Is there even such a thing as social business?

A recent article I read as part of the preparation for our CEO’s attendance at the Skoll World Forum, got me thinking of one of the discussions that I’ve had with the other fellows and people I know about social business. The discussion basically questions if there really is such a thing as “social” business? Isn’t in the end business, when it comes down to it, always about making money? Will the incentives not always be there to seek profit as opposed to social impact? Vice-versa, if the social impact motive is there – will the business not loose out and become unsustainable?
The article in question was calling for new legal and corporate structures, to address parts of this issue, saying that with the appropriate governance structures the incentives can be aligned and external stakeholders such as program participants, funders and supporters can be re-assured that what they’re actually standing behind is indeed on proper “social” ground. 

While working with Waste Ventures, I have been seeing quite how complicated this can get for a hybrid social enterprise – understanding the structure that we have been building can be tricky at times, with a combination of charity and for-profit entities. A simpler way of doing it, with alternative corporate formats might indeed help enterprises like us along.

However – I always get the feeling that corporate and legal structures can’t quite cover the whole issue, and while they are necessary, I do think there is a fundamental question that needs to be answered – is it in fact so that in the end all corporate organizations will divert to focus on profit as opposed to impact (and is that even a bad/unwanted

thing?!) and if not, what is required from the founders, the corporate structures, the governance and the ways the businesses are set-up to retain the social mission focus?

Social Entreprenurship – adjusting to it’s new clothes?

If you spend any amount of time following the field of social
entrepreneurship, there are some easy to spot trends and movements.

Many of them are captured in this simple and straight forward article
at Collective Responsibility:…

One of the big discussions is the definition of what SE really is.

Nothing surprising there, any “new” community or movement will be in
the search for what defines them, what sets them a part from other (in
case of SE: traditional NGOs, aid work, etc.).

Following this development what I would expect to see is at one point
the community becoming comfortable in the clothes that we are wearing.
Starting feeling that we know what sets us a part and instead focus
not on building the framework, but rather innovating within it (and
sometimes outside it – creating new communities & groups).

Some people argue that the search for definition is leading SE off
track – maybe they’re right. However, from what I have seen of
community development, this is a necessary (if maybe time consuming)
process to go trough.

What do you think? Is it a waste of time or a necessary process?

Loving the social business buzz at AIESEC’s International Congress


Check more pictures from the conference here.

So long – I’m going to India (… and what will I be doing there?)

Having arrived at the airport, changed currency, gone through the security check, sat down, got my horrible (overpriced) airport espresso, flipped on my laptop and turned on my travel playlist, I am finally beginning to get that for the next 6 months I'll be in Delhi.

I guess somehow this post is a bit overdue, I have actually known for a bit over a month now that I'd be going to Delhi, and I've been many times over been telling people about what I'll be doing there – however, I didn't actually get to writing here about what I'll be up to. 

So, as said, I'm going to be spending 6 months in Delhi where I'll be working for an organization called Waste Ventures. As most of the people who've spent any amount of time around me knows, I've had a big interest in waste for some time, and now I had the great opportunity of gaining some practical experience of this area. Waste Ventures is a triple bottom-line (environmental, economical, social) business working with solid waste management enabling waste pickers to increase their income through implementing a scheme of service fees, recycling, composting, carbon offsets and biogas generation and through these activities have a positive environmental impact. I'll be helping Waste Ventures establishing their processes and routines, do work on evaluating potential partners and sites as well as (I'm sure, as it's a start-up ;)) a wide range of other things. 
I got the chance to work with Waste Ventures through the Artemisia and AIESEC Social Business Ventures program. In this program Artemisia supports a number of students and recent graduates to experience working with social businesses in India and Latin America. We're a group of fellows in this program who will work with different social ventures throughout India at the same time so parallell to our internships we will also be able to connect with each other and create a common learning environment. 

Anyway, so that's the brief summary of what I'll be up to for the next 6 months. I'm really excited, as I see this is as one of my first real hands on experiences of what I think I'd like to work with in the future. For the next months, expect updates here on waste, social business and life in India 🙂

PS. If you'd like to learn a bit more about Waste Ventures and the founder Parag Gupta who I'll be working with, check out his blog at Social Edge called Talking Trash.