Call me a nut, but there’s this movement getting off the ground and I think it’s super cool. See, traditionally if “we” (meaning those of us who live in highly developed Western nations) wanted to help out a starving community in, say, Eastern Europe, or a village in South America that didn’t have clean water, we’d find a non-profit charity type organization and get involved. Maybe getting our hands dirty, maybe just emptying our pockets in their general direction.
The problem with that is that when “we” show up with our foreign resources and build “them” a well we put the local well-digger out of business. We tell the “them” that we can take care of their community. We tell them that they need us. We teach them to ‘receive’ our charity, to wait for our help. And we also cut into the local roofer’s business (every well needs a roof), we cut into the pulley-maker’s business, and we probably install something that isn’t 100% suited to their situation.
The alternative is an industry that is still in infancy – social enterprise. It’s the business of starting businesses that are interested in more than just profit. Instead of shipping in tons of rice, social enterprise finds locals who already produce rice, and it gives them the training and resources to do it better.
Hubbs is in Moldova now, and among the many things he’s doing, he’s working on some social enterprise stuff. Empowering locals with the resources and training they need to address the poverty cycle from within. The potential impact of social enterprise is staggering. Instead of pouring foreign money in at dizzying rates, social enterprise creates local revenue stream, not just putting a band-aid on an issue like hunger or injustice, but giving local economies the boost they need to break the cycle. Why aren’t more people doing that?
(This was on the way to one of hubbs’ recent meetings. I’m guessing whoever lives here won’t be following me on twitter…)