United Social Ventures is an incubator (UK Charity No. 1158935; Ugandan NGO No. 11853) for youth-led social start-ups in Uganda. Our mission is to empower youth-led change through our mentorship and business development services for social ventures.
In Uganda each year, 50,000 students graduate from universities, over 400,000 young people join the labour market, yet under 15,000 jobs are created in the national formal economy.
The result is enforced entrepreneurship: almost 30% of young people are engaged in the early stages of setting up and running an enterprise. Uganda often tops the chart as the most entrepreneurial country in the world. But, 21% of these go out of business every year and only 2% expect to employ 20+ people in the next five years. These are predominantly personal businesses rather than transformative ventures.
United Social Ventures channels this entrepreneurialism: coaching the most promising social ventures with tools which provide a framework for their young leaders to design impact and business models that ultimately will make their initiatives more effective, sustainable, and scalable.
We’ve created a pipeline for these ventures: a Social Design Course to help passionate young people create new ventures; Incubation – in both workshops and one-to-one tutorials - for those just starting out; and 75 hours of bespoke Acceleration for those starting to grow. We also run an annual awards to reward social entrepreneurship, with prizes of all-expenses-paid trips to Oxford University for workshops on their ventures.
We also place international student volunteers with these start-ups to catalyse their growth. We believe this model of peer-to-peer partnerships provides a more equitable form of volunteering which is tailored to the skills of the volunteers and sustained through a longer-term remote collaborative experience over the internet. Following our motto: Changing the world, one friendship at a time.
United Social Ventures was founded in 2013 by recent graduates of Oxford and Makerere universities. To date, we’ve supported 80 youth-led social ventures, and they’ve valued our support at twice the costs. Ventures have won awards such as the Anzisha Prize for Agriculture, the Global Cisco Innovation Competition, the Africa Prize for Engineering, YouthActionNet Global Fellowships, and more. We’ve hosted dozens of international volunteers in Uganda and 22 Ugandan students on exchanges to the UK.
Young people like our solution because no other institution is able to invest such quality time into their technical and emotional development as agents of change at such an early stage of their journeys as social entrepreneurs. The experiential learning with us is unlike anything they experience at higher education institutions.
Our vision is to expand our work in Uganda to reach hundreds of young people per year with a self-sustaining office through payments from successful ventures, hosting fees of international volunteers, and CSR. We would then like to expand to other countries, as we believe our work is replicable and required, particularly in other low-income economies.