Study Tour Expands Horizons for Changemakers in Uzbekistan
At face value, social entrepreneurship and social enterprise may seem like the same idea. But understanding the nuances of both concepts is essential for social leaders looking to drive change.
In February 2022, 11 representatives of Uzbekistan-based civil society organizations embarked on a five-day study tour to Kazakhstan through EF’s Social Innovation in Central Asia (SICA) project’s Institutional Development Program (IDP). The tour centered on equipping changemakers from Uzbekistan to apply social entrepreneurship and social enterprise strategies in their initiatives back home. Attendees represented diverse organizations from across Uzbekistan, spanning the fields of women and children’s rights, e-commerce, public health, and more.
Participants first traveled to Almaty, where they attended workshops with experts who are driving social change in Kazakhstan. There, they learned about social entrepreneurship: using business principles and processes to generate lasting social impact, without necessarily focusing on profit.
Discussion sessions with experts introduced participants to cutting-edge tools and techniques in social entrepreneurship. Hands-on activities gave them opportunities to reflect critically and creatively on their own organization’s approach to social impact.
Participants then explored a new concept: social enterprise. Like traditional businesses, social enterprises aim to generate revenue, but they also use their platform for the greater good. Social enterprises might reinvest profits into the community, offer free or low-cost goods to those in need, or create employment opportunities for marginalized groups.
“I learned a lot during this training,” says Khurshida Ibragimova. Khurshida is the director of a women and children’s support center in Uzbekistan’s Fergana region. She attended this study tour to expand her organization’s activities and achieve financial sustainability. “By the end of the year, I will try to open my own social enterprise—a culinary training center and commercial kitchen.”
In addition to meetings with experts, participants visited social impact ventures throughout Almaty and its environs. These organizations worked in fields like education, disability advocacy, civic engagement, and the environment. Participants also met with social enterprises’ beneficiaries to learn from their important experiences and perspectives.
“Through networking with these organizations, I forged new professional connections in Kazakhstan that will help to expand our social activities,” says Khurshida.
In dialogue with Kazakhstani peers, participants gained firsthand insight into the issues, obstacles, opportunities, and solutions facing social impact initiatives. As a result, participants like Khurshida more clearly understood how social entrepreneurship and enterprise can help them launch and sustain social initiatives while staying true to their original mission.
“These are new, innovative approaches to social impact work,” says Lola Abdusaliyamova, SICA study tour coordinator. “Organizations have learned to be competitive without neglecting their target beneficiaries. They now strike a balance between their income and meeting the needs of target groups.”
For Khurshida, these concepts point the way to more successful social ventures. “I have always dreamed of having a social enterprise so that I no longer work from grant to grant,” says Khurshida, “but achieve long-term sustainability and independence.”