Accelerating Positive Change in Africa Through Social and Business Co-Creation

Curated Story
Social and Business Co-Creation
This article originally appeared on Ashoka

In a rapidly changing Africa, social and environmental challenges are complex. Leading social entrepreneurs, like the 400+ Ashoka Fellows in Sub-Saharan Africa, are on the front lines of solving those complex problems by diagnosing and then inventing new ways to combat the failing systems that are holding back social change. 

Despite successes, trailblazing entrepreneurs cannot restructure Africa’s failing systems alone; nor do they have to. Untapped changemaking power still resides in the business sector, as almost 69 percent of the world’s top 100 economic entities in the world are companies, not countries. 

In 2018, as Ashoka surveyed its Fellows network to better understand their perspectives and best practices for engaging the private sector, we discovered a series of enlightening stories: social entrepreneurs had entered into collaborative, mutually beneficial partnerships with businesses to scale their social impact beyond what was possible alone. 

The findings from the survey are emphatic: social entrepreneurs want to work with businesses. 97 percent of respondents saw businesses as valuable strategic partners. 83 percent have corporate partners already. But 79 percent report that social and business sectors remain too siloed. The largest obstacle for these entrepreneurs is finding like-minded businesses. 

Consequently, we were eager to learn more and share insights about these collaborative mindsets and strategies. How did these social entrepreneurs defy the odds in an unpredictable, unstable, and sometimes corrupt landscape to model, implement, and eventually scale crucial social innovations that have had profound impacts all over the continent? 

We profiled five powerful co-creation journeys for the co-creation cases namely: 

  • Joseph Nkandu (Nucafe | Uganda | Agribusiness) - is combatting the poverty cycle for Ugandan coffee farmers and increasing overall returns on one of the country’s primary exports. 

  • Adama Kane (JokkoSanté | Senegal | Health) - is revolutionizing and democratizing access to medicine through a system of exchange that allows everyone to contribute and improve community health. 

  • Irfan Keshavjee (Karibu Homes | Kenya | Housing) - is working to close the housing market gap by developing affordable solutions that meet the needs of low to middle- income earners, a currently underserved population. 

  • Evariste Aohoui (PARO-CI | Cote d’Ivoire | Recycling ) - has pioneered a holistic approach to efficiently address the issue of e-waste in West Africa by creating public awareness and engaging the informal sector as environmental agents. 

  • Marlon Parker (RLabs | South Africa | Youth Employment) - is using information technology to engage vulnerable youth and help them design practical technology-based solutions that address social challenges.
While each of their journeys is unique – from their countries to their motivations, backgrounds, inspirations, and missions – every journey also has key similarities. These five stories of thriving Social and Business Co-Creation illustrate common, imitable strategies and practices that have resulted in tangible, scalable, and lasting social change. 

The co-creation case studies demonstrate how social entrepreneurs and big business can work together through mutually beneficial Social and Business Co-Creation partnerships to achieve lasting change on large scales.

Read more about these co-creation cases in the report!