Quality, dependable light transforms lives; children are able to study at night, adults are able to earn additional income, and indoor air quality is improved. Our services benefit women who traditionally spend more time working indoors and children who accidentally drink kerosene and inhale its fumes.
I greatly fear that the Social Entrepreneurship space may be a human capital Ponzi bubble that will inevitably burst. Thousands of entrepreneurs around the world, spurred on by the multiple crises humanity faces and the promise of efficient capitalization are racing to create companies that serve the social and environmental good. They read about a few success stories. They read new studies that support the “emerging industry” and its vast potential. They read about major institutions that are publicly giving their names to the cause.
And so they dive in.
But does the pool have any water in it?
“Impact Entrepreneur: Let’s End the Social Entrepreneurship Ponzi Scheme,” by Hotfrog CEO Laurie Lane Zucker.
Sanergy could have been launched anywhere in the world, but Ani says that Nairobi made sense because when it comes to sanitation in Kenya, consumers seem to be “hacking together solutions like flying toilets.” That showcases a market opportunity for solutions. Contrary to what many people may think of when they imagine African slums, businesses are thriving. Customers are more than willing to pay for services if they are affordable and available. And with fertilizer prices in Kenya twice the global average because of a lack of domestic production and an ever-growing demand for energy, Sanergy won’t be hard-pressed to find customers for its secondary products.
The polarization of “entrepreneurship” and “social entrepreneurship” implies mutual exclusivity. If you are a “social” entrepreneur, do you somehow get to claim moral superiority over your every day entrepreneur? Many of the most mission driven organizations I have seen have never heard of nor benefited from the term “social enterprise”, so why do we make this distinction? Is this naming trend causing us to forget that ALL business has the responsibility to not only increase profits for shareholders, but also respect and support the world around it?
Instead of a parade of awards and recognition, add revealing explanations about why a program has caught CGI’s attention and why it is ready to globalize. And, for good measure, tell the viewers at home (don’t forget those rolling TV cameras, twittering fingers and blogging computers) how to engage with their brains as well as their checkbooks. Teach us how to make smart decisions before we allocate our philanthropic and social investment dollars. Instead of speeches to extol what a person has done to date, let’s ask the brave and bold to reveal their secret sauce of accountability — how they failed and then succeeded. What can they share and teach? What pitfalls threatened the road to success and how did they steer around them?