Social Entrepreneurship (Essay By Thierry Alban Revert November 2010) Abridged
Social Entrepreneurship An emerging trend in doing “business”:A definition which is indigenous to South Africa published in the Business Day – Special Magazine – The Earth – atthe occasion of the National Green Economy Summit May 2010 – Sandton Convention Centre says:“The true colour of Globalization has been revealed: it is inefficient, uncertain, and unbalanced. The spaces left bysuch market and government failures are seen as real opportunities for enterprises providing social andenvironmental solutions thereby creating new ways to rebuild our economy with sustainability at its core. Socialenterprises are hybrid businesses that put social or environmental goals as first priorities with profit making asecondary but critical goal towards sustainability.There is an increasing recognition that social enterprises may provide innovative, effective, and scalable ways todeliver social development goals while creating new avenues for economic Growth. The Green Economy, thebiosphere economy and the social economy will provide opportunities for responsible and sustainably just growth.Social enterprises should be seen as learning laboratories for both government and business, where creativesolutions can be tested and when proven successful lead to new national policies and industries for Growth thatbetter solve society, the economy and the entire environment.”About social enterpriseSocial enterprises are businesses driven by a social or environmental purpose. There are 62,000 of them in the UK,contributing over £24bn to the economy, employing approximately 800,000 people (2005-2007 data from the AnnualSurvey of Small Business UK). As with all businesses, they compete to deliver goods and services. The difference isthat social purpose is at the very heart of what they do, and the profits they make are reinvested towards achievingthat purpose. Social enterprises operate in almost every industry in the UK, from health and social care to renewableenergy, from retail to recycling, from employment to sport, from housing to education. Whatever they do, they do itdifferently from typical business, because they are driven by a social and/or environmental mission, and they arefocused on the community they serve. In a recent survey into social enterprise, 45% of respondents said that puttingsomething back into the community was their reason for setting up a social enterprise.The government defines social enterprises as:"Businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in thebusiness or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximize profit for shareholders and owners."What are social enterprises?Social enterprises are businesses trading for social and environmental purposes. Many commercial businesseswould consider themselves to have social objectives, but social enterprises are distinctive because their social and/orenvironmental purpose is absolutely central to what they do - their profits are reinvested to sustain and further theirmission for positive change.The difference between a social enterprise and ethical businessThe two are distinct business models. A social enterprises main purpose is to fulfil its social and/or environmentalgoals. This is achieved by reinvesting the majority of the profits back into the business.An ethical business tries to achieve its financial goals while minimizing any negative impact on society or theenvironment.
Social enterprises must make profitsSocial enterprises are businesses. They need to make a profit to compete in the market, to ensure their continuedsurvival and to invest in their social or environmental aims. For many social enterprises, being sustainable - in everysense of the word - enables them to become more independent and to reduce any dependency on public grants. Italso ensures they can continue to help provide a solution for a social or environmental problem.The Indigenous and African Way of social enterpriseThis is the indigenous vision of a harmonious society, as opposed to the Eurocentric view of economic growth. Thisapproach encompasses a spiritual dimension in economics, which has disappeared from the market driven modernperspectives, this dimension has been erased by years of indoctrination and brainwashing by science, rationality,logic, industrial and linear thought processes. When social enterprise is implemented by traditional, indigenouscultures, there is another dimension which is added to the social and environmental agendas; the spiritual agenda.This is a dimension found in what is called a community enterprise by the proponents of the concept of LocalEconomic Development, meaning that all energies are focused on serving the local folks, in other words thecommunity. Cooperatives are a natural way for communities to do “business”. The communal governance of suchsocial enterprises has to be guided by higher values, whereby people consider the common good to be the priorityover the individual self interest. Indigenous people are not ashamed to say that such governance is of spiritualnature.The context is well coined by Native American Indian Activist Russell Means who says: “Being is a spiritual proposition. Gaining is a material act. Traditionally American Indians have alwaysattempted to be the best people they could. Part of this spiritual process was and is to give away wealth, to discardwealth in order not to gain. Material gain is an indicator of false status amongst traditional people, while it is “proof”that the system works to Europeans.Clearly, there are two completely opposing views at issue here, and Marxism is very far over to the other side fromthe Indian view. But let’s look at a major implication of this:It is not merely an intellectual debate. The European materialist tradition of despiritualisation and despiritualising theUniverse is very similar to the mental process which goes into dehumanizing another person. And who seems mostexperts at dehumanizing other people? And why?Soldiers who have seen a lot of combat learn to do this to the enemy before going back to combat.Murderers do it before going out to commit murder.Nazi SS guards did it to concentrations camps inmates.Cops do it.Corporation executives do it to the workers they sent to uranium and asbestos mines and steel mills.Politicians do it to everyone in sight.And what the process has in common for each group doing the dehumanizing is that it makes it all right to kill andotherwise destroy other people.One of the Christian Commandments says: “Thou shall not kill”, at least not humans, so the trick is to mentallyconvert the victims in non-humans. Then you can proclaim violation of your own commandment as a virtue.In terms of the despiritualisation of the Universe, the mental process works so that it becomes virtuous to destroy thePlanet. Terms like progress and development are used to cover words here, the way victory and freedom are used tojustify butchery in the dehumanisation process. For example a real estate speculator may refer to “developing” aparcel of ground by opening a gravel quarry; Development here means total permanent destruction with the Earthitself removed.
But European logic has gained a few tons of gravel with which more land can be “developed’ through theconstruction of road beds. Ultimately the whole Universe is open – in the European view – to this sort of insanity.”P 547 – Where white men fear to tread -Ubuntu citation from Lovemore Mbigi“The key feature of indigenous knowledge systems is that the role of individual philosophers and innovators issubordinate to that of society in the creation of knowledge. Indigenous knowledge is integrated and organic, andthere are no divisions between knowledge disciplines. IKS are holistic in their approaches, and as such they do notallow for the division between social biological and metaphysical sciences particularly in the agricultural and healingsystems.Ubuntu is not just about collectivism, but also about the principles of inclusion, interdependence and reciprocity – andabout the love for humanity. The African Cultural paradigm has its genesis in the community which in turn determinesthe obligation of the individual in relation to the community. Man can only find fulfilment within the extended familyand community. Land is the gift from ancestors. It is the source of life for those who are alive and a spiritualsanctuary for those in the world beyond.Land is sacred. It is traumatic – physically, socially, politically and spiritually – to lose this ancestral base. Thetraumatic disruption of indigenous culture by Western Culture has done more harm than good, to our human spirit,the loss of which is too great to compute. Being, in indigenous African Culture, is more important than having,because to be is to possess the power to do and to become. Being has inspirational energy and a destiny path thatoffer us life continuity from our earthly existence into our glorious world as ancestor spirits.The African philosophy of Ubuntu is based on a communal fellowship – on the notion that our personal survival andsalvation lie in our shared destiny with others. High spiritual consciousness in organizations and communities isachieved when leaders can create and enact an exciting extraordinary story that can shift people’s mindsets, therebyenabling them to see possibilities in the world and find new hope in their existence.”(Extracted from the African Spirit of Leadership)From Steve Biko “I write what Iike”“We accept that when colonization sets in, it devours the indigenous culture and leaves behind a bastard culture thatmay thrive at the pace allowed it by the dominant culture. But we have also to realize that the basic tenet of ourculture have largely succeeded in withstanding the process of bastardization and that even at this moment we canstill demonstrate that we appreciate a man for himself.Ours is a true man – centred society whose sacred tradition is that of sharing. We must reject, as we have beendoing, the individualistic cold approach to life which is the cornerstone of the Anglo-Boer culture. We must seek torestore to the black man the great importance we used to give to human relations, the high regard for people andtheir property and for life in general; to reduce the triumph of technology over man and the materialistic element thatis slowly creeping in our society.Black culture above all implies freedom on our part to innovate without recourse to white values. This innovation ispart of the natural development of any culture. A culture is essentially the society’s composite answer to the variedproblems of life. We are experiencing new problems everyday and whatever we do adds to the richness of ourcultural heritage as long as it has man as its centre.”In conclusion
A social enterprise has to be foremost concerned by the positive effects of social and environmental justice as thefoundation of any consideration for any activity. Activity which is anchored in value and ethos for all, can only bringprosperity and abundance, and operate as a multiplier effect in the creation of sustainable wealth. A social enterprise,through the respect for the above, is a spiritual endeavour which foster value innovation, creativity, peace and lovefor our fellow being and creatures, and the whole Universe, and represent the best contribution to individual selfesteem, confidence and joy the root of all prosperity at the end.Thierry Alban Revert.Future EnergysA social enterprise with a difference.