Lakheni works in South African townships. If you’re not familiar with the townships of South Africa, during apartheid, these were the areas outside of city centers where black people were required to live. During these years, the South African government failed to invest in infrastructure such as water, sewage, electricity and roads. Without infrastructure, commerce and prosperity have been slow to return to the townships. Nokwethu Khojane, grew up under apartheid, and therefore lived in the township. As apartheid was reversed, she had the opportunity to go to university and to find a meaningful career. Her obvious intelligence and hard work gave her many career choices, but her heart was with the people still in the township.
While at the University of Cape Town, Nokwethu studied early childhood education. She wanted to tackle the problems of poverty at the root. One of the courses she took was Social Innovation Lab. Her professor encouraged her to go to the crèche (daycare) in the township and to observe. Even though Nokwethu had been raised in the township, she was still surprised by what she saw. She noticed how the crèche and the families maximized the power of community. They helped one another, shared resources, cooked and generally supported one another. Nokwethu soon realized that this social capital was an asset that could be utilized.
With her cofounder Lauren Drake, Nokwethu created Lakheni. One of their projects is to pool the buying power of the families around the crèches. Buy buying in bulk, these families could decrease their direct food costs, and their transportation costs. The crèche benefits by taking a small fee for coordinating. By keeping more of the money in the township, the community is able to stimulate the local economy. This system is a win all around, with a revenue stream that allows Lakheni to continue to provide their services.
Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Nokwethu Khojane
“It felt like something drove me to this.”
“Poverty does not necessarily equal deep unhappiness.”
“If those of us who have come out can’t go back and try to make a difference, I don’t know who will.”
“We’ve got the biggest Gini coefficient in the world and that’s not sustainable.”
“It was sitting in the space and allowing it to unfold itself, that the solution came about.”
“You’re always in the space of, I actually don’t know.”
“This is what this space requires. It requires people who are comfortable in mess.”
“You have to be able to see things from your market’s perspective.”
“What you think they need is usually not what they need. So, ask them.”
“Test it out. Learn. Change it. Test it out again.”
“Start small. Start where you are. Start today.”
Social Entrepreneurship Resources:
- Lakheni: http://lakheni.co.za
- Culture Shift Learning Academy waiting list: http://tonyloyd.com/assessment
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