In Kenya, the NGO sector is changing. Many NGOs have shut down due to a lack of sustainable funds to finance their activities. George Onyango, CEO of the Community Initiatives Concern (CINCO) is out to change this, with support from the British Council.
“To ensure sustainability of our organisation (CINCO), I have understood the need to transition from a grant-reliant organisation to a social enterprise,” said George.
CINCO received a grant worth €20,000 from the British Council to implement a two-year EU funded pilot project: Support for Social Enterprise in East Africa Programme. The project aims to build the capacity of social entrepreneurs and community leaders in Western Kenya (Kisumu, Homabay and Siaya County) in its pursuit to provide solutions to development challenges through social enterprise.
George realised that many Kenyans talk about the benefits of operating as a social enterprise, but few understand what it means to do so.
“We chose to lead by example by transforming our own organisation into a social enterprise, as we work with other civil society organisations to encourage the same transition,” said George. “Ever since we attended the initial training conducted by the British Council, and then cascaded it to a further 300 civil society and social enterprise leaders, our eyes have opened up to a new way of working.”
One of the first initiatives that CINCO embarked on was the introduction of a scorecard tool to analyse the organisation’s core activities and guide the restructuring process. “Through the scorecard, we have developed a much more defined mission and established business models that are socially driven,” said George. “Now, if a donor wants to know about our results and social impact they can see it all on our website. For some donors, we don’t need to write reports anymore, saving us a lot of time and money.”
The tool focused on elements such as self-identity, values, skills for communication and dialogue. Other elements included the improved commitment to engage with and serve the community, and designing/managing social enterprises. The change process was met with hesitation by some CINCO staff members, since the new ways of working required more structure, transparency and accountability.
“It was difficult to orient CSOs to this new way of thinking, but it has definitely been worth it,” said George. “In only three months, this new approach has generated significant interest from several NGOs and government programmes to uptake the training tool. In addition, the community has started coming to us with questions, making programme coordinators feel more accountable. CINCO believes that this is a sign of the significance of social entrepreneurship to provide holistic solutions to development challenges.”
“We are confident that by the end of this project with the British Council, CINCO will have transformed fully into a mature social enterprise and be a driver for change through social entrepreneurship,” said George. “We appreciate the support that the British Council has given to us and look forward to the future with hope for the betterment of our community.”