Finding Common Ground: The Trump Administration And Social Enterprises-Part I

As the new Trump Administration assembles its cabinet and various leadership personnel much will be made with regards to each selection as a window towards future policy.  Policy differences abound between and among the American public, its future president and world leaders (including Pope Francis) on issues related to the economy, climate change, migration and human rights.   There is a way forward, a way together. And it is through the use of “social enterprises.”
Social enterprises are for-profit companies that possess a social or environmental mission.  They sell goods or services that are meant to improve people’s lives/protect the planet.  Social enterprises are built on business plans, business principles and practices, whereby revenues are earned directly from purchasers of goods and services.  If a social enterprise is successful, people living on $2.50 a day or less (almost half the world’s population or 3 billion people) have deemed the good or service vital.   Obviously, nonprofits have a profound role in assisting mankind, especially the most vulnerable. However, within nonprofits there exists a built-in dislocation between revenues and services. A nonprofit’s kryptonite is compassion fatigue.
There is an estimated $2.5 trillion annual gap in financing the world’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Many hope that private capital will address this deficit.  Social entrepreneurship can supplement development assistance, question the status quo, and create cost-effective solutions.  The Vatican has sponsored three social enterprise (impact investing) conferences in just the last couple of years.  In one of Pope Francis’ recent Angelus messages in St. Peter’s Square he stated, “…private investments, together with public, [may] help overcome poverty of so many marginalized people.”
There are a multitude of social enterprises addressing social and environmental issues today.  To name just a few they include: Jibu, providing affordable drinking water to East Africa; Solar Sister, eradicating energy poverty by empowering women with economic opportunities through direct sales networks; and Practice Makes Perfect, narrowing the achievement gap in U.S. education through mentor-assisted summer school programs.
There are also unexplored areas they may reap the benefits of social enterprises. Within forced migration (refugee and internally displaced populations) social enterprises may be of great impact.  UNHCR’s Global Trends, Forced Displacement in 2015 purports an historical high of 65.3 million refugees and IDPs (the actual figure may be closer to 85 million).  Per the Humanitarian Policy Group(HPG), “…more than 80% of refugee crises last for 10 years or more; two in five [40%] last 20 years. Conflict related IDP situations last on average 23 years.  Historically, social entrepreneurs have been successful in extreme and resource poor settings (peri-urban slums and rural villages) involving water scarcity, off-grid electrification, last mile (rural) distribution of goods and last mile transportation. We can bring social enterprise success to refugees and the internally displaced, provide them with goods, services, jobs and new business opportunities…and most of all…their dignity!
Social enterprises combine President Elect Donald Trump’s economic interests in new job and business creation with practices that address our world’s greatest challenges.  Social enterprises can be the way forward…the way together.

Photo: UNHCR

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