Take on CSR
I recently had the privilege of being asked by one of my mentors to speak to two school students who are looking to start their own company. This was a fortunate turn of events when considering the recent articles on entrepreneurship and youth leadership on Stock Shop Daily News. Being a firm believer in starting your own company I was all too excited for and humbled by the opportunity. So off I went to meet these young matric gentleman.
We set off to meet the boys at their school, a Curro school. (The importance of this will be made evident in a bit). Listening to the two boys telling us about their business idea I wondered why more isn’t being done to promote entrepreneurship at high school level. When I got home I Googled support for such endeavours and was surprised to find the extent of programs available that encourage entrepreneurship.
One of the programs that fascinated me is the the SA Teen Entrepreneur Foundation: they have founded high school entrepreneurship societies in 11 512 schools all across South Africa. They actively attempt to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship in schools by arranging events for students that are part of their societies. The second society that deserves mention is Young Entrepreneur South Africa which strives to create an entrepreneurship eco-system in South Africa.
A final mention should be made to Young Entrepreneurs (YE) which focuses on children between the ages of 7 and 15. They attempt to instill the necessary entrepreneurial and financial literacy skills that help them to start and grow their own micro-enterprises in a fun and experiential way.
This got me thinking about entrepreneurship as a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative. Most companies want to gain as many points for CSR as possible. The methods for obtaining these points range widely from feeding schemes for the communities in which they operate to clinics and personnel training.
Although CSR plays an important role in all company structures I cannot help but think about the adage: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
I think in a South African environment the distinction between CSR to tick the boxes and CSR to change lives has to be made. Companies that provide aid and tangible support to communities could, in my opinion, influence the lives of the community members to a greater extent if they follow an active rather than passive approach.
All this being said, let’s go back to my initial point. If there are two school children who have the “guts” to ask their teacher to organise a meeting with a person from the industry, my mentor, we are obligated to do more within the school, because the learners are hungry for the opportunities. Could a company that has readily available access to schools, or educational facilities, not create programs that foster the entrepreneurial spirit within their learners? They have the resources in terms of connections with shareholders, board members, corporate partners and the brand power of the company.
I would like to leave you with the words of Ray Ash: “An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it.” Let us all as fellow South Africans attempt to give budding entrepreneurs the chance to sooner, rather than later, bite off more than they can learn how to chew as soon as possible.