Behind the scenes: An interview with the SEED Jury
"The courage and determination of local entrepreneurs really inspires and motivates me", says Kofi Nketsia-Tabiri, reflecting on his time on the SEED Award Jury.
As this year’s winners celebrate their success, the jury will also be celebrating – and breathing a collective sigh of relief – as the results of their hard work and tough decisions come to life. Towards the end of a hectic month, we caught up with the jury for a little insight into the SEED Awards.
The jury draws people from across the corporate, charitable and governmental sectors - from law firms to development NGOs, from the UK to Kenya to the Philippines. Despite the diverse expertise reflected in the jury, they are surprisingly unanimous when asked what makes an application stand out. Leila Akahloun is looking for "a project that involves its community - especially the most disenfranchised - and implements locally relevant, culturally appropriate strategies to reach its objectives." Brian Milder agrees that "the strongest applications reflect a well-thought-out balance of social, environmental and financial objectives."
It’s that intersection – where business meets social and environmental responsibility – which makes the SEED Awards unique, but Leila points out that it’s "SEED’s support of start-up and launch phase innovations" which make the awards vital. "SEED is taking a risk in investing in promising development projects at a point where it is often critical for their success."
Richard Lewis is keen to stress the impact that this bold approach can have: "There are many others working in this sector but none take on board the challenges and risks of those starting out. SEED is unique in searching for niche examples of start-up sustainable social enterprises and working with them patiently to build their confidence and ability."
"To apply SEED’s particular knowledge and expertise in Africa, where there is so much potential," Richard continues, "is inspiring." The jury hopes that the 2010 focus on Africa will be part of an imminent turning point for the continent. Brian believes that the type of development recognised by SEED will be "key to sustained economic growth and social development in Africa. SEED’s focus on Africa at a time when the continent is reshaping its global image will attract attention and investment to business models that are rooted in communities and respectful of the environment, as opposed to those that extract resources and export profits abroad."
Leila describes SEED as "an excellent networking organisation," meaning that the impact the SEED Award has on its winners is long-lasting and, it is hoped, helps to shape the future of the regions it touches. For the jury, the experience of SEED is also not one that they are likely to forget. Kofi captures the sense that the transformation of businesses and lives makes the jury’s hard work worthwhile. He says, "to be able to help these entrepreneurs realise their dreams is an honour."