October 21, 2009

Social Economy 101 – Egypt

Filed under: social economy 101 — benmetz @ 7:25 am

This is the shortest in this series of posts, and was the toughest to write.  Egypt is a challenge for me to find purchase on.  Plus the social economy is in such an early stage of development there’s not a lot to write about…  Still, it’s fascinating stuff once again and is contributing to a broader, global, view of social economy development that I’m developing.

The nascent social economy in Egypt

Historically the Egyptian state has been the provider of the overwhelming majority of public services and it was only in the 1980’s did the social economy start to emerge in any way.  This emergence was partly driven by a large influx of international donor funding (in excess of $2billion) during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

In the 1990’s smaller, more innovative, third sector organisations began to develop, in part fuelled by a reaction to what was perceived as funding led approaches of the larger and more institutionalised NGO’s.  Many of these younger organisations derived their inspiration from the increased globalisation of third sector thinking and activity.

The concept of social enterprise and the social economy has only emerged in the last three or four years, mainly as a direct result of the work of Ashoka, whose Middle East / Arab World activity runs out of Cairo.  As a result it would appear that most notable social entrepreneurs in Egypt are Ashoka Fellows.  Ashoka’s work has been instrumental in an increased level of innovation across the third sector in human rights, education and linkages to the business sector as well as the emergence of environmental activity as a new strand of third sector activity in Egypt.

In the words of one interviewee “the social economy is in kindergarten in Egypt, we have a very long way to travel”.

Infrastructure and support for the social economy in Egypt is nascent, comprising in the main a small number of indigenous players with very limited capacity and an even smaller number of international development foundations and support providers who have extended their activity to include either Egypt, North Africa or the Middle East.


October 14, 2009

pinchito tapas

Filed under: food — benmetz @ 7:36 am

a welcome addition to eating in london is pinchito tapas just south of old street.  authentic and funky, pinchito does classic spanish tapas with ease and informality.  pimientos de padron, chorizo stewed in cider and a fantastic fillet steak, cooked rare, were highlights…  only lowlight is this darn hangover – picked up thanks to knocking back soberano, that sweet ridiculously drinkable and horribly rough spanish brandy!  oh gosh – never again, until next time!


October 6, 2009

Social Economy 101 – Nigeria

Filed under: social economy 101 — benmetz @ 7:21 pm

This is part six of my social economy 101 series, looking at Nigeria.  I’ll be slowing these down from now on as the project I was working on that generated these is almost over.  But it’d be great to keep building snapshots of social economies around the world.  So drop me a line if you have an interesting relevant information source you would like me to link to or that we could work on to turn into an additional posting…

Social economy development in Nigeria.

Significant formalised third sector activity in Nigeria can be traced back to the 1990’s, crystallising initially around issues related to human rights and in response to the military regime and a series of coups, abortive coups and promises of return to democratic rule during the early 1990’s.  Previous to this rise in activity there had been a strong but informal third sector stretching back many decades.

Third sector activity can be traced back to the 1940’s and 1950’s.  The essentially communal and tribal nature of society meant, and still means, much of Nigeria’s social development is centred around individual philanthropy at a clan or tribe level.  Conversations with Nigerian third sector practitioners point to a strong but undocumented culture of giving at this local, tribal level.

From the 40’s right up to the 70’s, and the first wave of the oil boom, one of the main conduits for third sector and social development activity were local development unions, where individuals would contribute pro rata according to ability into charitable vehicles aligned with tribal, clan and geographic cultural and community groupings.  This approach began to fall apart with the rise in oil revenues and the impact this had on people’s relationship with money and community.

Due to the military regime ruling the country from 1966 until 1999, with the exception of the large international multilateral aid agencies and these local development unions, very little third sector activity occurred.

After the return to democracy in 1999 the third sector went into what can be described as a boom period.  Increased international aid flows combined with a civilian government laying down the most basic of enabling infrastructure saw significant funding find its way into areas such as employment creation and HIV-AIDS treatment and prevention.  However with much of this funding coming from multilateral and international aid agencies a culture of running after the funding developed.

The last ten years has seen a slow but steady increase in charitable activity across Nigeria with an increased focus on economic development and poverty alleviation developing over the last five years.  Part of this focus has seen an interest growing in support for individuals and communities to set up micro-enterprises.  However very little activity that could be described as social enterprise – trading for social or environmental benefit – has begun to develop yet, although the emerging focus on enterprise may be an indicator of things to come.

It is clear that the sector in Nigeria is incredibly immature but growing and only just starting to consider looking at issues of professionalisation, quality, transparency and governance.  Thus the prerequisites for a healthy third sector and social economy cannot yet be said to be in place.

It is notable that no data or statistics exist, nationally or regionally, on the size and characteristics of the third or charitable sector.  Registration of not for profit organisations is fragmented locally, regionally and nationally and no central depositary of registrations, or indeed of data gathering, exists.

October 4, 2009

Social Economy 101 – China

Filed under: social economy 101 — benmetz @ 11:06 am

Here’s part five of my social economy 101 series, this time taking a look at China.   Substantive interest in the social economy from the Chinese people and government as well as from international NGO’s means this is an area to watch.  The sheer size of the country and the speed at which development takes place means social enterprise could well go to a scale not yet seen elsewhere incredibly quickly..!  Thanks goes to Nick Temple at SSE for the contents of his brain and connectivity!

The emerging social economy in China

The idea of the social economy was introduced to China some four or five years ago, predominantly through academic institutions studying the phenomenon in other parts of the world and bringing the concept to China through a series of theoretical studies.

While interest at this theoretical level is building there is little social economy activity happening on the ground.  Barriers identified, as part of these academic studies, include lack of funding and financing for NGO expansion into trading activity, lack of professionalism and business acumen in existing NGO’s, legislative and regulatory barriers to development and a lack of innovative, trading based solutions and thinking across the sector.

Definitions of social enterprise and the social economy are still uncertain for many commentators in China and a clear view has yet to be reached as to whether the social economy is something that sits firmly in the NGO world or whether it is a phenomenon that is driven by for profit business seeking to make social returns as part of their core offering.  This debate and clarification is not helped by the fact that the Chinese terms for “corporate social responsibility” and “social enterprise” contain the same words but in reverse order!

With Chinese government shifting from control oriented administration to a service oriented one the opportunity is developing for social economy organisations to deliver public services.  If realised this may stimulate the professionalisation and transformation of civil society to a more enterprising and competitive model, although it is too early to call this at present.

Clearly, with a country of such size and development trajectory starting to take a real interest in social enterprise the potential for the sectors development is off the scale.  However financing of these potential developments as well as government intervention and control pose significant potential barriers to the sectors growth.

The British Council is funding pilot activity around development of key social economy functions in China as well as across SE Asia.  Of note is their funding to the School for Social Entrepreneurs.  SSE co-designed a short programme (with other UK / Chinese agencies involved) for social entrepreneurs. This ran in Beijing and is now being rolled out in the tier two cities.

A precursor to this work was the British Council funded and recently completed Young Foundation led work to stimulate social innovation in China, which directly led to this new British Council focus on social entrepreneurship.

There are very few funders in China with a remit to support social economy activity.  A notable recent development is the start up of the China Social Entrepreneur Fund that describes itself as a “comprehensive platform for entrepreneurs to do philanthropy, a professional institute providing enterprises with comprehensive, complete, multi-level and tailor-made public interest and philanthropic plans, and a supportive strategic partner for enterprises to implement the plans”.  The English language website is still under construction so it is impossible at this point to ascertain how much of this ambitious vision is being tackled.

A number of Venture Philanthropy funds are getting started in China including the Lenovo VP fund and dedicated funds being developed by The Narada Foundation and The Asia Foundation.  Interest in VP as a method of third sector development is clearly taking root in China.

Ashoka is just getting established in China and has recently appointed a country director, Patrick Cheung.  The office is in start up and fundraising phase and has yet to commence any support activity.

October 3, 2009

Social Economy 101 – Brazil

Filed under: social economy 101 — benmetz @ 8:50 am

Here’s part four of my social economy 101 series.  This time Brazil, and focusing on the sector’s history.

The history of the social economy in Brazil

Conversations with individuals in leading third sector support organisations in Brazil paint a picture of Brazil as a country that is between 20 and 30 years behind much of Europe in it’s development of the third sector and the social economy.

The development of the sector in Brazil was fundamentally shaped by the military dictatorship, which ran from 1964 until 1989, during which time most of the NGO movement was based around human rights campaigning.  This was focussed both against atrocities committed by the military regime and in campaigning for basic human rights of marginalised, impoverished and indigenous communities.  Feminism as a campaigning force began to appear in the late 1970’s as did a movement to promote basic health care and sanitation for all, which was heavily invested in by major international NGO donors.  In 1989, when the dictatorship was replaced by democratic rule, these campaigning sectors contributed substantially to the shaping of the country’s constitution.

By the mid 1990’s a centralist approach to policy development, implementation and service creation and delivery had developed.  This led many civil society organisations to partner with central government in the delivery of services.  This stimulated to a huge increase in numbers of NGO’s in existence and a backlash, commencing in the late 1990’s, critical of these NGO’s of becoming instruments of the state.

Corruption was one of the issues picked up on by this backlash and contributing to a bifurcation within civil society – between organisations aligned to government and organisations campaigning for reform of the often corrupt and opaque relationships between government and civil society.  This split led to a second wave of development within the third sector, at the end of the 1990’s and in the early part of this decade, of organisations funded from sources other than government and taking a strongly independent and often-critical position of government and government funded NGO’s.

This campaigning base of NGO’s desiring of independence and financial self-sufficiency has led to a third wave of NGO development currently being experienced across Brazil.  It is from within this third wave that social entrepreneurship and the creation of a social economy is emerging.

There are now between 300,000 and 400,000 registered third sector organisations in Brazil, the majority being grant funded but with an increasing minority engaging in some level of trading activity and emerging as social enterprises.  However there are very few pure social enterprises operating in Brazil at any scale or approaching any level of financial self-sufficiency.

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