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How will the world be better because you were in it? You decide!

Philanthrocapitalism and social enterprise.

02/22/2012 12:02 AM
Flying to Tasmania had unexpected delights in the form of the latest QANTAS magazine. The article listed a range of trends that looked like they would shape the future noticeably. One of these trends was exemplified by the likes of Bill Gates who has amassed a personal fortune far greater than he can possibly use himself. Instead of hoarding it all, Gates has started giving it away. At least in his mind, the purpose of the Microsoft business is not so much to allow him to have the necessities of life, but now to enable others to benefit from his endeavors. This is philanthrocapitalism - business run at a profit in order to generate wealth for the benefit of others. This is different from social enterprise, where the business activity generates enough income to pay its employees and other costs, but the social benefit is in the activity itself. We are finding new forms of enterprise to generate a result measured in more than dollars. People and companies are measuring "outcomes" rather than KPI's and now I'm hearing about more companies and organisations who are looking for outcomes that make a positive difference in the world rather than product-based goals. There are those who believe that having money, especially lots of it, is a bad thing. I'm not convinced. I do think that having money, even lots of it, simply reveals the best and worst of what is already in us. Money is just a tool, a liquid value which we use to leverage against our desires and needs. The ability to create financial wealth brings with it responsibility to use that skill wisely. Not all of us have the skills to run a successful business. Those who do have an obligation to do their job well as part of the community they belong to. Imagine what would have happened if those with business acumen and an entrepreneurial spirit failed to exercise their skill! The trend toward social enterprise and philanthrocapitalism is a welcome revelation of the best qualities in society and has the potential to shift the underlying assumptions of western capitalism.

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