Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Social Entrepreneurs have arrived.

In the beginning there were small beginnings. Over the centuries these
grew into organizations with budgets larger than the national product
of many countries. The captains of these giant industries became lords
and masters of all that they surveyed. They became rich, arrogant and
uncaring. The financial success of their companies was their goal.
Peoples’ suffering, damage to the environment etc had no meaning for
them in their mad rush to collect and store wealth.
There was a Gandhi, the father of the Indian Nation, who realized that
independence would create a new breed of the rich and powerful. He was
aware that these neo rich will soon forget their days in poverty and
want and start behaving like lords. To caution them he came up with
the theory of Trusteeship He told the rich and the powerful that the
excessive wealth they have has to be held in trust for the welfare of
the poor and the needy.
The concept of Trusteeship was given shape as Corporate Social
Responsibility by western writers who realized, as did Gandhi decades
earlier, that wealth cannot exist in a desert of poverty. That
business has to think of the well being of fellow humans if it wants
to survive and grow. Many forward thinking businesses took to the path
of responsible business and were serious about the concern for their
fellow beings and the environment.
There were however many times more who went on doing business as usual
churning out wealth and claiming high profits, large salaries and
bonuses. They cared two figs for the impact of their business on
fellow humans or the environment. They created the makings of a
financial disaster. We are now in the midst of a disaster created by
The last World Economic Forum discussed the fact that Trust in
Business had hit rock bottom. The Edelman Trust Barometer revealed
that. 62 percent of those interviewed across 20 countries said they
trust companies less this year than last. Just 38 percent say they now
trust business. Only 31 percent trust banks. Trust in our third sector
NGOs rose by 12 percent to 54 percent.
Meanwhile all over the world business is cutting down costs by
indulging in large scale retrenchment. In many cases employees have
perforce to accept salary cuts ranging in some case up to 50 percent.
Big business is running around with the begging bowl asking for
government doles to bale them out of the mess of their own creation.
Most governments are offering doles in the mistaken belief that it
will save industry and cut unemployment. The good sign is that
government, particularly in the USA and UK, are realizing that big
business alone is not answer to the present crisis or to the growing
unemployment. Possibly for the first time ever the President of the
United States of America has taken steps to promote social
entrepreneurship through the Office of Social Innovation. He has
signed a Serve America Act that includes a Social Innovation Fund to
seed new social enterprises and expand existing ones. He has also put
aside tens of billions of dollars for green initiatives that will
undoubtedly cultivate more promising social ventures.
Perhaps most of all, he has used his bully pulpit to highlight the
stories of social entrepreneurs, inspiring young people to follow a
new model for making a difference.
Osama’s commitment follows a global trend among foreign leaders to
focus on social entrepreneurs as a key ally of government in
delivering services. Indeed, for years now, the Labour government in
Britain has made social enterprise a centerpiece of governmental
departments from health to the environment to social services.
Speaking at Oxford Jeff Skoll said “Social entrepreneurs have
arrived. It is hard to imagine that it was just two years ago when I
described social entrepreneurs as “one of the world’s best kept
secrets. The secret is out. Several weeks ago, a businessman gave a
keynote address at the World Economic Forum, in which he called for a
huge expansion of what he called Creative Capitalism—a concept that
draws liberally from social entrepreneurship.
Last April, a television host devoted a whole show to profiling three
groundbreaking social entrepreneurs and drawing attention to their
projects. And a few months ago, an American politician gave a speech
in which he proposed creating a national Social Entrepreneurship
Agency. If you’re wondering: how much influence can three people
have? Well, what if I told you that the businessman was Bill Gates,
the TV host was Oprah Winfrey, and the politician was Barack Obama?”
Nicholas Kristof wrote in the New York Times after attending the World
Economic Forum in Davos, “Today, the most remarkable young people are
the social entrepreneurs, those who see a problem in society and roll
up their sleeves to address it in new ways. There is no limit to the
number of social entrepreneurs who can make this planet a better
Says Jeff Skoll “Social entrepreneurs have two kinds of power. One is
the power to bring specific change through the work that you do. The
other is the power to inspire - to bring other people and
organizations to work together; to scale solutions; and to find new
ways to solve problems. But it’s going to take people who are
passionate, who are creative, and above all, people who are completely
incapable of understanding any combination of the words “it’s
impossible,” “it can’t be done,” or “why bother even trying?” In
practice, social entrepreneurship often involves starting small and
leveraging scant resources to create change - whether in environmental
science, feeding the poor, or facing down disease.
The bottom line is: social entrepreneurs are on a roll and, despite
the relative small size of the field, offer considerable potential for
breakthrough solutions. But they need money, partners, and the TLC of
big business. And it would help if government policies lined up behind
them. Through a quantitative survey of 100 social entrepreneurs around
the world, SustainAbility learned about their challenges as well as
their perspectives on the opportunities - and barriers to progress.

The survey shows that entrepreneurs face a variety of limitations, but
access to capital was cited by 72 percent of respondents as a primary
challenge. Promotion and marketing of organizations and programs was
the second most frequently cited issue (41 percent). In addition, many
respondents noted the issue of developing their organizations and
balancing their need for talented professionals who also were
passionate about the mission and entrepreneurship.
Governments and business need to take a new look at Social enterprise.
Government needs to draw up new policies and programmes and create
infrastructure, financial and physical to encourage civil society
organizations to create more social entrepreneurs.
Yes the Social Entrepreneur has arrived.

Suresh Kr Pramar

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