I just finished reading Nic Frances’ “The End of Charity”. And while I didnt find the writing gripping, the thought process of the author is far superior to anything I have read in recent times. Also, I found it very relevant considering I have become such a passionate champion of bringing about social change in the real world by working real-time with businesses who will endorse that change and become partners in the process.
The way individuals and entities define themselves today is primarily determined by the place where they have chosen to reside- be it in the “profit-making” space or in the “charity” space. It keeps the sphere of action distinct and therefore when people decide to decide to dole out grants or make philanthropic commitments, their choice becomes simpler.
However, today’s market scenario and the demands of the changing business and societal environment have led to the emergence of a third kind of business model. That of the “social enterprise”. A social enterprise is not merely one that innovates while relying on philanthropic donations and government grants. It locates the interface between a social goal and building a customer base for a service that is based on market realities and driven by an ideology that there could be a sustainable way in which we can bring about social change in a global, market-driven economy.
The question here is- if charity in its traditional form has been able to make a difference to the soceity at large given the magnitude of money that gets circulated? The more I read and understand this route to social change, the more I am convinced that it doesnt impact the fundamental root of the issue.
And the more I get involved with Dialogue Social Enterprise (DSE), the more I tend to believe that the space they have chosen to occupy is the one that will create a social change that is sustainable and a force multiplier. In the last few years, the results they have demonstrated with no obvious effort to market themselves by empowering and employing hundreds of people with disabilities and sensitizing millions of people, to the concept of otherness, while catering to a growing demand for effective learning, is a testimony to this fact. Another example is that of Grameen Bank, a concept that I first came to know when I was thick into rural marketing, almost a decade ago. The bank has been able to do more than any number of charities exisiting in Bangladesh.
Choosing the charity route would have been an easier choice, but I am inclined to think that by using market principles, one can provide a more practical and long-lasting business model that helps the “receipients of charity” merge with the mainstream.
The process is undoubtedly more complex than in a purely-for-profit or a charity organization with no imperative to operate profitably. The need of the hour is to find with like-minded partners, who will support this business model and bring about a social change so significant that the world will sit up and take notice that driving change by operating in the real world- by engaging and operating within society, market and economy is not just possible, but far more impactful.