On Social Enterprise
What's your take on the social enterprise movement?
Quite often, though, what happens is that people who set up social enterprises move on, to set up their own businesses because they get to the point where they want to make money for themselves rather than put the fruits of their actions towards the common good. Another challenge is that when you are working with mostly broken people in society, they are often the intergenerational victims of poverty in its various forms and it's actually very difficult for them to get a foot on the ladder and to compete in the mainstream business world. So I think that social enterprise is a part of the solution -- although in practice, getting [social enterprises] going in hard-pressed areas and keeping them there can be more difficult than is sometimes made out.
What is needed to help them along?
I think that we need to shift our understanding of what a product is from a simple economic transaction in which we look for the cheapest price for the best available to an understanding that this is about the right relationships. And so the satisfaction we seek in what it is we consume needs to be partly built into the relationships that have helped to make them. Then, people might be willing to accept something that may not be as competitively priced -- but is much better socially.
So how do we get there?
Government is not the answer. It really has to come from our own hearts; it has got to be a transformation within us, whereby we seek to have a sense of our own value based on how we're connected to other values in the community around us -- and how we contribute to those values.
Technology and networking will be part of it. I would say a fundamental word is dignity. Is dignity built into our economic transactions? Is respect - the ability to take another look? Respect is our ability to look deeper than just to the surface of what's in the wrappers of the products we consume. Dignity needs to be built into [what we make and do via] the right relationship with the Earth and the right relationship with one another.
Do you agree? Let us hear from you.