CREATIVE. MARKETING. PROFESSIONAL.

From the Blog

Call it Conscious Capitalism, call it Social Entrepreneurship, but in this age of faceless multi-national corporations there is a movement to business that partners with communities rather than undermining them.

When New Mexico Tea Co. needed financial capital, they called on their extensive social capital:

Edwards owns New Mexico Tea Co. near Albuquerque’s Old Town. It sells a wide variety of bulk loose leaf teas. When his bank turned him down for a line of credit recently, he turned to the loyal customer base he has built over four years.

He sent an e-mail to the 3,800 people on his newsletter list in an effort to raise $5,000. Within about 48 hours, he had raised $10,000, made up of $4,500 in “microloans” and $5,500 in gift cards that can be redeemed starting in December for slightly more than their cost.

“You don’t really know how much the community cares about you until you ask for help,” Edwards said. “Most of them had never done anything like that. But most had never been asked.”

via Loyal customers infuse New Mexico Tea Co. with green – New Mexico Business Weekly.

In many underserved communities, however, neither the invisible hand of the government nor markets cater to even the most basic needs of their members, resulting in structural and behavioral barriers to the community's growth and development. These barriers are addressed by products and services engineered by social entrepreneurs.

Social Entrepreneurship is an emerging and evolving concept. This article from an Indian Summit called Sankalp 2010 provides a great snapshot. It talks about what Social Enterprise is, an example in Mumbai of the “Dabbawallas,” and the need it fills.

via Reporting from Sankalp 2010 | Blog | NextBillion.net | Development through Enterprise.

Observing partners of The 1010 Project in Kenya, as well as listening to our indigenous leaders, I’ve discerned three elements that must be present for a social innovation to succeed.

  • Aptitude: A social entrepreneur’s skill or competency which they are offering to their community and to the marketplace.
  • Business Acumen: Knowledge of basic business principles and strategies
  • Capital Investment: Resources for startup costs, including financial, intellectual, and human capital

In metaphor format, if the entrepreneur and their skill is a Computer, Capital is the hardware and Business acumen is the software.

Development at times has focused primarily on the third element, Capital Investment. And it is true that  hardworking, creative social entrepreneurs in impoverished countries have remarkable aptitude but often lack access to basic capital.

However, as Michael Nyangi of LOMORO reminded me in February, many of these community leaders have not received the kind of business knowledge we take for granted in the United States. The average American would have a primary understanding of concepts like budgeting, marketing, and finding your business “niche.” In my experience, the same assumptions cannot be made in the developing world.