OPINION: 22 on Sloane creating a strong and sustainable social economy


In the  midst of the 2018 Global Citizen Festival, themed Demand Freedom, Defeat Poverty which is closely aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end extreme global poverty by 2030, I thought it relevant to share the latest activities and developments at 22 on Sloane, regarding the creation of a strong and sustainable social economy.

But first, what exactly is social economy? Various definitions explain that social economy is formed by a rich diversity of enterprises and organisations, such as cooperatives and social enterprises, sharing common values.
A social economy looks at creating new sustainable solutions for various needs and issues that have not been prioritized in our communities. It looks at building a strong, sustainable, prosperous and inclusive society.
Four key activities at 22 on Sloane this week proved that the social economy is something to really focus on.
1. Sessions with Kamran Elahian, Global Innovation Catalyst: Last Monday, Kamran hosted several sessions to discuss various issues with stakeholders. His key mission was to understand the entrepreneurship ecosystem, including the current social economic landscape, and explore areas to collaborate with various stakeholders. 
Today, he is a global innovation advisor to 500 start-ups. As an Innovation Catalyst, he advises various governments on the transition needed from fossil-based economies to sustainable innovation economies. 
In the past, as a global high-tech entrepreneur, he co-founded 10 companies and had six exits; three of which were Unicorn IPOs with a total cap of over $8 billion. He was also the chairman of Global Catalyst Partners with over $350 million under management. 
2. The African Odyssey summit, championed by Carol Bouwer: The African Odyssey is a beauty and fashion business summit, focusing on empowering and rethinking the economy of fashion and beauty. 
Sponsored by the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), among others, the event hosted at 22 on Sloane was attended by guests from all over the world, including local stars such as David Tlale, Nomzamo Mbatha and DJ Fresh, to name a few. The platform paid specific attention to developing social solutions for the two industries and ways to create inclusive value. 
3. The Swaziland/South Africa Youth Exchange Programme: What a better way to start inculcating a strong sense of social economics, than from the youngest age possible? 
22 on Sloane hosted 21 youths from Swaziland as part of its exchange programme, who spent the weekend interacting with their peers from South Africa. Here, the focus was on completing design thinking challenges to develop solutions for the most pressing issues they face within their communities. This marked the end of our youth programme for the year, which saw numerous weekends of learning to start new ventures, to code and create value for their communities. 
Their evident commitment and passionate participation showed that they derived great value from the programme and left well-equipped to transform, build and sustain their communities. 
3. A Social Economy Policy event, hosted by Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Economic Development: This event focussed on creating a policy on social economy in partnership with the International Labour Organisation, the Government of Flanders and the Industrial Development Corporation. 
Here are a few key take-out points from his address:
  • Social enterprises need quicker access. Instead of always focusing on structure, let’s pay attention to delivery and outcome.
  • Social enterprises and the social economy must embrace the necessity for change with the coming of the 4th industrial revolution.
  • Take the existing models in townships and improve them. Also investigate and unlock new opportunities in communities. Burial societies are a good example of cooperatives, which hold sustainable value and create economic opportunities.
  • The dynamics of social economy must not be compromised. Take service delivery as a basic example. A food vendor’s car breaks down on the way to the busy business area in the community, a loss for everyone. But social enterprise does not mean that delivery is compromised. Remember, creating a sustainable social economy faces many unforeseen challenges, such as technical and human dynamics, to name a few.
With the Competition Commission, we have co-ordinated that small players can join forces to bid for opportunities. They need to organize themselves and use all available instruments within the community to weave through and build a great base.
Speaking recently at the Centre for Entrepreneurs lecture in London, the former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt also highlighted on the social economy and the importance of building, saying that we frequently don’t build the best technology platforms to tackle big social challenges, because often there is no immediate promise of commercial return.
He added that there are a million e-commerce apps, but not enough speciality platforms for safely sharing and analyzing data on homelessness, climate change or refugees.
As we round off the year, we must think about the communities around us that may not have the opportunity to celebrate the upcoming holidays or festive. How do we support them? How do we help them create value in their communities? How do we ensure that 2019 has a different outlook for them.
Building a social economy is a sine qua non for all nations and together we must tackle the issues facing our communities and find ways to ensure that our activities are always inclusive and supportive .

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