I remember sitting in a university workshop and discussing the third mission of academia: engaged scholarship. Professor Cooper advocated that the university, along with its missions of teaching and research, should engage more with civil society for the purposes of development. The social development mission of this ‘second academic revolution’ has corollaries in other spaces. For example, the rise of the social impact agenda. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also explicitly state that “everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector, civil society”.
At the Sankalp Africa Summit 2018, with the theme ‘Open Alliance for a Sustainable & Inclusive Africa 2030’, I was again reminded of the fact that we all have a role to play in ensuring a more prosperous future for everybody, but also of the importance of connecting this ‘all’ in meaningful ways. I’m a firm believer in the notion that humanity shares a desire and ability to do good. When it comes to channelling those thoughts and words (and resources) into action, we sometimes need a little more help.
I see this embedded in the work that I do at Innovation Edge. We see connecting and communicating as core to the work we do. Without connecting and communicating, I doubt we’d see the best utilisation of resources. From Sankalp Africa, we identify some of the ways in which we can ensure this effective connecting and communicating happens.
Part of what makes an event like Sankalp Africa effective is who is in attendance. As I scrolled through the hundreds of attendees pre-event and mingled at the event, I was struck by the diversity of participants. This resulted in a diversity of viewpoints and agendas, allowing for plenaries (including ‘Building Markets in an Uncertain World – The role of capital, government and civil society’), workshops and conversations over lunch and overheard while browsing the ‘wall of reports’, that appeared to challenge preconceived ideas, unlock opportunities and highlight the fact that partnership is the only way to understand the real problems on the ground and act in a way that works. Connecting the right people is essential.
Connecting will mean nothing without proper communication and anything works better when we all speak the same language. Walking into Sankalp Africa, everyone was aware of the lingo; the SDGs. Having this as a frame of reference enabled communication. It meant that we could all see the big picture (the ‘W’ aka the win) that we are striving towards; allowing us to focus on what brings us together. What is this ‘W’? “To end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity”.
The SDGs are also a good way for those who talk the language of tech, finance or impact to simplify their message, making it accessible to those foreign to their speak.
The SDGs, the ‘second academic revolution’ and the like, have all made one thing clear, a social impact agenda is becoming the norm, not the exception. The search for meaning that characterises the ‘millennial’ cohort and the rise of social movements that are propelled exponentially by social media (amongst other factors) has made the union of profit and purpose inevitable. At an event like Sankalp Africa, we become increasingly empowered to think of impact as the triple bottom line and to hold all parties accountable to this new form of ‘accounting’.
Sankalp Africa made it apparent that Africa has many of the answers to its growing pains; a young entrepreneurial population, an ability to leapfrog technologies and pride in the continent and its potential. Perspectives on Africa, from Africa, were coupled with the strong belief that the collaborations in the continent can inform global best practice.
As I play my part as a member of Innovation Edge towards achieving the SDGs, I know that the best use of resources is only possible when connections are made and communications are shared. I’ll be sure to keep in mind who, what, why and #WakandaForever as we strive toward the ultimate ‘W’.
Find a report on the event here.