16 Nov 2013

Should we teach social innovation and social entrepreneurship ?

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Educational and vocational training in relation with social business is flourishing everywhere. Is it a good news ? Are we getting back to the reality ? Not so obvious …


The classical theories of management remain the basics of any respectful educational curriculum of future business leaders. Can this be overcome by the emerging social concept ? Yes, if we stop seeing the social approach as contrary to the business ones.
This is important to dissociate the social business approach from philanthropy. They both aim at creating wealth. The first one through a rational framework ; the second one through an emotional way.

Segregation between “social” and “business” : how come ?

I am a strong opponent of the wordings of “social economy” and “social entrepreneur” (as well as “social investment”) because this would mean that economy and enterprise are by default not social ! This is a great concern if they are not … because they will not be sustainable. The reality is that most of them are not, as it has resulted in the recent financial and economic crisis.
Why do economy and enterprise fail so much in their attempt of becoming social ? Is the social approach opposite to the business one ? Is it just a question of conflict i.e. an intentional human willing to dissociate one from another ?
Nothing apparently opposes the social and business approaches. Would business be not good for the community if it is run with the social mind ? Absolutely not ! … because business is fundamentally founded upon social ties and could not exist without them.
What get business critical is the exchange of goods and services and the inequity it could result in owing to an unbalanced wealth distribution at the end of the day. Conversely to what we think, business relations are not limited to an interaction between two parties (one seller and one buyer). If the deal between both had been made on a (presumed) balanced transaction, this may be disputable when it generates some collateral damage to third parties being not involved in the transaction, that the two parties have intentionally or unintentionally overlooked. In such circumstances, doing business is blamed for breaking social cohesion.

The managers of tomorrow

Can we consider any direct and indirect interactions and side-effects surrounding a business activity ? Going further, can business take care of the human being ? In this way, renewable energies might be considered as being social because they do not harm anybody. Social business can then become a reality without moving away the concept of profit that governs any transactional relationship.
Paul Gilding, the Australian environmentalist and author the bestseller “The Great Disruption” advocates that “ the business community is the biggest obstacle and the biggest opportunity [to cope with the social and environmental challenge the humanity is facing]. Unless we can engage business, then I think we will fail, because business is such a powerful force in society and so influential on government. But with business support, we can easily achieve what we need to achieve. The challenges we face are not insurmountable at all ». More information on : https://www.facebook.com/PEERSDirectInvestment

As a conclusion, speaking and training social business comes down to put barriers between the social and business approaches. It leads to a harsher segmentation and duality between the human activities with the good ones (the social initiatives) and the bad ones (the business world).
The same case has been experienced with the topic of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that has been widely promoted for 10 years. Today, the companies having integrated CSR in their “DNA” are still by far a minority.

If you are social minded, you do not need to claim you are adopting a social business approach because you can not imagine working another way.

Further reflections about the definition (and restrictions) about social business : read this post


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