• How do we measure “progress”?

    By Editor of SocialBusiness.org

    Ted Halstead and Clifford Cobb address the need to measure “progress” in a way other than GNP. How are we to measure standards of living or something qualitative happiness? Surely, some things are unmeasurable. Furthermore, every measurement needs to be accompanied by the question “for what?” For whom and under what circumstances? As the Sustainable Business Forum noted earlier in December, “Standard Gross Domestic Product (GDP) only considers the sum of goods and services produced by a country. As a consequence, even expenditures associated with oil spills and the consumption of alcohol and cigarettes add to GDP growth, but cannot reasonably be said to increase societal welfare. However, GDP has become exactly that: a commonly used measurement for the progress of a state’s welfare.” Simultaneously, Mark Anielski imagines the consummate examples of what kind of individuals would be “good” and “bad” for GDP: “The ideal economic or GDP hero is a chain-smoking terminal cancer patient going through an expensive divorce whose car is totaled in a 20-car pileup, while munching on fast-take-out-food and chatting on a cell phone. All add to GDP growth. The GDP villain is non-smoking, eats home-cooked wholesome meals and cycles to work.” Halstead and Cobb bring light to our assumption that GDP equals progress. It’s important to also challenge the very notion of progress. We see technology as an indication of our progress yet we simultaneously use these technologies to participate in wars that have killed millions of lives. Along the same line, emotional work and kinship are undervalued in our society. In a “Development and Livelihood” class, i once studied an Inuit community in Clyde River, Nunavut, Canada. Most of their transactions are money-free, and thus, would fall completely under the radar of measuring GDP. Moreover, this privileges the work of the dominant order and ignores female domestic labour. There’s a divide between the “economy,” those who work for it and the society at large. The so-called “corporate veil”  shields the poverty and inequality.

  • Framing the conversation differently

    By Editor of SocialBusiness.org

    Image via BBC’s coverage of the US presidential debate, published October 4, 2012

    If your Twitter feed is anything like my Twitter feed, United States debate nights can sometimes feel like the busiest (and buzziest) time of all. Of course, the great thing about Twitter is that you can edit who or what news source you want to garner information from. Everyone from Lindsay Lohan to Chris Rock parodies to Guardian journalists and my local Toronto weekly weighed in on tonight’s election. I’m sure, if you follow writers and journalists and, well, perhaps anyone with an opinion and an affinity for live-Tweeting, you got your dose of the 2012 U.S. elections, that is, unless you steered way clear of the Internet in general. (Smart cookie.) What is the role of and for social entrepreneurship in the realm of politics? In June, in the wake of the Greek election, Jon Henley of The Guardian wrote about how “social enterprise is one answer to economic strife” when it comes to the so-called Greek crisis. “[I]t is simplistic – not to say untrue – that there is ‘no sense of community’ in Greece,” Henley illuminated. “It is just that it rather got forgotten. Projects like these fit Greece’s current needs, and its mood.” What fits the global mood? Or perhaps more importantly, the global need? Certainly, the way in which global politics are shaped by U.S. imperialism means that the debates, even though they may not mention social entrepreneurship and its impact, matter. Of course. Entrepreneurship and small business has, for decades, been an important source of rhetoric in U.S. politics because of is alignment with self-help, work ethic and, of course, the American Dream at large. JJ Ramberg, the host of msnbc’s Your Business, said this in Forbes earlier in October:

    Small businesses (especially new small businesses) are a strong driver of job growth in this country and right now there is a tremendous amount of attention paid to entrepreneurs. In the first presidential debate, the candidates said the words “small business” more than 25 times. Many of the big issues such as taxes and healthcare have also been framed around how they affect small businesses.

    The question is: how do we get social entrepreneurship to be part of the conversation? And how should it be framed differently than the tune of small business?