Hey there hubbers! We’re excited to introduce you to Thandi Allin Dyani, our new CEO! Before joining us impact-makers here in Joburg, Thandi worked in the impact startup, social entrepreneurship and global development fields for 10 years. Her journey includes leading an NGO that she launched, as well as having been a Senior Manager of a social linnovation hub in Denmark. Thandi also leads the impact investing efforts of the One Life Foundation.
Thandi has co-founded several social innovation conferences, and an impact accelerator program. Throughout her work, she has been an advisor to many social entrepreneurs. She believes in co-creation, partnerships and collaboration between all stakeholders involved in the work of the SGDs, and really cares for inclusive social change!
We sat down with her to hear more about her ideas and goals. Oh, and on top of all of this amazing work, she’s also a rad DJ! We’re still trying to convince her to DJ at one of our events here at Impact Hub Joburg…we’ll let you all know if it happens!
Thandi, how did you first get involved in social entrepreneurship?
After working at Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several non-profits, I began looking for ways to create business-based solutions to social challenges. The financial crisis hit Denmark in 2009, and there were very little jobs available. Many people were turning to entrepreneurship in order to survive the economic downturn. I started my own NGO, One Groove, at the time to be able to support creative entrepreneurs in promoting their work. I realised that social entrepreneurship was the path I wanted to be on as it is an innovative approach that combines business know-how with charitable intentions and higher standards of ethics. In Denmark, I then started co-managing a space similar to Impact Hub for the next 6+ years whilst supporting social entrepreneurs on an ongoing basis though my work.
Can you share some of your priorities for Impact Hub Joburg?
I’m currently working on launching a monthly event that will bring together entrepreneurs, Impact Hub Joburg members, experts, educators and trainers working in the impact space. Education and knowledge-sharing are important to me and I am looking for ways to bring the wider impact-focused community together to share their experiences with our members here at Impact Hub Joburg and vice versa. Likewise, I want to further increase the sense of community felt within our space by building trust amongst its members and guests, sharing knowledge, helping each other and co-creating meaningful solutions together. On a larger scale, I am all about partnerships and bringing the outside world into the space, both knowledge-wise and financially. I am also on a mission to try and facilitate regional collaboration between impact, innovation and co-working hubs across Africa. Network, network, network and share!
What are some of the challenges unique to South Africa that you want to work on resolving as a priority?
In South Africa, inequality is huge! There is a de facto dual economy and lack of skills and empowerment has a great role to play in this. What I’ve noticed is that the private sector can be reluctant to develop staff skills, especially in the service industry – hospitality and tourism. There is very little growth on an individual staff level and next to no space for advancement. I want to be a part of sharing information and skills-development programmes that will support people in developing their careers and ambitions further than they currently think they can. The great part about the community at Impact Hub Joburg is that several of our member businesses facilitate skills development programmes, we also facilitate our own Launchpad and overall Impact Hub global skills development opportunities. Generally, being a member here will add value in the form of skills, knowledge and an expanded network for any business, NGO or individual.
What do you like most about being at Impact Hub Joburg?
This space really helps increase levels of trust between entrepreneurs. Over time, coworking has proven to increase business growth and potential though its networks. For various reasons, South African society isn’t as interconnected as it could be, and people put up walls between one another. Impact Hub Joburg brings people together with a common purpose: to make a positive impact on society and environment through their business-based solutions to local and international challenges. Having this commonality causes a shift in perspective: people start looking for ways to collaborate instead of isolating themselves from others and competing in conventional ways. This space is really about finding common ground and co-creating based on a foundation of united mission and purpose. Here, impact comes first.
What does impact mean to you?
Impact is not just about doing good through your business. Measuring impact is tremendously important. How are lives being changed? An impact-focused business must also be financially sustainable, the team behind it must be effective and professional, and the organisational structure must push the business forward from the perspective of governance, ethics and finances. Measuring impact is, in a certain way, a mechanism that makes businesses more competitive and showcases their uniqueness. Impact is also finding the right business model – not all purpose-driven businesses or NGOs impact society in a positive way. By solving one thing they sometimes create a new problem. Impact is not just impact, it’s super complex, it’s about a triple bottom bottom line. Let me give you an example: a business wants to donate shoes to members of society who are in need, in cases when kids walk barefoot to school, to work, to fetch water. It relieves dirt transmitted diseases etc. So they use their fashion platform to ‘buy on donate one’ model. That’s all great, but the flow of shoes now puts a whole sector out of work and erases a skill from a society! That’s impact, yes but it’s not positive. So creating impact is complex and must be a collaborative effort asking users what they need, involving all stakeholders building solutions together!
What is your message to South African entrepreneurs?
There are significant advantages to starting a socially-conscious business from the very beginning. Not only to serve a greater purpose of doing good, the Millennial generation is starting to demand that companies think about their long-term impact on the lives of their employees, the environment, and the people that make and buy their products. It’s consumer demand that’s shifting, and companies that incorporate greater standards of transparency, purpose and accountability from the beginning start out with an advantage. Instead of looking to show others that you made it, and only looking at the material elements of your own success, consider investing back into the business. Invest in your employees and their skills training. Loyal and happy employees will help you build a legacy for the future.
If you want to meet Thandi and become a part of our fun and vibrant community of hubbers, click here to find out more about our memberships.