On social entrepreneurship…

A few months ago, I had a conversation with someone at a university, who runs an entrepreneurship center. During our conversation, I brought up social entrepreneurship, stewardship etc. ideas that are becoming mainstream.

He argued that there is no such distinctions are artificial. All entrepreneurship is about creating value and social change. So, by this logic, all forms of entrepreneurship should be seen as ‘social entrepreneurship.’

While I am still mulling this, months later, I am beginning to see how this might be wrong.

Entrepreneurs of course want to create value. And this value may not always be socially beneficial. Those who turn perishable commodities and other depleting resources – think fossil fuels etc. into profit are obviously only interested in profits and shareholder value.

What about tech geeks who claim to hold the moral high ground, as Silicon Valley folks are wont to. Even there, if the investments are from people who are not very ethical or are hurting freedoms, human rights or the environment; then how ‘socially responsible’ are they? Think of the recent debate about the Saudi investments in Silicon Valley.

While this debate rages on, I am still not too sure of the original argument that was made.

What do you think?

On Remittances…

Recently, I spoke at the local Rotary Club in the Oxnard area. I shared some data and a few insights, gained from my research on this phenomenon.

More than $466 billion were sent from countries around the world. This number, which the World Bank estimates to be a slight improvement over the previous year, is three times the size of international development aid.

In today’s world, where Western powers are becoming more inward looking and focused on their own national priorities, the appetite for helping others, who are poorer seems to be decreasing.

A lady at the event asked me “Isn’t this a net negative cash flow from the US?” referring to remittances flow from the US.

Perhaps so. But isn’t an entire chain of  Americans benefiting from the work of these migrants? Many migrants are creating new businesses, contributing to the economy, paying taxes and only THEN, are they sending money back to the countries of their origin. Even in this process, an entire chain of people are making money off these remittances – the banks, the money transfer companies involved and others who are in this business.

Besides, the goodwill that the US earns, by virtue of these migrants being able to live, work and improve the lives of those across the border is incalculable. The word I was thinking of was ‘Soft power.’

Remittances are indeed a form of soft-power for the US.