“(Overly) responsible social entrepreneurs fail?” & other weekly stories
The story of the week
Last week had a bunch of exciting guests visiting co-working space where Estonian Social Enterprise Network also resides. They were the participants of summer course organised by University of Tallinn - “Social Enterprises: Using Your Creativity and Sensitivity”. We had some interesting discussions, e.g “How to connect social enterprise movement that is sometimes strangely non-innovative with vibrant yet often soulless start-up culture?” ja “What does / must corporate social responsibility (CSR) mean for social enterprises?”
The latter topic touches upon issues like:
- to what extent should a social enterprise take care of its workers; and
- how much effort should any social enterprise put into minimizing its ecological footstep.
Personally, I believe that we should not aim at creating (too) ideal organizations. “Excellent” (not “ideal”) sounds fine with me. But the students were very passionate about being ideal! “If any organisation is to call itself a social enterprise, it must be ideal example in all aspects of its work, including corporate social responsibility in its wider meaning.”
My two view-points (as counter-arguments) are as follows.
- Practically - too many explicit societal goals might mean an unfocused organisation that is not even fulfilling its main social mission properly.
- Philosophically – what about the balance of yin & yang? Any good deed generates something bad (as an unintended consequence. Of course, we can and must strive to minimize the negative effects as much as possible… but avoiding them altogether can obscure our focus or – even worse – lead to inactivity or paralysis out of fear to harm some sentient being on our journey as a social entrepreneur.
I remember a chat with a social entrepreneur from Latvia last year. She was in the process of closing down her social enterprise that had been doing rather okay by selling handcraft produced by people in disadvantaged regions. However, she had ethical problems with using cheap Chinese materials (as they were most probably delivered by companies with sub-standard environmental and labor-rights performance). The business model of the enterprise didn´t allow for using more expensive materials. So – she chose to close her doors.
The story really provoked me. Was her choice the best possible solution? What do you think?
After the discussion, we paid a visit to well-known Estonian social enterprise that brings fresh (and often ecological) food from small farmers to big city.
No comments needed… Just data and decisions!
We have something equally harmful ongoing in Estonian juvenile justice system.
International advocacy activities needed to stop the madness?
Self-sacrifice is a crime against the persons whom social entrepreneur would be able to help
(when well-slept & healthy)
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