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.
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.