Case Study | LifeCo UnLtd South Africa

A member supporting social entrepreneurs in South Africa.

Since 2009, Lifeco UnLtd South Africa has been finding, funding and supporting passionate people – social upstarts who are delivering sustainable solutions to the country’s social challenges. The organisation is unique in the region: it is the only organisation that works directly with early stage entrepreneurs offering a very different kind of support not previously known in South Africa. In 2014, UnLtd South Africa took the strategic decision to merge with Life College Group (an established social enterprise in South Africa) to become Lifeco UnLtd South Africa. The merger aims to enhance the social vision of each organisation, joined by a single vision: Sustainable Social Change for a Nation of Champions.

Lifeco UnLtd South Africa makes awards of financial and non-financial support to social entrepreneurs, appropriate to their stage of development. They work with social entrepreneurs from the very early concept stage of a project: often before the social entrepreneur has put anything into practice, usually before an organisation is registered, and almost always before any other funders or support agencies get involved. They place significant emphasis on the non-financial support for social entrepreneurs, both professional and personal, providing a staircase of support as the person and the project develop. This offer has evolved based on feedback from award winners, who say that they most value in this kind of targeted support – and getting it at the right time. Support provided takes into account the needs and limitations of the social entrepreneurs. For example, one cannot assume that they will have access to internet and telephones – or that they can afford to travel from rural areas for meetings. Often a stipend is paid as part of the Award to support the development of the idea.

UnLtd South Africa brings a unique blend of experience and perspective to the network. Their work has shown social entrepreneurs can benefit vastly from non-financial support (access to networks, training, coaching). They invest time doing due diligence with potential applicants and preparing them to apply and will offer up to 160 hours of non-financial support on average to level 1 award winners. This is due to the relative lack of knowledge around social entrepreneurs and social enterprise and the complexity of getting an organisation registered – but also working with individuals to develop self-esteem and self-belief.

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