*Editor’s Note: CC Biz Buzz is a new monthly column series that will feature insightful commentary from a member of the Columbia College School of Business faculty.
For the past century, we have faced numerous challenges such as geopolitical conflicts, war, famine, climate crises, global financial market turmoil, epidemics and natural disasters, to mention just a few. With all these environmental uncertainties, most businesses — including for-profit and nonprofit — thrive on overcoming all these problems to create value in the global market. The emergence of social enterprise initiatives will provide unique opportunities to resolve the numerous social problems affecting life expectations worldwide.
It is noteworthy that Adam Smith’s publishing of The Wealth of Nations in 1776 marked the birth of modern capitalism and the economics of the free market to help allocate resources automatically toward the most valued ends. The philosophy of conscious capitalism is to create value for all stakeholders, which could be seen as wealth creation to improve social life by lifting people out of poverty and starvation. However, it is fair to say that global businesses cannot solve all the ever-increasing world problems.
For the past two decades, business leaders have been more conscious about providing philanthropic responsibilities to enhance the well-being of the entire society. The strategic philanthropic activities extend beyond altruism to enhance corporate image and add value to shareholders. A good example is Starbucks providing microloans to help sustain the livelihood of poor farmers in South America. However, out of necessity, businesses are continually reducing the budget for philanthropic responsibilities due to economic difficulties, negatively impacting society.
The global community is the largest society where people from various countries experience many problems, including lack of food, poverty, health and sanitation issues and even many other basic needs of ordinary people. Additionally, modern society faces several threats such as natural calamities, pollution, robbery, corruption, violence and many more.
A non-governmental organization (NGO) serves as a voluntary group or institution with a social mission that operates independently from the government. NGOs or similar organizations exist in all parts of the world and play an important role in society in helping the needy. A notable example is the World Central Kitchen, a not-for-profit NGO devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters. Founded in 2010 by celebrity chef José Andrés, the organization prepared food in Haiti following its devastating earthquake. It is now partnering with the local NGOs in Ukraine to provide hot meals to the citizens devastated by the war with Russia. Nevertheless, NGOs are currently overwhelmed with numerous challenges to the point that their contributions to society fall short of expectations.
Fortunately, social entrepreneurship presents one of the prominent responses to fulfilling unmet individual and societal needs. Social entrepreneurs are crucial in providing sustainable solutions to these pressing issues. Social entrepreneurs exhibit good moral judgment, empathy, self-efficacy and social support due to their prior experience in facing and addressing social issues.
With advanced technology, individuals and organizations can either start a new venture or scale existing operations with a strategic global alliance to tackle the fundamental problems facing the existence of humanity. With the internet, finalizing strategic partnerships to scale operations to touch more lives is much easier. The internet is a vital tool to help recruit local international volunteers and raise capital through crowdsourcing.
Mobile money technology consists of an electronic wallet service that enables users to deposit, transfer and receive money using their mobile devices. This process has helped improve life in most developing continents, including Africa. The point of the matter here is that the emerging technologies could help advance the course of social enterprise to give hope to the marginalized people in the world. Social enterprise leaders can explore mobile money technology to expand access to financial services in low-resource environments.
With the mobile phone, users can transfer money quickly at a low cost without access to an existing banking account from a financial institution. Additionally, they could raise capital to finance business operations globally with the following financial systems: GoFundMe, JustGiving, Indiegogo, Patreon, CrowdRise, Cash App and Zelle.
The current geopolitical conflicts in Europe and other parts of the world such as Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan have resulted in serious humanitarian crises that include refugees and food shortages, aside from considering the impact on the global economy. Moreover, considering dangerous pathogens facing the global health system such as COVID-19, there is the need for everyone to answer the divine calling to use advanced technology to either start or scale social enterprise to enhance the livelihood of humanity around the world.
With advanced technology connecting the world to become a global village, social enterprise is an excellent opportunity to help reduce the pain and suffering of humanity to make our world a better place to live.