Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Social Entrepreneur or Activist Entrepreneur?

Back in Bangalore, I was recently discussing our stint at Stanford's Digital Vision Program with a few friends when some good ideas came up. I was giving my usual spiel on Social Entrepreneurship when my good friend Partho Ray chirped up and said that instead of "Social Entrepreneur" we should perhaps consider the term "Activist Entrepreneur".

His reasoning was that while the word "entrepreneur" captured the concept of a passionate individual or group focusing on doing something positive very well, the word "social" has negative connotations as it tends to represent the average NGO and/or politico who is typically a stumbling block to progress. He felt that the concept of "social entrepreneur" is an oxymoron. The "socialist" is typically some guy out to bring the least common denominator to society, he is out to promote poverty as a virtue and to bring everyone down to a lower common level of wealth. On the other hand, an "activist" is a person out to disrupt the status quo, to bring about positive societal change and raise the level of the least common denominator itself.

Sounds familiar? A socialist society encourages shared community resources and distribution of wealth, even though unearned, and discourages private ownership. Distribution of poverty and collateral misery is the goal of a socialist, though he may not think so. On the other hand, a capitalist society encourages creation of individual wealth through personal initiative and ownership. How do you distribute wealth without first creating it? Sounds reasonable?

In a sense, "social" and "entrepreneur" do not mix very well and "social entrepreneur" may be an oxymoron. However, an activist sounds like a positive person who has his heart in the right place.

Now that's an interesting idea worthy of a fresh debate. Social Entrepreneur or Activist Entrepreneur? Does anyone want to take this theme forward?

Shashank

3 comments:

Monalisa Bora said...

I couldn't agree more. I am a social entrepreneur and have had the experience of people confusing my work for charity. I have seen condescending smiles and even "how sweet of you" kind of comments. They cannot fathom that I am mighty unhappy with the status quo and would like to generate wealth while changing it.

From today, I am an activist entrepreneur :)

Shashank Garg said...

I'm glad you agree with my idea. Activist Entrepreneur represents this type of person much better than any other term that I have come across.

Vairochana said...

"The "socialist" is typically some guy out to bring the least common denominator to society, he is out to promote poverty as a virtue and to bring everyone down to a lower common level of wealth. ...Distribution of poverty and collateral misery is the goal of a socialist, though he may not think so."

Socialist is a guy who works from the least common denominator of the society i.e the human beings themselves. You might have problem with this, and it would not be odd as human history has witnessed all sorts of elitist, in the end what are those creatures attempting but to dehumanise themselves. For example, you would oppose re-distribution of land (and hence wealth) in a post-imperialist agrarian society in the name of "Distribution of poverty and collateral misery" but is it really that or is it going back to the fundamental equal right of the humans on the natural resources. Furthermore, you allude that only in a capitalist framework wealth can be created? Here you have confused economic differences by greater wealth. Also, the difference between Socialist and Capitalist economic-political systems does not lie within the process of creation but within the processes of distribution, consumption, and control of tools of production.
A brief glance at the economic situation of russian, nicaraguan, cuban societies during socialist periods would clarify it further.

Lastly, you are not a graduate of Milton Friedman School of Socialism, are you?