Using urban agriculture to generate an income

Abalimi operates to promote urban agriculture in the townships of the Cape Flats near Cape Town.

Abalimi means "The Planters" in Xhosa and they have helped individuals, groups and community-based organisations to develop permanent food-growing and conservation projects as the basis for sustainable livelihoods, job creation and poverty alleviation.

They provide training and low-cost, subsidised gardening resources like manure, seeds, tools, and organic pest control at its two gardens in Nyanga and Khayelitsha townships, which are staffed by fieldworkers from those communities.

The Fezeka Community Garden in Gugulethu has 5,000 square meters that is used for growing vegetables.

Albalimi helps farmers develop their own organic vegetable gardens to supplement their diet and provide additional income.


Cancer Research UK turns to social enterprise

Cancer Research UKCancer Research UK is turning to social enterprise in the hope of increasing its revenues.

The Open Ventures Challenge in aid of Cancer Research UK, one of the UK's biggest charities, is challenging budding entrepreneurs to come up with ambitious ideas for new ventures which the charity can support in order to generate more money to tackle cancer.

Whether it be independent business ventures, new ventures for an existing company or a new venture for Cancer Research UK to run itself, the Challenge will take these ideas, and the people behind them, through concept creation, team building, funding and launch.

The competition was thought up by Mojo, an organisation which seeks to broaden the pool of people able to participate in positive social change.

Cancer Research UK will select three winners from the ideas submitted who will each receive financial and organisational support to nurture their enterprise in the hope that each one will be able to raise around £10million each over five years.

The public are able to vote on submitted ideas, with some of the highlights including: After School Running Programs, Family Fun Runs and Recycling Advertising Space.

To read more about the competition visit Social Enterprise Magazine.

Visit the Open Ventures Challenge website.


Measuring and estimating social value creation

measuring social return on investmentThe Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have released their report on Measuring and/or Estimating Social Value Creation.

The report profiles eight cost approaches to measuring and estimating social value creation, which are:

1. Cost-Effectiveness Analysis, which is a form of economic analysis that compares the expenses and outcomes of two or more courses of action.

2. Cost-Benefit Analysis, which is often used to help assess the case for a project proposal

3. REDF Social Return on Investment (SROI), provides an alternative to purely economic measurement of return of investment.

4. Robin Hood Foundation Benefit-Cost Ratio, profits a method for assessing and tracking value creation amongst non-profits

5. Acumen Fund BACO Ratio, provides an alternative to measuring social returns

6. William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Expected Return, the concept of providing a consistent, quantitative process for evaluating potential investments

7. Center for High Impact Philanthropy Cost per Impact, introduces a "cost per impact" approach where the social impact and costs are measured and compared

8. Foundation Investment Bubble Chart, illustrates a set of reporting metrics at the organizational or program level that are common across the programs of a non-profit or a segment of a foundation portfolio.

This report makes for solid academic reading, which is what you would expect from the Gates'. But it does also emphasise that there is not a one size fits all approach to measuring social return on investment with the remark that "there is no perfect methodology".

The best recent advice I have heard on social return on investment (SROI), as outlined in an interview on the Social Innovations Conversations, is to identify the one most appropriate key performance indicator (KPI) and use it to focus everything you do, rather than multiple metrics that can become confusing and difficult to track.

For example, if your organisation treats Tuberculosis sufferers, your KPI could be "Number of TB patients who have completely recovered from the disease."

Of course you need to ensure this metric is the most approiate one to track...

Click here to read the Gates report in full.

Read more on SROI here.


Focus on opportunities within your current proposition

stick with what you knowFocusing on opportunities within your current proposition allows you to stick with what you know whilst adjusting your behaviours where required.

This is the fourth step in our series of moving your charity in to a social business.

For example, you may be a charity supporting the homeless by providing beds, clothing, food and other forms of care they so desperately need. You may be reliant on schools for donations of blankets and bedding, low cost rental from local businesses and possibly multi-lateral organisations for grants to cover basic operating costs.

I suspect that these donations are not provided indefinitely, and that they are made in conjunction with specific projects that may have a set lifespan. This means that at the end of the project you will need to reapply for funding, using valuable time and effort to obtain the funds needed to run your organisation.

If you looked at replacing, for example, the blankets and bedding that are currently donated to your organisation, with a commercial opportunity that pays for itself. This could be through selling goods that your beneficiaries made - perhaps bedding or linen that a typical consumer would buy.

This would be providing your beneficiaries (previously homeless) skills that they did not have before and a new income stream for your organisation.

This could be taken a step further by partnering with a well known brand or designer to design the goods that you are selling. This would help the designer, since he or she would be providing a valuable service to communities in need, and also give your products an associated brand that would help sell the them.

By using opportunities that are within your current proposition, allows you to reduce the risk of trying something completely new, whilst also using existing contacts and resources to move your organisation from a charity to a social business.


Change your behaviours to operate as a social business

changing behaviours in a social business

The third step in moving your charity to a social business is adapting your behaviours in order to start thinking and operating as a social business.

Many leading authors and leadership experts believe there are three key aspects to effective leadership in an organisation, with the ultimate “leader” being proficient in all three:

1. Technician

2. Manager

3. Entrepreneur

If I use the example of a school, the teacher is the technician, the headmistress is the manager, and the entrepreneur is she that finds new opportunities and ways of working that are used for the benefit of the students.

It is the role of the entrepreneur that needs to come to the fore when converting your charity to a social business.

You need the ability to adapt or change your behaviours in the following key areas in order to be successful in this transition.

Be an agent for change - use tactics that will work within your environment, focusing on commercial drivers to transform your organisation in becoming a social business.

Use existing resources - don’t incur high costs to make the changes required. In the short term aim to stick to your current team size and overheads, whilst focussing your energy on commercially driven revenue models rather than on donations and grants.

Commercial focus - use the opportunities provided with open markets to generate the revenue required to support your social and environmental objectives.

Don’t lose sight of the reasons why your organisation exists, stick to your vision of addressing social issues, whilst retaining strong leadership attributes to support and steer your team in becoming a social business.



You’ve heard of microfinance, microcredit and possibly even micropayments; but have you heard of micronutrients?

Micro nutrients is the concept of providing key nutrients to mothers and children at times in their lives when they most need it.

The Micronutrient Initiative is an international not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that the worlds most vulnerable get the vitamins and minerals they need to survive and thrive.

They develop, implement and monitor sustainable solutions that provide vitamins and minerals to what they refer to as “hidden hunger“. Hidden hunger refers to those who are typically malnourished caused by poor diet, with UNICEF saying that “Vitamin and mineral deficiency is the source of the most massive ‘hidden hunger ’ and malnutrition in the world today”.

Read more about the Micro Initiative’s Toolkit, called “Vitamin A in Child Health Weeks: A toolkit for Planning Implementing and Monitoring”.


The Papillon Foundation

The Papillon Foundation has made an incredible difference to many people in need over the last 7 years. They contribute to communities in need in a number of areas, including provding computer training and project management skills.

I asked Stephen Smith, Director at Papillon, some questions on how they go about the building relationships with their funders, challenges with paying staff a low wage and the benefits of community project ownership.
1. You mention on your website that in the early days you found it very difficult to pay salaries and now your staff are receiving just the bare minimum wage. What challenges did/does this present to you and your staff in meeting your social objectives?

Answer: Firstly it has to be noted that it takes a lot of time and effort to train a person in the skills required to perform at optimal level in their duties and tasks.
It is an unfortunate situation in our country and I suppose on a global scale that the head hunters in the corporate market are aware about the excellent skills training that NGO volunteers receive and we suffer regular debilitating losses to the corporate fields, due mainly to our inability to match corporate salaries.

We can however not in any way prevent any of our staff from taking up these offers and therefore we simply persevere in the training up of new recruits.
A benefit in this regard is that those that choose to join the corporate market, are really empowered to bring about change in their own communities and we continually emphasise the importance of social outreach efforts to all that engage with our cause.

2. Your philosophy seems to be one of self sustainability with your projects focussing on community ownership. Can you outline how this works in practice and how you gain the buy-in and support of those involved to make it a success?
Answer: Community ownership of a computer training set up for instance results in trust and dignity restoration.

It is a well known fact that any person will perform greater efforts if they feel that they are doing it for themselves, as opposed to doing something for someone else.
Ownership of a social outreach project increases the responsibility factor and ownership of the resultant credit is a sure catalyst for increased efforts, that leads directly to the benefit of the destitute.
Mutual trust plays a major role in all of Papillon’s social outreach efforts and our growth over the past 7 years clearly reflects the importance of the trust factor.

3. What are the typical challenges you come across when funding a new project?

Answer: We simply refuse to be daunted by any challenges, especially once we have the communities buy in and we simply roll up our sleeves and get stuck in.

The importance here is that it must never be a project that is forced upon the community, but rather a well researched effort that meets with the affected communities’ needs.

People, regardless of their situation, are not fools and they will soon know if you mean well, or if you simply want to stroke your own ego.

The amazing thing is that everything such as infrastructure, materials and any other requirements seem to appear, as if almost guided by a magic hand.

Believe it or not, this is exactly how we started Papillon in 2002 and some of us worked the entire first year for free.

4. You have a number of partners supporting the Papillon Foundation. Why do your partners invest in your organisation?

Answer: Billions have been poured down the drain in past “giving to the poor” efforts that resulted in the old hand out culture that makes our work so difficult today.

A culture of entitlement was created and it is this culture that we are trying to change by showing people that they have the talents to help themselves, by bringing them quality opportunities in subsidised skills training to unlock their own natural abilities.

Just as the poor are not fools, so also our supporters are not fools and they see the results of their support in our reported achievements, knowing that they also have a full partnership in these achievements.

5. Do your partners play a decision making role in how the projects that they have invested in are run?

Answer: Yes, indeed, we offer our partners the opportunity to bring their own experience into play, especially in the formation of any new projects as this delivers guidance and satisfaction to all parties concerned.

The past has taught us that a comprehensively owned clear vision can work wonders for all concerned.
6. Many investors are now approaching funding where they look for a financial return on their investment, so that these funds can be reused for other social causes. Do you partner with organisations that look for a financial return on their investment?
Answer: As we currently plough all gains directly into the expansion of our successful outreach models, we are not yet in the position to deliver financial returns upon investments.

It must be realized that Papillon is currently in the process of assisting needy communities in Cape Town to also open a training branch (which will complement the training branches in Soweto and Pretoria and our dream is to assist needy communities across the African Continent to open training centres.

A full list of Papillon's achievements can be found on their new website, including their 2008 annual report.


Backing success by being 'fair'

Key to successIn Andrew Mawson's book The Social Entrepreneur, he uses the example of how investors backing science projects did not back those that were researching the most importance subjects (e.g. cancer in children), but rather the best researchers.

By backing the best researchers their investments would ultimately be used the most effectively for the public.

This approach is perhaps not the most democratic way to decide on what projects or communities to invest in, but it does mean that those who can make the most significant difference will be invested in.

It is, after all, people rather than structures and governance that make the difference.

In order to be successful in addressing our social issues, we need to invest in our people, not just in our ideas.

This is what I call a fair approach, when the investment is made in the people first.


Podcast on social media

Allison Fine PodcastI've written a couple of posts recently about social media and social networking, and how this can help generate awareness and potentially funding for your social cause.

There is a new podcast from Allison Fine on using social media for social causes, with her latest update including some interesting interviews on this topic.


Social networks for social causes

Everyone seems to have a Facebook or MySpace account these days, with those under 30(ish) seeming to use these social media websites as the standard way to interact with their friends and families.

Social networks that are created in Facebook exist because people want to connect with each other. And because of these connections they can become valuable supporters of your cause if you are able to interact successfully with their social networks.

They don't join the social media sites to donate to a charity, they joined to interact with their friends.

Applications on Facebook can raise awareness as well as funds for your social cause.