The term "social entrepreneurship" has been on my mind all summer thanks to an AFP conference panel on the topic that I attended late in the spring.
The concept of the "double bottom line" where business and charitable activities can be formally paired and both can profit is a fairly new one for me (though not a new concept in general). It was fascinating to hear some different case studies demonstrating how organizations and investors have worked together to create this result.
What is so fascinating to me is that there is such a personal investment both of time and money in trying to launch this type of venture - I like the combination of volunteerism with philanthropy with entrepreneurial creative thinking. It is also an experiment in whether government, individuals or the free market is best positioned to address social issues.
I understand that in the US, there is legislation coming into place that would allow organizations to categorize themselves as L3Cs - kind of like a hybrid between a charity and a business where both social good and economic development can be combined. One of the panelists at the AFP session in Toronto said that he is aware of a push in Canada to create something similar.
This brings me, finally, to the topic of dragons. Namely, Brett Wilson, who is known as both an entrepreneur and a philanthropist and as a "Dragon" co-host of CBC's Dragon's Den.
I encountered Brett some years ago at a Calgary Chamber of Commerce breakfast. He wore jeans and plaid in a room full of dark business suits. He was also the guest speaker that morning.
What I liked about him is that for him, being a philanthropist seemed like a matter-of-fact part of his personality. His efforts are considered and strategic, but it appears that he simply assumes that donations and fundraising are part of the deal and should be part of everyone's day to day life. For him, they are an integral part of how he runs his businesses and fit directly into his marketing strategy.
Mr. Wilson is a great real-life study in how a social entrepreneurship style approach can work.
Needless to say, I was thrilled to see this great interview with Mr. Wilson by Donna Messer come up via twitter tonight:
Brett Wilson: The Man, The Philanthropist, The Host of Risky Business
- How can charities help (prospective) donors get their "hands dirty" and get them involved and invested personally in their work?
- Can charities demonstrate new and creative ways for donors to partner and invest in their work while offering clear goals, transparency and accountability?
- Can business goals and philanthropic strategy be better aligned?
- How might involving employees or family in strategic philanthropic investments help build community/closeness?
- Is it worthwhile to develop new socially responsible business practices/products in hopes of attracting other social entrepreneurs as investors?