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Personal Finance

Steps to safeguard, fund your social innovations

entrepreneurship conference
Guests follow proceedings during an entrepreneurship conference. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG 

Social entrepreneurs are the kind whose innovations are able to solve social problems in a community. Usually, not for profit, social entrepreneurship is a rising global trend that is also taking root in Kenya. The main goal for a social entrepreneur is to solve a problem as opposed to making profits.

Interestingly, social entrepreneurs are able to attract funding due to their nature. There are investors who are keen on investing in causes that are good for society at large. Such investors’ goals are to spend money on ventures that are ethical. It is therefore easy for a good social investment to attract funding from ethical investors. Some social innovations include green innovations which promote environmental preservation. Others include health, education, agriculture and any other innovation that is deemed to be good for society.

The first step in undertaking a social innovation is to identify a need. Most innovators have harnessed bad personal experiences to produce innovations that end up making a difference in society. Ideas can be gleaned from undertaking research, in order to identify gaps in various social issues.

Once the idea is identified, then the next step is to undertake a lot of research and feasibility studies on the same to understand the viability of the concept. Some concepts may not be relevant to a certain social setting simply because of differences in the society. At this point, it may be prudent to engage experts who would then advice on the feasibility of your concept.

The third stage is implementation where you refine the idea into the relevant format and create a workable product or service. At this point it would be advisable to engage an intellectual property lawyer to advice you on the relevant intellectual property right to secure. There are various classes. For example a patent is granted for qualifying scientific and technological inventions, copyrights are granted to novel ideas that are fixed in material form while a trademark protects the brand or logo.

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The fourth stage is commercialization of the innovation. From past experience I have noticed that one of the main challenges that innovators face is the lack of funding. There are few financial institutions that would be willing to lend to a new innovation. perhaps because of the risk involved and lack of historical information on performance. However, if a concept is well packaged it should be relatively easy to secure financing. Here are some tips on getting funding for the innovation

GET THE RIGHT PARTNER FOR YOUR INNOVATION

In this regard I would advice seeking financial institutions with a special interest in a specific area. For example if your innovation is on education, then it is prudent to seek financiers who are in the same sector.

DO NOT LIMIT YOUR OPTIONS Cast your net wide when it comes to seeking funding. For example, do not limit yourself to the local market as there are several global funding agencies that would be ready to finance your innovations.

PACKAGE YOURSELF WELL It might be necessary to retain the services of an expert, say a grants consultant to assist you package your commercialisation strategy well in a manner that would attract funding.

BE INNOVATIVE There are many non-traditional ways of raising funding. An expert would advice you on this. There are several other options available for example crowd funding which is a social media tool that has helped many innovators raise funding for their causes.

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