Social entrepreneurs are regarded as awesome, especially in this "accelerated" age of ours! On that we all agree. Yes, by disrupting conventional approaches in an innovative way in order to address social problems, social enterprises are contributing towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in diverse ways. Indeed, by spearheading innovative solutions at both the micro and meso levels, social entrepreneurs address not only community problems, but also contribute to solving the increasing challenge of youth unemployment, emanating from the widespread phenomena of youth bulge.
Despite its time-tested contributions to social development, the sector in Ghana faces significant challenges, as most African countries, with financing and policy frameworks being some of the notable impediments to the growth of the sector. Lack of financing imply promising innovations will fade into staid relevance, thereby hampering the steadfast willingness to improve society by doing good and doing well. Other notable challenges include: building strong, resilient organizations; building strategic collaborations and maintaining long term relevance.
Well, there is some good news. Social Innovation Africa in collaboration with Afrigrants, the Funding Space in Nigeria, SDG Philanthropy Platform, Philanthropy and Impact Investing Network Ghana hosted a stakeholder consultative meeting on the establishment the Funding Space in Ghana on the 11th of February 2019, at the UNDP Ghana conference room. Participants cut across, impact investors, fund managers, foundations, British Council, government, social enterprises, INGO's and NGO's, academics and policymakers.
The Funding Space is an access to finance, networking and training, and mentoring platform, which connects social entrepreneurs, non-profits and start-ups to local and international foundations, impact investors, venture philanthropists, fund managers, and bilateral and multilateral development partners. Indeed, it is a space that connects an amalgam of financing and funding organizations with social purpose organizations. It is an opportunity for innovators to pitch the uniqueness of their solutions for potential financing, funding or both.
Beyond innovations that win financing through solicited calls, there are countless numbers of potentially groundbreaking innovations, which continue to push for pitching opportunities. Oh, and by the way: there are multitudes of financing organizations looking to support innovative solutions that provides the double-barrel benefits of addressing specific SDGs and providing financial returns on their investments, concurrently. The Funding Space is a matching platform, which merges both as interests already intermesh.
In welcoming participants, Mr. Isaac Debrah, the Coordinator of the SDG Philanthropy Platform, UNDP Ghana, remarked that "given how we have been grappling with the sustainability of social enterprises and other hybrid organizations to deliver towards the SDGs, today's discussion couldn't have arrived at a less opportune time".
Reflecting on her motivations, Ms. Thelma Ekiyor, the CEO and Co-founder of Afrigrants, who doubles as the Convener of the Funding Space in Nigeria and had professionally straddled between the non-profit and for-profit sectors mentioned that it was started to "provide opportunity for actors from both the demand and supply side of social finance to directly engage".
The CEO Of Afriwood Cosmetics Nigeria, Mr. Sinari Daraniyo, a beneficiary of the Funding Space shared his experience on how his participation connected him to donors. The support enabled him to "expand and provide support to a group of 120 women who provide the raw materials for my business. We have empowered the women and given them vocational skills". Remarkably, that could not be possible with the high interest rates associated with commercial financing from banks.
Speaking on why the need for the Funding Space in Ghana, Ms. Anatu Ben-Lawal, CEO of Social Innovation Africa said, "it was born out of the desire for more social financing in Ghana, as support from traditional donors is increasingly shrinking". Thus, such desire comes on the heels of reduced donor support in accordance with Ghana's recent status as a lower-middle income country. She remains confident that the lessons from Nigeria will be useful for establishing the Funding Space in Ghana.
As millennials focus their pulsating and consuming energy towards social innovation for the achievement of Ghana's SDG priorities, providing the space to access financing and knowledge should be a priority for all stakeholders. Platforms to connect both the supply and demand side is key to unlocking social financing, as the interest of both are drawn to each other like moths to a flame. Both can do good and do well. The maiden Funding Space in Ghana is scheduled for May 2019. Stay posted!
The views expressed in this article and the report attached are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the SDG Philanthropy Platform. The SDG Philanthropy Platform is a global initiative that connects philanthropy with knowledge and networks that can deepen collaboration, leverage resources and sustain impact, driving SDG delivery within national development planning. It is led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), and supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Ford Foundation, Oak Foundation, Brach Family Charitable Foundation, and many others.