I was delighted to join the Ideation conference in Chicago earlier this week, and can do no better than link with @tonyshen’s 22 learnings which sum up the impact of a series of terrific presentations from some of the most brilliant people in the social enterprise scene and its environs (link below). Charles Lee and my friend J. R Kerr curated a winner.
What fascinates me is how many moving parts we have in the values/business arena. Social enterprise (SE) itself covers a range of nonprofit and profit-seeking efforts in which social good is the goal, or a substantive part thereof. Then we have corporate social responsibility (CSR). Here our point of departure is within traditional companies, who seek to deliver social good (not my favorite expression, but let’s use it anyway) either to assuage the conscience and meet the charitable interests of the company/founder, or to spruce their brand, or at a more fundamental level align mission with other than directly profitable goals; or, as in Phase 3, to build “shared value,” as Michael Porter has called it, in which these goals are in the long term precisely aligned. A more modest but similar case was made in the report commissioned from McKinsey by the Committee for Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, which despite its somewhat Victorian name was founded by Paul Newman and operates the key network on CSR within the Fortune 500 CEOs. (Pursue that at corporatephilanthropy.org – the report is a great read.)
The logic of “shared value,” as I pointed out in a commentary for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is the end of CSR. No more “triple bottom line,” just a bottom line. Porter’s proposal has been seen as outlandishly optimistic by some, but his essay offers a thought-piece that I believe we need to wrestle with as we look ahead at how sustainable value will be built in the emerging social-cultural-economic matrix of C21. Ironically, the most prominent funding of social good, by far, is coming from the Gates-Buffet-Soros old school of Carnegie-style philanthropy – giving away the riches won through business. So all three types of are operating in parallel.
But there’s a third category that needs to be noted in this meta-conversation: the need for innovative financing and governance models to be devised in response to the vastly innovative technological (and social) developments of the digital revolution.
Jimmy Wales’ Wikipedia offers (so far as I am aware) the only major project of the digital era that has struck out in another direction than IPO-dom. We need more. Google should have. Facebook should. The pressures of the market are not necessarily the ideal environment for the development of visionary, values-driven efforts. As Mark Zuckerberg wears his hoodie to Wall Street, we may well wonder why something as radically innovative as Facebook is beholden to the funding and governance system that sustains the enterprises of the “old economy.” That is, can innovation not run right through the system? Ahem, alignment?
Seems to me that we have here 3 more silos: social enterprise in various shapes; the three-fold CSR package; and innovative, generally digitally-driven, companies. We need above all a meta-convo that will bring these efforts round one table to focus these brilliant, diverse, projects for social good – and, in most cases, also for profitability.
The future? Moore’s Law, social media, globalization – these and other inexorable forces are re-shaping the landscape. It would be fun to work on some scenarios for 10 years’ time.
My take on Michael Porter’s proposal on Shared Value: http://bclc.uschamber.com/blog/2011-06-30/one-our-greatest-business-gurus-redefines-capitalism-perhaps