Assessing sustainability of faith-based enterprises in Kenya
Elijah Bitange Ndemo
Purpose – This paper is concerned with sustainable development (supporting profit-making enterprises as alternatives to providing relief efforts in developing countries) of faith-based enterprises in Kenya focusing on the question of measuring social enterprises as a strategy for the developing the sector. The purpose of the paper is to review existing literature and policy experience on this topic, whilst also reporting some results from a pilot investigation, undertaken in Kenya in 2004. Design/methodology/approach – The paper used five theoretical foundations to advance discussions on sustainable social enterprises as a component of economic development in the country. Eleven social enterprise programs were selected using church networks and a series of qualitative interviews conducted to determine sustainability measures and motivations for commitment to developing such enterprises. A modified design of ethnography for listening and asking questions in the context of sociological and anthropological studies was applied. Findings – Findings show that indeed there are other important measures of social enterprises and that the faith-based organizations (FBOs) embrace the idea of supporting profit-making enterprises as alternatives to providing relief. Incubating enterprises for older project beneficiaries yields better outcomes as they tend to be more motivated to build their enterprises, while younger ones see the projects as a step to something else. Enterprises succeed in part because FBOs provide a support structure that includes marketing (local and international), micro-finance and training. The lack of monitoring and evaluation constrains the development of this emerging sector. Research limitations/implications – In view of the qualitative, in-depth nature of this research, the author recognizes that the small sample size, and the regional focus of the study, mean that the findings must be viewed in context. As a consequence, the study does not seek to generalize the findings, but rather treat the cases as individual events from which evidence and themes can be drawn. Originality/value – Whilst this is not a new topic, a number of recent trends suggest there may be greater scope for developing an understanding of social enterprises in the future than in the past. These include: a paradigm shift towards creating sustainable development programs, new sources of micro-financing and social enterprises themselves, increasing signs of micro and small enterprises internationalizing their operations rather than simply exporting from their domestic base, emergence of creative marketing networks, as well as a continued increase in globalization.
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