Social enterprising – controling greed?!?!

When the Wall-street stumbles, ‘greed’ has become a discussion point. ‘Endless Greed’ of big entrepreneurs lead to this economic crisis! – Presidential candidates (of US elections) pointing fingers, while many join to nod the heads. Yet, in August Times magazine, when Bill Gates writes about ‘Creative Capitalism’, he still does not acknowledge a problem of ‘excessive greed’, instead explore the ways to define creative (business?) models to work with ‘greed’; instead of ‘controling’, he tends to connect ‘inclusivity (of bottom of the pyramid)’ with some ‘passion’ to distribute (& share?) the prosperity.

Connecting the worlds’ 4 billion people living under 2$ a day income, to the capitalist market system, in order to improve their livelihood is a demonstration of passion to an entrepreneur. Yet in the same time,  it can also be projected as systematic exploitation of the untapped markets of poor communities, from the point of view of charity workers. When the models like CIC – Community Interest Company, tend to define the ground rules of the Social Enterprising landscape, charity workers (like us) would begin to recognize a common ground between the ‘Creative Capitalism’ and ‘Compassion in Action!’.

Fusion – of Sarvodaya is designed to test this ground, working along fine lines between corporate ‘greed’ and charity ‘greed’ (never ending desire to serve the poor). Corporate greed helps to invest multiple disciplines of skill, money handling and creativity to generate prosperity and development. But the target group is mostly ‘able’ people. Charity greed helps to employ the disciplines of human skill, donations and creativity to distribute the prosperity and development, mostly targeting the ‘less-able’ people. Charity ‘greed’ seems to be less toxic, comparing to the corporate ‘greed’ thus not even recognized as a ‘greed’.

From the perspective of Buddhism, ‘Greed’ – ‘thanha’ is the root cause of the existence (samsara), thus need to eradicate. Donation (dana) is one key tool to alleviate ‘greed’. Thus we promote ‘sharing’. Yet, in the realistic world of development, ‘sharing’ tend to scare the ‘compassion’ of corporate people, who tend to recognize it as a contradiction to the fundamentals (tools & disciplines) of capital (wealth) building. Interestingly, recent trends of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), climate change & (perhaps) credit crunch, push the global entrepreneurs to tread the path of ‘sharing’ beyond where they are now.

As we sit with multiple corporate partners who tend to partner with Fusion, we tend to see both opportunity and challenge. Opportunities are quite clear and easy to define. Challenges are not! Sometimes very scary.

Recently we visited an interesting rural village in Nuwara Eliya (Sri Lanka), where 100s of farmers who reached reasonable standards of entrepreneurial capacity to connect with high-end markets. They reached this point, as a result of micro-credit and social empowerment supports of Sarvodaya over the years. Now, our visit was aimed to connect them through mobile phone and ICT technologies (at telecentres) to expand their bargaining power and up-market outreach.

The people visited with us, were partly members coming from corporate world. They spent substantial time, their intellectual resources and reasonable finances to reach this point of face to face interaction with farmers. Major drive for the visit was their desire to help the rural farmers.

The interaction was perfectly healthy and promising. Farmers recognized the potential benefits, and they saw a dream coming their way. On the other hand, corporate team found the ground is perfectly set for technology introduction and market connection. Return trip was full of excitement.

Nevertheless, immediate mail communication was – unfortunately scary!

‘to move to the next step – we need 51% of ownership of the project!’ – compassion and greed begun to clash in front of the opportunity!

At this moment, Fusion struggle to formulate the appropriate communication models and perhaps negotiation models to work through these humanly challenges.

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