What’s the difference between social entrepreneurship and plain old entrepreneurship?

You may also like...

4 Responses

  1. Jo Jordan says:

    Well, first you must be missing cheese!

    Are you familiar with the work of David Cooperrider and Prahalad. "Doing well by doing good".?

    Most businesses think there is a tension between doing well and doing good and will use that as the justification for their doing bad. Milton Friedman argued that to focus on anything but doing well was bad because it would reduce the doing well. Adam Smith argued that doing good was a by product of doing well – which it might be – as complexity theory argument before its time.

    I'm persuaded that we have to do good otherwise we destroy the very basis of our business – which is our community. But I also think we have to clarify our 'mission' and separate it from our 'vision'. Sometimes reconciling the two takes hard thinking and moral courage.

    I used to use a film about the death of an Al Jazeera correspondent through 'friendly fire' [US] to illustrate the dilemma students. Younger reporters were outraged (rather than saddened)- at the higher level of vision – by the cavalier attitude of US forces to Arab reporters. Older reporters clarified pointing out that in pursuit of Arab emancipation – for want of a better expression – soldiers play one role, diplomats play another, journalists play another. Our mission is our role in the wider vision that we share with others. It was the duty/virtue of journalists to continue to play their role – to continue to report even when the tragedy was so personal and so outrageous.

    Hope this makes sense. So yes, a business is required to run profitably – so that it survives and delivers a fair/competitive return to its financial stakeholders. We are obliged to stop trading the minute we think we might not be able to cover our financial obligations.

    But that doesn't mean it should act cavalierly towards other stakeholders. That would destroy its wider vision/mission Nor does it mean it should give its products and services away. The discipline of making a profit focuses our minds and helps us be efficient. We are doing our customers and suppliers (and the tax dept) no favours if we go broke and we are doing them no favours if we are just 'fat and sloppy' – we are deskilling ourselves and everyone in the chain. A bit like a farmer who eats up all the food in a good season and is too fat and lazy to plough the next season, or do the hard work of fetcing and carrying water in the following drought.

    I think your students are just experiencing the rich moral fabric of doing something worthwhile. We could argue that we know something is worthwhile when it poses challenging moral questions.

    They are lucky. And luck to have you guiding them which I am sure they will do in due course for others.

    • theresac says:

      I've been thinking about your comment:

      So yes, a business is required to run profitably – so that it survives and delivers a fair/competitive return to its financial stakeholders. We are obliged to stop trading the minute we think we might not be able to cover our financial obligations.

      I think it's important to underline that for non-publicly traded companies, the stakeholders can and do agree on motives other than profit. If a business's owners agree that, while they don't want to operate in the red, they should be respecting X, where X is any number of things, including keeping prices accessible to disadvantaged groups, protecting the environment, or funnelling profits back into the community, businesses are free to do this.

  1. July 2, 2009

    […] that I’ve been beaten to the punch by Nathaniel Whittemore at Change.org and Theresa at the subjectverbobject blog.  (And, much to my pleasure, Nathaniel’s post was prompted by a fantastic Fast Company […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge