Want change? Let's collaborate, create a powerful social impact

Sisters at a stand during the inaugural Annual Africa Conference on Social Entrepreneurship (AACOSE). [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

Simply put, collaboration is the "act of working together with other people or organisations to achieve something."

More often than not collaborations are premised on the idea of leveraging each other's strengths, networks, knowledge, etc. to create and implement a big, better idea, more outcomes and achieve broader impact otherwise not possible with one partner going it alone.

The Annual Africa Conference on Social Entrepreneurship (AACOSE), now in its sixth edition, is a great example of how collaboration can drive positive change and ultimately social impact. It will be held on May 10 and 11 at Tangaza University College in Karen.

AACOSE, a collaboration between Ashoka Africa and Tangaza University, is a distinct convening that showcases top-tier case studies of cutting-edge innovations driving impactful systems change from leading social entrepreneurs and other changemakers. It provides a unique space for learning and sharing, and an imitable platform for networking and building greater ideas for global challenges affecting Africa.

It also shines a spotlight on brilliant thought leaders with tested ideas, frameworks, tools and methodologies transforming Africa into a thriving continent and offers inspiration from established and emerging young changemakers. It brings together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss innovative solutions to some of the most pressing social issues in Africa, hence an opportunity to connect and co-create.

Social entrepreneurship has gradually grown into a powerful tool for addressing the world's most pressing challenges. It involves the application of the best of traditional entrepreneurship principles and the best of traditional charity missions but with a resolute focus on social impact, achieved either directly, indirectly, or through systems change.

What is constant in the stories of most successful social entrepreneurs across Africa is their ability to collaborate with various stakeholders in achieving their goal of social impact. We have seen Ashoka Fellows collaborate with the private sector to change market dynamics, the public sector to reform public policy, and civil society to change industry norms, with (I)NGOs to bring full inclusion to disadvantaged groups by changing mindsets and working with institutions of higher learning to develop curriculums and institutional culture that values social entrepreneurship and changemaking.

Ashoka Africa and Tangaza University, recognising the crucial role media plays in driving social impact, have partnered with the Standard Group in amplifying the AACOSE conference and championing the cause of social entrepreneurship in Africa through providing an effective communication and marketing platform to drive the agenda.

The three organisations, aware of the essential nature of collaboration in achieving social impact, are convening diverse stakeholders intending to build a strong, healthy and collaborative ecosystem for Africa's transformation, growth, and development. This collaboration is borne out of the awareness of the role Ashoka has played in giving the field of social entrepreneurship prominence across the world through its Fellowship Program, supporting social entrepreneurs to scale their innovative solutions, and Tangaza University's leading role in supporting social entrepreneurship by providing education, training, and research opportunities to established and emerging social entrepreneurs from across Africa and beyond.

Ashoka currently has more than 4,000 leading social entrepreneurs in the Ashoka Fellowship network. Through this collaboration, Tangaza ensures research on social entrepreneurship, education and training are applied in ways that have real-world impact, something more universities should aim at. On the other hand, Ashoka ensures that the leading social entrepreneurs in their network are applying themselves to evidence- based innovations to scale and accelerate impact, something social entrepreneurs should practice.

Indeed, collaboration is critical to creating social impact and re-creating the narrative of Africa social transformation. The Annual Africa Conference on Social Entrepreneurship is one such example. We anticipate that at the end of the conference, the stakeholders will come up with ideas for collaborative solutions to the most pressing challenges facing Africa, focusing on the identified themes and collaborative solutions to address barriers affecting the various pillars of the social entrepreneurship ecosystem.

By bringing together the various stakeholders and promoting ecosystemic collaboration and partnerships between social entrepreneurs, institutions of higher learning, media, the public and private sectors, funders, civil society, NGOs, national and county governments, the old and young, men and women, People Living With Disabilities, etc., AACOSE is helping build a more sustainable, equitable, inclusive and just future for Africa.

- Odhiambo is Regional Director, Ashoka East Africa.

- Dzinekou is Director, Institute for Social Transformation, Tangaza University