ICT4D in the context of social enterprise

In the context of competing ideas in the world of ICT4D over the term, its purpose, the funding, the marketing, etc., I’d like to learn more about the role of social enterprise – a seemingly happy medium in between ICT4$ and ICT4D. In theory the idea of social enterprise incorporates the good characteristics of both ICT4$ and ICT4D and is without either of their extreme negative components. For instance, ICT4D doesn’t become a marketable commodity in itself when applying or competing for funding from donors who make a name for themselves by funding operations that are good PR stunts without necessarily having the capacity to be financially sustainable after achieving start-up momentum. ICT4$ necessarily runs the risk of traditional capitalist exploits, and invokes concern for widening the digital divide instead of mending it.

Successful social business, in the words of Muhammad Yunus (Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism), has the unique ability to both serve and make money from the poor simply by approaching the market with a non-traditional-capitalist outlook. The articles linked below discuss social enterprise in a couple different ways.The Missing Middlepredicts that social enterprise is going to grow almost exponentially by 2020. With this is emerging the growth of lenders – banks that also are forming a new idea of capitalism and are looking to fund more “doing good and doing well” business startups.

Our very own Wyan Vota from last class commented (if you scroll to the bottom) addressing the concern that NGOs are generally not involved in receiving this type of funding because they are not for-profit organizations. With this comment he seems to be implicitly asking whether this revolution of funders’ outlooks on capitalism is really revolutionary; is the exclusion of non-profits really necessary and actually prohibitive to the idea of “doing good and doing well”? Like we discussed in class, everyone has to make money, no matter what you do.

The bottom article is purely supplementary, from an organization called Women Online, vaguely inciting questions over the definition of social enterprise (i.e, should Wal-Mart have been put in charge of FEMA operations during Hurricane Katrina)? It’s short, so I attached it in case the site in general is at all interest-piquing.

The Missing Middle

Women Online: Social Enterprise

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3 responses to “ICT4D in the context of social enterprise

  • laurenholtzman

    Although social enterprise and social entrepreneurship have come to be the most popular terms on the market, we need to be clear about what falls under the umbrella of the terms. While we all may see “social” and think the business is good, this is not always the case. As we have discussed in class, there are significant problems with some of the most well-known social entrepreneurial initiatives such as Tom’s Shoes and even Kiva. Of course, nothing is perfect but we have to be critical and careful to not jump to positive conclusions about any business attached to a social cause. Mat Despard, professor at UNC Chapel-Hill discusses some of these challenges at http://www.socialvelocity.net/2011/06/the-problem-with-social-entrepreneurship-guest-post/. He discusses the significance of the community as a stakeholder in the process and the “elevation” of the individual entrepreneur and the innovation rather than the community. I think one of his points is crucial for all Tulane students and outsiders coming to New Orleans to understand. I especially think it is important for the International Development department at Tulane to consider especially when one of the required courses asks students to create a program. (IDEV320 Approaches to Sustainable Development) Despard says, “Too often aspiring (and usually young) social entrepreneurs assume they need to start their own organization vs. partner with an existing one. This results in the need to raise unrestricted revenue to build infrastructure – bookkeeping/accounting, program evaluation, information systems, etc. albeit with poor economies of scale. Energy and resources get diverted from problem solving to organization building.” This could not be further from the truth at Tulane and in New Orleans.

    • ccrowle1

      I understand that we need to be careful about what we praise and the values we foster with each other under the program of International Development at Tulane, but there’s no reason to scorn/discourage these efforts so generally. I think it’s all too easy to jump on the bandwagon of disapproval, just as it is to blindly throw your heart and optimism into a mission/organization/whatever. While I value your skepticism, I think we’re at the point as students where we need to take skepticism to the next level; and this would be to delve a little deeper rather than slandering international development efforts just because that’s what they call themselves. You have to understand that I don’t disagree with you; I’m being the devil’s advocate because I can’t be 100% full of 50% of the story, if you see what I’m saying.

  • laurenholtzman

    (and it is largely ignored.)

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