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From the Blog

I’m sure many people are familiar with the Chinese proverb, “women hold up half the sky.” But, after meeting some of the dynamic and accomplished women from the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) last week, I’m convinced that, in Africa, they probably hold up 60 or even 75 percent of the sky!

The best solutions solve many problems: empowering women apparently is good for business and national security too! Read this great article…

via Investing in Girls’ and Women’s Education: A Smart Strategy for Development in Africa | U.S. Department of State Blog.

One resounding lesson from this experience is something built into the DNA of The 1010 Project: it is more important to have the right questions than the right answers.

Exempla Gratis (E.G.)

Over the week I’ve spoken with two Kenyans possessing 30 years of development experience between them. One of the first partners I visited was Pastor Brown and his wife Josephine, founders of Fair Oaks Academy and leaders of Redeemed Gospel Church. I also joined Michael Nyangi of LOMORO in visiting the small businesses started with capital he lent, and discussing the role of The 1010 Project.

I asked them each some form of this question: “How can The 1010 Project improve our partnership with social entrepreneurs in Kenya.” The answers I received were remarkably consistent. Chiefly, that partners have access to business training, and create solid business plans for their ventures.

My former business coach Chuck Blakeman explained this principle to several Nairobian women. Business is like water; you simply need to know where you are and where you are going. Michael Nyangi pointed out that many social entrepreneurs have not received any kind of business training, and some very little education at all. Having access to training and building a business plan first both defines sucess and increases the likelihood of reaching it.

This confirmed and clarified for me my belief that in any culture, three things are needed for the success of a social entrepreneur

  • Skill: this could be a private sector skill like jewelry making, or a social sector skill like building an orphanage
  • Capital: access to startup funds either from one’s own means, or an outside source; e.g. small grants from The 1010 Project
  • Training: acquiring basic competence in fundamental business practices like marketing and accounting

Questions are Primary

As you can see above, the end result was an “answer:” business training being essential to fostering social entrepreneurship. Discovering answers to the challenges of poverty is both noble and essential, but questions must always be primary. In other words, it is impossible to answer a question for someone that has never been asked of them.