Dina Sherif’s presence at the Rise Up Summit did not go unnoticed: after a refreshing panel on social impact in the Arab World, she shared with Barakabits her experience in the development world, and why she thinks social businesses are the future of social change.
You have extensively travelled around Africa. How did that impact your vision in social entrepreneurship?
When I graduated from college, I volunteered in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire; then I came back, did a Master’s in economic development, and went back to Ghana to do my research there. I spent three months living in a village, and that is what convinced me that I had to be dedicated to social change. But from the very beginning I knew it could not be donor-led or government-led; it had to be different.
What came then?
I worked for the African Development Bank for a while and co-founded the Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement, which was focused on how to use private resources for social good. But I also realized the impact would be minimum, so I became focused on the role of private sector in development because of the resources they have, the innovation, and the research; they bring a very different mindset to tackling social problems.
There seems to be a divide between the non-profit sector and the entrepreneurial world, considered to be more focused on making money than doing good.
But there is no problem with merging both. You can make money and do good things for society. I am not saying there is anything wrong with being an NGO: you can do that, too. I think there is a need for every kind of organization, there is a need for the government sector, and there is also a need for a whole other entity that merges these two worlds together in a very creative way: the social enterprise.
When a social entrepreneurs creates a business model to develop renewable energy, they are solving a very serious social problem in a way in which the financial returns can be just as significant as the impact.
Do you believe that investors in the Middle East are starting to get interested in social issues and social enterprises?
I think they are getting there, because more and more social entrepreneurs are learning to talk to investors in a language that makes sense. Investors need to be more aware of the potential of social businesses, but at the same time social entrepreneurs need a new language to demonstrate that, even in the long term, financial returns can be created.
For more information: Visit Ahead of the Curve‘s website and find out about their next training courses to create profitable social businesses.