Friday, July 25, 2008

Will Global Giants in Search of Public Glow will Trample us Underfoot?

This is in continuation of the debates on the idea of creative capitalism gaining ground, after the Bill Gates speech at Davos:

THE CREATIVE Capitalist entering the social sector for the benefit of the poor in expectation of public recognition as a reward is a good idea.

Only if it works in the field.

The suggestion for effective checks and balances is to go for continuous evaluation, and publish reports for assessment in a transparent way.

Grand ideas indeed. Will ensure some good work for those experts too.

But let me try to give the example of a small project I had seen in a school in my home town: They were producing vegetables in the organic way and the students and teachers were involved in this humble project which ensured the school kitchen received good vegetables at affordable cost.

Then came the government into the scene: a minister landed with his entourage, news cameras and a big ceremony of digging, cutting ribbons, ceremonial planting of saplings, etc, was organized and the next day when the students went back to their garden what they saw was a place that looked as if it had been run over by a thousand elephants in heat...

I do not blame the minister who came with an army of hangers-on to the fragile garden. For him the public glow was the essential part of the show, because he thrived on it. And I do not blame a CC do-gooder doing the same, descending on a small project somehow being run by a small grassroots group with all their limitations, but also with some limited success and applauded only by those local people who are benefited out of it and without much media glare. But when a powerful international group enters the scene with its immense media control, money power and resources, and puts up such shows with an eye on the public glow, then it would be doom for those small grassroots level movements that are slowly seem to emerge in many parts of the world, caught in this whirlwind.

So what is the way out? I would suggest to identify ways how not to trample upon the small shoots, how to be careful and culturally sensitive; how to help local people do these things themselves. But can the global capitalist powerhouses be so sensitive? I am not sure, going by our past experience.

It is around 25 years since the people of Bhopal,India, were gassed by a global company but no one from this philanthropic, crocodile-tear-shedding giants in the West cared to teach a lesson to this particular company and stand up for those victims who suffered for so many years.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I think incentives is not an enough motivation. Most of capitalists are focused just in profits. Fortunately, sometimes rich people realize that they have achieved everything (financially) and there is a moment in life that some body makes them think or feel that they have to give back. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet has walked that process. But there are a lot of rich people that don’t. Even if a rich persons feel that, most of the companies are co-owned by a lot of stake/share holders.

I we try to extract some positive thing of capitalism, to apply to creative capitalism, is the entrepreneurship and venture capital model.

“Why bother trying to help more entrepreneurs succeed? Don Valentine, an icon of venture funding (founder of Sequoia) said: Sequoia is focused on the concept of bigness: big thinkers, big markets, big companies. Employing thousands of people paying millionsd in taxes and hundreds of millions in salaries. That’s bigger than people who just want to be millionarries. (extracted form High tech Start up, John L. Nesheim)”.

Applying to social entrepreneurship, Why bother trying to help social entrepreneurs succeed? I think Bill Gates now is thinking big, but in another aspect. To help poor people.

Traditional capitalism wants high profit margins and growing. Social entrepreneurs and foundations don’t. They just want to be self sustained or operate with a low margin.

So, why not Foundations and Philanthropists like Bill Gates, should try to create a web like the entrepreneurship model to detect social entrepreneurs (from universities, NGO,s etc.), and finance them in different phases and with different validations and requirements.

Chekkutty talked about people trying about producing vegetables in an organic way. Why not help people like them. It could be charity or asking for a little ROI. They could be a good example of social entrepreneurs that can create new business or social models.

In Finland education is free for kids. But Schools are private. Governments funds schools only if they achieve some metrics. And Finland is the best country in Education (OECD). They are pride.

Foundations don’t have an entrepreneur spirit. They have founded by persons that want to give back, feel good, or people that has suffered any loss. They are good helping people and just asking for money. But why not help them even more, if they hire a social entrepreneur and are measured with metrics like education, jobs, startups, production, etc.

And like a start up, don’t try to make a excessive planning. Just start helping and see if the model works.

Like Tracy, I don’t think there could be organizations doing both (profits and social return) Just let both to grow and make experiments in new models of social entrepreneurship.

Guillermo Del Moral | 11:09 PM