Entrepreneurship development: a certain way to promote SDG alignment

Serious african woman supervisor boss teach diverse staff workers explain project plan paperwork at group meeting, focused black female mentor training business team at corporate office briefing

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are widely known today and form a part of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They are described as “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”.

The SDGs themselves consist of 17 distinct and respective objectives that tie into a broader holistic sustainability plan. The SDGs are becoming increasingly referred to as governments, companies, and NPOs adopt them as guiding beacons for a more sustainable future.

Entrepreneurship development

Another topic that is finding increasing attention is that of entrepreneurship development. It is generally recognised that promoting entrepreneurship and innovation is good practice for developing economies and creating jobs.

Indeed, the South African landscape is one in which many types of initiatives are offered by the public and private sectors to stimulate both hard and ‘soft’ skills in this area. But to what extent does stimulating entrepreneurship development align with the SDGS? The answer is that it does so to a large extent!

High-quality education and mentorship

The Gordon Institute of Business Science’s (GIBS) Entrepreneurship Development Academy (EDA) was established approximately eight years ago to work with numerous partners in offering high quality education and mentorship to South African entrepreneurs.

A recent exercise that was entered into was a mapping process of how the various programmes that were run over time have aligned with the SDGs. It became clear that through supporting entrepreneurship development over time, no less than nine SDGs were tapped into respectively.

Development in action

In the first instance, SDGs 4 (quality education) and 8 (decent work and economic growth) become obvious examples where offering access to good education can stimulate economic growth. However, some further interesting examples exist.

The EDA partnered with state-owned companies, global banks, and international embassies in offering programmes specifically aimed at developing female entrepreneurs. In doing so, there was clear support of SDG 5 (gender equality).

In partnering with global retail philanthropists and other partners to roll out programmes to underserved communities there was support of SDG 10 (reduced inequalities).

Unpredicted positives

However, some of the areas of overlap actually move more deeply towards the goals in ways that were not always previously predicted.

The EDA worked with a global investment bank from 2016 to 2018 in supporting, educating, and mentoring 200 entrepreneurs active in the green energy space. This was very much in support of SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy).

Through the hosting of dialogues on ethics and innovation, forums dedicated to sustainability, programmes aimed at ‘train the trainer’, and internal training of enterprise and supplier development practitioners, there has been alignment with SDGs 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions). 

Arguably of most importance, is the support of SDG 17 (partnering for the goals). Every time a partnership takes place in support of any of the preceding goals, it automatically is in support of SDG 17.

SDG alignment by number of engagements:

Most of us are keenly aware of the importance of entrepreneurship development for the future of our country and economy. Additionally, many of us would like to align with the SDGs where possible.

The findings of the recent mapping activity lend great credence to the work done by business development service providers, enterprise and supplier development professionals, and entrepreneurship development specialists. This is not only in terms of adding value to our country and its people but also in aligning heavily with broader SDGs in so many ways that are often not acknowledged.

This goes further than offering just a new marketing or communications angle for practitioners. It speaks directly to the heart of simultaneously solving multiple issues with a single programme deployment.

Entrepreneurship development is not just a good practice activity, it is irrefutably a high impact, sustainable social investment.

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