Publication: Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship
Author/Interviewer: Teresa Chahine
Date of publishing: May 2016
Interviewee: Dr. Laila Iskandar, Co-Founder, Mokattam School and A.P.E. Rug Weaving Center (former); Minister of Urban Renewal and Informal Settlements, Egypt (at the time of writing); Founder, CID Consulting (current)
Description: Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship summarizes the basic steps and tools needed to understand the challenge you are tackling, develop potential solutions, build a business model, measure, and grow your impact. The book features case studies and interviews with leaders in the field, and spans multiple sectors, including health, the environment, education, agriculture, commerce, finance, and retail.
TC: Laila, you’ve played many roles over the past 30 years. How did your work evolve from the grassroots level to the policy making level?
LI: The work itself hasn’t changed, but what’s evolved has been the awareness and contribution of multiple players over multiple sectors. The challenge was to build the quality and the business model. The rag pickers I started working with in the early 1980s were already there doing work long before they formed a social enterprise. Multiple stakeholders were mobilized to support the “learn and earn” rug weaving center created with the Association for the Protection of the Environment. Later, we formed the Mokattam School with the NGO Spirit of Youth through my consulting firm CID, partnering with multinational companies. This required not only obvious barriers such as raising capital but less obvious barriers such as convincing people of the added value!
TC: How did you go about messaging for different stakeholders, from multinational companies to government representatives and policymakers?
LI: They key is to get people to see past the end of their nose. Many stakeholders in different sectors had a myopic view of what an added value would look like for them. They only wanted quick solutions. The key is to demonstrate that some solutions might need more investment but would bring greater value to them, alongside others. Most people won’t work with you just to help others or to help the environment. It has to have an added benefit for them too.
TC: What advice do you have for social entrepreneurs on where to focus their communications?
LI: Build quality in your work before you approach stakeholders. Careful monitoring and evaluation of results is needed. There is a huge potential to create solutions with multiple benefits for multiple stakeholders, if entrepreneurs can bring the different ingredients together. The different resources are already there; they just need to be mobilized and well managed. It takes an entrepreneur to catalyze. But more than that, we need to break silos and see things through a social lens. We need to re-define what business and profit looks like. If it’s not social, it’s not sustainable.