Firstly, what is social entrepreneurship? Wikipedia defines it as, “the attempt to draw upon business techniques and private sector approaches to find solutions to social, cultural or environmental problems.” So why should you care and why is this the future? Allow me to expound.
Social Entrepreneurship is Sustainable
Global recession after global recession of first world economies that used to be seemingly infallible along with history teaches us that Capitalism, as it stands, is not a sustainable model. It needs a poor base to support the wealth of another group. In other words, valuable raw materials have to be extracted from their origins for little or no cost, which is exploitation at its best. Hence the old adage, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The problem with that is as the wealth gap widens, political stability weakens, creating volatile markets that spell disaster for any economy.
Social entrepreneurship poses a solution to a problem which has been widely and wrongly touted as too complex to address. Social enterprise generally focuses on disenfranchised segments of society that can’t obtain socioeconomic equilibrium without outside help. But it does so in a way in which everyone wins. Here’s an example, shea butter comes from a plant that requires intensive physical labor to harvest. A lot of companies that sell this product pay their laborers unlivable wages and export it elsewhere to be processed. There is a handful of companies, however, who have taken a different approach. They pay decent wages to skilled workers and allow them to process the materials meaning that more money stays in their community, helping to build their local economy and the consumer gets in some cases an even higher quality product than they would otherwise. The company also makes a profit, it may not be at an obscene profit margin, but there will be profit nonetheless.
It Empowers the Consumer
As social consciousness comes to the forefront, more people want to know where their goods are coming from and the working conditions of the workers who produce them. It’s called economic activism. If you come from a more affluent society, it’s fair to say that your choice of consumer goods is almost endless. Social enterprise allows the consumer to make the choice to use their purchasing power in a way that can really benefit the disenfranchised. Supporting the work of skilled workers pays back in spades and the benefits workers and consequently their communities in a way that welfare or any other kind of “handout” program ever could. It is a spark that ignites possibility in an otherwise oppressive situation.
It Makes the World a Better Place
Excuse the cliché headline but it’s actually true. Gandhi once said that poverty was the worst possible form of violence. Think about that. Crime is the highest in impoverished areas and wars are started between nations over resources that are used to maintain the inequitable status quo. A more equitable society is a safer one, a more just one, a better one.
As an idealist, it would be easy to ignore any downside, but for the sake of any skeptics out there, I won’t. The downside is that there is a cost associated with creating a more equitable society. Smaller profit margins mean that the cost of production will be passed onto the business and ultimately the consumer. That being said, paying a few extra dollars for that jar of shea butter is more than worth it if it means less poverty, less crime, and an ultimately brighter future for people who had no say about what they were born into.