins our on going work to building our social and economic eco-system, working with entrepreneurs from both the formal and informal sectors, to start, sustain and scale their ideas. In this way, we build a cohesive, integrated and inclusive society, where opportunity thrives.



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