Sometimes you feel blessed doing the work we do. This was certainly the case last month. A trip to Kenya and Tanzania enabled us to see first-hand the impact of our social entrepreneurship programs. In February we’ve also run programs in Nairobi and taken a look at the social entrepreneurship sector in the Ukraine, presenting at a 400 people strong conference with the theme, “Social Innovations: New Solutions to Old Problems”.

Let us start with the trip to Nairobi, Kenya. One of the first things that happened to me when arriving in Nairobi was on the journey to the hotel. On the highway, seemingly from nowhere, a Zebra crossed the road. For you who have spent time in or lived in Nairobi that might not seem like much, but for a person who’s grown up with Moose or deer crossing the road, a Zebra was one of the last things I expected. It did set the tone for the trip, however, constantly being ready for surprises and my curiosity on high alert.

Instead of going into details of all the visits I did, I would like to share some overarching themes I noticed. Firstly, we saw once again the importance of belonging to a network of friends or like-minded people. A year after the SE Social Business Bootcamp (formerly known as the Mini-accelerator) the participating social entrepreneurs still have regular contact through their Whatsapp group. They share tips, opportunities, wins and losses. To have peers who understand and value the work you do is important, especially when you as the founder often are alone in your daily work and decision making.

We also saw that when you come up against difficult decisions or challenges it can be comforting to have some tried and trusted support materials. All the entrepreneurs we visited still have their SE Forum Toolbox handbook close at hand. This also stays true for the trainers who received training in last year’s SE Training of Trainers program. For them their handbook has proven a big help.

Continuing on with the Training of Trainers program, we’ve seen great progress in how our partner organization from last year, Africa Nazarene University, has embedded the training they received into their curriculum. Social Entrepreneurship now plays a much bigger role in their business faculty and we received the feedback from the University lecturers that they’ve completely changed their way of educating. From a more classical lecturing approach to a participatory style using the Business Model Canvas and involving the students more in the process. For us to see this change only a year after the program was a great outcome.

Talking social innovation in Kiev

Close to 400 guests gathered in Kiev at the IX International Conference of Ukrainian Philanthropists Forum: “Social Innovations: New Solutions to Old Problems”. The conference included local and international speakers from countries such as USA, United Kingdom and Latvia. I spoke about the work of SE Forum and participated in two panel discussions, one focusing on impact measurement and the other exploring differences and similarities in various accelerator programs for entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs.

To sum up it was great to see the social innovation sector develop in Ukraine and we see clear potential in how social entrepreneurship can play its part in stabilizing and developing the country.

If you’re interested in hearing more in-depth about the work we do, please sign up to our open event in Stockholm on March 29.