The concept of social enterprise is relatively new to the Trinidad and Tobago landscape, and it’s just starting to take hold. What is it exactly?
It is a business with primarily social goals, whose profits are reinvested into the business, to help achieve those goals. In other words, it isn’t driven to maximise profits for owners/shareholders.
Consensus has been growing around the idea that the general way in which the world does business has left gaps in society. Traditional approaches haven’t necessarily been the best way to ‘create value’ in an economy since by focusing solely on profits, other stakeholders are largely ignored. We don’t have to look much further than the current economic state of a lot of the world’s countries to see whether these theories have any truth to them.
Social enterprise lives in that space between private business and charity:
- It has a social mission similar to what charities would have, without having to rely on grants or external funding, and
- It has the hard business component of traditional enterprise, except with different outlooks and intents
A lot of people today are searching for more than just a paycheck from what they do. They look for meaning and independence from their potential jobs. They are a part of the trend of people who have an increased sense of community and global responsibility that goes beyond their immediate surroundings. Social enterprise, and social entrepreneurship offers these people the chance to contribute to something they feel passionate about in a sustainable way that benefits the wider society.
This style and model is not just for these types of people though.
Traditional business too is starting to adopt some of the principles and practices from social enterprise to make themselves more sustainable, by being both socially and environmentally responsible. There has been the growing trend of organisations that while still pursuing profits, also incorporate a sense of ‘conscience’ in their operations.
While we ourselves are not doing it right now, or at least not the business side, we do want to keep it right at the forefront of our website and front of our minds. We want to do this because it represents a sustainable model that takes into account being valuable to society and being good.
It’s a great time to be watching this movement, especially given the pace with which it’s been spreading through initiatives by groups such as Ashoka, the Skoll Foundation, the Sandbox Network and Make Sense. Follow the feeds, and check out what’s happening both locally and in other communities.