Profit and Purpose
Umoja’s mission is to empower youth to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Our approach so far has been to do this with a traditional service-delivery model. In this model, external philanthropic funding is used to provide a free youth development service. Commercial activities (fundraising) are separate from impact activities (the programme).
However, Umoja recognised that opportunities to achieve its mission also exist in the traditional marketplace. Umoja asked the question: How can we achieve our purpose in a way that is also profitable? Are there opportunities in Tanzania where social and economic needs intersect? Funders are also asking these questions—are there ways for you to achieve your mission that reduces your dependence on us? In social enterprise, commercial activities and impact activities are conjoined.
Initially, Umoja trialled this idea by manufacturing curios for the tourist market. The curios proved popular and provided a revenue-neutral way for Umoja to provide a flexible, fair-wage employment opportunity for one of our graduates, Evaline Irunde.
Following this initial success, Umoja decided during its strategic planning process to more actively pursue a social enterprise programme. The goal of this programme is three-fold, (a) To provide employment opportunities for Umoja graduates, (b) To increase the share of Umoja’s activities that are self-sustaining, (c) To extend Umoja’s impact to the broader community.
Umoja recognises that its Foundation Programme, as a free service for some of the most vulnerable youth in the country, cannot have its revenue through a fee-for-service model. Instead, Umoja’s enterprise programme is looking for opportunities that are mission consistent but are new and innovative. At this stage, we are primarily producing low cost sanitary products for girls and women in partnership with Days for Girls International. We will continue to explore other opportunities as time, resources, and expertise permit.
The enterprise programme and the specific ideas explored entail a non-traditional approach to delivering impact. Beneficiaries become partners, funders become consumers, and the specific projects we undertake are shaped by both social and commercial need. This entails different procedures, protocols, and philosophies if Umoja is to deliver an impact in this area. To this end, Umoja worked with Australian Volunteers International to source an international volunteer to help them in the development of the programme. In June 2016, Aden Date joined Umoja as Business & Innovation Coordinator to help Umoja develop its social enterprise programme (amongst other activities).
The addition of an enterprise programme to Umoja is a recognition that opportunities to deliver on its mission and vision exist outside the traditional space occupied by NGOs. By exploring commercial opportunities that exist in Arusha, Umoja is confident it can find creative and innovative new ways to help youth break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.
Business and Benefits
The goal of the Umoja Social Enterprise programme is to generate new, financially sustainable forms of impact for the Umoja centre and create meaningful employment opportunities for our graduates to empower our youth to break the cycle of poverty. We do this by working at the intersection of profit and purpose.
To accomplish this, we are working with Days for Girls International as well as a number of external supporters to produce low-cost reusable sanitary pads for girls and women. The programme may expand to include additional businesses in the future.
The non-commercial benefits of producing and selling sanitary pads are numerous. We (a) provide sanitary pads to women on low incomes, (b) address educational inequality for girls and women (c) build networks with other NGOs who act as distributors, (d) provide stable, formal employment for women, with a focus on Umoja’s beneficiaries and (e) raise awareness of the Umoja brand.
For the Social Enterprise programme to succeed, it will ideally generate enough revenue to sustain its own activities. To this end, it is important that the social enterprise programme be free of programmatic restraints and protocols enable business model development that is financially sustainable. To this end, the Social Enterprise programme will operate within Umoja a semi-independent social-commercial enterprise with several important caveats:
- Key support functions (finance, operations management, business management, rent, and other overheads) will still be provided by Umoja, however, the Social Enterprise programme will pay for these at cost to ensure there is no cost incurred by greater Umoja.
- Wherever possible, the social enterprise programme will first hire within Umoja’s pool of graduates. This may include sub-contracting other Umoja staff occasionally.
- Key social enterprise staff will continue to take part in important workshops and meetings within greater Umoja.
- The social enterprise programme will utilise the Umoja brand.
- If necessary, fundraising may be undertaken by Umoja to subsidise any shortfalls in the profitability of the Enterprise programme.
As the programme matures we will look to provide additional benefit to greater Umoja, including (but not limited to):
- Entrepreneurship and business training for Social Enterprise staff,
- Subsidising Umoja graduates with qualifications that will enable them to work for the social enterprise (notably sewing, but potentially business support functions),
- More closely connecting Umoja’s other programmes to develop new businesses that intentionally contribute to social enterprise.