THNK advisory board members also subscribe to this credo. Ravi Naidoo champions “commercial activism”, which he defines as making money on activities that change people’s lives. He designed a trek across Africa, which boosted the continent’s confidence as a whole while also stressing connectivity by bringing wireless telephony along the way. This was a way of combining marketing with social change; raising awareness by using the tools of commerce. Architect Ben van Berkel consistently informs his clients that creating sustainable building solutions from the start of a design project tends to be much cheaper. Being good also makes sound business sense.
The way we think about charity is also changing. The old paradigms are about endowing foundations and giving money away to projects. The new thinking is that charitable organizations are companies that must produce a quantifiable return on investment. The money given by charitable entrepreneurs’ targets specific projects, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s drives on malaria and polio. Small-scale entrepreneurial projects, for example designing a more user-friendly condom, are also funded. These types of charities behaving more like companies in that work toward specific targets and Key Performance Indicators.
Making money doing good requires a new perspective and some learning. For-profit companies can start considering doing good as a core activity of the company.
This is more than showing Corporate Social Responsibility, or giving back to the community through an employee charity scheme. The idea is to look at the entire process, and asking where the good is being served. Whether all companies will be able to do that, or whether they risk being displaced by companies who will is still open to debate.
Learning also happens in the other direction. There is a tendency for social entrepreneurs to look for funding in the form of subsidy or charity. The deeply-held belief that real social impact cannot be a profitable enterprise stops them from taking a critical look at their own business plans. Why can’t you get people to invest in your dream, since you believe that it will be profitable as well as have positive social impact? Those who have a specific agenda about improving the world need to think about how to make money by doing so.
What if the fundamental assumption were that you should always do something that is both good and profitable? What if that became the new benchmark, and what if that became the first question that you ask when you start a company? This new perspective will bring together idealists with a vision about making the world a better place with entrepreneurs who know how to build a business, run a team, and deliver a product or service. Financiers will play a key role in designing these companies right from the beginning and attract investors in for-profit companies. We can rethink the driving forces of capitalism. When something is of value to someone then that value can be measured in many ways, among them money, as money is one of the means by which people express value.