By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
Lanka Social Ventures (LSV), the pioneering local body for incubating and accelerating socially and environmentally-friendly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), is seeking support to broaden its operations.
“We’re happy to work with anyone to pass the message and stimulate social entrepreneurship,” LSV CEO Dr. Lalith Welamedage said.
Unfortunately, social entrepreneurship has not spread across Sri Lanka to-date, with business owners and management still seeking to maximize profits at the cost of quickly depleting resources.
“Social enterprise is not identified as a sector right now in Sri Lanka. Eventually, maybe 10 years from now, we will have a social enterprise sector,” British Council Partnership and Innovation Head Eranda Ginige said.
The Good Market Board Member Dr. Amanda Kiessel and Oxfam GB Regional Economic Empowerment Manager Amit Vatsyayan said that there should be no compromise between profits and sustainability, adding that social entrepreneurs choose harder paths to make profits over easier alternatives.
According to the Global Impact Investment Network’s recent report, investments into the sector in Sri Lanka has reached nearly US$ 800 million to-date, and yet most of the capital has been absorbed by larger corporations due to the inexistence or lack of information on social entrepreneurs.
Backed with initial capital and expertise from Oxfam GB, LSV has identified 20 such SMEs for incubation from across the island since its founding in December 2014.
Dr. Welamedage said that each SME would be allocated a highly trained advisor on social entrepreneurship, and the incubation period lasts up to 10 months, during which the entrepreneurs are given classroom training, field visits and peer-to-peer training.
Further, social enterprise hubs would also be established, in partnership with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, regional chambers and professional bodies.
He said that to be eligible for the incubation programme, SMEs would have to be less than 3 years old, with clearly set environmental and social benefits, and have extraordinary leadership, vision, and entrepreneurial drive while women and young people will be given priority.
“Another 40-60 others are waiting for advisors, but we are also looking for funding avenues, whether from banks or other funds,” Dr. Welamedage said.
He said that the business model of LSV would revolve around investing in social entrepreneurs, and using the profits to fund the incubator and accelerator programmes of start ups.
LSV has planned to initiate incubator programmes for agribusiness, women, and university graduates in the coming year.