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Some Thoughts on Social Enterprise

(via GOOD) We live in interesting times. Business, as well as people's concept of charity, are transforming before our eyes. The melding of these two worlds continues to increase as companies and non-profits alike search for long-term, sustainable solutions to global problems using market solutions. Awesome, right? Generally speaking, yes! However, the challenge now is for us to differentiate between great marketing campaigns and sound strategies making a true impact. GOOD magazine released an article last month asking the question of development professionals and social entrepreneurs, "will the social enterprise bubble burst?" Since our inception, Krochet Kids intl. has hoped to serve as an example of the impact that is possible through the creative pairing of great products and sound development. So, we took the liberty of answering the questions posed by GOOD. Here are our thoughts from the following staff members...
  • Adam Thomsom, Director of International Programs
  • Stewart Ramsey, Co-founder / Art & Retail Director
  • Kohl Crecelius, Co-founder / CEO
GOOD: Why do you think social enterprise has become so popular recently? KOHL: In this information age I believe people are learning more about their role as global citizens. We are understanding more about the choices we have and how they are either positively or negatively impacting the world around us. There is power in this awakening and companies are becoming increasingly aware of the power we hold. GOOD: Do you think most social enterprises in Africa prioritize profit or social impact? Is there anything wrong with prioritizing profit? KOHL: When doing social enterprise you are walking a fine line between sustaining your business through profits and creating impact. Those that do it the best have a well-balanced team of individuals that use their expertise to equally measure the profitability and impact. I am weary of those that lean too heavily on the profit side. It quickly becomes inauthentic and has the potential to be harmful. GOOD: For a while, microfinance was thought to be the silver bullet for addressing poverty in the developing world, but after coming under scrutiny, it’s falling out of fashion. Is social enterprise on the same trajectory? ADAM: Microfinance, if relevant in practice and context, is still a great approach to addressing poverty in the developing world. It won't and shouldn't ever fall fully out out of fashion, but where there is valid criticism of Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) it is directed at those organizations that have leaned too heavily on the side of profiting financially from their work rather than keeping the poor's benefit at the forefront. Much like MFIs, people will start to notice social enterprises that make this same mistake. Companies are jumping on the social bandwagon because it is profitable, but only those that continually prove their transparency and authenticity to their customers will survive in the marketplace. So sure, we might move past the days when everyone is a self-proclaimed "social entrepreneur," but I think consumers will always choose to support the brands and causes that are actually doing great work. GOOD: Is there a negative side to social enterprise? Are there limits to what it can do? ADAM: I believe it takes more work to do well, but if someone is willing to put in the effort, as well as the proper monitoring and evaluation tools, there is no limit to social enterprise. I am very excited to see where it continues to go and to help shape it moving forward. GOOD: Do you have any “lessons learned” to share with people who are thinking of creating a social enterprise? STEWART: We've learned a great deal to say the least. We can attribute a lot of Krochet Kids intl. success because we try to adopt an attitude and culture of learning. We are students. That would be my advice if you are starting a social enterprise or much of anything else. Allow yourself to be humbled again and again. Listen. Learn. And listen again.


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