Reflections from Nuru Social Enterprises Facilitator Rebecca Jones
Two years ago, the impact programs at Nuru were still expected to generate their own revenue to fund operations. Shortly thereafter, the Income Generating Activities (IGA) program was born to bring all these projects together under the management of a business-minded team. One year ago, I arrived in Kenya for the first time to take over that team. At the time, there were 2 full time staff in Agribusiness, 5 in Dairy, and a number of seasonal hires and employees of other programs, such as Administration, whose time we borrowed. I had the only computer in the program. IGA was handed to me at the end of June, right before one of the most hectic agribusiness operations of the year: maize trade. Thanks to the diligence of the IGA team and the dedication and quick learning abilities of summer interns, we made it through that season relatively unscathed, but with no illusions. Many things had to change for the self-financing vision of Nuru to be a reality. And we had to be the architects of that change.
One year later, I am writing my last blog post from the Social Enterprises office, surrounded by 7 Kenyan staff busily modeling cost benefit analyses and updating roll-out plans on their Nuru Kenya Social Enterprises (NKSE) laptops, one of the intrepid 2012 summer interns who is now in charge of the entire 2013 maize trading operation, and 6 Field Officers and Field Managers between Agribusiness and Consumer Products who have proven time and again their commitment to making that vision a reality. Over the past year, there have been many hiccups. The IGA and R&D Programs merged, the Dairy and Manufacturing units had to be let go, there were logistical and HR nightmares in plenty. However, the program that has emerged, Social Enterprises, is worth it. We work closely with the Agriculture and Healthcare impact programs, and we are proud to say that impact and profit do not always have to be at odds. However, there will always be tension in that relationship. I wanted to set up a department that was separated enough from the impact programs to protect that profit motive, but full of individuals who are also dedicated to serving the community, and therefore all our enterprises fundamentally have a double bottom line approach. With the strong, competent managers on board now, I am confident this can be achieved.
It is bittersweet to write this final post. I will definitely keep in touch, and now that NKSE staff is on email, that will be easy! It’s cliché to talk about how this experience has changed my life, but I have to acknowledge it’s one of those true clichés. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people, and contribute to the amazing work Nuru is doing to combat extreme poverty here in rural Kenya, where the need is very real.