Creative Capitalism and Social Entrepreneurship

This NYTimes article is a must read for anyone interested in the field of social entrepreneurship:

Can Businesses Do Well and Do Good? – Economix Blog – NYTimes.com
“The question of creative capitalism is whether there is some role for institutions that falls between traditional profit-making and nonprofit firms. Is the world being well served with these two clearly distinguished types of entities, one of which serves only shareholders and the other of which has some other goal? Does it make sense to consider hybrid organizations that have an obligation to earn financial returns, for some of their investors, and social returns for others?”

One possibility that this article fails to address is the for-profit entity that is wholly owned by an individual or group of individuals who seek a set return while allocating further gains towards furthering their mission, be it supporting the arts, fighting poverty, increasing the availability of educational resources, or a host of other worthy endeavors.

Old Wheel (Photo by iCampbeℓℓ)

Old Wheel (Photo by iCampbeℓℓ)

Shareholders are not necessarily part of the picture for all businesses, especially in the age of Web 2.0 startups. It is possible to bootstrap a small company, and maintaining full control of the company simplifies a number of questions that this article raises about serving shareholders or social good. If the company management is also the owners, then the decisions are more simple (though not necessarily easy). Furthermore, just because a company is small doesn’t mean that it can’t have wide impact.

One of the most exciting aspects of technological advancement is the capacity to amplify and scale the result of effort, from the wheel to the internet. The potential to turn a small investment into lasting social change is a large draw for many people entering the social entrepreneurship field.

CodeKindness Pairs Nonprofits with Technology Volunteers

CodeKindness Logo
CodeKindness: Mobilizing Technology Volunteers for Social Good

CodeKindness is designed to help technologically skilled volunteers support nonprofits by working on projects of a variety of flavors including social networking, web design and development, hardware, and databases.

Nonprofits can create an account and post a request, which is then approved by CK. Word then goes out by RSS, email, and social networks, as well as on the website itself, about the opportunity, and volunteers can sign up to show interest in the project.

Once the nonprofit’s project manager picks a volunteer, CK helps them keep track of progress and encourages the project manager to check in with their volunteer once a week until the project is completed. After completion, the project manager is encouraged to thank the volunteer by sending them a CodeKindess t-shirt, whose purchase supports CK.

The nonprofit then rates the volunteer and statistics are shown on the site. Currently there is a relatively small amount of activity, with 2 projects completed and 4 more in progress. There are 20 open projects and 24 technology volunteers, so the balance seems to be working out well so far.

I like CK’s approach to social entrepreneurship and I encourage you to head over there and browse the projects if you are technically inclined, or register if your nonprofit needs technical assistance. Time will tell whether this model will be successful, but I applaud the effort and I imagine that both the developers and the nonprofits that get involved will realize substantial returns.