Flash mobs are groups of people that break into song or dance (sometimes both) in public places. You can find a bunch of them if you do a search on YouTube. These are two that are appropriate for this time of year. I love this song, and I’d be thrilled to find myself where these shoppers did.
Archive for December 3rd, 2010
One area of business where the United States remains particularly competitive has been in entrepreneurship. Throughout the nation’s history, inventors and small business start-ups have grown the economy through the development of new and better products or services. Recently, a new spirit of social entrepreneurship has emerged, one that is not based on accruing profits for founders or shareholders, but instead on sharing the wealth with society.
These “social prophets” do not dwell on shareholder equity, stock price fluctuation, price to equity ratio, or their appearance on CNBC. Instead, they concentrate on directing donations and/or profits toward the common good. Social entrepreneurship takes the selfish part of capitalism and converts it into selfless giving. This sure is a vast improvement on the Gordon Gecko philosophy that ”greed is good,” stated in the movie Wall Street. Empathetic and moral actions have begun to supplant bean-counting and miserly coldness.
Social entrepreneurship has been around for a while. Probably the most famous example was the late Paul Newman, with his Newman’s Own line of products. But, in the past decade social entrepreneurship has come into its own and is no longer hidden behind the glitter of its older for-profit sibling.
Social entrepreneurship can mean any of the following:
- Starting a traditional non-profit organization, like the American Cancer Society, the Nature Conservancy, Habitat for Humanity, or a private family foundation.
- Creating a corporation that has both for-profit and non-profit aspects. The search engine GoodSearch donates one cent to a charity of your choice for every on-line search you do. In addition three percent of the purchase price of items bought through GoodShop go to the charity of your choice. The donation adds up quicker than you think. An astounding 95,000+ non-profits are listed on the website.
- Forming a consumer cooperative that has members who receive benefits, but which also maintains a large philanthropy arm. An example of this is outdoor recreation retailer, REI.
- Establishing an entity that directs all of the profits from the organization towards nonprofit activities, as Newman’s Own has done for more than a quarter-century. Another example is Credo.
All four are excellent examples of providing for the common good, instead of just the personal good of the founder or company shareholders. To date, Newman’s Own has donated its $300 million dollars in accrued profits to numerous charities. REI was established as a cooperative in 1938 and since 1976 has given more than $20 million to local environmental and community causes.
As a management school alumnus, today, I would jump at a chance to obtain a degree in this positive area of business. It appears that many others are doing just that. Due to the growing interest in this area of business, the following colleges and universities now offer undergraduate and/or graduate degrees in social entrepreneurship for budding social prophets:
Belmont, Brigham Young, Colorado, Colorado State, Columbia, Duke, Harvard, Indiana, McGill (Canada), NYU, Oxford (UK), Pace, Stanford, Villanova, Wake Forest, Wisconsin, and Yale.
So, while you are strolling the shopping centers or browsing on-line, consider purchasing holiday-related goods and services from a entity operated by a “social prophet.” Both you and our society will “profit” from it in more ways than one.