Yolanda Busbeen Methvin has grown to appreciate informal car guards supporting her errant parking needs.
Funny, how generally we imagine and idealise entrepreneurs as innovators. They’re our new superheroes; mythmakers, dream crafters, future creators. These days, the status of the entrepreneur has almost become godlike. Literally. I don’t have to offer names. I’m sure you thought of several already; but who decreed it so?
Entrepreneurs Around The World
Let’s come to an agreed common understanding as to exactly what/who she is. Simply put, let’s say –the entrepreneur creates business opportunities for self and others with the hope of generating financial profit. Equally funny is how we experience entrepreneurs in countries outside of our own.
Just give a thought to who you may have experienced as entrepreneurial within your own or another’s culture before you boarded this flight. Would you consider the informal “car guard” who meets you as you park your car, heading into that lunch meeting in town, entrepreneurial?
Would you trust their advances? And did you trust the travel advisory warnings you may have read, about what to beware of, while travelling, in the “new” South Africa?
I arrived in South Africa from America 20 years ago. I came from Los Angeles, where my experience of anyone approaching my car, close enough to help open the door by gripping its handles, showed that I was promptly being robbed!
So, arriving in Cape Town and finding “car guards” a common occurrence, I was filled with fear, every time. Given my social context, it easily escaped me that the person who “created the job” had seen a need – a gap in the market that the city itself had yet to see, and was providing a valuable solution.
Social Trust As Social Currency
Creating pure profit along the way. No overheads. No infrastructure. No fixed pricing. No employees. African innovation at its best.
Over time, and while watching trendy buzzwords and career paths emerge around “social impact”, “social innovation” and “social entrepreneurship”, I’ve come to a new culturally specific and relevant understanding and acceptance of what being an entrepreneur in an informal African context can offer. Social trust as social currency.
Broadly defined, social trust is that which makes society, “… economies and, indeed, just people, get along in general”, says David Halpern, a UK based, Harvard and Oxford University trained author and behavioural scientist.
Considering my own experiences in South Africa over time, I’ve not only grown comfortable with informal car guards, supporting my errant parking needs and ways.
I’ve also grown to appreciate their familiar and convivial civic presence. I now realise and welcome the deep value in social currency exchanged in this way, and how easily taken for granted and dismissed that exchange can be. I’ve also grown to feel a greater sense of urban street safety, as a result.
My social instincts, experience, and this now-familiar everyday urban South African commercial transaction have left an indelible impact on my consciousness. As we find complexity and diversity in all experiences (entrepreneurship not the least of them), our perceptions of the world around us expand.
Collaboration Increases. Competition Decreases.
Collaboration increases. Competition, naturally, decreases. It’s also been globally researched and proven that countries and cultures that demonstrate high levels of social trust, fare better economically.
I recently chatted with social entrepreneur Joshin Raghubar of Explore Sideways, a local tourism company. In our conversation, recorded for podcast, Joshin offered, “… Scanning across the world, successful businesses have high-trust cultures.
Successful relationships are high-trust relationships. So, trust must be something we think about, actively find ways to build and to grow trust. It’s an idea we should pay conscious attention to, rather than be passive recipients of.”
Now, if there was ever a problem statement in business to get behind, attempt to solve by generating innovative solutions? I’ve got the perfect car guard for the job. Ubuntu we sizwe!
Yolanda Busbee Methvin is a social entrepreneur. A humanist. Listen to her podcast Bee There. Do That. and follow her on Instagram @beetheredothat