Place-Based Innovation in Action: Creating Change Through Telling Untold Stories

A key objective of the Global Alliance Africa project, through the #MoreThanAWoman initiative, is to ensure that its Place-Based Innovation (PBI) activities are tailored to the needs of under-represented communities, and more specifically, women.

Posted on: 15/09/2023


The initiative came about after a locally led Advisory Group identified improved opportunities for women innovators as a key pillar to achieve its collective goal to create “an inclusive innovation ecosystem driving economic growth and prosperity in Gauteng” through the PBI model and activities.

The Problem

Women in townships and lower-income communities play an integral role in creating sustainable solutions to local challenges. The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) points towards steady growth in the number of women-led businesses in South Africa: up from 19.2% in 2019 to 21.9% 2021. Yet, traditionally, women-owned businesses and ideas are often labelled as ‘informal’ and, as a result, are undermined and overlooked despite their vast potential for growth, revenue, and socio- economic impact.

To achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality; empower all women and girls) requires transformative shifts, integrated approaches, and innovative solutions. When putting it in the context of place-based innovation it demands a different approach to support and enable women to participate, contribute and access all levels of the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. Investing in women is an important part of building the talent and skills pipeline for business innovation. Inspiring, involving and investing in greater diversity is a core part of Innovate UK investment activities in the UK.

Investing to break down barriers for female entrepreneurs in Africa is also a core part of the UK International Development agenda, as the UK is leading the way in supporting female entrepreneurs across Africa to start and grow businesses and the #MoreThanAWoman initiatives is one of many others.

The Solution

The #MoreThanAWoman initiative aimed to redefine perceptions of women innovators by exploring the obstacles women entrepreneurs face; outlining actionable next steps for remedying these issues; and spotlighting success stories.

Four key strategies/approaches were used to support the women:

i. Bespoke support services
Based on a thorough analysis of each individual’s needs and gaps (rather than a one-size-fits-all approach).

ii. Speaker training
Taking an approach to support the women to tell their powerful stories and, in doing so, giving due justice to their innovative products and/or services when presenting to an external audience.

iii. Spotlighting opportunities
In the form of an event and media opportunities to give the women a voice and an audience to pitch their ideas and innovations to.

iv. Facilitating access to investment
Through seed funding/award opportunities and access to investors that they may not ordinarily be able to reach.

Results & Benefits

The showcase videos spotlight the four inspiring women that pitched their innovations at the #MoreThanAWoman event.

The four finalists now have an additional asset in the form of the video to be able to pitch to other partners and investors. The wider cohort of women are also taking away valuable learning around how to speak, present and pitch to different audiences; better understanding of their own journeys in being able to identify and solve challenges; and confidence in their ability to tell their story and access partnerships. Most importantly, they felt a sense of community in being part of the cohort and being able to share their struggles and successes.

“Meeting women who are on a similar entrepreneurial path is so refreshing, as the journey is often isolating and extremely lonely.”

The combination of bespoke support services, speaker training, spotlight opportunities and
facilitating access to investment thus far has proven an effective combination in accelerating these women’s journey towards increased access to investment to grow and scale their businesses. The snapshot below highlights the impact that these activities have had to date on one, of our four, inspiring women innovators.

About Global Alliance Africa

The Global Alliance Africa project is a six-year project funded by UK International Development through Innovate UK (GCRF) and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

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