Key to a more just, equitable and prosperous society
Almost everyone has heard of Akhuwwat and Kashf microfinance but many other people in Pakistan are also doing commendable work in this field
The biggest problem of the modern capitalist world is the accumulation of wealth in a few hands. This is an unjust world where 1pc of the world’s population has around 50pc of the world’s wealth. The employed only get their salaries keeping them hand to mouth while the rich get richer day by day. This problem of inequality is inherent in the system of capitalism and there is no way to solve it on a sustainable basis other than social entrepreneurship. The definition of social entrepreneurship, at a very basic level, is to create those ventures which have a social impact by improving social outcomes. Social entrepreneurs do not only see the profit loss statement. Their profit is measured by how much social impact they have been able to make, how many people have come out of the vicious circle of poverty, how many people have improved their literacy outcomes by their efforts. It is an old proverb that don’t give fish to a man but teach him how to catch fish. That is the essence of social entrepreneurship. It is not necessary for a social entrepreneur to form only a non-profit for helping people. He can also earn good money while at the same time generating a positive impact for society as well.
There are different operating models in social entrepreneurship. One model is leveraged non-profit venture. The entrepreneur sets up a non-profit organisation to drive the adoption of an innovation that addresses a market or government failure. In doing so, the entrepreneur engages various societal stake holders, including private and public organisations, to drive forward the innovation through a multiplier effect. Leveraged non-profit ventures continuously depend on outside philanthropic funding, but their longer term sustainability is often enhanced given that the partners have a vested interest in the continuation of the venture.The second model is the hybrid non-profit venture. In this one, the entrepreneur sets up a non-profit organisation but the model includes some degree of cost recovery through the sale of goods and services to multiple institutions which include both public and private, as well as certain population groups. To be able to sustain the transformation activities in full and address the needs of clients, who are often poor or marginalised from society, the entrepreneur usually mobilises other sources of funding as well from the public or philanthropic sectors. The third model in social entrepreneurship is social business ventures. In this model, the entrepreneur sets up a for-profit entity or business to provide a social or ecological product or service. While profits are ideally generated, the main aim is not to maximise financial returns for shareholders but to grow the social venture and reach more people in need. Wealth accumulation is not a priority and profits are reinvested in the enterprise to fund expansion. The entrepreneur of a social business venture seeks investors who are interested in combining financial and social returns on their investments. In my view, the hybrid non-profit venture or the social business venture are better models as they are sustainable and can expand themselves as organic entities with minimal support from outside.
Social entrepreneurship can take many forms ranging from micro finance institutions to peer to peer lending, improving literacy outcomes, community healthcare support, food banks and creating such innovations which are environmentally and socially sustainable. One of the modern forms of social entrepreneurship is crowd funding. They are an online platform where people from all over the world can help anyone by donating their money through a credit card. The most widely used platform for crowd funding is gofundme.com which has disbursed funds worth millions of dollars to the needy people. Similarly, kiva.com, an online micro lending platform lets you lend small amount of money to needy people from different regions of the world.Social entrepreneurs from all over the world are creating interesting and appreciable social ventures. Forbes.com has got some interesting stories about social entrepreneurship. Here is a story quoted from Forbes about a social entrepreneur: “Downs was working at a nonprofit combating HIV/AIDS in South Africa, and found piles of paperwork with life-saving information in them that simply weren’t being used — mountains of dead data — he called it. This sparked him and cofounders to launch a social enterprise, Vera Solutions, which manages and organises critical data to help nonprofits get to key information that was once buried in paper and spreadsheets. Vera has worked with more than 50 social-impact organisations across more than 30 countries.”
Similarly, a startup in China sells a product named SolSource — a solar powered cooker that can also produce heat and electricity and purify water. They are currently selling it to NGOs and government agencies that serve rural western China. Providing clean energy reduces indoor air pollution, which kills 500,000 rural Chinese people each year. Another startup in USA founded by Prayag Narula and Anand Kulkarni links thousands of workers from underemployed and bottom of the pyramid communities with short duration jobs sourced from Fortune 500 companies and small businesses in the United States.
Now Pakistan is also joining this wave of social entrepreneurship. Almost everyone has heard of Akhuwwat and Kashf microfinance but many other people in Pakistan are also doing commendable work in this field. Fizza Farhan of Buksh Foundation, who was also listed in Forbes 30 under 30 for social entrepreneurship is among the top of them. They have distributed 2000 solar lanterns tonon-electrified houses in Bahawalpur through USAID collaboration and are also providing microfinance to the poor. Similarly Mashall Chaudhri, founder of the reading room project, aims to build outstanding learning environments for low income students to improve literacy outcomes. Another platform, seedout.org, which is Pakistan’s first native crowd funding platform, is trying to help micro entrepreneurs and poor people who need money for social or personal causes.
In a society which has still 30pc people living below the poverty line, terrorists are still attacking people, less than 15pc of people have ever received a university education and only a few are able to get decent jobs out of 1.7 million people entering the workforce every year, social entrepreneurship is the key to build a more just, equitable and prosperous society. It is the only way to take out the poor youth from the canvas of terrorism and street crime. We, as a society, should also understand that donating for building mosques is also important but educating a child or donating to a trustable organisation which is working for eliminating poverty is more important even according to the principles of Islam. Similarly, donating to such causes can give us more reward than going for the same religious pilgrimage second or third time. Islam is more about giving to others and caring for society rather than just thinking about your own self even in terms of religiosity.