Why I believe Social Enterprise is an answer to the Worldâs Problems. | DMA

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Why I believe Social Enterprise is an answer to the Worldâs Problems.


You may have noticed the United Nations recent announcement of 17 Global Goals for social, economic and environmental good being disseminated.

When I saw these goals I immediately thought of the Social Enterprise sector being a big part of the pathway needed to achieve them.

I’m a big fan of Social Enterprise and have been since before the term was coined. In this first blog I hope to begin to persuade others as to why my appreciation of this now growing sector is well placed and the best of good business sense. Later I plan to expand on how and why the Database and DM Industry can and should be a part of this emerging sector.

I believe that Social Enterprise has the potential to be a massive contributor to the manifold social and environmental issues that constantly create pain and ‘dis-ease’ in the world – but it will require tremendous growth and take-up of this new concept, this new business model, in order for society to start seeing a consistent reduction in, or easing of, the level of social and environmental issues and challenges that we face.

If you are not familiar with what Social Enterprise is then I think the Wikipedia definition is a good start:

A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being - this may include maximizing social impact rather than profits for external shareholders. Social enterprises can be structured as a for-profit or non-profit, and may take the form (depending in which country the entity exists and the legal forms available) of a co-operative, mutual organization, a disregarded entity,[1] asocial business, a benefit corporation, a community interest company or a charity organization.[2]


So why Social Enterprise? How can this relatively new sector change things long term?

My argument is a simple one. It’s about efficiency. In the old perceived model of ‘being’ and ‘doing’ there is usually a clear divide between the concepts of ‘charity’ and ‘looking after oneself’. In the old model you do one or the other at any given time, but very rarely, if ever, both at once. Since each of us only has a finite amount of time, in the old model we are faced with a clear decision and the vast majority of us, most of the time, opt for the one which is self-oriented. This is logical, natural and can also be viewed as intelligent as by at least maintaining ‘self’ we reduce the risk of becoming a burden to others and even contributing something back if we are productive enough. Some of us who do extremely well working in the ‘self’ model start to deploy relatively significant sums to help others or the environment – and this is great – however, at scale the evidence clearly suggests that the small proportion of highly successful people acting philanthropically, even when the combined wealth deployed to help is in the tens of billions of dollars per year, is still a drop in the ocean and not enough by itself to deliver real and lasting change globally.

In essence the old model which drives duality as the order of the day, hasn't and doesn’t seem to be delivering to the scale required.

But what if we had organizational models and service offerings that made it possible to contribute to ‘self’ and ‘other’ simultaneously? And what if these models flowed with our everyday lives? And were available for take-up on a wide scale? Given the finite amount of time each of us has on planet earth combined with the fact that only a very few can ever become philanthropic billionaires - models that take a step towards bypassing the duality of ‘self’ and ‘other’ (whilst enhancing both), made accessible to significant numbers of people would seem a good idea.

It’s just more efficient and crucially can be applied at a scale that really matters.

In my view good social enterprises do a number of things:

1. However achieved they offer customers and/or users a seamless or effortless way of attending to concepts of ‘self’ and ‘other’ simultaneously.

2. They offer employees an opportunity to achieve a level of material success closer to that which is normally associated with purely ‘self’ oriented jobs whilst knowing their every-day work also has a positive impact on society and/or the environment.

3. In for-profit Social Enterprise models shareholders are also given an opportunity to earn a return-on-investment (both commercially and humanistically). Social enterprises offer an additive and complementary option for the wealthy investor alongside traditional philanthropic activity. Investing in tax-efficient models that are designed to be self-sustaining and so keep on giving (or supporting those that give) – with the opportunity of achieving an ROI as well - would seem a very sensible option for wealthy philanthropists.

If more and more organizations emerge which offer the above – then there really is hope for a brighter future where many of the social and environmental challenges, which society has always endured and we still face today, eventually become a thing of the past.

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