The Social Enterprise and Charity with "Style"

I’ve been doing some exploring on the Omidyar Network. It’s quite an interesting place with a whole host of discussion forums and workspaces. What intrigues me about this is its emphasis on network-centric advocacy and philanthropy. This fires me up just like the Skoll Foundation’s emphasis on systemic change is so much more exciting than soup kitchens or any other charity project that doesn’t solve the underlying problem.

A few days ago I printed out the 25 page thread on social enterprises. The first poster says:

There’s really two generations (so far) of social enterprise. The first generation generally looks for profits, and redirects those profits towards social good. Think of Target, gives 5% of profit to local charities, etc. Great stuff, but somewhat limited in the impact that you can have this way. The second generation, he explained, was where the very act of making a profit creates social good. (I think the economics term is that the business has “positive externalities”.) Think about alternative energy producers, or organic food producers.

Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, responds:

I would state it even more strongly: the second generation is characterized by very tight interdependence between profit and social good. When you can’t make a profit without having a positive social impact, you know you’re talking about this second generation.

On another note, the NYTimes Magazine had an article on Yellow Fever – everyone I know is wearing the Live Strong bracelets from Lance Armstrong/Nike. It’s a quick article on how this bracelet has turned a charitable endeavor into a cool style. And they’ve been darned successful.

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