The Blank Panther movie and the kingdom of Wakanda has been regarded as a revolutionary movie, because it has succeeded in communicating black power, liberation and inspiration to many.
– By Sam Uduma
Yes, I am a proud, card-carrying citizen of “Wakanda”.
No, you don’t have to worry about Black Panther spoilers to read this piece.
If you have watched the most recent movie release by Marvel Studios – Black Panther, you would agree with me that it was hugely entertaining, highly inspiring and above all very liberating.
Watching the movie (a second time),it hit me that the widely accepted dichotomy of “Ancient Culture” & “Modern Technology” was deliberately re-engineered by the movie director, bringing together the richness and vibrancy of African culture with the undeniable efficiency and efficacy of innovative technology to improve a lifestyle that already existed within a society. Wakanda has a new meaning for me; I call it “Cultural Innovation” and it forms the basis for this article.
Granted, The Kingdom of Wakanda and what it represents may seem like fiction or fantasy to many, but for me it is a re-enforcement of my strong beliefs on how innovation and its application in technology can propel our natural enterprising efforts as Nigerians and Africans as a whole. Did you know that recent studies have shown that the advent of what is known today as “modern human technology” has been traced back 70,000 years to some parts of Africa? This is in remarkable contrast to theories that date modern technology back to 40,000 years ago in Europe. Renowned archaeologist Professor Christopher Henshilwood, of Wits University in South Africa, author of the new paper, says the most recent research shows that Africa is the birthplace of modern human cognition.
With the above context setting the tone, let’s look at some key definitions of the subject matter:
Social or Impact Entrepreneurship is loosely defined as a for-profit non-governmental organization focused on socially impacting issues. Basically, it’s a hybrid formed by combining the essence of a not-for-profit charity and a for-profit limited liability company. It is a relatively recent practice having first been discussed mainstream at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland in 2003 since when it has been widely accepted as a different form of enterprise to operate.
Innovation as a word originates from the Latin word innovāre, which means to Renew or Alter. It is defined as the process of introducing something new, or making changes on things already established. For me, I define innovation as the ability to approach anything with a new, disruptive or unconventional mindset. I believe the process of innovation starts in the mind, where new ideas are formed before they become innovations. Therefore innovative thinking is critical to innovation. A myth I would like to dispel is that innovation always has to be technological; this is falsehood!!!Technology is a form of innovation, but innovation is NOT always technological. It is important to realize that the ability to innovate is not restricted to technically or scientifically trained persons. Everybody has the potential to be an innovator in any field of life.
Social Entrepreneurship as a concept is a form of enterprise that I believe holds the key to unlock the huge potential within the Nigerian and African enterprise space. This is why would-be social entrepreneurs need to begin to gain the knowledge and understand the tools required to efficiently operate their enterprise and eventually scale to achieve maximum impact. From social enterprises that focus on health, education and empowerment to those that focus on access to power, financial inclusion or even internet ubiquity – the new wave of Nigerian social entrepreneurs will face the same startup growth and scale challenges as any typical charity or commercial entity:
- Access to capital
- Ease of doing business
- Human capital deficiency
- Infrastructure inefficiency
- Unavailable exit strategies
Herein lies my proffered solution to the problem: Innovative Thinking!
Social Entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned in the business spectrum as they stand to enjoy the big budget altruism of corporates with their focus on social impact while still enjoying the self-sustainability of a Limited Liability company, which is the ability to raise money, generate profit and pay dividends to investors. However, to fully maximize this unique advantage, they would need to apply a dose of innovative thinking to their execution.
Take Recycle Points, a waste recycling social enterprise for example, below is a sample metric for measurement that can be used to assess their progress.
- Social Focus: Environment, Health & Poverty Alleviation.
- Business model: Pseudo-Franchise/Agency model.
- Sources of funding: Grants from public & private institutions, Private Investments, cash-flow from business activities.
- Scalability quotient – Very high national and internationally expansion potential (waste is everywhere).
- Exit strategy – IPO or sale to larger environmentally focused corporate organization.
By applying the above framework to your social enterprise, you can quickly assess the viability and ascertain what aspects may require application of innovation.
In summary, my advice to existing and would-be social entrepreneurs is to first dive deep into principles of operating a social enterprise; innovation excelswhen understanding is complete. Without fully grasping the challenges of your enterprise, the innate dynamics of your target market and the relevant solutions out there, it is unlikely that you will effectively innovate around the problems you may have.
I started with Wakanda, I will end with Wakanda…
Cultural innovation! It presents an opportunity for social entrepreneurs to adapt solutions, which are primarily tailored to the socio-cultural profile in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, and amplifying the overall social impact using advanced innovative techniques.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read more articles.