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Helenvale’s recycling initiative – catalysing community-driven social entrepreneurship

Kerryn Ayanda Malindi Krige (Gordon Institute of Business Science)
Margie Sutherland (Gordon Institute of Business Science)

Publication date: 29 November 2016


Subject area

This case was developed to explore what social entrepreneurship looks like in an emerging market context. It tells the story of Neil Campher, a self-identified social entrepreneur working in South Africa, a country that has recently been awarded middle income status by the World Bank despite sharing a ranking with Syria on the Human Development Index. In environments of deep market failure, what does social enterprise look like? and can you sustain change in communities of extreme poverty? The case looks at the academic characteristics of social entrepreneurs and applies them to Neil to see if he “qualifies”. It has a particular focus on the bricoleur social entrepreneur. It explores concepts of poverty, and looks at sustainability, achieved through asset-based community development. It explores the need for organisations to transition in response to the environment and provides a tool to assess sustainability. The value of the paper is in exploring what social entrepreneurship looks like in an emerging market context. It also raises important questions on sustainability in environments which are inherently constrained.

Study level/applicability

This case study is aimed at students of social entrepreneurship, development studies, sustainable livelihoods and asset-based development. It is written at an Honours level and is therefore appropriate for use in customised or short programmes. The case study is a good introduction for students with a background in business (e.g. Diploma in Business Administration/MBA/custom programmes) who are wanting to understand social enterprise and blended theories of social and economic change.

Case overview

The case study follows self-identified social entrepreneur Neil Campher in the grime and crime-ridden township of Helenvale, outside Port Elizabeth, in South Africa. Campher has given up his glitzy career as a financier in the economic hub of Johannesburg and returned to his home town, drawn by a need to give back. Helenvale used to be where he and his school friends would hide from the apartheid police, but as an adult, his friends are focused on strengthening and progressing the community. Campher’s entry point to change is a small waste recycling project, and the case study looks at how he uses this as a lever to achieve deeper structural change in the community. The teaching case exposes several questions around social entrepreneurship and change: what is social entrepreneurship in an emerging context and is Campher a social entrepreneur? What is community led change and can it be sustainable? Campher’s dilemma is around sustainability – has his extensive involvement of the community been enough to achieve progress in Helenvale?

Expected learning outcomes

The case study gives insight into social entrepreneurship in a developing country context. It highlights the nuances in definition and introduces the importance of context in shaping the social entrepreneur. The case is an opportunity for students to interrogate ideas on poverty and classical interpretations of social entrepreneurship and relate them to a small community that mirrors the macro country context in South Africa. The case study shows how asset-based approaches to development are interlinked with basic principles of social entrepreneurship. It shows that sustainability is more than a secure and predictable income stream and the need for community engagement and commitment to the solution. In tackling these issues, the case questions sustainability potential and the need for the organisation to transition to respond to opportunity and the changing environment.

Supplementary materials

Video X1 5minute video interview with Neil Campher 5min: YouTube Video of Campher from Interview 1 (live from 01 April 2016) Video News report of gang violence in Helenvale 3min: YouTube. This is a quick visual introduction to Helenvale. It is a news clip, so is particularly focused on the angle of the story. It includes interviews with residents. The site Northern Areas burning 2min: YouTube is a collection of video footage from a local reporter which shows Helenvale and its surroundings. The site shows the Text Global Competitiveness Report: South Africa; the first page gives additional information on social and economic development in South Africa, highlighting developed/developing country attributes. It also highlights how Helenvale is a microcosm of the negative social development indicators in South Africa ( Teaching notes are available for educators only. Please contact your library to gain login details or email to request teaching notes.

Subject code

CSS 3: Entrepreneurship.



The authors thank Neil Campher and Professor Margie Sutherland for continued help and input on all things academic.


Ayanda Malindi Krige, K. and Sutherland, M. (2016), "Helenvale’s recycling initiative – catalysing community-driven social entrepreneurship", , Vol. 6 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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