19 October 2016

The problem with the definition of "social entrepreneurship"

I was excited to see that LeadSA and the Bertha Centre have setup a podcast series around Social Entrepreneurship - Social Enterprise 101 (iTunes). There is precious little content around this space in South Africa. This is a quality production and I'm looking forward to working through it.

The very first episode got me into debate mode within the first 5 minutes. You see, I have a problem with the traditional/academic definition of "social entrepreneurship" - and as usual, it's all about the money.

In the intro, the hosts (Sibongile Mafu and Bame Modungwa) specifically define a social enterprise as an entrepreneurial venture with a social mission - where all profits are funneled back into the business to further the social mission.

I have a number of problems with this definition.

Change the Model
Can we agree that existing models are broken? Pure charity is broken - it's mostly providing symptomatic relief. The problems it's trying to solve are still there. This is obviously not to underplay the critical role charity has played in a country like South Africa - but most would agree, pure charity doesn't have a rosy, sustainable future.

Pure capitalism is just as broken. Capitalism is causing most of the problems pure charity is trying to solve! Biggest wealth gap ever. All eyes on gini coefficients across the globe. Cultural backlash to neoliberalism. Pervasive poverty. Failure of trickle down economics. You name it.

By defining social entrepreneurship like they did on the podcast - you're not changing the model. You're just creating a better charity with less focus on solving the passion problem and more on business principles and sustainability.

Show The Talent The Money
Entrepreneurial talent is typically attracted with money. That's the base definition of entrepreneurship, isn't it? It's the way we keep score. I'm not saying that's right - see minor rant about capitalism above - it's just reality.

But if you accept the view that entrepreneurial people tend to be attracted to for-profits and socially minded passion problem solvers tend to get attracted to non-profits, then how are we going to attract these entrepreneurial skills that we say the "charity" sector so desperately needs, if we funnel all the money back into the enterprise?

Come entrepreneurial skills, bust your ass solving social problems - but always remember that the world fundamentally thinks that being financially rewarded for solving social problems is inherently evil.

Revenue Models Lower Reliance on Donor Funding
If you don't give returns to shareholders (i.e. profits get reinvested to continue the social mission), you'll never have access to the risk capital market. This was my primary irritation when I wrote the pre-forgood piece: "What pisses me off about the NGO sector...".

The risk capital market is untapped by the development sector - and it's critical for changing the stigma of failure around businesses with a social mission, breeding a culture of experimentation, iteration and innovation.

So basically, instead of donor funding, we're now after grant funding. And yet we won't escape our dependence on it. The worst thing that could happen is for social enterprises to become as dependent on grant funding as charities are currently on donor funding.

Allowing a social enterprise to return some profits to investors changes the game completely.

Set The Right Incentives
Reinvesting all profits back into a social enterprise is noble, for sure. But how is this going to solve the problem of personal wealth creation? I'm not being selfish or evil here - I'm being realistic.

One of the primary achievements of successful entrepreneurs (fair reward for the enormous risk and difficulty of building your own show) is wealth creation - the freedom to continue doing what you want to do.

If you're going to reinvest profits of a social enterprise, you essentially make equity worthless. These businesses are unlikely to be sold - so there's no possible exit in that fashion. All you're incentivized to do is continually bloat your salary, getting us right back to square one with the sustainability problems faced by charities.

Set the right incentives - social enterprises should free us to measure both profit AND social impact. We don't have to be billionaires - but why do you not want to reward entrepreneurs for solving social problems and making money at the same time?  I don't know where you draw the line, but I don't think enough people are having this conversation.

Perhaps I'm too capitalist? I'm not sure.

I see the bright, shining opportunity for systemic change in how we tackle social problems and the company structures and incentive cultures we can use to do it.

With forgood, our dream is: social and capital dividends - in equal measures.

Why is that wrong?

Further reading if you're interested:

17 October 2016

Going beyond the volunteer bus - a new approach to corporate employee volunteering programmes...

A lot of what we're trying to do with forgood is change behavior on both sides of the social sector. What can be improved about volunteering? How can volunteers create more impact? How do we match volunteer skills to the right kind of projects (moving away from painting walls and planting gardens)? How can technology help Causes (charities) use volunteers and crowd-sourced resources to create more meaningful impact? How can technology create impact through scale in the social sector?

Part of this is re-thinking the approach to corporate volunteering. There's a lot of human capital that lies untapped inside corporates across South Africa.

Here's a little release around that.

--- snip ---

Going beyond the volunteer bus.

The heyday of bundling staff into a bus to paint an underprivileged school to fulfill Corporate Social Investment (CSI) targets is starting to fizzle out. Customers and investors want to see real impact – and employees are increasingly concerned with social purpose and business beyond the bottom line.

At present, this often means extra slog work for under-capacitated CSI teams. However, if companies embrace technology to make connections and do the tracking, a more unstructured and creative approach to volunteering can allow brands to foster deeper engagement from their staff. 

“Research says that effective volunteering programmes can be powerful tools for building employee loyalty and brand affiliation – a key part of employee engagement initiatives,” says Andy Hadfield, CEO of online volunteering and CSI management tool www.forgood.co.za.

The CSI industry, says Hadfield, is often characterised by projects that are mostly aligned to what communities really need, but activities that do not always engage or excite employees. “In order for volunteer programmes to be effective, businesses need to tap into real sentiment and commitment from their staff.” 

Having facilitated connections between individuals and nonprofits for years, forgood now offers a customisable management tool for business. Corporates sign up for a branded employee volunteering platform populated with real-time requests from nonprofits. Employees browse for activities and make arrangements directly – but all actions can be tracked for use in CSI reporting.

The platform addresses the limited capacity of CSI teams, which to date has dampened the effectiveness of volunteering programmes in South Africa. “Forgood takes away the slog of sourcing and arranging opportunities for staff involvement, allowing management to focus on more meaningful and strategic work,” says Hadfield.

“Volunteer programmes should work in tandem with staff satisfaction and development programmes - they have been shown to improve collaboration, innovation and soft skill development,” says Hadfield, who helped develop Deloitte’s groundbreaking staff engagement system back in 2008 before taking his skills to the social sector with forgood. 

“South Africans and millennials in general are eager to get involved in social projects, but they want a more personalised experience. With a tool like forgood, businesses are able to offer volunteer opportunities to suit all tastes and types, highlight existing corporate CSI initiatives – and track it all,” says Hadfield.

21 September 2016

What's Your Story? The power of storytelling for social impact...

Heartlines is the biggest shareholder of forgood. They're a fairly large non-profit that uses media to do values based education across the country. Not only do they have a new movie coming out in March - Beyond the River (it's really good, have seen a pre-screening)... But they have also launched a new digital campaign which I'm particularly interested in.

It's called #WhatsYourStory and aims to use the Internet to scale storytelling in South Africa. Because storytelling, verbal culture, word of mouth, understanding - these are some of the most powerful cultural weapons we have in this country. This is something so simple - that it might just work in our fledgling Internet ecosystem.

Check out the site and submit YOUR story: What's Your Story by Heartlines

Social media around the campaign will be run through Heatlines' Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Here's all the info about the campaign and it's launch...

What's Your Story? Heartlines’ new campaign tackles racism [#WhatsYourStory]

Social change NGO Heartlines has launched its latest values-inspired campaign, What’s Your Story? Aimed at tackling some of South Africa’s deepest divides, the campaign aims to build understanding, trust and reconciliation through the process of storytelling. With National Heritage Day on the horizon, the time is ripe for an authentic conversation on diversity and racial tolerance.

“We live in a world of stereotypes - until we get to know each other’s stories, we will treat each other according to the opinions and assumptions that we make. The only way to break this pattern is to get to know each other’s stories; only then we will see the human being behind the stereotype, this is the way forward for our country,” says Heartlines founder, Dr Garth Japhet. 

Through the sharing of personal stories on multi-media platforms What’s Your Story hopes to address the suspicion, fear, prejudice and racism that plague our interactions with one another. “Stories are all around us, they are what move us, challenge us, anger us, make us feel alive and inspire us. We use stories to make sense of life and the world in which we live,” says Japhet.  

The event was attended by actor Israel Sipho Matseke Zulu (formerly known as Israel Makoe and affectionately as Ma-Orange), who shared his personal story of growing up with a single mother in Alex, his jail time and subsequent rise to fame. Often playing the role of baddy or gangster in TV shows and movies such as Gaz’lam, Tsotsi, Four Corners, iNumber Number and Hard to Get, Zulu is no stranger to being stereotyped both on screen and in real life.

Zulu’s story, which is intertwined with South African urban history, his reputation and ownership of the bad boy role in films, countered by his warm and gentle persona captures the heart of What’s Your Story. “A person goes deeper than any first impressions they inspire, and Israel’s narrative is particularly relevant in demonstrating the power of storytelling to engage, transform and facilitate empathy,” says Japhet.

What’s Your Story can be accessed at whatsyourstory.online – visitors are able to watch, read, listen and act as a part of the campaign. Everybody living in South Africa is invited to write and submit their own personal stories to the platform. Community organisations, NGOs, religious groups and companies are also able to request facilitator guides and workshop resources.

19 August 2016

Senior .NET / C# Web Developer @ www.forgood.co.za


Forgood connects people to Causes. We’re building the biggest technology platform for the social sector in South Africa – and eventually other developing markets. Already, forgood is the largest volunteer matching service in SA, placing over 80 volunteers per week, excluding traffic on all our corporate programmes.

Our dream is to reinvent the social space – make it more efficient, effective and helping corporates point their CSI power in the right direction. We want to scale this idea of connecting skills to needs and use this to make our country a better place.

We’re a proudly “for profit” – and believe in making money and saving the world at the same time. Our primary business model is to sell a white-label version of our platform (that pulls data from the central ecosystem) into corporates as a tool to run their employee volunteering / employee engagement programmes. There are some incredible big data opportunities once we nail down a sexy way to do SaaS.

We need a Head of Development to take over dev from our long time outsourced partners. We need you to build and manage a tech team with the help of our Product Manager and CEO. We need you to iterate our platform at speed and create the sexiest product that the social sector has ever seen.

Go watch this. If it lights a fire in your head and heart, read on…  https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pallotta_the_way_we_think_about_charity_is_dead_wrong

YOUR DREAM? To work in a fast, free, creative “startup” environment. We have a great culture – obsessed with delivery and getting shit done, empowering our staff, failing fast, experimenting and generally just being rad...

You want to build your own team: to hire, fire, love, mentor and ass kick your staff into a slick unit. You want to build amazing products and figure out how to scale a SaaS solution across 100k+ staff members in corporate SA.

You want to learn quickly, work fast, think big, iterate, be lean, prove yourself, leave ego at the door. You want to run a stable product and build simple and transparent dev processes – push technology and dev outputs to be the best they can be.

You’d like to make a difference in this crazy world of ours.

      Transition from our outsourced dev partners to internal dev competency over a 3-6 month period.
      Run the show - with the support of a dedicated Product Manager and our CEO (who knows enough about dev to be dangerous).
      Over the transition period, you’ll also have the support of our outsourced team (Tech Lead, 2 Senior Devs, Front End, UX, QA and Project Manager).
      Implement, execute and improve on current dev and project management processes.
      Get your hands dirty. You’ll need to push code, debug and deploy. This isn’t a “delegation” role where you’ll have other people to do the work for you – but do it right and you’ll have the opportunity to build your own team as the business scales. Your first hire will be a mid-senior dev and front-end dev to complete your initial team.
      Enable continuous (i.e. bloody often) product iteration and deployment.
      Implement best practice hardware and software monitoring.
      Continuously optimise server infrastructure (our BizSpark Plus sponsorship is ending and our server bill is looking ouch).
      Create and build our dev culture. Expensive earphones, gaming keyboards, hackathons, WoW (old skool is kool), pizza, Red Bull, code reviews, industry networking, cross-company collaboration and all that good stuff that many people think only happens in Silicon X.
      Be committed to transformation.
      Slack, JIRA, GA, GTM and some other staples will be under your bench.

Qualifications and experience required
      Tertiary Qualification (BSc / BCom etc.). If you don’t have one – tell us why it isn’t important…
      Full stack WEB Developer: .NET C#, Web API, JavaScript, all hosted Microsoft Azure with a NoSQL Couchbase Database. The reason it’ll help to be full stack in the beginning is so that you can push code and build momentum.
      You need to love all the new toys and want to play with them. Proven history developing cutting edge web and mobile stuff.


Ping us. Send CV to justin@forgood.co.za. If we like – we’ll do coffee (we have close ties to Bean There so our coffee is exotic, African and awesome) and a HackerRank test.

Start: as soon as possible.

Salary: market rates. We hate the fact that just because people want to do something socially meaningful, many think they should earn less. Be prepared to earn every penny of your salary – but we’ll pay you properly.

16 August 2016

An Ashoka Interview. Great Changemakers Start in Their Youth. #LeadYoung #YouthEntrepreneur

Those who started something in their teens were four times as likely to be an entrepreneur and five times as likely to be a founder.

Ashoka is the world’s leading network of social entrepreneurs, a field founded by Ashoka CEO, Bill Drayton, in 1981. Since then, Ashoka has studied the most impactful social entrepreneurs to define the best practices and patterns that allowed them to create scalable and sustainable impact. Starting something in one’s teens was found to be a key predictor for success in change-making: a critical skill in today’s world dominated by the most rapid pace of change ever seen.

This interview is one of a series highlighting the stories of CEOs, who founded a venture in their teens, and is part of Ashoka’s global movement to create ecosystems that can support young people to begin change-making in their teens.

Ashoka: Could you describe your young change-making experience?

Andy Hadfield: When I was 19 years old, I was a member of the radio station at the University of Cape Town. I did the advertising portfolio and a couple of radio shows. It was my first exposure to media… At around that time I began wondering how we could do student-type content, the same that the radio provided - but on a website. How a website could maybe replace the pin boards where posters, flyers and all other campus “news” was posted. This was pre social media, so kinda novel.

I did some brainstorming and found another website that was similar to what we were looking to do. So I partnered up with the founder and launched my first business: the Cape Town branch gAL (getALife), which was the first-ever student media platform in South Africa.

Over the next five years, we found out what other services students needed and expanded to meet those, until we had three physical bookstores, an ISP, forums, a way for students to get email addresses and even a bursary database. We had a lot of content that people were interested in, like sports and music, and our operations were mostly volunteer-run. We also had a ton of political commentary and content – quite exciting in the time of South Africa’s new democracy.

The venture scaled pretty well and was present on all major South African college campuses. Due to the shock and untimely death of the original founder, the venture hit some trouble after about 5 years. That’ll taught me to get my legal ducks in a row. As early as possible. 

In the end, the business failed, but it was an amazing story and an incredible experience. 

Ashoka: How do you think your story relates to the new paradigm of a world defined by change, which requires a different set of skills and experiences?

Andy Hadfield: There are two things that are critical for businesses to focus on in our new world: simplicity and scale. In terms of simplicity, there has been a fascinating shift over the past fifteen years. In 1999, websites were very complicated. More was more: you had to have as much as possible because people were more exploratory, more fascinated with this thing called a website – they’d do a lot more work to consume your content than they would now.

One of the reasons my first initiative (the student media company and content portal) possibly didn’t make as much money as it could have was that it tried to do too many things.

The norm back then was to build fairly broad, deep businesses, but that trend has completely flipped on its head as the world has changed. If you notice the kind of businesses in the technology sector today, they do one extremely simple thing, and they do it very well.

That has been a complete revelation for me throughout my career: every time I’ve tried to do something less, I’ve done it better. When you try to do something more, you lose focus and battle to get it right.

When we re-launched www.forgood.co.za (my third “start up”), we focused on proving our ability to do one simple task: to match people with a desire to help to causes that needed them. That is the only thing we’re doing, and I think this simplicity is a result of the way the world has changed, and how people interact with technology now.

That leads to the second point: scale. Throughout my career, I’ve notice the importance of scaling businesses. It has a lot to do with service-based vs. product-based models: service-based companies can scale as long as they keep hiring people, while those that are product-based can scale on much less. Thinking at scale has become very important, and we’re trying to do that at forgood. It’s great if we can match one volunteer to a cause, but what if we could match 100,000 volunteers? It’s about trying to solve real-world social problems, but using the scale that technology can bring.

Ashoka: Who supported you? Did you have a role model that inspired you in your early days?

Andy Hadfield: I didn’t really have a role model, but I wish I did! I actually fell into entrepreneurship by accident. Growing up, I always had this idea that I would be a lawyer. But when I took my first class, I realized that it wasn’t for me. LA Law looked sexier on TV that it played out in real life.

Then I sort of fell into campus radio because I enjoyed DJ-ing, and from radio I fell into running the advertising portfolio, and then got involved in the the website and from there to the idea for my first business. It just happened; there was no design. I learned how to start a business through making lots of mistakes – trial and error can be effective, if painful!

If you can get mentor, get one - they can be invaluable as a source of external guidance. 

Ashoka: Do you think your early entrepreneurial experience relates to your current endeavor? 

Andy Hadfield: My first venture didn’t make anyone rich, but the cool thing about starting businesses when you’re young - is that you get to learn all your lessons: it’s when you bump your head without risking the wife and kids! You’re also THINKING BIG when you’re younger, dreaming more… It’s an amazing time to try stuff. The older you get, the more risk-averse you become (at least that’s the way it worked with me). 

What doesn’t change is those lessons. Every mistake I’ve ever made has been invaluable for making each new venture easier and faster. I almost wish I’d made more mistakes, quicker… 

Ashoka: What advice you would give to young people who want to be entrepreneurs?

Andy Hadfield: Confidence is no replacement for experience - but they can work well together. The youth of today tend to be a little overconfident. Sometimes without the tenacity to back it up (stick-to-it-ness!). 

The world won’t get delivered to you on a platter, and building businesses is not easy. Coming up with an idea is easy, but executing it is the real challenge.

If there was one piece of advice I could give to youth, it would be to keep that confidence, that self-belief, those BIG dreams, because that’s what makes this generation of youth so exciting. But channel it properly. Get grittier. Don’t job hop. Practice perseverance.

Entrepreneurship is pretty much the hardest thing you can do, it’s like getting up each morning and getting continually punched in the face. Going to sleep, waking up and having the same thing happen. Don’t believe all the overnight success you read about. In reality, it’s much harder. 

Sticking with something is so important. It’s too easy in this fast-paced world to try something once, decide it won’t work, and move onto the next thing. Perseverance will be the most important skill of today’s age. Fail fast, fail often, but don’t be flaky about your projects.

Go out there and kick ass.