Progressives tend to be conflicted about social enterprise and broader issues of corporate social responsibility. The Cohen Report pulls the issues apart in this review of two social enterprise-focused conferences from earlier this year.
Jeremy Rifkin’s new book asserts that increased productivity coupled with advances in digital technology will fundamentally change the shape of labor in society, requiring the economy to shift dramatically. Rifkin writes that nonprofits will be at the center of the new world of work.
Daniel Flynn of the Thankyou group, an Australian social enterprise, lodges a complaint about the vagueness embedded in the way some enthusiasts discuss social enterprise. In particular, he had quite a bit to say about a recent experience at the Skoll World Forum.
The withdrawal of a Department of Health transportation contract from a local provider isn’t necessarily a cause for local newspapers, but in this case, the contractor is a social enterprise division of a major corporation in Buffalo.
Have we in the nonprofit sector—those who care about injustice and inequality—been fiddling while Rome burns? Not exactly, but there is much more that we can do and be in this sector if we break out of some of our self-imposed mental bonds.
It’s great to see self-styled “social enterprises” assisting veterans in creating businesses, but don’t forget that nonprofits have been at that game for many years, and some, particularly IVMF at Syracuse University, do it really well.
Even in social enterprise, the successes of some important ventures, such as the clean energy programs of Off Grid Electric in Tanzania and Mera Gao Power in India, are due not just to the profit motivations and social missions of investors, but the subsidies and guarantees provided by government and philanthropy.
Although Senator Mark Warner suggested that government was pretty incapable of understanding, finding, and funding programs that work, his solution—that the market discipline of private investors was needed—didn’t get borne out in a hearing of the Senate Budget Committee last week. The result was a trenchant critique of social impact bond and pay-for-success financing schemes.
The first social impact bond project in the world—the Peterborough prison project in the UK—is being restructured, supplanted by the British government planning to implement major prison reforms addressing recidivism across the nation. Perhaps the message is that policy change doing what works is preferable to individual SIB investment projects.
As the print version of the Nonprofit Quarterly prepares its upcoming issue on hybrid organizations, this edition of the Cohen Report looks at some questions raised by a few of the newer organizational forms of social enterprise.