Bringing it all together

Bringing it all together

Day 6 & 7 of the training and it is all coming together! The Organisation for Community Action (OCA) team have absorbed the training like a sponge! Huge credit must go to the Step Up programme, for which there is so much complementary content.

On one side of the room we have the team practicing the entrepreneur selection interviews. On another side, people are making towels to show the Step Up communities tomorrow. And on yet another, the team are practicing the training for the entrepreneurs. The room is buzzing!

One of my favourite moments from the whole trip so far, was Ken, a senior consultant working with the OCA team, overlocking a towel. Concentration etched across his face trying to make the perfect towel by going all the way around in one go (no simple task!). All of sudden the normal quiet hum of conversation is disturbed by this massive whoop and dance, as Ken  smashes the task. The whole room, burst out cheering.

It is great to see how the OCA team are using the training they received throughout the past week and bringing it all together in these practice sessions. Taking it a step further, the OCA team are applying some of the training and thought processes to their Step-Up programme; always looking to improve. The exact mentality we look for in partners.

We are all eager to test and experience. So, not content on waiting for the Roots EcoSan toilets to be built, we instead decided to build a Roots urinal for the OCA team during the lunch break. The first thing the OCA team did (after trying it of course) was to start thinking how to make one for the girls…

Tomorrow, we travel into the field to excite the community with these businesses and start the entrepreneur selection process. And somehow, Bradley has got a bit lost and has ended up in Kenya…

Training small, community based social franchises is unique

Training small, community based social franchises is unique

After 4 intense days of training on how to set up each of our three social franchises; Petal, Roots and Right Light, today was all about the new partners Organisation for Community Action (OCA). All about preparing them for the exciting and unique challenges of training a micro-enterprise.

OCA are already experts in training. Their Step Up programme trains subsistence farmers on 132 topics over 6 years; on all things from keeping your home clean, to domestic violence and why you shouldn’t be afraid of the police. What’s even more impressive, and just shows the patience and commitment of OCA, is that each topic is taught through ‘participatory development’ i.e. the farmers set the pace, uncover the problems and find the solutions mostly by themselves.

Training a micro-enterprise is similar, but there are two key differences. With our model, you are training people to run a business as a team; whereas the norm is solo, and you are setting up a franchise with most of the rules and procedures already established. It is businesses to the core… and a new way of thinking of business.

On day 1 of training we delved into the business experience of each of the 15 OCA team members. Many had tried once or several times to start a personal business of their own with only a couple still continuing. The key element of failure they all recognised by day 5 of training (today) was that in Uganda (and many other cultures) small businesses and the owners are one and the same. Meaning, my businesses debt comes from my income, my expenses are paid by my business and the businesses depends on me being there to succeed. In WSV, all of our entrepreneurs are trained to and understand that they must consider their business as a separate entity. One that pays its expenses, its employees and sustains itself through the social and practical value created for community members. A social enterprise to the core.

Each social franchise needs a focused team, to train them. OCA dived themselves into three groups, one for each business and dove into the training, practicing by teaching each other.

The role play, was hilarious! Quite a few people in the team were downright stubborn, conservative and easily confused ‘entrepreneurs’. But, at the same time they were passionate, energetic and rewarded when things were well put.

Tomorrow is the last official day of training… a day of “Bringing it all together”.

Can partnerships make the impossible, possible?

Can partnerships make the impossible, possible?

So what is a partnership? I’m sure we all know. By definition a partnership is when two or more parties collaborate or join together for mutual benefit. Partnerships in business are much the same as any other partnership. They provide valuable support, help build a network and allow parties work together to achieve or maintain a common beneficial aim.

At Wessex Social Ventures (WSV) we understand the importance of building strong relationships and have used this to surround our business model. We build relationships with NGOs, corporates and individuals in communities enabling us to travel further and implement otherwise near impossible radical interventions.

“We have found our partnerships have spread knowledge and expertise, and have helped build a strong network of communities”

Building strong relationships can take years; especially in our case, as our business model relies on building rooted relationships within communities. Our model targets communities living on less than $3 per day; a notoriously difficult bracket in which to implement ‘trade’ solutions. Knowledge of local culture is even more paramount to success which is why we have created the WSV Social Franchise Model. We package our micro-enterprise models into a business in a box, supplying NGOs with the training, tools, and support they need to replicate the models proven impact. This allows us to tap into a pre-existing network of NGOs and communities forming an enabling ecosystem.

“Business is a complex, fragile network of interconnected relationships and systems. People rely on these relationships to influence large groups of people.”

The previous Millennium Development Goals sanitation target underperformed by a staggering 700 million people; a significant loss for the UN and the rest of the world. Was this an impossible target to reach? How do you make the impossible, possible? This miss inspired us to take action and with help from our partners we were able to implement change and access communities immediately. The Roots enterprise was established to provide clean, safe toilet facilities to communities suffering from diseases such as cholera. The toilets serve a creative function, converting human waste into 100% natural fertilizer. Thefertilizer is then sold to local farmers at a fraction of the price of alternatives and the revenue used to construct more toilets. Roots is an example of the kind of sanitation initiative needed in the developing world.

This is a prime example of where an ecosystem of organisations is needed. These enterprises take time to build and due to low income levels, they are also unable to fund the employment of our team in the UK. Our social franchise model resolves this, as NGOs purchase the model and support from WSV, allowing Roots to scale efficiently. The local ownership of the micro-enterprises drastically reduces the cost of the products for the communities because the wage the entrepreneurs require and the business costs reflect the economic state of the community. Thus making the enterprise affordable, accessible and sustainable

With help from our partners we were able to launch The Million, Million, Million Plan:

  • 1 million women and girls with a sustainable supply of affordable sanitary towels
  • 1 million school children with safe, clean toilets
  • 1 million people studying and working under clean, affordable lighting

The power of connection is invaluable and our partners have already assisted hugely in the development of WSV. With further growth and cross sector partnerships, our Million, Million, Million plan is more than possible.

Enactus Southampton and the University of Southampton have hugely supported WSV. Partnering with Enactus has resulted in the creation of life changing business models, helped WSV make contacts and provided us with valuable resources and innovative student minds; all helping propel WSV in the right direction.

We owe gratitude to World Merit who have been mentoring us throughout our journey. They made it possible for us to attend the very successful Nexus Youth Summit in New York and are an inspiration to taking the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Our Journey with them also takes us to Merit360 and the full UN General Assembly.

Everybody travels further with a loyal partner, and WSV have definitely seen this in the past few years. We believe that collaboration has the power to make the impossible, possible.