To the question “What is at the heart of your work”, women tell us it is mostly about trust. Not just trust from clients in the product but their own trust in their product. The way to distinguish a blind trust from a robust and secure feeling comes from the social entrepreneur’s ability to answer this set of questions:
When they are able to back this up by genuine evidence, that different stakeholders can also vouch for, that sentiment of trust is what shapes love…. and makes a good product.
So, love, in short, is about designing sustainability in and around a product, so that it can be trusted to change – or contribute to change - a system.
Noora Sharrab from Sitti Soap shared her thoughts with us about the importance of developing entrepreneurial solutions in the humanitarian sector, she said :
“That’s what I love about the social enterprise world. When it is designed with a long-term vision in mind, it really “moves” things - people, economies, and attitudes for second and third generations to come. I never want to get into a position where I have to tell people I can’t pay their salaries for the next three months, or until our next big order comes in. I want us to be prepared for all cases, and to have a steady stream of income to keep us going”.
Building in trust through sustainability is what Noora achieved through her social venture.
Talking about challenges in the work they do, it seems the women we’ve interviewed found strength in continuous learning. Some grabbed opportunities in a context of rejection. To be able to get up from these setbacks, an on-going reflective practice is key.
From a young age, Dina Saoudi, from Jordan, has had a passion for serving humanity.
She turned this aspiration into a reality through the founding of Seven Circles and its corporate philanthropic arm, Seven's World, a social business that funds global and local organizations that aim to feed, heal, shelter, educate, inspire and empower over billions of people.
“When we asked people to share their stories, asking the private sector to work with the public or academic sectors, we received a lot of rejection at the start. But that feedback and that resistance was our opportunity to iterate. We are what we are because of rejection. Our stakeholders taught us a lot along the way, so the “challenges” were in fact opportunities in disguise.”
An inherent trait in all the coaching or informal conversations we have with women who make waves in their sector are their ability to shape a clear and well-built mantra (or focus) which supports their reason to be as a woman in social enterprise. They make incremental steps towards that goal and deliver day after day. (Note that finding - and delivering on- a purpose is something I would recommend anyone to work on, not just women in social enterprises). It should be simple. It should be measurable.
“I wish that we could normalise the conversation around disabilities - that no one has to bear the load alone, that we find support from the government and from civil society. It’s not just about a support system but about a new frame of mind.”
This kind of focus helps you source new stakeholders and policy allies to your cause, but also find mentors, and financial supporters.
In practice, outcomes depend on the context where these entrepreneurs seek to apply these basic elements: love, focus and resilience.
Policies, behaviours and attitudes have to change too, to embed innovation and make it business/life as usual. We found that this incommensurable effort is generally not budgeted proportionally nor reflected appropriately in investment pitches or funding applications.
There is an opportunity to address on-going campaigning, and relationships with public decision-makers (did I say lobbying?) as an on-going cost of sales in social enterprises.
How do you do this in your particular context? What is the budget share allocated to lobbying? What is your return on investment? We’d love to hear from you!
Reem Alfranji left Gaza in 2010 in search of better support for her two sons who had been recently diagnosed with Global Development Delay (GDD). The network, resources and education that Reem was seeking to help her and families like hers weren't there, so Reem and her husband set up Habaybna.net, an Arabic-language website that Reem hopes will become the go-to resource for Arab parents of children with learning difficulties, featuring specialised content, video interviews with experts and parents, an online library and directory as well as tele-coaching.
Noora Sharrab is the co-founder and CEO of Sitti, bringing employment to skilled refugees through handmade, natural, Olive Oil Soap. Sharrab, whose ancestral family is from Gaza, has always felt a special bond with the women of Jerash “Gaza” Refugee Camp in Jordan. As the co-founder and regional director of Hopes for Women in Education, an international NGO and one of several Sitti beneficiaries, she has worked tirelessly to provide educational opportunities to refugee girls and women throughout the MENA region.
Dina Saoudi, started Seven's World, a social business that funds global and local organisations that aim to feed, heal, shelter, educate, inspire and empower over billions of people. Dina co-developed Empowering Through, a model that adopts an ecosystem approach driving representatives from all project stakeholders to work together to empower an individual both economically and socially. "
*"Learning from #ImpactWomen" is an OGUNTE series of interviews and articles co-designed with global women in social enterprises, bringing you insights into different business models, innovative concepts, and leadership development tips.
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