The Crucial Role of Creativity in Social Entrepreneurship

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One of the concepts that we discuss in our Development Entrepreneurship Lab (DELab) is creating a Unique Value Proposition. A Unique Value Proposition is a clear statement that describes what a business offers, how it addresses the needs of its customers, and what distinguishes it from competition. In a world where everything seems to have been said and done, we challenge social entrepreneurs and ask: How can you frame what you do effectively? How can you show that your business can truly make a difference? And, how can you come up with innovative solutions to development challenges?

Creativity is a crucial element in business that helps social entrepreneurs answer these questions and successfully launch their social enterprise. From marketing to product development to operations, exercising creative thinking can help social entrepreneurs make the most beneficial decisions for their business.

Flame Tree Initiative's Country Coordinator, Jones Ntaukira, is a graduate of our DELab and a social entrepreneur himself. In launching his social enterprise, Zuwa Energy, he realized the value of creativity. Now, he strives to share its importance to all new and aspiring social entrepreneurs. Jones explains, "Any business must be driven by creativity and innovation because that's the only way you can stay relevant in your industry. Creativity brings about progress and ensures that you're always ahead of your competition. Being creative also forces you to be aware of what's happening in your space."

However, applying creativity in business is not as easy as it seems. Jones reflects that this is demonstrated in the application trends for DELab. He estimates that over 60% of Flame Tree Initiative's DELab applications are from similar type of social enterprises in the agriculture sector. "My advice to aspiring social entrepreneurs is to look beyond what everyone else is doing. Think of different industries in Malawi and consider what challenges there are. Write down your thoughts, your ideas, and start brainstorming. When you do that, you end up with hundreds of different challenges being faced in that particular sector. Then, select a particular challenge and ask yourself ,"Why does this challenge exist?" Dig deeper and keep asking "why" until you begin to come up with innovative solutions that you can then explore," says Jones.

Creativity also has a bigger purpose in a social enterprise. Jones shares, "By applying creativity in the way that you deliver your services, you can show your customers that you are listening to them and that you're giving them what they need. Therefore, it helps you achieve your social mission and generate positive impacts."

Furthermore, creativity aids in the process of problem solving and increases productivity. In his social enterprise, Jones says that he encourages his team to think of better ways to do their jobs. This process helps each team member to become an active part of his social enterprise's growth. Jones claims, "By fostering an open environment, people can be happy with their work and become creative- even in a technical industry. This kind of management produces what we call institutional creativity. From there we can extend the same type of creative approach to our customers by means of improved services, improved products, and that leads to improved social impact."