Nathaniel Whittemore has just published an interesting reflection on the role of business practices in social entrepreneurship. His work appears on the change.org site.
The context of his article was a critique of the management consultancy McKinsey & Co. and their recent debate on whether the language of business is relevant in our sector.
His argument is summarised here…
…talking about “the language and practice of business” and assuming that is a monolith is sort of like talking about “the language and practice of nonprofits” and trying to lump community development initiatives, affordable housing, humanitarian relief, and undergraduate education all together. In other words, it just doesn’t work.
Running our own small business and trying to help others in a diverse range of communities of interest to start social businesses clearly places us well out of the orbit of McKinsey. However, the argument proposed in the change.org piece rings loud and clear to us.
Highly complex and detailed management reporting or business plans, and the knowledge of how to produce them, is clearly an important constituent in delivering effective change in a social business. It goes also to establishing credence and mission based objectives for any organisation.
However, at ground zero of delivery in a local community all strategic analysis and esoteric conceptualising is subservient to the immediacy of solving the current problem, the now of small things.
Not to cope with this aspect of a social business start-up will handicap its development from the earliest stage. We would argue that what makes for the most successfully entrepreneurial organisation is the embrace of theory and methodology BUT coupled to passion, drive and social reformation.
One of our partners, in describing our partnership philosophy, says that we are social radicals but fiscal conservatives.
Not sure that every team member would recognise the model as we believe state spending is an integral part of the enduring social contract, but a great truncation of a sophisticated and socially passionate set of drivers for any group of people who want to effect change – by interacting with diverse communities of interest and power.
As Whittemore has it…
…entrepreneurs in general tend to want every single tool they can get in their toolbox. They don’t want to limit themselves to only one approach simply because that’s what has been done before’.
This rings true to us – across the roundabout, under the bypass and into the community centre.