In the Holiday Spirit, an Explanation of Social Business

Social business is a new and growing field. Therefore, there will be skepticism and confusion around its existence. If you all are like me, you have at least one family member or friend who does not “get it.” That’s okay! It’s your job to share your passion with them and help them understand. Remember — civility and patience IS possible, and healthy discussion might even bring you closer to your loved ones. I challenge you to start a discussion about your passions this holiday season. Below is a letter I wrote to my family last year about my personal passion for social entrepreneurship. Feel free to use it as a starting point!

To My Family:

I understand why you push me, and appreciate your support. You make sure that I am always thinking about policy issues from all sides. I think we agree on a lot concerning my interests in social entrepreneurship, but communicate the same thought in different ways. I want to change the world through business just like you do, and am interested in better understanding how to most effectively and efficiently do so. Different business techniques will result in different outcomes. I want to understand which CSR/social entrepreneurship methods work the best to grow a company’s profitability, its impact on stakeholders lives, and its ability to fulfill its founders’ mission — just like studies into Management Information Systems, Operations, Finance, etc examine how to best run a company to meet certain goals.

I am interested in both large corporations’ giving and ethical practices (typically referred to as CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibility) and small enterprises founded with the intent of having a social impact on a specific ill in society with their products or services (social entrepreneurship or social innovation). However, I am more interested in the latter and typically am referring to social entrepreneurship when I talk about my work. Here are some great sources to differentiate the two (you will notice that there is little consensus about the definition of either):

1. CSR — http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/corp-social-responsibility.asp

2. CSR — http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/4679-corporate-social-responsibility.html

3. Social Entrepreneurship — https://www.forbes.com/sites/meimeifox/2016/08/08/5-reasons-why-social-entrepreneurship-is-the-new-business-model/#5fc22a6a44ca

4. Social Entrepreneurship — https://ssir.org/articles/entry/social_entrepreneurship_the_case_for_definition

I believe people dealt harder cards than we have in life need to understand how to help themselves before they can. We are blessed to grow up knowing the value of work from watching our parents and community, and are blessed to have access to an education, but some are not given the same opportunities. I think that is where businesses can have a larger impact. With the Wema bakery {a social enterprise bakery in Kenya}, for example, we are adding jobs to an economy where certain young women may not have another opportunity to get one. The chosen employees, all recent graduates of the orphanage’s adjoining school, will receive training on how to start their own business and basic skills in finance, marketing, accounting, and more. They will be given the tools they did not have access to before. If they choose not to become entrepreneurs, they at least have skills that they can use to work somewhere else. In addition, we are providing a needed good for the 5,000 villagers as there are no other sources of bread within a wide radius.

This is using entrepreneurship to make a difference. It is tailored to meet a specific community need — jobs for unemployed girls who want to work, an income for the orphanage so it does not rely on donations, and a staple food for the community. Once the bakery is operational and all lesson plans are complete, my team will step out and let the community run the business. We will not be funding other expenses — they as entrepreneurs must learn how to operate the business and fund it. The building of the bakery was an investment in our eyes with our return being in positive impact. However, we could have done the same model and taken a percentage of profits as our own income. This is what most social entrepreneurs do — they are not paid through grants or tax payer funding, but through their own business’ success or failure.

You are right, businesses have been making a difference since the dawn of commerce. The idea behind using business to help people is not new, but the rigor and study behind how to effectively do so is a growing field in my generation. People are realizing that although our old ways of giving back are kind, they are not always the best way to help someone. I would like to be a part of figuring out what works and what doesn’t through my graduate studies, organization involvement, research, and career. I know it can be hard to understand my thinking, but I hope I can continue to have great conversations with you and the rest of our family about my work!

Love you!

Anonymous

The author is an alum of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Global Sustainability Leadership Institute

Welcome to Impact Connections, the GSLI’s blog space! We were formerly known as the Social Innovation Initiative.