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Creating An Enabling Ecosystem for Social Innovation in SA

Categories: HEADLINES, Enterprise
South Africa’s social innovators and entrepreneurs need to be included in the country’s support structures that already exist for for-profit entrepreneurs and be encouraged to participate in the discourse between business, government and investor groups.

This was one of the key outcomes from a panel debate exploring the make-up of an enabling eco-system for social innovation in South Africa, hosted by the Innovation Edge in Cape Town (21st July).  The event aimed to facilitate open dialogue between corporate organisations, government agencies, funding institutions and the civil society. 

“Social innovation is an idea that works for the public good. These ideas can emerge from anywhere – non-profits, for-profits and the public sector. Most frequently, the best ideas develop in the spaces between these sectors,” said Sonja Giese, programme leader at the Innovation Edge. 

The panel found that social innovators in emerging countries, where public good solutions are most needed, frequently operate on the outskirts of the formal economy.  If the opportunity to create networks of trust, knowledge exchange and collaboration between different agencies is seized however, the positive returns of social innovation can be immense.

“Few ideas come to fruition simply because there is no network of support for social innovators to assist them in getting their ideas off the ground,” said panellist David Harrison, CEO of the DG Murray Trust. 

A further positive for South Africa is the vibrancy and the fluidity of our young democracy, which has the potential to act as a hotbed for creative problem solving – if social innovation structures are supported and nurtured. 

“The discourse in South Africa is so frequently negative at the moment and that can act as a suppressive force on social innovation; when in fact, our nation needs scalable and sustainable solutions for social good. Now more than ever, we need to celebrate optimism and practise optimism through supporting social innovation,” said Harrison.  

If a supportive network is the backbone of social innovation, then diversified funding streams are its life force. The panel agreed, that new avenues for financing need to be explored and those include public contracts through procurement, social banking, innovations checks, social impact bonds and venture philanthropy financing schemes.  

The panel discussion was made up of the following speakers:

  • Lesley Williams, Founder & MD of Impact Hub Johannesburg

  • Maija De Rijk-Uys, PwC Accelerator SA

  • David Harrison, CEO DG Murray Trust

  • Phindile Tshabangu, Economic Development Partnership Western Cape

  • Ayla Goksel, CEO Ozyegin Social Investment

  • Zachariah George, Cactus Advisors & U-Start



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