Read of the Week

The Disruptors

Kerryn Krige and Gus Silber


Review: Brian Joss

Corporate Social Initiatives are mostly an exercise to generate publicity for the company concerned.

But, the underlying motive is the bottom line, no matter how noble the cause. However, there is a new breed of entrepreneur – the Disruptors – social entrepreneurs who are changing the way business is done, using it as a force for good, even though profit may be the ultimate aim.

In the foreword, Zanele Mbeki, wife of former president Thabo Mbeki, writes that the “disruptors” have a widespread positive impact with their ground-breaking innovations and she notes that a proliferation of best-practice social entrepreneurs are emerging in Asia and Latin America but only a trickle in Africa.

However, I think this is about to change if the social entrepreneurs highlighted in this book are any indication. You can read about Ludwick Marishane from Limpopo whose DryBath – moisturising gel in a sachet – can be used to keep you fresh and clean, when you can’t or don’t want to take a bath. Then there is Jonathan Liebman, the creator of the Maboneng District in Johannesburg and who is changing the face of the City of Gold. Other social entrepreneurs are Thandazile Mary Raletoane who is creating jobs for women and who has built a place of care for abandoned and vulnerable children in Ficksburg; Yusuf Randera-Rees, a Harvard and Oxford graduate who is giving people “who are more talented than me” a chance to become entrepreneurs; ballet dancer Gregory Maqoma who runs the Vuyanu Dance Theatre in Johannesburg, a hybrid of a commercial dance company and a non-profit organisation running outreach programmes to train young dancers; Claire Reid, whose school project became a business that grew into a garden; and Neil Campher who turned waste into worth at Helenvale, a suburb north of Port Elizabeth where gangsterism and violence are rife.

The book highlights 14 social entrepreneurs, some of whom are household names: Taddy Blecher who built institutes of free tertiary learning and Kovin Naidoo whose vision sparked a public health institute that is “changing lives and opening eyes”.

There are black and white images of the social entrepreneurs and after each story a few hundred words explain which category of social entrepreneurship they fall into.

You would think a book of this nature would be as dry as dust. But it is not. It is lively, easy to read and understand, even the technical bits, and it may inspire you to become a force for good, and make a handsome profit as well. Krige heads up the Network for Social Entrepreneurs at the Gordon Institute of Business (GIB) in Johannesburg and Silber is an award-winning journalist.