I came across this thought-provoking article, Non Profit and For-Profit: Blurring the Line, written by Howard Husock, who is the director of the Manhattan Institute’s Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, an award and research program, and a research fellow at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, at Harvard University.
The artile does make us question the basic premise of ProGreen and ideals on which we were founded.
Indeed, not only is Adam Smith right that, by definition, all private business fulfills social needs (or goes broke trying), but so too, virtually any enterprise can be made to sound as if it’s serving a good cause.
When it started, for instance, Wal-Mart might well have claimed to be “bringing a full range of product choices to previously underserved rural consumers.”
Social enterprise, in other words, is, at best, more rhetoric than breakthrough; at worst, it is a corruption of the basic Adam Smith idea of private enterprise.
Social enterprises may not be a breakthough idea after all. And, I do agree there are many social problems that cannot be addressed by for-profit social enterprises and the only approach is philanthropy and non-profits.
However, when it comes to economic development of the poor, especially in India, both non-profits and the Government have not done much in the past few decades.
And with ProGreen, I have always believed that conceptualizing the business plan and winning the competitions was the easy part. Putting the plan to work, as we are slowly beginning to realize, is a whole new ball game. Eve, Howard has a word of caution.
Perhaps, but making a profit is no mean feat and may look only superficially easier than the challenge faced by traditional nonprofit groups, with their relentless need to raise money. The sheer terror and urgency of repaying investors or satisfying shareholders simply cannot be minimized. Put another way, one bottom line is a lot.