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In Focus - Social Enterprise Changemakers | Michelle Mugeni

Michelle Mugeni is the Grants Management and Resource Mobilization Coordinator – IPPF Africa Regional Office. In this article, she shares her hopes for changing traditional thinking to go beyond the n...

Michelle Mugeni is the Grants Management and Resource Mobilization Coordinator – IPPF Africa Regional Office. In this article, she shares her hopes for changing traditional thinking to go beyond the norm to strengthen the organization's financial standing and the importance of drawing from the social enterprise experience and expertise within the Federation.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

An incredible and exciting part of my career has been spent working with small enterprises to access resources, scale up or develop meaningful partnerships, this I hold very close to my heart. I am also a firm believer in women’s economic empowerment for inclusive and equitable economic growth.

In your role, how are you involved with Social Enterprises (SE)?

I have the privilege of coordinating the social enterprise activities at the IPPF Africa regional office, and each day brings remarkable new learnings from the work of the Member Associations (MAs). In 2022, I was delighted to support IPPF’s SE Hub in successfully hosting a networking session, the ‘SE internship’, as well as a Market Research and Funding Workshop(‘SkillUP’) for the MAs in the Africa region.

Share a brief insight into the current status of the SEs in the African region – Progress and plans for 2023.

Though we are yet to have MAs that can fully rely on the income generation from their social enterprises, it is worth mentioning the ones putting in an immense amount of time and effort. Some good examples are the ‘Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana’ that is running a printing business, the ‘Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia’ that has a boarding house and also opened a lab and imaging centre, as well as ‘Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association’ that has a commercial pharmacy. There is still much work to be done for social enterprises to thrive in the region and get many more Associations to commit and work towards sustainability. I am, however, confident that 2023 will be a year of scaling the existing enterprises and developing new ones.

In your opinion, why are some organizations across IPPF not pursuing Social Enterprise as an income-generation opportunity?

Funding is by far the biggest challenge for the social enterprises, and the misconception that socially driven organizations are not profitable makes it much harder for the enterprises to scale up to the next level. Moreover, the fact that most begin with addressing social problems where the government support is scarce, the expansion opportunities become limited overtime, with the worry that the primary mission of service delivery to those that need it the most may be lost in the process.

What are the challenges/obstacles you have heard or observed when trying to incorporate a mindset or strategy change in an MA that does not currently have any income generating ventures?

The persistent challenge I would say is overreliance on donor funding, which has cleared the path for complacency when it comes to funding. Allowing the funding to limit the scope of their activities, rather than work to broaden it.

If you could give a prospectively interested Association two pieces of advice on Social Enterprise/ income generation, what would those be?

I would encourage them to have a well-thought-out business plan, or an income generation strategy. The simple reason for this being, without a plan on how the enterprise will generate income/breakeven/become sustainable it is bound to fail. It doesn’t have to be perfect, the most important thing is to start, and ask for help.

Any recent videos, books, blogs, or podcasts that have inspired you or have been a contributor to your success?

Acumen Academy is an incredible resource for social entrepreneurs, providing an equal measure of knowledge and opportunities to advance social innovation, at no cost.