How to build sustainable social enterprise?
Long term social change requires cultural change as well. Hila Mehr’s Huffington Post piece, Social Entrepreneurs Need to Think Beyond the Business clearly articulates this critical space for social enterprise.
She charges businesses to think beyond the feel good to build real systematic change. “While grateful for the rise in people and businesses caring about making a positive social impact, I’m concerned that an over-emphasis on business solutions overshadows the need to address root causes of societal problems”.
Offering some simple but vital advice Mehr explains how social enterprises must become an integrated part of the system they are trying to influence and cannot, as a business sit outside of it.
This approach has been tried and failed many times over by government and bureaucrats; the distance between Parliament House and regional homes seemingly insurmountable. Business, however, can learn from these mistakes and no longer design programs, projects, products and structures separate from the people that they want to use them, buy them and ultimately benefit from them.
“It doesn’t matter how great a social entrepreneur’s business is if their approach to solving a social problem is off-base and if they are not actively working to reevaluate or adjust their theory of change to their cause’s evolving needs”.
This means engaging the end recipient, the policy makers upstream and everyone potentially impacted by or impacting on the chain in between. Understanding and targeting the system that the social value exists within is key because goodwill in isolation can yield the opposite result.
Do not risk your social enterprise outcomes and be prepared for change that is long term, incremental and organic.
Social Entrepreneurs Need to Think Beyond the Business by Hila Mehra, Huffington Post:
Image credit: When photography turns social experience by Xavier Donat
Title credit: Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone