Social Enterprise for Lunch

Josephine and Arisa at the LDV

Maybe I’ll step out for lunch immediately after this, but my real lunch time was donated to a greater cause — testing some online tools that can provide alternative income generating strategies (that work) to help combat the scam menace in Nigeria, and a meeting that centered on Social Enterprise.

When my phone rang yesterday afternoon, little did I know that the conversation would change the face of my day — today — and that I would be opening up my passion for the growth of the Social Enterprise model in Nigeria (and across Africa). Arisa introduced herself as from Axel, and that of course aroused my curiousity the more as I was sure that anyone from Axel would either be discussing a project or conducting research. ๐Ÿ™‚ And of course she was. She’s doing some work on the Social Enterprise landscape in Nigeria …

She arrived with Josephine (who was eventually introduced as an Ashoka fellow) and we moved straight into discussions about Social Enterprise in Africa after exchanging cards and having her phone’s audio recorder activated (I hope I didn’t say anything about the hot OBJ/ATK Term_3 issue.) ๐Ÿ˜‰ Following Arisa’s questioned, I talked about the Lagos Digital Village and why we are moving from traditional grant-seeking to building a social enterprise. Earlier (at the Social Enterprise Alliance Gathering in March 2006), I had stated that:

What we have noticed is that many projects are tagged pilot projects, and it is easier for civil society organisations to get grants for their execution in the pilot phase รขโ‚ฌโ€œ but when the pilot phase is over, the issue of sustaining the projects becomes a major task. Countless laudable projects have gone the way of pilot burials only to be remembered by their once-beautiful website, or fliers that they produced when announcing the birth of the new project… many … have been caught asking questions about the possibility of finding alternatives to this age-long grant-seeking model that just does not work well considering the reality of donor saturation…

Our discussion was quite interesting as the usual twin issues of power supply and access featured prominently. We discussed solar power options, shared access opportunities, and will talk more in the days to come. I look forward to moments when projects will no longer live for as long as the grant-makers so wish — but that sustainability will be a key factor in the operation of non-profit ventures. At that point, traditional grant-makers can now become development partners and the real work of development will not just be about figures and great-looking annual reports — but authentic and long-lasting work in the true sense of the word work.

I think it’s time for that lunch…

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