Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Entrepreneurs: A Force for Good

The Guardian reprinted the following remarks from a Demos report authored by LSE Professor John Gray and Fernando Flores in its Daily Comment:

Guardian Unlimited Guardian daily comment A wing and a prayer:

"But another form of working life is also developing - the entrepreneur. Instead of being led by chance and talent, the new entrepreneurial life is driven by bringing value to the community."

Gray and Flores argue that the transformation of working life, and the loss of many traditional business career paths is creating moral and social risks that must be addressed, if community life in prosperous regions is to be sustained. And, as can be seen from the remark quoted above, the authors regard entrepreneurial initiative as the right medicine for the problem. Entrepreneurship, in their words, brings 'value to the community.'

I would argue that social entrepreneurs bring all the same benefits to the community that Gray and Flores attribute to ordinary business entrepreneurship plus something more.

Nourish the Children illustrates my point. NTC provides those in more prosperous regions of the world with an opportunity to work as social entrepreneurs. Those choosing to pursue the NTC social entrepreneurship path might be doing so because: they have been displaced by the 'transformation of working life'; or they need to supplement an inadequate pension; or to supplement a family income; or they are committed humanitarians looking for a more effective way to create social good. Their motivations don't matter much: their entrepreneurial activity, independent of motive, and in common with all responsible entrepreneurial activity, brings an economic and social benefit to the community.

But, these entrepreneurs are also creating something more. Again using NTC to illustrate my point about the plus value of social entrepreneurship: NTC social entrepreneurs have, in a little more than 3 years time, provided their Alliance Partners (World Vision, Feed the Children, and others) with over 35 million Vitameals to feed severely malnourished children around the world. They have also generated funding to build locally owned food processing facilities in impoverished countries such as Malawi. (The Malawi facility now provides employment to 400 Malawians, and buys grains from many thousands of Malawi's farmers. Malawi Project) NTC social entrepreneurs have even supplied over 1 million meals to feed victims of hurricane Katrina. In short, social entrepreneurs, as illustrated by NTC, create social good both in their local communities/countries, and abroad.

Although I have used NTC to illustrate my point, I hasten to acknowledge that there are many other legitimate social enterprises that might be used to make the same point.

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