Ken Etete: The social entrepreneur

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Ken Etete

The world is faced with complex social and economic challenges ravaged by an arduous pandemic in today’s knowledge-based environment. 

However, societal progress depends on cultivating leaders who can operate effectively in a global and changing environment and adapt to diverse systems and institutions to meet the change demands of disparate communities. Moreso, for young people situated at the margins and exposed to societal ills, which renders them vulnerable to alienation or resentment from mainstream social institutions such as education and vocation. So, therefore, with globalization uncertainty, what can we, as individuals, do in our immediate environment or inside our organizations to effect the desired change?  

These, amongst other things, have entreated the need for socially conscious leaders to pursue social goals as part of their enterprise objectives leading to change as social entrepreneurs.

The social entrepreneurship essence aims to create public good by exposing and ameliorating social problems by adopting entrepreneurial precepts with social values to achieve positive social changes. 

The social entrepreneurial impact excels through new community-based ventures that focus on value creation, sustainable solution, empowerment and innovation, and collaboration not maintained status quo and the appetite for controlling industry forces that have impoverished communities in the first place.

As a general principle, on the one hand, social change aims to reduce inequality and make other people’s lives better. As such, notions of social change are situated around institutional policy changes to benefit a group and implicit changes in a group’s value, status, or authority that leads to better individual, social condition and societal development, and empowerment. 

Accordingly, community wellness and social innovations are good for society and enhance society’s capacity to act and foster a shift in attitudes and actions that enable sound policies centered on creating community-based sustainable economic opportunities. On the other hand, a social entrepreneur or a change broker fosters collaboration that elevates active inclusion within organizations and communities.

Consequently, I care about social innovation and positive social change because people out there need modified social transformation toward equality.  Ostensibly, social innovation through the impact of a change broker agency and its significant role in infusing sustainable development that leverages technology and entrepreneurship and is a priority in strategies for social change, which is a major driving force behind common wealth creation. 

Conversely, social entrepreneurship and its related innovation development are vital to empowering societies and are often critical for marginalized communities’ equity and must bring concerned groups permanent benefits, unlike technical innovation, which are contemplated innovations only after the strikingly ground-breaking discovery that can be marketed.

As a strategic thinker and socio-political conscious enterprise innovator: Ken Etete uses his green space above his private residence hoisted by a social app to create a fitness and leadership community, which means he opened his home to total strangers to engaged socially, contributing to societal well-being, astonishing right? I thought as much too. The green space is now a family community called: The Rooftop Gym, which aims to promote fitness and mentor young leaders, acting as a change vector. During and the still existing Covid-19 complexities and the apparent incapacity of existing public structures and policies to solve the most pressing economic and social problems.  

Mr. Ken Etete, with a network of compatriots, took it upon themselves and put up with it in response to the dynamic changing environment and the consequent sense of urgency to find solutions for targeted needs or somewhat underestimated mental health issues and community well-being. A classless community of people created a new FITNESS mindset to challenge imaginations for a collective higher purpose that has created a community spirit with a local expression but relevance globally to promote positive social change.

According to Ken, and I quote, “you cannot be fit and be corrupt.” From Ken’s perspective, corruption is an act of human incapacity, a lack of wellness, and ignorance of the mind. Ken surmised; when the mind is idle and inept, it affects our capacity to innovate and be benevolent. However, many of the political class are well educated with impressive curriculum vitae, “but education does not equate intelligence,” so they lack leadership characteristics. 

Achieving a healthier society is a complex process that depends on both economic and non-economic elements and requires socio-economic-political integration between communities and government. In the same sense, as Ken finely teaches, healthy people have a higher opportunity to think, be selfless, knowledgeable, be creative based on a higher purpose, earn a higher income, foster mentoring, and possess the basic tenet of leadership than unhealthy people. To put it differently, if you have these essential qualities, “you cannot be corrupt.”

Through privileged, almost daily debates and conversations with Mr. Etete over extreme exercise regimes and multiple launches in his office, he was always mindful in a sense that today, development is no longer a process that can be realized through governmental policy implementation alone. 

He argues Africa leadership development for the youth and economic advancement for impoverished communities requires the cooperation of the larger societies to build and ensure more robust democracies and effective leadership across the Africa continent. In the ingenious African way, as he posits, “true leaders do not solicit power, they rather endeavor to empower young people through mentoring, diminishing dependency on handouts.” In other words, achieving economic development or increasing the level of social welfare depends on our determination as Africans to achieve and sustain the main objectives in the political, economic, and social paradigms. It is a critical stance Ken so much emphasizes to remediate Africans rancorous leadership phenomenon and the ominous socio-economic-political inequalities.

My engagements with Ken’s new societal realities, poised to facilitate active inclusion of citizens and strategies for providing sufficient resources for humanity to live in dignity, have been life-changing, which I view as mindfulness and presence in my evolving sense of purpose-driven leadership and the inseparable larger social world.  

As a consequence, Ken’s social entrepreneurial philosophy, in my interpretive worldview, encompasses an authentic leadership phenomenon combined with the resourcefulness of a traditional entrepreneurship paradigm — fostering new solutions of organic social interaction with efficient new ideas from the bottom-up. 

Thus, mobilizing social inclusion, than previous alternatives, meets citizens’ self-sufficient needs, bringing permanent empowerment benefits. These, amongst others, demonstrate how successful businesses and the socio-political usefulness combination can foster real systemic change to solve material poverty. Put differently, purposeful social change initiatives are considered more effective when local community participation determines the needs and shapes the outcomes.

Across the board, it is understandable that social entrepreneurs or change brokers like Mr. Etete are usually interested in solving big picture problems and achieve real progress, but starts with small, provincial efforts and often targets issues that have a regional expression but relevant globally, such as; education, clean water, and environmental solutions, agriculture, promoting SME’s creation and innovative technology, thus facilitating social impact that can often be replicated in other geographical regions—in effect, fostering a more equitable society and meaningful impacts that promote small actions of change which affect one or few individuals that could expand to many in the future. Consequently, due to the reciprocal interaction between marginalized people and the change broker, each benefits uniquely over time. 

In effect, rising local citizens’ mass power results in increased participation in decision-making processes and, as a result, increased socio-economic autonomy, freedom, and equity.

Ideally, I don’t believe in Charity. I think in Solidarity. Charity is tokenism, patronizing, and at its worst perpetuating and addresses only the symptoms of social injustice. Although, most times needed as a necessary first step to build trust and improve immediate and pressing conditions of a particular individual needs.

 However, it sparks authoritarian influences that go from the top to the bottom that encourages dependency, which may have brought about the need in the first place. On the other hand, Solidarity is emancipatory. It investigates the broader picture of change needs and seeks to remove the root cause. At its best, it amplifies independence and freedom that respects the other person in the partnership. As an African, I am inspired by a desire to recognize and nurture the indigenous potential to co-create and mobilize shared leadership to pave the way for collective responsibility and economic advancement. Additionally, I believe that interaction with and learning from Africa’s culturally diverse continent must represent that heterogeneity and knowledge.

Overall, I have come to see more clearly and value deeply, as Ken Etete taught me, it is critical to remember that every human endeavor should have one primary objective; to serve their local communities, advance the common good, and foster social justice and active inclusion leading to social change.

 In my view, this includes selflessness in actions, empathy, the promotion of an innovative ecosystem, social entrepreneurship, sustainable leadership, and community centeredness, as well as concerted effort to ensure impoverished people earn a living wage and maintain their well-being. Retrospectively, I have no doubt, the criteria mentioned above reflect a spectrum of what Ken Etete’s RoofTop gym community and his fintech venture outreach collaboratively pro pagate. 

The team uses daily exercise and mentoring as a conduit to hone young people’s mastery between the complex interaction of leadership and intervention to a more nuanced awareness of the impact of technology developments towards solution-oriented capacity, diversity of thought, and globalization impacts. 

Thus, creating the opportunity to generate reciprocity of positive interpersonal relationships based upon a mutual sense of trustworthiness and acceptance and incubates social mobility through the accrual of social capital. This, in itself, can be described as positive social change. For the leader is, because the led are!

Evans Jakpa-Johns, PhD Student, Management & Technology

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