Leading South African social enterprise, LifeCo UnLtd, took Hivos Southern Africa staff through the fundamentals of leadership and innovation in order to foster a culture of innovation within the hub. The training came in handy for Hivos Southern Africa, which is currently exploring how to position itself as a social innovator.
LifeCo UnLtd tackles inequality through ownership, reinvested dividends and a focused development. It facilitates the development of people through dialogue, debate, practice and capital, and uses these methods as process accelerators.
Using the Socratic methodology, the aim of the training was to stimulate reflection, critical thinking, dialogue and discussion o further enhance the leadership and innovation practice within the Hivos Southern Africa team.
The Socratic debate is a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions. The methodology is learner centred and promotes learner-motivated inquiry.
As part of the training, staff members were asked to outline key questions that, as a regional hub, they need to ask themselves in order to incorporate innovation into their daily work. The training process provided an opportunity for staff to reflect on why the Hivos Southern Africa regional hub needs to engage in innovation.
Staff were also asked to investigate themselves in relation to innovation through a question titled: What are the key questions I, as an individual and leader, need to ask myself?
“Applied innovation is focusing on a particular area and utilising your thinking to come up with relevant solutions. True innovators think about thinking and the systems that drive that thinking,” said Patmanathan “Pat” Pillai, Founder and CEO of LifeCo UnLtd SA.
“Innovation and courage are shackled together like Siamese twins. Our vantage point within innovation is very important, it defines how and what we see.”
Pillai challenged staff members to dig deep and tackle the difficult issues within Hivos Southern Africa. During the training, staff members were asked to draw up proposals to steer the organisation towards a new frontier due to diminishing sources of traditional funding.
He also emphasized that self-knowledge and awareness is critical to building a spirit of innovation. He added that asking questions and thinking through the questions is also essential to innovation.
The trainees were also shown how to pitch ideas for investment. The idea that won the innovation pitch involves setting up an energy incubator to increase uptake of renewable energy among underserved communities.
Overall, the training introduced Hivos Southern Africa staff to ways of combining capital with a do-gooder mentality. To achieve high-minded goals, new strategies are required. Thus the need for innovation.