• The links between racial hybridity and organizational hybridity

    By Tiana Reid, Editor and Community Manager at SocialBusiness.org.

    Hybridity stems first from biology, but it’s come to be known in postcolonial theory as having to do with the fusion between identity and culture.

    Yesterday’s Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) webinar focused on the “Hybrid Ideal,” as it were. The first featured presenter was Julie Battilana, Associate Professor of Business Administration, Organizational Behavior Unit at the Harvard Business School. “Hybrids transcend the boundaries between typical for-profit and notfor-profit organizations, she said at the get-go. “They pursue a social mission while engaging in commercial activities in order to generate revenues.”

    Indian critical theorist Homi K. Bhabha’s concept of hybridity, which centers on it as a site of subversive resistance, can shed light on the possibilities of hybrid organizations such as social enterprise. For Bhabha, as he writes in The Location of Culture, in-betweenness produces a “moment of aesthetic distance that provides the narrative with a double edge, which like the coloured South African subject, represents a hybridity, a difference ‘within,’ a subject that inhabits the rim of an ‘in-between’ reality.” Similarly, Françoise Lionnet uses the French word “métissage” in order to illuminate the strength and subtleties in being on the edge of two (or three, or four) things. In Autobiographical Voices: Race, Gender and Self-Portraiture, she contends that métissage is considered “the site of undecidability and indeterminacy, where solidarity becomes the fundamental principle of action.”

    Hybrid organizations allow for a sense of assertive criticality; there’s a space for a fuller kind of business that doesn’t rely on A or B but melds A, B and C. The SSIR webinar as a whole emphasized that the lines between for-profit and non-profit are being obscured. While many purists consider true social businesses as being completely revenue-generating, Battilana pulled from examples that showed the mix between gaining an independent income and relying on donations. In order to differentiate a spectrum, Battilana used the concept of “integration,” that is, “the extent to which an organization pursues both social and financial goals through the same set of activities.”

    Rather than looking at hybridity as a liminal state, it can exist on its own, as its own—but this doesn’t deny the necessity for organizations to adjust, imagine, transform and even revert. In postcolonial theory, hybridity creates a space for addressing and struggling against oppression and the same goes for social enterprise.

    By breaking through conventional notions of wholeness, social entrepreneurship can thrive through productive—and disruptive—initiatives.

  • Fez Tá Pronto – Luxury base of the pyramid housing

    By Ruban Selvanayagam of Fez Tá Pronto Construction System©


    After almost a year spent exploring real estate opportunities in Brazil, it dawned on me that the market had not only become a prime example of speculation gone crazy but also where housing had become a very vivid indictment of the massive wealth divides that still exist amongst the so called “emerging” nations. Indeed, contrary to government statistics which very debatably underestimate the true extent of the issue, the housing shortage stands at a minimum of 15 million units and rising by at least 1.5 million units annually – with literally no solutions in place.

    In 2010, I came across the work of developer Manoel Pinto and the Fez Tá Pronto Construction System©.  Manoel and his chief engineer Paulo Vilena between them possess over five decades of Brazilian property development experience when they launched a delivery model that challenged the chaotic and outmoded construction process that dominates the country and around the world.

    Fez Tá Pronto is a semi-industrialised and copyrighted building system that uses specially designed, patented gypsum plaster blocks to build high-quality and environmentally friendly housing units, from single-storey bungalows to multi-storey apartment blocks. Fez Tá Pronto projects have been approved by the leading home lenders of the country: namely, the Caixa Econômica Federal, Banco do Brasil and the Banco Real (now merged with Santander). It has been tested in developments over the last eight years, including the Rio das Ostras project that was successfully audited (and mortgage financed) by Caixa (the main administrators of the Minha Casa, Minha Vida or “My House, My Life” low-income housing initiatives).

    Crucially for the unviable low-income market, Fez Tá Pronto delivers high-quality homes at a minimum of 40% less cost than is standard, using materials normally reserved for luxury real estate in Brazil. The methodology delivers homes up to four times faster than the Brazilian industry average, regardless of development size. We also offer workers a safe and clean environment, and salaries up to three times the standard.

  • Three unlikely quotes for social entrepreneurs

    By Tiana Reid, Editor and Community Manager at SocialBusiness.org.

    There are already a slew of “quotes for social entrepreneurs” blog posts out there but how can social entrepreneurs pull from other spaces?

    What’s so great about the tight-knit #socent community is that, well, it’s tight-knit. At the same time, however, sometimes, like all communities, it’s too inward-looking and can become a recycling bin for so-called best practices.

    In light of all that, here are three unlikely quotes for social entrepreneurs:

    “I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.” – Anaïs Nin

    To say that Anaïs Nin’s writing has depth would be an understatement. This quote in particular is next-level cathartic. I mean, the social entrepreneur has feelings too. What’s more, for the business creator, it speaks to not only to diving deeper into models and impact, but also to mysticism. Surrendering to the outside, to forces beyond control (and not in a religious sense), can relieve stress and create a “breath in, breath out” moment.

    “The only problem with seeing too much is that it makes you insane.” – Phaedrus

    I chose this almost to counteract the Nin quote. (You see what I did there?) Social entrepreneurs, much like more “traditional” charities and non-profits, are bombarded with the need to measure everything. Sometimes it’s crucial to step back, look at the big picture and think like a toddler, that is, ask why. Why are you measuring this? Why is this measure important? Why aren’t I measuring something else? It could always be otherwise.

    “Feminism is for everybody.” – bell hooks

    Not simply a quote, this one is also a book on passionate politics. In it, hooks defines feminism as “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” For her, feminism(s) is/are intertwined with race, class and sexual orientation (etc.) — the infinite intersectionalities. So, this stems beyond “mere feminism” and everyone, not just social entrepreneurs, needs to recognize and acknowledge privilege and oppression alike. What’s particular about social entrepreneurs, and anyone in the business of social change, is that people often think they’re always helping. On-the-ground services, donations in particular, can have positive and negative consequences on the market economy, local culture and the entire big bad globe. In particular, the way in which the West talks about Africa (not a country!) is often clouded with racism—in spite of, or perhaps because of, the seemingly altruistic nature of social good. Just look at this.

  • On Purpose – talent for social enterprise

    By Tom Rippin, CEO of On Purpose

    On Purpose believes that for social enterprise to fulfil its potential, it is critical for it to attract and work with the very best people. Many organisations are currently researching new forms of financing for social enterprises or helping social entrepreneurs start up new ventures, but too little effort is being concentrated on attracting and developing high calibre talent to help manage and grow later stage social enterprises.

    At the same time, there is huge interest out there, especially amongst professionals in their 20s and 30s who want to work in social enterprise and see it as a promising alternative both to shareholder-driven capitalism and to traditional, philanthropy-dependent charitable approaches.

    On Purpose is a leadership programme for the next generation of leaders who will use the power of business to help solve society’s biggest problems. We believe that if we find the most inspiring people, provide them with the right experience, training, support and networks, then great things will happen. On Purpose recruits professionals with at least two years of work experience into a one year, full-time programme that provides this and so kick-starts their careers in social enterprise.

    It  is a full-time, 12-month leadership programme that combines paid on-the-job experience with a world-class training and coaching support structure. The programme participants (“Associates”) are high-calibre individuals from a variety of backgrounds who show commitment to a career in social enterprise.

    During the programme the Associates:

    • Complete two 6-month work placements, that provide real-life, on-the-ground work experience in return for a modest salary from the placement host
    • Spend half a day each week on a “mini social enterprise MBA” delivered predominantly by professionals from third-party organisations
    • Receive regular 1:1 mentoring and coaching from experienced professionals to support them in delivering value to their host placements and in planning their career beyond On Purpose

    After the programme, Associates find a job in one of their two work placements or in another social enterprise or return to a more traditional corporate, public or charity organisation to which they will take a social enterprise way of thinking. In this way, On Purpose is developing a committed and influential network of alumni who are working on sustainable solutions to the world’s biggest problems across all sectors.

    Managing a social enterprise is more complex than managing a solely commercial or solely charitable organisation and yet talent processes in this space are dangerously under-developed; as a consequence many people struggle to find meaningful jobs in this space, and many social entrepreneurs lack the fellow managers and leaders who can help them scale to sustainability.

    At this critical time in the evolution of the social enterprise space, it is more critical than ever to attract the best and brightest talent to help innovate, manage and, crucially, scale the social enterprises around the world.

    On Purpose helps young professionals realise their aspirations of embarking on a career that allows them to “do well whilst doing good” and in so doing helps secure the future success of the social enterprise space.

  • The problems with so-called “conscious consumerism”

    By Tiana Reid, Editor and Community Manager at SocialBusiness.org

    Is “conscious consumerism” an oxymoron? While the social business and social enterprise spaces have allowed for somewhat of a rebirth of a socially centered business model, materialism can’t be the motivation for innovation.

    As an editor and community manager, I come across – and write about – dozens of purpose-driven companies. Some like FoodCycle and MyBnk Fair Finance are service-oriented, meaning that their direct line is working with people toward social and environmental justice.

    Many social businesses, however, are product-focused. Everything from bracelets made out of bona fide ammunition to one-for-one shoe products and fair trade fashion lines make the cut here.

    How does consumerism and materialism fit into an industry that, perhaps, makes profit from pain? Undoubtedly, many social enterprises reinvest a significant portion of their profits to further the social benefit. What are the implications of encouraging consumers to buy – regardless of the outcomes?

    Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign has been criticized for being problematic for a number of reasons including, but not limited to blind clicktivism, misrepresentation, the use of good/evil language, spending habits, the “White Savior Industrial Complex” as novelist Teju Cole called it, their emotional tourist strategy, the lack of Ugandan participation and the not-for-profit’s militaristic approach to arresting Joseph Kony.

    “Yes, it’s great that social media is buzzing with something about human beings instead of bright, shiny objects,” Forbes contributor Anthony Wing Koster wrote earlier this week. “And it’s great to think of the internet as an engine of altruism instead of materialism.” Really?

    The video goads buying Invisible Children’s products to “make Kony famous.” The ‘Kony 2012 Action Kit’ is $30 and comes with “Everything you’ll need to take part in our KONY 2012 campaign,” according to the online store. What’s more, “People will think you’re an advocate of awesome.” Awesome. Moreover, the Kony bracelet is dubbed as the “the ultimate accessory” and the model in the image is black, which is significant since most Ugandans couldn’t afford a $10 bracelet, and most people in the video on the “activist” side weren’t people of color. Both products are sold out.

    In 2012, recent UC Berkeley Business Administration graduate Rosalind Chu expressed her internal back-and-forth debate when deciding what career to pursue. In a post called “Excess, wealth, and materialism and how that fits into a career in social enterprise,” she wrote: “society — American society especially – breeds a culture of excess, consumption, and materialism. We are bombarded daily with new products or new ‘somethings,’ and are constantly reminded of how awesome it must be to be rich and wealthy.”

    But are the problems of consumerism exempt from social business? Of course not, but what would an ideal version “conscious consumerism” even look like?

    Consumption – conspicuous or not – must slow right down in order to make up for the dirt in our air, our oceans and our lives… I mean, ideally, the story might go like so: if I need (or, okay, really want) to buy a new lipstick/t-shirt/pair of shoes, I’ll opt for buying the product from an ethical producer rather than from a corporate giant with opaque production practices. But maybe, really, I’ll get both, but I’ll feel better for having also chosen the former.

    Environmentalist, activist and writer George Monbiot said that “[g]reen consumerism has been a catastrophic mistake.” He argued that cause-conscious campaigns – whether hybrid cars or poverty-alleviating shoes – draw in people’s self-interest in that those products will help to beef up your social status. Furthermore, he emphasized the need to crusade for our values rather than conforming to the status quo, an apathetic politically hollow atmosphere. In essence: structural change is needed to mitigate the mess we’re all in.

    While I push for the accessibility of fairly produced products, I just can’t wrap my head around buying yet another thing I don’t need, bought from the convenience of my sweatshop-produced MacBook. But, too often, it comes down to the question of “What’s worse?”