“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
― Nelson Mandela
We need to recognize our responsibility in everything that occurs in this world. In the beginning this might sound overwhelming, but the ultimate objective is to understand that we are all interconnected. There are many links between all of humanity. The second we recognize that, we can begin to see everyone with more love and compassion. This idea lies at the heart of social entrepreneurship. Its not just about philanthropy and its not just about business: it’s a world in between.
I, like many people, got to know social entrepreneurship through Muhammad Yunus’ example. The first book I read on social entrepreneurship was his book “A World Without Poverty”, and it changed the course of my professional life. It was right before I did my masters degree in nonprofit management at The New School, and as soon as I got in I looked for the option of specializing in social entrepreneurship. After several years in the nonprofit sector, this idea just made a lot more sense than relying on donations.
During my master degree years I read “Atlas Shrugged”(a friend’s gift not a NS assignment), a purely capitalistic book, and of course it caused several mind disruptions. But there is one thing that really made sense to me:
“So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Aconia. “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? …Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor – your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money.”
Years later I joined an organization called Executive Success Program, and again they mentioned this idea to me. If we look at money as a representation of our effort and value we put into this world, it doesn’t really make sense to just ask for philanthropic dollars. Instead it makes sense for me to create enough value through designing a business model that produces enough money for an organization to be self-sufficient while solving a social problem; social entrepreneurship.
Even though more and more people have heard of social entrepreneurship now, the idea of a business model can be hard for a nonprofit to grasp, and for businesses it´s still a challenge to understand that collaboration with a social enterprise could have more impact than traditional philanthropy. For many people in the nonprofit sector, money is seen as good in the form of donations, but having a lot of money and being able to afford luxuries is judged, it’s like there is a discomfort with earning a lot of money. However, there is no better result of effort and value creation than economic return. Imagine social and economic return equally!
Social entrepreneurship, as said by Ana Paula Barragán, director of a social entrepreneurship school in Guadalajara, “is a new form of activism.” It´s a productive way to solve a problem: in fact, in every goal of the sustainability agenda there is a social entrepreneur working on solving it, directly with a community. If all sectors could work together and invest in productive solutions like those of social entrepreneurs, most issues could be solved more quickly.
When we take responsibility for everything that happens, it takes blame out of the equation and becomes a matter of ownership. With ownership and responsibility comes productivity and creation of value.