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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What is a Social Business?

I have seen all kinds of definitions for a Social Business, and often times quite narrow ones specifically focusing on the issue of poverty in developing countries. And while this is important, there are many other issues we need to deal with, and this is why I prefer the broader view:
To me a social business is any business who is focused NOT on maximizing profit BUT RATHER on maximizing Social Capital within the ecosystem it exists in, using the broad definition of Social Capital to be the credibility you have within your community.
I believe that this is the kind of business we need to change the world beyond the focus on poverty and to resolve the broader set of economical and ecological challenges we are facing today.

And to help with the process, I like the idea of trying to come up with an index that would help us evaluate the social capital of people or organization. One simple measure that you can try to optimize (because this is human, we like to optimize things and competition is healthy). I am exploring the idea with the Vindex and there may be other possible options.

In the end, the main issue at this point is lack of focus on the investment side: people know how to invest in general to maximize profit, but when it comes to social businesses, everybody has their own view of the world and their own goals to fulfill and matching demand (social businesses looking for cash) with offers (social investors with very precise ideas of what they think is wrong and a mission to change things) is hard at this point. And it will stay like this until there is a way to focus everybody or enough people involved that the lack of focus is compensated by shear volume (as it is in regular financial markets).

I think the 2nd is what we should try to push for: when people realize that what has gone wrong with the world is because we try to maximize profit, and when they will agree to move to maximizing social capital (=sustainable capitalism), and they start using an index that allows everybody to compare despite the lack of focus from one mission to the other, then we will have a good story to tell.
So if you want to help, get your Vindex now for you and your business and please let me know how it feels to you and others around you working on this as a measurement...

How am I doing?