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October 25, 2007

An Idea Both Conservatives and Liberals Can Love?

The president of the Manhattan Institute, which advocates limited government, worries that the increasing enthusiasm about social entrepreneurs may end up diluting the meaning of the term "social entrepreneur." Writing in the New York Sun, Howard Husock starts by citing Bill Clinton's new book, Giving: How Each of Us Can Save the World, in which Clinton promotes the idea of "social entrepreneurship." George W. Bush has also praised the innovation of social entrepreneurs, notes Husock. Which causes Husock to wonder if Bush and Clinton share the same understanding of social entrepreneurship.

Husock is far from the first person to argue that the term "social entrepreneur" is misunderstood. See our list of definitions for a sense of how many different interpretations exist. But Husock introduces a new question about the term:

Yet beneath the apparent Bush-Clinton consensus, there is important disagreement about what the term, and a related movement, means. Is it a new code word for liberal causes or a useful name for a movement of idealists with limited government involvement who are helping those in need?

He goes on to argue that "social enterprises" don't belong in the umbrella term of "social entrepreneurship," either. Whether you agree or disagree with Husock, his commentary is good fodder for discussion. What do you think? Is the approach of the social entrepreneur beyond ideology?

June 14, 2007

Mommy, Where Does Social Change Come From?

Interested in someone who can describe how to change the world in less than 300 pages? Then meet David Bornstein. Bornstein writes about social innovation. He tells stories about people, in his words, "whose deep yearnings in their lives meets the world's deep needs." Bornstein met celebrated social entrepreneur and Nobel prize winner Muhammad Yunus as a young journalist and went on to write one of the most popular books on social innovation, How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas (which clocks in at 282 pages, in case you were wondering). In this short video interview on Global X, Bornstein talks about his predictions for 2017 and how a lot of social change "comes from people helping other people believe in themselves.”

June 8, 2007

Talking Back to the Wall Street Journal

The nation's business paper of record published a pretty negative article recently about nonprofits that get involved in commercial ventures. In the past couple days, a number of informed voices have responded to the Journal's article, called "Why 'Social Enterprise' Rarely Works."

The article by Ben Casselman draws on a new study from Seedco that notes few social enterprises are truly self-sustaining. To that criticism, Kris Prendergast of the Social Enterprise Alliance counters (hat tip, SEblog):


Viewing social enterprise solely from the perspective of the for-profit world misses the social goals of nonprofits, where the primary measures of success are social outcomes.

In his defense, Casselman makes at least one criticism about social enterprises that should be taken seriously:

...some experts say an overemphasis on creating a viable business can detract from an organization's social mission.

Here's a roundup of other reactions to the piece. The Seedco study focused on its own failed social enterprise. Thus, says the UK's School for Social Entrepreneurship blog:

The sad thing is that the WSJ article simply brands this [social enterprise] as a failure, and uses one example to generalise widely
And over at Xigi, a blog about social investing, they're pleased the concept of social enterprise is getting any ink at all in the Journal:
Social enterprise is hot enough that entrenched players like the old money Wall Street Journal are starting to attack the concept in a recent article. . . It’s good to see the guardians of old style thinking about money getting uncomfortable. We are getting under their skin.

June 7, 2007

Fisticuffs Over Microfinance

Is turning every poor person into an entrepreneur a surefire way to fight poverty? Is microcredit—the practice of lending small amounts of money to impoverished individuals to start businesses—deserving of the billions of dollars devoted to it? Does the popularity of microcredit distract from other tested strategies for economic development? These are the very important and provocative questions posed in a new article from a social innovation journal.

"Contrary to the hype about microcredit," writes University of Michigan business school professor Aneel Karnani, "the best way to eradicate poverty is to create jobs and to increase worker productivity." Think Karnani is spoiling for a fight—or at least a vigorous debate—over the merits of microfinance?

Continue reading "Fisticuffs Over Microfinance" »