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Rebuilding through social and creative enterprise

Earlier this year, I led a research team of dedicated social and creative enterprise experts to conduct a research study into these important sectors in South Africa as part of British Council’s DICE programme, supported by Social Enterprise UK.

The Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies (DICE) Programme supports the growth of creative and social enterprises and explores the intersection between the two, as a means of addressing some of the worlds most entrenched and complex challenges, specifically rising youth unemployment and unequal economic growth.

For the initial research work, there were 5 countries identified as priorities – South Africa, Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia. The hypotheses of the British Council were that creative and social enterprise have much in common and can have lower barriers to entry, bring new and disruptive ideas, be inclusive, and bring new energy and pride to communities, and this was used as the base for the research questions.

Although the full study is quite comprehensive and can be accessed in full here, I wanted to summarise some of the research findings in this article – especially in light of the current crisis we find ourselves in.

Some of our most interesting findings included:

  • Most of both CEs and SEs are small businesses with under R500 000 turnover (similar to most general SMEs in South Africa) and most are less than 5 years old

  • There are huge challenges to accessing grant funding, and yet many of our respondents indicate these types of funds could be of great help to them

  • Network access and investment readiness were considered key constraints to accessing funding

  • Social enterprises create more jobs on average than creative enterprises – which is not surprising given the level of temporary or informal employment in creative industries as well as the level of freelancing – but social enterprise also showed a potential resilience to economic downturn. However, creative enterprise can create a lot more temporary and seasonal employment.

  • Both creative and social enterprises are highly inclusive and employ high portions of women and youth, as well as have high levels of transformation

  • Leadership skills such as ability to set a vision and self-knowledge were ranked as very important by respondents who are currently profitable, indicating the need to go beyond technical and business skills support

  • Innovation was seen as highly important, but in the short term engaging in innovation was correlated with making losses – although this could have several potential explanations

Some of the key recommendations that we make for supporting these sectors included:

  • Need for more research in key areas such as job creation and resilience and innovation support

  • Incubators and other support organisations need to consider leadership skills and not just technical or business skills

  • Network and market access is key (this is something we really focus on at Impact Hub Joburg)

  • Early stage risk capital is very much needed – not just for SE and CEs but for SMEs in general in South Africa

In conclusion, we feel that social and creative enterprises pose a huge potential in South Africa and especially in these unusual times. As we sit with an economy that is struggling and will likely get worse before it gets better we have a chance to really rebuild South Africa in a way that creates jobs and brings wealth, but more importantly is more inclusive, sustainable, fair, and resilient than what we have had to date. The time for this change is now.

You can download the full report on the British Council website at the bottom of this webpage.

A big thank you to everyone who made this work possible. Most notably, thank you to Ansulie Cooper for helping co-write this large piece of work. Thank you also to Mariapaola McGurk for her expertise in particular on the creative sector in South Africa and to Coloured Cube for helping carry this portion of the research out in particular.

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