Seeking new ways to express their mission in the world, Catholic Sisters in Eastern Africa are learning and applying social entrepreneurship principles in service to local youth and women. A partnership of the Association of Consecrated Women of Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA) and Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship has deployed a curriculum of practical learning to mentor the Sisters in developing the skills and strategies for launching and growing social enterprises. Even though this initiative is just in the pilot stage, the Sisters have a bold vision for scaling by engaging a substantial portion of the 30,000 Sisters in this region.
Participating Sisters perceive social entrepreneurship to be a new form of social ministry that is fully consistent with their religious vocations and the missions of their congregations. They are launching social enterprises in the agricultural, cooperative, and education sectors. They bring many personal assets to this work, including relatively more education than many African women and a lifelong commitment to serving the poor and vulnerable in society. They have a deep understanding of the obstacles to development in their local communities, including the role of dependency. They are able to leverage the high levels of trust that local people have in their congregations, and thus lead them toward enterprise-driven economic opportunity.
This study is informed by the vision of Wangari Maathai for African development and analyzes this initiative through the lenses of trusted leaders, honest institutions, and strategies to overcome dependency. Data was collected from Sisters and the Miller Center team, in Uganda and the United States. Equipped with social entrepreneurial leadership skills and inspired by their faith, Sisters can fulfill their vision of leading inclusive and sustainable development in Eastern Africa.