The State of Social Enterprise in South Africa

Social entrepreneurs on building South Africa’s economy

The stories of 14 social entrepreneurs are told in the book The Disruptors, written by Gus Silber and Kerryn Krige. Silber is an award-winning journalist, speechwriter and author. Krige heads up the Network for Social Entrepreneurs at the Gordon Institute for Business Science (GIBS) in Johannesburg, which focuses on achieving social and economic change through social enterprise. The authors share their journey in the writing of this book, and speak about why this book is important.

Why Social Entrepreneurship in South Africa

Social entrepreneurship is hard to define, with different interpretations in different countries. In South Africa it is emerging as a blend of for and not-for-profit approaches, which balances the value and trust of social organisations with the efficiencies and profit motive of business. Within this is a conflict that challenges our cultural interpretation of charity – to make money out of social services is interpreted as inherently wrong and counter-intuitive to the mission-focus of civil society. 

It is this dissonance that makes social entrepreneurship so powerful in South Africa, as it forces us to look at what we assume is right and challenge the ‘norm’. Multiple reports talk of a crisis in civil society, and question the sustainability of the current system of funding which is largely dependent on grants. Compounding this is a fractured relationship with a government that subsidises rather than funds non-profits to deliver essential services, in fields such as child protection, education and health.