1. Briefly tell us about yourself and your organization.
My name is Surika Behrens and I am the Hub Manager at the Social Enterprise Academy (SEA) South Africa, a global learning and development social enterprise that supports people and organizations working for social change. In 2020, we launched a program at SEA SA called Social Enterprise Connect in partnership with the IDC (Industrial Development Corporation) in South Africa. SE Connect is a Community of Practice (CoP) for social impact makers in SA that – since its inception – expanded to all 9 provinces in South Africa. This ambitious initiative is aimed at recognising, sharing and amplifying the work of social entrepreneurs while building social capital among these impact makers.
2. What motivated SE Connect?
Social entrepreneurs often feel alone and isolated on their challenging journey to create an impact in their communities. However, strong ecosystems allow entrepreneurs to quickly find the knowledge and resources they need to succeed.
The first of its kind in SA, this initiative seeks to build a strong social enterprise ecosystem by creating platforms for sharing and learning through peer engagement. This CoP is focused on “Linking Change-makers to Learn, Collaborate and Grow”. It’s a platform where people can discuss needs, problems and solutions within the social impact space.
Social Enterprise Connect consists of in-person learning and networking events, as well as an online resource platform. Events are centred on connecting and partnering with social entrepreneurs so that they can learn from each other.
3. So far, what has been the impact of SE Connect?
From just 60 members at our inaugural Peer Connect Support Series programme in 2020, the community has since grown its network to over 1600 registered members. Some impact numbers are in the infographic here.
4. What are the immediate challenges you faced launching SE Connect and how did you overcome them?
When this CoP was conceptualized, the main goal was to physically link change-makers to learn, collaborate and grow through in-person events. However, when we launched in September 2020, people could not meet because of COVID-19 regulations that were in place. This meant that we had to pivot from in-person to online learning and networking events.
Fortunately, we were able to fast-track our online solutions and successfully ran a 6-week Peer Connect Support Series programme for social entrepreneurs in South Africa. This involved small groups of social change leaders coming together online every week to explore new ways of supporting each other and how best to navigate the COVID-19 crisis.
5. Mention one big change you will like to see SE Connect achieve e.g., policy change, behaviour change, institutional support, more collaboration etc.
Social Enterprise Connect also seeks to encourage engagement with policy-makers by creating a critical mass of self-organized voices. We would like to see more and more empowered members stepping forward to help shape and develop an enabling Social Economy Policy for social entrepreneurs in South Africa.
6. Do you have a final message for a budding African social entrepreneur who is interested in becoming a part of SE Connect?
The great philosopher Plato once said, “The beginning is the most important part of the work”. To any budding African social entrepreneur, Start now! Start with what you have! You are the resource you need to make a difference.
7. How can people connect with your social enterprise online?
They can contact SE Connect via: