Being one of the eight social entrepreneurs selected out of 900 applicants to attend SE Forum’s SE Outreach Accelerator in Stockholm came with a lot of excitement. But it also came with a worry about what would happen to my business if I was out of operations for the duration of the program.

I’m glad to say that I had nothing to worry about. When arriving in Stockholm, the lead trainer echoed that it is normal to worry but she emphasised the importance of building a strong team with processes that work efficiently in the absence of a founder. The training helped us overcome such worries and run our social enterprises sustainably, and today, after some re-structuring, I have managed to develop robust processes and the right team.

Taking part in the SE Outreach Accelerator has given me a lot of new insights, but it has also shown light on the great work we are already doing at Sanitation Africa. For example, we are constantly seeking feedback from our customers about our products and services that informs our research team on modification and future needs of customers. The aspect of social impact measurement is now well received in the six schools where we have constructed SmartSan toilets. We have piloted a survey to establish how clean sanitation affects pupils’ attendance and performance. And we are also administering quarterly surveys to households using our products/services.

Applying what I’ve learned

In terms of my key learnings from the Accelerator, I would highlight the emotional intelligence and inner sustainability that I’m currently applying in team management and facilitating discussions. The Give/Get Matrix has helped me in picking partners that are helpful in promoting the growth of Sanitation Africa. Meeting established organisations without clearly knowing your value compromises partnerships with time thus the Give/Get Matrix has helped me in assessing how each one will contribute to the partnership.

Overall, the Accelerator has made me realise that I possess great organisation and leadership skills. Being tolerant and accommodative in a situation that seems unfair to me is one of the characteristics that I developed during the Accelerator. I was trusted with group money for food, and everyone was impressed with my timely accountability process thus I realised I’m a good accountant.

After having graduated from the Accelerator, I’m now in the process of updating my website and then start posting monthly blogs about my work. We are also aiming at tapping skills in communication, engineering and marketing from university interns. The management of operations has greatly improved when we applied tools in project management and we are now working to improve the reporting process. The marketing strategy is changing by having more sales agents who earn on commission and also using good communication messages in our flyers and brochures.

Where next?

My journey as a social entrepreneur is inspiring but also challenging in that it makes me forgo some social events to solve pressing community challenges. The Accelerator has helped me establish what I want to achieve and my desire is essentially to make communities access clean water. I want to provide decent sanitation facilities for everyone and have no one die or suffer from water borne diseases. Sanitation Africa has set strategies to open 10 regional outlets within Uganda and then expand to other countries in East Africa and then West Africa. Besides being a leading sanitation company in Africa, we plan to improve sanitation infrastructure development in urban slums and peri-urban areas in Africa.

 

This blog post was written by Samuel Malinga, a participant in the 2017 SE Outreach Accelerator. To find out more about him and his business, read his profile here